11 Years Of Unbroken Civil Rule: Gains, Pains, Expectations
Nigeria has had a long, tortuous and chequered history of experimentation with democracy, but never quite have it right.
On May 29, 1999, Nigeria transited from military autocracy and absolutism to democracy. Before then, the country had been under firm military rule for all but twelve years since independence in 1960.
Essentially, the militarisation of the Nigeria society and the supplanting of constitutional provisions by decrees of the successive ruling military juntas engendered a culture of lawlessness and fundamental abuses of the citizenry rights.
Nigerians were denied their basic political rights of voting for their preferred leaders under military rule. The economic and social rights of the people were seriously trampled upon by successive military rule through gross mismanagement and looting of state resources without any element of accountability.
However, the military regime of General Abubakar Abdusalami ushered democracy in Nigeria in 1999.
The administration of General Abubakar Abdusalami in preparation for committed and sincere handing over of power established the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to conduct elections for local government councils, state legislatures and governors, the National Assembly and President.
INEC successfully held these elections on December 5, 1998, January 9, 1999, February 20, and February 27, 1999 respectively.
These elections were indications of the military sincerity of handing over power to democratically elected leaders and return to civil rule.
Nevertheless, for the local government councils election, a total of nine parties were granted provisional registration with three fulfilling the requirements to contest the subsequent elections.
These parties were the Peoples Democratic Party the All Peoples Party (APP) and the predominantly South West Alliance for Democracy (AD). General Olusegun Obasanjo became the Presidential candidate of the PDP and Chief Olu Falae became the joint candidate of APP/AD Alliance.
The PDP candidate Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was subsequently elected and sworn in on May 29, 1999 thus changing the traditional October 1st handing over date in Nigeria.
The departing military authority under the Provisional Ruling Council promulgated a new constitution based largely on the suspended 1979 constitution before the May 29, 1999 inauguration of the new civilian rule.
But the new President took over a country that faced many problems, such as, economic stagnation, collapsed infrastructure, deterioration of most of its democratic institutions and institutionalised corruption coupled with culture of impunity and executive reckless.
Therefore, pertinent questions begging for answer are what have been the gains, losses, hopes and expectations of Nigerians and the international community over these past eleven years of unbroken civil rule in Nigeria?
According to retired Major Ollorowi Ollorowi, Director General of Nigeria Industrial Security Institute, one of the gains of this civil rule was the prompt retirement of political soldiers from the Armed Forces by the former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Major Ollorowi Ollorowi added that he commended the President for such bold move and step taken then “I personally commended General Olusegun Obasanjo, the former President for his bold and courageous step to retire hundreds of military officers who held political positions”.
He further stressed that this move and initiative strengthened Nigeria’s democracy and civil rule in 1999.
Also supporting the fact that Nigeria has gained much under civil rule from 1999 till date, Barrister Naazigha-Lee State chairman, Committee for Defence of Human Rights (CDHR) Rivers State emphasised that “the coming of democratic governance in 1999 actually restored the confidence of Nigerians in participatory democratic governance”,
He stressed that the initial decisions of the government of President Obasanjo to establish the Justice Oputa panel to investigate human rights violations, rescinded a number of questionable licences and contracts of the previous military regimes, and moved to recover millions of dollars in funds secreted in overseas accounts were undertaken to restore the confidence of Nigerians in the civilian rule and promote image of the country in the international community.
It is not gainsaying that the eleven years of unbroken democracy has safeguarded and sustained the consolidation of human rights in Nigeria.
According to the State Chairman, CDHR, Nigeria was at a crossroad with a greater challenge of how to guarantee justice, human dignity and civil liberties before the advent of democratic governance in 1999.
He stated that Nigeria returned to the community of nations with elected government, ensured significant progress to be made in the area of freedom and liberties.
According to Dr. Ishmael Guarama, senior lecturer, Faculty of Humanities, University of Port Harcourt, the eleven years of unbroken democracy in Nigeria has made it possible for a more open society in which people no longer live in fear of the arbitrariness and intimidation.
The senior lecturer stressed that Nigeria remain committed to the idea of one corporate identity despite contending proposals for a new paradigm of governance and relationship between the federating tiers of government.
