This is the continuation of The Tie Roundable encounter with Barr OCJ Okocha (SAN), published Friday July 17, 2009. Continued from Page 17
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.
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.
Rivers State: Governance, Economy and the People
2023 Polls: ‘Media Faced Myriad Of Challenges In Performance Of Their Roles’
Being the presentation of Dr. Chima Matthew Amadi at the 19th all Nigeria Editors Conference (Anec) On November 16, 2023 at the Ibom Icon Hotels And Golf Resort, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Titled: “Post-2023 General Elections: Assessing the roles played by the media, Inec, Security agencies and others”.
I am grateful to the leader
ship of ANEC, organisers of this conference, for inviting me to give this presentation at this very important event being held at this very important time in our national history. Conferences like this are important because they help shape the national conversation and help Nigerians distill fact from fiction, take stock of situations and map a route towards the country that we all dream of.
In inviting me to give this presentation, ANEC gave me the arduous yet important task of assessing the roles played by the key stakeholders of our electoral process in the conduct of the 2023 general elections. The task is arduous due to the complexities surrounding the involvement of multiple stakeholders in varying degrees, who all have to perform their roles optimally for the successful conduct of elections. It is also arduous because one has to navigate the emotive state of large sections of the Nigerian populace, at home and abroad, who may not have a full understanding of the circumstances surrounding the elections and yet, respond passionately about it.
Yet, it is important to assess the roles played by key stakeholders in order to appraise the assess the success of the elections. We need to know who did what, when, where and how. We need to know which officials or agencies performed their tasks optimally and which did not. Only by doing so, will we be able to ascertain the areas of improvement, the areas where there are gaps that need to be filled and areas that need to be strengthened.
The stakeholders involved in the electoral eco-system can be broadly categorized into 6 groups. They are:
The electoral umpire, INEC
Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and Observer Groups
Like the fingers of one hand, these groups all need perform their roles effectively to ensure successful elections. But also, like a hand the slight lack of capacity in one finger does not prevent the functions of the hand.
As this is a gathering of senior members of the media, I will begin my assessment with the roles played by your profession. The media has always had to bear the burden of maintaining a balance during election season. This task involves maintaining a balance between:
passing information and curbing the spread of fake news;
saying things as they are while not inflaming tensions and igniting fires;
promoting free speech while dissuading hate speech, and
preserving our rich cultural heritage while dissuading ethnic, religious and tribal sentiments.
The media’s role has always been particularly important to maintain a peaceful, just and egalitarian society. It is also particularly precarious because the major political players use the media as a tool to advance their own interests.
The constant attempts by government to “regulate” (read suppress opposition voices), the rise of fake news and the decentralization of information dissemination by the rise of social media makes the role of the media all the more important, and all the more precarious.
The media faced myriad of challenges in the performance of their roles in the 2023 general elections. Notable among these was the deployment of fake news which was done blatantly and effectively by major political players or on their behalf. It was so widely done that observer agencies had to note the desperation political players had to spread damaging, but fake news, against opponents.
In many instances, the media did not live up to its fact checking responsibilities. In other instances, it did so too late. In yet other instances, it did not matter because political players persisted and the people went ahead to believe what they wanted to.
A third challenge the media faced was the deployment of incendiary and inflammatory rhetoric. Given that this was the first election since 1999 where a major political party fielded a Muslim-Muslim ticket, the nation was already charged along religious lines. This was a topic that ought to have been handled with the greater care and responsibility than it was. In the end, it pushed to the country to the brink, from which the country has not really recovered.
Closely allied to this was the conversation around the ethnicity and zoning. Like the conversation around religion, this was a charged topic. And like the conversation around religion, the conversation around ethnicity and zoning was perhaps not handled with the care and sensitivity with which it should have been.
One can reasonably surmise that the media could have, and should have, done better in assessing the twin issues of religion and ethnicity and their roles in our society, as well as leading the national conversation about the importance of religious consideration vis a vis the need for national cohesion and tangible development.
In my assessment, the media did not do enough to point out the critical security challenges the electoral umpire faced before, during and after the elections. For instance, over a 4-year period between 2019 and 2023 there were 50 attacks on INEC facilities in the country. A breakdown shows that in 2019, INEC recorded eight attacks; 22 in 2020, 12 in 2021, and eight in 2022. The incidents occurred in Osun, Ogun, Lagos, Ondo, Bayelsa, Anambra, Imo, Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Cross River, Enugu, Ebonyi, Kaduna, Borno, and Taraba states. One is of the opinion that not enough media spotlight was given to these attacks which were obviously done to weaken the capacity of the electoral umpire to conduct free and fair elections.
