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“Poor Funding bane of Niger Delta”

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Barr OCJ Okocha (SAN) stressing some points

Barr OCJ Okocha (SAN) stressing some points

This is the continuation of The Tie Roundable encounter with Barr OCJ Okocha (SAN), published Friday July 17, 2009. Continued from Page 17

Petroleum act?

I don’t think that it has become an Act yet. It is still going through the process in the National Assembly. The last we reviewed that was April or there about when we went for the session of the business law conference. The Act is proposed as a bill now has made for reaching proposals for the reform of the petroleum industry in Nigeria if these proposals are finally passed, that becomes law and if they are faithfully applied there will be nothing adverse to the interest of the people of the Niger Delta. What is usually the problem is the implementation of prepositions of law and the political will of those who are charged with the implementation of the law to do what is right as stipulated in that law.

Either and above the provisions of that bill, the critical point which needs to be addressed is constitutional divesting of all the minerals in the country in the Federal Government.

That is where the problem mainly arises because all the talk about the greater share in revenue derived from oil and petroleum product.

We are all sitting here and they are prospecting for the crude oil and natural gas. At the end of the day what we get is nothing compared to what we should be getting because the story there was fairness and apathy in the system, there should be no reason why the Niger Delta states should not be getting a higher percentage based on the derivation principle which everybody agree is something to be applied to assuage the sufferings of the people in the Niger Delta or wherever minerals are prospected.

So let us hope that the effort to amend the constitution will address the fundamental problem, and then all other laws will fall in place. Then we must hope that those charged with the implementation of all those laws that lead to petroleum and natural gas will also faithfully implement them, having in their minds the interest of the Niger Delta.

Does that mean the petroleum Act is the major problem in the petroleum industry?

No. No, …… the principles in the constitution that all minerals belong to the Federal Government is a major problem. The Land Use Act is just a law, is not part of the constitution. It was only entrenched in the constitution as a statute which you needed a special majority to amend. The Land Use Act is still an Act in the National Assembly and as you know, the President himself has sent certain proposals for amendment to the National assembly. The Land Use Act vest all the land in the territory of each state in the concern of that state, excluding land vested in the Federal Government so that has to do with land use and land management. The point I was making is that the right and interest of the people of the Niger Delta will best be provided for by radical amendment to the constitution particularly the section of the constitution that says that all minerals are invested in the Federal Government and of course the revenue allocation formula which is in the constitution that now stipulates 13 not less than 13 percent for all mineral producing areas.

Those are the areas we want to quickly attend to.

Let me just follow up in the last question, not too long ago, Governor Amaechi said, if that Bill being discussed is passed, it will impoverish the Niger Delta people

I wouldn’t know why he said so. I would like to be directed to the particular provision in the bill, because you see, what that bill does is to break up the companies that are in the petroleum industry. NNPC would be broken up into several different companies and each will have the relevant faction of the oil industry to deal with so, I’m at a loss to answer that question because I don’t know what particular section or sections the governor was referring to.

Simply because everything didn’t go well. The Electoral Act is currently as was obviously and still need to be reformed I would take you to the panel headed by the former, Chief Justice of Nigeria Uwais panel that looked through our electoral system decided that not only the electoral Act but also the constitution of 1999 as far as sections relating to election were in need of dire reform. You see the way elections are structured now under the old electoral Act, is that much power is given to the Independent Electoral Commission but there is no check on the activities that the commission can engage in to receive what we would ordinarily say are democratic principles.

The situation is such that INEC has turned out to prove to all of us that it was incapable of conducting free elections in this country. INEC does not have financial independence, they ended up depending largely on the wishes of the sitting president of the day to conduct elections and we remember what happened, uptill three months to the elections; they were still talking about funding to produce voters registers and so on and so forth. And for logistic reasons, both helicopters and the vehicles they needed to carry electoral materials to places. So INEC as it was under the current law did not have true independence.

Again the Electoral Act did not provide, elections time table, it was left to the discretion of INEC to wake up one morning and told us that presidential and governorship elections will hold on one particular day. That can not be democracy.

Again INEC as you remember played to the right to either disqualify candidates or refused to accept the nomination of candidates, who were properly nominated, or supposedly properly nominated by their parties and remember the case of Atiku and Obasanjo. That went up to the Supreme Court a week to election, was when that case was decided, so those were the few difficulties that emanated from what was and still is our Electoral Act. I don’t practise much in the field of election petition, but these are the obvious lapses that were in that practice and of course the actual conduct of the elections did not prove to be free and fair INEC apparently was compromised, law enforcement Agencies were compromised and many people ended up not voting, because they didn’t have the opportunity to vote, that was a reality.

Independent Monitors from outside the country were present on ground, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) set up an election monitoring committee and the report nationwide was that the elections were not free so that is the reason for the clamour for the amendment of the Electoral Act so that the process can be democratized such that people will be allowed to choose their representatives, look at what happened in Rivers State, candidates were being imposed on particular ward, particular electoral district by so called political godfathers. Our Governor now suffered the same fate. He was duly elected at the party primary held by the PDP only to have his election, you know somebody said that there was a K-leg, I think it was Obasanjo who said that Rivers State had a K-leg. At the end of the day, the court had to intervene to resolve that matter. The Electoral Act stipulated in clear terms, that for you to withdraw the name of candidate that you have elected, you must have cogent and compelling reasons.

So you don’t just say error of choice, there must be cogent and compelling reason, and that was the matter that went to the Supreme Court and the court up held that there were no cogent and compelling reasons for the withdrawal of the name of the candidate who had been nominated.

So the electoral system in Nigeria in my opinion had not been properly articulated. You and I sit in our houses and you hear that somebody has been selected as your representatives. The people had no right in the choice.

There should be free electioneering processes when a man comes out and say he is serving the people and the representative of the people you would be satisfied that it was indeed the people who elected him.

You are Shell legal consultant, what can you say of oil spill?

Let me say this with all sense of responsibility, Shell that I represent, as one of their numerous legal consultants or external counsels, is one of the most responsible oil operating companies. You see the reality of the situation is that anywhere in the world where there is oil production, there is bound to be incidents of oil pollution, leakages here, spills here and there.

And for every genuine cases where there was a spill that I have been involved in, I know as a fact that Shell has made immediate move to one, stop the leakage, two contain the leakage and its spread, and three clean up the mess. The problem always arises on the area of compensation. Of course, any body whose properties had been damaged under the Pipeline Act, who has suffered a serious damage on his property land or water or whatever is entitled to compensation, and that is a right which the person has and our obligation which the oil company involved has to be stressed.

As I said the problem always arises on what is fair and adequate somebody can claim, one billion, if you claim one billion, well the quantity of oil that is spilled is not up to two barrels everybody will know that this claim is obviously exaggerated, and Shell as responsible corporate citizen and indeed all other Oil companies will be interested in enquiring into that matter because if you cannot reach agreement on what is fair and adequate, the laws stipulate that you must go to court and settle that matter and the court will now determine this is fair, this is just, this is adequate compensation and I know that in most cases, the courts have raised those determinations. Shell has gladly paid so much as I am also an indigene of Rivers State, it will interest you to know that I have done two cases against Shell and won against them, before Shell hired my services as far back as 1992, 93 to become their external counsel. So is always a controversial matter.

And you know that this new incident that most time we have used as our bases of defence, sabotage. If there is sabotage on a pipeline, you don’t expect an oil company to pay because that has been unlawful act of an unknown third party, Sometime the third party who caused the breakage of the pipeline is known and some are being prosecuted for damage and destruction to oil pipeline in their vicinities. Yes is a controversial matter, but thank God, we have the court, it is here in court that we know the extent of it, the damage caused and the value which you have claimed, and I know that the courts have been very active in doing those cases and giving judgment to whom judgment is due.

What are the benchmark for compensation?

The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) stipulates what you should pay. And like I told you the figures they are using are not really commensurate with reality. They will tell you that a palm tree should be valued at N80 or so. You know a palm tree is something that regenerated and somebody said every part of the palm tree is valuable. The stem, the frond, the fruit the nut you understand.

