Saturday, 12 November 2011

Jonathan’s all motion, no movement…I regret voting for him –Agbaje

Sunday Interview
Sunday, November 13, 2011

Not many people who voted for President Goodluck Jonathan in last April’s general election are happy with his achievements so far. For such people, he has failed to meet the expectations of majority of Nigerians who enthusiastically supported him in the exercise. One of those in this school of thought is constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Fred Agbaje. In this interview, he bares his mind on various national issues. Excerpts…

With the year gradually coming to an end, how do you feel with the state of the nation especially with regards to insinuations that some states are bankrupt?
You must look at the factors threatening Nigeria’s political economy first. Do not forget that the constitution in section 3 has described Nigeria as a federation. If the nation is a federation, it means that the states that constitute the federating units must continue to remain as a federation. I keep saying it that the problem of this great country is not the constitution. There is no constitution that is perfect.

Our problem has to do with our leaders and the implementers of our constitution. A good man in the saddle of political administrative affairs will turn around a bad constitution to achieve good for the people. When I was growing up, my grandfather told me that if you give a bad hoe to a good farmer, he could still turn it around to achieve success. The implication of this should not be lost to us. Can we amend Nigeria’s constitution today to abolish those we think are economically and financially unviable states? Apart from the constitutional hurdle such an exercise would entail, what about the money required to carry out such an exercise? What about the political socio-cultural pressure that would be associated with it?

In any case, why did government not consider those factors like economic viability of such states; in order words, what we call the financial sustainability of such states before creating them. Because the government of that time just wanted to score cheap political point, it started turning local governments to states and hamlets to local governments and states where they are supposed to create more local governments, they refused. The same principle was applied to state creation. Areas that are supposed to have more states, they refused to give them. I come from Akoko edo, the oldest local government in Nigeria today. It was created out of the old western region as far back as 1957.

It is the largest and the oldest local government in Nigeria today. Akoko edo is almost three local governments merged in one. Etsako that is nearest to us has been split into three but because the people of Akoko edo local government do not have anybody in government to speak for them, we lost that opportunity. What I am trying to establish is that there were no clear cut criteria; otherwise if there were such criteria, why was Akoko edo not created into two or three local governments like its neighbour, Etsako or Owan local government which has also gone into two or three?

I am not going to mention states and I agree with your question that there are states in this country that are only called states for the purposes of collection of federal revenue. In practical terms of their viability, they are not better than local governments. There is no other source of money that goes to such state apart from the federal allocation. In such states, Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) is nill. You can imagine such a situation where you create such states and even give them more local governments. In other words, you are creating more local governments for the states as well as the innocent Nigerians at large.

This is because we are going to use part of my tax to develop such states. I am not from there. To make matters worse, some of these states said drinking of alcohol is bad and prohibited but they partake in sharing from the tax paid on alcohol produced in other states. They enact unworkable laws to retard their states and yet revenue coming from other states that have liberalized their economy, that have allowed brewery to be established in their states, and for people to consume alcohol and for people to pay tax, those who do not want such a liberal economy would come and share in the tax.

Where are the equity, morality and fairness? That is why I said when you see such things particularly when it comes to going to Abuja to collect federal allocation, they remember their states. Ask them, what other thing do they do to generate money other than waiting for the federal allocation. Like in the Anglican Communion where I come from because my father died as an Arch Bishop of the Anglican Communion, one of the things he told me was that when people begin to ask for diocese in the Anglican community, in those days, they created them but these days, we ask them do you have the resources to back the diocese you are asking for? Can you pay the Bishop’s salary? Can you pay the staff of the Bishop? Can you pay the staff of the Cathedral? I am only giving you a background to my argument.

What is preventing the Federal Government from doing the same thing? Oh! If you want Anioma State, the question is do you have the resources to sustain the state or you think you would be sharing the resources of the other states to sustain it. Like a state that has 57 local government areas sharing the resources of 20, how does that work? That is why there is no development anywhere in the local governments of Lagos States. This is because it is just logical that you do not give food meant for two people to five. How will it work out? Some people would go hungry. But like I told you, it is all for political reasons. Those who are clamouring that the states should be merged, yes, let us merge them but it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for such a merger to succeed.

This is because they have tasted what is referred to as statehood. They have worn the garb being called a state. I was not surprised when in a seminar I attended recently, somebody was calling for the country to go back to the three regions. His argument was that the states developed better under the old three regions. This splinter look you call states has become the sword of Damocles that would mar the nation’s political and socio-economic growth. It has retarded Nigeria. Three states that would have been one and harnessing their resources together and ensuring their growth, you have split them so that one out of the three viable states is sustaining others. The law of osmosis does not work that way.

Osmosis would tell you that there is always a movement of water from the weaker to the stronger. That should not happen to state creation. We are practicing federalism and the Federal Government is controlling all the resources and the constitution disallowed the states from reaping the benefits of their natural endowments. Constitutionally, the Federal Government is in control of all the resources. That is thievery; your are robbing Peter to pay Paul. How does that work? The constitution sanctions the Federal Government to give oil producing states 13 per cent under the principle of derivation. If you give 13 per cent to the states that produce oil, what happens to the remaining 87 per cent? That is why there is do-or-die for federal appointments, the Federal Government and the control of Abuja.

Everybody wants to be relevant in Abuja because they know there is so much there in a country that calls itself a federation. I want to say that instead of 13 per cent to the oil-producing states, it should be the other way round. Give the Federal Government 13 per cent and the states 87 per cent. When this happens, let us see whether the states would not develop. The implication would be far reaching. The issue of do-or-die for Abuja would reduce. The clamour for the control of Aso Rock would reduce. The state would now be able to develop. A state like Rivers and others in the Niger Delta area would now be able to develop at their own pace. I can assure you that such states would even have their own Central Banks because they would have excess and other states can now borrow and pay interest.

Those who have abandoned the production of groundnut and cocoa would go back to them immediately. The groundnut pyramid, where are they? The cocoa industry, where are they today? We have abandoned our natural endowments. How can a country grow like that? That is why I say that unless there is a restructuring of our federal pattern in favour of more resources to the states, Nigeria is not likely to move forward.

When you look at the exclusive legislative list, it does not even help matters. This is because matters that are ordinarily supposed to be for the states are all lumped under that exclusive legislative list. How can a country develop when in areas that a state could effectively legislate on for their growth, you take it off them and give them to the Federal Government. That is why I laugh at some of our constitutional drafters. As far as I am concerned, they have overburdened the Federal Government and made the principle of federalism to stand on its head.

What is your opinion on the intended removal of oil subsidy?
To answer your question, I want to be guided by the constitution so that Nigerians would know who is at fault. On the removal of fuel subsidy, I can only justify my position constitutionally. Of course, as a constitutional lawyer, I must be backed by my constitution. Section 14(1)(B) of the constitution says the federal republic of Nigeria shall be a state based on the principle of democracy and social justice and that the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government. It did not just stop there. Section 17(1&2) of the same constitution says that the state’s social order shall be founded on the ideals of freedom, equality and justice. It went further to say that governmental actions shall be humaned.

The same constitution went further to say that sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria. In other words, sovereignty does not belong to the government or to some people in government. It belongs to everybody whether you are in government or on Ikorodu road as a peasant work. If sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria and the constitution says the security and welfare of Nigeria shall be the primary purpose of government, and that constitutionally the actions of government must be humaned, why will the government start talking of oil subsidy removal when the people of Nigeria to whom sovereignty lies say we do not want it? I do not know whether you are following my argument.

Various organizations including Non Governmental Organisation, the labour and the rest of them say they do not want it because it would further aggravate our poverty level. It would lead to increase in inflation. If you remove subsidy, prices of commodity would skyrocket. Even those who are flying would also incur the wrath of this economic mindlessness on the part of the government. Everybody is united in saying no to oil subsidy removal. But because the Federal Government and the state governments are intellectually lazy and economically arid, they believe that the only way they can pay the N18,000 minimum wage is to adopt hook, line and sinker the proposal that have been forced down the government throat by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) through the office of the Finance Minister, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo Iweala.

One of the things the Finance Minister has told them when she was coming to serve is that she must implement the IMF policy which is the removal of the oil subsidy. That is what the government is doing. She said if you are not going to do it, I am not going to serve in your government and the Federal Government foolishly and sheepishly acceded. Let them go ahead and they would see the wrath of Nigerians. They would actually know that constitutionally, the concept of sovereignty can be effectualised and realized by the people of this country. What I am saying in effect is that by the time the government begins to say they want to remove the oil subsidy, is the policy not contrary to section 17(1) C of the constitution which enjoins governmental action to be humane. We are not talking about foreigners here who will benefit from this mad economic policy.

People say they do not want it and you say government must go ahead; let us see who has the sovereignty. But let me say this; President Goodluck Jonathan has every opportunity to make a name for himself and not allow his economically backward policies that are being forced down his throat to ruin his government. There is no sense in the so-called oil subsidy removal. In fact, Professor Tam David West who was former minister of petroleum has told the whole world that there is nothing like that. There is no subsidy anywhere in the first instance not to talk of removal. Do you remove what does not exist?

Even we lawyers say you do not give what you do not have. It is just a fraud on Nigeria when you begin to talk about subsidy. If there is any subsidy, what happened to the ones that had been removed in the past? Who swallowed and pocketed it? Are they not the same people in government? Those who are responsible for the decay in our refineries, have you arrested them? Have you prosecuted them under the economic mismanagement policy particularly under the Economic and Financial Crimes Commisson(EFCC)? Economic saboteurs who are always smiling to the banks at the detriment of Nigerians are advising the government to remove the oil subsidy. They are not doing the government any good.

The cartel in the oil sector believes that it is their birthright to continue to import oil and be smiling to the banks at the expense of the people. They do not care a hoot whether you and I survive or not. It is unfortunate that government has allowed what I would call the economic vampires that have held the oil sector in the jugular. And ironically, because the government is weak, these are the same caliber of Nigerians who will be taking the President and other Aso Rock members on retreat so that at the end, the government would be handicapped and powerless to challenge their activities frontally.

