On the 26th of last month, vigilant security operatives discovered 13 containers carrying illegal lethal weapons at the Apapa Port in Lagos. The contents of the containers included rocket propelled grenades, missile launchers, heavy machine guns, bombs and explosives, sophisticated rifles, and automatic weapons, among others. This discovery, in no mean measure, frightened majority of Nigerians to their marrow.
Precisely 16 days after, the State Security Service (SSS) informed Nigerians that the vessel with the illegal arms, actually arrived Tin Can Island Port on July 10 with 371 containers, out of which 83 were discharged at Frano bonded warehouse at Cele-Ijesha in Lagos. The SSS added that 13 of the 83 containers, moved from Frano to AP Molar Terminal, Apapa Port on October 20, were the ones found to be carrying the dangerous weapons. This revelation also exacerbated the fear of insecurity that had enveloped the nation.
But barely one month after the discovery was made, National Security Adviser to the President, Lt-Gen Andrew Owoye Azazi, last weekend in Awka, Anambra State, confirmed the fears of most Nigerians that the worst might not yet be over.
Delivering a paper on National Unity and the Challenges of Internal Security, at the annual lecture series and mini arts exhibition 2010, organised by the Centre for Victims of Extra-Judicial Killings and Turture (CVEKT), with the theme, “Human Rights and National Security: Challenges for Emerging Democracies”, Gen Azazi hinted that the issue of illegal arms proliferation in the country has assumed an alarming proportion.
In the paper presented by Brig-Gen Mohammed Ali, the national security adviser specifically blamed desperate politicians for stockpiling arms and ammunition, saying that politicians have intensified the training of thugs and provision of fake service uniforms in preparation for the 2011 general elections.
For us, these are very serious allegations that heighten our sense of insecurity. And coming from one of the stature of the national security adviser, these concerns should be taken even more seriously because nothing tangible can come out of the planned electioneering process in an atmosphere of insecurity.
However, Azazi will not be the first to raise this alarm. Government had made similar allegations before without any pragmatic step to arrest and prosecute those found culpable. In fact, in the last couple of months, some of the politicians have been accusing one another of plotting to perpetuate security breaches with intent to hijack the political process. This is why Azazi’s alarm requires urgent national attention.
We say so because, a security adviser to a president, we believe, is exposed to all necessary intelligence briefings from various security agencies, and is expected to speak publicly, dully informed of all available facts. Who, for instance, are the politicians? How untouchable are they that security operatives cannot bring them to justice? Most importantly, what has the security agencies done about the information?
The Tide challenges, not just the national security adviser to the president but all security agencies to expose those suspected political arms dealers. This is because unless something drastic is done now to serve as a warning shot for any politician intent on destabilizing the democratic process, all attempts to fashion an effective and efficient election programme will turn to naught.
This position has become even more compelling because very little was heard of previous cases where politicians were accused of importing sophisticated arms, which they deployed to hijack the electoral process, and at the end, unleashed a reign of terror on law-abiding citizens. In fact, it is on record that in the past, many Nigerians had lost their lives, some maimed while others were brazenly intimidated and forced out of the political process by thugs hired and armed by overzealous and desperate politicians, who want to win elections, by either hook or crook.
We cannot allow this ugly scenario to repeat in 2011. If Nigerians tolerated the militarization of the electioneering process in 1999, 2004 and 2007, we think this is the time to say ‘enough is enough’. Perhaps, now is the time to start working towards preventing any kind of security breach that may truncate the current political process.
The Tide insist that the security agencies owe the nation an obligation to quickly arrest any politician confirmed to be stockpiling illegal arms and ammunition, recruiting thugs and procuring fake service uniforms, in preparation for a season of violence during the 2011 elections. Arresting such politicians, their foot soldiers as well as confiscating already procured weapons would no doubt; forestall any violence during and after the planned general elections.
In addition, we challenge the Federal Government to muster the political will to arraign and prosecute those politicians planning to foment trouble during the elections. We make this challenge, believing that in a society where the rule of law reigns, nobody, not even the most successful or popular politician, is a sacred cow.
