Friday, 25 November 2011

Fuel subsidy removal: Jonathan versus Nigerians?

By Dayo Olaide

IN the last six months, much has been written on the proposed removal of fuel subsidy in Nigeria. This thorny issue is not new but it has never been dealt with decisively; thus it has come and gone like Wole Soyinka’s Abiku, pitching governments against Nigerians. The people are ever ready to resist what is considered as government’s strategy for impoverishing and incapacitating them. President Goodluck Jonathan put together an economic team, whose mandate includes the scrapping of the controversial fuel subsidy. He has also declared that there is no going back on the January 2012 date for the removal of subsidy on petroleum products except kerosene. The meaning of this is not clear to many Nigerians. But government is not clear either. However, Nigerians appear set to rise against Jonathan on this issue. The absence of clarity creates room for interpretations and for some, it means Nigerians should get ready to pay as much as N200 for a litre of petrol which currently sells for N65 based on equalisation pricing.

Nigeria is rich in natural resources. It boasts of more than 39 different types of solid minerals. In addition, it is vastly endowed with oil and gas and is currently Africa’s largest crude producer. The presence of large deposits of natural resources together with a population of about 150 million people, considered predominantly young and hardworking, bring forth the reason why Nigerians regard their country as a rich one. They also believe that like Venezuela, Iran, Iraq and Russia that are similarly blessed, the country ought to provide petroleum products that are cheap and accessible to its citizens. What this means in the reasoning of Nigerians is that they should pay less for petroleum products made from crude oil which nature has graciously and abundantly blessed them with. They also believe that they should not have to pay the same price like their neighbours in Benin, Togo or Ghana that are either resource poor or new entrants to the exclusive club of oil producing nations. Successive governments, on the other hand, have argued consistently that subsidy distorts the market and discourages investment. It is considered as a major drain on the economy; that the subsidy gulps scarce revenues that government needs to survive and provide services.

The eagerness of Jonathan to confront this stubborn issue is admirable, considering that it opens opportunities to put subsidy and fuel supply in Nigeria to rest. But the solution canvassed by his administration is both condemnable and dangerous for Nigeria’s democracy. What makes it condemnable?

The downstream sector has remained far too long in the hands of a selfish cartel that has got too used to super profit at the expense of Nigeria and Nigerians. When Nigeria deregulated and liberalised the downstream sector, it removed the monopoly rights previously enjoyed by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation as the sole importer of petroleum products. By opening up the sector for private participation, the government hoped to promote investment, efficiency and effectiveness . These are necessary to stimulate competition and make petroleum products available at reasonable prices to Nigerians. Instead, the deregulation created an oligopoly market where a few investors with strong politically connections emerged to seize and control products supply and pricing; thus cornering the monopoly rights previously enjoyed by the NNPC. Buoyed by political patronage and protection, they milk Nigeria through questionable transfer payments in the name of equalisation and subsidy payments from the Federal Government. By threatening to remove fuel subsidy, Jonathan, like previous leaders, appear to be taking sides with the cartel; preferring to take money from impoverished and helpless Nigerians and handing such resources over to profiteers and looters.   

The downstream sector is locked in several shady deals which hamper accountability. The late former President Umaru Yar’Adua acknowledged this much when he said then that the cartel had become too powerful and out of control. They had seized the sector so securely that government could no longer guarantee uninterrupted supply of kerosene, diesel and petrol unless the importers were regularly appeased. So while the government claims to spend trillions on payments to importers, it has never been bold enough to publish a breakdown of actual amounts paid out and the beneficiaries. Industry experts have also given up, alleging that the petroleum equalisation and stabilisation funds are so opaque in that they will never allow Nigerians to understand or effectively engage the sector.  

But the biggest leakage in the Nigerian economy is the widespread corruption that bleeds the nation of billions of dollars in the form of bloated contracts, over-invoicing, outright theft and disappearance of government properties. Not too long ago, Nigerians were confronted with startling revelations of mismanagement of public resources, including the $16.25bn power sector; over N20bn aviation rehabilitation funds; and N7bn community power projects. Several billions voted annually to education, agriculture, health, police, etc simply grow legs and disappear without a trace, leaving the sectors in a sorry state. Even the controversial excess crude account that stood at about $26bn, at the height of the commodity boom, is now almost totally liquidated. Yet, the country struggles to show value for it. The scale of looting unleashed by legislators in the sixth National Assembly in the form of illegal jumbo salaries, procurement thievery and borrowings in stark contravention of relevant laws could make a small nation such as The Gambia bankrupt. But the economic saboteurs in the serial heists walk around, freely flaunting their wealth while Nigerian prisons, where many of them deserve to be, are stretched to the limit by awaiting trial inmates, in custody for lesser offences.

The cartel in charge of the downstream sector has mutated over the last two decades, consuming local refineries and locking the country in permanent dependence on the importation of petroleum products. The importers have frustrated the half-hearted efforts to license and encourage new investment in refineries. And in so doing, Nigeria now relies on the resource-poor West for its domestic need for petroleum products. Disappointingly, rather than allow knowledge and superior reasoning to address the age-long problem of revitalising the downstream sector and fuel subsidy, the Jonathan administration, like a proverbial stray dog bent on being preyed, appears set to lock out further dialogue and reasoning on the matter. It has choosen instead to stick with subsidy removal as the only solution. 
Removal of fuel subsidy is not an alternative to functioning refineries, an open and efficient supply chain and accountable management of public revenues. Focusing on these ones and ensuring the effective implementation of anti-corruption and public procurement laws will save more than 40 per cent of Nigeria’s annual budget. Without freeing the downstream sector from the hands of selfish oil importers that have successfully shown themselves to be economic saboteurs and others engaged in bleeding the nation of important revenues through corruption, outright theft, wastage and mismanagement, the government will continue to run below its earning capacity.

