Why PDP governors conspired against Jonathan – Adoke, former AGF

former Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke (SAN), has said that a former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, assumed office with a mindset that the excessive powers of state governors elected on the party’s platform should be curtailed.
He says Tukur openly confronted the governors and his election turned out to be a deadly blow on the party.
Adoke says this in his book, ‘Burden of Service: Reminiscences of Nigeria’s former Attorney-General’.
The former minister says Tukur started by dissolving state executive bodies of the party because he thought they were loyal to state governors.
He cites the case of Tukur’s home state, Adamawa, as an example.
The book reads, “The mounting pressure within the PDP, to my mind, led to many avoidable errors. One of such was the election of Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, a former governor of the defunct Gongola State as the national chairman of the party in March, 2012.
“That fundamental slip by the party struck a deadly blow on the PDP. Tukur, coming into office with a mindset that the governors’ excessive powers needed to be curtailed, openly confronted them. He started by dissolving the PDP state executive bodies, perceiving them as loyal to the governors, particularly in his home state, Adamawa, where it was rumoured that he wanted to install his son, Awwal, as governor.
“It appeared that the President initially fully backed Tukur. He did not heed the governors’ entreaties. By the time he realised what was happening, irreparable damage had been done to the party.”
The book reads further, “Tukur was not working cohesively with the PDP National Working Committee. He was also not at peace with the then national secretary, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola. Matters degenerated to such an extent that Alhaji Kashamu Buruji was rumoured to have been goaded to institute a court case against Oyinlola.
“In a jiffy, there was an order removing Oyinlola as the National Secretary. Oyinlola appealed against the order and won but he was not reinstated. This further aggravated the problem on the ground.”
The former minister says some PDP governors ganged up against the then President with seven of them forming a group they called G-7, which he says openly attacked former President Goodluck Jonathan at every turn.
The G-7, the book says, was instrumental to the breakup of the PDP at the August 2013 mini convention when the seven governors walked out in protest.
“The former Vice-President, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, joined them on their way out. The ‘new PDP’ led by Baraje, was, thereafter, formed.
“That was the last straw in the conspiracy of events that broke the back of the PDP and paved the way for the emergence of a strong opposition party,” he said.
Adoke says by the time Jonathan finally withdrew his backing for Tukur in January 2014, the damage had become irreparable.
‘Why Osinbajo is after me’
Also in the book, Adoke accuses Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo of being behind his travails.
He says although Osinbajo’s “bizarre role” in what he calls his persecution remains incomprehensible, he gives three possible reasons.
“First, it was possible some persons who were fighting me gained his confidence and persuaded him that, indeed, I was floating on a sea of stolen loot that needed to be recovered.
“It could, as a matter of fact, be a well-meaning and altruistic fight against corruption based on the purest of intentions on the VP’s part,” he says.
The second reason, according to him, is that he has been told that Osinbajo, in an effort to impress President Muhammadu Buhari, has informed him that the signature bonus paid on OPL 245 is too meagre.
Adoke claims that it is the Vice-President’s opinion that if the transaction is to be reviewed, he can get the beneficiaries of the block, Shell and Eni, to pay up to $500m as signature bonus.
“To achieve this objective, all efforts were made to malign the Settlement Agreement of 2011 with allegations of corruption,” he added.
Adoke, in the book, gives the third possible reason as an interview he granted a national newspaper in 2016.
He says he made reference to Halliburton case in which the government retained the services of Nigerian lawyers to prosecute foreign companies that allegedly bribed Nigerian officials in respect of the NLNG project.
“In that interview, I mentioned the names of the lawyers who got paid by Pfizer to include Chief J.B. Daudu, Prof. Osinbajo, and a host of other Nigerian lawyers, including Mrs Mariam Uwais, now a special assistant to the President on Social Investment Programme in the Office of the Vice-President.
“Their fees, I had pointed out, were paid to them by Pfizer through Mr Tunde Irukera, an associate of Osinbajo. Irukera is now the Director-General of the Consumer Protection Council.
“I was told that Osinbajo was very bitter that I mentioned his name. He didn’t fancy being portrayed as having benefited from certain transactions as he sought to maintain a clean public image. It appeared I had inadvertently blown open that holy lid. That could possibly account for his hate and contempt for me,” he writes.
He adds, “This consideration, however, remains speculative. I have not been able to confirm it. If that be the true position, then the VP was possibly trying to get his pound of flesh by supporting those aggrieved by the Malabu transactions to come after me, using the EFCC over which he has enormous control.”
Adoke said he decided to write the book because he did not want the story of his service to Nigeria to be reduced to “malicious allegations” against him in the OPL 245 transaction.
He writes, “I want to tell my own side of the story with all sincerity. I have been viciously maligned. There is a need to set the records straight.
“By being a frontline in the government of President Goodluck Jonathan from 2010 to 2015, I was in the line of fire throughout. I have faced even more fire outside office.
“It is logical for me to tell the story from where I stood, believing that those who read it with an open mind will come to well-informed conclusions.”
He adds, “However, I would also wish to contribute to the discourse on public sector reform in Nigeria. I witnessed the intrigues that go on in the corridors of power. I was right there, in the middle of things, as a player, not a spectator. I saw things. I saw people. I saw places, inner sanctuaries.
“The public does not enjoy the benefit of knowing most of what goes on inside there. I thought I knew a lot about Nigeria, having being a senior lawyer and having interacted closely with top government officials for decades. I was wrong. Being an insider unlocks more secrets than an outsider can ever glimpse.” – Punch.

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THE SUBTLE CHANGES IN OUR SOCIETY BY SADIQ DASIN

We do not need to worry ourselves too muchabout the past and present events that are happening in our society that divide us as a people. The past shall not only change but may even go away completely with time.

Society is evolving and with it, our beliefs, superstitions of the past and our practices are getting extinct. And so are the people perpetuating them.

I am one person who believes that in no too distant future, we would not fight about tribe, religion or region. As time goes by, it would be difficult to identify any one with their tribe, religion or region. What would matter will solely be what would bring food to the table.

If we that are 50 years of age and above die, social norms as beliefs, superstitions and ethnic identity would naturally die with us. Those who would have replaced us would certainly not bother about prescribing behaviors for themselves along with expectations of the behaviors of others. Doing what is RIGHT will be the norm.

For instance before Christ, Europeans bore names such Mr. Stone, Mr. Snow and Mr. Black. But with the coming of Christ, their names changed to Biblical names such as Peter, Paul, Issac, Isiah, etc. For some time now, such names are anathema in Europe and America. They adopt names similar to Europeanised tribes and fanciful names adopted by celebrities even if such names were names of celebrities’ pets. Now no body talks about tribe in Europe and America even though such mundane things were big challenges in the two continents. I hope I am not exaggerating.

Here in Nigeria, Edo state Muslims who adopted Muslim names are abandoning them fast. Adam or Adamu is either Adams or Adamson. The case of Edo women from Muslims homes is even worse. They now bear English names. Igbos in Lagos adopt Yoruba names and some don’t even want to be identified as Igbos. Yoruba names and speaking only Yoruba in their homes is in vogue. Igbo girls bear more English names than girls from any tribe in Nigeria.

