June 12, Military Cult And PMB’s Ritual Offering By Louis Odion, FNGE

It is difficult not to read politics to President Muhammadu Buhari’s avowal of June 12 last week. If posthumous awards for MKO and Gani Fawehinmi were truly intended to re-connect the President to the progressive community in an election year, it has turned out a master-stroke indeed, going by the outpouring of goodwill for the general in the past week.
The man likely to be biting his finger this hour discreetly must be Goodluck Janathan. Like many things he attempted in five years, the immediate past president bungled the bid to appropriate some mileage from June 12. His renaming UNILAG “MAU” (or MAU-MAU as traducers cheekily chose to echo in a backhand invocation of Kenya’s notorious coloinial Mau-Mau guerrillas) dried up almost immediately with the ink it was written.
Perhaps, this time, the fakir from Daura was shrewd enough to engage the right medicine man for a better charm. Only that could explain while whereas the Fawehinmi family flung back medal similarly offered posthumously by Jonathan (just the same way Gani had rejected Umar Yar’Adua’s earlier in 2008), Buhari’s has been accepted with both hands in gratitude.
But if we care to look deeper, there is surely a silver lining yet above the cloud of partisan opportunism here. Coming twenty-five years after the fact, the gesture could, in a way, be taken as an act of penance by a penitent member of a military caste that had violated democracy.
As the ululation continues to echo across the nation over Buhari’s proclamation, Ibrahim Babangida must be a sad man today. His melancholy must be compounded by the shame of being finally exposed as nothing but a con man.
Deluded IBB obviously wanted to do what none of his military forebears had done. He coveted eternal power but lacked the courage to come out openly and say so. While attempting to steal MKO’s popular mandate, he not only sold the nation a lie but also sought to cauterize national memory against remembering. Beaten to a corner, the “evil genius” then conceived the devious Interim National Government to wipe the memory of June 12.
The same way OBJ could not be happy that the man, whose huge sacrifice he toiled so hard to deny even as little as a mere mention, is now being festooned with the nation’s highest garland posthumously. Neither could the Ota chicken farmer be amused that Gani who peppered him relentlessly with the worst invectives imaginable as “imperial president” would now be officially addressed as GCON.
Nor could General T Y Danjuma also possibly have any cause to pop champagne at the good tidings. When the old Taraba-born warrior made himself available at one of the early “pro-democracy” summits in Lagos immediately after the annulment, he could barely conceal his impatience for the niceties of democracy. At some point, he was famously quoted as telling off pesky journalists: “Gentlemen, you know I’ve little or no time for all this your long talk about democracy. I’m here simply because I don’t like that man (IBB) there.”
Or can thieving Sani Abacha, memorably dismissed as “intellectual midget trying to bring the nation down to his level” by Professor Wole Soyinka, be mollified for that matter. How depressing it must be for him wherever he is today to hear that MKO chained down for four years till he (the captor) died and who would curiously drop dead exactly a month later after him would now share the honour as fellow GCFR!
Undoubtedly, June 12 annulment was the last act in a concatenation of defilements by two generations of buccaneering generals.
In all its historicity, June 12 was a powerful expression by a nation that would appear to have outgrown the military that had held it down for a decade. By overwhelmingly endorsing a Muslim-Muslim ticket and voting above ethnic cleavages, the people could only be telling the generals the excuse of national fragility they kept retailing for hanging on to power was no longer tenable.
In what must then be a fitting closure to history, it has now taken a general to uproot a lie planted by a fellow general twenty-five years ago. It is in the same spirit that we continue to yearn for a closure to the puzzle over the liquidation by parcel bomb of citizen Dele Giwa 32 years ago when the same general was law-giver. The same way the nation would seek an update on Buhari’s earlier order that the police reopen the murder cases of Bola Ige, Marshal Harry et al during the reign of another general.
Now, let no one downplay the therapeutic benefit of establishing the truth. For that is the first sure step to national healing. Truth may hurt initially, but it heals ultimately.
This moral joint is what is missing in the argument by the likes of former Chief Justice Alfa Belgore who seem obsessed with the letter – rather than the spirit – of law. They had argued that since it is impossible to have MKO and Gani physically present, awarding the honour would be vain.
Not surprising, one Umar Ardo, an OBJ’s barefoot lackey, has floated the laughable idea of going to court to challenge Buhari’s decision.
Though Femi Falana, SAN has done well to shine the light on the portion that might have appeared grey to the nay-sayers, it bears repeating that that is just what the spirit of law could also have envisaged. June 12 is never a speculation. It is a truth. To act or argue otherwise is to continue to dignify the big lie IBB told 25 years ago.
The spirit of fundamentalism is inevitable in those who truly knew June 12 and lived its dark days intimately. I confess my own extremism here, having worked then as a young reporter in Concord Press owned by MKO.
For the nation at large, perhaps what had made the trauma more unbearable was the culture of denial foisted and sustained with state might over the years. That lie first manifested in the specter of Ernest Shonekan who did not consider it dishonorable to seek to exercise power he neither won by ballot or secured by bullet.
When the supremos of the now discredited military finally accepted to relinquish power in 1999, they strategically chose the eve of June 12 to disengage. The culture of denial was sustained by OBJ, ironically the biggest beneficiary of June 12, who now proceeded to indulge in perhaps the worst act of Gregorian incest by proclaiming May 29 (his own inauguration day) as Democracy Day in sheer contempt of the historic day Nigerians truly voted a new nation and in cruel denial of the supreme price paid by MKO and other martyrs.
The Ota-based narcissist probably saw acknowledging June 12 as a favour to MKO, forgetting it was a historic duty to the nation actually violated. What’s more, soon after OBJ took over, the teaching of History was abrogated from our school syllabus, perhaps in order that the young Nigerians would never have the opportunity of knowing such sordid aspects of the nation’s past.
No one put it better than Adams Oshiomhole, labour icon and former Edo governor, in a reaction to Buhari’s offering: “How ironic that over the years, those who emerged the beneficiaries of June 12 would toil real hard to designate their own coronation day falsely as Democracy Day over the moment Nigerians actually voted democracy.”
If nothing at all, with the executive proclamation of June 6, credit must be given to Buhari for somehow bringing integrity back to national award. What further elevates the medals bestowed on MKO and Gani is its exclusivity. This is the first time the administration is awarding national honours since assuming office in 2015. A sharp departure from the past when national medals were dispensed yearly on industrial scale to recipients, many of whom in real life embody anything but honour. So much that at one of such bazaars, President Goodluck Jonathan was left to merely read out names of awardees without handing out commemorative medal or certificate, simply because his people kept updating the list until the last minute!
Later, rumour of a racket began to swirl involving a ranking member of the administration. It was as if “bank alerts” were still pouring in while the brochure was already at the printer’s. In sum, award of national medal must be tied to idea or exertion that truly advances community or country. Only then will it have meaning or value.
As for Baba Gana Kingibe, the fact that he is decorated with GCON being MKO’s running-mate can hardly launder his hands of treachery and perfidy. He has benefited only from the technicality of history. But that will hardly blot the memory of his succumbing to the temptation of the stomach at the defining moment. As revealed by MKO light-heartedly at one of his last public appearances at NIIA, Lagos in June 1994: “When I asked my deputy (Kingibe) what are you doing with the usurper by accepting to be a mere minister, he told me he was hungry. And I said ‘If because of thirst you decide to drink water from the gutter, you’ll only catch cholera’.”
By the way, curiously missing among surviving SDP top brass invited by Aso Rock to the June 12 ceremony was Chief Tony Anenih, ironically the chairman of the winning party. It could not have been an oversight, but an omission borne out of emotional intelligence and due regard for the sensibilities of a nation still haunted by a difficult memory. For the education of Nigerians yet unborn or too young to understand the main issue during that historic decade, Chief Anenih’s moral stamina failed him in the hour of temptation.
Lacking character when it mattered most, Anenih led the colluding faction of SDP leadership that acquiesced to Babangida’s inducement to trade June 12 away. Even while the knife that stabbed MKO in the back politically was still dripping blood, Anenih and co had earnestly begun to position themselves for seats in the ING.
His career of treachery continued when his old political mentor and benefactor, Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, later ended up in Abacha’s gulag in 1995 after valiantly spear-heading the lobby at the 1994 Constitutional Conference that fixed January 1996 as exit day for Abacha.
Without hesitation or shame, jobbing Anenih again made himself available to be used to torpedo the popular motion championed by now incarcerated Tafida Katsina, removing the last obstacle to Abacha’s self-succession circus.
So, had renegades like Anenih dared to gatecrash the June 12 memorial yesterday regardless, it would have been entirely surprising if the ghost of doughty MKO did not haunt them around the gallery relentlessly.
All said, it is a lesson in the value of standing for something. The fruit of treachery is always bitter at the end.

