Connect with us

Opinion

Whither Assembly, Judiciary Autonomy?

Published

on

Last year’s amendment to the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, known as the Fourth Alteration, granted the long-awaited autonomy to state legislature and judiciary. President Muhammadu Buhari signed the bill into law in June 2018.
The amendment has formally allowed financial autonomy and independence to Houses of Assembly and the judiciary in the states. Before now, funds allocated to both arms of government from the Federation Account were channelled through the state governments most of which never got to them.
With the new law, all monies meant for State Assembly and the judiciary will be transmitted directly to them in their respective states. No more through the governors. The amendment reads thus: “And the funds standing in the credit of the Houses of Assembly in the states are now to be paid directly to the Houses of Assembly of the states for the benefit of the legislators and the management of the Houses of Assembly.”
However, it is sad that since the bill was assented to, the law has not been allowed to operate in line with its spirit and wordings because governors have decided to frustrate it since it will not serve their political interests. If such moves are allowed to stand, it will prove counter-productive.
It was not by accident that the founding fathers of democracy created the executive, legislative and the judicial arms of government with well-defined responsibilities, and each acting as a check on the other. This pristine arrangement is fundamental in a democracy. Where the legislature’s autonomy is eroded or lacking, what exists is anything but democracy.
I believe the constitutional amendment enabling full autonomy to the two arms of government in reference would not have been possible without the consent of governors expressed through their State Assembly which they control as tools. If the chief executives granted the self-determination, why are they working against it through the back door?
Regrettably, since 1999, most governors have subjugated their state assemblies or, worse still, the assemblies have become pliable in their hands, thereby betraying the trust of the people they purport to represent. As a result, many governors behave like emperors, embezzle and misappropriate public funds and defy all measures to make them accountable.
It is essential for our governors to understand that freedom for the legislature and the judiciary is essential to the strengthening of both arms which in turn will enhance the value of democracy in such states. Needless to say that it will promote accountability and transparency in governance.
In a democracy, the Assembly exists to make laws for good governance. Their major work, however, lies in oversight in the ministries, departments and agencies to ensure that value for money in public expenditure is religiously observed. But this has not been so. As evidence shows, they are mere rubber stamps of the executive.
So, state governors involved in stifling this law and working hard to put it in abeyance should bury their heads in shame. Their act is ignominious and deplorable. The truth is this legislation has come to stay. Their ploy to render the law unworkable will end up in futility.
What is expected of the state chief executives is cooperation and support for the new law to function. Autonomy usually comes with heavy responsibility. Prudence and accountability are expedient for the judiciary and Assembly to effectively manage funds that will accrue to them. But without a sense of maturity, it will be hard to exhibit such managerial skill.
Nothing short of this will be justified in the eye of the Nigerian who has in the last several decades craved for the independence of the Judiciary and State Houses of Assembly for optimal performance.
It is important to warn against an unjustifiable allocation of bogus salaries and allowances in the mold of the national lawmakers whose action has drawn the ire of distressed Nigerians. Such practice at the state level will be an unwelcome development.
This autonomy is indeed an opportunity for state Chief Justices to allay the fears of governors that even without a string of financial control over them attached, they can deliver justice without fear or favour, let or hindrance.
Financial autonomy to the judiciary of the state should, therefore, not be harmed by reckless spending and fraudulent financial malpractices by court officials. Attempt to engage in such reckless spending would further put the judiciary or the Assembly into public disrepute and loss of confidence.
Power, as John Acton, the University of Cambridge historian, famously stated, “tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” These immortal words should guide each state assembly and judiciary in stemming the incongruity of a governor acting like a bull in a China shop. Governors should be compelled to be transparent and accountable to the people. A state legislature that is delinquent in forcing this through has definitely lost its legitimacy.