So first you must look in the direction of DPR. They should stipulate fair and adequate bases for assessing the cost of damage caused to any body who has lost properties as a result of an oil spill. Those rates unfortunately are stipulated by DPR and of course everybody will like to use that as the rate to pay you compensation; but I can tell you speaking from experience some of those claims are not realistic.

How can stem of plantain cost N20. One bunch of plantain is worth more than N20. So those rates were made long ago and there is no effort on the part of the DPR to review the rate which is why the courts are now relying on the values put on those items and properties by evaluation experts, estate surveyors and valuers.

Even they and us say that you must pay market price. Economic price, economic value.

Our problem; that is the problem of Nigeria today is the Niger Delta issue. Federal Government created the NDDC, created the Niger Delta Ministry, and MEND took up arms to press their case, recently Federal government has offered amnesty to militants, but some Nigerians feel that the problem of the Niger Delta is the problem of irresponsibility on the part of Niger Delta leaders, considering the amount of money that has been coming to the areas since 1999, Sir, what do you think government has left undone to solve Niger Delta problem?

Well, is a good point, irresponsibility of our Niger Delta leaders, had led us to this sorry part where we are now; is a good point.

Some have argued and I agree that most of our leaders, especially our elected leaders have not applied the funds that are coming to the Niger Delta in a judicious manner. Indeed you remember the national Political Reform Conference, the story was that the Northerners, who were asking, Oh; you people should go and ask your governors what they have done with the money, you are getting 13 percent. But that is an argument which any body can write. The reality is that what is being advocated to the Niger Delta states is not commensurate with what is expected. And we want to recall that before we had a region, the principles of derivation was fixed at 50 percent, and with 50 percent, most of the regions were able to develop their infrastructures.

Now the federal government is taking more than the lions share and apaltry 13 percent is coming to oil producing states, that cannot be sufficient to develop infrastructures in this long neglected region.

There can be no argument about the fact that 13 percent will only scratch the surface. They tried with OMPADEC, even the 3 percent under OMPADEC was not getting to OMPADEC. NDDC 13 percent, the states 13 percent, the money was not getting to those states. Now they created the Niger Delta Ministry, something which I thought was misplaced. Still the problem is sufficient funding is not going to the ministry and you are now having two parallel agencies, ministry of the Niger Delta and the NDDC, which one are you looking at. You know my people have a proverb that, goat that belongs to many people usually die of starvation. Because somebody is expecting somebody to feed that goat. So the reality is, Is an argument which I am not prepared to throw my hat into this point whether our leaders have faithfully applied the funds. But the real problem is, sufficient funding is not coming to the Niger Delta. Let us face it, Agriculture is relegated, Agriculture, including arable land agriculture and acquatic agriculture, fishing, farming and all that relegated to the background.

The mainstay of Nigerian economy now is the oil revenue and they will tell you that over 90 percent of the federation account is the oil revenue.

That little that we should get for derivation should be given to us the Niger Delta states. That little should also be increased to a reasonable percentage so that there will be some thing meaningful to this neglected area and it will take more than a super human effort to rebuild, restore the area to also rebuild infrastructures. So that is my answer to the question.

The argument by Ijaw National Congress that more states should be created for the Niger Delta region is that the solution?

Let me say this, and let us be frank, the problem of the Niger Delta is not creation of States. Is money. Whether the money goes to ten states, or to one state, is neither here nor there. Indeed, it makes more sense to me that the money goes to one state and let that State use that money because the lower the percentage the existing state will get. What I am saying is the quantum of fund. Instead of dividing 13 percent to how many states we have now in the Niger Delta; Six states, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River. If you are getting 13 percent, you created ten states, the same ten states will be sharing the 13 percent so the quantum going to individual states will be reduced. As for me is better to have the money in bulk.

Sorry Sir, just follow up if you look at Bayelsa State it has eight recognized local Government Councils, Kano has 44, now when these go to the federation allocation committee, they share funds to these local Governments, Kano gets that of 44, Bayelsa gets that of eight, don’t you think is right if another state is created out of Bayelsa and perhaps ten more councils created, Bayesla then will be getting for eighteen that is the question, he is trying to ask?

You know the object that is being shared is a fixed amount it is unfortunate that they have politicized this matter of creation of state and local governments. The Northerners and political leaders of the past thought that was agimmick in which they will use to get more money to their states.

You know, I like to say, let every state generate its own revenue, all this junketing to Abuja to share federation account or federation Allocation Account monies is meaningless. And it is meaningless because everybody is looking at oil revenue as that being shared. If we had each state catering for itself, getting just a subvention, based on acceptable principles, I’m sure the clamour for more states, the clamour for more local governments will die down because we are using it now as a basis, yes there is a valid argument to say, we need more states, we need more local governments, but if we realised that what is being shared is a fixed amount, the more we are, the smaller the share we would get from that fixed amount then we would see that more states, more local governments are only irrelevant.

We should not be tied up with revenue allocation, each state should generate its own revenue and any state that cannot survive on its own should merge with other states. And you will see that the thousand and one state that you have there in this country cannot survive on their own without this money from federation account allocation. Is a political matter and that is the reason why everybody now wants more states and more local governments.

Are you now saying, we don’t need creation of more States?

For overriding progress of this country, creation of more states will not solve our problem, it will not because you see, we started as regions. We have been fragmenting this country to smaller units, smaller units and unless we put a stop to it we would continue to fragment this country.

Most communities in the world are coming together. There is the Europen Union (EU), there is the Organization of American States (OAS), there is SADC in South Africa, we even have the African Union.- (AU).

You make more progress as a large group than as a small entity, because what you get is bigger and how you planned to use that which you get is more focused in your articulation of it. The current states cannot survive, infact, if you look really true, only ten states can survive in this country, without federation allocation.

So you don’t subscribe to calls for confederation?

That is a political matter, you know, we haven’t really practice true federalism in Nigeria and some people are now saying, lets us be confederation, that principles arose during the days building up to the Nigerian Civil War and I was already a secondary school student, 1964 and I knew that , that argument was a political argument. There was nothing wrong with the regions, the way they were structured in the first place yes there was ethnic domination in some parts. We the minorities in the East had difficulties with the majority tribe that was dominating the day but I still believed that regions, particularly those that were properly managed made more progress as regions than we are now making as states.

Go to the west for instance, so we have to evaluate it very critically, is not something one can say, I think that the principle is that, you make more progress when you are a strong entity. The smaller you are the more marginalized you are. The less revenue, you would be getting, the less ability you would have, where is that lead to, because issues of fragmentation will continue to arise.

Q: ??????

Okocha: My father served in the Colonial police the only problem, my father ever had in the Police was that of tribalism. Because, he was minority in the old Eastern Region, Ikwerre man. Whoever heard of Ikwerre people becoming Police Officers but even at that his promotions came as at when due.

He went to Police Colleges in England, out of merit and then the Police was dedicated.

Your character needed to be examined before you enter the Police my father was recommended to join the Police by an old headmaster from Ohafia, through his relation that was in government in the Eastern Region. That was how my father got into the Police.

As a minority, hewent to Police Colleges and was able to perform and on merit. He got deployed to the branch alled special branch.

Special branch is the brach of the Police, that eventually became NSO and became SSS.

Chief Horsfall served under my father, in special branch in the Eastern region, and that time just before the civil war broke out, he was the deputy to MD Yusuf in a special branch. Then a Police man was really a friend, you would walked along the road and you stopped a Police man, very knowledgeable.

You are going to Aggrey road, Policeman will take pains to tell you where Aggrey road is, in fine language. You know they used to carry buatons in those days and alone Policeman standing at the end of the street was enough to drive criminals away, but now Police is for all kinds of people.

I can tell you that the stories we have indicate that some of these check points that you see armed robbers operating, some of them are wearing Police uniforms.

Some Policemen have also been implicate in armed robbery. Police need to be trained you know, overhaul, thoroughly overhaul. Any and any person cannot be recruit into the Police; because the Police is a civil force for maintenance of low and order. When you have criminals in the Police you have difficulties.