LOUIS ODION

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Fashion in nudity By Oliver Ejike Uja

A scene was recently created at the gate of one Church located at one of the High brow areas in Abuja recently. A young woman who felt that she was unjustly prevented from accessing the church to worship was furious and trying to school the usher and gate man in her own theology. But the two personnel at the church stood their ground and insisted that they were just doing their job.
The crux of the matter was the appropriateness or otherwise of what she was wearing. The issue of dressing has always been a delicate one through the ages.
The revolution in fashion and clothing industry is absurd considering what, presently, fashion is turning out to be – a celebration of nudity. I will use fashion here to mean clothing fashion and method of dressing which, today, is a multibillion dollar industry.
The notorious wardrobe malfunction incident is not strange to many, but ward ropes have continued to malfunction in the streets, work places and even churches intentionally or unintentionally.
Well, the story and history of fashion is an interesting and complicated one. It is inseparable with history of clothing and civilization which draws from social, cultural and religious exigencies. As one of the basic necessities of life, historians believe that men started to cover themselves using various materials (leaves, wood, hides and skins) as a means of protecting themselves from the elements of the weather and also covering sensitive organs which is what distinguishes human from other creatures.
This striving to cover the body continued to the middle ages when there was tremendous progress in materials and clothing technology. Also clothing or dressing took on cultural and religious significance and the notion of proper covering, decency or ideal dressing developed. It was due to the inadequate clothing (loin cloths) which covered the ‘basic nakedness’ that made the early Europeans that made contact with the African continent think that the people were uncivilized.
Africa has continued to be in a cross road when it comes to appropriateness or otherwise of authentic African fashion or manner of dressing especially in an era of social media where information is just at ones finger tip.
A look around shows how preponderance and pervasive fashion can be –from the ludicrous to the bizarre and the theme is the same – inclination to nudity.
The media and advertiser’s exploitation of sex for marketing purposes have contributed to the abysmal sense of fashion in which decency has been thrown to the dust because of self glorification and unbridled consumerism. The body is seen just as any other commodity. Ladies aspire to be superstars or celebrities and one of the obvious qualifications, unfortunately, is appearing barely nude in the name of fashion. Ladies low-rise jeans that reveal the G-string assaults our sights and a dressing style that developed in the red-light districts and which was only suitable within the precinct of the sex trade, have now become common and even some places of worship are not spared.
Women and girls dressed in cloths cut way above the knee see – through fabrics and poking breast blouses throng these places in sanctimonious show of holiness. I do not want to go into the argument or debate of ‘intent’ or ‘mind/body’ dichotomy but a young lady who ‘dresses to kill’ and walks into a church must be very clear in her intent. I also do not want to go into the debate of “I am comfortable in this” for I have seen a number of people struggling desperately to adjust what they are putting on because it was way too short or it was seriously impeding movement. Where lays the comfort? Could it be in the attention attracted?
One church has a bold inscription “Indecent Dressing Not Allowed in Church Premises” on placards foisted in all the major entrances and doors of the church. This is a testament to how serious the problem has been and how low we have gone in our sense of morality.
Boys and young men are not left out in this culture which has similarity in origin with that of the female. The sagging fag now that leaves boys dropping their trousers almost to knee level exposing their inner pants or boxers originated in jails in the United States of America where belts are prohibited and inmates are usually given large pants that often dropped below their waist. Later sagging took on the colouration of protest cum revolt and eventually American rappers like 50 Cent popularized it.
Besides, it has become fashionable for young men to bare their chest or biceps to show their machismo after months of walk-out or to display tattoos. This fashion is also gaining ground especially among teenagers and young men here in Nigeria.
It is sad that most cherished cultural attires and fashion that are the identity of the various traditional groups in Nigeria today are the worse off for this invasion. Customs and traditions are dynamic but when cultural systems of a people become annihilated in a flash, there is a problem.
More thought provoking is that our fore fathers struggled to cover as much as they could despite their limitations, but today we are struggling to expose as much as we can in spite of all the clothing technologies. Isn’t it crazy? Could it be that our fore fathers in their loin cloths in the early ages were more civilized than us in the 21st century in our bikinis and revealing cloths? Is it a case of history repeating itself?
The German city of Max-Joseph Platz on June 24, 2012 witnessed 1700 stark naked men and women in a chorography of same. The occasion was the replication of scenes from Richard Wagner’s opera ‘The Ring’ for photographer Spencer Tunick. It is more worrisome when some international broadcast organizations aired unedited this spectacle repeatedly as news. Some see this as one of those weird acts in theatre but this has more far reaching implications. It is a dress-rehearsal for ‘nude right activists’ to push for constitutional recognition in future. We are all witnesses of the gay right campaigns and how, today, African countries are being intimidated to pass gay right legislations. Who will be surprised if it is ‘Nude Right Legislations’ tomorrow?
The whole entertainment and show business has become so ‘sexed –up’ and minors are been exposed to what ought to be adult materials too early in life and consequently, the high incident of precocious actions and tendencies among children. The erosion of traditional mode of dressing does not just happen. It is driven by neo- colonial fixation hence a society that believes that traditional outfits is not ‘sophisticated’ but ‘local’.
There is nothing wrong in dressing to suit a particular situation or occasion, but where children are made to believe that proper dressing is western attires only, there is problem; just like increasing number of children in Nigeria cannot speak their indigenous language. This further compounds the problems of loss of identity.
Women and young men parade the streets exposing what they ought to cover and this begins to raise questions on the limits and boundaries of the law in relations to indecent exposure. A decent society is not always one that dances to the whims and caprices of base innovations, but one that thinks of what can be of good to the society as a whole. Freedom, after all, is not sacrosanct. In England and America certain acts prohibit indecent exposures in public places in some states. Freedom is enjoyed in as much as the public good is not harmed.
Uja is a research officer and lives in Abuja.
For reactions and comments Email: ejikolive@gmail.com

