For the fifth time, in less than a decade, Jos, the capital city of Plateau State, was penultimate Sunday engulfed by another round of violence and mayhem, resulting in the massacre of not less than 200 Nigerians, mostly defenceless women and children.
According to media reports, the killings took place in the early hours of Sunday, when, Dogo-Na-Hawa, Ratsat and Jeji Villages in Foron district, Jos South Local Government Area of the state came under, attacks by yet to be identified Hausa Fulani fighters.
Surprisingly while security operatives were sniffing the ground to fish out the perpetrators of the diabolic killings, the hoodlums in the wee hours of Wednesday March 17, 2010, swooped on Byei and Baten villages in Riyom Local Government Area and left no fewer than 13 persons dead.
Coming barely two months after an earlier major outbreak of violence on January 17, this year, in which, more than 350 were reportedly killed, this fresh round of attacks which is a senseless bloodletting and brute display of disrespect for human life should worry all well-meaning Nigerians.
The Tide is even more disturbed because we are aware that after the January 17, episode, the Presidency, under Vice President Goodluck Jonathan (as he then was) after a security session with service chiefs, deployed Federal Troops to the violence-torn city with the primary intention of checking reprisal attacks and also imposed dusk-to-dawn curfew on the state.
This is why it becomes suspect, that areas being guarded by Federal Troops intended to check further escalation of the mayhem and also help identify culprits, would come under such enemy attack, in which a yet to yet-to-be officially confirmed 200 persons were killed, in cold blood. What went wrong?
We ask because, the essence of a dusk to dawn curfew after major disturbances of the kind witnessed by Jos, are among others, to restrict movement of men and weaponry and help nip in the bud any likely breach of the Peace. In such operations, Troops also embark on extensive mopping up of illegal fire arms and possibly make suspects face the law.
So what went wrong? We ask again because it is no longer acceptable to look the other way and watch the now frequent killings in parts of the country, particularly, Jos and do nothing. In fact, the frequency should also worry all well-meaning Nigerians as should the number of human casualties in each of the disturbances.
Between September 7 and 17, 2001, for instance, when, the first major ethno-religious riot broke-out in Jos, more than 1,000 lives were lost. And in 2004, following clashes in Yelwa, 500 persones were killed forcing then President Olusegun Obasanjo to declare a state of emergency. Later in 2008, disputes over council elections, in the Jos North area of the state claimed as many as 700 lives. With that Nigerians in unison screamed enough is enough and at once actuated the tough talk by the federal government that all culprits would be brought to book. With that assurance Nigerians were hopeful that not only would any repeat of such senseless killings be unfanciful, deliberate efforts would be made also to fish out masterminds of the near frequent cases of violence in the city.
That was why the January 17, 2010 disturbances left a very sour taste in many a mouth. Why, for instance, should an issue as insignificant as disputed plot of land, hardly good enough for a family, cause the deaths of 350, among them women and children?
Apparently, it was to check any possible repeat or escalation of the violence that the city of Jos, had for nearly two more months been under huge military presence uptil the March Mayhem.
This is why complicity by some thorn coats within the rank and file of the Federal Troops cannot be completely ruled out, if the gory tales of massacre recounted by survivors are any leads to go by.
The Tide is not interested in the blame game between the Army and the state Governor, Jonah Jang, because it takes no one any where further than pointing accusing fingers that fishes out no one.
Now, therefore, is when Acting President Goodluck Jonathan must make good his promise to restore confidence on the Federal Government by fishing out those either directly or remotely responsible for the brutal killings. The way to achieve that is for the Federal government to release reports of previous panels of enquiry into the many crises that had rocked the city and elsewhere, with a view to making such persons account for their acts of commission or omission and digging even deeper into the latest madness.
The indecision of successive state and Federal governments to take bold and stern actions against blood tasty ethno-religious demagogues, have over time, created the impression that some Nigerians are untouchable under the laws of the land.
The Tide for a change calls for a comprehensive probe of the events of Sunday, March 7, 2010, and Wednesday March 17 , 2010 in particular and all others in which many have lost their lives. The outcome of such probe must be made public and culprits punished in a timely fashion. That, in our view is one of the surest ways of checking any reprisal attacks from aggrieved parties who may be forced to seek Justice, of the brute kind which they are being reminded daily, only might can give.
The Tide agrees with judicial doyens that “the greatest incitement to crime is the hope of escaping punishment” and would wish to warn that unless very decisive action is taken against those fingered by the Ajibola Panel and others, the viscious circle of senseless blood letting will endure.
