Amaechi’s Supreme Court Victory And Democracy
mandate of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, as duly elected candidate of the Rivers State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the April 2007 Governorship elections.
The crux of the litigation stemmed from a protest by the PDP candidate challenging his substitution by the party’s leadership without cogent and verifiable reasons and to which he was neither allowed fair hearing nor confronted with facts for defense. The questions for determination, from a layman’s perspective, thus became whether or not a party leadership had the power to unilaterally deny a duly elected candidate, his constitutional right to be voted for. Secondly, whether such disqualification was in tandem with party laws, and if not, whether his eventual replacement by Sir Celestine Omehia, who did not contest the party primaries, was proper or not.
Important as these questions were, they, inadvertently challenged the constitutional supremacy of political parties which hitherto enjoyed unbridled and far-reaching powers over their own internal affairs. With that understanding, and based on the familiar conclusion that party primaries were indeed internal affairs of political parties, hence, not justiceable in conventional courts or risk expulsion, not many legal pundits gave Rt. Hon. Amaechi a chance.
It was even more so, when, following the acceptance by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), of Amaechi’s eventual replacement, Sir Celestine Omehia contested and won the elections and was later sworn-in as governor.
But in a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court literarily averred that by the nation’s choice of a multi-party democracy, the political parties themselves ought to represent the foundation for the building of an enduring democratic culture, based on laws, respect for members’ constitutional rights and above all, defense of equity, fairness and honesty. For, if these values were allowed to suffer, political parties would, rather than be the basis for democratic growth, become machines of lawlessness, autocratic rule and imposition of candidates in elections.
It was in avoidance of that looming state of anarchy that the apex court ruled that the most important constitutional basis for selection of candidates for general elections must first and foremost be the party primaries. And if after wards, any substitution was needfull, such must be based on cogent and verifiable reasons. Unfortunately, since by the estimation of the apex court, the PDP’s excuse for substituting Amaechi failed that preliminary test, it ought to be declared ultra vices, null and void.
Today, The Tide recalls with a rare sense of pride and judicial fulfillment, the rare courage demonstrated by the nation’s Supreme Court, in handing down such landmark judgment, and indeed, against a government in power, whose leader, as President and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo personally voiced the disqualification of a duly elected party candidate, at a rally in Port Harcourt, with the ‘K-Leg’ theory.
Ordinarily, the Supreme Court could hide behind countless legal loopholes to dismiss the matter in favour of the government and indeed the ruling party, but it must have considered the immense benefits of truly democratic parties as basis for growth of enduring democratic culture, as an imperative for a participatory government grounded in popular will.
By that choice, the Supreme Court did well to restore the fast eroding intra-party democracy and delivered the political party structure from the strangle-hold and dictates of a few self seeking political leaders, against the largest interest of the helpless majority.
Yes, the judgment might have restored Amaechi’s mandate and brought him on the seat of Governor of Rivers State, but what Nigeria annually celebrates is indeed higher than the person and struggle of the serving State Chief Executive. It is indeed a celebration of the victory of truth over falsehood, of light over darkness, of democracy over dictatorship, of the rule of law over constitutional recklessness, of the equity over the culture of impunity and above all else, of the awesome presence of the Hand of God, in the affairs of men.
Surely, wherever these realities are allowed pre-eminence in the affairs of men, speedy growth is equally enhanced, and nation-building made easy. Little wonder, the modest achievements recorded in Rivers State under Governor Amaechi’s watch, after the restoration, indeed attest to these facts which The Tide thinks must be sustained in our political lives, especially by political parties.
As we recall that epochal date exactly five years yesterday, it becomes even more instructive to admonish that political parties be constantly reminded of the essence and immense benefits of intra-party democracy, and also challenge other courts within the judicial realm of an even greater need to draw some inspiration from the kind of lofty redemption, the Supreme Court bequeathed to posterity.
The Tide considers it fit and proper to also congratulate Governor Amaechi, even for the umpteenth time, for his doggedness, resilience, faith in God and the Judiciary, unwavering commitment to and unusual patience in his fight for what he believed in, without which October 25, would have been meaningless.
Essentially, Amaechi had other choices; to obey and endure his party’s order, no matter how unconstitutional he perceived it, and negotiate other juicy appointments or monetary gestures in recompense, or surrender to fear but it was the choice of being steadfast in search of justice that produced the landmark judgment, we today celebrate.
That in truth, is the often over-looked element in the Supreme Court’s historic judgment and the rewards derivable therefrom.
