Wednesday, December 28, 2011

An assessment of Nigerian economy in 2011

2011 started with a lot of promises. Nigerians were hoping and praying for a better year. However, for many, it was an unfulfilled dream.

Even though the 2011 budget was presented to the National Assembly in December 2010, controversies trailed the budget passed by the legislature in March 2011 and had to be amended before the President signed it in May 2011. As at December 2011 only about 70 per cent of the budget has been implemented thus the jinx of budget debacle is yet to be broken.

The financial sector, particularly the banking and insurance sub-sectors witnessed further reform in 2011. Three banks, Bank PHB, Afribank and Spring Bank were nationalised in August while bridge banks were created to take over from the nationalised banks. It would be recalled that under the new arrangement, MainStreet Bank Limited takes over the assets and liabilities of Afribank; Keystone Bank Limited acquires the assets and liabilities of Bank PHB, while Enterprise Bank Limited takes over that of Spring Bank. Also in 2011, banks asked their customers to update their account details and also issued their customers 10 digit National Unified Bank Account Number (NUBAN). On Thursday, April 28, 2011, Central Bank of Nigeria issued a circular titled “Industry Policy on Retail Cash Collection and Lodgement”. In the circular the CBN put a cap on the amount an individual can withdraw from his or her account at N150, 000 while corporate organisations can only withdraw maximum of N1 million in a day. This is to take effect in June 2012.

In 2011, National Minimum Wage Act was signed into law by the Federal Government pegging the lowest minimum wage at N18,000. Unfortunately, this new wage structure has been dogged with controversies as Federal and State Governments foot-drags on its implementation. Several meetings were held with labour unions before federal government pledged to commence implementation by August 2011. Many States are still recalcitrant as they claimed not to have the resources to pay the new minimum wage except the fuel subsidy is removed and /or new revenue allocation formula in favour of State is instituted.

Senate probe of the privatisation programme of the federal government in the August 2011 revealed a lot of sharp-practices and malpractices in the implementation of the privatisation and commercialisation programme. The probe panel headed by Senator Ahmad Lawan (ANPP, Yobe North) whose panel recommendation was adopted on December 20, 2011 shows undervaluation of government assets, non-respect of share purchase agreement by some of the buyers of the ailing government corporations; lack of due process in the sales of some of the corporations; political interference; incompetence of some of the Bureau of Public Enterprises officials, etc. Under the Nigerian privatisation programme, the nation lost assets, revenue, jobs and values.

In spite of the much touted Power sector reform, Nigeria is closing the year with a paltry 4,000 megawatts of electricity. The closure of Egbin Thermal Station in the first week of December 2011 even led to a loss of over 1,000 out of that number. Thus the Nigeria’s power situation remained deplorable in 2011 with attendant negative impact on socio-economic life of the people. Nigeria’s economy continues to be powered by electricity generating machines procured by individuals and companies. This has significantly increased the cost of doing business in Nigeria.

Not much diversification of the non-oil sector viz. Tax, Solid minerals, Manufacturing and Agriculture take place in 2011. Rather, the country continues her over dependence on oil exports as its mainstay of the economy. This is unhealthy. Nigeria is richly blessed with scores of solid minerals which could be explored to augment income from oil earnings but not much has been done in this regard. Manufacturing sector remains comatose.

A newspaper editorial put the issue more succinctly, “The nation’s economy today is in a mess, featuring the collapse of businesses owing to the poor operating environment. Companies are shutting down and others relocating to neighbouring nations. The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria revealed that, in 2009, 834 member-companies shut down while half of those still in operation were ailing. Invariably, over 83,000 persons were said to have been rendered jobless by the closures.

The Central Bank of Nigeria in July put the rate of youth unemployment at 41.6 per cent. Former Finance Minister, Olusegun Aganga, said in December 2010 that 49 per cent of Nigeria’s urban youths and 39.7 per cent of the nation’s rural youths were unemployed. The Ministry of Labour and Productivity had put the figure of graduate unemployment at 41 per cent.”

In the 2011 budget a seed funding of N50 billion was earmarked for National Job Creation Scheme. Even though the president in his budget speech on December 13 said the implementation of this scheme has commenced, there are no statistical data of how much of this money has been spent and how many persons has been employed under the scheme in 2011. In October 2011, President Jonathan launched a Youth Enterprise with Innovations in Nigeria (YOUWIN) with the hope that the initiative will generate about 100,000 jobs in three years. This is a far cry from what the country needs to drastically address the unemployment explosion.

One of the good measures taken to speed up business at the nation’s seaports is the reduction in the number of agencies operating at the port. In October 2011, Minister of Finance and Co-ordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, disclosed during the inspection of APM Terminals Apapa Limited in Lagos that the Federal Government has ordered the withdrawal of eight agencies operating in the nation’s ports, saying that the number should be reduced from 14 to six with immediate effect.

In the same vein, the Federal Government in collaboration with the top management of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) disbanded the Customs Task Force and abolished the cargo tracking note (CTN), saying that operations at the nation’s ports must be streamlined to enhance efficiency and reduce the cost as obtainable in developed economies.