You know in those days, if you are a Police constable, and you bought a motorcycle, you need to explain where you got the money to buy a motorcycle constable, everybody knew your salary, but today, you see a constable operating 20 buses, 20 taxis, in the days of Okada, there were Policemen who owned 20 Okadas.

So the Police now is not what it was my father used to tell me stories of how they used to investigate cases. Detectives were trained. Now you go to the Police, they asked you who do you suspect.

How can you suspect, you are sleeping in the night somebody came to steal.

Your properties, and you know there was something the Police had, they had this supernunary Police Officers. They had what they called Police informant.

By the time, you go to an informant, he would know where, armed robbers came from to operate in Elechi street Diobu.

Is o longer the same, they are not trained, they are not properly motivated, they are not properly equipped.

And in those days, every Policeman who signed for Rifle will signed for the number of cartridge what do they cacled it bullet, that will go into that rifle.

They had an Armoury, you had hand writing experts, you have forensic analysts in the Police in those days and you know what they say, just by dusting this envelope now, they will tell you how many people had handle this envelop and they had record, without record, you can’t to police anywhere I had a problem once with a young man in America, and I wrote a letter to Chief of Police in Boston. They picked up the man finger printed him and told him they don’t want him any where within three miles of where I was staying in Bostom, and they were able to monitor that young man, and they succeeded in making sure he was nowhere near me for the three weeks I stayed in Boston that is what the police want to do. They know the criminals, they monitor them on a daily basis. So we need to retrain the police properly equipped the police and then properly motivate them.

Q: What is your comment on the current ASUU strike

Okocha: Yes, is unfortunate progressively, I will says I won’t want to use the word responsible, but I will say government has been unfaithful to its obligation to the educational sector. The time, we went to the university late early 70s, we were satisfied that we entered university in September of 1973 and graduated in June of 1977 four years for a degree programme, we were satisfied that lecturers were being paid their salaries as at when due and their salaries were commensurate with the work they were doing.

Government as we however and heard, had several agreements with ASUU and the university teachers, but government had not been faithful to implement those agreements.

Why should that be so. And we are talking of universities. The some thing goes down all the way to secondary education, primary education. I don’t know whether government actually recognizes that without education without proper education foundation this country is in jeopardy. Who will take over tomorrow from those of us who have gone through these processes. Most people are now sending their children to school in places like Ghana, Togo, because our educational system cannot guarantee a proper education for our children. Is unfortunate, and I think that government would wake up to its responsibilities.

The educational sector must be given immediate attention. All agreements signed with university teacher must be implemented and without any delay.

Q: Sorry before we go back to the police, let go back to Niger Delta, if you are in position to suggest what percentage should come to the Niger Delta, what will you suggest?

Okocha: 50 per cent because they are precedents. We started with 50 percentage should be anything less. And people are telling you those who want to play the politic of Nigeria Oh nobody is producing the oil, the oil was put there by God. Have they for gotten that in the traditional principles of land ownership, the man who owns the land owns everything under the land. So we leave me with my land and if any oil company wants to take oil from my land or gas, let that company negotiate with me.

In that case I will have 100 per cent. Isn’t it. The argument cannot be sustained that any body should tell us, that God put the oil there yes, but we came and live here where we migrated from, everybody ended up somewhere and that place you ended up to is your own land. For Nigeria to claim Oh: that the oil is there, God put it, so did he put gold and other minerals in other lands. Let everybody exploits his own and what ever you can make of it, make of it and take it 100 per cent.

So the principle that exist, and the principle is fair is that Nigeria as a federation started with 50 per cent derivation as in the 1960, and the 1963 constitutions. That is the principle that already exist. The principle we should go back to.

Barr OCJ Okocha (SAN) stressing some points

Barr OCJ Okocha (SAN) stressing some points

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Mobilising Citizens For Sustainable Democracy In Nigeria: The Power Of Editors (II)

