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Arms Imports And National Security



Last Tuesday, the nation woke up to hear the news of the large illegal arms shipment intercepted by operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) at the Apapa Port in Lagos. The shipment includes 13 containers laden with grenades, rocket launchers, scores of mortars, automatic rifles, rounds of ammunition, cartridges, and sophisticated weapons.

Sources said that the last port where the vessel berthed before heading to Nigeria was Nhava Sheva, otherwise known as Jawaharial Nehru Port, considered the busiest port in India. Nevertheless, some reports have it that the shipment might not have originated from India. They point at Iran as possible country of origin. That is not the issue! The issue is that the containers were discharged from the vessel in Apapa Port.

The containers were reported to have been discharged from the vessel – MV CMA-CGM Everest – which had berthed at the Apapa Port on July 10, 2010, and sailed out of the same port on July 15, this year. The ship’s manifest had indicated that the contents of the containers were 754 packages of glass wool and stones.

The 13 containers had been moved into the examination bay of AP Moller Apapa Terminals Limited, the concessionaire of the Apapa Container Terminal (ACT) on October 22, 2010. Desperate attempts by the consignee in collaboration with a customs licensed agent to transfer the prohibited items to a bonded warehouse outside the port were thwarted by operatives of the customs in partnership with other security agents.

The Customs Comptroller-General, Alhaji Inde Dikko Abdullahi, in a statement signed by Customs Public Relations Officer, Adewale Adeniyi, said the containers were under security surveillance for sometime, and were still within customs control.

According to the customs high command, “initial investigation has shown that customs system has blocked attempts by the importers to clear the containers due to observed irregularities in the import documents. Our system is configured to block suspicious importations of this nature. For instance, this particular importation had no Form “M” and Risk Assessment Report (RAR). The importer and exporter had no address on the system, and we have reasons to believe that the importer’s name given in the import documents is fictitious”.

The customs boss enjoined all customs field operatives to remain vigilant as more criminally-minded importers would want to make similar attempts to test their resolve by bringing in illegal arms into the country. He also tasked Nigerians to volunteer useful information to the service to enable them nip such efforts in the bud, stressing that the security of the nation is a collective responsibility of all security agencies and patriotic and well-meaning Nigerians.

The South West Zonal Coordinator of National Task Force to Combat the Importation of Illegal Goods, Contraband and Small Arms, Dr Ayo Omotoso, also confirmed the arrest of the licensed customs agent who undertook the clearing of the consignment and discharge of the goods from the vessel. The agent, who is now helping security operatives to determine the actual destination of the containers, is presently being shielded from the public for security reasons.

Investigators found that the importer had changed the manifest of the shipment to imply that the goods were meant for The Gambia, which intelligence experts see as a cover up, as there are strong indications that the containers were actually meant for Nigeria.

Already, six out of the 13 containers inspected as at last Wednesday, showed that artillery rockets in the 107mm range and similar to those often used by the Taliban in Afganistan, filled the shipment intercepted by security agents at the nation’s busiest seaport.

Speaking after inspecting the seizures in Lagos last Wednesday, National Security Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan, Lt-Gen Andrew Owoye Azazi (rtd), said security forces in the country would not jump into any conclusions about where the illegal arms shipment was coming from or heading to.

According to him, “at this time, the only thing we can say about the bomb discovered by security agents is, we have not reached any conclusion where the shipment was going to or coming from. We have discovered the bombs and at the end of the day, we will do all that is possible to make sure everybody is protected. We are doing a lot of investigations, and at the end of the day, Nigerians would know what it is all about. So, let us not jump into conclusion.”

Fine comments, well made. But methinks that beyond the shocking discovery, the call by the customs for the public’s surveillance and cooperation as well as assurances of the security and safety of Nigerians, the new development calls for concern given the events of the last couple of months. The customs and other security agencies charged with the responsibility of securing our ports, including the State Security Service (SSS), need not beat their chests now. It goes beyond the issue of irregularities in import documents.

The fact that the vessel conveying the 13 containers berthed on the shores of Nigeria on July 10, quietly discharged its contents and safely sailed off Apapa Port on July 15, this year, speaks volumes of the porous nature of our ports and the crass incompetence and ineffectiveness of our security networks. If they were alert and on top of the situation, why did the security agents not impound the vessel that brought in the illegal arms?