The inauguration of Economic Management Team by the Federal Government and the recommencement of publication of monthly allocations to Federal, States and LGAs are other noble efforts of government in 2011.

Unfortunately, the war against corruption is still far from being won. In the 2011 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), released by Transparency International (TI), Nigeria dropped nine places from her ranking of 134 out of 178 countries in 2010, to 143rd out of 183 countries in 2011. Nigeria maintained a score of 2.4 points out of 10, while New Zealand was ranked first with 9.5 points. This poor record could have been part of the reason behind the sack of Farida Waziri, chairperson of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in November 2011. Nigeria currently languishes in 156th place out of 187 countries in the UN's Human Development Index. This is an indication that standard of living of majority of Nigerians is still very poor while cost of living soars.

Agenda for the economy in 2012

1. Budget for 2012 should be passed by the federal and state legislatures promptly and implemented faithfully by the government at all levels.
2. The removal of fuel subsidy, if it must happen, should be done in phases. This is to cushion the negative effect a total deregulation will cause to majority of Nigerians. Nigeria’s refineries also need to be revamped as a matter of urgency.
3. Human capital development should be given priority in 2012.
4. Power sector should be fixed with significant increase in power generation, distribution and consumption. This is the best way to stimulate the economy, re-industrialise Nigeria; fight unemployment and reduce poverty.
5. Government at all levels should sincerely wage war against wastes, leakages and corruption. Even if fuel subsidy is removed and lip service is paid to anti-corruption war, Nigeria will be worse off. There should be no sacred cow in the fight against corruption as that is one of the ways to deter people from indulging in corrupt practices.
6. Government should embark on pro-poor policies that will make life meaningful for the less privileged. These include subsidized Medicare, mass and affordable housing schemes; qualitative and affordable education; mass transit programmes including rail, road and water transportation.
7. Security of lives and property should also be paramount on government list of priorities. Throwing money at security problem will not solve it. Security personnel need to be well trained and patriotic. Security chiefs that fail to perform should be sacked.

Nigeria's Budget 2012 in Perspective

Over the years, we have listened to very beautiful and impressive budget speeches eloquently delivered in this chamber. Unfortunately, the implementation has not matched the words as economic policies often lack continuity and projects are needlessly discarded or abandoned. Let this budget be the one that will say let there be light, and there is light; let there be roads and there are roads; let there be water, and there is water; let there be employment and there is employment; let there be Medicare and it is so; and let there be food and there is food." – Nigeria’s Senate President, David Mark (December 13, 2011)

On December 13, 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan presented a budget speech of 82 paragraphs spanning 27 pages to the joint session of the National Assembly. The 2012 budget has the theme: "Fiscal consolidation, inclusive growth and job creation", and rests on four main pillars namely, macroeconomic stability; structural reforms; governance and institutions and investing in priority areas.

The budget estimate for 2012 stands at the sum of N4.749tn which is an increase of six per cent over 2011 budget. The aggregate expenditure comprises N398bn for statutory transfers; N560bn for debt service; N2.472tn for recurrent (Non-Debt) expenditure while capital expenditure stood at N1.32tn, representing a 15 per cent increase over last year’s appropriation. The budget is predicated on an estimated oil production of 2.48 million barrels per day; benchmark oil price of US$70/barrel; exchange rate of NGN155/US$; projected GDP growth rate of 7.2 per cent; and projected inflation rate of 9.5 per cent. It is heart-warming that the Federal Government intends to streamline agencies with overlapping mandates as a way to realign public expenditure.

Speaking on the humongous infrastructural deficit, Jonathan in his budget speech (in paragraph 25) said government’s focus will be on the completion of viable ongoing capital projects while also taking on flagship projects already identified in the Transformation Agenda. However, the President was silent on what will happen to the unviable white elephants that past and present administrations have embarked on. Will they just be discontinued? Will government invite the private sector to take over and complete, operate and transfer under the private public partnership? Will they be sold off to enable government to raise additional revenue to complete the so-called ‘ongoing viable projects’?

It will be recalled that on June 2, the Presidential Projects Assessment Committee led by Ibrahim Bunu said in its report to President Jonathan that the Federal Government is currently executing 11,886 projects at the cost of N7.78tn, out of which N2.696tn had been paid to contractors. The report also stated that, "reckoned in today’s prices and allowing for unreported ongoing projects, the total cost needed to complete all the projects may well be as high as N8tn...As a matter of routine, contracts are awarded without securing the required funds in the annual budget to ensure their timely execution."

Guaranteeing 70 per cent of the principal of all loans made for supply of seeds and fertiliser by the private sector for this season; Subsidising of interest rate on agricultural loan to bring it down from 15 per cent to 7 per cent; the proposed zero duty on agricultural equipment by January 31, 2012; and the ban on importation of cassava flour from March 31, 2012 are commendable practical steps towards reviving the agricultural sector.

I, however, do not fully support the increased import duty imposed on rice and wheat. While we have few communities such as Abakaliki, Ebonyi State; and Ofada, Ogun State known for local rice production, these communities cannot yet produce sufficiently to meet domestic demand. I am not aware that wheat is grown in any part of Nigeria and that there is a wholly cassava bread. That being the case, we will need both commodities to still be cheaply imported until such a time that we will attain local self-sufficiency. This obviously cannot be done in the next one year; unless government is essentially saying that bread and rice should now become the menu of the rich and wealthy Nigerians only.