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United States America has also advanced drone technology with the capacity to go to war and shoot from self-driven drones and kill decisively without risking any human life in the field. Recently this technology was used to exterminate an Iranian General considered a huge security threat to the United States.
These discoveries underline the importance of education in National Development.
According to UNICEF, one in every five of the World’s out of school children is in Nigeria. Even though primary education is officially free and compulsory, about 10.5 million of Nigeria’s children aged 5 – 14 years are out of school.
In 1970 when the war ended and I gained admission into University of Ibadan to study economics, studying in a Nigerian University was such a pleasure. To begin with, my roommate then, Okey Ezeokeke and I lived in a two in one room apartment. The university laundered 8 clothes per week for us (trousers and shirts). In addition, two sets of bed sheets were laundered for us weekly. Our shower ran twenty four hours, our toilets flushed always. In each hall of residence we had a bar and buttery where you could have cold drinks and confectionaries at affordable prices directly from breweries and the university catering department. You were also allowed to entertain your guests at these air-conditioned lounges.
Each faculty had a library apart from the central university library. Every journal published in the world was available in our libraries within two weeks of publication. We had a university press which made publication of books by our lecturers easier and the books affordable. The university had a busy bookshop which sold text books, journals, magazines and novels. Accessibility to knowledge was guaranteed even without digital technology. Lecturers were encouraged to publish.
Because of their scholarly publications, they were demanded globally. Every year so many lecturers were engaged inprominent universities all over the world. Every year several lecturers served out their sabbatical and returned with new knowledge, new exposure, modern cars and a global and cosmopolitan saga. Many students developed ambitions to become lecturers. The first class graduates were retained as assistant lecturers to take us in tutorial classes. The tutorial classes explained the lectures, deepened our knowledge of the subject matter and took us through past question papers in order to widen our comprehension and prepare us for examinations. Suddenly all these have disappeared. Instead, handouts have taken over because they are sold for extra cash by lecturers even when they contain very little or represent copying or plagiarism!!
When you don’t buy them, class reps note you and report you to the lecturer and in some cases it is counted against you in the exams. Vice Chancellor after Vice Chancellor fight this menace but they persist because the bench mark has fallen, the incomes have fallen, the foreign lure no longer exists because our degrees have become worthless. Businessmen and Politicians as well as pretty female students get degrees without attending lectures!! If the source of knowledge is contaminated, like a contaminated water reservoir, can you get clean water? Once upon a time, a seating Governor was admitted as a student in one of our universities, he pretended to attend lectures inspite of his busy schedules, which made it impossible for him to attend all his lectures, but he was awarded a degree. Is such a degree respectable? Does this kind of practice recommend such a University as credible?
This brings me to the question of what form Nigeria will assume under a restructured arrangement and how its restructuring can be brought about. Two basic models have been canvassed for restructuring in Nigeria. A conservative model aimed at maintaining the status quo has been proposed to mean simply a shedding of some of the exclusive powers of the Federal Government, like issuing of mining licenses, permission for constructing of Federal roads and shedding of regulatory powers over investments in critical sectors of the economy like power and mineral resources. This model merely scratches the surface of the problem. It avoids the fundamental issue of devolution of powers.
The second model calls for a fundamental devolution of powers to the States as federating units and a lean Federal Government with exclusive powers for external defence, customs, immigration, foreign relations and a Federal legislature and judiciary to make and interpret laws in these exclusive areas.
This second model proposes states as the federating units with two different approaches. The first approach simply wants the States as the Federating units and a Federal Government with limited powers. It wants the states to control a percentage of revenue accruing from their areas and contribute an agreed percentage of such revenue to the federal government.
The second approach proposes the states as the federating units with a Region at each of the six geopolitical units whose constitution will be agreed to and adopted by the states in the geopolitical region. The regions will have the powers to merge existing states or create new ones. There will be regional and state legislatures and judiciary dealing with making and interpreting laws made in the respective political entities. This approach proposes a revenue sharing formulae of 15% to the Federal Government, 35% to the regional government and 50% to the State Governments.
To achieve a national consensus on this subject requires a national discussion. Regrettably, the ruling party, APC which promised restructuring in its manifesto after two years and four months in office appointed a committee to define what sort of restructuring it wants for Nigeria. The matter ended there. The Committee report after being adopted by its National Executive Committee was never implemented by the Government. To make matters worse, none of the other political parties have come up with any clear-cut route for achieving a consensus on this matter.
The National Assembly itself is a reflection of the deep ethnic divisions in the country and the Northern majority conferred on it by the military makes it highly unacceptable to Southern Nigeria. Recent resolutions made by it on devolution of powers have not helped the situation.
In the recent past, following massive disenchantment by our youths, self-determination groups have sprung up in Nigeria. The self-determination groups include IPOB, Boko Haram MASSOB, YELICOM, Arewa Youths, Niger Delta Republic and Republic of the Middle Belt.
Of all these groups IPOB and Boko Haram have been designated as terrorist organizations by the Federal Government. This development in relation to IPOB is unfortunate. Book Haram is an armed organization which has attacked and occupied Nigerian territory hoisted its flag and appointed local authority governments
It has abducted and abused Nigerian women kidnapped and imprisoned many and killed over two hundred thousand people. It is still involved in guerilla warfare against Nigeria yet the Federal Government is negotiating with them. No member of Boko Haram captured by the military is under trial, as far as I know. Members of this Federal Government are on record for condemning the previous Government for brutal murder of Boko Haram members and condemning the retired Chief of Army Staff for zealous prosecution of the anti-terror campaign. Members of the sect who confess to a change of mind have been received along with their abducted female partners in the Presidency and rehabilitated even by recruitment into the army. Today, the country is threatened by a new rise of Islamic insurgents.
The declaration of IPOB as a terrorist organization is in my view hurried, unfair, and not in conformity with the intendment of the law. Whereas I am not completely in agreement with some of the methods of IPOB like it’s inappropriate and divisive broadcast, the uncontested evidence given by the Attorney General of the Federation in an interlocutory action claiming that IPOB attempted and/or actually snatched guns from law enforcement agents are, if proven, merely criminal offences. They do not constitute enough evidence to meet international law definitions of a terrorist organization. Happily, the United States Embassy in Nigeria, sometimes ago, shared this conclusion and asserted that the United States Government does not recognize IPOB as a terrorist organization. This same unarmed IPOB that is being stigmatized by the Nigerian government had its members murdered in Asaba, Nkpor, Aba and Port Harcourt simply for having public demonstrations without the Federal Government ordering a judicial inquiry. Instead, after I called for one and Amnesty International provided evidence that 150 of them were killed, the Chief of Army Staff then, set up an inquiry composed of serving and retired army officers thus abandoning the rules of natural justice which prescribes that you cannot be a judge in your own court. The Nigerian Press should investigate these assertions and bring a peaceful resolution to this impasse.
The Igbos in Nigeria see the treatment of IPOB as unfair, discriminatory and overhanded. They see the move as an attempt to encourage a profiling of Igbos in the international security arena.
We know of other self-determination groups in Nigeria that are armed and have destroyed government and private sector installations and wells and have taken several Nigerians hostage that government prefers to negotiate with rather than label them as terrorist organizations.
Fulani Herdsmen otherwise called the Fulani militants have ravaged farms in Middle belt, South West, and South Eastern Nigerian killing several farmers in the process. In January 2016 they killed 500 farmers and their families in Agatu in Benue State. In Enugu State, they murdered more than 100 farmers in Ukpabi Nimbo in April 2016. Photographs depicting them with automatic rifles trend in the entire world media, yet not one of them is facing criminal charges, nor is Operation Python Dance being conducted in the areas where they ravage and kill, and the Federal Government describes them as criminals and treat them with levity notwithstanding their classification by the Global Terrorist Index as the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world (see British Independence Newspaper, 18th November 2015). The London Guardian Newspaper of 12th July 2016 indicated that Fulani Herdsmen killed one thousand people in 2014. Today the numbers reached five hundred thousand. A medium security prison was invaded in Abuja and detained terrorists allowed to escape without any resistance from our security forces.
Apart from domestic security, our economy is bleeding due to several other reasons.
On 23rd October 2022, Nduka Orjinmo writing for BBC News, Abuja reported that “In Delta State, thieves built their own 4km (2.5miles) of long pipeline through the heavily guarded creeks to the Atlantic Ocean. These barges and vessels blatantly loaded the stolen oil from a 24 feet oil pipe visible from miles on the open waters. “Crude oil is Nigeria’s main export but production and revenue, has been dwindling for years because of thieves. Authorities say, “oil production fell from 2.5 million barrels per day in 2011 to just over 1 million in July 2022, according to the regulator (making it impossible for us to meet our OPEC production quota).
Authorities also say that more than $3.3bn dollars (£2.9bn) has been lost to crude oil theft since last year and at a time when other oil producers are having a petro dollars splurge, Nigeriacan’t even meet its OPEC production quota. And it is not that the country can afford to lose money to thieves as it is gripped by widespread poverty and heavily indebted.
Nigerian’s oil industry has a documented history of corruption, from an unending fuel subsidy scheme where no one actually knows how much is imported, to the shadowy allotment of oil exploration blocks. Chief Ekpemupolo known as Tompolo is the security contractor with the responsibility of unearthing this large scale crude oil theft. Commenting on the thieves, he said in Channels TV that”many of the security people are involved because there is no way you can load a vessel without settling (bribing) the security people in that region”.(3)
Carl Milton Bernstein, an American investigative Journalist and author while a young reporter for Washington Post teamed up with Bob woodward and both of them uncovered the crimes which led to the congressional investigation of Watergate scandal that ultimately led to the resignation of Richard Nixonas President of the United States of America. This is the power of Journalists or dare I say of editors. Why have the Nigerian editors been unable to unravel the massive robbery of our oil reserves or the subsidy looters?
Nigeria’s present problems are worse than Watergate scandal. We have a total collapse of confidence in our government. When a Federal Accountant Generalis facing charges of acting in cohort of other Federal Civil Servants, consultants and representatives of the Federal Government for stealing Government funds and the case is going through such a sluggish delay but Nnamdi Kanu’s acquittal can in a few days bereversed by the Federal Court of Appeal, it simply means that ridding our country of corruption is not a priority.
Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Anthony Enaharo as journalists stood their grounds in fighting colonial rule. A fight to defend our hallowed values and the soul of our nation is the greatest act of patriotism. Your pen is of inestimable value when you use it patriotically to salvage our value slide and the rudderless movement of our state vessel. The Nigerian editor has enormous power in exercising his freedom of expression as enshrined in our constitution.
You must set the agenda for this coming election. That agenda must require our candidates to speak up on their policies regarding:-
(i) Fighting corruption
(ii) Restructuring
(iii) Transiting our country from a consumption economy to a production economy.
(iv) Stopping the brain drain occasioned by the exodus of our best brains to more promising climes
(v) The overthrow of merit, prudent management and accountability in the public services
(vi) Our overblown and over financed legislatures
(vii) A scrutiny of our Judiciary which exposes corruption and several other negative tendencies that compromise justice
(viii) The incapacity of our armed forces, previously respected in international peace-keeping operations in the Congo, Liberia and lately Gambia but now appearing to be completely overcome by Boko Haram to the extent that our School Of Infantry can be easily invaded by terrorists not to talk of our farmlands in Katsina, Kaduna and several other states
(ix) You must interrogate the failure of the Nigerian Police Force leading to the ENDSARS riots.
(x) We must interrogate the Arab Spring and its aftermath in order to avert its occurrence here.
(xi) We must examine stories of nations like Israel and USA
(xii) We must thoroughly investigate the readiness of INEC to conduct a free and fair election. Will the servers breakdown again?
Nwodo a former Minister of Information and President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide presented this paper during the 2022 All Nigerian Editors Conference in Owerri, Imo State on November 9-13, 2022.
Any leading Presidential candidate who doesn’t have well thought out policies on these issues is not fit to lead Nigeria.
We hear today of speculation regarding the health condition of our Presidential Aspirants. We have a President who has spent so many days out of his eight year tenure in foreign hospitals not to talk about the cost of treatment. This makes it a national imperative to investigate the health of Aspirants to that office.
Tobi Aworinde of the Punch Newspaper told us on August 1st, 2021 that our current President has spent a total of 201 days on foreign medical trips since his assumption of office seven years and seven months ago.(4) This figure will be updated when he returns from his present trip. In any other clime, the National Assembly would have amended the electoral laws to provide for independent medical examination for all Presidential Aspirants. It is not yet late for such an amendment to be made.
As editors, you are the authors of reforms on national values, ethics and conduct of aspirants and holders of public office. Your power is coterminous with the nature of your work. In a way you wield and sustain the conscience of the nation. You help, on the basis of your informed editorials to cultivate our values and standards for public office holders. I believe that if you conducted a careful inventory of properties of some past and present public office holders including civil servants and members of the judiciary, you would expose so much as to provoke an inquiry into how some of those assets were acquired.
To who much is given, much is expected. As editors in the public and private media you have a pivotal influence in the affairs of this country, you have the wherewithal to progressively reform our values. You can stop the disdain with which our children hold us, for destroying their collective patrimony and heritage by acts of omission or commission. You can help to rebuild their confidence in our country. Already they are in a rage which can consume us if we don’t act fast.
Remember Harold Macmillan’s words to the British in the wake of Nationalists movements in Africa. He said, on a visit to South Africa on February 3rd, 1960, in a speech to the South Africa Parliament, “We have seen the awakening of national consciousness in peoples who have for centuries lived in dependence upon some other powers… The wind of change is blowing through this continent and whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact. We must accept it as a fact and our national policies must take account of it” (5)
I like to end this speech by quoting William Shakespeare, in Julius Caesar, where he said “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”
Nigerian editors, arise and defend our country
Arise and interrogate our politicians and businessmen.
Arise and define our politics
Hesitate and be defined by history
I thank you for your kind attention.

