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.

‘Nigeria tops hard drugs use in Africa’

By Dele Anofi, Abuja

Nigeria tops use of illicit drugs in Africa, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) World Report 2011 has said. The UN body said information on drug use in Africa is extremely limited, given the lack of scientific survey in the region. Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Ahmadu Giade said Nigerians should not panic over the report as the nation is heavily populated compared with other African countries. Speaking during the presentation of the report in Abuja at the weekend, UNODC Country Representative Dr. Oliver Stolpe, however, commended Nigeria’s efforts at curbing the trend of illicit drug use and trafficking. He said the removal of the country from the United States government’s list of major drug trafficking countries was recognition of the country’s determination to sanitise its environment of illicit drug use and trafficking. According to the report, the annual prevalence rate in Africa for cannabis use fluctuates roughly between four per cent and 14 per cent, and is the highest in the world. It said: “Nigeria has the highest prevalence of cannabis abuse in the region, with an estimate of more than 14 per cent.
“Annual prevalence of cocaine use in Africa in 2009 ranged between 0.2 per cent and 0.8 per cent, Nigeria, with a prevalence rate of 0.7 per cent, again is among the top consumers within the region. “Annual prevalence for opiate use in Africa is estimated between 0.2 and 0.6 per cent. In Nigeria the opiate prevalence rate was estimated to have increased from approximately 0.6 to 0.7 per cent in 2009. This means that Nigeria would host roughly 500,000 heroin users”. The prevalence rate for amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) in Africa was put at between 0.2 and 1.4 per cent. The prevalence rate in Nigeria is estimated at 1.4 per cent, also the highest in Africa. But the report also noted that trafficking in illicit drugs might be on the decline in Nigeria. Stople warned that against complacency to achieve the desired result of curbing the illicit trade that poses the danger of turning the country to a notorious transit country. “In 2009, 104 kg of heroin were seized in Nigeria, although this represents a sharp increase from the 2008 level of 12 kg, seizure were already high in 2007 (121kg).
“Reports suggest that Nigeria may serve as a transit point for limited quantities of heroin destined for consumer markets in other countries,” Stolpe noted.Besides, it was also reported that decline in the seizure of cannabis in Africa was partly due to a significant drop in Nigeria. “In 2007 and 2008, the largest annual seizures of cannabis herb in Africa were reported in Nigeria. However, in 2009 seizures in this country fell by almost two third. “Nigeria also reported notable increase in the farm-gate price of cannabis. Both the decline in seizures and the increase in price were attributed to the destruction of cannabis farms by law enforcement in Nigeria,” the report stated. The NDLEA boss who spoke with The Nation after the presentation said Nigerians should not panic noting that population of Nigeria was responsible for topping most of indices. “Though we are high on the table in Africa but when you look at the population we are equally higher, so if you look at the population and the percentage it is not something alarming that we should be bothered about. “Moreover, when it was confirmed that the sources of gathering information on this report as it relate to Africa and Nigeria were not through scientist survey, then we should not be overly alarmed. This is not to say we have to relent our efforts at bring down the menace in our society. “As you know, even the US government recognized our efforts at cleaning our environment of drug abuse and trafficking, we are set to do more” Gyade added.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way ought I go from here?
Cheshire cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where. –
Cheshire cat: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go. - Culled from a scene from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

FADAMA III Project Gulps N1.2b In South East – World Bank


The FADAMA III Project has funded over 2,600 subprojects to the tune of over N1.2 billion in the south-east zone of the country, the World Bank has said.

The bank explained that out of this number of projects, about 260 have been completed, while the rest were at various levels of completion.

World Bank team leader, Obadiah Tohomdet, in a statement issued in Abuja, noted that these facts were contained in the various status reports presented by the five project implementation units (PIUs) in the zone.

The team was on a 3-day mission in Abakaliki, Ebonyi State capital to ascertain implementation reports from the State Fadama Offices as well as visit some subproject sites in the state.

The mission also noted that over 683 Fadama Community Associations (FCAs) and 7,712 Fadama Users Groups (FUGs) were already benefitting.
Some of funded subprojects, according to the reports, include; Rural roads, culverts, markets, storage cold rooms, poultries, cassava processing mills, palm oil processing mills, fish ponds, piggeries, rice mills among others.