Though the President touched on his youth employment scheme in paragraphs 71 – 75 of his speech, he failed to mention how many Nigerians have been employed under the National Job Creation Scheme which he earmarked a princely N50bn for in the 2011 budget. How much of this N50bn has been spent was also not stated. He only said his Youth Enterprise with Innovations in Nigeria which he launched in October 2011 will generate about 100,000 jobs in three years.

The tax reform of the Jonathan administration is also commendable as it reduces the tax burdens of low income earners, grants tax rebates to companies that create jobs and tax incentives to those donating to social and community development causes while establishing a Tax Appeal Tribunals.

My major concern about this budget is its late presentation, its silence on the tapping of solid minerals to boost non-oil export, as well as the huge amounts budgeted by the Presidency for all manner of things such as stationery, fuel for generators, vehicles, repairs, food and other sundry items. Why purchase so many vehicles in spite of the monetisation policy of government? I also noticed that there was no provision for fuel subsidy which makes its removal a fait accompli. This is not good enough as the issue is still being debated. This speaks volumes.

The sum of N921.91bn budgeted for security at the expense of other equally very important sectors such as Education, Power, Health, Works, Agriculture, Science and Technology reflects a shallow thinking about how best to ensure national security. For me, human capital development, provision of social infrastructure and food are part of national security, not only the procurement of armoured personnel carriers and other instruments of law enforcement and coercion.

My other worry is the National Assembly’s penchant for budget padding. It will be recalled that on December 15, 2010, President Jonathan presented a budget of N4. 2tn to the lawmakers, by the time they passed the budget on March 16, 2011, they had increased it to N4.9tn. This caused an impasse between the Presidency and the Legislature as the President refused to sign the Appropriation Bill. Not until the budget was reviewed downwards to N4.48tn in May 2011, did the President eventually append his signature.

I fully endorse the view of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, during the budget presentation ceremony that, "We are moved with the feeling of a new spirit to remove the annual budget presentation from the realm of sheer rhetoric to one of a comprehensive presentation of a workable document. I must, however, note that the budget proposal is again coming rather late in the day. Let me emphasise that selective budget implementation has no place in our constitution and the legislature shall not abdicate its responsibility in ensuring full budget implementation through the instrumentality of oversight. Nigerians deserve better living and this is only achievable through effective implementation of the budget. We expect nothing less, but positive impact of the 2012 budget on Nigerians on account of full implementation". Period!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Will 2012 be a happy year for Nigerians?

In a few days time it will be a new year 2012. I look forward to a happy new year and pray that the Almighty will endorse my request. For majority of Nigerians and indeed for the Christendom, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year are traditional greetings at Yuletide. As I watched the horror perpetrated by Islamist Fundamentalist group – Boko Haram on 2011 Christmas Day, I asked myself if the victims and their families will have a merry Christmas and happy new year. With government making the removal of fuel subsidy an irreversible decision for 2012, will majority of Nigerians have a happy new year?

With the spate of armed robbery attacks on individuals and institutions (many banks are now closing by 1 pm while in some towns they remain closed for weeks due to fear of attack by men of the underworld) will the victims of these armed robberies experience a happy new year? Will the victims of kidnappers know a happy new year? Can Nigerians enjoy the New Year in pitched darkness that Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) had thrown them? Will Nigerian students in public universities and research institutions experience a happy new year when Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is at present on indefinite strike? Can Nigerians have a better new year 2012 when our hospitals are still largely mere consulting clinics, roads remain deplorable and basic welfare services are beyond the reach of millions of Nigerian suffering masses?

Nigerians deserve a better and a happy new year but our political leaders are not convinced that we should have it, hence they promised to inflict more pains on the less privileged Nigerians. They refused to heed our plead not to remove fuel subsidy. They said electricity tariff will go up by as much as 50 per cent. They said the private sector should start to collect toll on our highway and that we should eat cassava bread and Abakaliki rice when they know that we are not yet producing sufficient quantity to feed ourselves. The Nigerian Constitution in Section 14 (2b) says “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” Yet we lacked security neither do we have welfare. What impact of governance do we enjoy? Each family today is a mini local government on its own; providing for themselves light, water, security, housing and other basic needs which are taken for granted in saner climes.

Can government disappoint some Doubting Thomas’s who believe that nothing good can come out of Nigeria’s “Nazareth” by ensuring that we experience a better and a happier 2012? What better way can this be done than by making people’s money to work for them. Will the government at the three tiers use state resources to bring about developmental projects that will impact positively on the lives of millions of suffering masses? Will government consider suspending the removal of fuel subsidy until a more auspicious time when our refineries would be working at optimal capacity and members of the cabal importing fuel to the country who are found to be short-changing the country through sharp-practices and malpractices are brought to book? Additionally, if we must remove the fuel subsidy can this be done over a period of three years? To my mind, this phased removal will ensure that the cost of living does not soar above and beyond the reach of the poor.