 

Arnold Alalibo

Continue Reading

Opinion

Recognising Symbolic Atonements

Published

on

Events and personal experiences which we encounter daily convey more meanings than the explanations that we generally attach to them. A number of people who look quite healthy, normal and highly esteemed in society often have some illnesses and other burdens which are asymptomatic; meaning that the inside rarely shows on the outside. Events occur which can be quite inexplicable, just as individuals can have encounters which can be perplexing. Truly, there is no art to find the mind’s construction on the face.
We are being instructed and educated daily by the numerous events and personal experiences which we encounter. But obtuse humanity attaches little or no deeper significance to symbiotic nature of the subtle messages of events and experiences. We do not need prophets to tell us that we pay debts and make atonements daily without knowing that we are doing so. Atonement is defined as something you do to show that you are sorry for having done something wrong. Penance is a more familiar word.
Obviously, no one is free from some wrong doing of different nature and degrees, despite superficial sanctimony. Happily, everyone is endowed with the means of recognizing when and where we err, as well as an inner longing to atone for such errors.
Left alone, every man is a judge for himself, even though some people are more recalcitrant than others. Events and experiences play the roles of forcing every one to be awake and learn lessons daily.
Hard and difficult times which everybody is passing through currently, a situation which is not peculiar to Nigeria alone, provide numerous opportunities for positive changes to take place.
Left alone, human beings have the tendency and proclivity to remain docile and avoid costs, but cherish the easy comfort of lethargy. Thus, hard times and suffering have the possibility of bringing some people to embrace a change by force. Despite the complaints and grumblings that people make daily, there is currently a wind of change blowing across the globe. It brings a loosening effect.
Therefore, one of the symbolic meanings of what Nigerians are passing through currently is presence of a stimulating pressure for a forced awakening. Religious pundits who talk about the “sound of trumpet” actually mean the stimulating pressure that can awaken those in a state of lethargy and slumber. In our myopia and conceit we have come to regard money changing hands in dark deals as what constitutes corruption.
Truly, corruption is a symbolic name for an advanced stage of inner decay of human beings, whereby values and perceptions become narrowed and circumscribed. It is a human condition that is rightly captured by Oliver Smith as follows: “I ll fares that land, to a hastening ill, a prey, where wealth accumulates but men decay”.
Let myopic people see corruption from the superficial angle, but let those with advanced consciousness see it as symbolized in events and experience that we encounter daily. Wise people do not sit and talk about their agonies but rise up and do what is needful, there are individual Nigerians making such efforts in their private life, in spite of the stifling and suffocating global experiences.
There are those who may think that coming out of self-created difficulties, debts and burdens is an easy task. Hard times force us to recognize that there is a principle of personal responsibility whereby everyone bears the task of atoning for personal lapses and wrongs. Those who make such efforts with diligence discover that there is an opportunity or a grace which can make light the heavy burdens which individuals bear.
In serious studies of psychology there is what is known as the law of Reversed Effort which stipulates that things done with ill motives, with underlying fear and a troubled conscience, usually turn out ill. Similarly, there is an invincible power in human volition capable of turning conditions around for the better, via the grace and opportunity which atonement can provide.
Therefore, for an individual applying the power of volition toward the erasure of personal blemish, there is hardly any debt or burden too hard to atone for. However, the initiative must come from the individual, possibly facilitated by hard and bitter experiences.
Atonement or penance comes about when an individual makes conscious and diligent efforts towards personal ennoblement, which derives more from accurate knowledge of the laws governing life.
Superficial sanctimony or piety would not be of any value in such a project, rather, a deeply-felt change manifests in deep inner feeling or empathy towards others. The more such state of awareness grows in an individual, the more such a person is protected from the currents of evil effects.
Obviously, pending past wrongs hanging on the individual would not be obliterated, there would be some amelioration of the results arising there from. This is where the mechanism of symbolic atonement comes into play. Ordinarily in human experience, a debtor who is diligent and seen to be engaged in humanitarian activities would draw greater sympathy from his creditor than the one who is recalcitrant and profligate.
The voluntary donation of blood to save the life of the child of poor parents can be a symbolic atonement for an imminent penalty that would have hit the blood donor. Thus, voluntary humanitarian activities and services rendered out of love for suffering persons can be pre-emptive shields that can knock out pending debts and guilts. On the other hand, those who add more loads to already over-burdened humanity, do greater harms to themselves.
Wise people see the need to be simple, inwardly alert towards the plight of others and make efforts to rid themselves of excess luggage.
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer at the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

 