In the past, illegal arms had scaled through our porous borders. Some were tracked in Onitsha. Others were traced to Aba, and elsewhere. The large quantity of arms circulating in the Niger Delta also passed through our ports. Of course, very wealthy merchants of death imported them into the country. They have always passed through the eyes of the needle without any resistance from our security operatives.

If it took about four months for a joint security team to intercept illegal arms imported into the country, then there is something wrong with this nation. The question is: why did it take this long for security agents to uncover the illegal arms import? It is indeed, doubtful that the various ports in Nigeria have not been actual conduits for the supply of illegal arms to the litany of armed gangs and criminal elements, including politicians and their foot soldiers.

The new dimension demonstrated by the recent bomb blasts in some parts of Nigeria is evidence that the build-up has been protracted. If for nothing, the October 1, 2010 twin bombing in Abuja, and some earlier bombing incidents in Warri, Delta State and Port Harcourt, Rivers State, are still very fresh in our memory. The plot to detonate these bombs did not start the same day the bombs exploded. The materials used for the bombs were carefully imported through the ports, into the country by the planners and sponsors of the criminal acts. Yet, security operatives did not detect them.

The sustained attacks on oil installations in the Niger Delta between late 2005 and 2009, the scary campaigns by members of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) on government institutions in the region, are tacit reminders of the long years it has taken our security operatives to come to terms with the enormity of the problem of illegal arms proliferation in the nation’s socio-political and economic fabrics.

Added to the above is the cankerworm of the cult-related violence, the kidnapping spree through the Niger Delta, and later, such states as Abia, Imo, Anambra, Enugu, Lagos, Kaduna, Kano, among others, all for ransom, point to a protracted militarization of the nation by some disgruntled elements bent on destabilizing Nigeria. It has even taken political colouration, of recent. Indeed, the sophistication with which armed robbers operate in parts of the country, reveal that the business of illegal arms importation did not start today.

I think that the discovery in Lagos is only a reminder of the raging spectacle that had been the norm for years. In fact, the issue of illegal arms importation began years back during the military era.

That the nation’s electioneering process is marred by violence,  killings, political assassinations, and open display of dangerous weapons by thugs and miscreants, is only a painting of the level of deterioration in our social system. The degree of violence during elections has been on the rise since the military left Nigeria’s political landscape in 1999.

Of course, some concerned Nigerians have repeatedly warned government that self-seeking and disgruntled individuals were stockpiling arms in some parts of the country. In fact, well-meaning Niger Delta people have been making this call for years. But, these warnings had fallen on deaf ears for about two decades.

Now that the 13 containers have been confiscated, and the customs licensed agent arrested, it is possible that, at least, one of the importers of these illegal arms would be tracked, arrested and prosecuted. Nigerians are waiting for the outcome of the security agencies’ investigations into the illegal arms importation.  They want to know those who have resorted to militarizing the nation, and arming devilish people to kill others, with illegal arms.

The President Jonathan administration must make sure that those involved in this criminal business are brought to book. This is one way to restore confidence in not only the polity but also the economy, as potential investors would be looking at how the government handles issues of this nature, which exposes the security and safety of law-abiding citizens to great danger.

Honest politicians would also be waiting to see how the government braces up to the challenge, especially as the 2011 general elections gather momentum. This discovery is a tacit test of Jonathan’s political will to address the problem of insecurity in the land. Nigerians are waiting.

Nelson Chukwudi

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Consequences Of High Bride Price