Ending TB Mortality Rate In Nigeria
Last Friday, the 24th of March 2023, commemorated World Tuberculosis Day 2023 to raise awareness about the deadly infection. The World Tuberculosis Day, one of eight global health campaigns marked by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is observed to build public awareness about the global epidemic of tuberculosis and efforts towards the eradication of the disease.
WHO proclaimed the day World Tuberculosis Day in 1882, when Dr Robert Koch of the University of Berlin’s Institute of Health announced to the scientific community that he had discovered the cause of tuberculosis. He explained the aetiology of the deadly disease and pioneered the diagnosis and avenues of treatment. Tuberculosis, also known as TB, is a contagious respiratory infection caused by the bacterium mycobacterium tuberculosis, which attacks a patient’s lungs.
Before Koch’s discovery, tuberculosis not only ravaged Europe and the Americas, killing one in seven people, but was wrongly thought to be hereditary.
Tuberculosis remains one of the world’s deadliest infectious killers, spread by inhaling tiny droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Although a serious infectious disease, with proper treatment, it is not only preventable but also curable.
This year is critical for all who are engaged in TB work and should be championed as the ‘year of hope’ to get full support, attention, and energy for a collective ‘YES! We Can End TB’. There are several key areas to focus on, such as funding needs to scale up implementation and accelerate development of new tools, including new TB vaccines, access to new rapid molecular diagnostics and new shorter and more effective treatment regimens, TB prevention, childhood TB, strengthen and fund the community.
The world is grappling with this contagious and devastating disease. WHO’s commemoration of it is the means by which it highlights its impact on national life and the need to work together to eradicate it. The annual themes in this global fight have reflected the various and cumulative aspects of the fight. For example, the theme in year 2000, “Forging New Partnerships to Stop TB,” emphasized the need for a collaborative effort in the fight.
In 2001, it was DOTS: TB Cure For All, and while in 2010 it was “Innovate To Accelerate Action” and “It’s Time To End TB” in 2020. The theme for this year, “Invest To End TB. Save Lives”, conveys the urgent need to invest resources to ramp up the fight against TB and achieve the commitments to end TB made by global leaders.
This is especially critical in the COVID-19 pandemic that has put ‘End TB’ progress at risk, and to ensure fair access to prevention and care in line with WHO’s drive towards achieving Universal Health Coverage. WHO estimates that each day, over 4,100 people lose their lives to TB and close to 28,000 people fall ill with this preventable and curable disease.
Unfortunately, WHO states that the COVID-19 pandemic has reversed years of progress made in the fight to end TB. According to the WHO Global TB Report 2021, which includes data from over 200 countries, approximately 1.5 million people died from TB in 2020, up from 1.4 million in 2019. Worldwide, the WHO estimates that 9.9 million people fell ill with TB in 2021, but 4.1 million of those infected were not diagnosed or reported to national authorities. That’s up from 2.9 million in 2019.
It is instructive that this is the first increase in global TB deaths in more than a decade. Furthermore, WHO attributes the increase in deaths and decline in diagnoses and notifications to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns, which have reduced countries’ capacity to provide TB services and interfered with people’s ability to get diagnosed and treated.
This year’s theme reiterates the understanding that more investment in the fight against the disease will save a million more lives, prevent its spread and speed up the eradication of the TB epidemic. Despite significant progress over the last decades in the fight against the disease, regrettably, TB continues to be the top infectious killer worldwide.
Unfortunately, Nigeria ranks fourth in the world and first in Africa among countries with high prevalence of this killer disease. The Acting Board Chair, Stop TB Partnership Nigeria, Dr Queen Ogbuji declared in Abuja at the Pre-World TB Conference that over 156,000 Nigerians die of tuberculosis annually. This, she said, translates to 18 Nigerians dying of tuberculosis–related disease every hour and 432 daily.
This high fatality from a disease that is not only treatable, curable but preventable also, should not be allowed to continue on this dangerous curve. As usual in our environment, plenty of factors ranging from ignorance, poor environment, inadequate medical facilities, late diagnosis, cultural biases to poor budgetary provision and actual fund release accounts for this high fatality rate of the disease.
All tiers of government must commit to investing more in the health sector and in the fight against TB. Sadly, most Primary Health Centres (PHC) that ought to be the first point of call for TB patients are in comatose. Since TB thrives in poor environments and enhanced by population congestion, most times, those affected resort to presumptuous self-medication, hence giving rise to drug resistance at a later stage.
More and sustained investments are necessary to strengthen the health system at all levels, upscale our pandemic preparedness and end preventable deaths. Governments must get more involved in the campaign against the disease, especially to screen, as this will provide avenues for early detection, treatment and curbing its spread.
