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Editorial

Whither Nigeria At 58

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Today, October 1, 2018 marks the 58th year since Nigeria got her independence as a sovereign nation. It was on Saturday 1st October, 1960 that the Union Jack was lowered and the Nigerian flag hoisted in its place to announce the birth of a new nation amidst world jubilation.
Ordinarily, today would have been a day for all Nigerians to celebrate and offer thanksgiving to God for giving them a nation binding them in love, peace and progress, but the reverse seems to be the case.
Hitherto, the nation’s Independence Day anniversary had been a period of celebration of our nationhood, our freedom to self determination, our independence from British colonial rule.
Regrettably, however, today, what is seen is the absence of peace, unity and progress.
Insecurity occasioned by the criminal activities of murderous herdsmen, Boko Haram terrorists, ethnic/religious violence and kidnapping have made the nation one of the most unsafe places on earth.
The ugly development has been compounded by pervasive corruption and the failure of leadership to point the way out of the threatening calamity.

In rallying Christians to prayers, the leadership of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) urged them to pray “`against blood-letting, violence and civil war’’, noting that the unity of the country has been under consistent threat, with citizens polarised along various divides.
Indeed, Nigeria has not been this divided since independence. The quests for secession by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), its proscription, the military intervention, the ongoing controversial debate over restructuring and the failure of the Buhari’s administration to deliver free, fair and credible electoral process in the last few months have compounded the challenges facing the nation.
Buffeted on all sides, what the nation needs today is a leadership that has the courage and political will to address the imbalance that is largely responsible for these agitations.
Across board, the nation needs leaders that will no longer pay lip service to peace and unity of the nation. Nigeria needs true statesmen and patriots who would keep to their promises and take the country to the next level.
It is worrisome that since the amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates as a united British Colony in 1914 and its independence in 1960 under a federal Constitution fashioned by the people, represented by the leaders of various ethnic nationalities, Nigeria has ever since, not had a constitution fashioned by the people.
Two Constitutions in 1999 and 1998/99 authored by the military which seized power in 1966 were approved by the Supreme Military Council. It is against this background and the imbalances in the socio-economic fabric of the nation that the growing calls for restructuring find relevance and justification.
Elder statesmen who had been at the forefront of the agitations for restructuring said the demand aims to reform the governmental structures and attune them to the needs and wishes of the people.
“In a wider fundamental locus, restructuring is a call for the country to make a new beginning under a new constitution approved and adopted by the people at a referendum”. Prof Ben Nwabueze once said.
The import of this is still lost on many sectional champions as the word restructuring conveys toxic meaning to them; even as the nation operates a federalism that is unitary in practice.
The imbalances that exist in statutory allocations, states creation, federal appointments, infrastructure development, among others, have led to the loud call for the practice of true fiscal federalism.
It is also the attendant marginalization and neglect that threw up self-determination agitations by various groups.
It is instructive that an extensive two-year study by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), titled, ‘Journey to Extremism’ which was released in 2017, indicates that exposure to state abuse and marginalization, not religious ideology are better predictors of radicalism.
The study also indicates that those living on the periphery of their country with less access to education and health services are more vulnerable to be recruited to violent extremist groups. With millions of unemployed graduates from universities without jobs over the years, it is easy to situate the increasing restiveness across the country.
Against this frightening backdrop, militarisation of the polity is counter-productive. Indeed, the current multiplicity of military operations in virtually all the six elections conducted since the present administration took over power paints a gloomy picturecontrary to the tenets of true democracy.
We believe that those who the citizenry had entrusted their power to govern should seek the root causes of the agitations and violence in the polity and make patriotic efforts to douse the tensions.
At 58, very few Nigerians can afford smiles on their faces today because of hardship, marginalization, violence and insecurity. It is becoming fashionable to emphasise what divides than what unites the nation. And rather than live for the common man and the under-privileged, leaders and those in authority are building empires and reserves for themselves and their descendants to the 10th generation. This, indeed, is a recipe for violence and disintegration.
Towards the end of the first tenure of his administration, President Muhammadu Buhari has come short of his electoral promises as his health status and frequent visits abroad to consult his doctors, have become a disincentive to effective governance.
The under-performance of his cabinet members and issues of corruption involving officials of the Presidency which is reflected in the pervasive economic downturn and hardship faced by the citizenry despite the nation’s attained dubious exit from recession, had led to shrill calls for him to reshuffle his cabinet.
Regrettably, rather than celebrate achievements on the path to industrialisation and buoyant economy like its Third World counterparts, at 58, Nigeria is celebrating under the pangs of fear, insecurity and threat to disintegration.
This is why President Buhari must rightly read the mood of the nation, see the merit in the call to address the imbalances in the polity and stem the rising agitations, violence and insecurity.
Indeed, it is an act of divine providence that in this challenging march on the road to nationhood, Nigeria has remained together, for which we should be thankful to God.
Nigerians are the best judges of our governments, past and present. But, the least we ask is equity and better life for the citizenry.
Happy 58th Anniversary, Nigeria.