Beyond that, The Tide reckons that it is only when those who violate the rules of engagement in the political process are swiftly tamed, that the rest of the society can begin to see a ray of hope in their future and those of their children. We say this, convinced that it is only when Nigerians are sure that the political landscape is peaceful and safe, would they volunteer their lives, time and energy on Election Day to cast their votes, which both the government and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), have repeatedly assured, must count this time around.
We vehemently advise all security agencies and well-meaning Nigerians to stand up, and resist the temptation of allowing corrupt, evil and mediocre politicians to populate the polity, once again. This is our stand.
Heeding NIHSA’s Flood Warning
The Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA) has predicted that the country
would experience greater flooding with disastrous consequences this year.
Following this prediction, therefore, the agency warned that Nigerians should make adequate preparations against the oncoming rainy season.
Director General of NIHSA, Clement Nze Onyeaso, who reportedly gave the advice at the agency’s maiden press conference in Abuja, last week, said that the rains were fast approaching and the remaining days of the dry season are the best time to prepare against flooding so as to avoid a reoccurrence of the past, especially the 2012 experience.
According to the 2020 Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP) recently released by the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet), February 24 and June 22 are the predicted onset of rainfall in the South-South and Northern States, respectively, while the respective predicted cessation dates are December 28 and September 26. The implication of this is that Nigeria would likely experience longer period of rainy season this year than she did in 2019.
Onyeaso identified the causes of floods as high intensity rainfall of long duration, adequate drainage of low lying areas, silted channels, urbanization and severe winds over water, unusual high tides, tsunamis, failures of dams, levees, retention ponds or other water-containing structures.
He also pointed at the increasing concerns, over the years, about human actions and natural disasters that have been adversely impacting countries and regions worldwide and often posing serious ecological and environmental hazards.
“Though flooding is a natural environmental phenomenon, but it can be greatly accelerated by human-induced activities as is the case worldwide.
“Thus, with the increasing global population and the expanding activities of man, it is believed that flooding will continue to persist and, therefore, there is the need to control human activities, environmental adjustment and purposefully adopting actions in certain areas would make adjustment possible”, he said.
While The Tide welcomes this early flood alert by NIHSA, we fear that it may go the way of such previous warnings which were largely unheeded or, at best, treated with passive engagements while opting to employ the usual ad hoc measures when it had become too late for potential victims to reach for higher grounds or even salvage anything of value.
Like the NIHSA boss was said to have advised, governments at all tiers, corporate bodies and individuals should endeavour to avoid the ‘Fire Brigade Approach’ when the rain is already here. Attempts should be made to open up drainages or create drainage paths where none exists.
Also, governments should muster the will to relocate or demolish structures irrespective of their ownership, cost or beauty if such are found to be sited within the flood plains.
To be sure, the Rivers State Government has consistently desilted and expanded major water channels like the Ntawogba and Mini Waja in Port Harcourt before the commencement of every rainy season. We also commend the use of a highly reputed international construction firm in Nigeria to bring lasting solution to the persistent floods at St. John’s Campus Bus Stop, Kaduna Street Flyover (near FRSC), Rumuomasi (near Nigerian Air Force Base) and such other bad spots on the Port Harcourt-Aba Expressway.
We are also not unaware of the current effort by the Rivers State Ministry of Environment to work with the state Legislature toward establishing an emergency response team. What is more, the state’s Waste Management Agency (RIWAMA) has, through its Sole Administrator, Bro Felix Obuah, re-echoed the NIHSA message by urging Rivers residents to clear their drains and water channels before the rains arrive.
However, in the event of any flood disasters, we shall continue to call for the Federal Government and its emergency management outfits to enlist the services of the military as is the practice elsewhere. Apart from soldiers’ expertise in search-and-rescue operations, their helicopters are often used to identify worst affected areas and to either evacuate stranded victims or speedily convey first responders to such marooned persons.
Finally, it is no longer doubtful that climate change, natural disasters and human activities have resulted in environmental disorder across the world. For instance, Indonesia is seriously considering moving her capital from Jakarta to a new city located on higher ground for fear that the current capital is fast sinking below sea level; hence, its perennial flooding.