The purpose of government is not to make anti-people socio-economic policies. These are policies that would further pauperise the people. It is the duty of government to ensure that the political economy operates in a manner that an ordinary man can survive. But unfortunately, instead of embarking on poverty alleviation programme, what the government is doing is embarking on policies that would consolidate poverty in the land.

You do not seem to sound optimistic about President Jonathan’s administration. What’s your impression about his government?
Incidentally, I am one of the people that voted for him because I felt that he was a better candidate and that he would move this country forward. But the man has been there since April and it is like the same old song. It is like if you ask me to go back to cast my vote again, I would have withdrawn my vote for Jonathan. I am sure most Nigerians would regret it because right now, what we are seeing is all motion, no movement. They said they have improved power supply to 4,000 and there is no light anywhere. Look at the state of roads everywhere particularly the federal roads not to talk of state roads.

The people in the East have almost been eroded out of their land space by the uncompromising position of erosion in the area and the Federal Government is not even bothered. Look at Lagos/Ibadan road, Lagos/Benin, Lagos/Ilorin, these are all death traps and yet we have Federal Government that is pocketing 87 per cent of the nation’s economic resources. Ask them what are they doing exactly with the resources? That is why I keep clamouring that they should reverse it.

The truth of the matter is that one would have expected that as President Jonathan has been in power since April and as somebody who has been there and completed Late Umaru Yar’Adua’s term, he has no reason not to perform. Instead of belabouring himself with economically retrogressive policies, he should embark on progressive policies that would enhance job creation, address the question of inflation and above all infrastructural decay must be addressed. This is what we need and not the minister of power talking about generating 4,000 megawatts of electricity. Where is it? And incidentally, they are the same people talking about economic sabotage. Who is sabotaging who? Are you telling me that those economic saboteurs are more equipped than the government? Then why are you called a government.

You cannot address the question of insecurity, not to talk of welfare. You have forgotten that one feeds the other one. When you address welfare, you are indirectly attacking the issue of insecurity because they are siamese twins. You must marry the two of them, other wise, you would be a political joker if you think you can address one and leave the other one. If somebody is economically handicapped, the next thing to think is to resort to criminality and unleash terror on the society. Which of the governments, whether federal or state, has any plans on how to tackle the dangerous level of unemployment in the country.

I am an employer of labour and I know how many applications I get here everyday even with our small practice here as if we have become an extension of ministry of justice. This is because the government has not provided the right atmosphere.

Okorocha floors Ohakim again

•We’ll appeal – PDP
From VAL OKARA, Owerri
Sunday, November 13, 2011

There was jubilation in Owerri, Imo State capital, yesterday as the election petition tribunal upheld the election of Governor Rochas Okorocha.
Supporters of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), his party, took to the streets immediately after news of the judgment upholding election of the governor filtered into town.
Okorocha was elected governor of the state on May 6, 2011, supplementary election after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared the April 26 governorship polls inconclusive.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had filed a petition challenging Okorocha’s emergence in the May 6, 2011, election and urged the tribunal to uphold the aborted April 26 governorship polls and declare its candidate, Chief Ikedi Ohakim, winner as he scored majority of the lawful votes cast. It also urged the tribunal to declare the May 6 supplementary election illegal, unconstitutional, null and void.

The three-man panel headed by Justice E.N. Kpojime upheld the results of April 26 polls and declared that the May 6 supplementary election that produced Okorocha as governor of the state was a continuation of the April 26 inconclusive polls.
In the three-hour painstaking judgment, Justice Kpojime said since the April 26 poll was inconclusive and no winner emerged, the May 6 supplementary election organized by INEC was legitimate and constitutional.
She said that INEC had constitutional power to cancel poll and pick a new date for such election if it has cogent reason to call off an election. The tribunal said there was glaring evidence of pockets of violence in four local government areas where the polls were cancelled.
Justice Kpojime, who relied on submissions of both parties involved, submitted that the April 26 poll results remained legal and unchallenged.

According to her, the total number of eligible voters disfranchised in the four affected councils, Oguta, Ohaji/ Egbema, Ngo Okpala and Mbaitoli as well as Orji in Owerri North LGA during April 26 election would have been much to ignore and such may have led to serious breach of peace in the state.
“The May 6, 2011 supplementary election was a continuation of the April 26, 2011 election and this tribunal is convinced of the evidence of violence in the four local government councils as given by the petitioner’s witness”, she said.
She added that the petitioner failed to prove that election took place in the four affected areas and a ward in Owerri North and equally observed that the petitioner failed to prove that its candidate, Chief Ohakim scored the majority of lawful votes cast on April 26.

According to her, she stated that the supplementary election was in compliance with 1999 constitution as amended and 2010 Electoral Act as amended.
She pointed out that the petitioner only succeeded in dumping a worthless evidence before the tribunal and therefore, declared that the petition lacked merit and dismissed it accordingly.
Chief Awa Kalu (SAN), one of the lead counsel of the PDP, said that the next line of action would be determined by the petitioner.
But, the legal adviser to the PDP, Chief C.O.C Akaolisa, told reporters that the party would appeal against the judgment.

This govt is wasteful, lacks management skills – Chief Olu Falae

“What reasons were given for the destruction of toll gates by Obasanjo in the first place? Obasanjo did not give any reson for destroying them and the media did not challenge him at that time. So, to me it is a restoration of what used to be. But let me say that in conjuction with the removal of the so-called fuel subsidy, even if it is economically justifiable, the timing is wrong and the government does not exercise political judgement in introducing such measures.”

Chief Olu Falae
The government argument for the policy is that revenue that will accrue from the tolling will be ploughed back into road maintenance and rehabilitation. Chief Falae dismissed that with a wave of hand saying “the question that we should ask is that what have they done with the trillions of naira budget for the past 12 years? I live in Akure and yet I don’t see any sign here that there is a federal government here.

So, if the trillions of naira budget have no impact on my life, why should the toll gate revenue have any impact in my life.” This government is extremely wasteful, they over paid themselves, they waste public funds, the additional harship this will inflict is not going to be justified by any additional services the government is going to render. I don’t have confidence in this government’s ability to manage the economy for the good of the masses. I don’t like that argument at all,” he said.

Most argument being put forward by the pro government toll policy advocates is that government has no funding capacity to put the roads in good shape and to further sustain the needed maintainance culture required.

Chief Falae immediately countered the argument saying: “What has this government got any capacity for? He queried. “Is it security, so much that the President cannot go to Eagle Square and some other places? Security operatives now determine what he does and what he doesn’t do. Is it to provide employment for Nigerians?

What has this government got the capacity to do? that is the question. I don’t think the government has the capacity to do very much in any area.”

Suggesting the way forward, he said it is not just having better roads in Nigeria but a better economy. “The roads are just a part of the economy, it is a part of the transportaion sector.

In that sector, there are other means like rail, air and water. All these are in a shambles. So, the transport sector is in a mess. Trasnport system is the very life wire of every economy because whatever you produced has to be transported and not just road but the entire transport sector.

“We have been advocating the articulation of National Development Plan Programme on each sector. What does this government want to do in the sector for the next four years and why?

What do they want to do in education that we can see and feel in the next four years? Ditto for health, Agriculture and others. They don’t tell us. They only tell us 20-2020, ‘we want to catch up with the rest of the world without power’.

It is a joke. Power is the key to economic development, to the survival of our people. We don’t have 3000 mega watts. In 1975-78, we advocated 6000 mega watts by 1980. This is 35 years later. What kind of government is that and what kind of economy is that? ”

The septugenerian noted: “The present situation is bad enough. I don’t see any ray of hope really and I don’t see any light at the end of that tunnel of indecisiveness, of lack of any programme. A lot of money is stolen and lots are wasted. I am sorry, I am in a very depressed mood about the Nigerian economy and government.”

Falae argued that though it is true that the practice all over the world is that tolls are collected and revenue ploughed back into road maintenance, he said that is a theory but do we do it here? “With what we are getting from oil (over a $100), yet, we can’t make any impact and why is the removal of subsidy that will bring a marginal revenue be the one that will make a difference.

If you can’t manage the bulk of the revenue, why should we expect you to be able to manage the additional revenue that we’ve got today. This government has no confidence and managment skills. Nothing drives it that you can recognise. Bringing in Okonjo-Iweala, she is a technocract, economist and all that, but one thing is particular about political leadership.

The leadership indicates the direction We are to go and the technicians follow. It appears everything has been left for Okonjo-Iweala and she is not the one we voted for. It is unfair to her for government to virtually abandon leadership roles and ask her to just carry on doing the role of both a leader and technocrat. It is not right and it is unfair,” he stated.

Sunday, 6 November 2011


BY James Ngozi Okere (Author)

Publishers: Alphabet Nigeria Publishers, Owerri, 109 pages. Price:$20

A book entitled “You Too Can Be Great (Core Value Self-Re-Orientation)” which is motivational and inspirational will restore hope and confidence to any reader who is desirous of creating impact in the society.

