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Activities Calling For Public Inquiries

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One of the fruitful purposes of public inquiries into the activities of state institutions is the provision of opportunities for exposures of insider-malfeasance which are usually covered up for self-preservation purposes. Without such provisions and opportunity to expose weaknesses and malfeasance of public organisations, there is usually the tendency of some powerful individuals to create a culture that power and public offices are private inheritances. Nigeria has suffered long enough because of this culture of privatisation of power and public offices.
Among activities calling for public inquiries must be mentioned the shenanigans connected with oil block allocation in Nigeria. The military must bear a large portion of the malfeasance in the domain of oil and gas industry and activities related thereto. The practice of wielding big sticks and offering carrots as strategies for buying favour and intimidating those who stick out their heads, cannot continue, where transparency must feature. Similarly, the practice of sweeping strong allegations and snippets under the carpet must not continue.
Let it be revealed openly here that vested interests which were ready to make Nigeria ungovernable for Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, were members of the oil block cartel. Jonathan’s attitude towards oil politics was distasteful to the hawks and predators in the oil and gas sector. It was suspected that if given a second chance as President, he would step upon sensitive toes and damn the consequences. Surely, he had a glimpse of the malfeasance in that sector!
It is also an open secret that the ability to privatise power and wealth, especially in the politics of oil and gas, demands a strong backing of the intelligence and security services. Matters that arose from the Watergate scandals in the United States of America, revealed the truth that security and secret service agencies are close allies of power holders. Where they work hand-in-hand, fair can be foul and foul fair, but the cat can be let out from the bag where there are conflicting interests. Or moral values?
Definitely there are state secrets and interests that cannot be toyed with or sold into wrong hands. In a book titled: National Security and the American Society, Trager and Simonie defined national security as “the part of government policy having as its objective the creation of national and international conditions favourable to the protection and extension of vital national values, against existing or potential adversaries”. It is obvious that every country has some vital national values which must be preserved and protected, which duty falls on the nation’s security services.
For Nigeria, vital national values undoubtedly would include the integrity, honour, stability, pride and glory of the nation. But would the preservation and protection of such national values include covering acts that are treasonable in nature, just because such malfeasance emanated from a “sacred cow”? Does the protection of national values include sweeping under the carpet grave allegation such as was made by Dr Obadiah Mailafia regarding possible sponsorship of Boko Haram insurgency?
Was a responsible senior citizen and a former Chief of Army Staff, T.Y. Danjuma, wrong to have warned that “the ethnic cleansing must stop now, otherwise Somalia will be like child’s play”? He went on to say: “Nigerians are no longer feeling secure in their land” and also pointing fingers at the military as being complicit. Similarly, was Professor Omo Omoruyi wrong to have said that the Nigerian security apparatus is skewed in favour of the Muslim North? With several allegations against Fulani herdsmen over innumerable acts of hostility against communities and individuals, are the nation’s security organs seen to be alive to their responsibilities?
Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its subsidiaries are sectors of public services whose activities call for critical inquiries. With reference to the issues of fuel subsidy and unsatisfactory state of the nation’s refineries, there is an obvious need that the jinx which keeps holding the nation to ransom should be looked into. The fear expressed by concerned Nigerians is that the cartel and cabal holding the oil and gas sector hostage are not only too strong but also can be dangerous. Therefore if even there is a public inquiry, there surely would be an eventual subversion.
Even with an expectation of a passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, there are still many issues that beg for public inquiries. Wherever there are activities which cannot stand the test of transparency, there are usually treats towards any move to institute an independent public inquiry into such activities. Even making such suggestion as this can be dangerous.
Among organisations outside the public sector whose activities call for public inquiry are various religious sects, not only of the Christian denominations. Not only that religion has become a commercial venture, more under the cover of religion, there are shocking activities that would not be proper to mention here. Because of the awe and reverence which religion evokes, many atrocities have been committed under the name of God. It would be shocking to hear what testimonies many victims of religious fraudsters would give, if there be a public inquiry into the activities of various religious sects.
Ranging from organised fraud, to acts of vicious terrorism, religious sects feature as smooth operators. From tax evasion to money laundering, religious sects are involved. So it becomes necessary to focus some searchlight on their activities. But, the fear, again, lies in the possibility of subversion, diversion of attention and possible attack on those who initiate or get involved in such inquiries. To start with, there must be a check on proliferation of religious sects and movements.
Finally, the history of abandoned public projects and looting of public assets under various guises, have been such that some public inquiry becomes needful. Unless we want to sweep everything under the carpet, because of the enormity of inquiring into innumerable malfeasance, to allow situations to continue as they are would not do the nation any good. Let’s have the audacity and courage to examine ourselves in public.