Chinese Loan: Need For Caution
The Minister of Transportation, Mr Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, is expected to appear before the
House of Representatives Committee on Treaties on Monday, August 17, 2020, to provide detailed answers on the $500 million loan to be sourced from the Export-Import Bank of China for railway lines in the country among others. To appear alongside the Minister are his Communications and Finance counterparts, Dr Ali Isa Pantami and Mrs Zainab Ahmed respectively, including the Director-General of the Debt Management Office (DMO), Ms Patience Oniha.
Issuing the invitation order on Tuesday, July 28, 2020, the House Committee on Treaties under the Chairmanship of Rep. Nicholas Ossai raised the alarm over alleged waiver of Nigeria’s Sovereignty in the Federal Government’s concessions loan agreement on Nigeria National Information and Communications Technology Infrastructure Backbone Phase II project between the government of Nigeria, represented by the Federal Ministry of Finance (borrower) and the Export – Import Bank of China (lender) dated September 5, 2018.
The Committee specifically cited Article 8 (1) of the agreement which states that “the borrower hereby irrevocably waives any immunity on the ground of sovereign or otherwise for itself or its property in connection with any arbitration proceeding pursuant to Article 8 (5), thereof with the enforcement of any arbitral award pursuant thereto, except for the military assets and diplomatic assets”.
As the nation waits to get clarification on the issues from the federal authorities under legislative scrutiny, not a few strategic stakeholders and other well-meaning groups and individuals have volunteered critical opinions and informed views on the matter.
The main opposition political party in the country, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has berated the Federal Government and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) for the development, describing it as offensive and a “reprehensible pawning of our sovereignty to a foreign interest”, adding that “the gambling with our sovereignty amounts to unpardonable treachery against our nation and the future of our generations yet unborn”.
While expressing the view that such stringent conditions in a contractual agreement indicated a loss of confidence on the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration by the international community, the PDP insisted that the nation cannot afford to cede our sovereignty or mortgage any part of the country under any guise as condition for accessing any loan.
The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) took its reaction a notch further by instituting a legal action in suit number FHC/ABJ/CS/785/2020, seeking “an order of mandamus to direct and compel President Muhammadu Buhari to tell Nigerians the names of countries and bodies that have given the loans, specific repayment conditions, and whether any public officers solicited and/or received bribes in the negotiations for any of the loans and if there is plan to audit the spending of the loans, to resolve any allegations of mismanagement and corruption”.
While SERAP acknowledged that access to loans could provide badly needed resources, the body expressed worry that “the massive and growing national debts have continued to have negative impacts on socio-economic development and on Nigerians’ access to public goods and services, including quality education, adequate healthcare, clean water, and regular electricity supply”.
Accordingly, the view has been expressed in many quarters that Nigerians have, over time, lost confidence in government when it comes to international agreements as exemplified in the on-going case between Nigeria and Process and Industrial Development (P&ID) in which the sum of $9.6 billion is still pending against the country due to an agreement signed by government officials.
According to Dr Reuben Abati, a veteran journalist and former Chief Press Secretary to former President Goodluck Jonathan, “in the case of China, the aforementioned Article 8 (1) refers to such words as “arbitration”, “property”, “enforcement of arbitral award”. These are the same key words in the P&ID case”.
He pointed out that “China helped Sri Lanka to build the port of Hambantota. Both countries signed an agreement similar to the one Nigeria signed with the Export-Import Bank of China. Today, China runs that port with Chinese personnel. “In Djibouti, the Chinese are in charge of the ports too, just because Djibouti borrowed money it could not pay back.
“In Zambia, for similar reasons, China is now controlling the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation. China is also planning to take over the Zambia National Electricity Corporation. “There have been issues as well with China’s relations with Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo and other African countries”.
While The Tide acknowledges the huge deficit in critical infrastructure in the country, the lack of desperately needed resources to address the situation and the acquisition of loans from willing creditors as a veritable source of finance, concession agreements with clauses that could further encumber our already distressed economy and put the socio-economic wellbeing of present and future generations of Nigerians in jeopardy should be outrightly rejected.
This is why we agree with well-meaning Nigerians that the explanations by the Federal Government through the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Transportation that Nigeria’s existence as an independent nation with full authority of self-determination is not at risk in the country’s loan agreement with China gives very little comfort, consolation and confidence.