Furthermore, government can guarantee a happy new year for Nigerians and foreigners alike when the power sector is fixed and adequate electricity is provided for productive sector of the economy as well as for daily family living. There are not many poverty reduction measures that can work outside of sufficient and affordable electricity. The simple reason being that both commerce and industry depend largely on its existence for business growth. When there is business expansion, more people will be recruited to work in those business concerns.

Will government find the antidote to these incessant killings and maiming of innocent souls by dissidents and gangsters who are gradually making the country ungovernable in 2012? A whooping N922 billion has been set aside for security in the 2012 budget. Will this humongous amount guarantee safety of lives and property for Nigerians? Will it secure our environment sufficiently to enable foreign direct investment to flow into Nigeria’s economy? We wait to see.

In the 2011 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), released by Transparency International (TI), Nigeria dropped nine places from her ranking of 134 out of 178 countries in 2010, to 143rd out of 183 countries in 2011. Likewise, Nigeria currently languishes in 156th place out of 187 countries in the UN's Human Development Index. This is an indication that standard of living of majority of Nigerians is still very poor while cost of living soars. Will the war against corruption receive a boost in 2012? Will there be a significant improvement in Nigeria’s human development index in the approaching year?

Nigerians desire and deserve a happy new year 2012 but from the look of things, they may have to trust in providence than in government. The signs are ominous that Nigerians are indeed on the threshold of another tough year. May God deliver us!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Perspective on Nigeria's 2011 National Honours Awards

National Honours are not merely decorative; they remind us of an important part of our responsibilities as citizens. We must always endeavour to do our best for our country, even as we realise with deep humility that all human beings are fallible, we must look forward with confidence and hope that our country through each and every one of us can indeed put its God-given endowment to the best possible use - President Goodluck Jonathan

It is no longer news that 355 Nigerians and foreigners were recipients at the 2010/2011 National Honours Award ceremony held at the International Conference Centre in Abuja on Monday, 14 November. What have lingered are the many controversies that have trailed the award. Several issues have emerged. They include the rejection of the honour by three of the nominees’ viz. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, Minority Leader in the House of Representatives and Prof. Chinua Achebe, a renowned novelist and Prof. (Mrs) Grace Alele Williams, a former University of Benin Vice Chancellor. There was also the criticism that the number of the recipients was too large; that some of the awardees were undeserving of the honour and that there was shortage of medals and certificates.

Every human endeavour is prone to censure. I do not believe that there should be an issue with someone rejecting the award; neither do I share the sentiments that the honourees are too many especially as they were for Year 2010 and 2011. Moreover, in 48 years of the awards, having been instituted in 1963, only 3,924 persons have been honoured in all the ten categories of the award out of a population of 167 million Nigerians, excluding foreign nationals. Out of this number, some people have been honoured more than once. Thus, it is a misnomer to say the number of the honourees was too large.

Contrary to the views expressed my many critics of the award, most of those who were honoured deserved being so recognised. The fact that someone’s name does not ring a bell when mentioned does not amount to the person being a nonentity. I however agree that the award should be performance based. Persons should not be given national honour simply because they occupy a high profile positions (be it religious, cultural, political, social or economic) in the society.

I found it indefensible the explanation offered by the Secretary to the Federal Government of Nigeria, Senator Pius Anyim that the shortage of medals and certificates was due to the large number of recipients. For goodness sake, SGF and his team of organisers have two years to prepare for the events! Production of 355 memorabilia is not a rocket science. The alibi that the National Honours Award was put off in 2010 due to preparations for the April 2011 elections also sounds incredible. The nation is not at war and as such election is not a justifiable reason for the inability to hold the Honours Award.

It has also come out very clearly that Nigerians know little or nothing about the award. There seems to be no sense of history on the origin, importance, benefits, responsibilities, requirements and processes of being conferred with the national honours. What necessitates the design of the national honours? How did we come about the names of the various categories? Why do we have nomenclature like Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger instead of Grand Commander of the Order of Nigeria? Won’t this be less confusing as there is another neighbouring country known as Niger? What sense is in Member of the Federal Republic for a Nigerian? Are we, other non-MFR-honourees, not a member of the federal republic as well? Shouldn’t such a title be conferred on nationalised foreigners?

It does seem that the President’s speech writer did not do his or her homework well on the etymology of the national honours as the President goofed in saying inter alia that “The position you occupy does not give an automatic award except for some positions like the GCFR which is given to anyone who becomes the President of this country or the GCON given to anybody who becomes the Vice President or the head of the National Assembly or the head of the Judiciary.” If the advertorial by a faceless group named “The ‘New Thinking , New Nation’ Initiative” in some newspapers on Friday, November 18, is to be believed, since inception of the National Honours, “over 80 Nigerians have been conferred with the honour of GCON, of which only five were second in command to the Presidents/ Heads of State” A quick perusal of some of the names of past beneficiaries of GCON revealed that many were former military chiefs, permanent secretaries and Ministers.