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Editorial

Governor’s Pension Law Repeal, Otti’s Example 

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Abia State’s decision to repeal the governor’s pension law is a momentous move towards cutting down on
the expenses of governance and focusing on the welfare of pensioners in the State, who were last paid in 2014. Governor Alex Otti’s bold action in overturning this law demonstrates a dedication to financial prudence and transparency. This resolve will help in reducing the financial burden on the State.
Pension for governors and their deputies has been a contentious topic in Nigeria, with concerns raised about the ethics and morality of providing lifetime benefits to public officials who may only serve a limited term in office. Abia State has taken a bold step by repealing this law, setting a positive example for other States to follow. This move has sparked a much-needed conversation about the need for accountability and responsible governance in the country.
Governor Otti’s argument for repealing the governor’s pension law to alleviate the financial burden on the State and address the issue of unpaid pensions for Abia’s retirees is compelling. By prioritising the needs of the people over political considerations, Governor Otti is demonstrating strong leadership and a commitment to serving the best interests of the citizens.
The Abia State Governors and Deputy Governors Pension (Repeal) Law of 2024 has been widely reproached for its excessive provisions for former office holders. Not only does the law guarantee former governors and former deputy governors 100 per cent of the operative salary of their successors, but it also includes the provision of three police officers and two Department of State Services officers for life. Additionally, the State is responsible for paying for their domestic staff and building mansions for them in both their home State and in Abuja.
Proponents of these benefits assert that they are necessary to ensure that former governors are appropriately provided for after their tenure in office. They maintain that these benefits are in line with the sacrifices and responsibilities that come with holding a public office. Furthermore, supporters of the entitlements contend that these provisions are intended to attract qualified individuals to compete for gubernatorial positions, with the assurance that their welfare will be looked after once they leave office.
Despite efforts to eliminate these schemes in some States, about 18 States still retain pension for their former leaders, which many Nigerians view as a form of political hedonism. Zamfara set a precedent in 2019 by eliminating its pension law, signaling a shift away from the traditional practice of providing lucrative benefits to former governors and their deputies. Many other States continue to operate this practice, allowing former leaders to receive substantial pension and other perks even after leaving office.
In 2020, both Lagos and Kwara States announced their intentions to scrap their pension laws, acknowledging the increasing public outcry over the issue. Kwara went a step further by officially abrogating the law in January, 2021, demonstrating a commitment to reforming the system and promoting accountability. Meanwhile, Lagos took a more gradual approach by reducing the benefits for former leaders by 50 per cent in August , 2021. This move was perceived as a compromise between completely abolishing the scheme and maintaining the status quo.
According to the World Poverty Clock and the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria has been listed as the poverty capital of the world, with millions of people living in extreme poverty. The fact that States would continue to record more ex-office holders after every tenure only adds to the financial strain of these pension schemes. With the number of former office holders increasing each year, the costs associated with their pension become unsustainable for many States.
The funds that could be allocated towards alleviating poverty and improving infrastructure are instead being spent on providing lavish retirement benefits for a select few. The current pension schemes for ex-governors in Nigeria are not sustainable in the long term, especially in the face of the present economic realities. Reforms are needed to ensure that public funds are used more efficiently and effectively, and that the needs of the most vulnerable in society are given preference over the comfort of former government officials.
Pension for former governors often result in the enrichment of the wealthy elite at the expense of the struggling masses. These politicians typically only served in office for a maximum of eight years, yet, they are able to secure generous pension that allow them to maintain a life of luxury. Some even go on to hold positions as Ministers or Senators, further perpetuating their unjustified wealth.
Curiously, the 10th National Assembly is home to more than 12 former governors who continue to benefit from these lavish retirement benefits. In stark contrast, many public workers dedicate 35 years of their lives to serving the public and the government, only to receive meagre pension or sometimes none at all. Tragically, some pensioners pass away before ever receiving the benefits they are owed.
Other States should look to Abia State as a model for promoting democratic values and accountability. The active participation of civil society organisations, pressure groups, taxpayers, and activists is critical in upholding the principles of democracy and ensuring that the government is accountable to the people. The scandalous pension laws that have been passed in many States are not only unjust but also a detriment to the democratic process.
Nigerians should engage with their legislators and demand the immediate annulment of these obnoxious laws that serve to enrich a select few at the expense of the public. Citizens can help ensure that their voices are heard and that their rights are protected by actively participating in the legislative process and holding their representatives accountable. Abia is a constant reminder that democracy is a continuous process that requires the active involvement of all.