Buhari and the June 12 saga By Reuben Abati

There are three aspects – the strategic, the political and the legal – to the Federal Government’s decision to replace May 29 with June 12 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day, and to confer on the late Chief MKO Abiola, the highest honour in the land.
Strategy: Long before now, the Buhari government had needed to review its strategy of engagement with the public, move from blame-passing, propaganda, in-fighting, enemy-seeking approach to a more legacy-driven, result-oriented mode. It is like this: when a government is in decline, and it is losing popularity and goodwill, then it is time to change the narrative. That is precisely what the Buhari government has done with the masterstroke of a special focus on June 12 and Chief MKO Abiola at a time when virtually everyone from the Catholic Church, the opposition, prominent political figures, the media to estranged members of the APC are carrying placards against the government.
When you change the narrative, what you do is to divert attention from the prevailing negative discourse; you find something else for the people to talk about in the hope that this will give the government a breather, and allow it to get back on traction and restore some goodwill. Whoever suggested the June 12 and Abiola move to President Buhari is quite smart and I commend him and the government. But the “changing the narrative” strategy is not a deus ex machina. Its fall-out has to be managed, and government must be in a position to manage the gains or the challenges. This strategy can also prove to be a test of a government’s status. An accident-prone government may even in the long run gain nothing from such a move.
For the Buhari government, however, the June 12 move should change the narrative for a few weeks, except there is another accident on the security or political scene. But whatever happens, President Muhammadu Buhari will be remembered as the Nigerian President who successfully placed the proper historical accent on June 12, and MKO Abiola’s contributions to the restoration of democracy in Nigeria. The Jonathan government, which I served, had tried to do this in 2012 by renaming the University of Lagos after Chief MKO Abiola, but the UNILAG community – resident and alumni – reacted like cry-babies, they considered the name of their university too sacred, and too big for Abiola, and in the face of the overwhelming sentiment, the significance of the gesture was over-politicized.
The political: The politics of June 12 and Chief MKO Abiola has been a recurrent decimal in the debate about how best to remember the struggle that led to the exit of the military on May 29, 1999 and the role played by the pro-democracy coalition. Indeed, since 2000, the pro-democracy coalition and supporters of Chief MKO Abiola have lamented that the eventual beneficiaries of the struggle for democracy were the ones most determined to deny and erase Chief Abiola’s role in that significant moment in Nigerian history. They wanted Federal Government recognition for MKO Abiola. When this did not happen, the states controlled by the then Alliance for Democracy in the South West declared June 12, Democracy Day and a public holiday. In Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, and Ondo, monuments were named after Abiola, his statues were erected, other heroes of the struggle were honoured and every June 12, pro-democracy processions were held in these states.
The celebration of May 29 as Democracy Day has therefore been consistently opposed on the grounds that it is wrong to celebrate the exit of the military but better to commemorate June 12 – the day in 1993 when Nigeria held the freest and fairest election in its history – the Presidential election of that day united Nigerians across ethnic, religious and ideological lines. But as it happened, some military leaders considered Abiola unfit for the office, for their own personal reasons and therefore annulled the election. This brazen assault on the people’s sovereignty resulted in a prolonged protest for the restoration of the people’s mandate, and a nationwide rebellion against military rule. For six years, Nigeria stood at the edge of a precipice.
June 12 is indeed a watershed in Nigerian history. Its formal recognition is symbolic and instructive. This should assuage the pains of the pro-June 12 group, and help to restore the memory of that moment in history and the aftermath. I once wrote about how many young Nigerians born in 1993 or after do not even know who MKO Abiola is. I was asked on one occasion by a young Nigerian: “This MKO Abiola, what about him?” In a country where history is not taught, that is what you get: an emerging generation that does not know Nigeria. With June 12 now part of the country’s calendar, the story will be told, and that turning point in Nigerian history will be recorded permanently for posterity.
The decision to honour Chief MKO Abiola and Chief Gani Fawehinmi post-humously, and Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe with GCFR and GCON is a good move, but the question of legality with regard to Abiola and Fawehinmi has been raised and here we confront the dilemma of a conflict between what is reasonable and what is legal.
The legal aspect: Are the post-humous awards really illegal? I recall that in 2014, the Jonathan administration had tried to honour Chief MKO Abiola and Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh by having their names on the National Honours List. Justice Alfa Belgore, former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) who has now spoken up to declare the post-humous award to Abiola and Fawehinmi, “illegal” was the Chairman of the National Honours Committee at the time. The advice given at the time was that the awards could not be given post-humously, and that the law should not be bent to accommodate political interests. The Jonathan government, with the uproar over the re-naming of the University of Lagos still fresh in the minds of its officials, chose to tread with caution. It is noteworthy that this same issue of legality has again cropped up. By giving post-humous national awards, the Buhari government has now provided us an opportunity to interrogate the law.
The relevant law is the National Honours Act No 5 of 1964 – Section 3(2) thereof reads: “Subject to the next following paragraph of this article, a person shall be appointed to a particular rank of an Order when he receives from the President in person at an investiture held for the purpose:
(a) the insignia appropriate for that rank; and
(b) an instrument under the hand of the President and the public seal of the Federation
declaring him to be appointed to that rank.”
The operative phrase here is “in person.” Can a dead person be honoured in person? I think not. But it would appear that upon a careful and calm reading of Section 3(3), the President is actually given the power of discretion to vary Section 3(2).
Section 3(3) states: “If in the case of any person it appears to the President expedient to dispense with the requirements of paragraph (2) of this article, he may direct that that person shall be appointed to the rank in question in such a manner as may be specified in the direction.”
With due respect, at issue is this: assuming that post-humous awards do not meet the conditions set out in Section 3(2), can the problem be cured by Section 3(3)? And is there any manifest ambiguity in the provisions or are the words in their ordinary meaning clear enough? Or could the action taken result in any absurdity? Or are there issues of procedure that may have been breached? Do we even have a National Honours Committee in place and if so, what recommendations did that committee make to President Buhari in pursuit of its functions as a clearing house? Any public-spirited person can go to court to test the National Honours Act and raise these issues. It is the duty of the courts to interpret the law, and with our progressive judiciary, I believe they can and should guide us on the true intent of the Honours Act. Ordinarily, a national honour does not harm anyone nor is it likely to injure the country itself.
However, the National Honours Act is overdue for review, and the process of appointing persons to the National Orders needs to be reformed. Should it become necessary to amend the Act, the National Assembly can do so in a week at most. In terms of process, the area of concern is the manner in which successive governments have tended to give out these honours as if they were mere chieftaincy titles or civil service allocations. Section 1(3) of the Act lists the number of awards that may be given every year, but the prescribed total minimum number is so large that every National Honours investiture ceremony ends up looking like a carnival where all kinds of undeserving persons are decorated.
Still on the legal aspect, some persons have drawn attention to Section 2(1) of the Public Holidays Act CAP 40 LFN – while that section of the law gives the President power to appoint any day as public holiday, it does not grant him the powers to unilaterally substitute a day with another as he has done with May 29 and June 12. The Schedule to this Act as it is, recognizes May 29 as Democracy Day, not June 12. The Public Holidays Act would still have to be amended appropriately but since there is no plan to declare June 12, 2018 a public holiday, and the President’s statement in its last paragraph specifically uses the phrase “in future years”, the Federal Government has more than enough time to seek a proper amendment of the Public Holidays Act by the legislature. So, I don’t see a problem here.
All told, the plan to honour the Abiola-Kingibe 1993 Presidential joint ticket and Gani Fawehinmi, the legendary human rights crusader, is imbued with much meaning and significance even if this does not automatically settle the matter about the results of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election. The Federal Government should take some additional steps. First, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should be directed to release the results of that election officially and for Chief MKO Abiola and Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe to be recognized strictly as a matter of record as President-elect and Vice-President-elect respectively. The results of that election need to be validly declared to put a closure to the injustice that was committed. This is the more important matter. The major legal issue here, however is that both men can not be accorded recognition as former Heads of State – they never took oath of office, and the Constitution under which they were elected – the 1989 Constitution is no longer in existence. It stands abolished. Since equity does not act in vain, what has been done is at best symbolic.
To further heal the pains of the affected, the Abiola family should be recognized and compensated for his arrest and detention that ultimately led to his demise. On Gani Fawehinmi: I had expressed fears about the likelihood that his family may reject the honour, Chief Fawehinmi having rejected a similar honour while alive. The Federal Government must be relieved that they have accepted the honour.
Chief Gani Fawehinmi is of course most deserving of the highest honours in the land. For more than 40 years, he was in the forefront of the struggle for a better Nigeria. He was committed to the progress and well-being of the ordinary man, the rule of law and human rights as the main pillars of good governance. He pursued this objective through the instrumentality of the law. Of him, President Buhari writes: “…the tireless fighter for human rights and the actualization of the June 12th elections and indeed for Democracy in general, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi SAN is to be awarded posthumously a GCON.”
I can only add that there are others who were also part of that struggle for the “actualization of June 12” whose contributions were no less important, and pain and suffering no less, who should also be considered for national honour. They even did more for the struggle than Chief Abiola’s running mate, Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe who is now being honoured, not for his contributions, I assume, but merely for being part of the ticket! They include Chief Alfred Rewane, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Chief Abraham Adesanya, Professor Wole Soyinka, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Frank Kokori, Col. Abubakar Umar, Beko Ransome-Kuti, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, Alao Aka-Bashorun, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, Ayo Opadokun, Kudirat Abiola, Chima Ubani, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, US Ambassador Walter Carrignton and all the journalists and media owners who were lied against, harassed, shot, assassinated, or jailed. This list is by no means exhaustive but it is representative enough for the benefit of those who insist on ethnicizing June 12. It was a pan-Nigerian struggle: between good and evil, between heroes and villains, and by the way, I agree that Professor Humphrey Nwosu – the man who presided over the election as National Electoral Commission Chairman – also deserves recognition.
The reading of motives – all that talk about timing, the South-West and 2019 – is beside the point. In the South-West, there were many Yoruba anti-June 12 elements who refused to acknowledge Abiola as the symbol and focal point of the restoration of democracy in Nigeria, and who may still be indifferent today. Timing – it is better late than never. 2019 – there is no strong indication that this would have any significant effect on the voting numbers in 2019.
The Nigerian voter may not be as stupid as we often think he or she is.