Now, what makes the current debate on fuel subsidy dangerous? Not a few Nigerians are worried or disappointed by the turn of events since Jonathan emerged as President on the promise of breath of fresh air. They are asking questions on social networks - Twitter, Facebook, MySpace - about when the transformation agenda Jonathan promised in his May 29 inaugural speech will come. In the meantime, the President’s list of sins appears to be growing - attempted tenure extension, poor power supply, insecurity, failed anti-corruption campaign, liquidation of the excess crude account without adding value to Nigerians, troubled amnesty programme, decayed infrastructure, abandoned key reforms (electoral accountability, petroleum industry, citizenship, etc), dishonoured national honours programme and now fuel subsidy. It seems every step of the way the President has been ill-advised - against the same Nigerian people that gave him huge votes.

The eagerness of Jonathan to go ahead with his economic team on the planned subsidy removal leaves the impression of a man desperate to correct a wrong impression. This eagerness at this moment of crippling insecurity that threatens foreign direct investments and bodes a strong possibility of implosion as a result of the sensibilities sparked, in part, by growing disenchantment with the six-month old administration, lessons from the Arab Spring, a near total collapse of governance and seeming lack of direction and urgency in this administration could have destabilising effects on Nigeria.

The Arab Spring has taught people around the world that their resolve can make the change they desire. The Jonathan administration should listen to the voice of reason and save the nation of what can become Nigeria’s ‘Harmattan Fall’.

- Olaide, an international development worker, wrote in from Rue 9x, Point E, Bourgiba- Dakar, Senegal via This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Fuel Subsidy: Why Reason Must Prevail By Dr. Timiebi Koripamo-Agary

As a Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, one of the things I found particularly striking was the determination – and obvious sincerity of organised labour to challenge unpopular government policies.

The irony of course was that despite their resolve to protect what they perceived as the best interests of trade unions and the larger society, government, almost invariably had the last say.

The cycle was predictable: a government agency would submit proposal for a particular policy direction it wanted government to embrace and implement. The policy would work its way through the highest echelons of government and end up being adopted by Nigeria’s highest policy making and implementation body – the Federal Executive Council. On the face of it, the policy may seem geared towards improving governance, or perhaps freeing up or generating funds which government would then use to improve the lives of the ordinary citizen. Why would anyone criticise such well thought-out policies? 

From the position of government, the questions were: why would anyone go on strike to protest what in essence was a fool-proof decision in common interests? And by the way, who gave Labour the moral imperative to take decisions on behalf of millions of other Nigerians and force them to take to the streets, when as far as government was concerned, the proposed policy was in the greater interests of the entire country and the facts and figures were crystal clear?

In retrospect, and from my observations when I was later deployed to the Federal Ministry of Information and Communications, I realised that the major challenge was that of communication breakdown. It was clearly a challenge about government/public communications – or the lack of one. Government had hundreds of information officers in its employ to communicate with, and explain government policies and programmes to the public. However, a majority of them had become ensconced in the concrete of bureaucracy and were making no real efforts to constructively engage with, and communicate government policies to the wider public. So there was an understandable suspicion of government. Although we initiated schemes to retool information officers in the nuances of their jobs, that there is such confusion surrounding government proposal to remove the subsidy on petroleum products indicates gap still exists.

As far as I am concerned, the plan to remove the subsidy remains a proposal. Today, I am like most other Nigerians – afraid of the potential hardships we would face were the prices of petroleum products, especially petrol go up drastically. From all indications, it seems the Federal Government is fully determined to remove the subsidy on petroleum products and expectedly, another epic battle with Labour is looming. From all accounts, the battle lines are drawn and the country is gearing up for what may be the biggest confrontation over economic policy in many years.  But should we go down that route again?

What is clear is that government could have managed the situation better. Authoritative facts and figures of the actual cost of subsidy are hardly ever made public: not much is known about the actual quantity of fuel imported, the cost of importation, distribution pattern within the country as well as the actual amount spent to augment the cost of the pump price for consumers. All we get to know is when a certain amount of money is declared as having being spent on subsidy. How it is spent was never explained, and so the larger public remain rightly sceptical of government intention as far as the petroleum subsidy issue is concerned.

At any rate, it was recently revealed at the National Assembly that the federal government has overshot this year’s budget on fuel subsidy from the N240 billion provided in the 2011 Appropriation Act to N1.3 trillion as at August 2011. The figure represents an extra-budgetary spending of over N1 trillion representing an increase of about 700 percent. This information did not come from the executive arm of government. How were these figures arrived at? Should the fact that neither the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) nor the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) come out to refute these figures make them authentic? Why is government not engaging with the Nigerian people on these issues?

As one who has been on the other side, I think that things can, and must be done differently: On one hand, there is a proposal by government to remove the subsidy of petroleum products consumed in Nigeria. On the other, there are threats and promises of mass action led by Labour. And the whole cycle begins again, as we continue to go round and round. Is there an air of inevitability to the imminent confrontation? Are strikes the only way to resolve crises? And have we asked ourselves who suffers the most when strikes happen? And indeed, have strikes ever stopped government from achieving its ultimate goals?

To embrace the practice in other parts of the world, I believe that the time has come to engage constructively to achieve mutual objectives.  What do Labour and Civil Society want? What does Government want? What are the points of convergence? How can we aggregate our collective interests to ensure that at the end of the day, we all emerge winners? Considering these challenges as an ordinary Nigerian, like minded Nigerians and I came together to form the Initiative for Peace and Industrial Harmony (IPIH) to engage all stakeholders on the petroleum subsidy and related issues.

Our first effort was to organize a petroleum subsidy roundtable which had in attendance all stakeholders – except that representatives of government agencies invited failed to turn up. What was clear from our free and open discussions was that labour, civil society and the organized private sector – all of which sent representatives were ready and willing to negotiate with government on this issue, and possibly avert another challenge to our delicate security situation.