Reacting to the reports, the team leader, noted that what was happening in the zone was encouraging, urging beneficiaries in the zone to maximise the benefits of the project.

Tohomdet added that the World Bank had already made available $250million , while the federal, state, local governments and the primary beneficiaries were providing the balance of $200million of the total $450million package for the entire project.

Meanwhile, Governor Martin Elechi of Ebonyi State, while exchanging views with the team in his office, said aside from Fadama III Project, there were other development partners-sponsored projects for which government had not been regular in meeting its obligation.

Elechi, however, noted that the state government was in the process of streamlining her activities in order to meet the needs of the people, but was not specific on whether these projects would continue to benefit from government’s counterpart funding.

“The state government would review her further participation in the project, and come up with proposals which would be forwarded to the World Bank for possible consideration,” he said.

Responding, the team leader recalled that the State was in arrears of 2010 and 2011 counterpart funds, the Team Leader appealed to the Governor to offset all outstanding counterpart funds, more so where Fadama III Project concept tallied with the major priorities of the state.

World Bank Votes $27m For Disaster Mgt In W/Africa


In order to help improve disaster management and also assist countries that are already reeling under the impact of climate changes in the West Africa sub-region, the World Bank through a global facility on disaster reduction and recovery has set aside the sum of $27 million.

Africa Disaster Risk Management Team Leader at the World Bank, Mr. Paolo Caputo, disclosed this at the on-going 14th Regional Climate Outlook Forum for West Africa, Cameroon and Chad in Abuja yesterday.

He listed the priority countries for the global facility to include; Burkina Faso,Ghana,Mali,Togo and Senegal.

Caputo said some of the main criteria were vulnerability to floods and at the same time, the track records of the various governments in terms of disaster management and their commitment to the global framework for action and also the possibility of integrating actions of disaster management with the existing World Bank portfolio.

The World Bank helmsman emphasised that the five countries were on the most vulnerable list and were chosen by a large constituency of donors which support the global facility for disaster reduction and recovery, adding that the list could be expanded depending on the needs and the requests from the various governments in West Africa.

He also hinted that the World Bank was supporting the simulation exercise on floods at the event in view of the fact that improved dialogue and cooperation between disaster management specialists could help to improve the effectiveness of early warning system for floods, reducing the loss of lives and property in West Africa.

Meet husbands of 10 successful Nigerian women .

Hussain J. Ibrahim, Amina Alhassan, Adie Vanessa Effiong, Mulkat Mukaila, Abuja & Andrew Agbese, Jos .

It used to be said that behind every successful man is a woman. It is a saying that acknowledges the fact that men are usually at the forefront while their women ride to glory behind them. But times have changed. Women are now becoming leaders in their own right, celebrated for their success on the basis of their hard work and effort. But then, the saying is just as applicable that behind every successful woman is a man. Weekly Trust goes behind the scene to investigate the profile of these men who have not just only been supportive of the aspirations and ambitions of their women but have in some ways been enablers who helped to ensure that their women flourish and do well not just for themselves but for the society at large.

Pauline Tallen
Chief Mrs. Pauline Tallen was born on January 8, 1959, in Shendam LGA of Plateau State to the family of Baba Paul and Mama Elizabeth Kattiems. She attended the University of Jos where she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in sociology in 1982. She won her first political appointment to the local council in 1994 as councilor in Shendam LGA. Luckily for her, the new regime of the military government in Plateau State viewed her as an asset in her community and appointed her into the position of commissioner in the state executive council overseeing the Ministry of Social Development, Youth, Sports and Culture from 1995-1999.

With the election of Tallen as Deputy Governor of Plateau State, she was the first and only female Deputy Governor in the entire northern Nigeria. A quiet personality, Miskoom John Tallen, husband of Pauline Tallen, is known for his community support efforts and acts of philanthropy. Many in the state, especially in his native Shendam remember him for encouraging farming and for the practical steps he had taken towards that by personally assisting farmers with tractors in his area.

He was a director in the old Plateau civil service where he had been in charge of cooperative shops in the 70’s. He is also known to have used his spare time to promote religious tolerance among the people in the state by organizing different forums where discussions about mutual coexistence are held. Now Chairman Board of Trustees of Shendam private school which was established around 1982, Miskoom Tallen has offered scholarships to orphans since then with over 300 university graduates among them.