Finally, the media did not always perform its role of leading the conversation on critical issues. In some instance, the media caught onto those issues late and in others, not at all. The end result was that the public often got its information and had its narrative shaped by opinions on social media by political players, most of whom had agendas.
It is important to the consideration of the above identified issues to probe whether the ownership structures of the media house and the political inclinations of their owners impede the objectivity and performance of the media. In many cases, the correlation between owners and the political leanings on the one hand and the reportage and slant on critical issues on the other is very apparent for all to see, especially in cases where the owners are prominent members of political parties or are aligned with one political divide or the other.
One must also consider that many media houses simply shy away from firm, objective and consistent reportage of critical issues simply for the fear of losing advertising patronage, particularly from government. As a result, critical issues and events are barely discussed and, where reported, are barely footnotes hidden at the bottom of pages in obscure segments of print and audiovisual programming.
I will not deign to tell professionals such as yourselves how to carry out their jobs. I will, however, sound a note of caution. Social media presents a valid threat to the existence of conventional media and will weaken its effectiveness and reduce its relevance if the media does not retake the lead on reportage, lead conversation relevant to the Nigerian people and provide unbiased and objective analysis of the issues as they occur.
The Nigerian media needs to find the fine balance between the instinctive need to survive and pay the bills vis a vis the duty to give fair, unbiased and objective reportage on issues are critical to the Nigerian people. You have to evolve or you will slowly watch the media industry as you know it die.
Seeing as INEC is the constitutionally authorized body to prepare for, conduct elections and announce results I will assess their performance second. In this wise, it is important to point out that elections are a process not an event. It is a process that commences with the announcement of the Notice of Elections, goes through Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), collection of Permanent Voter Cards, sundry logistic arrangements, political party primaries and the selection of candidates, campaigns, campaign finance, voter accreditation, voting, collation of results and announcement of results.
Any credible assessment of elections in Nigeria has to appraise the entire process from start to finish, and not pick at parts of the process in isolation. In this wise, it is worthy to note that the 2023 elections had the following important highpoints:
Despite certain challenges, CVR and PVC collection went rather well resulting in the highest number of eligible voters in our national history at over 94m.
This is the first election in the last 12 years that was not postponed.
There was a very visible improvement in the logistic of deployment of election materials across the country as a result of which accreditation and voting started on time across the country.
In times past, the announcement of results no matter how invalid could only be overturned by the Courts. However, the Commission was able to exercise its power of review to prevent constitutional crises in a number of states, most notably in Adamawa State.
There are many other examples. However, most of the post-election assessment of the elections has unfairly been narrowed down to the deployment of the Bimodal Verification and Accreditation System (BVAS) and the Instant Result Viewing portal, IReV.
BVAS was designed to perform the dual role of curbing incidents of impersonation by ensuring that only a properly accredited voter could cast his or her ballot and transmitting the results from the polling unit directly to the IReV portal.
Several local and foreign observers have put its performance at 98% success rate in ensuring successful accreditation of voters. This level of success is phenomenal and is evidence that a lot of work has been done to curb incidents of multiple voting and overvoting.
However, the BVAS machines suffered a set-back when they encountered a glitch in the system which caused a collapse of the IReV portal making it impossible for the results to be transmitted in real time. This led to INEC suspending the electronic transmission of results and relying on manual transmission, as also allowed by law, while work was being done to fix the system.
The Commission receiving severe criticism over the occurrence of this glitch, perhaps rightly so. But having suffered a technical glitch in the middle of election day, INEC did the best it could, in compliance with the provisions of the law, and ensured that the manual transmission of the results was done, and copies of Forms EC8 appropriately handed over to the political party agents as well as pasted on a wall at the polling unit.
I will not bother to go into the fine print of the legalese stipulated by our court systems. But I want to draw your attention to certain numbers:
PARTY NO OF VOTES
APC 15, 424,921
PDP 12, 853,162
Difference 2, 571,759
PARTY NO OF VOTES
Difference 3, 928,869
PARTY NO OF VOTES
APC 8, 794,726
PDP + LP + NNPP 14, 582,740
Difference 5, 788,014
APC basically maintained the number of votes they garnered in the 2015 and 2019 elections, losing only 233, 074.