JOHN NNIA NWODO
OWERRI, IMO STATE NOVEMBER 2022

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Mobilising Citizens For Sustainable Democracy In Nigeria: The Power Of Editors (I)

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I am honoured to be amongst you, members of The Nigerian Guild of Editors, today and to be asked to be your guest speaker at your 2022 annual conference. The topic of my lecture today, Mobilizing Citizens for Sustainable Democracy, the Power of Editors, was chosen by you. I therefore assume that you want an opinion of one of the consumers of your production rather than one of you. Let me however disclose that even though I am a lawyer and an economist and therefore not a journalist, I have been Special Assistant to President Shehu Shagari, of blessed memory, on Information. I have also been, for about eight months, Nigerian’s Minister of Information and Culture under H.E General Abdulsalami Abubakar. I am therefore fairly abreast with working among journalists, making rules and influencing law making with regard to your profession and managing some journalists in areas where I have worked. This makes me an exceptional consumer of your product.
The following questions will need to be answered before we dwell on the topic for today’s lecture.
(i) Who is a journalist in Nigeria?
(ii) What qualifications must you have in order to practice journalism in Nigeria?
(iii) What statutes govern the professional practice of journalism?
As far as I know, unlike other professions like Medicine, Engineering and Law you basically require no particular professional qualification to be an editor. Current practices however require you to have a good knowledge of English language, knowledge of media production and communication, ability to read and communicate effectively in English, excellent written communication skills, ability to work with others, digital skills and membership of Nigerian Union of Journalists.
The danger in this lack of professional certification is that there are absolutely no possibilities of disbarring a journalist on the basis of dereliction from professional regulations except through disciplinary measures of the Nigerian Guild of Editors or the National Union of Journalists. Civil and criminal law are however awash with provisions on libel, defamation and misrepresentation that not only affect all citizens but may be more relevant in checking excesses in the practice of journalism. It is in this respect that I congratulate you for having a virile association of Nigerian Guild of Editors and the Nigerian Union of Journalists which through their internal rules can sanitize your profession of bad eggs whose demeanor may earn you unwanted bad reputation. I know that I speak the minds of many Nigerians in urging you to activate your professional organizations in codifying your rules and ethics in such a manner that public confidence can grow in your ability to uphold the truth.
Nowadays it has become habitual for notable politicians to own large media houses in order to protect themselves from media onslaught and also take on their adversaries in political propaganda.
In their book, The Elements of Journalism, Bill Korac and Tom Rosensties hold that a Journalist’s first obligation is to the truth. They wrote that, “All truths-even the laws of science – are subject to revision but we operate them in the meantime because they are necessary and they work. Journalists must seek a practical and functional forum of truth. It is not truth in the absolute or philosophical or scientific sense but rather a pursuit of the truths by which we can operate on a day to day basis”
Continuing they wrote that, “the Journalist’s truth is a process that begins with the professional discipline of assembling and verifying facts. The Journalists try to convey a fair and reliable account of their meaning, subject to further investigation. The Journalists first loyalty is to citizens. The Journalist whether a media corporation answering to advertisers and shareholders or a blogger with his own personal beliefs and priorities must show an ultimate allegiance to citizens. They must strive to put the public interest – and the truth – above their own self-interest or assumptions.”(1)
As I was preparing for this lecture it occurred to me that in mobilizing citizens for sustainable democracy in Nigeria, the editors must first of all agree on the most fundamental problems facing Nigeria before they can mobilize citizens to take informed decisions about who can deal with the fundamental problems. As I was reading through the maze of reports on the issues for determination in the forthcoming election, I received a report of views of our colonial masters at the formation of this nation and after, presented by Dele Ogun, Convener of The Fatherland Group, National Liberal Club, Whitehall, London. In his speech entitled “Nigeria And Britain After Elizabeth”, which I thought I should share with you, he said quoting
Oliver Littleton Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Chandos, who said in his 21st May 1953 contributions to Emergency Debates on Nigeria’s Constitutional future, in the House of Lords, one week to Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation
“Recent events have shown that it is not possible for the three regions of Nigeria to work together effectively in a Federation so closely knit as that provided by the present constitution. HM’s government in the UK while greatly regretting this, considered that the constitution will have to be redrawn to provide for greater regional autonomy and for the removal of power of intervention by the centre in matters which without detriment to the other regions be placed entirely with regional competence. It is at the same time necessary to ensure that the common economic and defence requirements of all regions are secured”
He also referred to
Sir Detor Smithers,Parliamentary Private Secretary, to Min of State and Secretary of State in the Colonial Office 1952 – 1959, Sec Gen Council of Europe 1964 – 69 writing in Times on July 15, 1998who said,
“During the negotiations for the Independence of Nigeria the view of the Secretary of State at that time, with which I agreed, was that in Nigeria, we should attempt to put together a large and powerful state with ample material resources which will play a leadingpart in the affairs of the continent and the world. This was attractive but it involved forcing several different ethnic and cultural groups into a single political structure
The negotiations were complex and very difficult, the chief problem as I remember, relating significantly to the control of the police and the military. In the retrospect of 40 years, it is clear that this was a great mistake which has cost many lives and would probably continue to do so. It would have been better to establish several smaller states in a free trade area.
In exculpation, it must be said that we did not then have the examples of the collapse of Yugoslavia and of the Soviet Union before our eyes. It should now be clear for all but the wilfully blind to see, that it is extremely dangerous to force diverse racial and social entities into a single rigid structure such as that which is being built upon the foundations of the Maastricht Treaty. Recent history suggests that it would be best to complete the development of the Common Market and to call a halt to political integrations in Europe that we all know about Brexit”
Concluding his speech Dele Ogun said, “I turn to the French Philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau”, “The problem is to form a forum of association which will defend and protect with the whole common force, the person and good of each association and in which each while uniting himself with all, may still obey himself alone and remain as free as before. This is the fundamental problem of which the Social Contract provides the solution for. He then called for the Orange Union in contradistinction to union of the Apple. When you peel the skin of the Orange, you will see the segments sitting comfortably side by side together making the composite whole, whilst when you peel the skin of the Apple you will see the indistinguishable mess. That Orange Union in which the ethnic groups uniting to make the whole an association in which they may obey their own priority and remain as free before. (2)”
When mobilizing citizens for sustainable democracy the most important challenge is to identify the major problems of the country. Dele Ogun identifies the structure of the country as our most fundamental problem.
Our current constitution was fashioned by the military. It is not autochthonous. In law it has no validity. It was neither a product of an elected assembly nor that of a public plebiscite. Nobody voted for it except a group of military unelected officers. Its character is based on distribution rather than production of wealth. It collapsed the pre independent agreement of the component parts of this country (represented by their elected officials) as the basis of our Federation. It relied on dependence on oil wealth as a basis for our common existence. Consequently the previous grand cotton production, the groundnut pyramids, the palm oil drums, the palm kernel pyramids, the rubber plantations, the cocoa plantations have all disappeared giving way to over dependence on oil, imports and federal dominance in wealth creationwhichhas eluded us. Local initiatives in agricultural development has given way to white elephant projects, subsidy, dead refineries, oiltheft, falling standards in education, low food production and health care.(Give examples of your childhood experience in education, health and food production)
Arising from these explanations editors must focus attention on the views of candidates on restructuring. Whenever restructuring is raised, some erroneously think that the whole essence is to regionalize the control of oil resources and deny non-oil producing areas of the revenue accruing from oil. Far from it. It was never so in the past. The Federal Government still had, in the past, a percentage of all mineral production from the regions. Besides, a model based on sharing of Government revenue must give way to a new structure that will challenge and drive productivity in different regions across the country. This new model must take into account that the factors driving productivity in today’s world are no longer driven by fossil oil but rather the proliferation of a knowledge-based economy. The restructuring of Nigeria into smaller and independent federating units and the devolution of powers to these federating units to control exclusively their human capital development, mineral resources, agriculture, and power (albeit with an obligation to contribute to the federal government) is the only way to salvage our fledging economy. Restructuring will devote attention to the new wealth areas, promote competition and productivity as the new federating units struggle to survive. It will drastically reduce corruption as the large Federal parastatals which gulp Government revenue for little or no impact dissolve and give way to smaller and viable organs in the new Federating units.
Those campaigning against restructuring in Nigeria have painted an unfortunate and untrue picture that those of us in support of restructuring are doing so in order to deny the Northern States who have not yet any proven oil reserves of the ability to survive. This is unfortunate. The new model we propose for Nigeria recognizes that revenue in the world today is promoted by two main sources namely, human capital development leveraging on technology to drive the critical sectors of the economy and agriculture. Ten years ago the top ten companies in the world were the likes of EXXON Mobil, Shell, and Total. Today the top eight companies in the world are represented by technology related companies. They include Apple, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Amazon and lately Twitter.
The example of Netherlands in Agriculture is also relevant here. The Netherlands is the 18th largest economy in the world. It has a land area of about 33.9,000 square kilometres. Niger State, one of Nigeria’s 37 administrative units has about 74,000 square kilometres. Netherlands, four years ago had over $100 billion from agricultural exports annually, contributed mainly by vegetables and dairy. Nigeria’s oil revenue has never in any one year reached $100 billion. Northern Nigeria is the most endowed agriculturally in Nigeria. Its tomatoes, carrots, cabbages, cucumbers, tubers, grains, livestock and dairy feed the majority of Nigerians in spite of its huge reserve of unexploited export potentials. In a restructured Nigeria, Northern Nigeria with the right agricultural policies will be the richest part of Nigeria.
Our analysis here must be viewed from the background that datelines have been fixed by OECD countries and China for the cessation of production of automobiles and machines dependent on fossiloil. This development and the new technology for production of shale oil in the United States has made world dependence on Nigeria’s crude oil a rapidly declining phenomenon. All over Europe and America, electric cars are now a first preference for first time buyers.
In the face of this economic reality, the population reference Bureau predicts that Nigeria will in 2050 become the world’s fourth largest population with a population of 397 million coming after China, India and the United States of America. This is only 30 years away!!
Any other country in our situation would have declared a state of emergency long ago to plan for the day oil price will fall!!!
Saudi Arabia is investing $110 billion to develop its estimated 200 trillion cubic feet of wet gas by 2036. When completed it will provide $8.6 billion annual income and add $20 billion annually to its gross domestic product. This is apart from the production boost its economy will receive from an increased, cheaper and diversified source of energy.
Right now research has reached at an advanced stage in the United States on a new all – solid – state hybrid solar cell based on organic-inorganic metal halide called PEROVSKITE (CH3 NH3 PBX3) which using solar power technology has the capacity of turning sun light into energy and expanding the science of medical imaging in newer and more profound dimensions. The photoelectric power conversion efficiency of the Perovskite solar cells has increased from 3.8% in 2009 to 22.1% in 2016, making Perovskite solar cells the best potential candidate for the new generation of solar cells to replace traditional silicon solar cells in the future. Light absorption and photoelectric conversion has become better, more efficient and a threat to oil based economy!!
Research has also advanced in the US and Europe on 5G telecommunications which has achieved an improved quality and speed of internet communications that promotes new models of self-driven cars, better movies downloads, improved road navigation and a new medical diagnostic tool called the Tricorder. China is already deploying 5G technology through its mega telecommunication company called Huawei
A new cellphone battery called Grapheme batteries will be developed soon to replace lithium batteries. These grapheme batteries will charge in 20 minutes instead of the average 90 minutes for conventional lithium batteries. It can stand 1,500 charge cycles instead of the 300-500 cycles of lithium batteries. It isalready at trial stage
Israeli former Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has recently informed the world of his country’s new digital explorations. Apart from discovering the cure for cancer and the capacity to make life interminable, Israel can by drone technology determine the chemical deficiency of a plant in a farm without setting foot on the farm. It can also cure the deficiency by drone technology without entering the farm.
Nwodo, a former minister of information, and president general of Ohanaeze Ndigbo worldwide presented this paper during 2022 All Nigerian Editors Conference in Owerri, Imo State November 9-13.

