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New States Creation, A Priority

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It was in the news recently that state creation may not be given the prime position it deserves in the on­going constitution review or amendment at the National Assembly. The Thisday Newspaper report of Wednesday, August 19, 2009, quoted the Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Hon. Usman Bayero Nafada, to have said that the issue of state creation had been placed on “technical suspension”, as the House has chosen to concentrate on electoral reforms.

Much as I agree with the Hon. Deputy Speaker that the electoral reforms bill should be given expedited attention, which is even long over-due, it must be stated very clearly that non-creation of new states, especially in the South Eastern geo-political region, would amount to perpetuation of injustice and imbalance in  our representative democracy. That would be totally  unacceptable. 

The hallmark of representative democracy, the sort  that we propose to be practising in Nigeria is equality  of all before the law; which by extension includes the  need for equal representation, equal freedom and  equal justice. The National Assembly, the highest and most important symbol of law making and people-based-sovereignty in this country is a product of the conglomeration of all elected representatives taken  from existing states of the federation. Indeed, the claim  to the Federation of Nigeria is on the basis of states coming together from different geopolitical zones; each representing many diverse units of socio-cultural interests.

As presently constituted, the National Assembly has  two Chambers, or what is called a bicameral legislature, made up of a Senate and a House of Representatives. The Senate is a 109-seat body with  three members from each state and one from the capital region of Abuja and members are elected by popular vote to four-year terms. On its part, the House of  Representatives contains 360 seats and the number of seats per state is determined by population; a method which is open to political manipulation. But  what stands out from the foregoing is that both the  Senate and the House of Representatives derive their  members from the number of the existing states of the Federation of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.  

As a carry-over from the military rule which incidentally ‘midwifed’ the promulgation of the present 1999 Constitution, the South Eastern geo-political  region presently boasts of only five (States, while all  others have six, and even seven states in a particular  case. What that means automatically is a form of system based disadvantage in representation against the South East geo-political region. The impact of this has been negatively felt through 1999 till date in the quality of representation that has emerged from the National Assembly towards affairs in the South East.

Things that other geopolitical regions can lobby and achieve by sheer weight of their numbers, the South Eastern zone must kow-tow to the powers s that be, and compromise their positions before favourable hearing may be expected, if at all. Even in Federal appointments, it is very obvious that the South East is short-changed, mainly because names  are submitted and selected on the basis of states of the Federation. Indeed, considered properly a  reform of the electoral system, without the reform (  call it creation) of the imbalance in states representation, will be like a job done half way. The whole idea behind electoral reform is to guarantee that we run people-based democratic government, where the votes count and the elected representatives equally support a balance of power that instructed our  peculiar sub-division into geo-political zones. That  balance of power is part of what has sustained our r democracy till date.

Without redressing such political imbalance, as we now have, it means the South East geopolitical zone – would engage in the next nationwide elections knowing already that it will be under-represented at the  National Assembly, at the Federal Executive Council, and even across Federal Boards of Corporations and  Ministries. One always likes to desist from reading  into this sort of situation the much talked about, or  much known, marginalisation of the South East, for  the simple reason that we should have over-grown such sentiments. But each time and everywhere one looks, it still seems as if the problem of rnarginalisation and orchestrated injustice against sections of this country is very much with us.

The worry is even aggravated when elected representatives, including even the Governors from the South East zone all adopt the ‘sidon-look’ attitude. Why would the Governors not come together and  form a powerful lobby group to ensure that their geo­political zone is not short-changed in such a fundamental and far-reaching manner? Why do they see problems that would have collateral damage and negative impact on their zones, and simply look the other way?