By: Bright Amirize

Continue Reading

Opinion

As Wike Redefines Governance …

Published

on

Some radicals in society are propelled by nothing more than a self-flaunting, blatant showmanship; others are mere impostors riding on the wave of radicalism to achieve their selfish ambitions. But only in rare cases does radicalism coincide with altruism and a burning desire to align with the communal spirit, to advance the common good. Such rare instance is found in Chief Nyesom Wike, the executive governor of River State.
A case in point, a young lady of about forty-eight years recently came back from studying in the United States of Africa and called at her family home in Ogbum-nu-Abali (popularly called Ogbunabali) in the Port Harcourt Local Government Area of Rivers State. It took the beacons along the road and a strong desire not to ask the taxi driver questions for her to finally locate her ancestral home.
She stood transfixed, taking in the fresh oxygen from the specie of palms lining the centre median partitioning the road linking Aba Road, Nkpogu Junction and Garrison Roundabout.
The young lady marveled due to the fact that she had heard the term “Garden City” in connection with the Rivers State capital but by the time she left on a state government scholarship to America twelve years back in a programme that ultimately earned her a doctorate’s degree, Port Harcourt and its environs were like enclaves emerging from wars, and nothing then suggested anything close to garden. To complete her shock, the street lights soon came on as evening approached. At some point, it took the crowd of familiar black faces for her to reassure herself she was not still in America.
Her interaction on the Internet with some friends back in Nigeria had suggested that Wike was all about politics and opposition and that nothing was going on in Rivers State. Now she knew better, especially after she discovered that the road which connects Peter Odili Road to the east was not an isolated case. Across the state, roads with modern drainage systems were either under construction or already aglow with walkways, well marked packing spaces, street lights and modern directional signs. Welcome to the Garden City of Nigeria!
Wike clearly knew the circumstances of his emergence as governor for four and half years – that it was a divinely orchestrated event backed by Rivers people. That must explain why he set out to please only two constituencies; God and the masses. He had every opportunity to play politics as “business as usual’ and he knew he stood to gain a lot personally. But he shunned that in favour of the road less traveled.
In following this option, he obviously knew he would come against great obstacles, but he probably could not have envisaged the extent of the challenges.
He had one masterstroke; aligning with the people, the helpless masses of Rivers State and, indeed, other residents. This has been, and will continue to be his staying power. Across Nigeria, people believe that a governor must certainly ‘chop’, their grouse however is when all that he has to show for his government is ‘chopping’ and an era of kleptocracy.
This was the scene all over the country and more so in Rivers State before Wike’s emergence as governor in 2015. The initial thing he did was to sweep away an unproductive leadership and gather a team of young and vibrant technocrats but also socially conscious bureaucrats, before setting out with clear, unmistakable vision, mission and direction.
Unfortunately, the old aristocrats, the wheelers and dealers who had profited unconscionably from the old order could not read the handwriting on the wall. They did not understand that Wike had encircled his thought with positive change.
It may seem out of place to connect what Wike had done in Rivers State, in particular, his philosophy and modus operandi with the concept of class suicide, but it is not a far-fetched possibility. Sincerely speaking, he may have had Plebeian roots, but series of social circumstances had thrust him up as a de facto patriarch right from when he was a two-term Executive Chairman of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area under the watch of former Government or Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili.
The issues: when he got the mandate to govern – whether on a platter of gold, silver, bronze or wood, did he deliver in his first four years in the governance of Nigeria’s Treasure Base?
You bet! For the first time in recent history, civil servants, particularly teachers, could proudly claim that they are part of the nation’s workforce.
Children of the poor and down trodden can afford to go to school and actually handle computers! What the governor has done is to create a level playing field where, to draw a parallel from the evergreen Martin Luther King, one is no longer judged by the circumstances of his birth but by the content of his character, the degree of greyness of his or her brain. The scholarship fund which until recently was properly managed by the “incorruptible experts” has seen the children of the rich and poor alike scramble for sponsorship opportunities with only hard work and brain power as the determinants of who gets what.
There is hardly any reason not to believe that the new management will certainly toe that noble line. To furnish the means of acquiring knowledge is the greatest benefit that can be conferred upon mankind. It prolongs life itself and enlarges the sphere of existence according to John Quincy Adams.
The results of such experiments in normalcy in an overall abnormal national setting are not too far from us. Soon, there will emerge in Rivers State, a class of leaders, intelligent and radical, with a pro-people orientation and with an unwavering commitment to the common good, but who, unlike before, would not be too poor as to be marginalized or disregarded.
Governor Wike’s initial alignment with indigent persons may have been done out of mere radicalism, but it has proved to be the governor’s ultimate benefit as his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), battles with the opposition parties and other entrenched interests for the soul of Rivers State.

