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Ibori’s Loot Controversy

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The federal government has stirred up the hornet’s nest and it is being mercilessly attacked from all angles. Ordinarily, the planned return of £4.2 million (N2.4 billion) looted by the former Governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, some of his friends, allies and family members by the United Kingdom government to Nigeria, calls for celebration, because it is no mean achievement by the current government. As stated by the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, it is an indication of the current administration’s commitment in the fight against corruption in the nation.
However, the announcement by Malami that the recovered fund will be channeled into infrastructural projects in some parts of the country, including the construction of the 2nd Niger Bridge, Abuja-Kano Road, and Lagos-Ibadan Expressway has pitched the government against some individuals and groups, particularly Delta State indigenes who feel that the money having been stolen from their state coffers, should be returned to Delta State. For instance, following a motion of urgent public importance sponsored by all the lawmakers from Delta State, the House of Representatives, Wednesday asked the Federal Government to ensure that the loot is returned to Delta State.
Similarly, the Delta State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Charles Aniagwu, the chief press secretary to the Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, Mr. Olise Ifejika, and other notable sons and daughters of the state, including lawyers from both within and outside the state have frowned at the plan by the federal government to appropriate the fund, insisting that the money belongs to Delta State and to her shall the money be returned to.
But the Minister of Justice is unrelenting in explaining why the looted fund should be expended by the federal government when it is returned by the UK government in the next two weeks, going by the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Abuja and London last Tuesday. Speaking on national television, he said “At any rate, I think the major consideration relating to who is entitled to fraction or perhaps the money in its entity is a function of law and international diplomacy, among others. Function of the law in the sense that the law in contention that is alleged to have been bridged is a federal law.
“That is a starting point. And then secondly, in dealing with the international community, the parties are national and not sub-national governments that are involved… The federal government is the victim of crime and not sub-national.”
We wait to see how this bottleneck will be resolved before the return of the money even though one thinks that commonsensically; the source from where the money was stolen should have it back. Yes, the Delta State Government may have denied ab initio that no money was missing from the state, they may not  have cooperated or played any role in the recovery of the looted fund, but the federal government owes it as a duty to Delta indigenes to return their money to them.
Alternatively, the money should be used to execute federal projects only in Delta State and no other part of the country. The government cannot tell us that without the recovered loot, the 2nd Niger Bridge and the other two federal projects wouldn’t be carried out in spite of several billions of naira already allocated for them. For several years money from different sources has been tied to the 2nd Niger Bridge, yet the project seems to be taking eternity to be completed. We have not forgotten the experiences of the recent past where a tranche of Abacha’s loot was said to have been channeled into Social Intervention Programmes – the N5000 conditional cash transfer and the likes, yet there is nothing to show for that. The whole thing is still shrouded in controversy.
But for the fact that Nigeria is a sovereign country, one would have subscribed to the view that the Brits should make Delta select one or two projects and directly fund these projects so that the people will directly benefit from it. Corruption is so endemic in the country that there is no assurance that the money if left in the hands of the federal or Delta State government will not be re-looted as has become a common practice in the country. Billions of naira have reportedly been recovered in the last few years yet the government is constantly complaining of lack of funds thereby laying credence to the assertion that the monies are not where they should be. Besides, it is a known fact that Ibori still has a great influence in Delta State, how are we sure that some of the cash will not be returned to him if given to the state government?
So, while we bask in the euphoria of the  great feat and hoping that the issue of appropriation of the soon to be returned recovery is handled amicably so as to avoid any unnecessary legal battle between Delta State and the federal government, it is advised that The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and other sister agencies, should take the struggle against corruption to a higher level by placing premium on prevention going forward. The great effort made in recovering the controversial loot will amount to action in futility if measures are not put in place to prevent such an act.
Over the years and even now, our monies are being syphoned out of the country to other countries that use them to enrich their system while the people that own the money keep getting impoverished. In 2020, Nigeria was worn the shameful crown as the poverty capital of the world, yet billions of naira that should have been used to provide the much-needed infrastructure and improve the general wellbeing of the citizens are stolen by a few. There are corrupt people in other countries no doubt,but the difference between Nigeria and some other advanced countries is that their systems are strong to prevent and deal with corruption adequately. Until we have a preventive mechanism in place to ensure that corruption becomes less attractive and that any corrupt person faces the consequences of his action irrespective of his status, political, religious or ethnic lining; until our anti-corruption agencies become independent, our desire to stem corruption in the country will remain a mirage.