Dr. Ishmael further added that Nigerians have seen a marked improvement in human rights and democratic practice during this unbroken civil rule. “Today the Nigeria press enjoys greater freedom than under previous military rule.
As part of the gains of democracy during this period the usual conflicts between the Executive and legislative arms of government over major appropriation allocation and other proposed legislations have tended to strengthen Nigeria’s demo
A noticeable gain has been that of growing visibility of state governors and the inherent friction between the Federal Government and the various state Governments over resource allocation and excess crude account funds, all meant for healthy democratic country.
Also, one of the gains of the civil rule from 1999 has been the introduction of GSM communication by the Obasanjo’s administration. Prior to that period, few Nigerians have access to cellular phones but today, millions of Nigerians have afforded GSM handsets to ease communication. Today, the telecommunication sector is been dominated by MTN, GLO, Zain, and Etisalat, making NITEL a moribund parastatal.
However with the advent of democracy in 1999 Nigeria has recorded some major losses in the areas of lives and properties through communal crises, and religious mayhem.
In November 1999, the Nigerian Army destroyed the town of Odi Bayelsa State and killed scores of civilians in retaliation for the murder of 12 policemen by a local gang.
In the North West State of Kaduna in February 2000, over 1.000 people died in rioting over the introduction of criminal Sharia law in the State.
In Jos, the flash point of inter-religious rioting, hundred had been killed and thousands displaced in communal violence.
In 2002 in Zaki Biam, Benue State thousands were killed and properties worth millions of naira destroyed by rampaging soldiers over soldiers killed by the local gangsters.
One of the critical concern to Nigerians has been billions of naira lost through corruption. Yet no end in sight to such unwanted state plunder of resources.
However, government’s response to nip this trend of communal violence in the bud was the setting up of the National Security Commission to address this issue of re-curring communal violence.
Hopes And Expectations
Nigeria has successfully transited from one civilian government to another. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo successfully served his eight years period of two terms and successfully handed over to the late President Musa Yar’Adua on May 29, 2007.
The late President introduced his Seven Point Agenda as a conceptualised developmental programme for Nigerians. The Seven Point Agenda include Power, Electoral Reforms, Agriculture, Niger Delta, Health Sector Reform, Employment and Education.
According to a political economist and retired Permanent Secretary, Chief Obo-Ngofa, the power and energy crisis in Nigeria needs to be addressed squarely and urgently to arrest the imminent collapse of the economy.
According to him, the energy crisis remains a national embarrassment to the Nigerian Government. He appealed to the President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to seriously tackle the Power crisis to improve the comatose industrial sector.
The Niger Delta crisis actually affected foreign investment arising from the agitations for a meaningful development in the region. Luckily enough, the late President Musa Yar’Adua as part of his Seven-Point Agenda of addressing the sorry state of infrastructure and economic empowerment of the people of the region, granted Amnesty to the men who took to the creeks to drive home the pitiable situation of the underdevelopment in the region.
On the issue of Electoral Reforms, the Government had set up the Justice Muhammed Uwais Committee on the Electoral Reforms. The committee has since submitted its report to government waiting full implementation for credible elections in 2011.
However, it is the hope and expectation of Nigerians that President Goodluck Jonathan will implement the recommendations of the Justice Uwais report through the appointment of unbias National Chairman for the INEC with significant re-organisation of the Electoral body for credible and acceptable elections in 2011 and beyond.
However, a major monster that has eaten deep into the body fabrics of Nigeria’s society is the high level of state institutionalised corruption.
Despite the establishment of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to checkmate corruption and other related economic crimes, corruption has remained the bane of Nigeria’s development.
According to Barrister Jas Awanen government needs to strengthen the anti corruption agencies like the ICPC and EFCC to function properly with less relative supervision.
Currently, Nigeria has over 53 political parties, an indication that Democracy in Nigeria is in progress and Nigerians are happy with participatory democracy that allow them to freely chose and elect their leaders.
However, according to Mr. Godknows Asoka, a public affairs analyst, the coming of civil rule in Nigeria from 1999 has strengthened the institution of the Judiciary, adding that under Military rule, our judiciary was very docile but now very proactive to right the wrong of injustice.