ADDRESS BY MUHAMMADU BUHARI, PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA IN COMMEMORATION OF THE 2018 DEMOCRACY DAY CELEBRATION, TUESDAY, 29TH MAY, 2018

My Dear Nigerians!

Today marks the 19th year of our nascent democracy and the 3rd Anniversary of this administration. I am thankful to Almighty God for bringing us thus far. This administration came at a time that Nigerians needed Change, the Change we promised and the Change we continue to deliver. We have faced a lot of challenges on this journey and Nigerians have stood by us in achieving the three cardinal points of this administration namely; Security, Corruption and the Economy.

2. The commemoration of this year’s Democracy Day is a celebration of freedom, a salute to the resilience and determination of Nigerians and a recommitment by Government to keep its promise to lead Nigeria into a new era of justice and prosperity.

3. Public safety and security remains the primary duty of this Government. Before this Administration came into being 3 years ago, Boko Haram held large areas of land spanning several Local Governments in the North East.

4. Today, the capacity of the insurgents has been degraded leading to the re-establishment of authority of government and the release of captives including, happily, 106 Chibok and 104 Dapchi girls, and over 16,000 other persons held by the Boko Haram.

5. In order to minimize the impact of the insurgency on Internally Displaced Persons, Government has established secure IDP Camps and has improved the mechanism for the distribution of basic aid, foods and essential commodities using various strategies in collaboration with local and international Organizations.

6. Efforts are in process for resettlement of IDPs in their home communities by providing schools, hospitals, clinics, water and sanitation to facilitate a quick return to economic activities. Government is similarly implementing de-radicalization and rehabilitation programmes to facilitate sustainable peace and development.

7. The unfortunate incidences of kidnappings, herdsmen and farmers clashes in several communities which have led to high number of fatalities and loss of properties across the country is being addressed and the identified culprits and their sponsors shall be made to face the full wrath of the law. All the three tiers of Government are presently engaged with communities and religious organizations to restore peaceful co-existence among Nigerians.

8. I want to commend members of the Multinational Joint Task Force drawn from Niger, Benin, Chad, Cameroon and our own country in collaboration with the International Community who are assisting in the fight against insurgency in the North East. I also commend the gallantry of members of our Armed Forces and other security agencies that have continued to provide security for lives and properties across the country. State and Local traditional authorities are helping with much needed intelligence in this fight against insurgency.

9. This administration is pained over the grievous loss of lives and properties occasioned by the carnage of insurgency and other forms of criminality in the country. I wish to assure Nigerians that we will not rest until all criminal elements and their sponsors are brought to justice. Government is boosting the capacity of our security agencies through recruitment of more personnel, training and procurement of modern equipment, enhancement of intelligence gathering as well as boosting their morale in the face of daunting challenges.

10. The Niger Delta Region has enjoyed relative peace through social inclusiveness and cooperation of the Elders and the good people of the region. Government is committed to implementing the comprehensive peace, security and development plan for the region. The environmental clean-up of the region which commenced with the launch in Bodo, Ogoni in June, 2016 is progressing satisfactorily. Furthermore farming assets are being revived and investors in cocoa and palm oil plantations are showing serious interest.

11. The second primary object of this Administration is to fight corruption headlong. Like I have always said, if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will destroy the country. Three years into this Administration, Nigerians and the international community have begun to applaud our policies and determination to fight corruption. We are more than ever before determined to win this war, however hard the road is. I therefore appeal to all well-meaning Nigerians to continue to support us in this fight.

12. Various policy measures already put in place to stem the tide of corrupt practices are yielding remarkable results. Some of these key reform policies include:
The Treasury Single Account (TSA) has realized Billions of Naira being saved from maintenance fee payable to banks. N200 Billion has also been saved from elimination of ghost workers in public service.

The Whistle-Blowing Policy has helped to recover over N500 Billion;

The Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit set up with a mandate to validate controls, assess risks, prune personnel costs, ensure compliance with Public Financial Management reforms has helped to identify and remove over 52,000 ghost workers from the Federal Government MDAs Payroll;

The Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) aimed at expanding tax education and awareness has offered the opportunity for tax defaulters to regularise their status in order to enjoy the amnesty of forgiveness on overdue interest, penalties and the assurance of non-prosecution or subject to tax investigations.

The Sovereign Wealth Fund project portfolio has been expanded with an injection of US$650 million so as to strengthen its investment in local infrastructure, power, health, re-construction of Abuja-Kano road, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, East West Road (Section V) and the Mambilla Hydro-electric Power project as well as the construction of the 2nd Niger Bridge.
13. The fight against corruption through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission has resulted in recoveries of Billions of Naira, as well as forfeiture of various forms of assets. This alongside other efforts has improved Nigeria’s international image and regional cooperation.

14. We have retained the services of one of the world’s leading assets tracing firms to investigate and trace assets globally. This is in addition to the exploitation of provisions of existing Treaties, Conventions as well as Bilateral Agreements with Multilateral bodies and Nations. Nigeria has also signed Mutual Legal Assistance Agreements to ensure that there is no hiding place for fugitives.

15. This Administration has therefore focused on revamping the ailing economy it inherited in 2015. In 2016, Government executed an expansionary budget and developed the Strategic Implementation Plan. For the first time, 30% of the budget was earmarked for capital expenditure which represents an upward review when compared with the 2015 budget. The SIP was followed by the development of a comprehensive medium term plan – the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan 2017 – 2020.

16. The broad strategic objectives of the ERGP were to; Restore and sustain economic growth; Build a globally competitive economy; and Invest in our people. The implementation of the ERGP has started yielding results. The National Bureau of Statistics reports that the economy grew by 1.95% in 1st quarter 2018, which is a good performance when viewed against -0.91 in 1st quarter 2017 and -0.67% in 1st quarter 2016 respectively.