Bride price is payment made by a groom or his kin to the family of the bride in order to ratify a marriage.  It is paid by the family of the groom to their future in-laws at the start of the marriage usually in cash and materials.
Bride price in Nigeria varies from one ethnic group to another.  What obtains as bride price in Rivers State may be different from Kogi State in terms of cash and materials required by the bride’s family. Although there are a few similarities in the list of items to be provided by the groom in Nigeria. 
It also varies from family to family. Some families collect as low as N5,000 while others collect as high as N1,000,000.
There are criticisms that this African tradition of paying bride price to the bride’s family before marriage degrades a woman by putting a required monetary value on a wife.But those who support the tradition uphold it as a cherished cultural and religious symbol of marriage.
Some families see bride price as symbolic, hence they ask for less. I have seen a situation where the mother of the bride collected N30,000 and later gave it back to the couple, asking them to put it in their bank account so that it will serve as a “starter pack”. This shows that she wasn’t really giving her out for money.
In our local setting, a marriage is recognised only when bride price and gift items have been presented to the bride’s family.  It is important because it validates marriage to give a woman respectable status in the society as a wife.
The importance of bride price can never be over-emphasised. It is one of the highest honours confirming a bride’s value and womanhood, giving a husband the full rights to the economic and reproductive powers of his wife. It is an honour bestowed on the parents that their daughter is getting married.
I see nothing wrong in payment of bride price but in recent time, the issue of high bride price seems to be competitive among families whose daughters are ripe for marriage.It is alarming and heart-breaking how newly-wedded couples end up paying debts years after marriage. When demanding for high bride price, some parents do not realise the fact that the yet-to-be couple will plan for church and court (Registry). The Registry requires little token. Although, the clergy will not ask, but the couple need to settle one or two things in church. 
More worrisome is the fact that some parents demand a live cow from an in-law as if the lady is to be exchanged. I know of a culture where cow must be provided to her kinsmen by the surviving husband or children before a late woman must be buried. The claim is that the man didn’t complete the marriage rites before the death if the woman. This is just to extort money from the late woman’s children.
A young man was mandated to pay about N2million to the wife’s kins after losing her during child birth, simply because he never completed marriage rites. What about the welfare of the surviving child?
A situation where a basin of fish that costs over N200,000 must be presented in the name of bride price for a traditional marriage to be contracted gave me concern. 
A father also demanded about N1million as dowry for his daughter. For Christ’s sake, no amount of money collected as bride price can pay all the expenses from birth to University level of a lady as this is the dream of greater percentage of our parents nowadays. No amount of money can buy a woman. “Her value is inestimable”.
High bride price can cause disharmony between husband and his in-laws. A young man was lamenting that after his marriage, his in-laws can never be allowed into his family. This is as a result of whatever high bride price they would have charged.
High bride price can cause a man to exhibit violent behaviours when he remembers how much he paid. He gets angry at every little thing the wife does which can lead to domestic violence. The implication is that the woman will suffer in silence with the fear that the man may demand for the high bride price if she leaves the marriage.
Income from her job or personal business is seen by the man as his. She is being denied freedom on using her income and often leads to a situation where the husband must be consulted before any monetary transaction in the family. This leads to hostile marital environment and can destabilise the marriage.
Man dominates the woman in terms of decision-making. The woman has little say or nothing when issues come up in the home. He can say: “Don’t talk, I paid heavily”.
One of the consequences of high bride price is that if perhaps divorce occurs, the bride and the family, according to customary norms, have to return the dowry. If the dowry were very expensive to the tune of N1million, they may not be able to pay back.
High bride price encourages gender inequality. It reduces the power and prestige of the woman with the perception that she was paid for.
High bride price leads to poverty. A couple may have been forced to incur debts in the course of marriage. These are young men and women who are starting life perhaps after graduation and have not made enough savings. Paying back debts incurred during weddings for two to three years should be discouraged.
For many young men, withdrawal syndrome sets in when they remember that they have to provide as much as N1million to marry a wife. You see someone going to marry at the age 50 because he didn’t have enough.  Even the ladies are also affected here. Some men get scared of going into such families or ethnic groups for marriage.  When will they train their children? 
No matter the status of the groom, minimal amount should be fixed for dowry to avoid certain consequences in future. Family of the bride should take cognizance of the fact that their daughter deserves some comfort in her new home.
It is high time the traditional institutions worked through their subjects in the various communities to create awareness on the dangers of high bride price in our society. 
Community heads who are saddled with the responsibility of marriage functions and rites should be advised to cut down some of the items and reduce the costs of available ones.
I call on local government councils to work with traditional rulers, community and family heads as well as women leaders to come out with minimum and maximum amount of money and other items needed as bride price and dowry. 
It should be domesticated in the by-laws of the local councils across Nigeria.