PDP lost 1, 590,184 votes between 2015 and 2019. This reduction in votes can be attributed to a variety of reasons.
Amadi is a human rights activist based in Abuja.
By the 2023 elections, the opposition support base had been balkanized into 3 parties – PDP, Labour Party (LP) and New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP).
– Between 2019 and 2023, APC lost a staggering 6, 397,121 votes, a situation reflective of the public disapproval of President Buhari’s management of the country.
– Between 2019 and 2023, the opposition gained 3, 319,762 votes, a situation reflective of the public desire for a change of the ruling party.
– The results indicate that the ruling party actually lost the election. The opposition actually won the election. The ruling party cannot lose a rigged election by more than 6million votes.
– The only reason why there has not been a change of the ruling party is because votes given to the opposition were distributed to 3 parties rather than a single party.
Given these numbers and these facts, it is next to impossible to conclude that the elections were rigged.
One must admit that the Commission faced a number of other challenges in the conduct of the election, most of which were not of its own making. If one considers that the elections were held in the middle of a debilitating cash crunch as well as a fuel scarcity, one will reach a conclusion that the Commission deserves commendation for getting its logistics around the distribution of sensitive electoral materials right.
Of course, one cannot complete an assessment of INEC’s role in the 2023 elections without commenting on the poor conduct of INEC permanent and ad-hoc staff in isolated incidents across the country. We had instances of senior officials going rogue like in Adamawa State, where the Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), declared a candidate winner without due process of any sort of legal authority to do so.
We also had instances where ad-hoc staff, retained to ensure the smooth conduct of the elections, received monetary inducements to sabotage the same processes. We all know that many Nigerians see the elections as an opportunity to cash out and indeed create pockets of challenges in the process.
However, one must commend the Commission’s determination to follow the process of the law an ensure the prosecution of all officials caught sabotaging the electoral process. The announcement that the Commission intends to prosecute as many as 215 people for various electoral offences is commendable. If you recall, in the aftermath of the 2019 elections, the Commission prosecuted as many as 300 people for various electoral offences and secured over 200 convictions. What this means is that it is establishing a pattern for the arrest, prosecution and conviction of electoral offenders – something that was never done before.
The occurrence of internal sabotage of the electoral process was to be expected. In the months before the 2023 elections, several Resident Election Commissioners (RECs) were appointed and sworn into office. These appointments were made in apparent violation of the provisions of the law and in spite of protestations by many stakeholders over their partisan pasts. These included at least a former governorship candidate of a political party; the younger sister of the South East National Vice President of a political party; a former civil servant dismissed from service in a state on account of corruption, and the manager of a hotel belonging to a politician who served as minister at the time of the appointment.
A cursory study of the electoral trends will show that many illegal activities occurred and attempts at disrupting the system occurred in the states where these people were posted to serve.
I do not believe there was sufficient public pressure to resist these appointments and attempts at sabotaging the electoral process from within. I also do not believe that enough was done to bring this issue to the limelight.
On a connected note, one must point out that there has been a slow but remarkable departure in the “activist” outlook displayed by the Commission since 2015. This departure is not unconnected with the reduced appointment of people from the civic space and committed advocates for a return to democracy to members and acolytes of political parties who have a clear and present incentive to be biased. I am rather disappointed that this is happening, given that this activist approach has led to an improvement in the legal and regulatory framework around elections and the deployment of technology designed to improve the credibility of elections.
We have seen several instances in the past where the electoral umpire has insisted on preserving its credibility as an unbiased umpire by disowning results whose integrity it could not vouch for. Unfortunately, it has not done so often enough and seems increasingly reluctant to do so. I will give an example by citing the Kogi State gubernatorial election of 2019 and asserting that the electoral umpire had no business given the wide scale violence that destroyed the credibility of the results, a fact attested to by INEC staff, CSOs and observer groups that participated in the elections. There are so many cases where the Commission departed from recent history and failed, refused and neglected to intervene in blatant cases of electoral malpractice.
This is a stance that the Commission must depart from. Otherwise, it will give vent to increasing levels of desperation within the political class, who are already desperate enough as it is.
My final comment on the Commission is note its failure to replicate its commitment to open and transparent information dissemination as it did in 2019. In the build up to the 2019 elections, the Commission deployed all its available resources – including its chairman – on all available media platforms to keep Nigerians informed of the state of the election, especially when a postponement was announced. On the contrary, in 2023 the Commission failed to keep Nigerians sufficiently informed of events as they occurred, particularly when the IReV portal experienced a glitch leading to it malfunctioning. This failure ultimately led to a vacuum which was ultimately filled with a potent mixture of facts and conjecture that have almost undermined the credibility of the process.