The Tide insists that the China loan agreement, and indeed every other loan agreement entered into on behalf of the Nigerian people by the Federal Government and other international bodies, should be critically reviewed with a view to identifying and expunging clauses and articles that could hurt the country, even as we urge the central administration to ensure that only competent and patriotic hands are engaged to sign international agreements on behalf of the country.
Against Amnesty For Repentant Terrorists
Last Wednesday, the Federal Government made spirited efforts to counter opposition
against the move to grant repentant Boko Haram terrorists amnesty.
Many Nigerians, including victims of insurgency in the North East, have kicked against the de-radicalisation and rehabilitation of repentant Boko Haram members, saying the programme was a way of rewarding those who had shed innocent blood.
But the Federal Government, in a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said the programme followed “an established example of countries with similar experiences”.
It said the programme enjoyed the support of international organisations such as European Union and the United Nations.
According to the Presidency, the former combatants had repented and were better citizens, imbued with genuine nationalism; therefore, the society had the duty of accepting them.
The presidential aide also faulted claims that the current regime was absorbing repentant Boko Haram terrorists into the military through the programme, describing such claims as fake news.
The statement read, “None of the 601 former Boko Haram members who voluntarily laid down their arms, and have recently graduated from the Federal Government’s de-radicalisation and rehabilitation programme, is going into the military. This is the fourth of such graduation of repentant Boko Haram fighters and not one of such graduates has been absorbed into the military.
“The public needs to be reassured that the de-radicalisation, rehabilitation and reintegration of violent extremists of the Buhari administration code named ‘Operation Safe Corridor ,’ follows an established example from countries with similar experiences, and is supported academically and materially by the European Union and the United Nations”.
Hard as the Federal Government tries to justify the planned amnesty programme for Boko Haram terrorists, the reasons adduced for it fall flat on the face. Many Nigerians, including The Tide, find it extremely difficult to understand why the government would reward killers with freedom and funds. Granting the so-called repentant terrorists amnesty would amount to a great injustice against the victims of insurgency who have borne the brunt of their mindless bloodletting.
While we agree that there is an urgent need for peace in the North East, because the region is falling behind in terms of economic progress and development, we are of the opinion that the failure to punish perpetrators of crime deforms the authority of law and would encourage impunity which is fast becoming a culture in Nigeria. It will also undermine the legitimacy of the government and breed cynicism towards civilian institutions.
In addition, we believe that it is the prosecution of Boko Haram members, and not their reintegration, that will expose the truth about their violent crimes and terrorist activities.
So, rather than spending public fund to rehabilitate blood thirsty monsters, we insist that their trials and prosecutions could inspire Nigeria to reassert the fundamental principles of respect for the rule of law, freedom of religion and the inherent dignity for human lives.
Besides, we are yet to be convinced that the so-called repentant religious extremists would not go back to pick up arms against the people after their reintegration.
We recall that in April 2013, former President Goodluck Jonathan set up a committee to look into the possibility of granting an amnesty to Boko Haram militants, but the sectarian group rejected the offer. This confirms that the sect is made up of hard boiled, ideologically hardened terrorists that may never be persuaded by rehabilitation and reintegration.
We are not also persuaded by the argument that a similar programme offered the ex-militants of the Niger Delta by the administration of late President Umar Yar’Adua restored peace in the region. This is because the insurrection that culminated in attacks against oil installations by militants of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) was anchored on growing poverty, unemployment, and environmental degradation in the Niger Delta. Boko Haram terrorists do not have such reasonable justifications for their bloodletting actions.
All indications, including their modus operandi, clearly show that unlike the Niger Delta agitators who formed a vanguard against further degradation and neglect of their region, Boko Haram terrorists are mere blood thirsty goons that kill innocent people without reasons.
Granting amnesty to such mindless monsters would not only defeat one of the key programmes of the Buhari administration, it will also raise the fear of social injustice in Nigeria; which is that the victims of violence are neglected while perpetrators of crimes are rewarded.
Again, rewarding the rebels financially for surrendering their arms is likely to attract other young people to join the sect.
Meanwhile, we observe that Nigeria currently lacks the institutional structures for rehabilitating, reabsorbing and reintegrating terrorists in its midst. In fact, one of the critical points for the failure of the Niger Delta amnesty was the inadequate rehabilitation programme designed to give the ex-militants social and job skills.