 

USA has also advanced drone technology with the capacity to go to war and shoot from self-driven drones and kill decisively without risking any human life in the field. Recently this technology was used to exterminate an Iranian General considered a huge security threat to the United States.
These discoveries underline the importance of education in National Development.
According to UNICEF, one in every five of the World’s out of school children is in Nigeria. Even though primary education is officially free and compulsory, about 10.5 million of Nigeria’s children aged 5 – 14 years are out of school.
In 1970 when the war ended and I gained admission into University of Ibadan to study economics, studying in a Nigerian University was such a pleasure. To begin with, my roommate then, Okey Ezeokeke and I lived in a two in one room apartment. The university laundered 8 clothes per week for us (trousers and shirts). In addition, two sets of bed sheets were laundered for us weekly. Our shower ran twenty four hours, our toilets flushed always. In each hall of residence we had a bar and buttery where you could have cold drinks and confectionaries at affordable prices directly from breweries and the university catering department. You were also allowed to entertain your guests at these air-conditioned lounges.
Each faculty had a library apart from the central university library. Every journal published in the world was available in our libraries within two weeks of publication. We had a university press which made publication of books by our lecturers easier and the books affordable. The university had a busy bookshop which sold text books, journals, magazines and novels. Accessibility to knowledge was guaranteed even without digital technology. Lecturers were encouraged to publish.
Because of their scholarly publications, they were demanded globally. Every year so many lecturers were engaged inprominent universities all over the world. Every year several lecturers served out their sabbatical and returned with new knowledge, new exposure, modern cars and a global and cosmopolitan saga. Many students developed ambitions to become lecturers. The first class graduates were retained as assistant lecturers to take us in tutorial classes. The tutorial classes explained the lectures, deepened our knowledge of the subject matter and took us through past question papers in order to widen our comprehension and prepare us for examinations. Suddenly all these have disappeared. Instead, handouts have taken over because they are sold for extra cash by lecturers even when they contain very little or represent copying or plagiarism!!