From our position as independent arbiters, and our commitment to fairness, justice and equity, IPIH is convinced that negotiation is only way to resolve the seemingly intractable petroleum subsidy crises. But negotiations involve give and take. What is government prepared to offer, and what are the least offensive and most strategic ways of presenting these offers? What palliatives would government offer to mitigate the effects of petroleum subsidy removal? Is there the political will to employ alternative sources of mediation? 
When strikes take place in Nigeria, it is the ordinary citizen that suffers most. Millions of Nigerians, especially in the informal sector, eke out a living from whatever they earn daily. A one day strike, not to talk of any protracted mass action will jeopardize the delicate balance of their lives. Many people never recover from the shock of strikes and other mass action, thus throwing more people into unemployment and poverty. Apart from the more determined labour leaders, a majority of civil servants simply stay at home during strikes – assured that their salaries would be paid in full at the end of the month. In many cases, miscreants have been known to take over public protests to unleash violence and mayhem on innocent citizens. And when all is said and done, government almost always has the last say.

The proposal by government to remove the subsidy on petroleum products presents Nigerians with a unique opportunity to hold government accountable. Rather simply embark on industrial action that ultimately ends in favour of government, this time, all stakeholders must make demands on government – and hold it to its words. It is time to lay out the issues. It is time for all stakeholders to dispassionately study the issues and come out with critical inputs. From these inputs, all sides can bring forward ideas and templates from which a framework for bilateral and multilateral stakeholder engagement will evolve.  

We need to ask: how much of the savings would be used to develop infrastructure? How much will be used to set up sustainable public transport system? Why should the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) not negotiate with government for a multi-billion naira students’ loans scheme for university education? How much of the savings from subsidy removal would be used to stimulate private sector led growth and job creation? How can we force government to cut down on waste?

These are sorts of questions that should determine the fuel subsidy debate, not strikes and demonstrations which achieve little. 

Dr. Agary is a retired federal permanent secretary and National Coordinator, Initiative for Peace and Industrial Harmony. Originally posted on Sahara Reporters

Tuesday, 22 November 2011


Detained People Democratic Party Senator, Mohammed Ali Ndume from Borno has confessed to knowing the spokesperson of the dreaded Boko Haram sect operating in the northeastern parts of Nigeria. Senator Ndume represents Borno South Senatorial District at the Nigerian senate. The Boko Haram spokesperson was arrested and paraded in public yesterday by the Nigerian secret police, State Security Services (SSS).
Sources at the SSS told Saharareporters that the PDP senator finally admitted that a relationship existed between him and Boko Haram but claimed he was too "scared" to tell it to security agencies.

The source also stated that some Senators had began putting pressure on the SSS to release the Senator from detention.

The SSS yesterday paraded Ali Sauda Umar Konduga (a.k.a Usman al-Zawahiri) who openly spoke to reporters about his involvement with the Boko Haram sect. Konduga was the spokesperson of Boko Haram who claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing attacks on the Nigerian police headquarters and the UN building in Abuja according to our sources.

Courtesy: Sahara Reporters



On 3rd November, 2011 about 2030 hours at Gwange area, Maiduguri, Borno State, a joint security operation led to the arrest of Ali Sanda Umar KONDUGA, acclaimed spokesman of the Boko Haram sect, widely known in the media as Usman AL-ZAWAHIRI. He was a former political thug operating under a group widely known as ECOMOG.
2.      His arrest further confirms the Service position that some of the Boko Haram extremists have political patronage and sponsorship. This is moreso as AL-ZAWAHIRI has so far made valuable confessions in this regard. Highlights of some of his admissions are:

i.       That he was recruited by a political party stalwart in Maiduguri, Borno State;
ii.      That following the compulsory registration of all SIM  cards nationwide, he was asked to steal a SIM card which he used in sending                                                                                                                                                                                                         threat text messages     
iii.     That the pseudo name, Usman AL-ZAWAHIRI was given to him by the said politician to portray him as an extremist as well as conceal his true identity;

iv.     That one of his benefactor’s promised to pay him Ten Million Naira (N10 million) to work for his party but by stint of fate, he died on his way to deliver the part payment of Five Million Naira (N5 Million) to AL-ZAWAHIRI

v.      That consequent upon this, subject claimed a serving member of the National Assembly took over the running of his activities;

vi.     That he was behind the threat text messages sent to the Judges of the Election Petition Tribunal in Maiduguri. His objective was to ensure that the Tribunal sacks the present Government in Borno State;

vii.    That he was also behind other threats messages sent to Governor Sule LAMIDO, Governor Babangida ALIYU, Amb. Dalhatu Sarki TAFIDA, Chief Olusegun OBASANJO and Justice Sabo ADAMU (Chairman of the Election Petition Tribunal in Borno State).

viii.   That most of the threat messages he sent to Justice Sabo ADAMU, were scripted and relayed to him by the National Assembly member.

ix.     That the threat text messages eventually led to the relocation of the election petition tribunal from Maiduguri to Abuja;

x.      That the same legislator promised to send him some telephone numbers of members of the GALTIMARI Committee on Security in the North East, before he (AL-ZAWAHIRI) was apprehended.
xi.     That the telephone number and content of the text message sent to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice were also given to him by the Legislator in order to compel him (AGF) to influence the judgment of the tribunal against the Government in Borno State.

3       Meanwhile, analysis of AL-ZAWAHIRI’s phone has confirmed constant communication between him and the legislator.

4.      The Service wishes to reiterate its commitment to addressing the current threats posed by the Boko Haram sect and other forms of fundamentalism in the country, including the dimensions of political patronage and sponsorship of extremist and violent groups. We call on all well-meaning Nigerians to sustain their confidence in the nation’s security establishment, as we work tirelessly to ensure a safe and peaceful Country for us all.