Dr. Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Ike Ekweremadu: How The Mighty  Have Fallen

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It was a sad day for our nation on March 23, 2023, for those of us at home, those in the diaspora, and particularly those who are residents of the United Kingdom, when former Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu and his wife, Beatrice Ekweremadu were both found guilty of organ trafficking under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 of the United Kingdom. How the mighty have fallen was David’s lamentation  when he learned of the death of King Saul and his bosom friend Jonathan, in the battle with the Philistines. It was a lamentation  for the mighty men who fell on the blade of war; unlike our present quandary, where our heads are bowed with shame because a mighty man, a veteran politician, and a political juggernaut who has occupied the highest legislative chamber of our nation has fallen.Because in spite of all the ills a few Nigerians have been known for across the world, the former Deputy Senate President and his wife have added another ugly layer to  our sack of ignobility. We are now a nation of organ traffickers.

It never stops to amaze me how our mighty politicians, in their god-complex, will pontificate to us ordinary Nigerians how to live when actually the reverse should have been the case. These are men and women who travel the world unhindered with their diplomatic passports, and with taxpayers’ money, yet come back with no ideas to improve the plight of the masses on whose account their lifestyle is made possible. Some of them, and, or their wives virtually live in Dubai. Why? Because it is a country where things work; and a place where the ruling class took time to really think outside the box to build an oasis in the heart of the desert.As you can imagine, Ekweremadu and his gang, apart from impoverishing the nation, and cementing our ranking in the global poverty index, they are also the ones that shame us the most. His story was in every major newspaper in the UK yesterday. The headline in the Daily Mail reads, “Wealthy Nigerian senator faces jail for organ harvesting plot: Politician, his wife, and doctor are convicted of trafficking penniless market trader to the UK to  provide a kidney for their daughter in a landmark case.”

In the same vein, the headline on the Daily Mirror reads: “Wealthy couple guilty of plotting to bring man to the UK to harvest kidney for daughter.”Similarly, the first and second paragraphs of a news article in the UK Guardian of the verdict read, “A senior Nigerian politician, his wife, and a doctor have been convicted of organ trafficking, in the first verdict of its kind under the Modern Slavery Act. Ike Ekweremadu, 60, a former deputy president of the Nigerian senate, his wife, Beatrice, 56, and Dr. Obinna Obeta, 51, were found guilty of facilitating the travel of a young man to Britain with a view to his exploitation after a six-week trial at the Old Bailey.”The UK Guardian article was careful to mention that the verdict was the first of its kind under the Modern Slavery Act that came into force on October 29, 2015, with the implication the name of our country will now be etched in the history of this Act, and prosecutors will now refer to the former Nigerian Senator and his wife in future cases.

But there is another side to this story, a very dark side that reveals the dastardly mindset of the average Nigerian politician. Even though we already have an idea, a closer look at a few statements from the prosecutor Hugh Davies KC,  would be enough to reveal the resident evil in most of our innocent-looking politicians when he told the court that the Ekweremadus and Obeta had treated the man and other potential donors as “disposable assets – spare parts for reward”. He said they entered an “emotionally cold commercial transaction” with the man.
While speaking to the jury, Mr. Davies said the behaviour of Ekweremadu, a successful lawyer and founder of an anti-poverty charity who helped draw up Nigeria’s laws against organ trafficking, showed “entitlement, dishonesty, and hypocrisy.” In the view of the chief crown prosecutor, Joanne Jakymec, it “was a horrific plot to exploit a vulnerable victim by trafficking him to the UK for the purpose of transplanting his kidney.”The convicted defendants showed utter disregard for the victim’s welfare, health and wellbeing, and used their considerable influence to a high degree of control throughout, with the victim having a limited understanding of what was really going on here.” Unfortunately for the veteran politician, this is the United Kingdom, a jurisdiction where he has little or no room for finagling.

Regrettably, as bad as the case may sound, there is even something worse going by 2018 data from the Global Slavery Index (GSI). As a Nigerian, living in Nigeria, I could never have imagined that there are active slave owners and hundreds of thousands of slaves in Nigeria. In fact, in a global ranking of modern day slavery of 167 countries, Nigeria ranked fourth among the top ten countries in the world with the highest number of slaves, with a total of 1, 386, 000 slaves. The other countries are India, China, and North Korea, with 7, 989, 000, 3, 864, 000, and 2, 650, 00 slaves respectively according to GSI.Beyond the GSI data, about 133 million Nigerians are classified as multi-dimensionally poor, and it is obvious that their current estate in life is attributable to the actions of politicians like Ekweremadu who by spending so much time in the corridors of power have perfected every possible avenue to game the system, and by so doing enslaving millions of Nigerians in the process.