In the North, Hausa names such as Dan Dare, Nagodi, Dan’Asabe, Danjuma and Fulani names like Sodari, Bangaje, Tugga, etc are fading. You now hear Fadil, Nabila, Jabir, etc. Northern Christians are leaving their old traditional names existing in their local languages, and are not only adopting Hausa names like Godiya, Abashe, Kore, etc, but are changing to trendier names adopted by the Hausa-Fulani from the Arabs such as Sanusi, Mubarak, Nasir, etc. Some Christians also adopt European names that have since been abandoned in Europe and America.

Superstitious beliefs are almost gone though some exist in form of religion that they are not. Today no body would agree that poliomyelitis is caused by a she-devil called Inna or if your cattle are dying you forcefully push KELLE through their mouth.

Pastors that speak Queens English tend to have more flock in their churches than those who preach in local dialects or in Hausa. Local Pastors now have to shape up as they are being gradually shoved out.

In mosques, the trend is similar. With Madrasas or Islamiya in abundance, Imams who recite verses with Tajweed during prayers are the vogue. Hausa Imams that recite GAIRUMAN NGALUBI or Fulani Imams that recites A’ UJU BILLAHI are getting extinct. The Borno Imams reciting as if he they are speaking Kanuri are being naturally replaced.

Young girls that run away from home because of Auren dole, which was never sanctioned by Islam, are less seen in cities. Now girls flock cities to work as domestic helps, or in filling stations dispensing fuel, at supermarkets or go to Kano to do KannyWood or those ‘things’ that bring food to the table.

Single mothers no longer hide the fact that “since I can’t marry myself, if I no see husband at the age of 40 I go born”.

The uniformed “Yellow fever” traffic wardens that were for Igbira people in Kano is no longer Igbira preserved. They earn like the police. Kanawa apply to work with Karota.

In Hausa land any man that can speak the language and prays along with them in their mosques marry their daughters without a do. The Fulani nomads that were largely located in the Sahel and semi-arid parts of West Africa, are forced by recent changes in climate patterns to move further south into the savannah and tropical forest belt of West Africa. In fact intermarriages between nomadic Fulani with other tribes has long been taking place. A study I read recently disclosed that there may not be more seven million nomads in West Africa and they are fast becoming sedentary. Perhaps we may not even need law to domesticate them as time goes by. The Tuaregs and Berbers are integrating in Burkina, Mali, Senegal, Niger and Chad.

Smaller tribes in West Africa and indeed Northern Nigeria are disappearing. Any person from another tribe who marries from a tribe other than his own, will have his offsprings speaking a language other his own. Children of any union between Kanuri and Hausa produce Hausa and any union between Marghi and Chamba will produce neither of the two.

Most army generals in our armed forces have wives other than from their tribes. The
the civil service and political class marry across tribe. Workers in banks and in the private sector do intermarry across tribes. One can on and on. The things that divide us are changing as the old ways are giving way to the new.

The wonders of Nigeria by Simon Kolawole

In February 1998, Gen Sani Abacha, Nigeria’s military head of state, sent troops to Sierra Leone to restore democracy. Major General Johnny Paul Koroma had sacked the democratically elected president, Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, who fled to exile in Guinea. Thankfully, the military junta was displaced by the ECOWAS troops, led by Nigeria, and Kabbah was restored to office a year later. I still remember a sarcastic line from The Economist of London on the intervention: “Democracy in West Africa now depends on the Nigerian military.” To think that the same Nigerian military had annulled the country’s own presidential election and clamped the winner, Chief MKO Abiola, into detention!

This is one of the wonders of Nigeria: restoring civil rule in a neighbouring country while urinating on democracy back home by incarcerating and assassinating pro-democracy activists. This wonder also coincided with when Nigeria entered the age of massive fuel importation as all our refineries went down. Nigeria, then the biggest producer of crude oil in Africa and the world’s fifth biggest exporter of the black gold, started importing petroleum products — a culture that stands solidly till today. This prompted Chief Bola Ige to say: “Nigeria is a country that exports what it doesn’t have (democracy) and imports what it has (petrol)!” It is a land of wonders.

There are times I pretend I am not a Nigerian just to imagine the kind of thoughts a foreigner would have towards this country. I pretend I am on the internet reading news from some random countries. So I see a headline like “Nigeria imports 60 million litres of petrol daily” and I try to make sense out of it. So Nigeria produces 2.2 million barrels of crude oil per day and needs probably 600,000 barrels to refine petrol for local consumption. But all the four refineries are either down or barely working. So the country sells crude oil abroad, makes millions of dollars and then sends away the revenue to import finished products. Wonderful.

What this means, without too much mathematical complication, is that if their heads were properly screwed to their necks in that their Nigeria, or whatever they call it, and they do things properly (remember I am pretending to be a foreigner today), the country would save itself the agony of depleting its foreign currency reserve with avoidable expenses. That would strengthen the naira, improve their balance of trade and current account positions, and help grow the local economy tremendously. The results could definitely be felt in improved inflow of investments. They would definitely save and create jobs, not to mention the macro-economic stability.

Okay, so Nigeria imports fuel because its refineries are not working. So the refineries did not work under Abacha, did not work under Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, did not work under President Olusegun Obasanjo, did not work under President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, did not work under President Goodluck Jonathan and are still not working under President Muhammadu Buhari — in like 30 years? So these funny Nigerians have been spending billions on turn-around maintenance since Abacha’s days and are still not turning around anything? So they are now fasting and praying that Alhaji Aliko Dangote’s refinery will save them from the fuel import scourge — more than 10 years after they revoked the sale of their refineries to him? Wonder! Wonder! Wonder!

Every day I read in the papers that the roads leading to Apapa ports in Lagos are congested because the trucks have no parking bay. So they use the main roads as parking lot, thereby disrupting the flow of traffic and bringing untold hardship and economic ruin on Lagos motorists. So the federal government issues one-week ultimatum to “decongest” the roads without providing a parking lot for the trucks. So the federal government sends a “decongestion task force” to Lagos and spends hundreds of millions of naira without providing a parking space still. With strong-arm tactics, the trailers disappear from the roads — and resurface a few days later. Wonderful country.

You see, when the colonial masters built the ports, they created enough parking spaces that could take up to one million trucks (that is an exaggeration, but you get the point). They did not create a port without parking. But Nigeria has sold the parking bay to private companies and the trucks now have no other place to park than on the roads. Did you know that the colonial masters built a rail line between the ports and Iddo railway terminal? The idea was to evacuate the cargos by rail! It has gone moribund. It could be revived with just $50 million but Nigeria would rather spend that amount on a monthly “decongestion” exercise, making a few people smile to the banks. Wonders.

Enough of ports now. I am told that when you want to travel out of Nigeria, two officials check your passport. One is from the Department of State Services (DSS) and the other from the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS). That is not my problem. If they like, they can add police, army and boys scout to the list. What I don’t understand is that Nigeria spends billions yearly on foreign trips for its officials, who frequent several countries daily, sometimes looking for “foreign investors”. So where else in the world do they see two officials checking one passport at the border? Why do Nigerian officials burn so much money on foreign trips without taking sense back home?