8. Having spoken about the Commission, one must analyze the role played by the security agencies in the conduct of the elections. After all, without a peaceful, safe and secure environment, elections cannot be held nor results declared.
Commendably, the 2023 elections were held in a largely peaceful atmosphere across the country. In most places, people were able to arrive their polling units, cast their ballots, wait for the announcement of results and go home without any incidents or breach of the peace. One must point out that the coordinated deployment of security agents led to a drop in the casualty figures from the two previous election cycles.
However, there were a number of flashpoints in certain states that nearly led to a breakdown of law and order. Notable amongst these states are Benue, Cross Rivers, Delta, Imo, Kano, Kogi, Lagos and Rivers.
There must be some criticism for the security agencies regarding these incidents of violence. In many cases, the security agents deployed to provide security for the peaceful conduct of the elections actually provided operational cover to enable the perpetration of these acts of violence by thugs sponsored by political players. In other cases, they stood by unwilling and unable to do anything to stop the violence. And in other cases, they responded late to calls for help or did not respond at all.
It must be said that 161 reported casualties, as well as the maiming of several others and kidnappings of several others, is bad enough – no matter that there was a reduction in the occurrence of such events from previous years.
The security agencies have to do more to discipline officers who collaborate to subvert the electoral process, improve response times and train officers in de-escalation techniques while ensuring the integrity of the electoral process.
The security agencies also have to do more pro-active policing aimed at gathering intelligence and preventing these attacks before they occur. It is no longer enough to react long after the attacks have been carried out, nor has it ever been enough.
To achieve this, the security agencies have to overcome the problem of under-policing and over-policing during elections. While I am aware that it seems incongruous to this, a careful study of elections will reveal that this is an actual problem that occurs when large numbers of security agents are deployed in urban centres or specific locations to the detriment of rural areas or other locations. The result is what while elections remain peaceful in certain areas due to the concentration of security agents there, it leaves other areas susceptible to the nefarious activities of political thugs.
Hopefully, we will get to a point in the not-too-distant future where there are no casualties or breaches of the peace during the conduct of our elections.
But it almost feels like this is a vain hope given that the security agencies are mostly deployed with partisan considerations in the first place. It happens all too often that security personnel are deployed to parts of the country and allowed to operate with obvious partisan agenda. How then will elections be peaceful when the security agencies who have the duty to maintain the peace descend into the arena on behalf of one side?
And the true conundrum about this descent into the arena is that it varies according to local considerations in the various. As such, a security agency that may be pliable and favourable to a political interest in an area may be aggressive against it in another area.
Nigeria desperately needs a return to a situation where the security agencies are loyal to the Federal Republic of Nigeria and our constitution rather than this situation of being loyal to different fiefdoms and interests.
9. Civil Society Groups (CSOs) and Observer Groups
The role of CSOs and Observer groups in the 2023 electoral cycle cannot be over-emphasized. The deployment of many of the legal, regulatory and technological innovations for the 2023 elections were only possible because of the relentless pressure applied by CSOs to ensure the passage of the Electoral Act 2022. I must speak to the memory of my late friend and brother, Comrade Ariyo “Aristotle” Atoye, who drove the process and rallied critical stakeholders to pressure the National Assembly. Unfortunately, he passed away in October 2022 and did not live to see the benefits of his hard work in operation. May his soul continue to rest in peace.
Many CSOs also played very commendable roles in voter education and sensitization. They spearheaded so many initiatives designed to discourage flaws like vote buying, electoral violence and to encourage high voter turnout and peaceful conduct during the elections.
It is important to observe that the participation of CSOs was not all positive. There are several instances where CSO were established or retained with the intention of pushing negative and divisive rhetoric along regional, ethnic or religious lines or to promote fake news or to attack political opponents. In so doing, their activities served to heighten tensions and worsen the climate in which the elections were held.
This presents us with the need for an urgent national conversation around the role of CSOs in our democratic process. It has become increasingly important to find the balance between the rights to freedom of speech and the rights to freedom of association vis a vis the need for some sort of regulation that prevents organizations from exacerbating tensions during electoral season.