He was active in partisan politics in the Second Republic but has been silent on the political scene but is believed nevertheless to have encouraged his wife to pursue a career in politics.

During the recent gubernatorial campaigns in the state where his wife contested against the incumbent governor, Jonah Jang, Miskoom Tallen stood by her and once had to defy his age by mounting the rostrum to physically stand by her to correct the impression that he was not in support of her gubernatorial ambition.

Diezani Alison-Madueke

Diezani Alison-Madueke was born on December 6, 1960 in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria. She studied architecture in England and then at Howard University in the United States, and worked in USA for some years before returning to Nigeria, joining Shell Petroleum Development Corporation in 1992. In 2002, she attended Cambridge University for her MBA. In April 2006, Shell appointed her its first female Executive Director in Nigeria.

Allison-Madueke was appointed Transport Minister in July 2007. On December 23, 2008, she was appointed Minister of Mines and Steel Development. Since 1999 she has been married to Admiral Alison Madueke (retired), one-time Chief of Naval Staff who was at various times governor of Imo and Anambra State.

Allison-Madueke was born in 1944 in Oji River, Enugu State, and is of Igbo origin. He attended the Britannia Royal College, Dartmouth England and the School of Maritime Operations, Southwick. Madueke studied at the Nigerian Defense Academy between 1964 and 1967. He served at the Embassy of Nigeria as Naval Attaché in Washington DC, USA. After a military coup d’état overthrew civilian President Shehu Shagari on December 31, 1983, as Navy Captain he was appointed governor of Anambra State from January 1984 to August 1985, and then of Imo State until 1986 during the military regimes of Generals Muhammadu Buhari and Ibrahim Babangida. Promoted to Rear Admiral, from 1993-1994 he served briefly as Chief of Naval Staff under General Sani Abacha. He was sacked after a Supreme Military Council meeting in August 1994 where he supported the release of the elected civilian president Moshood Abiola, who had been imprisoned after the coup that brought Abacha to power.

Senator Grace Bent

Adamawa State’s Senator Grace Bent got elected into the National Assembly in 2007 where she served her constituency until 2011. While at the National Assembly, she was a house committee member on Ethics and Petition, Environment, Aviation and Foreign Affairs. Senator Bent has previously held positions as Assistant Producer, NTA Kaduna and Managing Director, Jack Ventures Nigeria Ltd and Gammako Nigeria Ltd.

But behind the amiable Senator is retired Major Jackson Bent who hails from Dong, Demsa Local Government Area of Adamawa State. The constituency Senator Bent represented in the National Assembly is actually the constituency she married into and not one where she was born. But probably it is a measure of the support she enjoys from her husband that she won the election in his constituency to go and represent the people of the area in the National Assembly, a position she held meritoriously and being one of the few Nigerian women who got elected at constituencies different from their states of origin.

Major Jackson Bent was born on 14th December, 1951. He attended St. Theresa Primary School, Jimeta, Yola and GSS Ganye from 1963-1967 where he proceeded to GSS Bauchi for his higher school certificate .He attended the NDA as an Officer Cadet from January 1972 to 1974, then later became Combatant Officer in 1974 as a second Lieutenant in the Nigeria Army.

Major Jackson was the ADC to the Military Governor of Kano State from 1975-1976 from where he was later transferred to Kaduna as the ADC to the then military governor in 1978, from there he proceeded to Kachia Kaduna State as Commandant of the Army Resettlement and Rehabilitation centre.

He has held positions in the Army like Military Assistant to the Adjutant General, Staff Officer to the Quarter-Master General, Directing Staff Officer at the Command and Staff College Jaji, and Acting Commanding Officer, 181 infantry Battalion, Lokoja, until his retirement.

After his retirement from the Army, he became the Executive Director /Group Executive Coordinator of Buhari Group of Companies and later formed Jack Ventures Nigeria Ltd and Jamal Nigeria Enterprise where he has since been Group Chairman /CEO till date.

Aisha Dukku

The former Minister of State for Education, Hajiya Aisha Dukku, is an achiever in her own right. With an unyielding resolve to bring positive changes to her people, especially the vulnerable girl-child and women, she had tried to make positive impact through community development initiatives. After serving as minister she engaged fully in her NGO, Centre for Development and Partnership (CEDAP) activities to further achieve this goal.