News culled fron Sahara Reporters

Monday, 21 November 2011

Report Injustices: Apo Six And Justice Denied

—Oluokun Ayorinde/Abuja

Families of Ifeanyi Ozo, Chinedu Meniru, Isaac Ekene, Paulinus Ogbonna, Anthony Nwokike and Tina Arebun, all between 21 and 25 years old who were brutally murdered in 2005 by policemen as they were returning from a night-out are still wondering if the killers will ever be brought to justice. The trial of Deputy Commissioner of Police, Danjuma Ibrahim; Assistant Superintendent of Police Othman Abdulsalami (still at large) and corporals Nicholas Zacharia, Emmanuel Baba, Emmanuel Acheneje and Sadiq Salami has been on at a Federal Capital Territory High Court presided over by Justice Isaq Bello since 18 January 2006. The trial has suffered many adjournments and followers of the case believe the court seems to be pandering too much to the wiles and subterfuges of the accused policemen to prolong the trial as long as possible in the hope of eventually evading justice.

Justice Isaq may not be unaware that all eyes are on him over the many adjournments he has granted which have been responsible for lack of progress in the prosecution of the police officers. “It is very sad that this case is going on like this. Though I know that I have good conscience over this case, we cannot ignore what the people are saying outside. This is not good for the image of the judiciary. I think this is the third time the fifth accused person is changing his lawyer. We cannot continue like this,” he said at one of the hearings early this year while reacting to information by Chief Chris Uche, the prosecution lawyer that Ezekiel Acheneje, the fifth accused person, has no lawyer for his defence and, therefore, the trial has to be adjourned. The lawyer had noted that in a murder trial, an accused person must either be represented or provided with a lawyer. But Acheneje seemed to have perfected a way of “hiring and firing” counsels to stall his trial.

The accused has actually changed six counsels since the trial commenced in 2005, including one Olu Otitoju provided to defend him by the Legal Aid Council. He fired Otitoju in January 2011. But some observers of the proceedings have also accused the judge of providing a sort of enabling environment for Acheneje with the bail he granted him in 2006. Normally, accused persons standing trial for offences which carry capital punishment are legally not entitled to bail. But Justice Isaq had based his decision on a claim that Acheneje was suffering from the HIV syndrome and granted him bail, alongside the first accused person, Danjuma in 2006. Danjuma’s lawyer had asked for bail for his client on the excuse that the accused police officer was suffering from diabetes, ulcer and heart problem. Danjuma, who was a television cameraman but got recruited into the Police due to the influence of a former Vice President, had ‘fainted’ twice to convince the judge of his ill-health in court before he was granted bail. Isaq argued that the bail he was granting Danjuma would enable him seek adequate medical treatment. He added that he was allowing Acheneje leave the prison confinement so that he would not afflict other inmates with ailments associated with HIV/AIDS.

In granting bail to the two accused person, the trial judge had acknowledged that the provisions of Section 341 and 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code, CPC do not allow bail for an accused person being tried for a capital offence punishable with death. He, however, noted that the issue of ill-health constitute a special and exceptional circumstance for the granting of bail to a person being tried for capital offence punishable with death: “I will not allow sentiment to serve as a control tower in this judicial exercise or anyone at that,” he added.

The bails were widely condemned, especially given the fact that one of the principal suspects, Othman Abdulsalam, the Divisional Police Officer of Garki Police Station at the time the crime was committed escaped from the police detention facility and is still on the run. “When Danjuma was released, I forgot everything about the case. The only way justice will be delivered is from God,” Elvis Ozor, a younger brother of one of the deceased, told the British Broadcasting Corporation two years ago. “A murder trial of this nature involving six innocent youths should not linger for four years. This is one case that has exposed the poor administration of the nation’s criminal justice,” Amobi Nzelu, counsel to the slain men also commented two years ago. Chris Uche, a senior advocate who is the prosecution counsel, noted that the trial was moving smoothly and speedily until the defence lawyers introduced the issue of bail.

The two accused have since been living as free men and it is, therefore, understandable if Acheneje will do everything possible to delay the trial which may lead to his conviction and confinement to prison. Though this magazine cannot confirm if Danjuma is still on the payroll of the Police as many are speculating, it was confirmed that the accused is living at the posh officers’ housing estate located in Wuse 2, Abuja. Lawyer to the other accused person had in obvious frustrations at the antics of Acheneje had at the resumed hearing of the matter in April asked the judge to try him separately from the others. However, Malam Isa Ibrahim appeared as a lawyer for Acheneje at the resumed hearing of the matter on 17 May. But this also led to another adjournment as the lawyer requested for time to enable him get the record of proceedings and exhibits as he was just coming into the matter. The lawyer also said he needed time to meet with his client. “Once we resume in July, the matter must continue until it reaches its logical conclusion this year. So all counsels in this matter must take note,” Isaq had warned when granting the request of the counsel to Acheneje. Few weeks to the end of 2011, it is doubtful if the promise of ending the case before the end of the year can be fulfilled.

In, perhaps, the most sensational extra-judicial killings to come to public knowledge, the country was thrown into agony five years ago as information of how men of the Abuja command of the Nigeria police had, in the early morning of 8 June 2005 ended the hopes and aspirations of the five young men and a lady. The murdered men were later tagged tagged the “Apo Six”, a reference to the area of the FCT where the young men were selling spare parts before they were killed. The sequence of events that led to the unfortunate incident later revealed that Ozor had driven his visiting girlfriend, Augustina and his four other friends to a relaxation spot at Gambiya Street, Area 11, Abuja on the night of 7 June 2005. The policemen claimed that the deceased were robbers who fell to their superior firepower during gun confrontation.