Water, Most Precious Resource
On the 21st of March, the world marked World Water Day. The day is an annual event that is celebrated to focus on the primacy of water and the need to preserve it. Water is significant for a healthy body. This is why the United Nations General Assembly designated this day in 1993, twenty-five years ago, to call attention to the water-related challenges we face.
This year, the theme for World Water Day is “Accelerating the Change to Solve the Water and Sanitation Crisis”. The quantity and quality of water that is available for human consumption today have been affected by damaged ecosystems. Now, 2.1 billion people live without safe drinking water at home; it impacts their health, education, and general livelihood.
Following this knowledge, the UN member states and agencies and various other Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) have become involved in the promotion of clean water conservation and have helped focus the attention of people on all the critical issues of water. They also promote the supply of clean and purified water.
Global access to safe water, adequate sanitation, and hygiene resources reduce illness and death from disease and leads to improved health, poverty reduction, and socio-economic development. The COVID-19 pandemic has further demonstrated the urgent need for universal access to safe water, as frequent and proper handwashing with soap and water is one of the most effective actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Unfortunately, even so, many people lack access to these necessities, leaving them at risk for diseases related to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). Globally, 2.2 billion people do not have safe drinking water, 3.6 billion do not have safe sanitation services, and 2.3 billion do not have access to a handwashing facility.
Many diarrheal diseases, such as typhoid fever and cholera, spread through unsafe water and sanitation. Protecting water sources and developing and maintaining WASH systems to keep human waste out of the water, food, and environment are critical to preventing diarrheal diseases. In areas without a consistent source of safe water, people often resort to using untreated water that can make them sick.
Like many other countries, Nigeria also joined the rest of the world to commemorate 2023 World Water Day. Marking the occasion, the Federal Government, last Wednesday, lamented over worsening water-related disasters. The Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Water Resources, Didi Walson-Jack, made the statement during a media briefing to mark the day.
The essence of commemorating World Water Day is basically to raise awareness of the poor and vulnerable populations living without access to safe and clean water, said Walson-Jack. And its objective is to galvanize action towards active response to the water crisis and seek innovative measures to improve access to potable water supply while achieving the targets set out in the Sustainable Development Goal 6 – Water and Sanitation for all by 2030.
However, the Federal Government’s statement is uninspiring, as the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund declared that about two-thirds of the population of citizens in Nigeria lacked access to potable water. Nigeria has an estimated population of about 200 million or slightly more, and two-thirds of this figure represents over 133 million persons without access to potable water across the country.
Although the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and states are investing in water, the sustainability of these investments has remained a major challenge. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, the progress is static, which is why two-thirds of the Nigerian population do not have access to potable water and that is a lot of people when compared with the population.
There is an urgent need for adequate improvement in investments, particularly given that the lack of enough access to water has massive implications for the country. Shockingly, Nigeria’s level of investment is one of the lowest in the region. The nation is less than three per cent in terms of investments, so there is still a lot more to be done.
This year’s World Water Day should galvanise the federal and state governments to create synergies by joining hands and working together. We must value every drop of water and keep our planet blue and clean. We have to make every day World Water Day. Hence, the Federal Ministry of Water Resources should promote drip irrigation systems as a way of sustainable water management in selected irrigation schemes.
It is against this backdrop that the Rivers State Government recognises water and sanitation as essential for maintaining a healthy life and environment. Both are fundamental for the socio-economic development of the state. This conviction is responsible for the intervention in improving water and sanitation coverage in the state.
Consequently, the state government, through the Port Harcourt Water Corporation (PHWC), is implementing the Urban Water Sector Reform and Port Harcourt Water Supply and Sanitation Project (UWSR & PHWSSP), and the Third National Urban Water Sector Reform Project (NUWSRP3). The project is to provide improved water and sanitation services for the entire population of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor Local Government Areas.
And in a short time from now, water will begin to run in homes in Port Harcourt. Already, elevated water tanks in Rumuola, Diobu & Borikiri are seen including modern treatment/chlorination plants and extensive citywide reticulation. This project is part of Governor Nyesom Wike’s programme in Rivers State and is expected to be delivered soon.
When completed, beneficiaries of the project will include over 1.5 million inhabitants of the Port Harcourt metropolitan city. The project is co-financed by the Rivers State Government (RVSG), African Development Bank (AfDB), and the World Bank (WB). Rivers’ model is worthy of emulation. States should collaborate with development partners and donors to properly execute water policies in Nigeria.