The book captures nuggets or words of wisdom of great men which form the base of human growth and achievements through igniting one’s innate ability to break through barriers thereby imparting on the people positive values towards advancing humanity and society. The book further chronicled some great men who rose to stardom applying those words of wisdom in spite of difficulties of their time.
These includes: Rt. Hon. Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe(Statesman), Alhaji Ahmadu Bello (Statesman), Chief Obafemi Awolowo (Statesman), Chief Anthony Enahoro (Activist), Dr. Alex Ekwueme (Politician), Chief Gani Fawehinmi(Social Crusader), Mr. Frank Nneji(Business Man) and Joachim Ezeji(Social Entrepreneur) all Nigerians. Also some other non-Nigerians who rose to stardom crossing various hurdles of live captured by the author in the book are: Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Carnegie, Barrack Obama, Benjamin Franklyn, Charles Allen Ward, Edwin C. Barns, Henry Ford, John Foppe, Martin Luther King Jr., Napoleon Hill, Dr. Nelson Mandela, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Thomas Edison and the Mastermind Team - John Hancock, Richard Henry Lee, Samuel Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
The book is divided into twenty six chapters. In chapter one, the author places God above every other thing else, and further opined that greatness must be anchored on positive self values and talents discovery leading to accomplishments recognized and attested to by individual and society. He further stated clearly on what constitutes greatness including identifying the salient values which propel greatness in a person.
Chapters 2-23 chronicled inspirational epigram of great men bordering on: ideas rule the world, be a news maker, concentration is the secret of strength, power yourself into action, create the will- the door must open, success is in your hand, desire leads to greatness, determination is the key to success, thought is the engine of wealth, in trying lies upliftment, create your own world, be focused- the world is yours, in your vision lies great opportunities, be creative to succeed, dream into riches, your ability is gold, etc.
In chapter 24, the author identified practically on how men worked assiduously and achieved greatness attested to by the society. He maintained that these men achieved greatness by being positive in their chosen career in spite of difficulties, challenges and unfavourable environment witnessed by them.
In chapter 25, the author who is a Political Scientist and promising researcher made reference and illustrated on how some Nigerians and non Nigerians applied these epigrams with zeal, determination, focus, applied faith, patience and rose to stardom and prominence in a unique style in spite of their family and poor academic background, unfavourable challenges, difficulties etc.
According to the author – Mr. James Okere, the aim of the book is to challenge all through recreating self value re-orientation to achieve success and at the same time employing all in leadership, governance, and entrepreneurship to embrace positive values like enthusiasm, determination, perseverance, patience, courage as a way to advancing society.
The author ended up with a message of hope for all including workers, youths, professionals, policy makers, students, unemployed, etc to imbibing positive values like determination, discipline, focus, and remaining positive mentally towards developing core value for self-re-orientation as a way to re-write history for the betterment of humanity and society.
NOEL KAJI Reviewer
October 28, 2011

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Nigeria will be better if we shoot some people – Junaid Mohammed
Saturday October 08, 2011

Photo: Sun News Publishing

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Russian trained medical doctor, Junaid Mohammed is one of the very few fearless northern politicians around. He speaks his mind without minding whose ox is gored. In this exclusive interview with Saturday Sun last Saturday, in Kano, he disclosed that even though the late President Umar Musa Yar’Adua was not his idea of a Nigerian president, he was “10 million times” better than President Goodluck Jonathan. He said that Jonathan is not fit to govern Nigeria.

While insisting that Nigeria was overdue for a revolution, Mohammed said: “Am not sure Nigerians will be happy with what I have to say, but I will say it nonetheless. The way and manner this government cowardly refused to celebrate our independence anniversary is a massive and disgraceful climb-down. It is, in fact, a submission to evil and to darkness; it is also an admission by them that they are not fit to do the job. They are not fit to lead this country, because I remember that even at the height of the civil war, from 1967 to 1970, Nigeria never missed the opportunity of celebrating its own national anniversary, because it is like a birthday to us.

“Even if you don’t celebrate with funfare, you celebrate it with prayers. This is a disgraceful regime, a disgraceful presidency, a disgraceful government brought about by a disgraceful party. May God shorten their stay and may God shorten the agony of the people of Nigeria. I urge Nigerians to pray for deliverance from God and to allow this country to restore itself, restore its honour and occupy its own position in the comity of nations. That is all I can say. But I see no hope of peace in this country, as long as this government, this INEC; this security service is in charge of our destiny. May God disband them and the sooner, the better!”
He also spoke on other issues of national interest, including the move to bring back Gusau, as national security adviser (NSA).
Did you, by chance, listen to the President’s October 1 speech?
No; I didn’t bother.
Why not?
It’s owing to a number of reasons. One, you have to believe in the legitimacy of a government and a leader before you really spare time to listen to what he has to say. If you believe, as I do, that this government is entirely illegitimate, as it came as a result of rigging and massive abuse of power by the party, the PDP, and the security services, you will know that this man, who is president today, and the man he succeeded as well as the one his predecessor succeeded have no business to be in government and that is why I did not bother to listen to his speech.
It is surprising to hear you say that the government is illegitimate when observers, both local and international, adjudged the 2011 general elections as one of our best so far. What, therefore, is the basis for your conclusions?
Well, first and foremost, you have to be privileged to witness more than one election before you adjudge one as one of the best so far. Many of the observers that you are trying to talk about were never present in the previous elections in Nigeria; so, how can you say, on the basis of what they have told you, that election was the best we have had in this country? In the first place, who is the best judge of free and fair election among the foreign observers, who came here for one week or two and the people of Nigeria, who are here? I have been a participant in this game long before Goodluck or anybody who is in government today and I can tell you that election we had was the worst in the history of this country. And no matter what the America, the British, the Europeans or the EU says or anybody else, I know, in my own lifetime, there was no election that was as bad as the last 2011 elections. So, take my word for it.
Why should I take your word when other notably Nigerians have also adjudged the election as one of our bests?
Well, it will interest you to know that I am first, a political leader of a national party, registered by INEC, PSP; I have been a participant in politics. I have led parties that have won elections in Nigeria. I have observed elections in other countries, not only in Africa, but also in other parts of the world. Am telling you that the observers were nothing but sham. The assessment was a disgrace. If you bother to look at what was behind their own approval of the election, you will find out that, in fact, everyone of those countries who came out and said that the election was free and fair was merely echoing the national interest and pronouncement of their home government. EU countries knew that the election was a sham. In private, when we discussed with some of them, they admitted that the election was full of lapses, but in public they tell the world that it was the freest election in the history of this country. And when you ask them, how many elections they have observed in Nigeria, they keep quite. So, the whole business of election observation is nothing but a sham. It is a fraud in which we are cheated and the citizens of their own countries are also cheated because it is a multi billion dollar business in the name of democracy.

Now, if we in the country are not happy with the election, if we in the country notice our own people died, who is a foreigner, an American or European, to come and tell us that the election was the freest or the best? How many elections are worth the life of one individual? And how many thousands of people were killed in the cause of the campaign, in the cause of the election itself and the tragedy, which followed after? Go and tell the people of Kaduna State that the election was the best in the history of Nigeria and see what you get. About 17 governors today cannot live in peace in their own state capitals; they are living in Abuja, and you are here telling me the election was the best and the freest.
Now that you are coming to specifics, what were those lapses you noticed that perhaps, some of us are not aware of?
Experience in government has shown that you win or lose an election or you have a free and credible election when you organise a good registration system. The INEC registration system was a disgrace. It was incompetent. It was supposed to involve machines, which were, in fact, unconstitutional and when they did, you find out that almost all the machines failed everywhere in Nigeria. If you don’t have a credible voters’ register, you can never have a free and fair election. Secondly, the first election was so bad, so riotous, and so useless that INEC itself was forced to cancel it. In cancelling the election, they did not think that it would have effect on the subsequent elections and that they would not have enough time to conduct the first election, then allow a lapse of seven days before the next election. They had to rush and bring the election forward, in a way that would have been unthinkable because having conducted one election, and then coming another three days to conduct the next election is nonsense, especially in a country where the vast majority of the people live in the villages and they are illiterates.

So, so much for your incredible election often applauded by your so-called foreign observers, because when Nigerians who are educated talk to me about foreign observers, I detect a sense of inferiority complex. Who are they to declare your election as free and fair, when you yourself know the situation? And after the election itself, you know what happened in places like Kaduna and others. After that, we are now seeing the result of the collusion between the judiciary and the PDP. You the media will tell us that the judiciary is the last hope of the common man. But now, the Nigerian judiciary is the worst in the world. It is only in the Nigerian judiciary that you see judges, from Supreme Court, down to other courts, go and solicit for bribes from two sides in litigation, I mean from the complainant and the defendant. So, what are you saying?
To have free and fair election, we need more than a credible register; we need more than a credible INEC. We also need a good judiciary that believes in the rule of law. Not chief judges, including Supreme Court judges, who are accused of taking bribes. So, for the 2011 polls, there was no prevailing background that allows for free and fair election. It is not the seven-day event. The exercise must be conducted according to certain rules. Democracy must be respected. There must be respect for the rule of law before you have a credible election. And don’t ever believe that anybody who comes here to observe election is doing so because he loves you. He is here because he is protecting his own national interest. They are only after our oil and other resources.
Away from 2011 election, Nigeria is 51. You were an active player in the second republic. Looking at the North, what do you think could have gone wrong, putting side by side the politics in the Second Republic and what we have today?
Why must you single out the North for comment?
Well, I want to look at the North first before we look at Nigeria. You are a leader in your own right. Your comment on this will not be out of place.
Well, I think the North was shortchanged in more ways than one. Firstly, the North was victim of its own naivety that politics can be played in a very holistic manner, that we can provide the necessary nucleus for building a greater and better Nigeria. This was the dream of our First Republic leaders, the Sardauna, Ahmadu Bello, Aminu Kano, J. S. Tarka and so on. But what has become clear is that the hope of our northern leaders was misplaced and a number of the people who are supposed to have been participants in the game took a lot of things for granted.
What are those things they took for granted and what do you mean when you say the North is shortchanged?
You do not play politics unless you know who you’re dealing with. If you don’t know the character of the person you are playing politics with, you are bound to be disappointed. Now, the North started the struggle for independence at a comparative disadvantage, with a very few schools, very few so-called educated people. We were left behind because the missionaries did most of their works down South and the Middle Belt and we didn’t want to give the impression that we wanted to delay independence for the country because we wanted to hold back. Now, when independence came, we decided to adopt an attitude of live and let’s live, allow the southerners occupy those areas where they have comparative advantage; we also believed that they will be sensible enough to realise that the country cannot be built if other sections of the country are marginalised or are disadvantaged.