They then proceeded to bury the corpses later that morning at a bush in the same Apo district where the murdered men had their shops. However, one of the colleagues of the dead traders who was in the bush to relieve himself at the same time saw the policemen and recognised the bodies they were getting ready to dump in the shallow graves and raised an alarm. The police insisted that the six were robbers, but their colleagues denied. The killings sparked two days riots in Abuja and government was forced to set up a commission of enquiry to investigate the matter. The then Inspector General of Police, Tafa Balogun was forced to set up a special investigation panel headed by Mike Okiro, a retired Inspector-General of Police on the matter.

The federal government also in August 2005 set up the Justice Goodluck Olasumbo judicial commission of enquiry with the mandate of examining all issues connected with the killings. During the commission’s sittings, the other five officers accused of the murders currently on trial and eight other police witnesses were emphatic that Danjuma ordered the killings. A Police armourer who appeared before the commission admitted that weapons were planted on bodies just as the Police photographer also confessed that guns were planted on the corpses of the six deceased and pictures taken of them in the grounds of Garki police station to solidify the lies that they were killed during gun battles. According to him, the Police gave him two local pistols, two daggers and one machete to put by the side of the victims, to portray them as armed robbers.
The Okiro panel also presented a 31-page report to the judicial commission of enquiry in which it indicted Danjuma and nine other police officers of complicity in the murder. The panel also stated emphatically that the men were not armed robbers as claimed by the police and that the locally-made pistols and other exhibits allegedly recovered from the deceased persons were actually brought out to frame the victims on the instruction of the DCP by the Garki Village station armourer, Inspector Ishaya Nyaiwak. The panel added in the report that the pistol and two unexpended cartridges were used to frame the deceased persons and added that the ammunition were items recovered by the police a week earlier at the Rita Lori Hotel, located at Garki Village, Abuja.

The commission, in the course of its sittings ordered the exhumation and post-mortem examination of the bodies of the deceased men to determine the cause of their death and as a further confirmation of the testimonies it has heard from witnesses. The report of the autopsy confirmed that the six victims died of injuries due to “high velocity missile,” consistent with the AK 47 rifle. It asserted that five of the victims were shot to death instantly. The sixth victim and only female among the deceased, according to the commission was killed to ensure that there was no living witness of the atrocities committed by the policemen.
The commission, therefore, found the policemen guilty and affirmed that the robbery allegation the indicted policemen had tried to hang on the neck of their victims was false. The Obasanjo administration accepted the commission’s report and issued a draft White Paper on it. Each of the families was paid N3 million as compensation by the government. The police also apologised and provided ambulances for the bodies to be carried to their hometowns for a proper re-burial.

“The full weight of the law will be brought to bear on all who are found to have been involved in the perpetration of this heinous crime,” former president, Obasanjo said in August 2005 when commenting on the cold-blooded murder. Over six years after, it appears that promise may never be fulfilled.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Where is the Black African Spring? By Adejuwon J-One Anjoorin

Where is the Black African Spring?

In February 2011, TIME magazine had published on its front cover, the faces of young people from different parts of the world, with the caption THE GENERATION CHANGING THE WORLD. It was the season of an avalanche of youth revolutions across the world. Youths, powered by technology had taken on age-long tyrannies and uprooted them; these youths were tired of oppression, injustice, monumental corruption and gross inequalities in the economic equilibrium of their nations. As I stared at the cover page with the faces of these young people, it hit me with a jolt that none of them looked like me – there was no black face among them all.

It is a known fact that Sub Saharan Africa has some of the most disheartening statistics in government corruption and widespread underdevelopment and poverty. Plus, this system has been the order for decades upon decades, yet in the season when youths all across the globe rose up against injustice, the black youth was nowhere to be found. From Tunisia, to Egypt, Syria, Libya, young people demanded emancipation. But Black Africa has remained calm and silent, as though things were okay with us. The revolution rolled from the Arab world to the West: Israel, Spain, London, New York, California, Chile, yet Black Africa has remained silent, as though our living conditions were better off than those of these people who have taken to the streets to voice out their dissatisfaction with their governments.

The average Egyptian lived on $3 per day, while his Nigerian counterpart barely lived on $1.5 a day, yet when Egyptians trooped to the streets against oppression, we, Nigerians merely watched, laughing and arguing about it, suffering and smiling. Former dictator of Tunisia, Ben Ali got to power the same month as current dictator of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe. But when Tunisians trooped out and drove out Ben Ali from power, Zimbabweans took the “siddon look” posture at Mugabe; yet, this man has totally wrecked the economy of his nation, not to mention his extreme wickedness and high-handedness.

What exactly is wrong with Black Africa?

Why is it so easy for us to engage in petty ethnic skirmishes, but when it is time to coagulate thoughts and actions for a worthy struggle, it just never happens? Are we really as smart as we think?

What exactly is wrong with us Nigerians? For how long would we continue to suffer and smile? Yes, we do not have a dictatorship, but the situation of our economy demands that people rise up and ask questions. Our economic situation is far worse than many countries that have dictatorships. Spain, Isreal, and America are all democracies, but the growth of government corruption and the concentration of a vast majority of the nations’ wealth in the hands of a few individuals in power and around power have caused the poor to rise up in revolution. In the past few months, over 400,000 Isrealis took to the streets protesting social injustice and demanding lower costs of living, (you can only find such huge number of people at christian crusades in Nigeria), hundreds of thousands have trooped to the streets in Spain demanding a better way of life. In America, it is the same. A University in California was shut down because all the students took to the streets in solidarity with the “Occupy Movement” protesters and also to protest budget cuts in education. In Chile, the protest of students over the past three months had forced the government to inject a fresh $1.6 billion dollars into the educational system, resulting in a vast upgrade of the school system. In Nigeria, the government has just increased the electricity tariffs, stated that toll gates will be re-introduced on our “deathbed” expressways, and promised to remove fuel subsidy in less than two months. This in the face of continuous corruption of unspeakable proportions, and the lavish remuneration and lifestyle of Nigerian public office holders, yet, everything is “shhhhhhhh……”