 

By: Calista Ezeaku

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Opinion

Away With Open Grazing

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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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Opinion

Short, Sharp, Shock-Treatment

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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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Opinion

Corporate Begging In Nigeria

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I went to an office two days ago for a business transaction and at the gate was a well-dressed, cheerful security guard who zealously ushered me into the compound. I wanted to park my car at one end of the compound and he insisted that I should go another direction which truly was more spacious. And in my mind l was like, “what a dutiful staff”.
He was not done yet.  As soon as I switched off my car ignition and was about to open the door to come out, he rushed and did it, smiling from one side of his mouth to another, offering unsolicited information and a guide on my whereabouts in the facility. I sincerely thanked him, hoping all the VIP treatment will not be a subtle way of begging for gratuity.
Behold, I was wrong. As l made to step into the building, he whispered “Madam, no forget the favour way l do you oo”.  I had just encountered another corporate beggar. A day before, l had a bitter encounter with one, a pump attendant, at a petrol station who called me names for refusing to part with my hard-earned money. Having inquired about the well being of my family, admired my car and showered all unasked encomium on me, he expected a monetary appreciation which was not forthcoming and the next thing I heard was “stingy woman”.
They are everywhere. At petrol stations, banks, offices, both public and private hotels, you see a lot of people begging while on duty. At the airport, train station and in practically all-important offices in the country, “anything for the boys, your boys dey loyal oo”, seems to have become part of the official language.
Of course, this shameful attitude did not start today but it has taken a more serious, disturbing dimension in recent times. Many people, particularly the security personnel, front desk officers, customer relations officers have turned their duty posts to begging offices. They would always blame the current economic downturn for their unbecoming attitude which cannot be totally true because, at least, they are working and earning salaries no matter how little.
What about the millions of people who are jobless and have no means of livelihood? Have they all taken to the streets to beg?
One thinks it is a social malaise which has a lot to do with our ethical values. A lot of people in the country value money and other material things far and above integrity, self-respect and self-dignity and so, they will do anything, no matter how shameful, to acquire them.
A teacher once made an analysis of two families, one has four members and the other was a family of 11 people. Both families were given N200,000 each to spend for a month. According to her, half way into the month, the family of four almost exhausted their money and could hardly pull through till the end while the other family of nine comfortably made do with the amount they had and even had some balance. What was their secret? Prioritisation and prudent management.
Therefore, it is not so much about how much we make through our salaries, begging and other means but how we manage the money. There is hardly anybody in the country today that is not feeling the economic bite and the only thing that will help everybody both the low- and high-income earners is to set their priorities right and learn how to live within their income instead of hoping on tips from some “big men and women” and doing all kinds of ridiculous thing to attract their attention and the crumb. And we forget that the so-called big men most times also have loads of financial responsibilities.
On the national level, we also have to consider the damaging impact of officials begging and do something about it. Obviously, taking little tips from people would make officials skimp on their responsibilities, thereby making some unscrupulous elements have their way, exposing the country to avoidable vulnerability.
It is, therefore, imperative we must begin to build a new ethos that places emphasis on self-respect and dignity of labour. As part of the country’s 60th Independence celebration, the National Ethics and Integrity Policy was launched. It contains the nation’s core values of Human Dignity, Voice and Participation, Patriotism, Personal Responsibilities, Integrity, National Unity and Professionalism. All these values and how they will be practised to make for a better country and more cordial relationship among the citizens are thoroughly spelt out.
For instance, section 4.5.2.5, talking about Honour under Integrity states, “We shall at all times maintain uprightness of character, personal integrity and pride in ourselves as individuals, as one community, and as one nation. Therefore, in all spheres of life, we shall do what is demanded by our common values and laws that we hold to be true, in accordance with our national identity and in accordance with the values enshrined in our national laws and practices as one country. As Nigerians, we shall stand up to challenge those vices that impede the pursuit of our existence with uprightness. We shall celebrate those Nigerians who are upright”.
But then the big questions are, how many Nigerians are aware of this policy? What efforts are being made to educate the citizens on these core values? We  have the National Orientation Agency, the Ministry of Information at various tiers of government, what are they doing to educate people about these code of conduct so that the people internalise it and it becomes a true guide for the citizens,
It is not enough that time, energy and resources were spent in packaging the booklet, let adequate sensitisation be carried out, using the media, both conventional and social media and other means of communication to reach to people at every nooks and crannies of the country because many Nigerians are losing it when it comes to integrity and the time to get them back on the right track is now.

By: Calista Ezeaku

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