She is married to Jamaluddeen Arabi, an influential community member. Her husband has been one of her major pillars of support. She said of him: “What is important is that I have a supportive husband and he gives me all the encouragement I need to discharge my duties. Where I fail he understands, because I never want to fail in whatever I do, but as a human being I am bound to make mistakes, somehow, somewhere and he understands.’’ In one of her recent interviews she was quoted as saying, “my husband remains my pillar of support”.

She thanked her husband for being supportive at all times while she tries her best to ensure that the home front does not suffer in spite of the daunting task of her public calling. “I believe Allah created me and He knows why He created me, because He created me as a woman, He has also given me the strength to do what I have to do and I have been coping successfully without any problem,” she said.

Nenadi Usman

Nenadi Usman is one woman that needs no introduction. She was Minister of State for Finance during the Obasanjo administration and later rose to become the substantive Minister of Finance in the same administration. Mrs Nenadi has played a prominent role in women development and empowerment and has played a pivotal role in the formation of a Non-Governmental Organization called “Education and Empowerment for Women” with its headquarters at Jere in Kaduna State.

Nenadi Usman is married to Dr. Sa’ad Usman (the Chief of Jere). She said of him in an interview: “He is a very good father and husband and he has always been in support of me in everything I venture into. He told me that the sky was my limit and with hard work I could get there. He is a very gentle person, loving and very accommodating.”

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Ngozi Okonjo Iweala is known as the iconic lady of Finance. She was born June 13, 1954 and hails from Delta State. She was the first woman to hold the portfolio of the Minister of Finance when she served as the finance minister in 2006. Prior to her ministerial career, okonjo iweala was vice president and corporate secretary of the World Bank Group. She is married to Dr. Iweala, a surgeon from Abia State, who works with Washington’s Province Hospital, USA.

Abike Dabiri-Erewa

Abike Dabiri-Erewa is the one-time anchor of NTA’s popular Sunday television show, Newsline after Frank Olize, before she contested for a seat in the Federal House of Representatives where she is currently serving her third term. Married to Segun Erewa, with four children, she describes marrying her husband as the best decision she has ever made. “I am lucky and blessed with a very understanding person and I ask where he has been all these years. He is an extremely wonderful, down to earth person, sincere and very blunt. We call him the Most Valuable addition (MVA).”

Obiageli Ezekwesili

Popularly referred to as ‘Madam Due Process’ during her tenure as Education Minister, Oby Ezekwesili began her career as an accountant, auditor, financial and management consultant with Deloitte &Touché where she worked as an auditor, management and financial services consultant. Thereafter, from 1994 to 1999 she served as a founding Director of Transparency International (TI) and as TI’s Director for Africa. She worked as Director of the Harvard-Nigeria Economic Strategy Program, between 2000 and 2002. About the same time she was appointed as an aide to President Obasanjo before being made Senior Special Assistant to the President of Nigeria on Budget Monitoring and Price Intelligence in 2003.

She is married to Pastor Chinedu Ezekwesili of the Redeemed Christian Church, a man who is an acknowledged religious and community leader who has touched the lives of several Nigerians by teaching positive values. It is an influence he extended to his wife who during her stint in office was one of the vocal voices against government wastage and corruption.

Priscilla Kuye

Priscilla Kuye is past president of the Nigerian Bar Association, past president, Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce, past vice-president, Commonwealth Lawyers Association, Principal Consultant, Priscilla Kuye& Co (Legal Practitioners), Member, Body of Benchers and past Chairman, Human Rights Committee, NBA, and hold leadership positions at many other organisations. She is married to Chief Omowale Ajani Kuye, a former Permanent Secretary who retired from public service in 1988 after holding several key positions in the federal civil service which include Assistant Director, Federal Ministry of Finance, 1979-1983; Director of Budget, Federal Ministry of Finance, 1984-85. He was also Director-General, Special Duties, Office of the President and was also Secretary, Technical Committee on Privatization and Commercialization of Government Companies and Parastatals, 1989-93. He has been married to Priscilla for over 45 years.

Senator Ajuji Waziri

Farida MzamberWaziri is the current chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. She was born on July 7, 1946 and raised in Gboko, Benue State. Farida Waziri enlisted in the Nigeria Police Force in 1965 and rose to the position of Assistant Inspector General of Police. She also served as Commissioner of Police (special fraud unit) in which role she recorded the first conviction for Advance Fee Fraud in Nigeria. She led the West African delegation on Advance Fee Fraud to Lyons, France in 1996. She led the Nigeria delegation to Dallas, Texas for a seminar organized by the United State Secret Service in 1998.