Is it true that customs officers check vehicle papers on Nigerian roads? You must be kidding me. What I was taught in my kindergarten days is that customs works at entry points to the country. I have travelled to many countries across many continents and it is time for me to confess that Nigeria is the only country where customs works inland. It is one of the wonders of Nigeria. They say it is to check smuggling of cars into the country. Wonderful. The smuggling is not checked at the border but it is checked on highways? The same customs that cannot check smuggling of fuel out of the country are now checking smuggling of cars into Nigeria? Wonder! Wonder! Wonder!

That country must be an interesting place. They import what they have and export what they don’t have. This is a land flowing with milk and honey, literally, but they are spending like $1.3 billion importing milk every year. They have spent billions of dollars on the power sector for decades and keep generating megawatts of darkness. Their national assembly is filled with chronic debtors and politicians undergoing criminal investigation or trial. Some of the miscreants even get appointed as ministers. It is a country where recurrent expenditure, notably duty tour allowances, gets spent to the last kobo while there is no money to finance the capital projects that will benefit citizens.

I was told that in Nigeria, top government officials shamelessly celebrate the graduation of their children from foreign universities on social media when they can at least spare the details so that Nigerians do not become jealous and begin to moan. Someone told me that the shortest route to wealth in Nigeria is to get a government appointment or get elected into office. Suddenly you can afford all kinds of cars and build all kinds of houses and celebrate your first billion naira and first billion dollars with parties. Is it true? Tell me it is not true. Tell me what I am reading on the internet about that country is fabricated.

Finally, the sharing of ministerial portfolios by Buhari opened yet another window for the world to see the wonders of Nigeria. An educationist was not appointed minister of education; rather she was made minister of state for agriculture. An accountant was made minister of finance while the only economist in the cabinet was made minister of agriculture. The power sector has been deregulated and we have NERC to play the critical role of regulator. We do not really need a minister of power but Buhari has now appointed two ministers of power! A minister of energy would have combined petroleum and power: it is basically about driving policy. But is it not Nigeria? Wonderful!

AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…

ON ABBA KYARI

President Muhammadu Buhari said twice last week that all communication with him must go through the office of the chief of staff, Mallam Abba Kyari. Actually, it goes without saying. That is the brief of chiefs of staff anywhere in the world. They are basically the No. 1 aide. It does not make them more powerful than the president. The chief of staff is as powerful as the president wants him or her to be. I think Buhari deliberately emphasised the role of his chief of staff publicly to put to rest further agitations against Kyari, against whom some people were planning to organise #RevolutionNow protests. Buhari was saying in clear terms: I have Kyari’s back. Unequivocal.

WADUME’S CONFESSION

Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume, the alleged Taraba kidnap kingpin whose arrest led to the cold-blood murder of three police officers and one civilian by soldiers, has told us something we suspected all along: that the security agencies are neck-deep in crime all over Nigeria. Wadume, in a short video, confessed that the soldiers took him to their barracks after killing the police officers, cuff off his handcuffs and set him free. Ironically, the police themselves are notorious for going rogue, indulging in criminal conspiracies and extra-judicial killings — but we thought soldiers were a little more sophisticated. Let’s face the truth: we are in serious trouble in this country. Depressing.

THE FRAUDSTERS

The FBI has indicted 77 Nigerians for participating in a conspiracy to steal $46 million. This is coming about the same time a celebrated young entrepreneur, Obinwanne Okeke (Invictus Obi), was arrested by the FBI for conspiracy to commit fraud amounting to $12 million. The activities of these fraudsters are a shame to honest Nigerians working hard, day and night, to earn a living. Because of these criminals, genuine Nigerian entrepreneurs are stigmatised while innocent travellers are belittled at embassies and immigration points worldwide. We need extra efforts to clean up this mess and save honest Nigerians from further discomfort and humiliation. Urgent.

PREMIUM POWER

Recently, I experienced something for the first time in my life in Nigeria: uninterrupted power supply for seven days! It started on a Thursday and by the time I left the country, the lights had still not blinked for one second. I am told it still remains uninterrupted. I was worried, thinking we would be punished later, but I finally discovered the secret: our residents association has struck a deal with the DisCo to supply constant electricity in exchange for higher tariff. So we now pay N47 per kilowatt hour, which they say is cost-reflective, as against the N21.30k prior. Some residents are angry and have launched a media war. Me I know what to do: control what I consume. #PayAsYouGo.