17. Our foreign reserve has improved significantly to 47.5 billion USD as of May, 2018 as against 29.6 billion USD in 2015. The inflationary rate has consistently declined every month since January, 2017.

18. Recently, Government conducted Focus Labs in three key sectors of the Economy namely, Agriculture & Transport, Manufacturing and Processing as well as Power and Gas. These have yielded significant prospects for investments and Job creation to the tune of US$ 22.5 billion with a potential for creating more than 500,000 jobs by 2020. These investment generation initiatives are expected to increase capital inflows in the form of foreign direct investment. There is a high prospect that the cumulative investments from this first phase of the Labs will hit US$39.2 billion by 2025.

19. Under agriculture, Nigeria continues to pursue a strategic food security programme built around self-sufficiency and minimization of import dependency. As a result, rice importation from other countries has been cut down by 90% which has a direct impact on foreign reserves.

20. The Social Investment Programmes (SIP) has been created as a means to graduating our citizens from poverty through capacity building, investment and direct support. The major strategic objective is to restore livelihood, economic opportunities and sustenance for the poor across the country. The SIP programmes and projects include:
Home Grown School Feeding Programme – About 8.2 million pupils are currently being fed from 24 States of the Federation with over 75,000 Catering Staff engaged under the programme.

The Conditional Cash Transfer has so far recorded over 297,000 caregivers and being trained by 2,495 Community Facilitators in 21 states. Less privileged Nigerians are now being paid N5,000 monthly stipend in 9 pilot States of Bauchi, Borno, Cross River, Ekiti, Kwara, Kogi, Niger, Osun and Oyo. Eventually the scheme will cover all the 36 states of the federation including the FCT.

Under the Government Enterprise Empowerment Programme – About 264,269 loans had been disbursed to 4,822 societies in the 36 States and FCT, while another 370,635 are awaiting release of funds.

N-Power Job creation Scheme – is targeted at providing jobs for unemployed young graduates and has so far recruited 200,000 youths while the next batch of 300,000 have been selected, verified and would soon be deployed across the 36 States and the FCT. Furthermore, 20,000 non-graduate volunteers have also been selected to kick off the N-Build programme in collaboration with the National Automotive Design and Development Council and the Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria.

21. In the area of power generation, Nigerians from all parts of the country continue to report better power supply and less use of generators. This underscores the effectiveness of the methodical plan to deliver incremental and uninterrupted power supply to our homes, markets, offices and factories.

22. The country achieved 5, 222.3 MW representing the highest peak of power generated onto the national grid and delivered to customers in December, 2017. With new facilities, repairs and rehabilitations by Government and private investors, generation capability now exceeds 7,500 MW.

23. This Administration is committed to lawful interventions to ensure the operators of the distribution business live up to expectations especially in the areas of distribution capacity, service delivery, collection efficiency, and metering to eliminate contentious estimated billing.

24. The Transportation Sector continues to undergo a series of reforms in order to sustain the international best practices and ensure safety and security. The nation’s major airports have witnessed reconstruction of runways, installation of navigational equipment and new international terminals due for commissioning in Abuja, Lagos, Kano and Enugu. Bilateral Air Services Agreements between Nigeria and the Governments of other countries will significantly open up new flight routes.

25. As a result of strict regulatory and compliance policies, Nigeria retained her Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Category 1 status, after a routine international audit. Recently, a new Maintenance Repair and Overhaul facility with capacity for aircraft C-checks and other comprehensive levels of maintenance was established in Lagos. This would save the country an estimated $90m annually.
26. Giant strides have been recorded over the past three years to improve road transport infrastructure in all geopolitical zones of the country.

27. The Railway Sector has also received tremendous attention as this Administration is committed to the goal of linking all State capitals in the Federation by rail network to ease the movement of goods and passengers.

28. The Education Sector especially at tertiary level has continued to witness expansion in order to improve access to higher education by millions of youths in Nigeria. Over the last three years, Government has approved the establishment of 1 new Federal Polytechnic, granted licenses for the establishment of 4 State and 14 private-owned Universities as well as 12 private Polytechnics.

29. Government has also continued to support the implementation of various initiatives aimed at improving the quality of Basic Education delivery. Thus, it has ensured proper funding at the Basic Education level with the disbursement of N42.2 billion UBE Matching Grant to 26 States and the FCT, N851.5 million Special Education Grant disbursed to 23 States and private providers of Special Education and N2.2 billion Teachers Professional Development Fund to 33 States and the FCT.

30. The Federal Government has continued to support fiscal sustainability at the sub-national governments through the implementation of the Budget Support Facility which was accompanied by the 22- point Fiscal Sustainability Plan. Thus, bailouts funds were made available to States to ease their fiscal challenges and other obligations including payment of salaries.

31. In addition, a total of 73 Ecological Fund projects for the control of gully erosion in different communities across all geopolitical zones have been completed in the last three years and are undergoing commissioning while 53 other projects are ongoing. The execution of these projects has generated 357 skilled jobs and 1,350 unskilled jobs during this period.

32. It is pertinent to also make mention of the immeasurable contributions of the Nigerian woman to national development and advancement of democracy, over the last three years. The government and people appreciate you all as mothers of our great country.
33. My dear country men and women, as we all celebrate our democratic experience, let us resolve to avoid hatred and intolerance; we can only achieve our objectives in an atmosphere of harmony and peaceful co-existence.

34. Finally, the up-coming months will usher us into another season of general elections. Let me use this opportunity to urge us all to conduct ourselves, our wards and our constituencies with the utmost sense of fairness, justice and peaceful co-existence such that we will have not only hitch free elections but also a credible and violence free process.

35. In few days to come, I will be joined by many promising young Nigerians to sign into law the “Not Too Young to Run” Bill

36. I thank you for your attention.
37. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Buhari and the Arrogance of Ignorance, By Majeed Dahiru