The advert also went on to say that even late Chief Obafemi Awolowo who was not a president was long ago conferred with the highest title of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR). I should want to know what benefits accrue to national honourees. Is there a cash reward attached to the award? Can I use it as collateral to obtain bank facility? Does it guarantee me free shopping at any supermarket of my choice or a business class seat in an airplane or free Medicare at public hospitals? There have been several past honourees who have abused their privileged positions; shouldn’t awardees convicted of crimes be stripped of their national honour? Is there really a code of conduct for recipients of national honours?

Lest I forget, hearty congratulations to the 2011 Honourees made up of one Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON), 65 Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON), 37 Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (CFR), 74 Officer of the Order Federal Republic (OFR), 69 Member of the Officer of the Order Federal Republic (MFR), 71 Order of the Niger (OON), 28 Member of the Order of the Niger (MON), two First Class Federal Republic Medalist and three Second Class Federal Republic Medalist.

Even as we pontificate over the national honours, Nigerian newspapers are in a celebration mood having experienced a windfall in advert sales in the week of the conferment of the national honours. In a monitoring exercise carried out by a national newspaper, Thisday, six Nigerian newspapers recorded 726 pages of adverts from congratulatory messages alone between Monday, November 14 and Wednesday, November 16. The daily had on the day of the national award hit the newsstand with a package of 224 pages, the highest number of pages in a single edition of a newspaper in the nation’s media history.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

ENSIEC and Campaign Finance

Enugu State Independent Electoral Commission (ENSIEC) is one of the 36 state electoral commissions in Nigeria. The Commission is at present making earnest preparations for the conduct of chairmanship and councillorship elections into the 17 Local Government Areas of the State. ENSIEC recently released the official guidelines for the elections. The 3rd September 211 official gazette titled “E.S.L.N. No. 6 of 2011 – Enugu State Independent Electoral Commission (ENSIEC) Guidelines for Local Government Council Elections Scheduled for the 10th December 2011” has a total of seventeen sections. Of greater relevance to this writer are the sections related to campaign finance in the guidelines.

Section 3 (n) of the document states that “each candidate shall pay a non-refundable deposit of two hundred thousand naira (N200, 000) for Chairmanship candidates and fifty thousand naira (N50, 000) for Councillorship candidates.” This same provision was repeated verbatim as a possible ground for disqualification in section 13 (f). It is noteworthy that this clause is neither in the Nigerian 1999 Constitution (as amended), Electoral Act 2010 (as amended) nor does it exist in the guidelines for election by Independent National Electoral Commission which is the statutory body that conducts all other strands of elections apart from the council polls.

My investigation shows that due to the unhealthy state of funding for local government polls by State governors in Nigeria, some state electoral commissions decided to charge administrative fees on candidates running for council elections. It is noteworthy that the levy is not on aspirants but on candidates. Apart from being a source of additional revenue to SIECs, such administrative fee also ensures that only serious candidates contest for council elections. Of course, many political parties and candidates have kicked against such charges which they call illegal and exorbitant. Some of them have gone further to sue the state independent electoral commissions over the issue.

As earlier noted, it is not all the SIECs that charges this non-refundable deposits neither is the amount charged uniform across the states that demand such fees. For instance, River State Independent Electoral Commission (RISEC) charges a token of N5, 000 for Councillorship and N10, 000 for Chairmanship positions. My inquiry reveals that these fees are refundable in certain circumstances. So it depends on how well funded the state electoral commission is that determines whether it explores other sources of income. Quite unfortunately, it is the contestants that bear the brunt of such additional charges as many aspirants would have spent money to purchase their nomination forms from their respective political parties.

Another ENSIEC requirement that borders on campaign finance is contained in section 3(p) (iii) which states that “Candidates for screening shall come along with the following: 3 years tax clearance certificate paid as and at when due preceding the local government elections. The tax clearance certificate must show the seal and the signature of the Board of Internal Revenue (BIR).” This, I think, is to ensure that those coming to govern the local government are responsible citizens who performs their civic duties as at when due.

The guideline in section 4 (h) frowns at vote buying. It states that: “Bribery or other forms of inducement to voters, either directly or indirectly, shall be avoided by candidates and their agents.” This is one of the ways ENSIEC hopes to create a level playing field for all the contestants. A curious provision is contained in section 6 (a) of the guideline. It states that “The candidates may print posters of any size not exceeding 14*16 inch size for the elections.” Why the specification?

Two possible grounds on which a candidate can be declared unfit to contest as councillor or chairman of a local government in Enugu State is if he or she is bankrupt and /or has been indicted for embezzlement by a panel of enquiry. In the past, indictment by any panels of enquiry has been used to weed out unfavoured candidates. In tandem with what now obtains at the federal level, it would have been better if ENSIEC disqualifies candidates based on indictment for corruption by court of competent jurisdiction.