Criminals in uniform By Shaka Momodu

Have you watched the video of the killing of three policemen and a civilian by soldiers of the Nigerian Army? If you haven’t, please go and watch it. Have you read the statement issued after the fact by the acting Director of Army Public Relations, Colonel Sagir Musa in response to the first police statement notifying the public of what had happened? If you haven’t, please search for it and read it. Also read the second statement by the police that picked apart the army’s explanation of what transpired. You will immediately know who is lying.
Police spokesperson, Frank Mba, said the Intelligence Response Team (IRT) had arrested and was transporting a suspected kidnapper, Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume, to the Command Headquarters in Jalingo when the police team came under attack. From all accounts, this notorious kidnapper is well known to the security services in the state and had probably compromised them to the point that they aided and abetted his nefarious trade of kidnapping.
Watching the video clip of how men of the Nigerian Army turned their guns on officers of the Nigerian Police to free the kidnap kingpin turned my stomach. It was a brutal, cold-blooded, execution-style murder. The video was graphic, traumatic, gruesome, too painful and horrific to watch. It would shock the moral conscience of any right-thinking individual. The most pathetic part was that one of the policemen who was clearly writhing in pain from gunshot wounds, was further molested, traumatised and allowed to die without medical help. Only savages could have done this to their fellow humans.
It is even more baffling to know that the men killed and debased so publicly were elite officers of the Nigerian Police Force. It broke the average spirit that Nigerian soldiers could do this to their counterparts in the police, all in a bid to free a kidnapper? That soldiers trained and maintained with taxpayers’ money were ordered to kill policemen to free a kidnapper who had been terrorising, extorting huge ransoms and killing Nigerians at will, doesn’t make sense. And I don’t know if it makes any sense to any normal human being.
Despite the successful recapture of the kidnap kingpin by the police, the chain of command in the Nigerian Army MUST be held to account. Even the alleged criminal has confessed to the premeditated killing of the three policemen and a civilian by the soldiers and his subsequent release from the latter’s custody. His confession confirms beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Nigerian Army deliberately killed those policemen. The soldiers who carried out this cold-blooded murder of the officers and stood by and watched them die don’t belong to the human race. Nigeria is not safe in the hands of these monsters oooo!!!! Does one require further proof of why the country is losing the war against the terrorist group, Boko Haram? This country has lost its soul to fast money. Patriotism means nothing to our men in uniform. Shame on the military!!
As if what they had done wasn’t bad enough, the soldiers went on to debase the dead policemen. The villagers participated in dragging the bodies of these gallant men on the hard surface of an asphalted road to load them into a waiting military pickup van. Oh my God! One of the policemen, the last of them to die, was humiliated further – his pants half-rolled down and his back turned to show he had defecated on himself. I was traumatised and agonised after watching the video clip. I was angry over the callous wickedness and evil that was on display.
Why didn’t some of the villagers spare a few minutes of their time to help the police officer who was still alive? Why were they all more concerned with videoing the dead and the dying than evacuating the wounded to hospital? If that video doesn’t stir you to anger, then you have clearly lost your humanity. Nigeria scares me. I am now more than ever before afraid for this country. It has lost its place in the community of civilised nations.
It was after this barbaric behaviour that Colonel Musa issued that foolish, insincere statement to defend the indefensible. I want to believe that he did not see the video before going to press with that poorly advised defence, justifying that savagery. It was the height of arrogance and imprudence to say the least for the army spokesman to have signed off on that useless statement. He should be punished for attempting to muddle the evidence and cover up the barbarity of his colleagues.
He lied severally in that poorly composed fiction that he claimed was an explanation of what purportedly happened. He claimed the policemen and their civilian agent died in a firefight. How convenient!! How cowardly a claim! How come the policemen and their civilian partner were the only ones that were killed and the handcuffed and shackled kidnapper being transported escaped unhurt?
From the recording on video, there was no mistaking the fact that the soldiers knew these were police officers before and after they shot them. This only revealed the type of characters wearing the army uniform, from the rank and file to the cadre of officers. Even more shocking and sickening in the army statement was the labelling of the dead officers as “suspected kidnappers” and yet they set free the real kidnapper, who had been handcuffed and shackled by the killed police officers. The army should be celebrating its purported successful rescue of the kidnapper. Hun! Shame on you!! That labelling smacked of obstinacy, insensitivity and foolishness all rolled into one for the army authorities to have issued that statement. It was a poor attempt to stick to a contrived narrative that had no foundation in truth.
Thanks to smartphones and social media, without which the military may have successfully lied their way out of this heinous crime. Col. Musa’s lies fell apart once video clips of the brutal extermination of the police emerged. His lies strengthened the suspicion that security agents are heavily involved in planning and coordinating with kidnappers including Boko Haram elements. It is the reason it has defied solution. Kidnappers now have well organised camps all over the country – some close to military barracks.
That soldiers trained, equipped, maintained with taxpayers’ money attacked and killed men of the Nigerian Police to rescue an arrested, handcuffed and shackled, well-known kingpin of kidnappings, a man that had been terrorising Taraba State, kidnapping and maiming people for ransom leaves one dumbfounded. There is a certain numbness that comes with daily outrage. This is one of such. Soldiers used Saw to cut off handcuffs from the hands of an arrested kidnapper after killing the police officers? It’s unheard of. It defies any rational explanation. It’s simply unfathomable and beyond belief.
How can the slaughtered policemen’s families, friends, colleagues ever be able to sing the National Anthem again after seeing how soldiers killed their loved ones? The video, apart from doing further damage to the country’s sagging image, scares and injures one’s patriotic’ spirit. The army MUST be held to account. All the officers involved MUST be made to face trial. Anything less will not be enough to atone for this crime. Killing innocent civilians or policemen on national duty in aid of kidnappers is not a measure of an army’s combat valour.
Is Rear Admiral Olaiya-led panel still receiving submissions from parties? What is it going to do with them? Why have the officers responsible for killing those policemen NOT been arrested? I have NO confidence that this panel will deliver justice, instead I am more suspicious that as others before it, it will cover up crimes by criminals in uniform. The public statements of the Army high command poisons the atmosphere and drains one’s confidence that justice would be served.
Following the incident, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai, had issued a circular warning his officers and men to be circumspect in their interactions with the police in the wake of what he described as “inciting and inflammatory” comments by the police. Can anyone beat that? He did not sympathise with the families of the deceased policemen and a civilian, nor did he condemn the soldiers for committing such heinous crimes. His statement did nothing to give reassurance to a frightened public. It is obvious Buratai is less concerned about public good and more concerned about protecting his own. That statement was self-serving, cold-blooded, insensitive, unfeeling and lacking in empathy. It did little to inspire confidence from a badly shaken public.