There are other cities in such situation across the world. We think that, here in Nigeria, the government should commission an expert examination of Lagos, Port Harcourt and the other riparian cities in the country.
De-Registration Of Political Parties
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) ruffled not just a few feathers when it announced on Thursday, February 6, the delisting of 74 political parties from the register of political parties in the country, saving only 18.
While making the announcement at a press conference in Abuja, the Chairman of INEC, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, said the commission acted in conformity with the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) which under the Fourth Alteration vests in INEC the power to register and regulate the activities of political parties on the following grounds: “Breach of any of the requirements for registration as a political party; Failure to win at least 25 per cent of the votes cast in one state of the federation in a presidential election; or 25 per cent of votes cast in one local government area of a state in a governorship election; Failure to win at least one ward in a chairmanship election; Failure to win one seat in the national or state assembly election or one seat in a councillorship election”.
Prof. Yakubu stressed that the electoral umpire relied on the 2018 Fourth Alteration to the Constitution (Section 225A) which empowers the commission to deregister political parties on the aforementioned grounds.
Furthermore, the chief electoral officer of the country explained that “following the conclusion of the 2019 general election, including the court-ordered rerun elections arising from litigations, the commission was able to determine the performance of political parties in the elections. In addition, they were also assessed on their performance in the Area Council elections in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), which coincided with the 2019 general election”.
Based on these assessments, he said, the commission found only 18 political parties which fulfilled the requirements for existence as far as Section 225A of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) is concerned.
However, reacting to the development, a number of political parties affected by the action, including the Inter-Party Advisory Committee (IPAC), the umbrella body of all registered political parties in the country have raised their voices, crying blue murder.
Tope Fasua, National Treasurer of IPAC, speaking on behalf of the body accused INEC of impunity and bias, insisting that the action of the electoral body was unacceptable and hinted that his organisation will move against it.
“We are coming out with a position on the platform of IPAC; it’s totally unacceptable. They collected our money; we ran for election once and they deregistered us. There are parties that won election in 2015, 2007, 2003, that didn’t win election in 2019 and you de-registered them. It is totally unacceptable”, Fasua who is also the National Chairman of Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), one of the deregistered parties, fumed.
As IPAC and many of the affected political parties kick and threaten litigation against the Independent National Electoral Commission, the two dominant political parties in the country, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), and a good number of Nigerians have not only hailed the action of INEC but have called for further pruning of the ranks of the political parties.
The general feeling among Nigerians is that most of the political parties have since constituted themselves into liabilities rather than assets to the electoral process. Where they are expected to provide credible opposition and alternative voices that put the government in power in check, they have rather been found to be merchants who trade their support and platforms for selfish gains.
The unseriousness of most of the 91 political parties that floated more than 23,000 candidates in the 2019 general election was underscored by the fact that they neither staged campaign rallies nor engaged in any activity that gave them visibility except the free publicity given by the media and civil societies, especially during the organised political debates and voter education programmes.
What was also done in the public glare was that, even though a total of 73 candidates got registered on the presidential ballot, most of them and their parties, got busy forming themselves into coalitions and groups that engaged in endorsing and campaigning for candidates of the dominant parties. And even when the law does not permit that, Nigerians watched in dismay as presidential candidates announced their withdrawal from the race in support of candidates of other parties only 48 hours to polling day.
The Tide believes that no well meaning individual or group will support or encourage the monumental abuse inherent in our electoral process and expect our democracy to survive. We therefore lend our voice to those of our compatriots in not only hailing INEC for the courageous action but to urge the electoral body to explore constitutional means of further reducing the number.
We are not unaware that INEC’s move to delist 39 political parties between 2011 and 2013 did not come to fruition as the parties scuttled the action through the judiciary. We hope this time around INEC’s action will not suffer the same fate as we are strongly persuaded that the efficiency and effectiveness of our election management body can only be guaranteed with a manageable number of political parties.
Against FUNAM’s Provocative Utterances
In a manner that depicts a descent into barbarism, a relatively known Fulani group that calls itself the Fulani Nationality Movement (FUNAM) recently stoked the ember of ethnic nationalism with its claims of Fulani ownership of Nigeria.