These politicians in the top echelon of the political value chain of our country loot our commonwealth, launder it, and boost the economy of other countries. It gives me no joy to write this article because it is a lament; the kind that is only heard in our traditional communities when they say, ‘the Iroko has fallen.’ It is indeed an anti-climax for a man with such a towering political career.In a November 14, 2022 article, titled “Ekweremadu’s Sand Castles,” I tried to make sense of the Senator’s appetite for property acquisition, even when it was evident to all that he was not in the real estate business. The article was written in the wake of the seizure of 40 of his properties by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and also in reference to a 2020 report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, interestingly titled: “Sand Castle Data.” It was revealed that Ekweremadu was connected to eight properties in Dubai, with an estimated total value of $7 million. The report also linked the Senator to two properties in the UK purchased between 2008 and 2011 with an estimated value of £4.2 million.

How do you begin to wrap your mind around the fact that if nothing else changes in the appeal, this giant of a man will be making a British prison cell his home for the foreseeable future? In fact, the ordinariness of so-called mighty men was driven home, when I saw the mug shots of the Senator, his wife, and their accomplice, Dr. Obeta in the UK Guardian. Seeing them without the visage of power, I felt heartbroken and sorry. They looked like the members of an average criminal syndicate.I wish the situation were different for the sake of the name of our country, but unfortunately, they were in contravention of section (2), and sub-section (1) & (4) of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 that deals with human trafficking. Sub-section (1)states that: “A person commits an offense if the person arranges or facilitates the travel of another person (“V”) with a view to V being exploited.” While sub-section (4) states that: “A person arranges or facilitates V’s travel with a view to V being exploited only if – (a)the person intends to exploit V (in any part of the world) during or after the travel, or (b) the person knows or ought to know that another person is likely to exploit V (in any part of the world) during or after the travel.”

The Act, in section (3) explains sections (1) & (2), and specifically in section (3) sub-section (4) gives the following explanation regarding the removal of organs, etc., “The person is encouraged, required or expected to do anything—(a)which involves the commission, by him or her or another person, of an offence under section 32 or 33 of the Human Tissue Act 2004 (prohibition of commercial dealings in organs and restrictions on the use of live donors) as it has effect in England and Wales, or (b)which would involve the commission of such an offence, by him or her or another person, if it were done in England and Wales.Having been found guilty, they now await sentencing on 5th May by Mr. Justice Jeremy Johnson; and according to the Act, they are looking at a minimum of ten years in prison. it’s a huge loss but it is also a stark reminder to the heavy and mighty in our society that there is always a day of reckoning either in the here and now, or in the hereafter.