 

By: Bethel Toby

Continue Reading

Opinion

My Dressing, My Faith

Published

on

It will be reprehensible for a female corps member to embark on obstacle-crossing and other physical training activities on camp, including parade, in skirt or gown. Those will expose her indecently, thus, leaving little or nothing to imagination”
That was part of the explanations given by the Director-General of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brig-Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim, following the expulsion of two female corps members, – Okafor Love Obianuju, and Odji Oritsetsolaye, from orientation camp in Ebonyi State last weekend for refusing to wear trousers or shorts for religious reasons.
Speaking through the Corps’ Director of Press and Public Relations, Mrs Adenike Adeyemi,    Ibrahim noted that the NYSC camp, predicated on discipline and decency, is a training ground for corps members and ”any other dress code contrary to the officially-sanctioned one will not promote the course of decency.”
I think the DG just nailed it. The primary reason for insisting on corps members wearing trousers and shots is for their protection and decency. Many of us participated in the scheme and know how rigorous and tasking the Man O’ War drills and exercises were and can testify that there is no way someone can do most of them comfortably and effectively on skirts or gowns. Is it the jumping of fence, rope climbing, crawling under barb wires or karate fighting? You can imagine a female climbing rope on skirt in the presence of soldiers and other colleagues, both male and female.
Yes, the issue of religion is a personal thing and our constitution grants freedom of worship, so one will not be in a hurry to condemn the two corps members for insisting on not dressing in a way they said is against their faith, but shouldn’t we be sensible even in our religious practices? Shouldn’t we weigh the pros and cons of a policy before rejecting it or protesting against it in whatever form?
And then comes the issue of obedience.  Every establishment has rules and regulations guiding it which are expected to be obeyed by anyone that has dealings with it for efficiency and orderliness. If everybody decides to flout these rules and regulations, what will our society become? One will want to believe that Obianuju and Odji were aware of the orientation and NYSC rules and regulations yet they decided to participate in it. It then behoves them to obey those rules. Or since they are not comfortable with some of the guidelines, they would have probably tabled their objections before the NYSC director or other appropriate quarters before going to camp. But as some analysts have said, obedience to the rules should be for all and sundry and not for some people. The moment the leadership of any organization compromises in the enforcement of the rules and regulations or in punishing offenders, there will no longer be total compliance by the people.
In Nigeria, we have two major religions, Christianity and Islam, and it is expected that the same consideration should be given to these two groups in formulating any policy that concerns them. If members of one of them are allowed to dress in certain way, contrary to the rules of an organization, it will be just and fair to consider members of the other group when they make certain demands in that direction as well.
Let us look at further explanations of the NYSC director-general on the scheme’s dressing code. He said that the organisation did not issue hijab, worn by Muslim women, as part of its dress code,
“Rather, the scheme permits the use of white hijab, which must not be more than shoulder length and must be tucked into the uniform.
“The policy of allowing hijab, which does not deface the NYSC uniform, is not new, as it has been there.”
Will it then be out of place to suggest that the leadership of the scheme should consider the position of some Christians who feel that putting on trousers and shots is against their faith and address the matter amicably instead of expulsion as was the case in Ebonyi State?
As I stated earlier, Section 38 of the 1999 Constitution grants freedom of religion to the citizens which must be respected. Yes, we can appeal to the corps members to see reasons why they should dress in accordance with the NYSC code, but it is their right to practice their religion the way they deem fit. Recall the case of Firdausa Al Jannah Amasa versus the Nigerian Law School. The law graduate was denied entry into the International Conference Center, Abuja, venue of the call to bar in 2017 because she refused to remove her hijab. She took the matter to court, won and the institution is said to have since retraced its steps.
So, as the Special Assistant on Media and Communications to the President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Adebayo Oladeji, appealed, the NYSC leadership should be more tolerant and revisit the matter with a view to addressing it better. It will amount to double standard to dismiss Christian corps members for dressing inappropriately while their Muslim counterparts in the same shoes are allowed to wear hijad, going by the position of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) and other concerned individuals and groups, who also noted that wearing hijab on NYSC uniform cannot be said to be promoting the course of decency as posited by Mrs Adeyemi.
It will, therefore, be wise if the two rusticated corps members can heed Oladeji’s advice and head to court to challenge their expulsion. Who knows, they might get a similar judgment like Firdausa and then the matter will be permanently settled.

 

Calista Ezeaku

Continue Reading

Trending