Section 8 (4) of the guideline also bars chairman of a local government in Enugu State from holding “any other executive office or paid employment whatsoever, during his tenure of office” This is possibly aimed at preventing conflict of interest. This plethora of regulations notwithstanding, does ENSIEC has the manpower, resources and the technical knowledge to enforce these guidelines?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Justice Musdapher’s Advisory to Nigerian Judges

“A corrupt Judge is more harmful to the society than a man who runs amok with a dagger in a crowded street. The latter can be restrained physically. But a corrupt Judge deliberately destroys the moral foundation of society and causes incalculable distress to individuals through abusing his office while still being referred to as ‘honourable.’ – Hon. Justice Samson Uwaifo (Retd)

There is no gainsaying that Nigeria’s judiciary, particularly in 2011, have been in the eye of the storm. The institution has been enmeshed in war of attrition that has left it battered, bruised and soiled. At a lecture organised by the Nigerian Institute of Advanced Legal Studies (NIALS) on 10 November 2011, Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Dahiru Musdapher in a paper titled “The Nigerian Judiciary: Towards Reform of the Bastion of Constitutional Democracy” lamented the delay in the dispensation of justice which he identified as a major challenge in the justice delivery sector.

He attributed such delay to institutional incapacities in facilities (especially electronic facility), in-built delay mechanisms in the law, as well as failings on the part of some Judges, the official and private Bars, law enforcement agencies, litigants and witnesses. CJN also expressed concern about “the declining intellectual depth and overall quality of the judgments of some Judges as well as the frequency with which some Judges churn out conflicting decisions in respect of the same set of facts.”

Perhaps, most weighty of the comments made by the CJN at the NIALS lecture was his advisory to his colleagues on the bench. According to news report, Justice Musdapher said: “I must make specific mention of the need for Judges to prioritise criminal matters bordering on official corruption that are placed before them. It has since been recognised that corruption is the bane of development in Nigeria. Therefore, it is imperative for all Judges to realise that these cases are extremely important to Nigerians and must be dispensed with swiftly. I hereby strongly advise all Judges to accelerate the hearing of such cases and ensure that they are dispensed with within six months of filing. If for any reason the prosecution is not ready to proceed with the case, then the matter should be struck out rather than leaving the public with the impression that the judiciary is not performing its necessary role in curbing corrupt practices in Nigeria. These delays cannot be tolerated any longer.”

That statement was spot on. Nigeria over the years has been occupying the unenviable position on the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. With a score of 2.4 out of 10, Nigeria in 2010 was ranked number 134 out of 178 countries on CPI. In its official reaction to the CJN’s advisory, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said if the directive is strictly adhered to by judges, it will not only draw to a close the over 75 high profile cases and 1500 others it is presently prosecuting in courts "with the attendant effect of reshaping the nation’s anti-graft war but will equally reposition the country’s reputation in the international community." It is therefore heart-warming to hear that the CJN has deemed it fit to drum up support for the anti-corruption crusade of the government.

However, this directive to my own mind does not have the force of law and as such CJN may not be in a position to sanction judges who flout it. If what happened with election petition tribunals is anything to go by, a constitutional amendment has to be effected on section 285 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended in order for a time limit to apply to the disposal of election petitions. The closest power given to CJN to make rules is in section 236 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended and it reads “Subject to the provisions of any Act of the National Assembly, the Chief Justice of Nigeria may make rules for regulating the practice and procedure of Supreme Court.” Thus, National Assembly must approve of any such regulation and it only applies to the Supreme Court.

The nobility of the intention of the CJN in helping to fast track adjudication on corruption cases is not in doubt; however, he must not over reach himself by issuing directives that can further embattle the judiciary. The advisory is in order if it is just to seek cooperation of colleagues to expedite adjudication process. In addition, he should join the EFCC’s advocacy for special court or tribunal to handle corruption matters. That in my view is the sure way forward out of the present quagmire of slow motion in the dispensation of corruption cases.

Further, it is not only corruption cases that needs to be fast tracked. All cases before the courts must be handled expeditiously. Comptroller General of Prisons, Mr Olusola Ogundipe has said time and again that the number of awaiting trial inmates in our prisons is intolerable. According to the CGP, out of the over 48,000 inmates in Nigeria’s prison custody only about 14,000 of them were convicts. Moreover, up to 50 per cent of these Awaiting Trial Prisoners have been on remand for between 5 and 17 years without their cases being concluded. A newspaper investigation has also shown that the Supreme Court is currently hearing appeals filed in 2001 and 2002. In his address at the event to mark the 2011/2012 legal year, Musdapher said that during the 2010-2011 legal year 1,149 civil appeals, 58 criminal appeals and 177 motions were pending before the court. This is preposterous!

Some administrative steps taken by the CJN to reform the judiciary are well-intentioned and commendable. Some of them include the reversal of an administrative order of his immediate predecessor in office, which restricted the sitting of the Supreme Court to only three weeks in a month. CJN directed the litigation department to fix cases for every week. The setting up of Justice Mohammed Lawal Uwais led 28 member judicial reform Committee is also praiseworthy even though reports of similar reform committees in the past have largely remained unimplemented. Also laudable is the CJN’s plan to introduce Intelligent Performance Measurement System for both judicial and non-judicial staff to weed out those who are unproductive as well as his announcement of the full computerisation of Supreme Court operations so as to ensure efficient and speedy processing of court documentations, fast-track compilation (and transmission) of records of proceedings and other vital documents; enable Judges; lawyers; litigants; researchers and the public to have easy access to online legal database among other benefits.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Implication of Nigeria’s 167 Million Population

Baby Gabriel, born 12am at Gwarinpa General Hospital, Abuja, officially made Nigeria’s population 167 million (82 million females and 85 million males) as the world celebrates Day of Seven Billion People on Monday, October 31, 2011. At that official figure, Nigeria also becomes the sixth largest population in the world after China, India, USA, Indonesia and Brazil according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Nigeria’s latest projected inhabitants represent 2.4 per cent of the world’s new population. According to recent estimates by the UN Population Division, by 2100 Nigeria will be the third most populous country in the world, next to India and China.