By: Eunice Choko-Kayode

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Away With Open Grazing



It was reported recently that the Federal Government had mapped out 30 grazing reserves for the implementation of a National Livestock Transformation Plan (NLTP) under its Green Initiative project.
According to the report, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Agriculture, Dr Andrew Kwasari, disclosed this while addressing journalists on the move by the government to resolve the persistent conflict between herders and farmers over land, water and pastures.
“The 19 Northern States have grazing reserves. So far, we have mapped out over 30 grazing reserves and on paper, we have over 400 grazing reserves.
“So, the northern governors have to be committed to working with the Federal Government, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, supervision of the NEC, to make sure that wherever those grazing reserves are found that we are able to convert them into lush green models specifically for pastoralists, and pastoralists will not migrate anymore…” Kwasari said.
He further disclosed that traditional rulers like the Gbom-Gbom Jos had been consulted and they suggested that the low hanging fruit for federal and state governments was to ensure that pastoralists were settled in gazette grazing reserves.
The presidential aide also said that this would take away any notion of land grabbing or taking of land from communities and giving to herders as was feared with the government’s stillborn Rural Grazing Areas (RUGA) programme.
It would be recalled that the NLTP was launched by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in the Gongoshi Grazing Reserve, Mayo-Belwa LGA of Adamawa State, in September 2019. The plan was to run from 2019 to 2028 as part of the federal government’s Green Initiative in collaboration with states, farmers, pastoralists and private sector investors under the auspices of the National Economic Council (NEC).
NLTP has a budget of N100 billion for the breeding of cattle and other types of livestock. Of this amount, the federal government would contribute 80% as grant only, while the participating states were expected to raise the remaining 20%, donate land, draw up the project implementation structure, and provide workers.
Besides Adamawa, the programme has also taken off in six other pilot states; namely Benue, Kaduna, Nasarawa, Plateau, Taraba and Zamfara. Others which were reported to have voluntarily joined the initiative include Anambra, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti and Ondo States.
Given the foregoing, any peace-loving Nigerian would be tempted to assume that a viable solution has finally been figured out for the perennial herders-farmers crisis in the country. But President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent charge to his Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to identify the country’s gazetted grazing routes leaves one wondering if, indeed, he was acting from the same script as Osinbajo and Kwasari.
If there ever was any doubt as to the Presidency’s rejection of the collective decision of the southern governors to outlaw open grazing in their respective states, such was cleared by the President himself in his recent exclusive interview on Arise TV.
“What I did was ask him (Malami) to go and dig the gazette of the First Republic when people were obeying laws. There were cattle routes and grazing areas…
“I asked for the gazette to make sure that those who encroached on these cattle routes and grazing areas will be dispossessed in law and try to bring some order back into cattle grazing,” Buhari emphasised.
Honestly, I had wished that the President’s directive to the nation’s chief law officer was aimed at recovering only grazing reserves for the NLTP scheme as Kwasari did announce. But his inclusion of cattle routes suggests that Buhari is still not considering letting go of the now outdated nomadic grazing practice in Nigeria.
And just as the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) wasted no time in rallying behind the man, so also was his position quick in drawing flaks from socio-cultural bodies like Afenifere, Ohaneze Ndigbo and the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) all of which insisted that the power to allocate land rested with the state governors and not the President.
Of particular interest was the reaction of Afenifere’s publicity secretary, Jare Ajayi: “Who designated specific routes as exclusively belonging to those who would be grazing cows? If you are doing this kind of thing in their own area, it is understandable (because) that is in their own area.
“I have not read anywhere that our forefathers sat down and agreed that these particular routes, maybe from Ogbomosho to Saki or Badagry, are for grazing…”
Again, some analysts have expressed the fear that if Buhari insisted on pursuing the recovery of grazing routes, prominent buildings in many parts of the country, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), would be pulled down.
I still don’t get why Mr. President is seriously reaching for the list of cattle routes in First Republic Nigeria even when the 1979 Land Use Act entrusted governors with the control of their states’ lands years after the now sought-after gazette was published. With such power, can’t a state chief executive reapportion any previously gazetted grazing route or reserve located in his domain?
Buhari should please focus on promoting sedentary animal husbandry through the NLTP scheme in order to reduce the existing tension in the land. A good leader should be able to ensure peace in his domain even if he has to bend over backward to achieve it.