The Nigerian military we all once somewhat took pride in seems to have more or less morphed into a criminal institution. Its record of criminality is legion and more telling than its battlefield achievements: From aiding and abetting election rigging to unprovoked killing of innocent civilians on the flimsiest of excuses, to armed robbery, massive corruption through the chain of command, kidnapping, betrayal of the fatherland by aiding terrorists waging war on the country and general indiscipline. Some of us are now questioning whether this critically vital institution is still fit for purpose as it stands today. Corrosive indiscipline and pervasive corruption are now a standard feature of our military. Crimes we had hitherto associated the police with are now very pervasive in the military. Unfortunately, those who bring dishonour to the uniform are hardly punished to serve as deterrent to others.
Having failed so badly in its constitutional responsibility which is to protect the country’s territorial integrity, elements within our military are now actively colluding with those who do us harm. Of course, with a military like we have today, who needs an enemy?
Who will save Nigeria and its people from them? With such badly compromised security forces, how can members of the public be inclined to give information to them on the activities of criminals without getting their heads chopped off in revenge?
In March 2018, a former Chief of Army Staff, and ex-defence minister Lieutenant General Yakubu Danjuma (rtd) of a long-gone era raised the alarm that the military was colluding with herdsmen to kill innocent Nigerians. He had said: “Taraba State is a mini Nigeria where we have many ethnic groups living together peacefully. But the peace in this state is under assault.
There is an attempt at ethnic cleansing in this state, and of course all the riverine states of Nigeria. We must resist it. We must stop it.
Every one of us must rise up. The armed forces are not neutral. They collude; they collude; they collude with the armed bandits that kill people and kill Nigerians. They facilitate their movement. They cover them.” Do you still remember when Danjuma made that audacious remark that many people read politics into it and did not believe him? The government and its supporters vilified him in the press. Thereafter, the military with razzmatazz instituted a probe. The findings? As expected, the military exonerated itself of all the allegations made by the retired general. Now Nigerians can sense the unvarnished truth.
In Zamfara State, soldiers are actively aiding bandits and illegal gold miners. Their loyalty is to their pockets, not to country. Retired generals and politicians, according to reports, are heavily involved in pilfering this vital and precious national resource in Zamfara thereby depriving the country the benefits it could have earned. In the Niger Delta, soldiers and the navy are heavily involved in illegal bunkering and vandalism of oil and gas infrastructure. In July 2018, a major upstream operator in the Niger Delta accused the Joint Task Force (JTF) in the oil region, under the then commander, Rear Admiral Apochi Suleiman, of involvement in bunkering “and offering protection/escort services to those allegedly responsible for oil theft”. Soldiers lobby to be posted to JTF because it is now a sure bet to instant wealth.
In July this year, five low-ranked soldiers identified as Corporal Gabriel Oluwaniyi, Corporal Mohammed Aminu, Corporal Haruna, Oluji Joshua and Hayatudeen stole over N400 million from their General Officer Commanding (GOC) in Sokoto and vanished into thin air. The source of the money and how a GOC came to be in possession of such huge amount of cash has still not been disclosed. The army says it is investigating but as in all such investigations, little is expected to come out of it.
The military, from the battlefield reports, has been most untrustworthy and unpatriotic in the fight against terrorists. A few years ago, around 480 Nigerian soldiers in a “technical manoeuvre” fled to Cameroon to escape the fighting when Boko Haram attacked a military base. There were allegations that elements within the military were working in collusion with the terrorists to ensure that the war never ended, so that they can continue to milk it for as much money as they can. There have been reports in the media of how soldiers abandoned newly-purchased, sophisticated military hardware worth millions of dollars to Boko Haram without a fight. There have been several reports of moles in strategic planning sessions against Boko Haram, of how they forewarned the terrorists of any plan, and within hours, there was a pre-emptive strike by the terrorists. They quickly mobilised to launch a surprise attack, targeting the armoury, carting away military hardware that was being assembled for use against them.
There have been several reports of our military dropping arms in remote areas with helicopters for terrorist and bandits. The defence headquarters NEVER instituted a probe into these disturbing allegations.
In Plateau State, reports abound of soldiers aiding herdsmen in their slaughter of innocent people. Emergency calls to them are only responded to after the act. These reports did not come from people’s fertile imaginations. Compare all that to the speed with which soldiers responded to an arrested kidnapper’s “distress” call, then you begin to understand where their interest lies.
Nigerians should ask them how many kidnapped victims’ distress calls they have responded to and how many victims they have rescued in the past. From the swiftness with which they acted, is it not obvious that this particular kidnapper-turned-victim had a “special relationship” with the high-ups at the 93 battalion and possibly even beyond?
The army you should recall that, it did not respond to distress calls when 276 Chibok schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram. It took the terrorist group hours to move those girls and all through that period, all army checkpoints were said have mysteriously disappeared from roads, giving the terrorists a free reign. The Dapchi schoolgirls’ abduction is another example. Where were the soldiers? Leah Sharibu is still marooned in her abductors’ custody. No rescue efforts were mounted by soldiers.
Of course who can forget in a hurry how soldiers locked down many states, especially Rivers during the 2019 elections, in a desperate bid to rig the polls? Soldiers on the orders of a prominent Rivers politician seized collation centres and started collating and manipulating the results from the polling units. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had to raise the alarm. Many innocent people were brutally killed for resisting the soldiers. Till date, nothing has come out of that incident.
The late former Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Salihu Ibrahim, must be turning in his grave at the mere thought of what is being perpetrated by soldiers today, because when he described the Nigerian Army as an “army of anything goes”, I doubt if he ever envisaged this scale of descent of the army.
I have it on good authority that following the recapture of Wadume, the kidnapper, and the release of his confession on video last Tuesday, senior officers of the Nigerian Army have been squirming uncomfortably in their underwear and appealing to the police force to soft-peddle on their public pronouncements on the Taraba killings. The police should not. The action of the Nigerian Army has reinforced the outcry and successive reports by Amnesty International that have indicted our military institutions, including the police force.
Amnesty International, among other international bodies, has left no one in doubt that the military and police force have been overtaken by criminal and corrupt persons who steal public funds entrusted in their care and engage in extrajudicial killings. They are far worse than the terrorists and criminals that do not adorn army or police regulation uniforms. So even as the public sympathises with the police force over the dastardly killing of their officers, and they in turn luxuriate and receive accolades for the recapture of the kidnap kingpin, they should be under no illusion that they are better than their military counterparts. Until the Nigerian president learns to appoint the right persons to head our security agencies – persons who were not appointed for political reasons and are ready and able to reform the institutions – we shall continue to be regaled with similar stories of corruption, criminality and extrajudicial killings.