There were several commendable things about the participation of observer groups in this electoral cycle. Most notable amongst these was they served to point out the loopholes/gaps in the electoral process and make recommendations to plug such gaps in the future.
However, many observer groups did not observe the entire electoral process and so only gave their recommendations about election day activities. As such many of the recommendations do not give any insights about how to improve pre-election day aspects of the process.
It must be said that it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a CSO and observer group that gives a fair, balanced and objective assessment of the electoral process. And this is traceable to the vice like grip the government and donor agencies have over the activities of these organizations. It has also become increasingly frequent to see reports written by these organizations differ greatly from the press statements and media interventions they make.
The end result is that one is often left wondering whose/which agenda CSOs and observe groups serve, why the conflicting positions and where (if) one can find unbiased and objective assessments of the electoral process. And this presents a challenge to the improvement of the process as it becomes difficult to find objective ways to improve the electoral process.
For instance, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) prepared a report that assess the 2023 general election as fair and credible, a far cry from what is contained in the press statements made by the organization and media interventions given by its staff, which gained significantly more traction than the report.
It is my recommendation that more electoral observer groups get involved in the Nigerian election process from the beginning rather than only towards election day. This will, amongst other things, ensure that gaps in the process are identified and plugged well ahead of time.
I also strongly recommend that CSOs and observer groups find and toe the fine line between the instinctive need to maintain their funding and the duty to objectively assess the electoral process and report their findings to the Nigerian people.
Having discussed all else, I will now come to the biggest challenge to the electoral system itself – the politicians. It is ironic that politicians pose the biggest threat to a democratic process. However, the winner takes all nature of our political system means that politicians have the most incentive to subvert the process. And over the years, they have demonstrated the willingness and desperation to subvert it.
The ingenuity employed by politicians to seek out the loopholes in the legal and regulatory framework is enormous and their determination to find the gaps the process cannot be over emphasized.
It is the politicians that have designed the system of vote buying to circumvent the innovation of card readers and BVAS. It is the politicians that offer monetary inducements to key stakeholders in the electoral process including security agents and staff of the electoral commission to subvert the process or to look the other way. It is the politicians who continuously stress test the electoral eco-system to find the ways to weaken the process and gain an undue advantage. It is the politicians who pay thugs to disrupt the casting of votes and collation of results, and in so doing endanger the lives and properties of Nigerians.
It is now evident that the first step towards ensuring freer and more credible elections must resolve with designing systems that limit the influence politicians have over the electoral process. And this limitation must begin with reducing the influence politicians have over the appointment and employment of permanent and ad-hoc staff of the Commission.
We must also ensure speedier trials for people found subverting the process, including the politicians who offer the inducement and provide the logistic support, and enact legislation prescribing stiffer punishment for those crimes.
The challenge with achieving this objective is that we require the input of the very politicians whose excesses and influence we seek to curb in the first place. While the deployment of technology is proving very effective in curbing the shenanigans of the politicians, the human factors still remain highly susceptible to the inducements provided by the politicians.
I hope we find a solution to this conundrum soon because before our eyes the politicians are displaying and will continue to display a determination to find an undue advantage by subverting the electoral process as much as they can.
Even as I say it, the difficulty of this prospect stares me in the face. After all, it is the same politicians who perpetually refuse to abide by the internal rules of their own parties or conduct free, fair and credible primary processes, and who deploy all sorts of vicious antics against even their own party members.
Every single act of violence, every single piece of fake news, every manipulation of the electoral process, the subversion of law and regulations and the use of divisive rhetoric are always traceable to the interests of one politician or the other. And it leaves one in wonder – if you are so desperate to be voted for, why not just do good and be good to the people so they reward you with their votes? Why fail and then desperately seek to hijack the electoral process to get into office?
Nigerians seem to have the short end of the stick with its political class and scarily it appears that there is no help in sight.
11. I was a bit hesitant to include the judiciary in my assessment of the 2023 election, or indeed any other election. But its critical role in the preservation of our democracy can no longer be taken for granted. And it is my belief that the importance of the role of the judiciary and the need for it to be seen as an impartial arbiter must be restated at every available opportunity. The judiciary must now not only do justice, it must be seen to be doing justice.
This stance has become necessary in the wake of the all too frequent inconsistencies displayed by the judiciary, many times in violation of the provisions of the law and in flagrant disregard for decades of jurisprudence and decisions of the Court. Or the reliance on technicalities to determine cases rather than doing substantial justice in a bid to protect interests of politicians.