By: Ibelema Jumbo

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Short, Sharp, Shock-Treatment



There was a recent allusion from the Nigerian President, or the Presidency, about the possibility of some impending shock, meant to restore sanity in the country. It came as a warning to those who were alleged to be intent on destroying or destabilising Nigeria via insurgency, agitation and causing mayhem. Therefore, it has become needful to alert Nigerians about Nature’s Standing Order of Short, sharp, shock treatment (SSST), as a mechanism of restoring order when humans allow disorder to grow too high. In truth, there is such mechanism in the scheme of things.
Those who are familiar with Jewish cosmogony via the Kabbalah, would know that there is a flow of Divine influx, also known as Zazahot or lighting flash, which is an up-building and a restorative system. The 5th anchorage of that Divine Circuit system known as Geburah or Judgement has the duty or responsibility of restoring order and bringing about a balance, when disorder and imbalance become overwhelming in creation or a section thereof. Disorder and imbalances usually come from humans.
Being endowed with a free will and the freedom to make personal decisions and choices, which are often mis-used, humans bring about disorders and imbalances which distort the beauty and harmony of creation. Accumulation of massive impurities would necessitate a cleansing process to reduce the results of human engagements in acts of impunity, shamelessness and irresponsibility. Before catastrophies come there are usually warnings.
In the case of Nigeria, the warning signals have been persistent and loud enough even for obtuse persons to be aroused to a state of alertness. Nature has a process of educating human beings through bitter personal and collective experiences. No one can say that such warning signals and bitter experiences have not been there for quite some time. As a process of ensuring justice, there are watchers and weavers whose activities in the 100m of destiny entail monitoring the deeds of everyone with utmost accuracy. There are also provisions for deep reflections and possible redressing of imbalances.
Nigeria has been brought to its current sad state of affairs through many follies and deliberate acts of mischief. From Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s book Reforming The Unreformable, we are told that more than 5,000 board seats existed as sinecure, with political leaders having enormous patronage powers. We are told that a bad public service is certain to produce bad governance, even if the right accountability and other mechanisms are in place. Thus, there is a spiral of malfeasance.
From public service system, to tertiary education, we are told that “a systemic rot has befallen Nigeria”, apart from “inflating the budget by doubling or tripling the allocations…” Even with the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) bill which was approved in May 2007, there was no transparency or accountability in Nigeria’s oil and gas sector. In both physical and process audit there are deficiencies in management and utility.
Okonjo-Iweala advised that “special care be taken to ensure that oil revenues are spent wisely to build up durable long-term assets whose benefits can be shared with future generations”. Nigeria’s great dependence on oil and gas whose vulnerability to global volatility of commodity market are important factors in the country’s need to reshape its economic structure and growth based on diversification. With regards to corruption, Okonjo-Iweala said that “cynicism about the fight against is greatest when allegations of corrupt acts on the part of the elite are not investigated with any vigour even when investigated …”
If human verdict is reflected in the dismal and sad score card available in the public domain, then the verdict of the watchers and weavers of human destinies must also be far worse. There are indications globally that visibly gathering dark storms would surely result in some catastrophes whose true nature no one can tell accurately. For Nigeria as an individual nation in the global family, it is obvious that the shock alluded to by the President is an omen of things to come.
However, no one is in a position to predict exactly the nature and intensity of the shock the president had in mind. Reacting to the President’s statement, a number of Nigerians expressed sadness that it was a warning to agitators who allegedly are trying to destabilise and disunite Nigeria. But the situation obviously goes beyond current activities of political agitators and bandits.
Normally it takes a long time for storms to amass such power that would result in a destructive shock. Therefore, it would be myopic and wrong to judge the Nigerian situation from a one-sided perspective. Across the globe, Nigeria features as one of the delicate zones where some shocks are most likely to arise. Already harbingers of warning signals include activities of Boko Haran and other agitators for Islamic states and sharia laws, spate of kidnappings and demand for ransom, etc. The commando-rescue-style of an American farmer held hostage in Northern Nigeria placed Nigeria as a vulnerable nation.
Prelude to any coming shock usually includes complacence arising from gluttony over loots. The fact that a few highly-placed Nigerians tried to exonerate late General Sani Abacha of accusations of looting, despite exposures of such deeds, is another evidence of a nation which needs a shock to regain sanity. It takes the collaboration of humans through various activities, to serve as agents in the fulfillment of the mechanism of destiny. Such human agents rarely know that they are serving the course of Nemesis.
Unlike the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970) with its attendant miseries and woes, SSST comes as mechanism of Divine intervention, to ensure that those who deserve to die, die the death they deserve. It is fast and thorough, with long-lasting effect. It is a weapon of sective elimination.

Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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