Remembering Samuel Sochukwuma Okwaraji By Taiwo Alimi, Chris Orji

The image of his lifeless body at the altar of Nigerian football, Lagos National Stadium, has remained fresh on the minds of his family and Nigerians. Repeated efforts to find closure for Okwaraji have become impossible and every year since August 12, 1989, Okwaraji, who would have turned 55 this year, has returned to haunt a nation.
Okwaraji collapsed 10 minutes from the end of a 1990 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Angola. He died from possible complications of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy as an autopsy showed that the then 25-year-old had an enlarged heart and high blood pressure.
Prior to that sad incident, Sam had a blooming career in Europe and made the Green Eagles squad in 1988 and at that year’s African Nations Cup, where he scored one of the fastest goals in the history of the championship against the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon. He played well into the final match, which the Eagles lost to Cameroon by a lone goal.
“We can’t close the chapter of Sam’s life until the right things are done,” Patrick Okwaraji, Sam’s older brother and spokesman of the family, succinctly put it.
As family and friends gather to celebrate Sam tomorrow to mark his 30-year memorial, his life and death is a subject of discuss as if it were yesterday.
GROWING UP
Sam was different from other kids his age. He was focused and determined to live a life to the full. For Patrick that watched him from infancy, he bore the pain more than others because of this sterling quality right from boyhood.
He said Sam excelled in nearly everything even as a boy. “My brother as a child was very active like every other kid. He was very bright. Beyond the primary and secondary school football that he played and excelled, he also did well in other sports. He was active in boxing, table tennis and football. He was a good goalkeeper and player. He was above most of his peers in terms of vision and that was why he was able to achieve some of the things he achieved at a young age. At the age of 22 he had already achieved his Masters degree and he was always ahead. He was focused. He was a very serious minded person.”
Unlike other kids in Africa whose parents usually have problem with them for choosing football ahead of education, Sam’s family did not need to worry or try stopping him because he was brilliant in all.
“We did not have any problem with him playing football because as he was into football, he was doing well in other areas. His academic work was excellent and his results were great from primary to secondary and up to university level till the incident happened. We had no cause to challenge him on his love for football because it was not as if his engagement was distracting him or giving him some form of hiccup.”
GRIEVING MOTHER
Like Patrick, the pain also runs deep in their mother. She has never remained the same since Sam’s death.
She watched Sam grow to become the family pillar. A strong and promising one at that. Sam started taking care of her and all those around her. His malevolent spirit was infectious and in her son’s death, the whole essence of living disappeared for Sam’s mother too.
When The Nation visited the family house to speak with her, she was indisposed out of ill heart. “Mama has been through a lot. She is not feeling well. She has tried and we want to shield her away from all this. It’s been 30 years.”
Chigozie Sam Okwaraji, Sam’s kid brother, was only 10 when his famous brother died, yet he remembers vividly Sam’s footprint. “I was quite young when he died. But I can’t forget his patriotism because I’ve heard his colleagues in primary and secondary school talk about him. His playmates: Bright Omokaro, Uche Okechukwu, Austin Eguavoen, Samson Siasia and Etim Esin all speak well about him. All the matches he played for his country he bought his own ticket and did not collect match bonuses.”
TEAMMATES
Teammate Austin Eguavoen and one-time Super Eagles coach, remembers him for his devotion to man and country. “Whenever Sam was coming for any national assignment, he would come with his mother who was staying with him in Europe at that time. And when he was going back they would leave together. He loved her. Then after each match, he would just take his bag and leave camp while the rest of us were waiting for match bonuses.”
Once Sam was asked by one of his teammates why he did that, he simply told them, “I can’t collect money playing for my country.”
Sam’s teammate, Etim Esin, remembers him as being ‘selfless and inspirational’.
“Sam was a great guy. He inspired me. He was ahead of his time. He inspired everyone around him. He called me ‘Maradona’ and advised me to go back to school when we were playing. He did not even know that I would get into trouble. If I had heeded his call then, it would be something to fall back on now.”
Patrick corroborates Etim’s picture of his brother.
“Sam was a king hearted person. Whenever he came back from Europe, he had a habit of moving around his neighbourhood, either in Enugu or Lagos. Like the time he was in Festac, he would always share sport jersey, football and other kits to kids. He would move around with his car and share football kits. He loved showing kindness. For lack of the right word, he was just showing kindness to a lot of kids. It is not easy to forget a person like that.”
Former assistant captain of Flying Eagles, Paul Okoku, calls him a ‘patriot and no nonsense man.’ “When his club attempted to exploit his services to his beloved country and asked him for $45,000 before they could release him to play for Nigeria, he put an end to their demand and subsequently detached himself from their nonsensical hypnosis and went on to play for Nigeria on his terms using his lawyerly instinct. He was a midfield maestro, a fearless tackler who played his heart out at every opportunity he had playing for Nigeria.”
HIGHEST HONOUR YET
Sam’s highest tribute and praise, yet, has come from an unlikely corner; from the United States of America (U.S.A)-based international multimedia company, Google.
On May 19, 2019, to mark Sam’s 55th posthumous birthday, Google displayed his doodle, (a special, temporary alteration of the logo on Google’s homepages intended to commemorate holidays, events, achievements, and notable historical figures.) for 48 hours.
Ranking the late Okwaraji by Google among world’s inspirational figures like Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Louis Braille, Ella Fitzgeraard, Rene Magritte and Freddie Mercury, to mention but few, is a vindication that a prophet is not recognised at him home since the recognition was sadly coming from shores outside his fatherland.
CLOSURE
To bring closure to his death, the federal government must fulfil all promises pronounced at his grave side, Patrick said.
“At times I feel awkward talking about what Nigerian government needs to do to immortalise him. This has been about 30 years. You recall that Sam was granted a national burial. There were reasons for that. You know what it takes for a country to pronounce a national burial for someone. I can’t remember the number of people who have been granted such honour. Sam was given a national burial, there were reasons for that. So I don’t think the family is in the right position to really address this issue.
“But we see it as an injustice. If you have the cause to accord somebody a national burial and honour, that shows that the person has a legacy worthy of him. He should be immortalised to make impact on the younger ones.
“At 24, Sam had a Masters degree; he was a soccer star and a patriot, a committed individual and a nationalist. What else can you ask for? How do you impact the younger ones? How do you motivate them? It is not the family that would say what should be done to immortalise Sam. It is embarrassing.
“You have to recall that this thing is 30 years. When you look at it from every angle, this is injustice. Something should have been done because at the time he died he was the breadwinner to the family. Aside that promises were made by government to this family. From employment, compensation, immortalisation; none has been done. This is injustice,” Patrick added, his voice rising with every word.
“We must take a cue from Google Incorporated. This is the biggest multimedia organisation in the world placing Sam’s doodle on their search engine. Sam was there for 48 hours with his biography.
“Google is accessed by over two billion people daily. If an organisation like that that is worldwide can deem it fit to honour a man that his country don’t even remember, what more can you say? Sam deserves to be immortalised. Nationalism is dying in this country. Patriotism is dying off. Commitment is dying and some of these things should be hyped to encourage the young Nigerians.”
Etim wants both his state (Imo) and federal government to institute national Under-17 championships in his name. “He loved the kids and this is the kind of things he would have been doing if he was alive.”
Okoku shares near-similar opinion.
“In his honour, the government can and should pioneer a yearly soccer tournament named after Sam and invite his family as the guests of honour to witness the finals and present the trophy to the winning team. In the same vein, it will not be farfetched to initiate and sustain a non-profit (NGO) in his name for treating kids with congestive heart problem for early detection and prevention.
“Finally, a federal road in the capital (Abuja) and his state of origin could be named after him. Make no mistake about this idea as it will have positive effects in the mindset of future players. It will be a motivation to other aspiring footballers to represent Nigeria knowing that, even after death, they will be appreciated beyond ordinary expectations.”
Patrick calls on President Muhammadu Buhari to right the wrong that has been done to Okwaraji and others like him.
“President Buhari is a credible leader with a sense of justice. He is a man of credit. I’m sure that if this should get to him he would act immediately. Thirty years is a long time.”
The first male child of the Okwarajis, who at a point assumed managerial role to his brother in Italy, said these gestures will allow Sam’s ghost to rest, finally.