By: Raphael Pepple

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Opinion

Freedom To Move And Settle

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Far back as May 1964 there was a security report about some secret plans to use cattle to foster expanded settlements and population figures. It was unfortunate that those involved in putting together that report were not only reprimanded and cautioned, but reposted to other beats. Between that time and 1970, cattle were involved in census controversy, movements of troops and land acquisition. This issue is raised because of a habit of discarding a message because of the status or face of the messenger.
Controversies, shenanigans and attacks following a recent meeting of 17 Southern Governors and the positions they articulated on national issues, clearly portray the old suspicion of some hidden agenda. While Northern Governors, Elders and Youths had been meeting and taking decisions on national issues without much ado, a similar meeting by Southern Governors creates alarm. As to be expected, we can see the old game of creating a division in family meetings for the purpose of forestalling or weakening solidarity.
The integrity of a nation is such that no individual or a group of persons, no matter how highly placed, should do anything to undermine it, without being called to order. The Tide newspaper of Monday, January 21, 2019, carried a headline news, saying: “Obasanjo Slams Buhari Again, Says Another Abacha Era Is Here; INEC Lacks Integrity To Conduct 2019 Polls”. An elder statesman like Obasanjo would surely not speak carelessly without having some background facts.
Similarly, Obasanjo would not have raised a false alarm about Islamisation and Fulanisation without reliable security information. Femi Fani-Kayode was also quoted as alleging that “President Buhari’s Fulani cabal has conquered Nigeria”. He went on to say that “Northerners are heading most of the sensitive positions in the country”. The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Most Rev. Matthew Kuka, who is neither a politician nor a Southerner, also warned the Federal Government under Buhari against fanning embers of civil war. He said that the federal government was using different methods to achieve the goal of Islamic dominance in Nigeria, a secular state.
The Tide Editorial Comments of Friday, February 8, 2019 titled: “Nigeriens And Kano APC Rally” lamented that “two Nigerien governors were in Kano to rally support for President Buhari’s re-election”. Anyone would wonder if the integrity and sovereignty of the Nigerian nation are not being compromised, following the above observations. Foreigners voting in elections?
More importantly, the strategy of deploying cattle as the instrument of advancing some hidden agenda becomes quite glaring, with the attitude of the federal government towards numerous complaints against herders. From the issue of RUGA settlements, to the strategy of setting up a commission on herders, there are obvious indications of spirited efforts to promote some agenda, pointed out in a 1964 security report, for which some operatives were reprimanded.
In an editorial comment of Wednesday, July 10, 2019, The Tide newspaper wrote: “the Federal Government has no business intervening and lobbying for cattle rearers to spread their tentacles across all cities and communities in the country…” In another editorial comment titled No To Herders’ Commission”, The Tide (Wed; March 17, 2021) wrote “Mr Malami’s proposal for a commission for pastoralism must be rejected and consigned to the refuse heap of unhelpful and injurious initiatives as RUGA and cattle colonies because it is insincere, ill-motivated, wasteful and mere shadow-chasing venture in its intentment”.
Apart from these shenanigans, the Federal Government, under President Buhari, gave a gift of N150 billion to the association of cattle breeders known as Miyetti Allah, as a support for their business. Today, Southern Nigerians are becoming increasingly uncomfortable and also suspicious of the position of the APC-led Federal Government of Nigeria over the attitude towards the cattle issue. The level of destruction done to farm crops and the disruption of farming activities in communities in Southern Nigeria by cattle, are perhaps trivial issues that should not concern the federal government.
Some months ago, women and embittered people of Okutukutu-Epie a Bayelsa community, took their protest to the Government House in Yenagoa over their sad experiences with and threats from herders. Several other communities have pathetic tales of bitterness and woes arising from their encounters with herdsmen in their farmlands.
The question of herders occupying forests in rural communities with several herds of cattle and with no permission to settle in such forests, should be addressed promptly. Many highly-placed Northerners have condemned the decisions of Southern Governors on open grazing which they insist should continue. The issue of right of movement and settlement has been cited as a reason why herders and their cattle should have free access to anywhere, but such logic ignores the condition that right goes with responsibility. Farmers have been terrorised in their farms.
Occupying another person’s farmland and obstructing such person from his means of livelihood amounts to an abuse of right of movement or settlement, especially when such intruder acts with impunity. It is important to alert the Rivers State Government that a vast forest area stretching from ONELGA to Delta and Bayelsa States, is currently being occupied by herdsmen and their cattle. A private investigation revealed that many of the herders are non-Nigerians and, apart from having concealed weapons, they have no intention to move out. Let this hint not end like a 1964 report.
If the Fulani race in diaspora across the West African sub-region must be given a homeland to settle, like the Jews after the World Wars, then let this be an open rather than a clandestine affair. The current situation between Israel and Palestine should serve as a lesson. Sympathy cannot be won by blusters, neither should Southern Nigerians be seen as a conquered people. Southern Governors should see the “hand writing on the wall” now.