Immediate past Chairman of National Population Commission (NPC), Samu’ila Danko Makama at his valedictory meeting with the media on October 26, 2011 “urged leaders at the three tiers of government to up the ante on nation-building initiatives, with a view to expanding public infrastructure in proportion to population growth in order to stem a future social crisis that could be foisted on the country by its alarmingly increasing citizenry base.”

He also stressed the need for the Federal Government to step up preparations for the conduct of the next census, expected to be in 2016 in conformity with global standard of 10 years interval and a three-year preparatory timeline. Drawing attention to projections that Nigeria’s population would be 188 million in four years and 221 million by 2020, Makama charged the government to brace up ahead of the challenges that would inevitably come with these population growths. According to him, the rise would impact positively or negatively on the citizenry depending on government’s plans or failure to plan.

Makama said: “For instance, we all know that such areas like health, food, housing, and other social infrastructure will dominate the need of the population. We should start thinking about protecting the people with adequate preparation ahead. Take family planning more seriously because if the current exponential growth rate of 3.2 per cent increases, it will translate to population explosion, which can mean crisis.” Erstwhile NPC chairman further opined that Nigeria’s increasing population has an annual growth rate of 5.6 million people and cautioned that the population explosion could lead to a higher rate of unemployment and poverty among Nigerians. “For Nigerians, it is necessary we start to space our children and have plans for them, otherwise this may lead to increased food shortage, poverty among Nigerians and a higher rate of unemployment. These effects are already manifesting in every spheres of life of Nigerians, many of whom still wallow in poverty”.

Speaking at a news conference at UN headquarters in New York to mark the Seven billion human population milestones, UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon stressed the need for concerted action to address growing social and economic challenges of population growth. According to him, people have lost faith in governments and public institutions to do the right thing. “Our world is one of terrible contradictions. Plenty of food but one billion people goes hungry. Lavish lifestyles for a few, poverty for too many others. Huge advances in medicine while mothers die every day in childbirth … and children die every day from drinking dirty water. Billions spent on weapons to kill people instead of keeping them safe. What kind of world has baby seven billion been born into?”

On the same issue National Mirror in its editorial of November 7, 2011 observed thus: “There are disturbing patterns of global demographic trends that give serious cause for worry. The least developed countries are experiencing a population boom while at the same time facing underperforming economies, chronic scarcity of resources, food crises and famine. The developed nations have, in contrast, overcome most of these basic challenges, while their population growth has slowed down. The advanced and developing countries have shown the way out of the quagmire. Since 1979 China has put in place its one child policy, and America has its 2.1 children per family.....There is no reason why Nigeria should not toe this line. There is currently a national policy of one woman, four children; it must be enforced. This should be complemented with a vigorous national campaign to discourage the men folk from continuing with the traditional large family sizes arising from polygamy.

Helping married women to have access to good education and reproductive health services will be the most effective measure for fertility reduction. Furthermore, the authorities must work harder to check rural-urban migrations by developing the rural areas into places where citizens can enjoy a better quality of life through access to sustainable means of livelihood, good education and affordable, qualitative healthcare, among other basic amenities, including electricity and safe drinking water. It must be recognised; nevertheless, that population is an index of power in international relations. A big population confers status and respect, especially where this translates to abundant human capital. Beyond that, population size is a critical factor in investment decision-making. Markets must be found for goods and services produced, and so a large population is an asset to a nation.”

My own interpretation of all the aforesaid is that Nigeria’s new population figure could both be benefit or albatross depending on how our policy managers particularly government at all levels relate with the new figure. The first major challenge thrown by the new population size is for National Population Commission to come up with a disaggregated data of the 167 million. Each state and local government must be informed about its new population figure and concomitantly growth rate.

The second major issue lies in the imperative of good governance. There are three types of population: Over-population, Under-population and Optimum Population. I do not subscribe to the view that Nigeria at 167 million is over populated. I think the nation is well endowed to cater adequately for the size of its population if, and only if, the nation’s natural and human resources will be harnessed for national development. Here lies the imperative of selfless and visionary leaders with genuine anti-corruption posture. It is well and good for the government to embark on civic education on the significance of child-spacing and family planning, however, limited success will be achieved in this area because of our people’s cultural and religious orientations.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Estimable Recognition for the Amazons

Two notable Nigerian women would on Monday, 14 November 2011 join 362 others to be conferred with national honours by President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja. Hajia Saudatu Magajiya Mahdi and Barrister (Mrs.) Maryam Uwais (nee Isa Wali) have both been nominated among the 68 recipients for the Member of the Federal Republic (MFR). These women of substance, achievers and change champions have performed incredible feats in development work. Like a colossus, their activities and activisms straddle the area of education, human rights, law reform, legislative advocacy, banking and finance, etcetera.