When soldiers do police work: Disaster By Reuben Abati

If anyone is looking for a perfect illustration and confirmation of the “coming anarchy” in Nigeria, that person needs not look farther than the on-going conflict and crisis of mutual distrust between the Nigeria Police and the Nigerian Army. Turn away, for a moment, from Boko Haram (Nigeria is still unable to find a solution to the menace of terrorism), turn away from bandits and kidnappers (it is sad that the state seems to be aiding and abetting criminality and impunity due to its incompetence, negligence, and impotence).
But you can not turn away from the crazy drama being enacted by the Nigeria Police and the Nigeria Army, two strategic security institutions assigned the responsibility of safeguarding lives and property of Nigerians and the sovereignty of the country itself. Both institutions have been in conflict in recent times. I argue that this is disturbing.
It is as follows: Nigerians woke up the other day to hear the sordid tale of how in Jalingo, Taraba state, soldiers from the 93 Battalion in Takum, Taraba state killed three policemen and three civilians, who had gone to arrest a notorious kidnap kingpin, one Alhaji Hamisu Wadume. The three policemen were members of an elite police squad, the Intelligence Response Team (IRT), and they had been involved in many operations in which they distinguished themselves namely the arrest of 22 kidnappers involved in the abduction of Chibok girls, the arrest of Evans, the notorious Lagos-based kidnapper and the rescue of the Magajin Garin Daura, the traditional head of President Buhari’s village who was abducted earlier in the year. These same policemen and their colleagues had been working on the Wadume case. They had investigated him and tracked him down.
With the help of three civilians who volunteered as informants and guide, the police sent the crack team to go after Alhaji Wadume. When they got to Jalingo, the policemen reported at the police state headquarters and documented their mission. They then set out and arrested Alhaji Wadume and put him in handcuffs. The next step was to take him in and interrogate him in line with standard procedure. Mission accomplished? No. In Nigeria, the unexpected is known to happen, nothing is ever certain. Just as the police were busy tracking down the alleged notorious kidnapper, the Army in Taraba reportedly got a distress call reporting that kidnappers had abducted one Alhaji Wadume, and asking the military to come to the rescue. As it turned out, the 93 Battalion sent out a team to rescue Alhaji Wadume. The dispatched soldiers gave the police team the chase.
The police version of the story at this point is that the police men identified themselves and told the soldiers that they were carrying out a legitimate duty, and that Alhaji Wadume who was in handcuffs was the suspect. But instead of the two teams to co-operate and work together, in line with the principle of “esprit de corps”, the soldiers opened fire on the policemen, at close range, killing three of them instantly. They also gunned down the three civilian-informants. By the time the dust settled, the arrested suspect, who had been put in silver ware, disappeared into thin air. The soldiers also vanished, leaving “blood on the grass.”
The police are rightly outraged. They have since issued statements and have gone on a twitter rage, to question the conduct of the Nigeria Army. They are angry that despite the police identification of the slain policemen as officers on lawful duty, the Nigerian Army chooses to refer to them as “suspected kidnappers”.
The police are asking the army to hand over the soldiers who pulled the trigger, effectively marking them out as cop-killers. They have also raised five questions for the Army Headquarters to respond to viz: “Where is the notorious kidnapper, Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume “rescued by the soldiers”?, (2) How could a kidnap suspect properly restrained with handcuffs by the Police escape from the hands of his military rescuers? (3) Why were the Police Operatives shot at close range after they had identified themselves as Police Officers on legitimate duty as evident in the video now in circulation? (4) How and why was Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume released by the soldiers? (5) If Alhaji Wadume is a “victim of kidnap” as claimed, and properly rescued by soldiers why was he not taken to the Army base for documentation purposes and debriefing in line with the Standard Operating Procedures in the Nigerian Army?’ These questions are pertinent and there are many more that should be raised.
The Nigerian Army has not been able to respond to any of these questions; their only close-to-intelligent response has been the self-indicting explanation that the whole incident is due to lack of co-ordination and communication between the army and the police. It is sad to hear that. If there is rivalry, conflict, lack of co-ordination and communication among the various law enforcement and security agencies in Nigeria, then the average Nigerian is in serious trouble. The country itself is in danger.
The utter vulnerability of the average Nigerian is show-cased by the fact that whereas the army and the police have been trading brick-bats in the Taraba matter, no mention has been made so far of the identity of the three civilians who were murdered by the soldiers. The police seem to be more concerned about their men. The Army are more concerned about protecting their men too. To compound the situation, whereas a joint investigating panel has been set up, the army and the police are at best working at cross-purposes.
What has happened is unacceptable. Those who argue that the police should not complain because it is Karma at work, the police having a notorious reputation for the kind of brutality that has been inflicted on their men by the Army, are simply unfair. No human being deserves to be killed in such brutal fashion. It is also unacceptable that the three civilian-informants who were murdered have not been part of the story.
In the course of the fight against terror and crime in the country, both the President and the service chiefs have always advised that the battle can only be won if the people themselves assist the security agencies with information. The death of those three informants in the hands of the Nigeria Army will certainly discourage every future informant! In the past, the Nigerian military used to attribute every act of impunity committed by soldiers to a certain “unknown soldier”.
Under military rule, particularly, the unknown soldier could do as he wished. The Nigerian soldier was above the laws of the land. But the times have since changed. The Nigeria Army certainly cannot claim not to know the soldiers who committed murder in Taraba State. As the police have demanded, those men and the officer who gave them unlawful orders, if that was the case, must be named and made to face the full wrath of the law. The six victims of that Taraba massacre and their families deserve justice. In a democracy, an army of occupation, a gun-totting military on the streets of the nation, turning its guns on innocent persons is an aberration, and a threat.
But this is the price Nigerians pay for giving the military police work to do. The military and the police have two completely different training manuals and operational orientation. The primary job of the police is to ensure peace and safety, and to protect and serve. Soldiers are trained by their drill sergeants to shoot and kill the enemy: “One shot, one kill”, at close range. The culture of restraint at the heart of police training is unknown to the military. This is why it is dangerous to involve soldiers in the kind of police work that they have been doing in Nigeria.
In the 70s, Nigerian soldiers lived in the barracks, usually located out of town. When they came to town, they were rare sightings. But that was until soldiers began to mix with civilians and soon got involved in politics. Gradually, Nigerian soldiers began to behave like those they call “bloody civilians”. It was Alozie Ogbugbuaja, a police man who once drew attention to this when he complained that Nigerian soldiers had become “pepper soup drinking soldiers”. The metaphor was so apt; it drew the ire of the state. Ogbugbuaja was punished for his effrontery.
If anybody were to say the same thing today, however, I guess the person will be hailed for saying the truth. Soldiers are now so involved in “pepper soup” work it is terribly ridiculous. The other day, some soldiers assigned to escort money (N400m?) belonging to an officer were accused of having escaped with the money. The said soldiers are still at large. Whoever reported a case of kidnapping to the Army in Taraba, assuming that was true, had no business calling the Army. The call should have been directed to the police.
When Governor Nyesom Wike wanted a notorious criminal called Bobrisky arrested in Rivers State, he didn’t call on the police. He called the Army. In Abia State recently, a soldier reportedly killed a motorcyclist who refused to give him bribe. Once upon a time in this country, nobody would dare offer a soldier a bribe, and no soldier will ask for it. Today, soldiers now mount check-points where they collect tolls like the police.
It is absurd. The excuse that Nigeria is under-policed and therefore the police need to be supported by the military overlooks the difference in the orientation of the two teams. The result is the disaster we are witnessing. During the recent general elections, the Nigerian military was accused of having perpetrated violence in parts of the country. The militarization of open spaces violates Nigeria’s democracy.
In Zaria in 2015, Nigerian soldiers trying to clear the road for their boss gunned down about 348 members of the Shiite movement! Our military should concentrate on their professional duty of protecting Nigeria’s territorial integrity, while the police should focus strictly on their mandate. Isn’t it curious that in the light of the Taraba incident the military is now advising Nigerian soldiers, travelling on pass, to hide from the Police by wearing mufti? Is that the end of police/army collaboration? If the police are overwhelmed by the crisis in the country, and unable to function efficiently, the leadership elite should think more creatively beyond the current resort to hollow rhetoric and ad-hoc measures. More police men can be recruited. Better training and equipment should be provided. Police stations should be rebuilt and made to wear a human look. Bad eggs within the force should be identified and flushed out, honest and hardworking police men and women should be encouraged and supported.
Perhaps the time has come for Nigeria to consider the establishment of a National Guard, to serve as a bridge between the police and the army. Where there is any incident that is beyond the capacity of the police, the National Guard can be called in. In the United States, the National Guard is a cross between the police and the military; its members are basically civilians, but with enough training as both police and soldier.
For a start, the proposed National Guard should not be a regime-protection mechanism, the type that was introduced briefly in 1993. It can be a merger of the National Civil Defence Corps and the vigilante groups in various states, trained differently and empowered. To set up a National Guard in Nigeria however, there must be a thought-driven review of context: who will control the National Guard? How will it be deployed? What kind of Nigeria can accommodate a National Guard: a truly federal system, a restructured Nigeria or a completely new Nigeria?