Every now and then the government comes up with a fresh set of statistics that the economy is growing.  But where exactly is this growth? Who are the people who benefit from the growth? How evenly distributed is this growth? Do the Nigerians who live below the economic radar, the DE socio-economic class who constitute over 60% of our population ever benefit from this so-called economic growth? Or is this growth just increase in the profits of a few already comfortable billionaires? In every nation there is a level of people who are cut off from all these economic postulations, they neither feel it nor enjoy it, like those who live on social welfare in America. In other parts where there is no welfare, they live by the day. They struggle from day to day to survive. The only thing they could ever enjoy from government is the provision of social amenities and infrastructure. Good roads to transport their wares fast and safely, good public schools to send their children to, electricity to power their homes, potable water in their homes, and security on their streets, yet these amenities are not available in Nigeria. The poor in America and certain other nations of the world enjoy these basic amenities, hence their way of life becomes not as despondent as it would have been. But in Nigeria, over 60% of our people are effectively cut off from any benefit of governance, yet we continue to grill out a living in the most pitiable of conditions, from day to day.

There needs to be a change of order in Nigeria. This current system where the tail wags the dog is not acceptable, neither is it sustainable. Some day we just have to break out of the grip of our fear, take our destiny in our hands and reshape the future of our nation. Youths all over the world have shown the way. The avalanche of revolutions with started in the Arab nations this year has been termed the Arab spring of 2011. I ask, when will the Black African spring come?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

The Three Street Theories That Destroyed Nigeria – by C. C. Ekeke

When next you want to get yourself some kilograms of meat, consider the open market –not Shoprite or any of the corporate shopping centres. Also, just for the purpose of confirming the accuracy or otherwise of the assertions I will be making in this essay, I’d suggest that you try boarding ...a public bus when next you want to go anywhere within Nigeria. Or better still; visit a motor park or a beer parlour. The cozy enclave of your Jeep or your home will deny you of the opportunity to get this knowledge. And when you get into the market or the public bus or the beer joint, don’t just keep to yourself. Interact with the people you see there.

If you pick ten different people at random – from the market, beer parlour or inside a commercial bus – , engage them in a friendly conversation about the Nigerian malaise and later ask them if they’ll steal money if voted or appointed into a political office, you’ll be shocked at the responses you’ll get. At least 70% of the people will tell you exactly this or something that implies it; “Nobody go enter there make e no chop money. I go chop, but I go do something”

Chop, but do something. This is the first theory with which Nigeria was – and is still being – destroyed. Created by a wicked and mischievous tribe of rulers, exported to the streets for a wholesale purchase by the masses and sustained in circulation by both the rulers and the ruled, this theory gives legitimacy to the world-acknowledged signature of leadership in Nigeria: monumental treasury-looting. I have always cringed at the unconscious acceptance of the crime of corruption as normal, by the Nigerian people; from those they call leaders, each time they quote this rule.

In its most basic explanation, chop, but do something, confers on a political officeholder a legitimate right to help himself to the public treasury (“chop”), so long as he does “something”. The “chop” here doesn’t refer to the legally approved remuneration and perquisites for the Nigerian government official which, – in any case –are far above what any other public official in similar or related position elsewhere in the world earns. When they say “chop “, they actually imply, “steal, embezzle, loot”. I have often asked my close friends if they know the definition of the “something” that should be done. Does anybody know what should pass for a satisfactory “something”? The vagueness of this weak demand – which appears to be an afterthought -from the governed is the reason we have been getting anything – just anything – as products of governance from those who we hired to provide us with some level of comfort. And because there’s no clear line, as well as known proportion for demarcation, between “chopping” and doing “something”, we have often had a 95:5 ratio. To further appreciate this, you may want to realize that, according to this law, the “chopping” comes first before the doing “something”. The beneficiary of this benevolence of ours can comfortably run a “chop-do something” ratio of 99:1. We’ve seen it reflect in the award of contracts by governments. A contract is awarded at an ungodly cost – far above what it will cost to do the same job in a saner clime, money is paid in full for the job, yet it won’t be executed. The contractor shares the money with the government officials who awarded the contract. And that ends the story.

In their various uninspiring offices, I can safely conclude that the aides to these rulers recite this law to their bosses more than they do the Nigerian pledge. The result is what you see littered in our political landscape. A legislator who carts home about $2million per annum goes to his constituency and sinks one or two boreholes and invites ready members of the mainstream mass media to broadcast it. A week later, the borehole parks up and his constituents resort back to the streams and rivers or Malams – the only sources of water supply they know. He has done “something”. At least he has satisfied the two sides of the street law.

A governor pockets millions of tax payers’ money, then remembers the existing street law, and quickly sends an aide or a family member to get 5,000 okadas and 5,000 sewing machines for the states “teeming youths”. He fixes some few kilometers of roads and they all get bad again, right under his watch, even before his first term in office elapses. Mr governor has “done something”.

Historians, I am certain, will find the Nigerian masses guilty of complicity – by both witting and unwitting acceptance – in the organized destruction of their country. The penchant for accepting mediocrity and promoting the culture of sleaze in government, by those who should demand qualitative leadership, is against the known laws of building a great nation. The acceptance by an average Nigerian that the right thing in government is to “chop money, but do something” is the latent force that propels the corrupt public officeholder to the comfort realm – that zone where the everybody-is-a-thief mindset doesn’t give him any discomfort. By declaring that law, the Nigerian on the street is simply saying, “if I get there, I’ll also steal from the treasury”. And the thieving ruler knows this, and likes it.