President Buhari’s dishonest integrity was in full display when he reeled out distorted facts, half-truths and outright lies as he venerated late military dictator Sani Abacha and vilified former President Olusegun Obasanjo, alongside all his other democratically elected predecessors. While receiving a delegation of the Buhari Support Group (BSO) under the leadership of his lifelong ally and current comptroller general of Customs, Hameed Ali, Buhari remarked that: “I don’t care about the opinion you have on Abacha but I agreed to work with him and we constructed roads from Abuja to Port Harcourt, Benin to Onitsha and so on. We also touched education and health”. He then vilified Obasanjo, in a thinly veiled reference: “One of the former heads of state was bragging that he spent $15 billion on power in Nigeria. Where is the power?”
Buhari’s veneration of Abacha, who headed the most notoriously rogue military junta in the history of Nigeria, on the basis of the construction of a few roads and some other interventions in health and education, can only be compared in bizarre absurdity to an Angela Merkel praising the memory of Adolph Hitler on the basis of his pioneering role in the establishment of the German network of super highways – the autobahn. Apart from his unprecedented plundering of Nigeria’s commonwealth, Abacha also terrorised the Nigerian people, Gestapo style, in the worst case of brutal human rights suppression by any government before and after his in the history of Nigeria. Similarly, Buhari’s re-echoing of the false allegation against Obasanjo that he stole $16 billion on a failed power expansion project can be likened to the uninformed rumour that was made popular by Afro beat legend accusing him (Buhari) as minister of petroleum resources of stealing $2.3 billion “oil money” from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Buhari’s poor style of governance, with the consequent lack of tangible achievements in nearly three years, was brought about, among other things, by a combination of the lack of an understanding of basic statecraft and his arrogance of ignorance. Like his claim about Obasanjo’s $16 billion failed power project, Buhari’s statement at the meeting that, “I challenge anybody to check from Europe, America to Asia; between 1999 to 2014 Nigeria was producing 2.1 million barrels of oil per day at an average cost of $100 per barrel and it went up to $143” is as far from the truth, as the moon from the sun. The consistent rigidity with which Buhari peddles these false allegations underscores the arrogance of his ignorance.It is not true that oil prices averaged $100 per barrel between 1999 and 2014. The Obasanjo administration inherited a crude oil price at a record low of $17 per barrel in 1999 and this did not exceed $70 by 2007 when he left power. Between 2008 and 2010, oil prices fluctuated between $94 and $77, with the exception being in the months of June and July when crude oil sold for an all time high of $130 and $145 respectively. Crude oil prices only steadied at the $100 benchmark between 2011 and 2013, when prices hovered to about $107 and rose as high as $109 in some months. 2014 saw to the beginning of a steady decline in crude oil prices from $96 to $49 in 2015. Therefore, the cumulative average of prices of crude oil within the period under review was about $61 and not the fictitious $100 that Buhari throws around. While past administrations could have done much more to meet the expectations of Nigerians, it amounts to shear dishonesty to discountenance their modest achievements within that period. Contrary to Buhari’s claims, available facts suggest that the Obasanjo administration and its successors achieved far-reaching milestones in terms of physical infrastructure with these modest earnings, than he is ready to admit. In addition to raising the minimum wage by over 100 percent and expanding the size of the public sector workforce through mass employment of Nigerians, the Obasanjo administration constructed thousands of kilometres of roads across the country, while it initiated a revamping of the rail sector. To the eternal credit of the Obasanjo administration, the master plan of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja was substantially restored through a massive infrastructural expansion that distinguished it as one of the fastest developing capitals in Africa.
The Obasanjo administration reformed primary education through the Universal Basic Education initiative, which increased the enrolment of children into elementary schools in multiple folds. Obasanjo’s accomplishments in health care through the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS); housing, by means of the National Housing Fund (NHF); and tertiary education through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) and Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) are reference points in institutional corporate governance today. Human capital development and far reaching institutional reforms that positioned Nigeria as a destination of choice for Foreign Direct Investments in Africa were carried out by the Obasanjo administration. Obasanjo instituted the war on graft and corruption through the establishment of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC). All these achievements are despite the fact that the Obasanjo administration inherited a depleted foreign reserve of $3 billion and huge debt of $30 billion in 1999. However, by 2007, Nigeria witnessed a phenomenal turn around when Obasanjo left a whopping $43 billion in foreign reserves and $35 billion in savings in the excess crude account. In addition, Obasanjo successfully exited Nigeria from the clique of debtor nations when he paid $18 billion as counterpart funds to a league of creditor nations and institutions, to get the balance written off.
On power, it is neither true that Obasanjo spent $16 billion nor that he achieved nothing. The bogus figure of $16 billion emanated from a controversial National Assembly inquest into the power sector. Whereas, $16 billion was projected for the holistic transformation of the power sector by the Obasanjo administration, less than $4 billion was actually expended, according to available records. The power sector in 1999, when the Obasanjo administration came in, was in a very poor state. As a result of long years of neglect by successive administrations, the various power stations in Jebba, Shiroro, Kainji, Egbin, afam and Delta could only generate a paltry 1500 megawatts.The first step taken by the Obasanjo administration to improve power supply was to successfully revamp the existing power plants, which resulted in the increased output of 2500 megawatts, bringing the total output available to Nigerians from the national grid to 4000 megawatts. Further expansion of the power infrastructure saw the Obasanjo administration’s conceptualisation and initial execution of ten power plants across the country, with the capacity to generate 12000 megawatts of electricity. These projects were funded from the savings of the Obasanjo administration from the excess crude account. Out of the estimated cost of $10 billion, only about $3.7 billion was expended as the time of the complete procurement of the first phase of power plants in 2007.
Throughout his political sojourn in the wilderness of the opposition, Buhari gained fame for his strong incorruptibility credentials and his fiery criticism of his predecessors/rivals for plundering the nation’s common wealth. He attributed the nation’s underdevelopment to the scourge of corruption, which he claimed left Nigeria in the deficit of basic infrastructure, no savings but a debt overhang. Nigerians believed in him to salvage the ugly situation and got him elected on his fourth attempt on the ballot in 2015. That Buhari, who regaled the nation about the looting exploits of his predecessors/rivals, went to the “CBN governor with my cap in hand and asked if we had savings. He told me we had only debts, no savings” means that his accusation of massive looting was actually a false alarm. Even though available facts go contrary to Buhari’s claim of inheriting an empty treasury, his often melodramatic theatrics over his shock at the extent of the looting of the commonwealth renders his age long accusation of his predecessors/rivals as deliberately orchestrated lies to gain political advantage. The Buhari administration inherited a foreign reserve of $25 billion and an excess crude account of $2.4 billion, contrary to the claim that there were no savings.
That Buhari is venerating Abacha five months after taking delivery of over $300 million looted fund by the late dictator from Swiss authorities, while expecting another of his $500 million from the United States, calls to question his (Buhari) understanding of corruption, as much as about any other issue of governance. It is discernable from Buhari’s statements that he didn’t quite pay attention to the details of government dealing throughout his years in the opposition, in order to be adequately informed. This lack of proper information on issues of governance is responsible for the elevation of fake news and hate speech to presidential levels as Buhari continues to wallow in the arrogance of ignorance.

Majeed Dahiru , a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja and can be reached through dahirumajeed@gmail.com .

BEING TEXT OF A SPEECH BY PROFESSOR SHUAIBU AHMED DANFULANI, CHANCELLOR – CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL AND STRATEGIC STUDIES (CISS) AND COUNTRY DIRECTOR/PRESIDENT, GLOBAL AMNESTY WATCH (GAW) AT THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON TERRORISM HELD AT THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE CENTRE ABUJA ON MONDAY MAY 28, 2018

Protocols,

Esteemed participants, you may not realize it but you are part of history making today because the chances are that the conference would come with the position that could help Nigeria win the war against terrorism. The conference has the opportunity to speak truth to power. It also has the chance to consign itself to other non-consequential interventions that had hugged the limelight in the past only to adopt the timid business as usual stance when the facts are all too glaring for the casual observer to see.

It is now a given that some things around how Nigeria responded to Boko Haram and other proscribed or outlawed groups changed about three years ago, which I believe is the basis for which this conference is concerning itself with assessing only those three years that terrorists were made to realize that Nigeria is a country, and one with a standing and capable Army. The terrorists have since learnt that this is not a no man’s land where they can brag about holding territory. That repulsive ambition died once generals who know what they are doing stepped to the plate.

The euphoria of the successes recorded in the war against terrorism notwithstanding, and without prejudice to the costly sacrifices being made by members of the Armed Forces, we must in our intervention today be bold to rankle moods and step on toes. Whatever is found wanting must be identified and proclaimed so as that is the only way for the country to be able to take steps that will rid it of the last vestige of terrorism.

I will therefore digress to dwell on something or some things that Nigeria should have done differently. That is the overall approach to the war on terrorism. Please note, this is not to say a lot has not been achieved but it is rather to point out that much more could have been achieved and attained faster than we did. What I find to be missing in this regard is a failure to evolve a fully Nigerian approach to dealing with a global problem that mutated a Nigerian strain for that is what Boko haram is.

Since terrorism became a global challenge, countries have evolved their own responses to the threats posed, either in isolation or part of a collective but always with the national touch that ensures the interest of the particular country is well protected even when it is constrained to honor commitments to supra-national bodies.