He emphasised that civil rule has created democratic consciousness in Nigerians and brought governance closer to the grassroots.
There appears to be a consensus opinion on the return to civil rule that democracy remains the best form of Government in any society.
A foremost member of the House of Representatives and chairman, Committee on Legislature Complaince, Hon. Daemi Kunaiyi-Akpanah believes that the nation has fared well although not without pains and sacrifices.
He told The Tide in his office in Abuja that the learning process began eleven years ago, although the nation had not reached the destination point. “Well I think democracy is working in Nigeria and there is progress. I don’t believe it’s the destination (yet for Nigeria): It is an ongoing journey.”
Mr. Kunaiyi-Akpanah contended that “the only thing that makes our democratic government work is the prevalence of the rule of law and freedom of speech and religion.
The Coordinator of Egbeda Progressive Forum, Endurance Akpeli Esq, who spake with The Weekend Tide, in Port Harcourt, Thursday hailed the charisma of President Jonathan’s administration and urged him to continue his good work.
Mr. Akpelu enjoined all to support Jonathan’s administration and noted that it was divinely inspired.
He asserted that the incumbent president had done a lot to justify his election in 2011 and described Jonathan as the David of our time.
The coordinator remarked that the president came into power through a divine arrangement and warned that nobody should alter the arrangement.
Also speaking, Mr John Worah, an officer with the Nigeria police, said there was remarkable improvement in the provision of democratic dividends. He remarked that as a Niger Delta man, Jonathan had maintained stable oil price since he assumed office.
He said the fuel scarcity that marked previous administrations in the country had gone with those past administrations.
The police officer noted that the issue of where Jonathan came from should not be primary focus of Nigerians and noted that what should concern the people now was what he had to offer.
“From all indications, I am convinced that Jonathan will be bringing a lot of reforms to the nation,” he said.
We should encourage Jonathan to vie for the presidency because we believe in what he is doing and will continue to support him to deliver the dividends of democracy. Good leaders are hard to find, when we see them, we must appreciate them,” he pointed out.
Another person, who spoke with our correspondent, Mr. Andy Ihuenyi said that Jonathan should vie for the presidency in 2011 given the level of achievements he had so far recorded.
“President Goodluck Jonathan is a symbol of goodluck. We cannot afford to shun goodluck. His assumption of office is noteworthy. It is by an act of God,” he pointed out.
Mr. Ihuenyi, who is an environmentalist, said “the election of Goodluck Jonathan would pacify the neglected people of the Niger Delta. But first and foremost his track record has shown that he has all it takes to pilot the affairs of this nation.”
He regretted that the zoning system was the machination of the enemies of the Nigerian nation.
He, however, stated only those who were qualified and experienced should be entrusted with leadership, so that they would remain accountable to the people.
Philip-Wuwu Okparaji, Chidi Enyie, Justus Awaji,
Again, RSG Begins Unveiling, Flag-Off Of Nine Key Projects, ’Morrow
The Rivers State Government has rolled out the drums to herald another phase of official commissioning of key projects embarked upon by the Governor Nyesom Wike-led administration in the state.
A statement by the state government said that the process is in continuation of the commissioning and flag-off of projects by Governor Nyesom Wike.
It indicated that Rumuola flyover would be commissioned tomorrow, while the GRA flyover would be commissioned on Saturday.
The also stated that the government would commission the Ezimgbu Road on Monday, December 13, 2021; with another commissioning of Tombia Road Extension scheduled for Tuesday, December 14, 2021.
The statement said that the governor would commission the Safe Home, Borikiri, Port Harcourt on Wednesday, December 15; while on Thursday, December 16, 2021, the governor would commission the Odokwu internal roads.
Also, the governor would continue the flag-off of key infrastructure projects with Chokocho-Igbodo Road slated for Monday, December 20, 2021; Oyigbo-Okoloma Road on Wednesday, December 22, 2021; and Magistrates’ Court Complex, Port Harcourt on Thursday, December 23, 2021.