Before now, it was the manipulation of national census to the extent that the South East is now virtually the least populated in the country; and yet South Easterners to the knowledge of every Nigerian, thickly populate all corners of Nigeria. In the allocation of House of Representatives seats, and electoral constituencies, population is the main yard­stick; and so it means that which ever zone has succeeded in piling up its numbers would automatically get more representative seats and constituencies. The highly commended posture of Lagos State, which instituted parallel head-count during the last controversial census simply proved how much of manipulation goes into juggling the figures after each head count. Lagos State eventually came out with figures that truly justify the influx of people into the State on daily basis. Today, the revenue base of Lagos State is the envy of even the Federal government.

The question then is for how long would the Governors of South Eastern States, and elected representatives sit and wait for an elusive help to come from outside the zone? How long would they helplessly lament the incident of marginalisation, while resolving, by their present inaction, to do nothing about the situation? Why would someone continue to participate in a game where the rules are programmed, ab initio, to work against him?

Irrespective of the position being taken by the National Assembly towards creation of more states, the South Easterners should rise up to show they have a special case. The issue is really not creation of state per se, but redressing an imbalance; which if not redressed would make nonsense of the outcome of the electoral reform. The South East should as a matter of national importance be given even representation by creation of at least one additional State. It is such a matter of importance to the political welfare of the South East that they should be ready and prepared to boycott future elections if this is not included in the on-going constitutional review.

Unegbe is a legal practitioner in Lagos.

 

Ikechukwu Unegbe

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Opinion

What Hope For Security In Nigeria?

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On April 14, 2014, when a group of terrorists abducted over 200 school girls in a government school in Chibok, Bornu State, Nigerians described it as the height of terrorism in the country. Little did they realize that it was going to be a repeated verse in a whole booklet of their trouble tale.
Although there had been killings of innocent people, especially students and pupils before the April 14, 2014 abduction saga, the world’s attention that greeted the abduction story gave Nigeria out as a nation in trouble.
Of course, we initially thought that if the United States of America could single-handedly mastermind the execution of the former al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, who held the world to a standstill, then nothing should stop the coalition of US, France, Israel and other countries to help put an end to terrorism in Nigeria. How wrong we are!
What has beaten the imaginations of many Nigerians today is the inability of this coalition of world power and their subordinates to actually arrest the situation and help secure the release of the abducted girls from the claws of their abductors.
What further baffles many people is the gradual loss of concern about the rescue of the remaining school girls. What could have weakened the morale of our foreign helpers in this situation and what is Nigerian government doing to stop the endless killings across the country?
The dawn of each day seems to herald one mindless killing or the other either by the Boko Haram insurgents or the Fulani herdsmen.
What started like a child’s play few years ago, is now firmly rooted in the country so much that uprooting it is now seemingly impossible.
Agreed that our enemies took us unaware by virtue of their position as insiders, one still expects that having received the first, second and third blows from the so-called enemies, we should be finding our feet by now and not exposing ourselves to further blows and danger.
Given the state of insecurity in Nigeria at the moment, stories about herdsmen killings and terrorists attacks in Nigeria are no longer news again. What rather makes it news worthy is the number of casualties involved in every attack.
Amidst numerous bombings that had taken place ever since the insurgents pitched their tent on the soil of Nigeria, the Nyanya Market bombing, rated as one-too-many, saw Nigerians literally crying out their eyes. The attack on Ayar Mbalom Community in Gwer East Local Government Area of Benue State was another. The attack, allegedly carried out by Fulani herdsmen, claimed the lives of two priests and 17 other worshippers.
As usual, President Muhammadu Buhari has reiterated his government’s resolve to continue to take every step to put an end to these reprehensible acts of terrorism. But isn’t that an old same song that Nigerians are used to? Can a soldier enthrone peace when he is not prepared for war?
What I do not understand is what interest is being protected that up till now, we have refused to take the bull by the horn, or is the bull more powerful than we are? Justice delayed can never be said to be preserved. Or is it when there are no more lives and property to secure that we can say we now have security in the land?
Nothing can be more treasurable and valuable than the lives of the citizens of a country which the government owes a duty to protect. I think the solution to this problem is for President Buhari to declare total war on these militia masquerading as herdsmen and Boko Haram, as well as effect a change in the leadership of all the security agencies in the country.
Naabura wrote from Bori, Rivers State.