So, our attitude was to do whatever we can to make sure that the country is a fair playing field for all. And that was where we were greatly mistaken. And the same mistake continued repeating itself.
When we came to the Second Republic, it was the northerners who insisted that we will have this system of rotation and zoning, which was then the main mantra of the NPN. And they practised it. Unfortunately, when it came to the PDP, which is a bastardised version of both the NPN and NPC of the first and second republics, the party was able to attract some of the worst characters, the most unfavourable characters in our national life; people who have no sense of honour, people who came into politics because they want to make money. People who don’t care about the next party, their neighbour or even the next zone; they are only after themselves; people who are not ashamed to lie and people who are northerners but believe that the South has advantage because the South has this ‘safe’ money, and that when you get into politics, the first thing you do is to take care of yourself and your relations and all that. And through nepotism, you will take care of your own children. You will steal government money and then you lie to the people.

That is the operating mantra of the PDP, as a party today and these are people who call themselves democrats. If you are not in the same cult with them, nobody expects you to win a free and fair election or to be participant in a free and fair election process. I know nobody in the PDP who can be described as a democrat. These are people who want power and they want to get it at all costs, no matter the price to them, to the country or the people. This is the kind of thing we have. Now, if the northerners had played the kind of game, which is prevalent in the South – power for themselves and what have you – I can assure you that Nigeria would have been history now.

The northerners played fair and at the end of the day they were very badly rewarded. Now henceforth, or in another dispensation, I don’t believe anybody can convince the North that some of the people who are playing politics now are trustworthy. Nobody will believe that. And if northern leaders, who are to come, play that kind of game, they are going to be rudely shocked. The coming of Obasanjo in 1999 is a major chapter in our history because Obasanjo could never have won an election and he still cannot win an election. Our generals brought him in: Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, TY Danjuma, Aliyu Gusau and Abdulsalami Abubakar. He couldn’t have organised a party. He couldn’t have won any form of election. They brought him, used their own resources and the resources of the treasury of Nigeria to form and fund a party called PDP. What is happening today is the direct result of that terrible tragedy of their own action. I think the four of them owe this nation an apology for the way they brought out Obasanjo from prison and gave him a comprehensive pardon and formed the PDP and used resources from the treasury to finance the PDP. Here is the result.
Now, talking about northern leaders and the rest of us, one of those you said should apologise to Nigeria is being touted as a possible replacement for the current NSA. What do you think, especially as it amounts to recycling northerners in government?
Now, this brings me back to what I asked you when you talked about the North. What you are talking about the North recycling old leaders applies to the South also. I recall vividly that the people I knew or read about during the First Republic are still active and they are still the movers and shakers in the politics of the South. So, what makes you think that we can be different when we are doing politics in the same country within the same constitutional borders?

Now, to come back to the question, I call it recycling garbage. In the first place, the people we are talking about did not get their first appointment on merit; they got it from purely political and nepotistic considerations and for every time they got recycled back into government, the logic behind it wasn’t merit, wasn’t because national interest was at stake, but it is because somebody has a brainwave, to say so and so is bad and only so and so person is competent to fix it. That is an insult to the people of Nigeria. You cannot tell me that in nation of 150 million people, only one person of mediocre disposition is the one who can be the National Security Adviser. That is utter nonsense; it is counter-intuitive, and it is against justice to reappoint one person to a particular position six times.

Supposing this man drops dead tomorrow, because he is already over 70, does it mean that there would be no individual to help tackle the security challenges of today? And are you telling me that if we are in this mess today, and he is a member of the governing party, he has served in this administration, then he leaves and nobody else can do his job? It is wonderful how you people in the media too argue over this issue. Is it sane to argue that only one man has the answer to our security challenges? I think it is sickening. And I want to use this opportunity to call on the media too, to please help us raise the level of the debate.

At any rate, when he served previously, was he any different from the others? This is, however, not to say that the current National Security Adviser is doing any better. If anything, the man is a national disgrace and an international laughing stock. He is a man with the lousiest track record in the army when he served and now you make him the National Security Adviser only because he is an Ijaw man; he comes from the same tribe with the President. Is that not the most irresponsible way to pick a man who will help confront the challenges of today? When you give appointment to somebody who is your own tribal man, not because he is competent, then you can see why we will never have a peaceful situation in this country.

Now, the job of National Security Adviser in the country has nothing to do with domestic security, the man deals with international security; that is the security of the entire nation. He has nothing to do with police or Boko Haram or OPC or the militants in the Niger Delta. See how the office has now been turned into a joke. It’s a thing for serious concern. I say so because the office is now seen as money making outfit; if you want to make money easily, go and be the National Security Adviser or get involved with the SSS or the police. It is only in Nigeria you can get this kind of nonsense. Most of the people who do the job in Nigeria are people who are basically illiterate, at least those who occupy that position cannot write a single paragraph in English and when they relate with other security personnel at that level, their foreign counterparts, they will laugh at us. Most of them, who had occupied that position, with exception of one fine General, don’t read newspapers; they don’t watch television. They are not literate with the Internet, in this day and age. They rely on rumours and that is what has now been elevated as national security policy.

If you decide to recycle garbage six times, good luck to you, because nothing will improve as far as good representation is concerned. These people believe in money and they are there to be rich, own hundreds of houses in Abuja and other parts of the country, have plenty of money, both in naira and foreign currencies, with which they also settle potential trouble makers. How they operate is, if Boko Haram is making noise, go and find half a million dollars, give them and they will keep quiet; if Gani Adams and others are making noise, go and give them money, they will keep quiet. If the boys in the Niger Delta are making noise, go tell them ‘look under amnesty, we will buy houses for all their leaders in Abuja, pay the school fees of their children and make sure they have fantastic homes and they will drink Champaign to bed every day;’ that is what happens.
But when you have a determined enemy, the one that is determined to make trouble, this kind of appeasement will not work. Those who are determined, who are educated, will not be bought. There is always in every society, someone who cannot be bought and I believe those who are making trouble in Nigeria today cannot be easily bought.
If you were in the president’s shoes, will you keep all the security chiefs you have?
My dear friend, the president was never forced to appoint the people he appointed. I don’t think any nobody is forcing him to keep them in the positions they are now. When you are making political appointments based on sentiments and not on merit, you also live with the consequences of failure. When you look at the history of how these people were appointed, we know what I mean. I just mentioned the issue of Andrew Azazi, who was appointed merely because he is a tribesman of the president. The president himself did not know him, but he is an Ijaw man; he was good. Let me look at the other places, and you will appreciate why we are in this terrible mess. The DG of the SSS, the current DG was appointed after nine of his seniors were eased out to make room for him. His qualification: he comes for the Niger Delta and the PDP and the president have made a determination that the DG SSS must come from the Niger Delta, whether the Niger Delta has a good candidate or not. So, if you remove the nine most senior officers in addition to the other DG, the former DG, to make room for one man, who is the most junior out of the lot, just to have somebody from Niger Delta as the DG, SSS, you can see why we are in a mess.

Next, we move to the police. The IG of the police comes from nearby Jigawa State, but they had to retire six DIGs above him, one of who comes from the same town with him. Some of the other AIGs, who were senior to him were also given the option to retire; you can see if we had also allowed that, there would have been at least nearly 20 people, all of who are senior to the IG who have to serve under him or retire. Most of them chose to go. Now are you surprised that the police are in a terrible mess? That is the real issue; the competent people have been eased out and that is why we are where we are today. The Chief of Army Staff was appointed when we have over 30 generals ahead of him. His qualification is that he is married to the first cousin of the first lady; this is the only qualification.
Is Jonathan the only one guilty of the picture you are trying to paint?
No, don’t get me wrong. You know I will not spare any of them. The previous one, Dambazau, was appointed over and above a more qualified person, also a fellow northerner (name withheld) who is his senior. Yar’Adua appointed him. When Jonathan came in, he also appointed even the worst candidate from further lower down, who was a Brigadier General and here is what we have today. Are you surprised that we are in the mess? You didn’t appoint people on the basis of their ability to deliver; you appointed them because you had in mind the forthcoming election. That is how the appointment was made. The DG SSS, the Inspector General of police, the Chief of the Army and the Air Force and some of the heads of paramilitary were appointed based on this. So, who is fooling who? We are behaving like children, my dear. You know something you don’t want and you sit on it and then when you see war, you now start crying like a baby.

The president himself said the system has collapsed. The question you are supposed to ask him is who presided over the collapse? Under whose watch is this collapse evident? Yar’Adua was not my idea of a president for Nigeria, but my dear, Yar’Adua was 10 million times better than this character we now have as president. At least we know Yar’Adua was an invalid, with his blind ambition and that of his wife, which caused them his life. If I were in the situation Yar’Adua found himself, I would have refused to be president. My personal feeling is irrelevant, if you give a job I cannot do, I say my friend, I cannot do this one. But, there are people in Nigeria who prepared to eat and die. If you provide them the opportunity to make money, they will do that, even if it means keeping the money for others to enjoy or to be stolen. That is the tragedy of our country. And it is not something that can be undone by one man. Even if the president wants to do it alone, he cannot do it.
The appointments are made on a kind of conspiracy between the governors and the president. Governor nominates the candidate; he gets an appointment, whether he is fit or not. Majority of the ministers today are people who cannot deliver as local government chairmen. So, why are you asking this? While they were being nominated where were you, the media?

Look, don’t get me wrong, Yar’Adua was not better. He appointed a boy who could not pass through the Economics department in Bayero, Kano here, a department that was adjudged the weakest then, as Economic Adviser. I mean he was expelled from Bayero. But I insist, as bad a Yar’Adua was, he was 10 million times better that this character we have now.
In all of these, what is the way out?
First and foremost, you have to clear the present government and clear the PDP, the ruling party. But next time you get opportunity to form party, allow them to be formed naturally, with the people who belong together. With the kind of madness and insanity we have in the PDP, where no two people speak alike, no two people think alike, no two people care about the country, you can never run a country. If it means suspending our democracy at least for a number of years, so that we can have credible party system, let us begin from there. Nigerians must learn to be patient, not to be patient with corruption, which is the argument being advanced now. We have to be patient, to make sure that we have parties, which have ideologies, which have core beliefs and when we have those kinds of parties we can play politics. At the moment, we have nothing of the kind.
About a week or so ago, some Ijaw leaders put an advertorial in the newspapers accusing northern leaders of using Boko Haram to destabilise the Jonathan’s government…
That is nonsense. In fact, I will not even dignify that with a comment. If one wants to destabilise Jonathan you need more than just a bunch of those boys. Mark you, the North is over 90 million out of the 150 million Nigerians. So, I don’t know what is there to destabilise. As far as I am concerned, Jonathan is presiding over a discredited system. He does not need to be destabilised. He will destabilise himself together with the PDP. The PDP did very well to destabilise this president, so nobody needs to bother him. They don’t have a party; they don’t have a government. The pillars he thought were going to be useful to him to emerge as the president and to run the government successfully are nowhere to be seen; it’s everybody unto himself, God for us all; that is what the PDP is all about.