The next theory of national destruction is the theory of “chop I chop”. Credited to the ingenuity of Nigeria’s father of modern day corruption – Ibrahim Babangida – by his admirers, this theory is a summary of the benefits of forming a workable collusion before, during and after the act of stealing public funds. You hear this more often when, once in a rare while, a high profile corruption case becomes the scene of EFCC’s usual media melodrama. Those who see – and probably rightly so – Babangida as the master of the art of settlement would tell you the reason such people like Dimeji Bankole, Danjuma Goje or Chimaroke Nnamani, were being singled out for prosecution in a sea of heads of fellow sinners. For a country recognized world over for its unenviable position in state-sponsored corruption, it has to be the breaking of the “chop I chop” law that inform such persecutions. In simple terms, whoever that is caught by EFCC “chopped alone”. He refused to share the loot with those who he knew would come after him. Didn’t he see IBB? Doesn’t he know that is the secret of the retired general?

And many students of the IBB school of thought are high fliers in the field. They can hardly be put to jail. They know those to settle with raw cash and those to settle with campaign donations. They know those to settle in form of church tithes, seeds or offerings as well as those to settle in their palaces with big cars and costly accessories. And the masses? They are in wait for their turn or when any of their relatives gets the chance to access the treasury of the public.

Do something for ya people is the third of the street laws that have destroyed Nigeria. This, in particular, was propounded to tend to the ethnically biased Nigerian ruler. And unfortunately, many of them are. Here, the bigotry of a president, governor or Local Council chairman is brought to the fore by his advisers. Devoid of the sublime thinking that his primary catchment area is the physical boundaries of the country or state he rules, and having no plan to develop any part of the geographic region, a president or governor is always reminded by his family and village members, “no matter what, do something for ya people ”. The idea is for him to corner the few developmental programmes of his regime to his village so that later in the future, when his kindred members throw up to him the challenge of his wasteful years in office, he’ll simply say, “I sank that borehole and built that road for you people”.

We saw a manifestation of the observance of these theories in the decision of President Goodluck Jonathan to site one of his nine politically motivated Federal Universities in his village. In that singular act alone, he achieved both the “do something” and “do something for ya people” expectations. He just wanted to do something, anything – irrespective of the desirability or otherwise of it, and hurriedly setting up Universities, even against the opinions of front line academics, was to serve that purpose. And in doing something, he thought of doing one for “his people”.

The maze I find difficult to suss out is the reason behind a political class which should think like their contemporaries in the developed world taking a thinking seat with the commoners on the streets. Sorry, I take it back. There’s no wisdom in my amazement. That street thought actually originated from the members of the ruling class themselves. They rule with the minds of commoners. They are clothed in the apparels of nobles, yet the apparels cover the flesh that conceal minds saturated with petty thoughts and admiration for vanity. From the seats of power to the queues of misery in the Nigerian streets, the air is condensed with thoughts of national destruction; the type that promotes laziness and criminality in political offices and then awards a non-performing political office holder the commendation, “the man dey try”.

And by the way, that is the fourth of the street laws that destroyed Nigeria.

Thursday, 3 November 2011


By Victoria Ibezim-Ohaeri

Ms. Shola has full blown AIDS. She is poor, sick, abandoned, evicted and HOMELESS! She used to sell bread at Adeniji Adele area of Lagos State. Her problems got beyond her when the "shack" she called home was demolished by Fashola's demolition-happy officials without providing her an alternative shelter.

I met Ms. Shola four weeks ago at Egbeda Bus stop in Alimosho Local Government Area of Lagos State. It was a very rainy Saturday, and there she lay on the bus stop with her clothes scattered all over the main road. Freezing, hungry and uncared for, hundreds gathered to catch a glimpse of her. Her sore-infested body and the pus gushing out o
f her ears attracted all kinds of flies. Gladly, two women summoned up the courage to approach her and cover her up with warm clothing. As I walked away with a tinge of regret about my inability to help, somehow, I believed the local authorities would come to her rescue in a matter of days. I WAS WRONG!

Just yesterday, Thursday, October 27, 2011, I learned that Ms. Shola had been 'living' at that same spot for over four weeks.  Touched by her deteriorating physical and health condition, members of St. Vincent De Paul (SVDP) movement of Joseph's Catholic Church Egbeda took her to Igando General Hospital and  Gowon Estate Police Station. Both the hospital and the police station vehemently refused to keep her in their custody. They also took her to National Institute of Medical Research, Yaba, Lagos and all known shelters in Lagos State yesterday, none agreed to admit her. As a pre-condition for admission at IDH Yaba, Lagos, they were requested to pay N50,000 deposit, and submit the name of a relative that would take care of her. Despite paying N50,000, she could not be admitted into the shelter because none of her relatives showed up.

Having exhausted the whole day and options available to them, SVCP's attempt to return her to Egbeda Bus Stop met a brick wall. Traders and persons claiming to be local government officials refused to let her stay at the bus stop on the grounds that she constituted a public health nuisance. The furore lasted well into the night until the nearby Catholic Church offered her a place to sleep.

To say the least, it is appalling and embarrassing that there are no functional destitute homes and temporary shelters for sick people in the whole of Lagos State despite its enormous internal and external revenue earnings. State and local authorities have continued to push for, and advance policies and programs that skew focus on city beautification and aesthetics even if it is at the cost of massive social dislocation and human suffering. Development has no value if does not lift people out of poverty. Development is meaningless if it does not enable its intended benficiaries to live more properous, healthier lives.

Ms. Shola may not live very long. And when she's gone, beautiful flowers may quickly be planted along Mobolaji Bank Anthony Way, Ikeja, Lagos to replace her. Certainly, Lagos shall not miss her!

Good bye Ms. Shola...We may not meet again. But your story would would forever haunt the conscience of  leaders who failed to live up to their expected obligations towards you.

Goodbye Shola!


"Security forces have started door-to-door searches for weapons in northeast Borno state after an arms amnesty for Islamist militants expired on October 31", Colonel Mohammed Hassan, spokesman for the Joint Military Taskforce in Borno said on Wednesday. The measure was part of efforts to curb gun attacks and frequent bombings by the militant group Boko Haram in the state.