We, therefore, urge the Federal Government to perish the idea of granting amnesty in whatever disguise to Boko Haram insurgents. We advise the government to deploy the resources meant to rehabilitate the insurgents into total decimation of the sect. This should be the major priority of the Buhari government, and not amnesty.
Still On PIB
The House of Representatives has once again pushed to the front burner for passage, the controversial Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), which has been on the floor of the National Assembly since December, 2008, when it was originally introduced. This piece of legislation has since then undergone several revisions and has been the subject of controversy and debate. Right now, the Bill has been split into four documents.
Interestingly, former President Goodluck Jonathan had on July 18, 2012, presented a new version of the Bill to the Seventh National Assembly for reconsideration and re-enactment. The National Assembly graciously did that but the Bill was not signed into law until that regime fizzled out in 2015.
Inadvertently, another component of the Bill, the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), was passed by the Senate in May, 2017, while the House of Representatives followed suit in January, 2018, as part of a package of legislative reform for the oil and gas sector. However, President Muhammadu Buhari withheld his assent, and the document has remained in the cooler since then.
There is no doubt that the Nigerian oil industry is the mainstay of the country’s economy. Keen observers, however, believe that the oil industry is opaque in its dealings, as it is widely seen as a source of corruption in government circles.
Incidentally, various stakeholders within government, oil companies and even civil society organisations equally agree that the oil and gas sector in Nigeria needs urgent reforms. This arises from the fact that the current structures are convoluted and impede effective regulation. This is mainly because of overlapping regulatory functions exercised by multiple agencies which in themselves breed dysfunction.
As it were, the long term consequence of this persisting scenario has been a significant deterioration in the environment of the Niger Delta region as a result of oil spills and gas flaring, which ultimately has impacted negatively on the health of the local people, the loss of agricultural land, and the pollution of its creeks and surrounding seas.
Essentially, these are lapses among others the PIB intends to address. It also aspires to promote transparency and accountability in the oil and gas sector. While transparency encourages competition, accountable institutions reassure investors, improve regulation and revenue collection, and these result in higher production and earnings.
Besides, the PIB would also enhance and increase access to information within the sector by opening more kinds of documents and data to public scrutiny, and by so doing, improve incentives for performance and check corruption and other sharp practices within the sector.
It is in cognizance of this fact that the House of Representatives recently set in motion modalities to pass the long-awaited PIB into law in September, by setting up a 30-member committee with five members drawn from each of the six geo-political zones of the country. The Minority Leader of the House, Rep Ndudi Elumelu, told newsmen that the House would go ahead with the process of amending and passing the Bill even without the input of the Executive.
“We don’t need the Executive to tutor us. We are going ahead with considering the Bill,” Elumelu enthused, while another lawmaker, Rep. Nicholas Ossai, advised the President to cooperate with the National Assembly on this piece of legislation, so as to attract more investments to the oil and gas industry. The House and the Senate are expected to resume full business in the second week of September.
The Tide is elated that the House of Representatives has taken a bold step to revisit this nagging issue, and promised to do the needful in ensuring that the Bill is passed into law. We are not unmindful that this is the fourth time the Bill is being introduced and re-introduced without having a smooth sail in the National Assembly.
In fact, the passage of this Bill is long overdue as it has been unnecessarily over-delayed, and we believe that the assurances given by the members of the House of Representatives this time around would be good enough to see this all-important Bill see the light of day once and for all.
The first step, we think, is for the lawmakers to try as much as possible to harmonise the PIB, which has been split into four documents. This will enable the National Assembly to do a more thorough work on the Bill with a view to addressing all grey areas that may stand against it from securing the President’s assent, after it must have been passed into law.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the Bill, when passed into law and assented to by the President, would go a long way to bolster the interest and welfare of those who suffer the negative impact of oil exploration in the country. This is particularly so because the Bill is not only for the interest of the Niger Delta alone but also for the entire country, as it would help bring the much-needed peace in the region and facilitate development across the country.
We also lend our voice to the call by the lawmakers and other stakeholders on the Executive to cooperate with the National Assembly in the current move to make the PIB a reality. In fact, this time around, we should never allow primordial sentiments and other considerations for that matter to becloud and override the collective interest and zeal of bringing more investments to the country.
Indeed, in this matter, it behoves the current Federal Government to treat with the same passion the way it has treated Bills like the North East Development Commission, among others. Again, all that is required for us to move forward is for all hands to be on deck to give the PIB the expected push in order to give the country’s ailing economy a boost.
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