When you don’t buy them, class reps note you and report you to the lecturer and in some cases it is counted against you in the exams. Vice Chancellor after Vice Chancellor fight this menace but they persist because the bench mark has fallen, the incomes have fallen, the foreign lure no longer exists because our degrees have become worthless. Businessmen and Politicians as well as pretty female students get degrees without attending lectures!! If the source of knowledge is contaminated, like a contaminated water reservoir, can you get clean water? Once upon a time, a seating Governor was admitted as a student in one of our universities, he pretended to attend lectures inspite of his busy schedules, which made it impossible for him to attend all his lectures, but he was awarded a degree. Is such a degree respectable? Does this kind of practice recommend such a University as credible?
This brings me to the question of what form Nigeria will assume under a restructured arrangement and how its restructuring can be brought about. Two basic models have been canvassed for restructuring in Nigeria. A conservative model aimed at maintaining the status quo has been proposed to mean simply a shedding of some of the exclusive powers of the Federal Government, like issuing of mining licenses, permission for constructing of Federal roads and shedding of regulatory powers over investments in critical sectors of the economy like power and mineral resources. This model merely scratches the surface of the problem. It avoids the fundamental issue of devolution of powers.
The second model calls for a fundamental devolution of powers to the States as federating units and a lean Federal Government with exclusive powers for external defence, customs, immigration, foreign relations and a Federal legislature and judiciary to make and interpret laws in these exclusive areas.
This second model proposes states as the federating units with two different approaches. The first approach simply wants the States as the Federating units and a Federal Government with limited powers. It wants the states to control a percentage of revenue accruing from their areas and contribute an agreed percentage of such revenue to the federal government.
The second approach proposes the states as the federating units with a Region at each of the six geopolitical units whose constitution will be agreed to and adopted by the states in the geopolitical region. The regions will have the powers to merge existing states or create new ones. There will be regional and state legislatures and judiciary dealing with making and interpreting laws made in the respective political entities. This approach proposes a revenue sharing formulae of 15% to the Federal Government, 35% to the regional government and 50% to the State Governments.
To achieve a national consensus on this subject requires a national discussion. Regrettably, the ruling party, APC which promised restructuring in its manifesto after two years and four months in office appointed a committee to define what sort of restructuring it wants for Nigeria. The matter ended there. The Committee report after being adopted by its National Executive Committee was never implemented by the Government. To make matters worse, none of the other political parties have come up with any clear-cut route for achieving a consensus on this matter.
The National Assembly itself is a reflection of the deep ethnic divisions in the country and the Northern majority conferred on it by the military makes it highly unacceptable to Southern Nigeria. Recent resolutions made by it on devolution of powers have not helped the situation.
In the recent past, following massive disenchantment by our youths, self-determination groups have sprung up in Nigeria. The self-determination groups include IPOB, Boko Haram MASSOB, YELICOM, Arewa Youths, Niger Delta Republic and Republic of the Middle Belt.
Of all these groups IPOB and Boko Haram have been designated as terrorist organizations by the Federal Government. This development in relation to IPOB is unfortunate. Book Haram is an armed organization which has attacked and occupied Nigerian territory hoisted its flag and appointed local authority governments
It has abducted and abused Nigerian women kidnapped and imprisoned many and killed over two hundred thousand people. It is still involved in guerilla warfare against Nigeria yet the Federal Government is negotiating with them. No member of Boko Haram captured by the military is under trial, as far as I know. Members of this Federal Government are on record for condemning the previous Government for brutal murder of Boko Haram members and condemning the retired Chief of Army Staff for zealous prosecution of the anti-terror campaign. Members of the sect who confess to a change of mind have been received along with their abducted female partners in the Presidency and rehabilitated even by recruitment into the army. Today, the country is threatened by a new rise of Islamic insurgents.
The declaration of IPOB as a terrorist organization is in my view hurried, unfair, and not in conformity with the intendment of the law. Whereas I am not completely in agreement with some of the methods of IPOB like it’s inappropriate and divisive broadcast, the uncontested evidence given by the Attorney General of the Federation in an interlocutory action claiming that IPOB attempted and/or actually snatched guns from law enforcement agents are, if proven, merely criminal offences. They do not constitute enough evidence to meet international law definitions of a terrorist organization. Happily, the United States Embassy in Nigeria, sometimes ago, shared this conclusion and asserted that the United States Government does not recognize IPOB as a terrorist organization. This same unarmed IPOB that is being stigmatized by the Nigerian government had its members murdered in Asaba, Nkpor, Aba and Port Harcourt simply for having public demonstrations without the Federal Government ordering a judicial inquiry. Instead, after I called for one and Amnesty International provided evidence that 150 of them were killed, the Chief of Army Staff then, set up an inquiry composed of serving and retired army officers thus abandoning the rules of natural justice which prescribes that you cannot be a judge in your own court. The Nigerian Press should investigate these assertions and bring a peaceful resolution to this impasse.
The Igbos in Nigeria see the treatment of IPOB as unfair, discriminatory and overhanded. They see the move as an attempt to encourage a profiling of Igbos in the international security arena.
We know of other self-determination groups in Nigeria that are armed and have destroyed government and private sector installations and wells and have taken several Nigerians hostage that government prefers to negotiate with rather than label them as terrorist organizations.
Fulani Herdsmen otherwise called the Fulani militants have ravaged farms in Middle belt, South West, and South Eastern Nigerian killing several farmers in the process. In January 2016 they killed 500 farmers and their families in Agatu in Benue State. In Enugu State, they murdered more than 100 farmers in Ukpabi Nimbo in April 2016. Photographs depicting them with automatic rifles trend in the entire world media, yet not one of them is facing criminal charges, nor is Operation Python Dance being conducted in the areas where they ravage and kill, and the Federal Government describes them as criminals and treat them with levity notwithstanding their classification by the Global Terrorist Index as the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world (see British Independence Newspaper, 18th November 2015). The London Guardian Newspaper of 12th July 2016 indicated that Fulani Herdsmen killed one thousand people in 2014. Today the numbers reached five hundred thousand. A medium security prison was invaded in Abuja and detained terrorists allowed to escape without any resistance from our security forces.
Apart from domestic security, our economy is bleeding due to several other reasons.