That March Stillborn Census
After a long period of indecision, Nigeria will now hold its first census in 17 years in May this year instead of April as earlier scheduled. The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, made this known to newsmen last Wednesday at the end of the weekly meeting of the Federal Executive Council.
The Minister explained that the decision to move the date was necessitated by the rescheduling of the gubernatorial election to March 18. He also disclosed that the Council approved a whopping N2.8 billion for the National Population Commission (NPC) to procure some software to be used for the conduct of the census.
Recall that in the July 20, 2022 editorial of this paper, we observed that the planned census initially scheduled for April 2023 was ill-timed and therefore should not have been mulled over in the first place, given that the general election had been slated for an adjoining period; moreover at a time of very significant security problems bedeviling virtually the whole country.
These situations would impact the census result adversely. Even by its acknowledgement, the NPC’s pre-census tests which were performed in some areas of the country were stymied by overwhelming safety issues in some states.
We also argued that if the present administration did not conduct the census, at least, a year before the end of its tenure, it had no reason to rush to conduct the exercise two months before exit. Expectedly, with the postponement, and the reasons adduced thereto, we have been vindicated.
It would have been inconceivable for the NPC to proceed with the process when it was apparent that the agency was yet unprepared to conduct a credible and acceptable census. To justify their lack of readiness, the NPC has just submitted and secured approval of N2.8 billion to award a contract to procure software it will use for the exercise.
We insist that even the new May date for the exercise is still unrealistic. First, the contract has to be awarded for the procurement of the software. Second, the contractor has to order and take delivery of the software. The NPC will then take delivery and begin training staff and ad-hoc personnel to be able to effectively deploy and efficiently use the software. We can conjecture that this will take not less than, at least, six months from now.
This is why we demand that the Federal Government, and indeed the NPC, should stop deceiving Nigerians on the conduct of a hitch-free census at this time. The NPC should conduct the exercise later this year or even in 2024. It was for this reason the House of Representatives advised the commission to put off the exercise to a more convenient period because of the unstable state of affairs in the country. Sadly, the commission disdained the well-intentioned advice of the House.
The horrendous security conditions are elevating concerns about the accurate count. The Federal Government should not venture on a wild goose chase. Census generally is a massive endeavour that requires a long time of organisation and planning. The truth, however, is that insecurity in the country is far more horrible than the image projected by the NPC. And given the deplorable economic condition of the nation, it is time the commission explored other means outside headcount to execute its obligation of extrapolating Nigeria’s population to intensify planning and growth.
The manual procedure being adopted by the NPC is becoming anachronistic, error-ridden, and vulnerable to manipulation. It should give way to new technologies for enumeration and data collection. According to a recent survey by the United Nations, more than 30 countries or areas are providing an option for Internet-based self-enumeration given that “new technologies contribute to improving the completeness, timeliness, and quality of census results.” That is the way forward.
Ordinarily, the plan to hold a national census would have been a welcome development. This is especially so because the planned census is coming some 17 years after the last headcount. But executing the project in May will be grossly unfitting because it will come too close to the end of the general election. The timing is wrong completely.
The government should not set innocent citizens in harm’s way for conducting a headcount. Consequently, President Muhammadu Buhari should not submit to scare tactics from the commission to authorise or discharge funds for the census. Already, the NPC management is ruing the endorsement and even anticipating that if the money required for the activity from the government is inadequate, it would get reasonable appropriation from global backers.
Clearly, the quandary at hand is a very auspicious prescription for a failure of any headcount presently, which is better circumvented than added to the many miseries that had depicted census in this country. All the earlier censuses were contentious, and it does not make any sense to carry out one just for it when all the indicators demonstrate apparent unfavourable aftermath.
The question is: Why is the NPC bent on having a census despite the odds? Is the commission out to do a good job, or just to spend the gigantic money being budgeted for the project? No doubt, a valid census is crucial for planning and development objectives for the country. But it should be executed properly and timely. The count had been put off twice in 2016 and 2018 following several controversial factors that have still not abated but intensified instead and worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
We think that the Federal Government should shun the idea of a census for the next government, which should tackle insecurity first before the census. A country that is facing existential challenges cannot have as one of its priorities the conduct of a national census. The current administration should discontinue what will aggregate to misadventure and waste of scarce national resources.
What should disconcert the Buhari regime is reviving the credence of a large section of citizens in the Nigerian project, resuscitating peace in areas held by criminal elements, and dousing tension in the country to foster favourable buy-in and participation. A national census now is necessarily not a preference; its conduct is entirely not feasible.
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