Apparently contemptuous of other ethnic groups that make up the country, the group claimed that Plateau-Benue and the rest of Nigeria is an indigenous territory of the Fulani people and gave a notice of a planned conquest of the entire country from Sokoto down to the Atlantic Ocean.
While FUNAM’s statement could be taken to be an empty boast by a faceless ethnic group routing for relevance, its claim of the existence of a Fulani Strike Force that coordinated what it called a retaliatory attack against Birom people in Barkin Ladi in Plateau State, in which 15 persons were killed by armed Fulani herdsmen, is provocative and senseless.
More nauseating is the fact that the president of the infamous group, Badu Salisu Ahmadu, was unapologetic about the killings. He said that the killings were justifiable as the Fulani had been attacked before the counter attack.
“For the avoidance of doubt, our heritage is that any attack on a single Fulani is an attack on all. Any of such attacks must be countered with triple measure”, Ahmadu said.
We consider this statement as highly provocative and reckless, and capable of igniting an arms race by Nigeria’s various ethnic groups.
The group, in its violent, crude and barbaric merchandise, went further to lay a warped operating philosophy of its dominance on other ethnic nationalities in the country.
It boasted, “We are the first to settle in Plateau-Benue axis thousands of years ago. We shall take and possess every inch of this land; a conscious attempt to rewrite history and distort, manipulate or destroy our past will be resisted with all the might at our disposal.
“We have said it over and over that Nigeria is the only inheritance we have in Africa and anywhere in the world. This land belongs to us, from Sokoto to the banks of the Atlantic Ocean. This was the destiny bestowed on Uthman Dan Fodio which would have been fulfilled since 1816 if not for the obstruction of this great assignment by the British.
“It is no longer time to play the ostrich (sic). Our men are waiting. We are eager to fight. We are boiling with the zeal to actualise our dream; enough of double dealing and ambivalence by Fulani political leaders who unfortunately think the Fulani can only take back what belongs to us through appeasement and elections destined to reflect cultural values antithetical to the preaching of Uthman Dan Fodio”.
Claiming that there is an agenda to divide Nigeria and exterminate its people, FUNAM again threatened: “We are aware of this plot. We call on Fulani all over Africa to prepare for the inevitable war and set our people on an offensive path rather than being weaklings that choose a defensive strategy in warfare”.
We recall that the irritant Fulani group made similar provocative statements in 2018, while defending the Benue massacre by Fulani herdsmen. Now, it has returned to its infamous familiar territory with a statement that further exposes it as a bunch of ethnic bigots who have lost touch with the present reality in the country.
Ordinarily, The Tide would not have dignified the irascible group and its incongruous conquest theories with a response, given its historical knack for seeking relevance, but the undignified silence of the Federal Government in the height of these provocative statements by FUNAM is discomforting, hence, the inevitability of our views.
We consider FUNAM’s statements as not only insensitive but also highly provocative, and we expect the Federal Government to take proactive measures against the group.
Besides the fallacy and pure distortion of facts and history which its claims of Fulani ownership of Nigeria tend to represent, FUNAM’s deliberate attempt to stoke the ember of ethnic nationalism and set various ethnic groups in the country on a war path is treacherous and treasonable.
It is sad that in a nation of diverse ethnic nationalities as Nigeria, an ethnic group would be so bold and daring as to make reckless statements that threaten the unity of the country without the government batting an eyelid. This smacks of double standard by the government that was roused and irked by similar provocative statements from the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) which it proscribed.
We believe that this over indulgence of Northern ethnic groups by the Federal Government led by a Northerner and whose security apparatchiks are also dominated by Northerners fuel ethnic cleavages and high insecurity in the country.
We, therefore, call on the security agencies in the country to, without further delay, fish out the leaders and sponsors of FUNAM and any other groups with similar sinister motives for immediate interrogation and possible prosecution.
We warn that no section of the country has the monopoly of violence. Therefore, any attempt by any section of the country to lord it over other ethnic nationalities or try to annex their lands would be counter-productive.
We, therefore, urge the Federal Government to rein in on all ethnic bigots under the aegis of ethnic nationality to stop making further provocative statements capable of igniting war and disunity in the country. And the earlier this is done, the better.
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