They have their own phobia, and that statement may just have come from the Presidency itself, because underground they have their ways of doing some of these things and making them look as if they are coming from the outside.
Earlier, you talked about getting rid of the government…
(Cuts in) yes! I repeat, get rid of the government.
Including through revolution?
Anyhow; In fact, I will welcome a revolution in Nigeria, because we are overdue for revolution in Nigeria. By definition, Lenin said, a revolutionary situation ‘is a situation whereby those who are governing cannot govern and yet they are unwilling to make way for those who will govern.’ That is what we call a classical revolutionary situation. Clearly, this government is incompetent. They are in no position to run this country. Only God is maintaining this country. And not only that they are incompetent, and cannot govern; they don’t want to give way to others to come. This is a classical revolutionary situation. When we have situation like this, the question is who will bell the cat? Who had the guts to organise the young men because I am old now. I am 62. I am no more a young man; so who will organise the young men to demand their right and if they don’t get, they bring down the government.

We are overdue for revolution. If you are afraid of revolution, maybe you have something to be afraid of. I have nothing to be afraid of about revolution, even though I know, again, in the history of revolution situation, many people who are innocent get killed and that is what a revolution is all about; some people will die, but the vast majority of others will have their freedom and the country will have a new and fresh start and tackling its own problems, including the security challenges we are talking about now.
So, there is nothing wrong with revolution. Countries that I respect have had revolution. The British have had revolution. America has had revolution; the French too and many others. What is wrong with us having revolution here? Unless, of course, you belong to those who are stealing government money or you have something to hide, then of course you should be afraid of revolution, because after the revolution, there is what we call revolutionary justice; they will get you and shoot you and there are many people that if we shoot in Nigeria, Nigeria will be a better place. In fact, if you shoot 500 people, Nigeria will be a much better place and God will forgive you.
There was serious mistrust over 2011 election, between the North and the South. As a northerner, what do you think about 2015?
Again I don’t like you labelling me a northerner. Am I not a Nigerian? I am a Nigerian, please, mind your word. Look, there was too much mistrust as a result of the dishonourable conduct of the PDP, especially Obasanjo and the rest of the people, as a result of this zoning of a thing. In the first place, I never believed in zoning, or rotational politics. So, if they get themselves into cull-de-sac, good luck to them, because the country will be better off, by allowing all the sections of the country to elect their own leaders. The country will also be better off if the PDP, as a result of zoning and rotation policy collapses. Nigeria will be better off tremendously if the PDP ceases to exist as a political party, but that is not the issue.

Now, whether there is mistrust between the North and the South, between the East and the North is not my business. First, we have to create the institutional framework for the conduct of free and fair elections and make sure that those who are good emerge as the leaders of the country. I don’t lose sleep because of zoning or rotation policy.

I told many northerners in the PDP, who are my personal friends, that this thing cannot last; they thought I was joking. Here we are today. Where is the zoning policy? Dead! Where is the rotation policy? Dead! So, what makes you think that Nigeria can only be governed only on the basis of zoning and rotation? It will never be governed. So, if they feel they can go ahead and bring some tricks out of the bag with which to govern Nigeria, or they think that once they have zoning and rotation policy, they can go ahead and be good party and bring good governance, good luck to you. But those who emerge as a result of zoning and rotation have delivered nothing from 1999 to date. The country has been walking from one crisis to another, from economic crisis to security crisis.

Even before 2015, Goodluck has announced that he wants one-term Presidency of seven or six years, after he has finished his turn. Don’t tell me he has promised; everybody in the PDP has promised lies. So, definitely if you make a promise with the PDP, you should know that that promise is meant to be broken. Now, Goodluck wants to contest in 2015 and he also wants six-year single term. He has already had three years plus four, making seven and another six. Now, even if we have a system of inheritance, whereby you are born to be the king of Nigeria, I cannot justify having this man as Nigeria’s leader; a do-nothing leader, a know-nothing leader and he wants 13 years. How will this country be after 13 years of Jonathan Goodluck?
What would you tell Nigerians on the 51st independence anniversary celebration?
Am not sure Nigerians will be happy with what I have to say, but I will say it nonetheless. The way and manner this government cowardly refuses to celebrate our independence anniversary is a massive and disgraceful climb-down. It is, in fact, a submission to evil and to darkness; it is also an admission, by them, that they are not fit to do the job. They are not fit to lead this country, because I remember that even at the height civil war from 1967 to 1970, Nigeria never missed the opportunity of celebrating its own national anniversary, because it is like a birthday to us. Even if you don’t celebrate with funfare, you celebrate it with prayers. This is a disgraceful regime, a disgraceful presidency, a disgraceful government brought about by a disgraceful party. May God shorten their stay and may God shorten the agony of the people of Nigeria.

I urge Nigerians to pray for deliverance from God and to allow this country to restore itself, restore its honour and occupy its own position in the comity of nations. That is all I can say. But I see no hope of peace in this country, as long as this government, this INEC, this security service is in charge of our destiny. May God disband them and the sooner, the better.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Nigeria: Everywhere, it is money, money, money.

By Peter Ishaka and Charles Onyekamuo

The state of the nation dominated discussions Saturday as constitutional lawyer and legal luminary, Prof Ben Nwabueze (SAN), who is also a member of The Patriots, comprising a group of respected senior citizens and headed by the late Chief Rotimi Williams (SAN), marked his 80th birthday.

Nwabueze criticised the political structure of the country, describing as unwieldy the present 36-state structure of the federation and prescribed a leaner federation comprising not more than eight power blocs.

Speaking at an event to mark his birthday in his Atani country home in Ogbaru Local Government Area, Anambra State, Nwabueze stated that each power bloc, if need be, could restructure the federating units within them.
The occasion featured the launch of Nwabueze’s book, ‘Current Issues and Problems in the Working of Constitutional Democracy in Nigeria’.

Nwabueze bemoaned the decay in the polity and erosion of the value system and reemphasised that a revolution is needed to enthrone moral regulation in Nigeria.

He said Nigeria after over 50 years of independence had not lived up to the expectations he had in mind when he returned to the country in 1962 to pioneer the establishment of a law faculty at the University of Lagos.

He said: “When I returned to the country in 1962, there was promise of greatness. Today, if you ask me, I am not happy. It is all disappointment everywhere; the country is retrogressing in spite of her wealth.

“Her value system is eroded. Truth, justice, do not mean anything again in this country today. Everywhere, it is money, money, money. These are things that make me sad.

“I normally ask myself, is this, the Nigeria I returned to in 1962 to work and fight for?
“But the question is how do we change the trend of events? The situation is so bad and rotten. I have said it on several occasions that we need moral regeneration and a kind of social revolution in the country even if blood is needed to do it.”

Nwabueze, who last year had called for bloody revolution, said revolutions could happen in several places without an identifiable leader.
“When it started in France in 1789, there was no identifiable leader and it has happened in that way in several places,” he said.
He backed the moves by President Goodluck Jonathan to push for constitution amendment that will limit the terms of the president and governors to one term.

He said he supported a single tenure of five years for the president, with a provision that the office be rotated among the ethnic nationalities.

According to him, The Patriots had long ago canvassed such an idea because any leader who failed to make a mark within his tenure should be regarded as a failure.
A single term of five years, he said, would afford every ethnic nationality in Nigeria the opportunity to lead the country.
Besides, he held the view that the federal system Nigeria is practising must be restructured along the lines of the component groups or zones making up the federation.

“You can also consider the need to restructure in terms of political power. Much power is concentrated at the centre, we must decentralise or devolve power to the federating units,” he said, adding that the power structure of 1960-63 is most suitable for the nation.
Nwabueze also canvassed the need for a national conference where all the ethnic nationalities would discuss devolution of power, territorial structure and allocation of resources, among others.

He further called for a review of the revenue allocation structure to enable states to discharge their responsibilities.
He added: “You can’t give the regions such responsibility that they can’t shoulder. That brings us to fiscal federalism and devolution of power. Is the power given to the centre fair?”

In his review of Nwabueze’s book, a former Vice Chancellor of Nnamdi Azikiwe University in Awka, Prof Ilochi Okafor (SAN), said the book was written in eloquent language and described the author as blunt, incisive, crusading and of unquestionable integrity.
He said Nwabueze remained the greatest legal scholar alive in Nigeria today, adding that he had had a profound influence on Nigerian jurisprudence.

He said the octogenarian’s advocacy of revolution is an expression of the frustrations of a man bogged down by the social malaise in his own society.

Okafor also endorsed the single tenure of five years and rotational presidency as advocated by Nwabueze.
Former governor of Anambra State, Senator Chris Ngige, said although he is not a member of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, he disagreed with those criticising the president over his single tenure proposal.
“If you go back to history, during the 1995 Constitutional Conference of (the late General Sani) Abacha, you will see that a five-year tenure was enshrined in that draft.

“Apart from that, there was also rotation among the six geo-political zones for the first 30 years of our nascent democracy.
“So what the president is advocating is not abstract, I am for this and I was one of those who presented papers at the time as the President of Aka-Ikenga. I support the president and the time is right,” he said.