 

Precious Naabura

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Opinion

Fifth Columnists And National Crises

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While efforts are being made to identify where we are getting things wrong and how to build up a stable nation, it is needful that sincere Nigerians who are deeply perceptive should speak up occasionally. Let us not call Chief Olusegun Obasanjo a mischief monger or describe him as playing to the gallery; rather, he is a whistle blower. At his age and with his vast knowledge about Nigeria, he deserves the listening ears of honest and sincere Nigerians.
The issue of a preponderance of mischief makers and fifth columnists in all spheres of life in Nigeria should not be taken lightly. Many of those who engage in such activities make some personal gains, while some others do so as a regular life-style or to spite others. Far back in 1963, some perceptive Nigerians saw a glimpse of some hidden agenda in an emerging independent Nigeria. The fear of ethnic domination was an issue; so also the feeling of vulnerability and the issue of manpower equalization. Mutual suspicion followed.
The situation led to the retention of some foreign consultants and advisers and the formation of political parties that pursued regional rather than national agenda. Specifically, a statement by the captain of a ship threw some light into what was going on in the first four years after independence. There was a joke about “who shook the ship in the night”. A ship that was moored between Brass and Akasa had a female occupant which brought about some gossip. The captain said: “those of you who think that Hausa and Fulani people are stupid because they are silent, would soon know who the stupid people really are”.
There were similar snippets here and there across the country, such that the military coup of 1966 became a culminating point. The event also provided an opportunity for foreign consultants and advisers to warn that it was a part of the “domination process”, thus leading to a misconception of what really happened. Since then, there has been the strategy of planting private ears and fifth columnists everywhere, to guard against being “taken by surprise”.
Maybe it would be wrong to suggest “Fulanisation agenda” but it would be necessary to explain the motives and strategies of the operations of fifth columnists. The University of Ibadan campus would have been a boiling point of religious conflict some decades ago, but for the timely intervention of some patriotic Nigerians. The issue is that aggressive religious proselytisation can take the form of combat, resulting in animosity and fanatical self-righteousness, both in campuses and the wider society.
Despite the existence of security and intelligence agencies, there are fifth columnists operating a cryptocracy under private sponsorship. Some people had complained that they had borne” unprovoked abuses and noise-making” for too long and demanding “tactical mellowing down of the trend”. Sponsors of parallel informants range from religious, to political and other interest groups, using various means to find solutions.
It was not long after complaints about aggressive proselytism and a plea for intervention by some interest groups, that military President Ibrahim Babangida made the Moslem world to welcome Nigeria into the family of the Organisation of Islamic Conference. Religious issues often bordering on sentiments feature high in the activities of fifth columnists, sometimes spreading information that can be alarmist and mostly false. Similarly the unguarded statements of some religious leaders rarely help matters. It becomes hard to know wolves from lands!
Former President Goodluck Jonathan had a taste of the activities of fifth columnists whereby some of those that he trusted as friends and party loyalists turned out to betray him at last. Officiousness on the part of such crafty persons whose zeal and smart talks often fuel national crises, can make it hard for their associates to know that they have some hidden motives. Chief Olusegun Obasanjo despite his military background had also been bamboozled by some of those he had believed were close friends.
The issue of Fulanisation is the issue of the ability of apparently docile, silent, illiterate and enigmatic people, to penetrate into the stronghold of supposedly learned, clever and arrogant people who often under-rate the intelligence of other people. One of the principles of under-cover operations is to play the fool and never give away what your true nature is. The movement began long ago and Obasanjo knew it.
Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

 

Bright Amirize

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Opinion

Should Power Privatisation Be Revoked?