I challenge you, participants, to take a quick study of France – the number of terror attacks it has had in the past ten years and the number of arrests it has made in those instances. What you will find is that a higher number of the terrorists that carry out attacks in France do not live to wear handcuffs neither do they ride police patrol cars, their corpses usually make the trip from their standoff with law enforcement to the city morgue because they always invariably end up dead. The latest attacker was a mere 16 days ago and that was the fate that befell him even though his weapon of choice was what some would refer to a mere knife. So, the terrorists know France is not a playground for their twisted ideology. Former French colonies in Africa – take note of Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger – have adopted a similar approach and terrorists know not to go fooling around in these places.

Russia has even lesser tolerance and a thinner finesse to dealing with terrorists. Russian President Vladimir Putting, quoted in a Brooking Insitute article that made reference to a 2000 interview for his biography said of his brutal suppression of terrorists in Chechnya, “If we did not quickly do something to stop it, Russia as a state in its current form would cease to exist…. I was convinced that if we did not immediately stop the extremists [in Chechnya], then in no time at all we would be facing a second Yugoslavia across the entire territory of the Russian Federation — the Yugoslavization of Russia.” Putin also does not want Chechen that have fought alongside ISIS terrorists in the Middle East to export terrorism back to Russia, it is a cheaper and more effective approach, to deal with the problem before it arises.

Britain is arresting, trying and jailing its nationals that have gone to Syria to support ISIS. In fact, even contemplating or planning to travel to join ISIS is a crime for which some convicts are serving time. United Kingdom Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson asserted that Britons who have fought for ISIS should be hunted down and killed to ensure they never return to their country. Perhaps, British that fought on the side of ISIS are fortunate to only be imprisoned for their crimes; an American citizenship could have guaranteed them death right in the Middle East by Hellfire missiles fired from Predator drones simply to ensure they do not live to return home with their terrorists’ ideology and build terror networks in their homelands.

Incidentally, these are all countries that some of us have been brainwashed to regard as the benchmark for strict adherence to human rights. Yes, they adhere to human rights and follow rules of engagement but they always make sure that the collective interest is above those of individuals that have gone rouge. For these countries, it appears failure to remove threats to the larger population is what constitute violation of human rights. Their governments and military see themselves as being responsible to the civilian population that would be harmed if terrorists should successfully hijack their countries.

Ladies and gentlemen, please note how the media and civil society in the aforementioned countries react to these practices I have mentioned. They may grumble, they may criticize but they in the end join in managing the situation so that their people see the common and greater good in the steps taken to curtail terrorism. At no time have international human rights organizations been able to hound them or their militaries. If anything, reports that have recriminating titles have texts that praise the valour of the troops that kill menacing terrorists.

You should by now be asking yourselves what the Nigeria model is. What is the Nigeria model? The reality is that there is no Nigeran model in the true sense of things. What we have instead has been a Nigerian Army that has been excelling in the face of impossibilities. The same human rights activists and international NGOs that see nothing wrong in the way these other countries keep themselves safe expect Nigerian troops to approach terrorists with gift offerings so that they can be talked into giving up their evil ways. Once troops kill terrorists it would become a matter of human rights violation and threat of being dragged to the International Criminal Court (ICC). I invite you to note again that the military from France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States are not threatened with ICC when they kill terrorists, instead they get medals. So, the question is, why is Nigeria different?

This is a question for participants to find answers to. At a different forum, people told me it is because they want Nigeria to fail. But even this answer only provoked more questions. If you were to give me the same answer I will then ask: why do they want Nigeria to fail or collapse?

Other questions are: who are these people that want Nigeria to fail? How do they plan to make Nigeria to fail? What have they done so far to set Nigeria on the path of failing? Who are they using to make Nigeria to fail? Who benefits if Nigeria should fail? What is Nigeria doing to prevent itself from failing?

Whatever answers we get to these questions, they will point to the centrality of the Nigerian military, notably the Nigerian Army as the institution to counter these threats. The Army cannot safeguard the country against conspiracies of such magnitude if it has to adopt a different set of rules to the ones other Armies use to protect their country. The Army cannot be fighting Boko Haram only for agents of countries that do not allow terrorists breathing space to dictate what must not happen to known terrorists.

I therefore challenge this conference to review the conditions under which the Nigerian Military achieved its successes over Boko Haram with a view to making suggestions that will empower military personnel to do even better. You should identify groups that are being used to undermine the military’s effort to eradicate Boko Haram and make useful suggestions on how to manage such organizations.

My hope is that you will be able to come up with a template that will help the Nigerian Army develop its own approach to dealing with terrorists in a manner that ensures that the safety of Nigeria is not jeopardized.

I wish you fruitful deliberations.