It has long since been the desired position that elections should be decided by the ballots not by the courts. However, every Nigerian must be worried when a former senator stands in the hallowed chambers of the Senate to say his wife used to give favourable judgments to his colleagues. Every Nigerian must be alarmed when a senator alleges that his election was overturned at the behest of the President of the Senate because he did not pander to certain interests. Every Nigerian must be concerned when a retiring Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria alleges that the bench is a cesspool of corruption, increasingly people by judges appointed on the basis of nepotism rather than competence and increasingly unwilling to be a fair arbiter in the best interest of the wider population.
It used to be that the outcome of certain cases can be determined by a careful study of previous decisions of our courts in the knowledge that the principles of stare decisis or judicial precedents will apply. However, this is no longer the case. It now seems “justice” is served dependent on the parties before the courts and whose interests need to be protected rather than the law.
Otherwise, how do you explain the judgment of the Supreme Court that declared Senator Ahmed Lawan as the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for Yobe North, even though he clearly did not participate in the primaries to produce a candidate? Or how do you explain the judgment of the National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal sitting in Imo State nullifying the election of Ikenga Ugochinyere as the House of Representatives member for the Ideato Federal Constituency on the basis that the primary of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) did not comply with the party’s constitution, even though the position of the law and the Supreme Court is that only members of parties who participated in a primary can challenge the outcome of that primary? The list goes on and on.
We have departed from an era when litigants approached courts as the last hope of the common man into an era where the judiciary has become a willing tool in the hands of the political elite who subvert the electoral process to further rob the people of their electoral choices.
The unfortunate thing is that this era into which we have been unwillingly pushed threatens to consume us all as it only ensures that an already desperate political class is given an extra incentive for further desperation. And unless something is urgently done to compel the judiciary to assume its role as an impartial arbiter, politicians will view elections as a no holds barred venture they must win, regardless of the rules. And the phrase, “Go to court” will continually be thrown around in condescension and mockery.
The good thing is that the judiciary can save itself. The National Judicial Commission must immediately and more forcefully implement its rules and regulations and enforce its powers of supervision and discipline of any judge found to have given judgment that fly against the letter and the spirit of the law, and the disregard of jurisprudential principles established over the years. This internal mechanism designed to self-heal must be activated while there is still hope and while the faith of the public in the judiciary can still be restored. Otherwise, a day will come when the judgment of the people will be visited on the judiciary, as it is being visited on Nigeria’s political elite.
12. I think this is a good place to bring this presentation to a close. And I’d like to end the way I began by thanking the organizers for deeming me fit to lead this conversation today and by thanking all of you present for listening to me.
13. I will close my presentation by saying a short but very poignant prayer I have come to believe in so much: Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria; and all its peoples. Amen.
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Correcting The Narrative About Fubara
A lot has been reported from the media parley our leader, former Governor Nyesom Wike, granted yesterday, where he alleged a lot of things about his successor, Governor Siminalayi Fubara, happenings in the politics of Rivers State, and the issues surrounding the crisis in the state.
A lot of us have avidly followed and had an experiential experience of the events in this state since time immemorial, irrespective of the silence of our people for fear of the uncertainty of the future. Even in our silence, we know the truth when we hear it and we know our history.
The truth is that Governor Fubara is too loyal, calm and very humble to even think of fighting anybody. Our leader, Chief Wike, even affirmed this in his media parley yesterday, wherein he stated that Sir Fubara was his best bet because the other aspirants would not have been able to tolerate him for two weeks.
A man, who wanted to destroy any structure would not have proposed to resign as governor, instead of fighting. Governor Fubara, whom we all know, has never been desperate for power because we all know how he emerged. If not for the public humiliation-laden impeachment ambush against his reputation, he still would have carried on quietly as the very humble person that he is and hoped that the issues would be resolved internally.
In this state, we heard in a recorded conversation where a local government chairman was violently threatening another, that he and Governor Fubara should get prepared for war, because he is coming for them, and the governor who has been accused of fighting the structure has not responded or taken any action against the chairman. Such could not happen during the eight years of our leader; when chairmen were suspended and their allocations deliberately delayed as punishment.
If Fubara was fighting as many people had expected him to, the man would have since dissolved his cabinet and relieved a lot of people from their duties, but alas that is not the case, which was the common practice during the administration of our leader.