Farida Waziri is married to Senator Ajuji Waziri, a former Senator representing Bauchi South East Senatorial District in 1983. Apart from being a member of the Constitutional Conference between 1994-95 he was Nigeria’s ambassador to the Republic of Turkey between 2004-2007. He was also elected Senator in 2010 following a by-election to fill that position.


Why I’ll always remain a Northerner – Gov. Rochas .

Abdulkareem Baba Aminu & Amina Alhassan .

Born Rochas Anayo Ethelbert Okorocha in September 22, 1962, from Ogboko Ideato South Local Government Area, the Imo State Governor was a businessman and philanthropist before venturing into politics. He achieved gubernatorial victory under the platform of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). He also holds a Masters degree in Law and is married, with three daughters and three sons. Weekly Trust recently interviewed him on a wide spectrum of issues. Herewith, are excerpts:

In the past twelve years you have changed political parties like eight times. Does that mean we’ll see you ditching APGA anytime soon?
I have no intention to change party for now. When you say I have ditched different parties, I would not say that is quite right because this whole thing is about vision. The political party is only a vehicle with which people use to attain their political ambition. The most important thing is the vision that you have for the people.

I was a founding member of the PDP but in a situation where they would not give me the ticket to achieve my vision for the people, I had no other alternative than to go to a party where my political dreams for the people will be achieved. I moved to APGA, which to me is not really a political party for our people, but more like a culture. It is an organization that represents the interests of the people.

Speaking of the PDP, there were speculations that you were at a time a mole for Obasanjo, to distort the game-plan of that and other parties...

Does Obasanjo really have a friend? I do not think he has any friends and so when those cheap speculations of him planting people to do things are bandied about, it baffles me. He could not have done that, at least not with me.

The elections have come and gone and obviously marred by a polarized population. What efforts have you put in place to re unite the people of Imo state?

I believe that what is important is the state itself. The interest I have to protect is more of the interest of the common man because that is the yardstick in which we can measure the success of any given government at any time. Most people will like to go into witch-hunting their predecessors, but that is not my type of game. That is not what I was elected for. But again that does not mean I will not look for where every naira of Imo State had gone and whether it was able to achieve the purpose of which it was meant.

In doing so, many might look at it as fighting but it is not. In fact, my concern is that contractors who collected these monies and never did the job should be held responsible. I am not concerned about who approved or gave the job.

You reportedly dissolved the council of traditional rulers in your state. Why?

The traditional institution is and remains the mirror of a state and such an institution is supposed to maintain a certain level of responsibility. Before my coming in as the governor, you will notice that the traditional institution was getting over-politicized and generally began to lose focus. Some of them became fully involved in politics as it got to a stage that we could not differentiate a traditional ruler from a politician, which was not healthy for our society.

What I’m doing is trying to reorganize the place to give it its dignity and the decisions we took is in line with the people of the state. The confidence of the traditional institution is going to be restored in the hearts of the people of Imo State.

What is your stand on the issue of the new minimum wage?

We will pay, definitely. If it is a law, it is a law and we cannot say otherwise, so we must pay. What people should understand is that the law says N18,000 minimum and I think that is fair enough. How can you pay someone N10,000 or N15,000 in Nigeria today? What you are telling the person indirectly is to go and steal. Even the N18,000 is little but it will at least go a long way.

What the state governors are saying is that the Federal Government can afford to pay but the states cannot because the Federal government has 52% of the entire revenue-sharing formula. So if you put together the total civil servants in states and compare it with those at federal level, it is a very large difference. So the Federal Government can pay while the states will need to generate more revenue to be able to pay the minimum wage. The Federal Government has smaller responsibilities while the states have bigger ones. So, we are calling for restructuring of the revenue-sharing formula.

You have introduced free education from primary to secondary school in your state. How feasible do you think this will turn out to be?

Many people have confronted me on this issue of free education. But let me ask one question, what legacy can we leave for the upcoming generation? Is it to build mansions or to buy posh cars for them or what? Education is an emotional issue for me. I would have not have gone to school and become a governor today if I did not go on the streets of Barkin Ladi in Plateau State, selling oranges and groundnuts before being able to go for classes. So I know firsthand the pains of poor people when they are not able to send their children to school.