On 23rd October 2022, Nduka Orjinmo writing for BBC News, Abuja reported that “In Delta State, thieves built their own 4km (2.5miles) of long pipeline through the heavily guarded creeks to the Atlantic Ocean. These barges and vessels blatantly loaded the stolen oil from a 24 feet oil pipe visible from miles on the open waters. “Crude oil is Nigeria’s main export but production and revenue, has been dwindling for years because of thieves. Authorities say, “oil production fell from 2.5 million barrels per day in 2011 to just over 1 million in July 2022, according to the regulator (making it impossible for us to meet our OPEC production quota).
Authorities also say that more than $3.3bn dollars (£2.9bn) has been lost to crude oil theft since last year and at a time when other oil producers are having a petro dollars splurge, Nigeriacan’t even meet its OPEC production quota. And it is not that the country can afford to lose money to thieves as it is gripped by widespread poverty and heavily indebted.
Nigerian’s oil industry has a documented history of corruption, from an unending fuel subsidy scheme where no one actually knows how much is imported, to the shadowy allotment of oil exploration blocks. Chief Ekpemupolo known as Tompolo is the security contractor with the responsibility of unearthing this large scale crude oil theft. Commenting on the thieves, he said in Channels TV that”many of the security people are involved because there is no way you can load a vessel without settling (bribing) the security people in that region”.(3)
Carl Milton Bernstein, an American investigative Journalist and author while a young reporter for Washington Post teamed up with Bob woodward and both of them uncovered the crimes which led to the congressional investigation of Watergate scandal that ultimately led to the resignation of Richard Nixonas President of the United States of America. This is the power of Journalists or dare I say of editors. Why have the Nigerian editors been unable to unravel the massive robbery of our oil reserves or the subsidy looters?
Nigeria’s present problems are worse than Watergate scandal. We have a total collapse of confidence in our government. When a Federal Accountant Generalis facing charges of acting in cohort of other Federal Civil Servants, consultants and representatives of the Federal Government for stealing Government funds and the case is going through such a sluggish delay but Nnamdi Kanu’s acquittal can in a few days bereversed by the Federal Court of Appeal, it simply means that ridding our country of corruption is not a priority.
Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Anthony Enaharo as journalists stood their grounds in fighting colonial rule. A fight to defend our hallowed values and the soul of our nation is the greatest act of patriotism. Your pen is of inestimable value when you use it patriotically to salvage our value slide and the rudderless movement of our state vessel. The Nigerian editor has enormous power in exercising his freedom of expression as enshrined in our constitution.
You must set the agenda for this coming election. That agenda must require our candidates to speak up on their policies regarding:-
(i) Fighting corruption
(ii) Restructuring
(iii) Transiting our country from a consumption economy to a production economy.
(iv) Stopping the brain drain occasioned by the exodus of our best brains to more promising climes
(v) The overthrow of merit, prudent management and accountability in the public services
(vi) Our overblown and over financed legislatures
(vii) A scrutiny of our Judiciary which exposes corruption and several other negative tendencies that compromise justice
(viii) The incapacity of our armed forces, previously respected in international peace-keeping operations in the Congo, Liberia and lately Gambia but now appearing to be completely overcome by Boko Haram to the extent that our School Of Infantry can be easily invaded by terrorists not to talk of our farmlands in Katsina, Kaduna and several other states
(ix) You must interrogate the failure of the Nigerian Police Force leading to the ENDSARS riots.
(x) We must interrogate the Arab Spring and its aftermath in order to avert its occurrence here.
(xi) We must examine stories of nations like Israel and USA
(xii) We must thoroughly investigate the readiness of INEC to conduct a free and fair election. Will the servers breakdown again?
Any leading Presidential candidate who doesn’t have well thought out policies on these issues is not fit to lead Nigeria.
We hear today of speculation regarding the health condition of our Presidential Aspirants. We have a President who has spent so many days out of his eight year tenure in foreign hospitals not to talk about the cost of treatment. This makes it a national imperative to investigate the health of Aspirants to that office.
Tobi Aworinde of the Punch Newspaper told us on August 1st, 2021 that our current President has spent a total of 201 days on foreign medical trips since his assumption of office seven years and seven months ago.(4) This figure will be updated when he returns from his present trip. In any other clime, the National Assembly would have amended the electoral laws to provide for independent medical examination for all Presidential Aspirants. It is not yet late for such an amendment to be made.
As editors, you are the authors of reforms on national values, ethics and conduct of aspirants and holders of public office. Your power is coterminous with the nature of your work. In a way you wield and sustain the conscience of the nation. You help, on the basis of your informed editorials to cultivate our values and standards for public office holders. I believe that if you conducted a careful inventory of properties of some past and present public office holders including civil servants and members of the judiciary, you would expose so much as to provoke an inquiry into how some of those assets were acquired.
To who much is given, much is expected. As editors in the public and private media you have a pivotal influence in the affairs of this country, you have the wherewithal to progressively reform our values. You can stop the disdain with which our children hold us, for destroying their collective patrimony and heritage by acts of omission or commission. You can help to rebuild their confidence in our country. Already they are in a rage which can consume us if we don’t act fast.
Remember Harold Macmillan’s words to the British in the wake of Nationalists movements in Africa. He said, on a visit to South Africa on February 3rd, 1960, in a speech to the South Africa Parliament, “We have seen the awakening of national consciousness in peoples who have for centuries lived in dependence upon some other powers… The wind of change is blowing through this continent and whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact. We must accept it as a fact and our national policies must take account of it” (5)
I like to end this speech by quoting William Shakespeare, in Julius Caesar, where he said “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”
Nigerian editors, arise and defend our country
Arise and interrogate our politicians and businessmen.
Arise and define our politics
Hesitate and be defined by history
I thank you for your kind attention.

By: John Nnia Nwodo

JOHN NNIA NWODO
OWERRI, IMO STATE NOVEMBER 2022

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Wike: Translucent Political Enigma And Harbinger Of 2023 Presidential Race

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Loved at the centre and by majority of its constituent units and endeared by the opposition party, actors in Nigerian governance in persons of President Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, his counterpart have at different times and fora glued him to one sobriquet. While Vice president nicknamed him “Mr. Project”, the Governor of Oyo state tagged him “Mr. Quality Project” and President Buhari capped it all with a distinguished award for Infrastructural Delivery. At the dinner party held in honour of the awardee, his predecessor, Dr Peter Odili did not mince words to acknowledge him as “a governor whose achievements have surpassed all his predecessors. Without much colouration, aesthetics and fanciful prescriptions, the man at the centre of the discourse is Chief Nyesom Wike.
Upon assumption of office in May 29, 2015, Governor Wike introduced a synergistic approach that intertwined the executive, legislative and judicial functions in Rivers State to fast track the wheel of governance. He ensured that other arms of government, residential and official premises were befitting of their status and personalities. Little wonder, he gained a checkered history of attracting Nigerian Law School to the Treasure Base of the nation. He engaged himself with capital projects that awarded 14 flyovers with giant strides in roads constructions and rehabilitation. Nine flyovers have been completed and it is projected that 12 will be completed and commissioned by January 2023. His achievements in delivering the dividends of democracy to his people also cut across education, agriculture, sports and youth empowerment.
At a period when his party seems to be lying in “comatose”, Governor Wike sustained opposition through dispassionate, critical constructive criticism with the grandeur of esoteric rhetorics and with the firm belief that no situation is insurmountable.
As a rugged and dogged political gladiator full of energy and vibes with ample street wisdom, he further dared the political firmament of the presidential race under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Understanding the dynamics of South-South politics and his brother Governors being politicians that are amenable and susceptible to being windy, ambivalent and selfish to their lucrative selfish interest other than their collective interest, he chased his political clout to the North where he mopped-up high chunk of delegates to himself and nearly clinched the Presidential ticket but for the dead hour tribal political gymnastic of the northern politics which saw his political bosom friend disappointing him in the last hour of dire need.
But suffice it to say that Governor Wike has been reckoned with who is who in Obio/Akpor, who is who in Rivers State, who is who in Nigeria and he is eminently and ebulliently part of those who profess what happens in the Nigerian political firmament.
As an ardent party man, Governor Wike still exhibited political maturity and statesmanship by sticking to his party after the party’s primaries even with obvious humongous evidence to challenge the primaries in court. The National Chairman of PDP, Dr Iyorcha Ayu added a bitter pill to the whole episode when he could not betray his emotions by openly revealing his body language for his preference for Atiku Abubakar as he described Governor Aminu Tambuwal as the hero of the convention which eventually earned him the campaign Director General of Atiku.
Power play having conferred the Presidential ticket to the North, the campaign D-G to the North, Governor Wike propelled by humane impulse and inclination towards equity, fairness and justice with much gusto insisted that the national chairman position should go to the South irrespective of the region and that has been PDP’s worst anxiety and conundrum. The national chairman also insisted on relenting in his oars to jettison the plea urging him to resign since his tenure is spiced by legal flavour. Atiku has also refused to hearken to the voice of reason to admonish him to resign, instead, he has aligned himself with spent forces in Rivers State to prosecute his election. By this move, the political battle line was drawn. Cynics have posited that Wike is being selfish. Yours sincerely thinks not so. Ambition should be made of a sterner stuff.
Governor Wike is not asking the chairman to be zoned to South-South but to any part of the South. Governor Wike did not double-chance his political ambition like his counterparts having failed presidential primaries would summersault back to their senatorial zone.
Governor Wike did not project any of his kinsmen from Ikwerre to succeed him but went as far as Opobo/Nkpro Local Government Area to pick Siminialayi Fubura inspite of the numerical strength of his people to deliver any candidate from his area. Having not found him wanting, his traducers are now accusing him of anti-party activities because he endorsed Babajide Sanwo-Olu, the Governor of Lagos State of the All Progressive Congress (APC) extraction. It seems to me that the moth of anti-party activities is on the eye of PDP. Senator Ifeanyi Ararume bought nomination form, cleared by INEC, contested and won Gubernatorial ticket, only for PDP to tag him a leper. He went to court and the court ruled in his favour that he cannot be substituted without cogent and verifiable reason. PDP immediately rallied around the PPA candidate, Ikedi Ohakim and gave him victory at the polls. The hullabaloo in PDP now has placed Governor Wike as the most handsome groom sought by different bridal political parties and the last card in the 2023 presidential race.

By: Nkem Oputa
Barrister Oputa wrote from Port Harcourt.

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