Dignitaries at the ceremony included Anambra governor, Mr. Peter Obi, former Foreign Affairs Minister, Ambassador Mathew Mbu, Rector, Federal Polytechnic, Oko, Prof Godwin Onu, the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Nnaemeka Achebe and Obi of Awka, Obi Gibsin Nwosu

Oil war -10 chiefs, others die awaiting justice

•Ijaw communities warn Mobil over 13-year spillage
Sunday, July 31, 2011

It has been a long-drawn out battle confined to the realm of the courts. And the bone of contention is the settlement of communal claims in the sum of N980 million and N450 million demanded by the Odimodi Federated Communities and Forcados community respectively.

The two communities in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State are making the claims over alleged damage to fishing creeks, lakes, ponds, mangrove swamps, farm lands and economic trees by a major oil spill on January 12, 1998 at the Idoho platform of Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPNU).

For more than 13 years they have awaited justice in a case they ironically initiated as plaintiffs. But the communities say their patience has been stretched to its limits, and are, therefore, no longer willing to watch helplessly as scores of their leaders at the frontline of the legal battle die one after the other. At least 15 of such persons, among them 10 traditional title holders, have reportedly died while the legal tussle dragged on, eliciting feelings that their action might turn out to be a befuddling steeple chase after all.

Apparently consumed by fear of the unknown, youths of the communities have begun to beat drums of war in preparation for an onslaught on oil facilities within their area.

“We are tired of waiting endlessly for a case which we took to the law court since 2001. We have been in court for this long period in peaceful pursuit of our legitimate rights over an oil spill that occurred 13 years ago. Apart from our chiefs that have died within this period, do you know how many lives have been lost in our communities due to hunger and deprivation from damages caused by the spill to our sources of livelihood? Enough is enough.

“We have been silent all this time because we don’t want our brother, President Goodluck Jonathan to be grappling with too many problems, especially with the Boko Haram in the North, and another Niger Delta uprising. But it seems our position has been taken for granted. Mobil is not bothered because they do not have an operational base in our area. But when we turn on the heat, they will surely feel it,” a youth leader, Boboye Angafa, told Sunday Sun on the telephone.

He said inhabitants of the affected communities, including men and women, youths and the old, would soon embark on a peaceful protest to Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and other oil companies operating within the Escravos/Forcados axis, as a measure of their desire to resolve the matter amicably. “But we shall be left with no other option than to disrupt oil operations if nothing tangible comes out of our desire for peace.”

Reason: “In continuation of hearing in the case before the Federal High Court in Benin, our lawyer made moves through an application to explore an out of court settlement, which the presiding Judge granted and adjourned the case to July 19. That was on June 21, 2011. But when our lawyer wrote Mobil, the company replied that it was not our prerogative to seek settlement; that they would want the case to continue. And I ask: Continue for how long? Till eternity, when all of us are dead? he queried with a feat of anger.

Investigation revealed that prior to the legal battle between Mobil and the aggrieved communities over payment of communal damages, concern had been raised within top government and security circles on the possibility of a conflagration if the issue was not amicably resolved. This was more so as the communities had earlier in a display of transferred aggression shut down the multi-million naira Forcados Terminal operated by Shell, in protest over their omission by Mobil while paying a N20,000 compensation to individual claimants for damage to fishing nets due to the 1998 Idoho oil spill.
The company eventually paid a total sum of N50million to 5000 omitted individuals of Odimodi, Ogulagha, Okibou, and Okibou Zion communities, all in Delta State. But the bone of contention remained a demand for payment of a cumulative sum of N1.43billion by the Odimodi and Forcados communities as communal damages to their sources of livelihood, including fishing creeks, ponds and farmlands, among others.

Emerging developments appear to give credence to the fact that the authorities in Delta State may have correctly gazed at the crystal ball when it urged Mobil 11 years ago to resolve the issues at stake with the communities. In a letter dated October 10, 1999, with reference TF/MA/C/76/25 and addressed to the Chairman/MD, Mobil, Lagos, the Directorate of Petroleum/Mineral Resources and Related Matters in the office of the Executive Governor of Delta State, stressed the need for the oil firm to urgently address the complaints of the Odimodi Federated Communities.

Part of the letter reads: “Briefly summarized, the community is requesting the sum of N980 million being compensation for general and aggravated damages experienced by the community arising from the Idoho platform oil spillage of January, 1998.The communities acknowledge that they have been paid their individual claims and that you sent two cheques totalling N5,809,500 through the Chairman, Burutu Local Government sometime early in the year (1999). They alleged that the cheques were returned to you on grounds of being insufficient compensation and are demanding the payment of the sum of N980,000.000 as per evaluation undertaken.

“In line with the present stand of government to pursue all communities/oil company rifts through dialogue, His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Delta State, has directed that you urgently look into the issues raised in the letter from the community, especially as they are taking umbrage for your inaction at SPDC. Apart from this situation being unhealthy, there is no doubt that it offends the principle of independence of each of you as corporate bodies – SPDC cannot be vicariously held liable for the actions or inaction of Mobil. Accordingly, it would be appreciated if you could mandate an officer of sufficient seniority to open dialogue with the communities, with officials of this directorate moderating on the side of Government.” The letter was signed by I.E. Agbeyeke (Executive Secretary), for the Special Adviser to the Governor on Petroleum Matters.

Nine months later, precisely on July 12, 2000, the Izon National Security Council (INSEC) also wrote a letter to Mobil’s Chairman/MD on the same issue, pointedly warning on the dangers of allowing the impasse to linger. In the letter, which was signed by Prince K. Pereotubo and Chief Thompson Brisibe, President and Secretary General respectively, the council appealed to Mobil to submit itself to the arbitration of the Delta State governor if it “does not want any further situation to erupt out of this issue.”

The letter reads in part: “About the subject matter under reference, we wish to seize this opportunity to tell you that we are conversant with all the details and your lapses with the issue at stake. We want to warn that the silence of the youths in the Odimodi communities should not be taken too much for granted. The outburst of the youths in the Niger Delta region and their spate of violence, particularly those in and around oil producing communities, could be very devastating and should be deterred by all means... That the youths in Odimodi Federated Communities are silent about this issue is as a result of the appeals made to them by the Executive Governor of Delta State for whom they have a lot of regard and respect to exercise restraint. The question of threat is, therefore, out of context.”

Evidently, INSEC’s position was in reaction to Mobil’s response via a letter dated June 19, 2000, to an earlier correspondence from the office of the state governor on the issue. In affirming the dire consequences of Mobil’s failure to resolve the matter amicably, the Izon Council noted that it was erroneous for the oil firm to assume that it was supportive of the Odimodi Federated Communities with the use of threat.

“We wish to emphasize that the Izon National Security Council is concerned primarily to see that there is peace in all ramifications in the Niger Delta region, particularly in the Ijaw-speaking areas. To this end, we try as much as possible to do a proper investigation of any issue that might spark a problem in the Niger Delta,” the council clarified in the letter, copies of which were sent to the Special Adviser to the President on Petroleum Matters and the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) among others.

However, Mobil appears unruffled regardless of the drums of war sounding louder by the day in the Forcados and Escravos creeks of the Delta, as the company has expressed its resolve to cling to the law courts in the arbitration process. Contacted on the rising tension in the aggrieved communities over the dispute, a spokesman of the firm, Mr. Okordion Ozemoya, demanded for a questionnaire via electronic mail, which was promptly sent and acknowledged by him. But a day after, he responded by telephone and expressed Mobil’s indisposition to comment on the issue since the matter was in court, declaring that, “it is our official position.”

How the raging oil war would end in a matter of days, weeks or years remains to be seen, but a spokesman for the communities, Chief Elex Pukor, said a thick cloud of uncertainty hangs over the air. “We are increasingly getting frustrated with Mobil’s attitude towards this matter and there is pent-up anger everywhere. Imagine our leaders like Chiefs Bekenawei, Olukpa, Ingo, Samuel and Second are all dead in the course of this legal battle for compensation. Among several others who have also passed away seeking justice are Ogini, Musa, Ofoyena, Ebiarede, Boro, Seikorowei and Ikiere. All these persons except one are titled chiefs. In the circumstances, how do you want people to feel happy? It is very provocative,” Pukor, who was the chairman of Odimodi community when the spillage occurred in 1998, asserted in an interview.


Upper Iweka - Anambra crime headquarters

•Where robbers, ‘blood-sucking demons’ and fake policemen reign
Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sample 1
Ndidi Anyiam is a young girl staying with her elder brother, Donatus, a trader at the Onitsha Bridge Head drug market. After three years of battling to secure admission into the university, she got tired of staying at home and opted to assist her brother in his shop at the Bridge Head.

One Friday morning, she set out to go to the market. On crossing the other side of the road at the Upper Iweka NITEL bus stop to board a bus plying the Uga Bridge Head route, she was approached by a nice-looking young man who asked her the direction to locate Nwaziki Street in Awada. Coincidentally, it was on the same street she resides. But the attempt to assist this ‘harmless’ young man was her greatest undoing.

All Ndidi could remember two days later was that she found herself in Asaba, the Delta State capital. She could not explain how she was hypnotized, she went to her brother’s shop and collected N80,000 being the cost of two cartons of Procold tablets her brother just sold that morning. Ndidi went ahead and borrowed N120,000 from different sources inside the market, lied to them that it was her brother that sent her and subsequently went back to Asaba to hand over the money to the fraudsters. It was when she came back to look for more money that the brother, who had gone to the Abuja park to send goods to a customer, accosted her and demanded to know where she kept the money inside the drawer. She never gave a satisfactory answer. It was after the brother slapped her that the ‘scale’ fell off her eyes and she started crying.

Sample 2
Sister Mmesoma is a nun in the congregation of Immaculate Heart Sisters. She was transferred from their convent in Awo-Omama, Imo State, to the Nkpor Convent to take charge of the provision store and canteen serving the mission hospital. On a particular day, she went to the Ogbaru Main Market, popularly known as the Relief Market in Onitsha, to buy goods. On approaching the foot of the flyover at Upper Iweka, there was a traffic snarl. So, she and the driver joined the queue. Because the car air conditioner was faulty, the windows were wound down. Suddenly two young men appeared by the window and shouted: “Give us that bag.” Out of fear arising from different tales she had heard about Upper Iweka, she handed over the bag containing the sum of N210,000 to the boys even before the driver could tell her not to since the boys were a regular nuisance that harass people without guns within the area.