People have come to me to argue how Imo State can achieve this with 1.9 wage bill and 2.3 subventions amidst the debt profile of the state. And I say to them if that is all we will achieve in the state, so be it and that is my stand.

What I’m simply doing is cutting down on a lot of things, as there is a lot of waste in government. When you go to most government houses, you hear of champagne allowance, travel allowance, lodge maintenance allowance and all sorts of allowances which run into millions of naira. Why all this extravagance when there is a child out there who is not going to school? So if we can make such sacrifices then we can allow the poor people to go to school. My kids are making the sacrifice as they are in public schools in Nigeria and my wife is not a high-profile woman.

The over 13,000 staff I have at the secretariat are being redeployed back to the states because I do not know what they sit in the state doing, writing files, selling groundnuts and biscuits at the secretariat. But all that has stopped now.

It has been in the press that you are short-tempered, how true is this?

I think if there is anybody who has a large heart, it would be me. It is not true that I am short-tempered. I mean, if you ask those who have worked with me they will tell you that the largest of my heart extends even beyond elasticity. I do not keep malice and I am not someone who would keep enemies.

Do you read a lot?

No, unfortunately. I’m not one who reads a lot because for me I feel reading someone else’s idea gets your idea polluted. I particularly don’t like self-help books. So when I see people applying alien economics theories in Nigeria, it baffles me.

You speak flawless Hausa. How come?

I will always say I am a Northerner and I’m very proud of it. The East gave birth to me, the North gave me life and the West empowered me financially. The North gave me life and made me who I am today and there is no reason why I should forget that. They are everything to me.


Nigeria’s thriving bushmeat trade

By Emeka Umejei, Correspondent, Lagos

Bushmeat trade is a thriving business in Nigeria and the authorities appear lame to tackle it. The trade thrives on ignorance and culture. Many Nigerians do not know the implication of Bushmeat trade. To them, it is normal to hunt wild animals for food and economic demands.

Also, increase in population has led to higher demands for survival and Bushmeat holds a lot of hope for a majority of Nigerians who see it as viable means of food and economic survival.

Bushmeat trade thrives in the villages where it is where people who hunt Bushmeat are celebrated. Orientation is abysmal or non –existence and the people do not know they are acting in contravention.

It is a culture that would need a lot of orientation and enforcement to change. But economic implications also make it difficult for enforcement officers to achieve tangible results.

Hunting and selling of Bushmeat have often been seen in the villages as avenues of augmenting income from farming. Hence, it is a perceived as a show of strength rather than illegal act.

Bushmeat are wild animal products derived from the forest and woodland .Some Bushmeat species include red duikers(Antelopes), panthers , chimpanzees , gorillas and African elephants, Africa rock python(snake),Monitor lizard, Olive ridley turtle, crested porcupine ,bush tailed porcupine, African elephant, Bonobos, Chimpanzees, Olive baboon, Guereza ,monkeys,Giant pandolin, Crocodiles, African Civet,Red River hog,Water Chevrotan, Hippopotamus etc.

To farmers in the hinterland, the above list make no sense because the animals have often served as a source of protein or income for them.

Recently, on a visit to Igbodo, located in Ika North east local Government area of Delta state, it was evident that Bushmeat trading is a norm in African societies. Perhaps, this may account for the difficulty in classifying it as a culture or illegality.

During my brief stay in the village, a relative who had gone to farm had brought with him over five pieces of Antelopes which his traps caught. His catch elicited wide spread celebration at home. The celebration stems from the fact that it would lead to revenue generation and provide food for the family.

When i enquired the cost of apiece, i was rightly informed that it goes in excess of N7000.

More intriguing is the fact that if a farmer’s trap catch an animal like crocodile, pig, or leopard, he is celebrated as a great hunter.

Hence, Bushmeat trade is driven by both ego and commerce.

Those who venture to hunt lion or tiger are revered in the society and are deified for their bravery.

But Bushmeat trade is not restricted to villages alone; it strives even in the cities. Bushmeat trade finds accommodation in the city of Lagos, the commercial capital of Nigeria

Recently, i decided to embark on search for wild animal parts in the city posing as someone looking for it for medicinal purpose.