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There are several indices currently calling on the Federal Government to quickly revoke the said Privatization Policy of the Power Sector.
First is the persistent power outage. The steady increase in demand for electric power  without its equivalent supply has resulted in a consistent power failure. Currently, more  communities and cities are lamenting such persistent power outage
With a population approximated at 180 million people, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, obsolete KVA lines traversing several kilometers, as well as old and ill-maintained equipment are still used. It is therefore not out of place that the constant breakdown of such overused equipment; poor maintenance culture and a huge managerial inefficiency are already waging war against some top beneficiaries of the said privatization policy.
While they remained adamant at depriving the public of electric power and losing investors on a daily basis, couple with their failure to offer adequate electricity supply for both local businesses as well as domestic consumption, the cry  of most small and medium-scale business owners could play out in the current debate against the so-called privatization agreement.
Secondly, investors who have benefitted from the said privatization policy appeared to have failed woefully in keeping to the agreement that gave rise to their services. Since the formation of the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), The Independent Regulatory Agency,  as provided in the Electric Power Sector Reform Act (2005) were assigned with the task of  issuing licences to individuals who were ready to operate within clearly stipulated terms, as well as operating guidelines.
Owners of the distribution companies who keyed into the  terms and conditions that gave rise to such  public services were to be guided by their integrity, honesty and responsibility. Not only were they expected to meet the growing demand of Nigerians in the area of power distributions, but also to ensure that all conditions necessary for a smooth flow of their relationship with the public were satisfied.
But today, the reverse appears to be the case. One would wonder if the shortcomings in their service should be attributed to  the Federal Government failing to keep its own side of the agreement or, if the blame should now be shared between them and the public.
But sad enough, the key private players in the Power Sector appear not to be responsive to the outcry of the public; but  seem to have  remained  rather incurably addicted to persistent power outage; constant disagreement between their workers and the end consumers while they continue to offer dissatisfied services to individuals, corporate organizations and public ventures.
Again, several years have witnessed their inability to address  not only the high monthly electricity bills, but also the decree of fluctuations involved in the bills. Industrial and domestic consumers have continued to lament the persistent hike witnessed in their monthly electricity bills.
In this regard, their actions appear to have eaten up the primary aim of privatization, and the aim of providing for more efficiency and alleviate the electricity burden on the poor consumers appears to have been woefully defeated. Even in some quarters where individuals from  some Electricity Distribution offices would still present some monthly electric bills to innocent consumers who have witnessed total blackout all through the  said month, the agony and plight of such end-consumers appear to have received less publicity in the media.
Another area of concern is the high cost of meters as well as the process and several barriers one must suffer in order to get a meter. The chances of procuring a meter and having them installed should be re-examined since the electricity meters are responsible for reading and establishing the billing circle and it’s used to quantify the precise amount of energy consumed within a specific period of time.
Yet, key players in the sectors appear inactive in their responsibility of allocating and installing these meters on request. Since 2013 when the private sector took over part of the task of supplying meters to the final consumers, the huge metering gap seems not to have been narrowed.
This has resulted in the inability of the sector to regulate between the consumption rate and the exact amount the suppliers of electricity would need in order to remain in business.
Persistent public views have proved that the so-called giants of power distribution have remained reluctant in measuring the actual electricity consumption per kilowatt hour. Consequently, in some quarters, individuals have continued to witness huge electricity bills on monthly basis.
Despite several legislation aimed at averting this hurtful trends, end-users have continued to suffer wrongly since they have not truly been liberated from this huge plight.
Today, it appears that the problems facing the Power Sector has worsen than it was before the Privatization Policy was initiated, and individuals who have been so quiet and patient are now calling for a total overhauling of the said Privatization Policy.
Now that their failure is greater than what they themselves could imagine, and the innocent eyes of meaningful individuals, organizations, corporate bodies and public functions can now  see through, one would want to ask whether  the present administration should be more proactive and forceful at reviewing and revoking the Privatization Agreement on Power Distribution, or remain indifferent?

 

John James

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