This is Upper Iweka, the unofficial crime headquarters of Anambra State. Upper Iweka literary possesses different faces - the good, the bad, the ugly. These true life encounters are just samples from the action thriller churned out daily from the hot spot of Onitsha.
Upper Iweka is a big spectacle in contradiction and absurdities. Though it derived its name from the popular Iweka Road, named after a monarch (now late) from Obosi in Idemili North Local Government of the state. Upper Iweka is simply the upper part of the Iweka road but because of its vantage location, it is the heart of Onitsha.

It is the connection point for many travellers as it serves as a point of arrival and departure for various travellers within the city or those in transit. Because of its central location connecting the Onitsha-Enugu expressway, Asaba Bridge Head expressway as well as Onitsha-Owerri expressway, many cannot do without Upper Iweka, although it is often dreaded like a plague due to the chilly stories and happenings within the area.

When popular musician Ibealoke Chukwukeziri (aka Apama Boy) released an album in 2001 titled: Ihe na-eme na Upper Iweka (things dey happen for Upper Iweka) it was a hit. The Achi, Oji River-born artiste demonstrated in song the activities of illegal tax collectors, who extort money from individuals in the name of tax rates until they met their perfect match in the person of Chief Perricomo Okoye, whom they carried shoulder high to their office to perfect their extortionist tendencies but were surprised that they couldn’t bring him down despite all efforts. Ichie Perrycomo, using his own African magical powers, taunted them all through, commanded and collected outrageous items from them before he set them free.

Today, the tax collectors may have fizzled out of Upper Iweka but the activities in the area can make for another block buster movie. In June this year, Upper Iweka was in the news again as 20 corpses were reportedly found in a tunnel while a criminal was being pursued. Although official sources say the figures reported in the media were inflated, our reporter spent some days in the area and came up with several discoveries that would make the activities of those days under the Ojuelegba bridge in Lagos look like child’s play.

Upper Iweka is the place where two men can engage in an open fight totally naked with passers-by watching. There, Okada riders and others passing by, when pressed by nature, will simply unzip, pull down their trousers and begin to defecate in the gutter while others pass and look the other way.

In this place, it is every man for himself as no one cares what happens to the other. Everybody seems to be always in a hurry here. It is also a dumping ground for ritualistic activities, an area where one confronts in the early hours of the day gory pictures of beheaded ladies or butchered men whose vital body parts may be missing.

Fake policemen on the prowl
There used to be a police station at Upper Iweka opposite the NITEL office. The place was formerly a beehive of activities as the police then were accused of massive arrests of innocent people. It was during the MASSOB uprising some years ago that some hoodlums capitalized on the situation and burnt the station down.

Since then, the Anambra State police command has not rebuilt it, although there is another police station nearby at Okpoko layout. While policemen in uniform mount checkpoints around the flyover and the Lagos park axis, Sunday Sun revealed that fake policemen also harass and extort money from individuals. They operate around the NITEL area, Aba Park axis, Micmerah Park, Ogbaru Relief Market as well as Old Asaba/TRACAS Park. Their style of operation is usually to flash their identity cards at an already fidgeting trader and then search and collect any valuables in the person’s bag unless the person is ready to settle.

Narrating his frequent encounter with this group of ‘policemen’ to Sunday Sun, Justus Ijeoma, who is head of the publicity desk of a human rights group in Anambra, said: “There was a day one of them flashed his identity card and wanted to search my bag. I resisted and he called another man on the other side of the road, who he addressed as Inspector. The so-called Inspector flashed his own identity and I quickly grabbed it, only to discover that the man was a police constable. I called the Area Commander on the phone and he told me to hold the man and await the arrival of his men. Unfortunately for them, the press crew of a private television station was passing by and one of the reporters recognized me. They filmed the encounter and took all of us to the station where it was discovered that the constable was working hand-in-hand with the fake police officer. The man was sanctioned appropriately.”

Our reporter also observed that many traders in Onitsha become victims of these fake policemen and other real policemen in plain clothes, who harass people within the area with phrases like “wetin you carry?”; “from where to where?”; “where is your helmet?”; “when you reach station, you will explain further”; “where is the receipt for this goat?” among other such gimmicks.
Speaking on the development, the new Onitsha Area Commander, AC Larry Osita, said the command was poised to discipline any errant officer as he had zero tolerance for corruption.

Emergency toll collectors
In 2009, The Federal Government awarded the contract for rehabilitation of the Onitsha-Enugu dual carriageway. Although the pace of work has been at a snail speed, with concerned residents lamenting the situation, there are however other individuals “praying” daily that the work should be abandoned completely. They are the emergency toll collectors reaping bountifully at Upper Iweka. Since the construction company excavated large sand, which blocked the gutters in between, it has become practically impossible for pedestrians, motorcyclists and vehicle owners to cross over to the other side of the lane without assistance.

This became an employment opportunity to many jobless youths who capitalized on the situation to erect wooden crossover ‘bridges.’ The toll fee is N10 per crossing for pedestrians and ‘Okada’ riders while vehicle owners pay N50. Between the Ogbaru market, down flyover, TRACAS to MCC bus stop, this reporter counted 15 of such illegal tolls/crossings and all the operators are busy from morning till night. Some of the points are manned by red-eyed Indian hemp addicts, who are ready to “die” with any uncooperative user. One of the operators who identified himself as Tobias said he makes an average of N3000 daily from his toll point.
In the evening, the business becomes more spectacular as wheelbarrow pushers convert them into emergency flyovers. They put their barrows between the gutter for people to step on to the other side, also for a fee.

Centre of mysterious accidents
Upper Iweka is also the place where the highest number of road crashes is recorded yearly in Onitsha. It is estimated that accidents occur on the average of two per day in the area. Some attributed it to the presence of “blood-sucking demons” in the area while others say it is the result of the chaotic nature of the area and the concentration of human and vehicular traffic. Most of the vehicles often involved in crashes are heavy-duty trucks and people wonder how such vehicles crash at the point of destination at Onitsha after covering long distances from Maiduguri and other parts of the North.

When contacted on the telephone, the Onitsha Unit Commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission, Mr Ben Akunne, declined comment on the development but demanded an official letter before he could respond.

Headquarters of hooliganism/brigandage
Apart from regular touting by motor park and garage workers, Upper Iweka is also the headquarters of hooliganism and brigandage. Pick pockets, handset and handbag snatching are rampant. Armed robbery incidents occur mainly in the early hours of the day and in the evening. A car dealer, Onuorah Oodo, narrated how he lost his valuables to armed robbers at Upper Iweka while returning from Lome, Togo, where he sources cars for his clients. This practice takes place in various forms by various faceless groups, who have the raw nerve to demand and grab money and other valuables from their hapless victims. However, there are two identifiable groups whose activities leave much to be desired. They are the Anambra State Traffic Agents (ASTA) operatives and the Task Force known as Ndi Mpiawa azu (the lacerators, back breakers or the cane masters).
The ASTA operatives appear in green trousers and yellow shirts while the Mpiawa azu group is known by its traditional ox blood fez cap on which is inscribed Anambra State Task Force. They usually wield long canes.
Although the ASTA operatives have their head office at the Bridge Head section while the Mpiawa azu is located at the Onitsha-Owerri road bypass, both groups have unofficially relocated their head office to Upper Iweka because of the lucrative nature of their business in the area. The two outfits were created by a former Commissioner for Transport and Special duties in the state to ease traffic, check the excesses of commercial bus drivers on major roads in Onitsha as well as to clear the streets of the excesses of street traders.

Sunday Sun findings however revealed that the major preoccupation of the two groups is extortion and brutality. The ASTA operatives impound and forcibly remove vehicle number plates, tow such vehicles to their offices and extort the driver. They apprehend those driving against the traffic yet they flout the same rules themselves while on duty. The cane beaters (mpiawa azu) collect money openly from drivers while any hesitation results in continuous flogging and breaking of vehicle mirrors.

Their boss is popularly known as IKO and is alleged to operate a very lucrative transport business with a fleet of vehicles while they don’t remit the accurate revenue accruing to the government. When Sunday Sun contacted him on phone for comments on the allegations, his response was: “What is your business in this matter? Did government tell you that their money is missing? If I like, I can procure 100 buses monthly for my business. If you had come physically to ask me this stupid question, I wouldn’t have talked to you. Rather I would have told my boys to beat you up.”

This reporter witnessed recently how a pregnant woman fell off a commercial motorcycle that was knocked down by a commercial bus being pursued by the group at Upper Iweka. She died soon after.

Rent a bench to pass the night
At the Lagos Park section of Upper Iweka is another big story. Many street urchins and barrow pushers that are homeless find refuge in the area. While some of them sleep on top of their barrows at night, others that cannot afford the luxury rent wooden benches for N40 and sleep in the open space. Bench renting is another lucrative business in the area.