"We have commenced house-to-house searches for illegal firearms because, from Tuesday morning, the deadline given to the public to surrender all firearms in their possession expired," he told journalists in the state's capital Maiduguri.

One search had already led to the arrest of a suspected bank robber with links to Boko Haram thought to have been behind a heist on a local branch of First Bank in which a policeman was shot dead, he said.
Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is forbidden", has been behind dozens of shootings in Nigeria's northeast this year, usually targeting public and religious figures. Last month, it killed a state television cameraman.

The group is growing in ambition and sophistication. Nigerian and international security agencies believe it has been strengthening ties with al Qaeda's north African wing.The group claimed responsibility for a deadly bombing on the United Nations' headquarters in the capital Abuja in August. Security crackdowns have yielded little and in some cases heavy-handedness has alienated the local population.

In a related development, a major disaster was on Wednesday foiled by the police, as the dreaded Islamic sect, Boko Haram, had planned to present cleverly wrapped bombs as Sallah gifts to some individuals in the state.

The state Commissioner of Police, Mr Simeon Midenda, said on Wednesday that the command had arrested a 23-year-old member of the sect, Sheriff Shettima, who was the arrowhead of the plans.  Addressing newsmen, Mr Midenda said that Shettima was arrested in his house in Maiduguri metropolis, where explosives, guns and ammunition, which he confessed were initially prepared to bomb the headquarters of Borno State police command, were recovered.

The suspect, according to the police, revealed that some of the explosives were meant to be wrapped as gifts for people during sallah, adding that “the receivers of the gifts might not suspect that these are IEDs.”

Source: Reuters and Tribune

Nigeria comedian's drug arrest makes agency a joke

Story culled from yahoo news...

Investigators detained the famous Nigerian comedian at the airport, accusing him of swallowing narcotics before trying to board a flight to Paris. But after more than two weeks of observation, Baba Suwe has given up no drugs.

Instead he's made drug enforcement agents the punch line in a country that's a gateway for heroin and cocaine entering Europe and the United States. On Tuesday, his court appearance amounted to one important question from a stern-faced judge: "You've been to the toilet how many times?"
Baba Suwe's life has been reduced almost to a potty-humor joke after drug enforcement agents arrested the 53-year-old actor on suspicion of hiding drugs inside his body.

Television news programs have brought on analysts to discuss the actor's bowel movements. And writers have compared the incident to when police arrested late Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti on suspicion of ingesting marijuana, which the musician later memorialized in an unprintable song and album title.
However, Suwe's defense lawyer says the case also has more ominous implications for Nigeria's criminal system.

That "somebody of Baba Suwe's popularity, somebody of his standing in the Nigerian society, somebody's who's so famous can be hauled into detention without any attempt of filing a charge against him, that tells you we may have several thousand people languishing in (drug agency) detention centers with no access to justice," Bamidele Aturu said.

Baba Suwe, whose real name is Babatunde Omidina, is a popular figure in Nigeria's robust national film industry known as Nollywood. He provides comic relief in films as a butler or a security guard in some films, or as the lead actor in movies spoken in his native Yoruba language.

On Oct. 12, he arrived at Lagos' Murtala Muhammed International Airport to board an overnight Air France flight to Paris, where he was to host a naming ceremony for a newborn. Agents of Nigeria's National Drug Law Enforcement Agency pulled him out of line for a further screening, officials said.

Such searches remain common in Nigeria, as drug enforcement agents conduct selective searches, usually focusing on travelers who fit the profile of a possible drug courier. It remains unclear why agents specifically pulled Baba Suwe out of line, as his lawyer said Tuesday that their selection came after authorities received "information" about his client.

Agents put Baba Suwe through a full-body scanner at the airport that detected a suspicious object inside his body, the agency has said. They detained the actor and newspaper headlines the next morning blared that the actor had been caught with cocaine inside his body.
Except no drugs have come out.

On Tuesday, Baba Suwe appeared in a federal high court in Lagos to challenge his continued detention without charges. His case brought out fans who lined the court compound's fence, peering through the slates to catch a glimpse of the diminutive star.
"As a public person, it's an embarrassment to him and his fans," said Sunday Iyip, 43, who works as a security guard.

The case also has proven to be a high-profile embarrassment for the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, which parades a series of suspects before journalists to show its efforts to stop drug trafficking.
Despite its campaign, Nigeria remains a major transit point for illegal drugs. Between January and October 2010, Nigeria's drug agency seized more than 400 pounds (some 180 kilograms) of cocaine and more than 90 pounds (more than 40 kilograms) of heroin in Lagos, home to the nation's busiest airport, according to a recent U.S. State Department report.

Experts believe much more slipped out of the country via drug mules to airports in Europe and the U.S.
"Nigerian-organized criminal networks remain a major factor in moving cocaine and heroin worldwide," the State Department report reads. "While many of these organizations are not based in Nigeria, large quantities of both cocaine and heroin transit Nigeria on their way to markets in the West."
Femi Oloruntoba, the drug agency's lead prosecutor, said Tuesday that he didn't think the Baba Suwe case had hurt his agency's image.

"With all the scans and the expert opinion, it's reasonable for us to hold onto" him, the prosecutor said.
Yet inside the court Tuesday, Justice Yetunde Idowu offered harsh criticism for holding the comedian without charges. She ordered Baba Suwe to be released Friday on $3,300 bail so long as he doesn't excrete any drugs.

"Mr. Omidina is due for release," Idowu said.
And so Baba Suwe left the court, surrounded by Uzi-carrying anti-drug agents. Outside, his fans mobbed around him, applauding him as he passed.

However, even in the moment of judicial glory, the comedian couldn't escape the joke: Those gathered offered an excrement-themed cheer in his local language.

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