I found spots in both Oshodi and Idumota markets that there are where wild animal parts like lions,tiger,crocodile are on sale.

People who deal on these parts are called Eleweomo(a Yoruba word depicting a person versed in herbs)

The Eleweomos are often glad to inform clients that it takes alot to get a lion’s part, the reason it is expensive.

A Lion’s cub could go for as much as N20, 000 depending on who is linking you.

Though, their operation is subterranean, their business thrives because Nigerians seeking for cure often come to them.

But trade in wild animals in Lagos is not restricted to sale of parts in the markets there are several restaurants or joints where they are sold as delicacies.

The story of Mrs Motunrayo Olanrewaju aka Aranseoluwa, chief executive officer of Snake Island or Aranse joint where snake and other Bushmeat delicacies are sold as a delicacy best capture the scenario of Bushmeat trade in Nigeria. Olanrewanju’s Snake Island is located in Igando area of Akowonjo local government area of Lagos state and offers snake, antelope, grass cutter pepper soups and snails.

She confesses that she started the business 15 years ago and it has been a thriving venture for her.

“I started this business 15 years ago. You can say it was by stroke of luck. I had a canteen where I sold food but one day, one of my customers went to Badagary and saw people selling smoked snakes and he became interested and brought one for me to prepare for him,” Olanrewaju disclosed.

“As I was doing that, other customers saw it and asked if I was into snake pepper soup and I said no. Then one of them said but madam, you can start this business because it will attract so many more customers as many people can’t imagine they can get this delicacy here in Lagos.”

Stating further, Olanrewaju said that marked her journey into Bushmeat delicacy trade.

“That was how I started. The man then took me to Badagary, to the place from where he bought it. When I got there, I saw all sorts of bush meat – roasted grass cutters, antelopes, snakes, fresh snails and others. I bought as much as my money could buy,” She revealed

“Depending on the size, one single smoked snake goes for between N1000 and N1,500 and a plate goes for N300. A plate, according to her, contains a sizeable chunk of snake meat in a sauce.”

More perplexing is the fact that Nigeria is a signatory to the the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) convention which proclaimed trade in wild animals should not threaten their survival.

CITES is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

CITES was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of IUCN (The World Conservation Union). The text of the Convention was finally agreed at a meeting of representatives of 80 countries in Washington DC., United States of America, on 3 March 1973, and on 1 July 1975 CITES entered in force.

CITES is the most recent, and by far the most robust, international mechanism for regulating trade in wildlife, not just for game species, but for a vast array of species of fauna and flora used by humankind.

Annually, international wildlife trade is estimated to be worth billions of dollars and to include hundreds of millions of plant and animal specimens. The trade is diverse, ranging from live animals and plants to a vast array of wildlife products derived from them, including food products, exotic leather goods, wooden musical instruments, timber, tourist curios and medicines. Levels of exploitation of some animal and plant species are high and the trade in them, together with other factors, such as habitat loss, is capable of heavily depleting their populations and even bringing some species close to extinction. Though wildlife species may not be endangered but existence of an agreement to ensure the sustainability of the trade is important in order to safeguard these resources.

Though Nigeria is a signatory to CITES, level of enforcement in the country has been both abysmal and lacking in substance.

According to CITES, it is dependent on government to enforce its regulation of trade in wild animals.

Secretary-General of CITES, John scanlon stated this much recently at the International Network For environmental Compliance and Environment(INECE) ninth international conference entitled, Enforcement Cooperation: Strengthening Environmental Governance held in British Columbia, Canada from June 20-24.

Scanlon had noted that CITES created a globally agreed framework for regulating trade in wildlife, but insisted that the success of the Convention rested on national laws, science and enforcement.

Scanlon also stressed in his address entitled, Role of Hunter in CITES Implementation at 58th General Assembly of the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) held in St.Petersburg, Russian that commercial trade may be beneficial to conservation of ecosystem when they are not detrimental to the survival of the species.

“The sustainable use of wild species, whether consumptive or non-consumptive, can provide an economically viable option for the conservation of biodiversity,” Scanlon said.

“ And by Resolution CITES Parties have recognised that commercial trade may be beneficial to the conservation of species and ecosystems, and/or to the development of local people, when carried out at levels that are not detrimental to the survival of the species.”

Whether Nigeria can extricate Bushmeat trade from culture and enforce regulation remains a conjecture at best.