Saturday, 23 July 2011

Love forgives all sins – the gospel according to Ngozi Onyegbule

by Joachim Ezeji
The fictional novel ‘’Love forgives all sin’’ reflects life and every day love, pains, ambitions, plans, and disappointments that often moves in tandem with it.
In this novel, Ngozi Onyegbule a freelance writer, poet, comedian and author used a combination of African, European and Caribbean Island scenes to espouse the immense effects of and enduring impacts of love, destiny, forgiveness, faith, culture, compassion and tolerance on the human person hence my decision to tag it a ‘’gospel’’ .
In a no-holds bare the story recounts the experiences of Kenneth, a hitherto village school teacher in the hands of Sybil, the girl he had planned to marry. However Kenneth’s ability to quickly rise above that emotional and love gone sour setback; quickly sort himself out and transiting from his humble village teacher station to that of a new life in the UK as a scholar underscores the strength of success as a sure bus stop for hard work, determination, focus and resilience; all being vital and germane basics in shaping robust futures. Ordinarily, weaklings would have mourned for life the jilt by a loved one; but certainly not Kenneth.
Kenneth’s willingness to forgive Sybil and ability to effectively proceed to resuscitate their already comatose wedding plans speaks volume. Going ahead to eventually marrying Sybil underscores true love beyond measure. It is germane to point out that forgiveness is never an easy virtue. People who exude it are not ordinary. In our world there is ubiquity of revenge, violence and hatred. But Kenneth despite his new orientation, contacts and opportunities in the UK espoused this scarce virtue of forgiveness and still extended optimal love – marriage to a woman who ‘dumped’ him when her own ‘’sun shined’’.
Another important point to stress here is the certainty of destiny. This is evident from the web of intrigues that effectively played out in the coming together of these erstwhile lovebirds. Who could have imagined that Kenneth and Sybil would eventually meet several years after in such a strange afar Trinidad, West Indies at an International Christian Convention? The meeting at the Robert Marley Hall that evening was much more than a coincidence, but destiny in action.
Ngozi Onyegbule’s recount of everyday life and nuances in the typical African community where both Kenneth and Sybil originate from espouses the traditionally uncommon African communal nexus that binds people together even in the severest midst of myriad deprivations. In these communities, locals know each other, sympathising and mourning with those who mourn, while rejoicing with those who suffer loses. The story of Kenneth and Sybil encapsulates this and much more. It also throws a challenge of juxtaposing scenarios of yesteryears in those communities with what exists today even with new and so called appropriate technology. Are they still the same or are there surprises?
As with all worthy activity, readers will benefit from reflecting upon the points raised in the story and take a stand as it affects them individually. Every paragraph provides opportunity necessary for such reflection. Readers especially the new generation will certainly relish the story of Kenneth and Sybil, stopping where necessary and considering the relevance of the issues to their own stations and relationships in life. This is a very important message from this fiction which must not be lost. It offers readers a worthy opportunity to pause and consider the implications of the ‘gospel’ in order to facilitate an understanding of the message to their own lives. For squeezing out the time to write in spite of his very ever busy schedules, Ngozi Onyegbule has underscored his fit for structure personality- an all-rounder. This is evident in his foundations in the art of reading, writing and speaking. These streaks shape a full man and remained tools vital for the 21st century voyage and beyond.
I recommend this book to all men and women who desire love in its truest form. Kenneth and Sybil’s story as told by Ngozi Onyegbule ‘’gospel’’ offers emotional grease for those who desire love.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

"What Nigerians Pay The Federal Government" -The Opinion Piece That Got El Rufai Into Trouble With Jonathan

By Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai

The syndicated article below was first published on July 1st 2011, in it, Nasir El Rufai wrote that several security agencies combined spend about N2 billion a day with nothing to show for it. The office of the NSA is s reportedly angry about these claims and wants Mr. El-Rufai charged for "incitement, sedition and publication of false news". The former minister and CPC chieftain is currently facing interrogation at the offices of the State Security Services in Abuja after he was arrested this morning upon his return from the United Kingdom.

This year, every Nigerian - all 162 million of us - man, woman and child will 'pay' the sum of N27,685 each to help run the federal government. What we cannot afford, government will borrow on our behalf to pay for its activities.

That is why the federal government, on behalf of you and I will spend the sum of 4.485 trillion (over four thousand billion) naira in 2011. This is against the backdrop that our entire oil earnings for the year cannot pay the generous salaries and allowances of politicians on the one hand, and the meagre pay cheques of other public sector workers on the other, while infrastructure and unemployment are barely getting attention.

When you walk into a government office to request for a basic service, the staff you meet may not even bother to reply to your greeting and barely has time to listen to you; the policeman that should protect you on the roadblock, stops you and demands for bribes and has no qualms shooting dead any motorist that refuses to give him twenty naira; the customs officer at the border who is supposed to stop smuggling takes a bribe and actually connives with the smugglers to bring in banned products into the Nigerian market, while harassing the traveller entering Nigeria with two new pairs of shoes; the hospital staff that, contrary to every professional oath, refuses to attend to dying patients because they are on strike; the soldiers who get so bored that they occasionally go on a rampage, using policemen for target practice. With live ammunition, of course; the politician who rigs himself into office then proceeds to loot the treasury: these are all the people whose standard of living we are spending nearly 75 per cent of the 2011 budget to pay for - and borrowing some after spending all our collections from oil and taxes!

It will cost nearly 2.5 million naira this year on average to pay for the salary and upkeep of each of Nigeria’s nearly one million federal public sector workers – in the police, civil service, military and para-military services and teachers in government schools and institutions. Whether this amount justifies the service that is rendered is left for Nigerians to decide. In all, the 49 line Ministries, Departments and Agencies specifically mentioned in the 2011 Appropriations Act will each cost an average of N49.49 billion to run.

We elect a total of 360 members to the House of Representatives and 109 Senators to make laws and enhance good governance by checking and balancing the excesses of the executive arm of government. For this privilege, the 469 members of the federal legislature and their support staff at the National Assembly will spend N150 billion this year. It is worth noting that NASS only passed 8 bills as at the end of May 2011. So assuming that they manage to pass another 7 bills before the end of this year, it would cost the Nigerian citizen an average ten billion naira to pass a single bill! This implies that to pass the 2011 budget (which allocates N150 billion to NASS), Nigerians paid 10 billion naira. An even more interesting statistic is the cost of maintaining every legislator every year. It works out to princely N320 million per legislator per annum. At this rate, every four year stint at NASS works out at N1.28 billion per legislator. No wonder machetes, guns and thugs are used at will to "win" primaries and the elections. How many new businesses can achieve a turnover of N1.28 billion within four years with net tax-free profit in excess of 50 percent? Is this social justice?

For the NASS, even the amount of N150 billion above is just what we can see easily but is not broken down for further analysis or accountability. There is a bit more hidden all over the Appropriation Act - another N1.595 billion was tucked away for "In-lieu of accommodation for the Seventh Session of NASS" and another N200 million for "Funding of House Resolution Mandates." What these two provisions mean is best explained by those that legislated them and the executive that will release the sums! What is clear is that none of these will ever be accounted for, or audited!

Last week, I wrote about the cost of justice. I got a few things wrong because I did not appreciate fully the unique role of the National Judicial Council (NJC) in the administration of the nation's judicial system. My friend and former classmate Mrs. Maryam Wali Uwais clarified this and educated me, for which I am grateful. The NJC's budget of N95 billion covers the salaries and allowances of all judges of superior courts of record in Nigeria - that is State High Courts and their federal equivalents, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. The NJC also funds the overheads of all the Federal Courts only - the Federal High Court and the appellate courts, as well as the salaries and allowances of all Federal Judicial support staff. The State Governments are responsible for the salaries of all other judicial staff (magistrates, support staff, etc.) and the overhead costs of all courts within their respective jurisdictions. It is therefore slightly more complicated to compute what it costs to keep our entire judicial system running without adding up all the budgetary allocations to the Judiciary in all 36 states. We will return to this sometime soon.

An interesting observation is the fact that the government says the problem of power shortage is a priority, yet the Ministry of Power only got 91 billion naira as total appropriation in 2011, while the National Security Adviser (NSA) controls and will spend 208 billion naira (Recurrent - N51 billion, Capital N59 billion, and another N98 billion for the Amnesty Programme!). This amount does not include the Defence budget. The Defence Ministry will get N348 billion, while the Police will get 309 billion naira. In other words, though Nigerians have never felt so insecure in recent history, the NSA, Police and Defence will spend a combined 865 billion naira - more than 2 billion naira a day, weekends included! This does not include the 36 states’ so-called security votes. Even state assembly members and local government councillors now have security votes. Clearly their security is more important than ours!

The point of these statistics is to show how expensive governance has become and how little Nigerians get in return. And the unproductive portions of our national budget have been rising rapidly in the last 4 years, to the detriment of capital investments in infrastructure and human development. Four years ago in 2007, the entire federal government budget was 2.3 trillion naira; today we are spending 4.485 trillion. In 2007, statutory transfers amounted to 102 billion naira or 5% of the total budget. Today, transfers amount to 418 billion or 9% of the total.
This year, the federal government will spend 495 billion naira or 11% of the budget on debt servicing compared to 326 billion naira or 14% it spent the year we finally exited from the London Club debt. More telling is the 1.05 trillion naira or 46% for recurrent expenditure in 2007 against the 2.425 trillion or 54% government will spend this year. Just four years ago, capital expenditure accounted for 36% (830 billion naira) of the budget. This year, the amount for capital expenditure has fallen to 25% (1.147 trillion naira - out of which N1.136 trillion is the budget deficit - that is to be borrowed!).

To the uninformed eye, the figures may seem to represent increases in all aspects, but to what cost, and to what effect? Apologists would want us to believe that the astronomical increase in the cost of government services can be explained by inflation, but even taking into consideration the high inflationary trend (thanks to Jonathan’s profligate campaign year spending), statutory transfers in the budget has gone up by a whopping 310%; debt servicing has a 52% increase; recurrent expenditure has gone up by 131% while capital expenditure has increased by 39% over four years. In real terms however, and accounting for inflation, the total budget has increased by 33% with recurrent expenditure going up by 58% while capital expenditure has actually reduced by 6%.

Facts and figures do not lie. Every figure used in this analysis came from official government records. What is the justification for allocating such huge amounts to running the government when a staggering 30 million Nigerians are unemployed? Only N50 billion has been budgeted to create employment, forgetting that money by itself does not create jobs without a well thought out plan to stimulate small and medium scale enterprises and the creation of appropriate regulatory environments. What are the strategies to ensure that these funds are not diverted? How many jobs will be created this year or in the next four years? Are our priorities right?

All these come down to the questions: Will government’s 4.485 trillion naira budget make life any better or even provide security for Nigerians? Can we feel the impact of this huge spending? Is the cost of governance justified? If we do not have the courage to ask these questions, we will be doing ourselves a disservice and endangering our people's future.