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Editorial

Enough Of Legislative Rascality In Rivers

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The political deadlock in Rivers State is showing no sign of abating, with the State House of Assembly voting once more to nullify Governor Siminalayi Fubara’s veto of the Rivers State Assembly Service Commission Bill. This is in addition to the one that occurred in January, when the legislators went against some of the governor’s decisions about four other bills, claiming it could cause chaos and violate certain laws.
The four bills include the Rivers State Local Government Law (Amendment) Bill; Rivers State Traditional Rulers’ Law (Amendment) Bill; Rivers State Advertisement and Use of State-owned Property Prohibition (Repeal) Bill and Rivers State House of Assembly Fund Management Bill. Unlike before, the amendment to the Assembly Service Commission Law now permits the Assembly to appoint the chairman and members of the Commission, not the governor.
But legal experts say that the amended law violates the 1999 Constitution, which prohibits the Assembly from overstepping the governor’s authority to appoint the chairman and other members of the Commission. If that position is accurate, then the Rivers State House of Assembly Service Commission (Amendment) Law, 2024, is legally void. The question is: why is Rivers State different if the President, working with the National Assembly, nominates members of the National Assembly Service Commission?
In yet another controversial move, the State Assembly has passed a bill to amend the Rivers State Public Procurement (Amendment) Law No. 1 of 2021. The bill, which was put forward at the 127th sitting, aimed to delete Section 3 of the 2021 Amendment Law to limit mobilisation fees to suppliers or contractors to not more than 20 per cent. We condemn this ill-motivated enactment, as the same Assembly had previously amended the law in 2021 to allow for 100 per cent payment of mobilisation fees to contractors.
While the House maintains that the laws are intended to bring more balance of power, we perceive it as an audacious endeavour to humiliate the governor and diminish his position. This power contest between the legislative and executive arms is unsettling and detrimental to the state. It is incomprehensible why the same Assembly members failed to challenge any bills during former Governor Nyesom Wike’s tenure, which period they also served as lawmakers.
We advise the state lawmakers to be wary of their actions and always prioritise the well-being of Rivers people by operating collaboratively with Governor Fubara. They should set aside their deep-rooted prejudices and concentrate on enacting good legislation to benefit the citizens. We insist that the governor should be allowed to administer the state freely in line with his constitutional mandate to ensure stability and progress in the state.
It is time for our renegade legislators to pay attention to their duties and not allow their paymaster to manipulate them for his narcissistic purposes. We find it disappointing to see those in power succumb to high-level corruption and disregard the people’s needs because of politics. What we need now is unity and cooperation, not the constant harassment of Fubara to create tension and division.
When individuals who are supposed to uphold the law and safeguard the people’s interests are being used as pawns in a murky political game, it is a sad state of affairs. The lawmakers need to understand that they owe it to the people of Rivers State to buck any attempts to jeopardise their integrity and independence. The trust of the people they represent is undermined by letting themselves be controlled, which also erodes their credibility.
Repealing and re-enacting laws without careful consideration by these lawgivers is reckless and unacceptable. Their actions could cause a crisis in the state, making governance more challenging. They need to understand that any problem they ignite will not only affect the general public but also themselves and their loved ones. That is why the legislators must contemplate the repercussions of the laws they revoke or make and how such statuses will impact their interests and all residents of the state.
Speaker Martins Amaewhule and his cohorts are pushing the boundaries of their rascality too far. After elections, politics in most states ends, allowing for genuine governance to take over. Unfortunately, this is not the scenario in Rivers, where political turbulence is destroying the state’s economy. If these parliamentarians truly cared about the state in which interest they have always claimed to act, they would end the ardent political imbroglio and unnecessary power struggles causing divisions and increased insecurity
Political tenseness in a state can sidetrack the attention of the government away from enforcing impressive policies to tackle challenges and promote progress. It is estimated that Rivers State has lost about N2 trillion in public sector investments over the past 12 years due to unrest in the political arena. Numerous projects valued at over N1.91 trillion have been impeded, along with other economic activities that could have profited many.
Some of the losses include the N250 billion bond approved in 2010 to build listed projects. However, a political dire straits in 2012 compelled the state to resort to bridging loans from commercial banks, as opposed to Lagos State that took bonds. The World Bank water project, that was supposed to transform Port Harcourt into a modern city, was allegedly not endorsed by the Goodluck Jonathan administration following political upheavals in the state.
To transform Port Harcourt into a fast and efficient transportation centre, the government invested over N20 billion in the monorail project. However, once Wike became the governor, he abandoned it. Former Governor Chibuike Amaechi used to set aside N100 billion each year for the Greater Port Harcourt City project, but Wike, following political disagreements with his predecessor, neglected it and instead used it as a means to reward his supporters. The unstable political climate prevented the realisation of these public sector investments, which could have greatly expanded the state’s economy.
Rivers people are indeed fed up with waking up every day to distressing news from the political space. Amaewhule and his troublesome allies must be told that enough is enough. The inept lawmakers should put aside their personal interests and those of their principal and work with Governor Fubara, who has been brandishing the olive branch to advance the state. Rivers State needs peace and development.