By: Bright Amirize
Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

 A Very Long Way To Go

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Are not Nigerians happy when Nigerians are elected into political offices in other countries of the world? Do we not roll out our drums to celebrate whenever news breaks of  Nigerians in foreign land making remarkable achievement in their field of endeavour? From America to the United Kingdom, to Canada, stories abound about how young Nigerians are excelling in various areas, including politics.
In the recent contest for the office of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, a 42-year-old British-Nigerian, Kemi Badenoch, was among the top five contenders from the Conservative Party.  Badenoch, the current International Trade Secretary and Minister for Women & Equalities had enjoyed the support of the British and non-British in the country since her foray into politics in 2005. Her race or skin colour has  been inconsequential in climbing her political ladder.
In 2020, Charles Onyejiaka made history on the international scene as the first-ever West African to be elected deputy mayor of Franklin Township, Somerset County, New Jersey, United States. The story was the same for Ayo Owodunni, who last year, was elected the first black Councillor in Kitchener, a city in the Canadian province of Ontario. The list is endless. And for attaining political height, Nigerians, both the leaders and the led, usually laud their achievement and eulogise them for making Nigeria proud in foreign lands.
Ironically, the same politicians and citizens that celebrate the political exploits of their tribes’ men, friends, former colleagues and other Nigerians in the diaspora,  intimidate fellow Nigerians from outside their states, tribes, religion or political parties and deny them the opportunity of casting their votes for their preferred candidates or realising their political aspirations.
Penultimate Saturday’s Governorship and State Houses of Assembly Election in most states of the country brought the worst out of some politicians in some states. They unleashed terror  on innocent people to scare and suppress them. In Lagos State, the Parks Management Committee Chairman, Musiliu Akinsanya, popularly known as MC Oluomo, in a viral video warned Igbos in the state ahead of the governorship election that “If they don’t want to vote for us, it is not a fight. Tell them, mama Chukwudi, if you don’t want to vote for us, sit down at home. Sit down at home.”
Incidentally, instead of taking the necessary action to forestall such a threat from being carried out and cautioning him the Nigerian Police Force  described the threat as a joke saying that nobody has the right and audacity to tell Nigerians not to come out and vote and that it would not be allowed. But reports and video clips of what transpired at polling units across the state are there for everyone to read and watch. A popular Nigerian Singer, Waje, was in tears when she was describing her ordeal in a video.
In some other states,  people were killed, maimed and assaulted for daring to come out to choose candidates of their choice. The United States Embassy in Nigeria aptly described the violent voter intimidation and suppression that took place during the polls in Lagos, Kano and other states as deeply disturbing, adding that the use of ethnically charged rhetoric before, during, and after the gubernatorial election in Lagos was particularly concerning.
What is the essence of democracy if the citizens are not allowed to perform their civic responsibility?  How can the nation move forward if the constitution which gives every Nigerian the right to reside and own property in any part of the country is not respected?  It is more painful when respected people in the society defend the indefensible, castigate and spread hate speech about people of other ethnic groups in their states.
Some people leave their states due to the dearth of federal government projects in their states. Not long ago,  Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike,  lambasted the federal government for concentrating all the sea ports in Lagos.
Speaking during the maiden delivery of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) to downstream investor, Stock Gap Terminal by the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Bonny, he reportedly asked why the State should undertake the dredging of Bonny channels while the federal government collects all the revenues and levies from marine operators, lamenting that “you (FG) are building a new port in Lagos, but those in Rivers you rendered idle, grounded with no development attention.”
The Olu of Warri, His Majesty,  Ogiame Ikenwole, toed the same line with Wike when he led a delegation of members of his kingdom to Abuja for a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari recently. He appealed to the federal government to hasten action on the rehabilitation of Warri and Koko ports in Delta State so as to minimise the incidence of restiveness and rejuvenate economic activities in the area. He decried the deplorable state of the ports which he said had been abandoned by the government, noting that the ports were very good and solid ports left unused.
Similarly, in the twilight of his administration, the former governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode , appealed to the Federal Government to ensure that seaports in other parts of the country become functional as a way of decongesting Apapa Ports and by extension, Lagos State. He argued that besides helping the government to save funds spent on managing the traffic and regular repair of roads damaged by articulated vehicles, this will end the gridlock caused by trucks and trailers on the Apapa-Oshodi route.
The point being made is that aside from having the constitutional right to reside, do business and own property in any part of the country, many people are forced to leave their states to Lagos because of the over concentration of economic activities in that part of the country. One need not remind those beating ethnic drums that Lagos being a former capital of Nigeria implies that people from all parts of the country would be found in reasonable numbers in that city.
Some of these people have invested heavily there and contributed immensely through payment of taxes and others to make Lagos what it is today. Some of them have married and given their children and relations in marriage to their  Yoruba “brothers and sisters” and all of a sudden, because of some selfish, political reasons, they are declared persona non grata and their property and means of livelihood destroyed daily. Where will such an attitude lead us  to, as a nation?
The most worrisome thing is that stories have not been read about the perpetrators of these acts, their sponsors or those dishing out hate speeches and write – ups against the Igbos being apprehended by the police or even invited for questioning. Given, some Yoruba people, including the president-elect, Bola Tinubu, are said to have condemned the ugly development and sued for peace. But how can there be peace when no culprit is punished?
As the US embassy admonished, “We call on Nigerian authorities to hold accountable and bring to justice any individuals found to have ordered or carried out efforts to intimidate voters and suppress voting during the election process.” This should not be restricted to Lagos State alone but all states where similar acts took place.
Many Nigerians believe in the indivisibility of the country. As the saying goes, we are better, stronger as one.  But to maintain this strong, united country, every citizen, every tribe or religion must be accorded their rights as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the country (as amended). Every citizen must be protected.
There is no better time than now to consider the agelong call for the practice of true federalism in Nigeria which will bring about rapid development of various zones, both economically, infrastructurally and otherwise, thereby reducing the drifting of many people to other parts of the country in search of means of livelihood. Continuing on the trajectory of envy, hatred and ethnic and religious bigotry will only take the country further away from civilisation.

By: Calista Ezeaku

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