Wike Justifies N7bn Libel Suit Against THISDAY
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, yesterday, appeared before the state High Court in Port Harcourt, to testify as a witness in an N7billion libel suit against THISDAY Newspaper.
Wike said he was in court to seek justice and clear his name as a person from the malicious publication by THISDAY Newspaper, which portrayed him as deceitful, untrustworthy person, who exerts subterranean influences on judicial matters and over court sittings in Port Harcourt.
It would be recalled that Wike had in August, 2020, slammed a N7billion suit being damages for libel written and published in THISDAY’s Tuesday, June 23, 2020 edition captioned, “With Wike, Obaseki Meets His PDP’s Waterloo; Almost.”
The defendants in the suit are THISDAY Newspapers Limited, Leaders and Company Limited, Davidson Iriekpan, Chuks Okocha and Adibe Emenyonu.
Wike, while testifying as witness in suit No. PHC/1505/CS/2020 before the court presided over by Justice A. Enebeli, asserted that the defendants maliciously and falsely portrayed him as an unreliable friend/person.
“When you say somebody cannot be trusted; that cannot be a fair comment. When you say somebody is influencing the Judiciary, that cannot be a fair comment”, the governor said.
In his written statement on oath, Wike had stated that the defendants had accused him of influencing the decision of the court sitting in Port Harcourt that granted an injunction restraining Godwin Obaseki from participating in the primaries of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Edo State in 2020.
He stated that the defendants maliciously accused him of undemocratically exerting influence on the primaries process of PDP in Edo State in aid of his ally, Omoregie Ogbeide-Ihama, who was the beneficiary of the court order restraining Obaseki from participating in the PDP primaries.
The governor, who told the court that he was not even aware of the aforementioned suit by Ogbeide-Ihama against Obaseki, said the publication was reckless, false and without regards for the truth.
According to him, contrary to well-known journalistic tradition and practices, the defendants did not investigate properly to ensure the information they relied on was accurate.
“They did not seek to verify the facts from me or in any manner oblige me with the opportunity to state my own side of the story before proceeding to make the false publication” the governor argued.
Wike stated that the defendants further denigrated him before the entire world as a fake democrat, who engages in meddling in the internal affairs of All Progressives Congress (APC) in order to get at his political foe, Chibuike Amaechi.
The governor explained that he was not a member of the APC and has had no hand in the internal crisis which has bedevilled the party both in Rivers State and all over Nigeria.
“By the letter of Messrs E.C. Ukala and Co., Solicitors, under the hand of Emmanuel C. Ukala, SAN, dated 23rd June, 2020, the defendants were given opportunity to retract, and recant the publication as well as to offer apology for the false publication but the defendants spurned the opportunity and ignored the letter completely.”
The governor, while responding to claim by lawyer to the defendants, Turudu Ede, SAN, that the essence of the lawsuit was to intimidate and harass his clients, said the whole essence of the suit was to get justice and clear his name as a man of substantial character, honour and repute.
“The essence of the suit is to get justice since they (defendants) refused to retract the publication or apologise. So, I sued them to clear my name.”
Speaking to journalists outside the court, one of the lawyers to Wike, Mr. Mark Agwu said his client was in court to seek legal redress.
“To challenge him as a person, it means you have made him untrustworthy, a deceit, a cheat, an influencer of the court, because the publication they made was that he had a role to play in influencing the outcome of that Federal High Court case. Nobody will take that lightly, and especially for a man who believes in the rule of law”, Agwu added.
The court adjourned the matter for further hearing to 12th, 13th and 14th of January, 2022.
$130m Fraud: Rivers Sues Saipem SPA, Saipem Contracting Firm, Others
The Rivers State Government has charged two construction firms, Saipem SPA and Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd, to court over an alleged conspiracy to cheat and with intent to defraud the state of the sum of $130million, being advanced payment for the construction of the OCGT power plant in Port Harcourt.
In a 16-count criminal charge filed by the Director of Public Prosecution, C.F. Amadi for the Rivers State Attorney General, the state alleged that after collecting the said sum as advanced payment between 2011 and 2018, the defendants have not kept their obligation under the contract.
Others charged alongside the companies were Walter Peviana; Kelechi Sinteh Chinakwe; Giandomenico Zingali; Vitto Testaguzza and Davide Anelli, who are directors and officers of the companies.