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Editorial

Another Look At Capital Punishment

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There are far too many prisoners in Nigeria’s correctional facilities. Thousands of them are awaiting trial inmates, while others are either serving their jail terms or have received death sentences. The approximate number of death row convicts in custodial facilities around the nation as of July 2022 was 3,145. Of the figure, 3,084 were men and 61 women, according to the Nigerian Correctional Service. This has over time put the process of decongesting the correctional facilities all but impossible.
As governors decline to sign the death warrants for the condemned, the number of the individuals on death row is growing, sparking reservations among human rights advocates and attorneys about what might happen to the prisoners. A few of them have proposed converting the death penalty to life in prison. Others contend that the death sentence ought to be abolished under the constitution if the governors are unwilling to sign the warrants. Femi Falana, SAN, maintains that keeping a prisoner on death row for a considerable amount of time is torture.
Despite repeated calls by the Federal Government for state governors to exercise their constitutional responsibility of signing death warrants of criminals condemned to death by courts of competent jurisdictions, no death row inmate has been executed in the last 10 years. Governors are delaying the wheel of justice and contributing to congestion in correctional centres by refusing to sign the death warrants. States should share in the burden of decongesting custodial facilities in the country.
Crimes that are punishable by death include homicide, kidnapping, and murder. The governors must still sign the warrants after the judges issue these orders for the execution to proceed. Over time, the governors, who are liable for confirming execution orders, have been dodging their role, which has made the already cramped jails even more cluttered. They justify their refusal to append the warrants by citing political correctness and feelings.
One of the most contentious and frequently discussed subjects in the world is the death penalty. Numerous organisations observe that it is cruel and barbarous. Its opponents frequently compare it to murder, pointing out that it has no effect on homicide rates and that the ends do not always substantiate the methods, particularly when people are wrongfully condemned.
Since Nigeria is yet to consider abolishing or suspending the death penalty, the onus is on the governors to take the correct course of action. The number of nations that have done so is expanding. According to the Death Penalty Information Centre, almost 70 per cent of nations worldwide have either outlawed or discontinued the death penalty. Kazakhstan and Papua New Guinea are among the most recent nations to ban it.
By the end of 2021, 108 countries had abolished the death penalty for all crimes under the law; 144 countries had done the same in practice; 28 countries had done so in effect by not carrying out an execution in the previous ten years; and 55 countries still applied the death penalty for common crimes. This information comes from data provided by Amnesty International.
However, proponents of capital punishment often view it as a necessary evil to protect society from individuals who commit the most heinous crimes. Despite the declarations from former Governors Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State and Simon Lalong of Plateau State that they would not hesitate to approve the death penalty for convicted kidnappers, there is no concrete evidence of them following through on this promise. The only elected governor in recent Nigerian history known to have signed a death warrant was former Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, which sparked criticism from various groups.
During his tenure as President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan made a controversial statement urging state governors to sign death warrants for criminals condemned to death. Speaking at a Fathers’ Day Sunday service in 2013, Jonathan reminded the governors that their role as leaders involved both pleasant and unpleasant tasks. Jonathan’s call serves as a reminder of the dual responsibilities that come with leadership and the need for critical reflection on the consequences of such decisions.
Governors play a crucial role in the criminal justice system when it comes to deciding the fate of individuals on death row. They are faced with the weighty decision of either approving the death warrants of those who have exhausted their appeals process, converting their death sentence to life imprisonment, or offering them clemency. Failure to act on any of these options should result in the removal of Section 33, which permits the death penalty, from the constitution.
State governors must set aside personal emotions and make decisions based on the principles of justice, fairness, and compassion. Approving death warrants should only be done after careful consideration of all facts and evidence in a case, ensuring that justice is served. However, if governors find that there are mitigating circumstances or doubts about guilt, they have the option of converting the death sentence to life imprisonment or offer clemency. This allows for the possibility of exoneration or further legal proceedings to rectify any injustices.
Clearly, then, the death penalty in Nigeria should be re-evaluated. The lack of execution and the potential for injustices highlight the need for a more humane and effective form of capital punishment. Life imprisonment could provide a better alternative, ensuring that criminals are still held accountable for their actions while avoiding the risks and controversies associated with the death penalty.

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