Job creation is no rocket science by Simon Kolawole

Two matters gripped me at the Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) Entrepreneur Forum held at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, recently. Both strike at the heart of the economic struggles of Nigeria, particularly our current situation. Nigeria, bombarded by youth unemployment and extreme poverty, is clearly in dire straits. The symptoms are manifest in the rising crime wave, either the yahoo-yahoo type or the violent variants as seen in kidnappings, robberies and ritual killings. Stripped of complicated analyses and political theories, the situation is just a natural consequence of the overwhelming unemployment and poverty in the land.
The first thing that hit me was the statement by Mr Koen Doens, the deputy DG of the European Commission, that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) represent 95% of all businesses in the EU — and, overall, 85 percent of the jobs in Europe. It reminded me of our own realities: it is estimated that 90 percent of all the businesses in Nigeria are SMEs, creating more than 80 percent of employment. In a country with 70 percent of the population classified as “extremely poor” and over 20 million people described as unemployed, it is not rocket science for the government to know that SMEs are where to direct its energies if it is serious about tackling extreme poverty and crime.
President Muhammadu Buhari said, during the week, that the N-Power programme has pulled five million Nigerians out of extreme poverty in three years. Many Nigerians have attacked him over his claim. Most of the comments on social media are not flattering. The consensus appears to be that more people have been pushed into extreme poverty, not the other way. I do not have any data to counter Buhari’s claim, but I will argue that it is in our interest to expand the discourse about tackling extreme poverty beyond government programmes, such as N-Power. The SMEs offer the biggest opportunity. Unfortunately, the most traumatised businesses in Nigeria today are the SMEs.
This sharply contrasts with the situation in Europe, where governments do everything to make SMEs flourish. If you set up shop anywhere in Nigeria today, federal, state and council officials will viciously come after you as if you have committed treason and terrorism. Government seems confused about whether to support businesses to grow to a point they can begin to pay taxes or see them as a source of immediate taxes. We can not be saying we want to promote enterprises and be taxing them to death at the same time. Something will give. Sadly, agencies are now used as revenue machines as everybody is seriously talking about growing IGR at all levels.
While this is ordinarily good as we seek to reduce our dependence on oil, we are also stiffing growth and killing dreams with draconian taxes and levies. The big businesses have enough resources to sort themselves out through their staff and consultants, but the SMEs bear the brunt. Start a bakery in FCT, for example. The Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSTIF), the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and at least three units from the Abuja Municipal Council Area (AMAC) will come harassing you regularly to conduct “health checks” at various fees. This function can be performed by just one body!
In addition, AMAC will charge you N25,000 as annual licence for “operating in FCT” and another N34,000 fee for “using a car to distribute bread”. Meanwhile, the Federal Housing Authority (FHA) and AMAC charge N40,000 each for “fumigation” to be carried out by their appointed fumigators. There is also the AMAC “sanitary inspection” fee of N30,000. AMAC’s department of environment collects N150,000 yearly for inspection. There is the N30,000 AMAC fee for “food and water-related handling”. This is what a bakery owner faces in a country that says it wants to tackle poverty and create jobs. The dissonance is out of this world. We can be better than this.
One open secret that Buhari has to understand, accept and begin to champion is that he can pull 20 million Nigerians out of extreme poverty in the next four years through SMEs. All he needs to do is become their champion. He looks too detached from the society he governs. He should take it upon himself that whatever or whoever is hindering the operations of SMEs would be crushed under his feet. This is where most of the jobs are. This is what can help pull millions out of extreme poverty. Buhari should go to bed tonight telling himself: “I want to be remembered as the president who unleashed the economic potential of the average Nigerian by making life easier for SMEs.”
The second issue I picked at the TEF Entrepreneurship Forum has to do with what Awolowo said on “sexy agriculture”. He adopted the phrase from Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, the president of the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Nigeria’s former minister of agriculture, on how to make agriculture attractive to the youth so that it is no longer seen as a villager’s job. Awolowo highlighted the measures being taken by NEPC to give teeth to agric entrepreneurship. Those who choose to go into agriculture should be able to export their products and earn forex. He said some finished products from Nigeria are already getting certification in Europe, which is the kind of news I love to hear.
Agriculture is still one of the fastest and biggest means of engaging a large number of the youth, and this is in addition to the little matter of food production which is critical to national peace and security. I was encouraged by Awolowo’s pronouncements but I wondered how well the youth are buying into this. Do they even know the opportunities that exist? The first thing that came to my mind was how the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) can be restructured, revamped and funded to make agriculture and other forms of entrepreneurship “sexy” to university graduates. We keep churning out graduates every year without knowing what to do with them.
Attempts by the federal government to stimulate economic development through youth entrepreneurship — as Mr Tony Elumelu, the chairman of UBA Plc, is doing through TEF — will not work well if a winning model is not adopted. One winning feature of the TEF strategy is not just to give grants to young entrepreneurs but also to monitor and mentor them. This will ensure the goals are being achieved and grants can be scaled up for those who are excelling and expanding. The TEF says it has empowered over 7,500 African entrepreneurs from 54 African countries. Many of the entrepreneurs were at the forum to share their success stories. This is very encouraging. It works.
In fairness, the Nigerian government also offers different incentives through the Bank of Industry, the CBN and some MDAs. The only problem is access. Also, the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, has commendably laid down measures to make doing business easier for Nigerians but the MDAs are enemies of progress. That is why I am challenging President Buhari: become the champion of SMEs if you want to tackle unemployment, poverty and crime. Take it as a matter of personal mission. Get the states and councils on board. Meet regularly with SME owners and listen to their concerns. Break the yoke.
AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…
REMEMBERING FELA
When Fela died 22 years ago, the world rose in honour of the inimitable Afrobeat musician. I don’t know of any other Nigerian whose death has drawn genuine grieving all over the country like Fela’s. Southerners, northerners, Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, minorities, men and women trooped out to bury him. Why? Fela spoke to the problems of ordinary Nigerians. He did not define our problem along “tribe and tongue” lines. He did not propagate a divisive message. It is the politicians and their sidekicks that are pitching us against one another. Fela united us. He constantly gave grief to politicians, some of whom also loved his music, even if not openly. Legend.
TIV VS JUKUN
Those who want to break up Nigeria are yet to answer my question on how that will settle the century-old war between Tiv and Jukun in Taraba state — which erupted again last week. It is the usual issue of settlers vs indigenes . You are no likely to find opinion leaders make an issue out of this because it does not fit into the trending conspiracy theories about Fulanisation and Islamisation. Tiv and Jukun are predominantly Christians. That also explains why when criminals kidnap or kill Muslims in Zamfara, Katsina and Sokoto, it is just “bandits” and not “Fulani jihadists”. I hope the Middle Belt leaders will take a short break and help broker peace between Tiv and Jukun. Urgent.
CALL TO ARMS
Prof Babagana Zulum, the governor of Borno state, made an astonishing discovery last week: there was no doctor on duty when he paid an unscheduled midnight visit to some hospitals in Maiduguri, the state capital. That is what lowly Nigerians have been living with for ages, but government officials hardly visit public hospitals, so they may not be aware. God only knows how many patients die all the time because doctors are not on duty. The irony of it all, of course, is that the doctors would still collect their call allowances despite sleeping and snoring at home. And if the payment is delayed, you can expect a strike that will lead to more patient deaths. Nigeria.
REFINED POLICY
While Nigerians continue to eagerly await the take-off of the Dangote refinery, it was heart-warming to hear Mallam Mele Kyari, the group managing director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), assure all promoters of refineries in the country that they would enjoy the same level of support Dangote has from the corporation. There is this impression that once Dangote enters a business, he becomes a monopoly and scares away other potential investors. But we need as many refineries as possible to become self-sufficient and even begin to export petroleum products. Meanwhile, I’m liking the sound of Kyari’s voice and his stated agenda for NNPC. Assuring.