The defendants are charged with various offences ranging from conspiracy, cheating and obtaining credit by false pretence, contrary to Section 518 (6) and (7) and punishable under Section 518 of the Criminal Code, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria, 1999, section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b) of the Criminal Code, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State, amongst others.
Already, the Rivers State Government has issued a fiat to the law firm of Godwin Obla (SAN) to prosecute the matter before the state High court.
The defendants are equally charged for the offence of false Statements by Officials of Companies contrary to and punishable under Section 436 (b).
The prosecution specifically accused the defendants of obtaining credit of $130million by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); obtaining credit of $20,467,942.00 by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b), obtaining credit of N7,000,000,000.00 only by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b).
They are charged for obtaining credit of N318,640,173.54, by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); attempt to cheat $97million contrary to Section 508 and punishable under Section 509; attempt to cheat $15million contrary to Section 508 and punishable under Section 509; conspiracy to receive a credit of $97million by false pretences contrary to Section 518 (6) and punishable under Section 518; cheating $11million contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating N110, 097, 416.51 contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; cheating by collecting sums attributable to shared facilities already paid for in AFAM Phase I in AFAM Phase II contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421.
Obtaining N20, 467, 942 contrary to Section 421 and punishable under Section 421; obtaining credit of $60,168,936.00 by false pretences or other fraud, contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b); obtaining credit of $1,512,034.00 by false pretences or other fraud contrary to Section 419A and punishable under Section 419 (A) (1) (b) all of the Criminal Code Law of Rivers State, Cap 37 Vol. 2 Laws of Rivers State of Nigeria 1999.
According to the Proof of Evidence attached to the charge and the statement made by the Head, Power Generation/Mechanical of the Rivers State Ministry of Power, one Mr Temple Azunda M., the facts constituting the case in hand are as follows:
Saipem SPA and Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited and other officers of the duo, herein the Defendants, are Italian companies which services have been retained by the Rivers State Government, herein RSG, in several projects, prominent amongst which is the AFAM Phase II Power Plant Project.
By an initial tripartite agreement made on the January 20, 2010, the RSG under the auspices of the Rivers State Ministry of Power entered a contract with Saipem Contracting Nigeria Limited, Saipem SPA for the construction of the OGCT power plant in Port Harcourt at a total cost of $119million consequent upon which the Rivers State Government made advance payments, in instalments, to Saipem Contracting Nigeria Ltd and Saipem SPA amounting in total to a sum of $130million in all which the Defendants have acknowledged receipt of.
The Defendants were to be given an initial mobilization of 20per cent of the total contract sum which the RSG paid.
It was part of the initial agreement – and indeed a condition sine qua non – that, to access the 2nd tranche of payment of 25per cent from the Rivers State Government, the Defendants would mandatorily have installed the Gas Turbine into the foundations as referenced in ATTACHMENT 1 to VO 007 which states that:
CONTRACTOR shall be entitled to a payment corresponding to 20per cent of the VO No. 007 LS PRICE upon mobilisation to site and commencement of bush clearing activities at SITE.
Upon commencement of bush clearing activities at the site, the contractor shall issue the invoice relevant to the above payment and the owner shall pay such invoice within 14 days from its issuance.
The parties agree that no deduction for recovery of advance payment shall apply on the payment due to the contractor for invoices issued by the contractor in accordance with this paragraph.
Editorial2 days ago
May 29: Dawn Of A New Era
News6 hours ago
DSS Siege On Lagos Office Shocking -EFCC
Business5 hours ago
Fuel Subsidy Era Over – Tinubu
Politics2 days ago
Last Day In Office, Buhari Apologises For Painful Economic Policies
Nation6 hours ago
NAWOJ Partners FH1360 To Boost Maternal, Infant Nutrition
Politics5 hours ago
CAN Congratulates Tinubu, Hints At Challenges Ahead
News2 days ago
Wike Urges Traditional Rulers To Engender Peace …As Awuse Heads Chiefs’ Council
Opinion6 hours ago
Roots Of Nigeria’s Predicaments