Amidst the disrespect from even his cabinet members by some very powerful commissioners and chairmen, Governor Fubara has remained calm, respectful in words, and humble. Such tolerance, restraint, and humility should be studied. This is what those struggling to be governor through impeachment will never endure.
One clear take-home in all of this is that we have examined and x-rayed Governor fubara and we have found him not guilty. But as usual, the system will always come up with a reason to lead Rivers State people into a needless battle, thus the allegation of destroying the structure. How can a man who practically inherited all political office holders of the former administration be accused of such a charge?
NOW THE ISSUES.
He, Fubara is destroying our structure, I’ve asked him to maintain the structure that brought him. – Wike
Response: As a people, we can choose to feign ignorance or not but the truth is that, Governor Fubara in the beginning of his government was even called a puppet and a weakling because he practically inherited the working team of his Oga. From personal boys of our leader to special assistants, to commissioners, to security and even his chief of staff were provided for him. The elders that used to move with our leader, are still the ones moving with the governor. Every appointment so far in this state, except for a few special assistants and the two commissioners from the local government of the governor, was processed directly by the structure. So, how then has the structure been destroyed, which is yet to be made known to the public? I would not want to dwell on speculations for now, hence my question.
I’ve respected President Tinubu by keeping calm, but Governor Fubara has disrespected the President and Vice-President. – Wike
Response: After the intervention of President Tinubu in the imbroglio of a failed mutiny attempt that bedevilled our state. It is Governor Fubara, who has carried himself more in a peaceful manner. For the first time in the history of our state, the governor appeared in a state broadcast to apologise and even called the minor setback a father and son issue that will be resolved. The governor has never threatened anyone publicly, rather it is our leader, Chief Wike, who has threatened to cause more issues in the state which will cripple governance and development, even with the presidential intervention.
27 Assembly members are against the governor. – Wike
Response: That they are against the governor is no fault of Fubara, because even the members do not know why they are against him. They are only following orders as directed by the structure that purchased their forms just as the governorship forms were purchased for all aspirants. A lot of members who have dared to open up in private said they were coaxed into the decision because of their pending appeal judgment. To date, there is no public rationale as to why the failed impeachment attempt was enforced.
He is an ingrate and only ingrates will support him. – Wike
Response: For a man who was declared wanted by the EFCC because of you, yet he stayed loyal, went into hiding and took the shame all because of the structure. Then such a man cannot be said to be an ingrate. Everyone in life has one or more persons that have helped him/her to grow and disagreeing with one who helped you to grow on some certain issue does not amount to betrayal or being an ingrate.
We still remember the painstaking roles President Jonathan and his wife, Mama Patience, played in ensuring that another Ikwerre son took over as Governor of Rivers State from an Ikwerre son who had served eight years straight. Even after the efforts of these Ijaw Icons, we stopped seeing them in our state, we stopped issuing an official birthday wish to them as a state until recently, but this did not stop our Ijaw brothers and sisters in Rivers State from supporting and standing in defence of our leader, Chief Wike.
I fought my battles. – Wike
Response: Our dear leader has forgotten that he did not fight his battles alone. It was the combined efforts of all Rivers people that ensured that he came out victorious. The women of KELGA, The women of Ogu/Bolo and Okrika, the youths of PHALGA, the sons of Nyemoni in Akuku-Toru and many others, all played their part.
In all the victories of our leader, it is Rivers people that have made it possible and the Grace of GOD, so it should not be about self.
It is Atiku’s people who are trying to use Fubara against me. – Wike.
Response: If only our leader had handled matters with his son internally, and protected him from the disrespect he was subjected to amongst supposed family members, instead of attempting to use the Assembly to remove him unjustly, it would not have been a free-for-all fight.
Trying to link this to Atiku because of the presidency is a disservice to Rivers State people, because of a truth, this is just Rivers people standing and defending the integrity and personality of Governor Fubara, the number one citizen of their state, just as they did defend you, our leader.
In a society where influence outweighs democracy, the true value of our voice diminishes, as power is wielded by position rather than the genuine voice of the people.
I remember when Governor Fubara, once said that nobody should send him any message because he would show it to his Oga, our leader. The truth is, there is always a limit to how far you can continually push a humble man, no matter how loyal he is.
Until kingmakers realise that there is an elastic limit to which they can stretch their authority, everybody will contnously be called an ingrate and betrayer.
By: Ezebunwo Ichemati
Ichement, son of Rebisi Kingdom, writes from Port Harcourt
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