#2ndInternationalHumanRightsConferenceOnLocalArmedConflictsInNigeria

NEMA Swims in bad tides By Emmanuel Onwubiko

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is currently swimming in the tides of controversy around the issues of corruption, managerial incompetence, contract and procurement misconducts among a litany of other matters which have combined to cripple the motivation of a lot of the staff.
These avalanche of crises afflicting NEMA started when President Muhammadu Buhari appointed a career politician to head this most strategic intervention agency and ever since the Yobe politician Alhaji Mustapha Mahaja arrived NEMA, it has been every day one trouble.
It can even be concluded that this agency of government established for the purposes of embarking on emergency rescue and remedial processes is itself in a very urgent need of emergency redemption.
From official account found in the website of the agency yesterday, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) was established via Act 12 as amended by Act 50 of 1999, to manage disasters in Nigeria. It has been tackling disaster related issues through the establishment of concrete structures.
The Mission is; To coordinate resource towards efficient and effective disaster prevention, preparation, mitigation and response in Nigeria.
The Vision is; To build a culture of preparedness, prevention, response and community resilience to disaster in Nigeria.
The Act vested the authority of managing disasters in Nigeria in NEMA.
According to the enabling law; the Agency shall among the other things,
(a) Formulate policy on all activities relating to the disaster management in Nigeria and co-ordinate the plans and programmes for efficient and effect response to disasters at national level; (b) Monitor the state of preparedness of all.
Sadly, since he arrived from the political terrain to assume the mantle of leadership of this important agency of government, this usually pro-active office has become a theatre of war between the new Director General and some “unlucky” directors whom he has accused of a range of financial misappropriations running into billions. These directors have in turn accused the director general of these same serial contracts procurements’’ crimes and have insisted that the man was simply on a vendetta for no known reason. It is feared that the new director general may have spoilt for a fight to muddy up the records of those directors who are pioneer staff just so he can bring in his own boys. This pattern is what obtains in most agencies whereby the current set of power workers have appointed their cronies.
For the first time since NEMA was created, the staff embarked on industrial action over failure of the current Director General to meet up with their basic financial obligation.
The news emanating from the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) have never being palatable even as productivity within the agency has dramatically nosedived because of artificially induced paucity of operational fund to power some of the very pressing activities.
The director general has also been accused of over stepping his powers by arbitrarily suspending serving directors without recourse to the laws governing affairs of civil servants.
Also, two institutions one of which is a whole arm of government and the other an agency under the Executive arm of government namely, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the National Assembly have feasted on some of these controversies brewing within the National Emergency Management Agency in such a way that has reduced the agency to a mere theatre of war.
This is because, while the Federal House of Representatives thinks the Director General has questions to answer regarding monumental corruption the EFCC on the other hand is seen as the attack dog being deployed to witch-hunt the directors who have fallen out of favour for a reason that is not easily known.
The Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo is the chairman of the head of governors of NEMA and is therefore expected to provide effective oversight to the running of the National Emergency Management Agency.
The Vice president is a known political godfather of the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Alhaji Ibrahim Magu.
Yemi Osinbanjo is known to have thrown his weight behind Ibrahim Magu when the senate over ruled his fitness to head the anti-graft body.
Some observers are therefore seeing the clamp down on the six directors of NEMA by EFCC as a voice of Jacob but the body of Esau meaning that the anti-graft czar may have sided with the Vice President to shift the burden of the blame for the alleged corruption on the suspended staff and not the politically appointed director general of NEMA who is affiliated to the Vice President and is said to be doing his bidding.
There are also insinuations that if indeed the director general may have committed the said financial infractions, it follows therefore that the Vice President may have some explanation to do concerning why those alleged crimes happened. The Federal House of Representatives reportedly invited the Vice President over these issues.
What is however disturbing is that despite the cacophony of controversy dogging NEMA, neither the president nor the vice president made any known moves to call the director general to order or to completely re-organize the management of that agency so a real competent manager is appointed to head that agency.
If truth must be told, NEMA is such a vital organ of government that must not be used as avenue to settle political sons but a place whereby only the best is good enough to head the agency.
However, whilst we thank the benevolence of nature for not unleashing a major disaster which will definitely not be managed effectively by a highly disorganized National Emergency Management Agency, the problems tearing that place apart seems far from over.
The director general appeared before the House of Representatives and was quoted as having admitted committing procurement crime but the mystery is that it seems the government is so overwhelmed by corruption and financial crimes’ allegations that it does not know what next to do to sanitize the rotten house that is being presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.
The director general of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Engineer Mustapha Maihaja, had admitted before the House of Representatives Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness, which is investigating breach of public trust in the agency that the agency did not comply with the provisions of NEMA establishment Act which mandates it to liaise with its state counterparts during distribution of relief materials.
Speaking at the resumed sitting of the committee in the National Assembly, the DG made the admittance while responding to questions by lawmakers on the failure of the agency to distribute relief materials to the affected areas in the North East.
The hearing of the day was focused on the distribution of relief materials or lack of it, and the N8 billion Emergency Food Intervention Programme in the five states in the North East region: Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Adamawa and Bauchi States.
It also took testimonies from the officials of the National Pension Commission (PENCOM), National Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) on the status of the companies that were awarded the contracts for the implementation of the emergency food intervention programme.
Representatives of governments of Gombe, Yobe, Bauchi and Taraba states had made testimonies before the committee where they disclosed that NEMA did not involve the state government or the state emergency agencies when the commenced the distribution of items. They also added that they could not ascertain whether the items were distributed by NEMA according to the claim of the DG because of their non-involvement in the whole arrangement.
Media reports said all of the states except Bauchi State said they did not receive any letter from NEMA about the food distribution to internally displaced persons in their states, while Gombe state government was emphatic that there are no IDP camps in the state, and as such, it did not receive any relief materials from the agency.
The committee also reportedly unraveled a forged clearance certificate presented by Three Brothers Rice Mill Ltd. The representative of ITF at the hearing had informed the lawmakers that the clearance purportedly issued by ITF was not from his office as it bears a wrong address, signature and carries his name, though he was not the one who signed it.
Officials of the National Pension Commission (PENCOM), National Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS)and the Corporate Affairs Commission(CAC), while making presentations on the companies (Three Brothers Rice Mill Nigeria Ltd and Olam Nigeria Ltd) engaged by NEMA to carry out the N8 billion Food Intervention Programme, informed the committee that they did not fully meet all the requirements for qualification for government contracts.
Responding, NEMA DG, Engr. Mustapha said the exigency of the situation required the agency to make emergency procurements. He also faulted Yobe State statement that NEMA did not make any contact with the state on the distribution and presented a letter of communicated to the committee where the state acknowledged correspondence from them.
The contract awarded to Olam Nigeria Ltd for 2.4 billion naira and the 600million to 3 Brothers Rice Ltd for supply of rice for the emergency food intervention programme in the North East, he stated, was made at the presidential level and the contractors were selected because they had the capacity to deliver in the huge quantity that was needed.
Media reports stated that the chairman of the committee, Ali Isa J.C, warned against misrepresentation of the proceedings of the committee. He said some news reports were deliberately trying to mislead the public and create an impression that the National Assembly is at war with the vice president.
He said, “The House believes we are working with the executive, especially when it comes to fighting corruption and getting value for money. “
The chairman also declared that the House cannot be intimidated into suspending the investigation. He said they will not be distracted to shift focus from probing the N5.9 billion and N3.1 billion Emergency Food Intervention Programme, the N1.6 billion funds for 16 states flood relief and another N1.6 billion for Libya returnees.
The committee summoned the Central Bank of Nigeria, Ministry of Budget and National Planning, Ministry of Agriculture and all companies involved in the procurement of the N5.1 emergency food in the North East.
It also directed NEMA DG to bring all communication, including minutes of meetings, related to the selection of the companies that got the contracts.
Again, as the Committee on Emergency and Disaster Preparedness resumes its investigation into breach of trust by the National Emergency Agency (NEMA), efforts by the lawmakers to track the source of the directive to disburse over N8 billion to some companies to supply grains to internally displaced persons in the North East was truncated after the accountant general appealed to the House not to disclose contents of the documents required because they are classified as security information.
A press statement emanating from the House of Representatives said NEMA could not make any presentation at the hearing due to the failure of its director general, Engr. Mustapha Maihaja, to appear for the second time in a row.
The director of Relief and Rehabilitation, Mr. Kayode Fagbemi, who was again mandated to represent him was rejected by the representatives but asked to stay through the proceedings as an observer.
The committee, in the hearing that held at the National Assembly, had earlier interrogated three of the companies that benefitted from the emergency food programme and the food security programme on the basis of the release of the funds to them. All but one of the companies, namely BUA, Three Brothers Rice Mill, Dangote could not tell the committee exactly what office the contract for their supply of grains emanated from.
Only Olam stated that while it did not apply to NEMA for the contract to supply food to the North East, or mop up grains for off season use, it was granted the job the agency and received payment from the office, though it has an outstanding of N274 million.
However, one of the documents before the committee revealed that the disbursement, which all companies said was not a loan facility, came from the Central Bank of Nigeria as a public/private partnership arrangement. The document showed that it was supposed to be a loan facility to the beneficiary companies.
They also queried the permanent secretary of the Finance Ministry on another document which showed that the authorization to the Central Bank of Nigeria to pay the companies was issued by his office.
In his presentation earlier, the representative of BUA could not tell the committee the agency that awarded the contract to his company, and also said he does not know if there was an award letter or agreement between the federal government and his company in relation to the contract to supply soya beans. This was after he had earlier submitted that there was no contract or agreement to that effect.
While adding that all grains have been given to NEMA, he added that BUA did not apply to CBN for the contract.
On its part, Olam’s vice president (Rice), Mr. Reggie George stated again that it did not bid for the N2.4 billion naira contract it got but was informed by the Ministry Agriculture to send an invoice to the ministry of Finance, after a Rice Processors of Nigeria meeting. He also added that there was no advertisement or bidding process that the company responded to or participated in.
Responding to enquiries by the lawmakers, the Permanent secretary, Ministry of Finance, disclosed that there was no contractual agreement, just an instruction from the office of the Accountant General to pay N5.8 billion to some companies, which they complied with.
Office of the accountant general, however, said it is not aware of any dealings of the contract.
The controversy surrounding the legal status of the Three Brothers Rice Mill continued at the hearing as documents related to the company showed three in figure (4) instead of in words as the company’s representatives claimed was the correct name.
The Corporate Affairs Commission and other relevant agencies were directed by the committee to submit all documents related to the company in either of the 2 names in the next hearing on Thursday, which is expected to be the last.
The house of NEMA indeed stinks of corruption and managerial incompetence requiring a transparent clean up with a clean broom untainted by partisan politics.
Emmanuel Onwubiko heads the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and blogs @ http://www.emmanuelonwubiko.com ; www. huriwanigeria.com ; http://www.huriwa@blogspot.com