Born on 20 April 1957, Hajia Saudatu Mahdi hails from Katsina State. She studied at Ahmadu Bello University and Administrative Staff College of Nigeria (ASCON) from where she obtained her first and post graduate qualifications in 1978 and 1992 respectively. She has certificates in entrepreneurship, Fiscal/Financial management, advocacy and human rights and Institution Building skills. She is a Fellow of the Institute for Corporate Administration in Nigeria and a recipient of national and international awards in recognition of her work in development and women’s human rights defence. She was in public service for eighteen years rising from being a classroom teacher to becoming the Principal of Government Girls Secondary School, Bauchi in August 1989. She was appointed Acting Registrar, Abubakar Tatari Ali Polytechnic, Bauchi on 12 April 1995 and held that position until 11 November 1998 when she voluntarily retired.

Though Hajia Saudatu distinguished herself as a teacher and an administrator, it was in the development work that she shone like a million stars. On retirement from public service, she was appointed a founding member of the Board of Trustees of the Women’s Rights Advancement and Protection Alternative (WRAPA), a registered non–governmental organization. From 1999 to date, she has served as Secretary General, member and Secretary of the Board of Trustees and is the official spokes person of WRAPA on all issues.

Saudatu Mahdi has a fair degree of Islamic education and knowledge, making her well recognized and respected among the Islamic Scholars due to her competent and productive dialogue with prominent scholars on issues relating to the rights of women under the Shari’a law in Nigeria. This skill was successfully utilised to support advocacy and sensitization around the appeals of Safiya Husseini and Amina Lawal, two Nigerian women who appealed against death sentences on charges of adultery which were upheld by the Sokoto and Katsina State Shari’a Court of Appeal in 2001 and 2003 respectively.

She has to her credit over 20 published and unpublished presentations on violence against women, Shari’a and women’s rights, women in democracy, women in education, CEDAW and the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa). She has participated in and piloted varied studies on gender with specific focus on violence against women, bodily integrity of women and girls, gender gap analysis in Nigeria towards project implementation and research documentation on women’s political participation in Nigeria. From 2001 to date she has been working closely with lawyers and activists to develop a national law on violence against women under the auspices of the Legislative Advocacy Coalition on Violence Against Women (LACVAW), which is a network of about 55 civil society groups, religious organizations, international human right groups and other stakeholders working on various aspects of women’s rights.

Another intellectual juggernaut and a worthy recipient of Nigeria’s national honour in 2011 is Mrs. Maryam Uwais, a legal luminary and rights activist. Maryam was born 10 December 1959 in Washington D.C though a native of Jigawa State in Nigeria. She holds Bachelors and Masters Degrees in law from the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University among several other academic qualifications. Her career, spanning over three decades, started at Ministry of Justice in Kano where she rose from pupil to senior state counsel within 1980 – 1988. She had a stint at the Nigerian Law Reform Commission before joining the Central Bank of Nigeria where she rose from Assistant to Senior Bank Examiner between 1989 – 1998. From 1998 to date she has been principal partner in Wali-Uwais and Company (General Law Practice).

Her law firm deals in legal consultancy in diverse matters, including Constitutional Law, Islamic Finance, Banking & Insurance, Criminal Law, Human Rights Law, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Mergers and Acquisitions, Capital Market operations, General Banking and Insurance etc. She is also into legislative advocacy specialising in the provision of technical support on legislative issues, including the designing, development and implementation of legislative projects. Drafting, advocacy, research and conducting surveys to assist and enhance the process of legislation, and engaging the public on issues of good governance at public hearings.

Aside being an active member of Nigerian and International Bar Associations, Maryam has also served as council member of National Human Rights Commission; Member, Bureau of Public Enterprises Steering Committee on Anti-Trust and Competition, Nigeria; Member, Justice Sector Reform Group; Member, Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID), based in Canada; Steering Committee Member, Commonwealth Education Fund;
Member, National Selection Committee for the 2003 and 2004 Fund for Leadership Development Program by the MacArthur Foundation; Consultant and National Facilitator, Technical and Advocacy Group for the passage of the Child Rights Bill; Member, Working Group on the Reform of Legal Aid in Nigeria.

She was also a member, Governing Council, Crescent University, Abeokuta, Ogun State; Member, Board of Directors, Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa, Banjul, Gambia; Member, Technical Committee of the Constitutional Reform Dialogue Mechanism; member, African Union (AU) Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child; Member of the Securities and Exchange Commission Bonds Sub-Committee; National Committee on Job Creation; member, Thisday newspaper Editorial Board, (Leaders & Company Ltd); appointed Independent Director, Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc in July 2011 and appointed Member, Legal Committee of the National Council of Privatisation (NCP). This is to mention but a few. Maryam has written and presented several academic papers both within and outside Nigeria.

What more can one say but hearty congratulations to these great daughters of Nigeria who have laboured to bring positive development to our dear motherland.

Monday, October 24, 2011

RSIEC and Public Funding of Political Parties

Public funding of political parties has been very contentious in Nigeria. The 1999 Nigerian Constitution in section 228 (c) and Electoral Act 2006 in section 91 contain provisions that enable the National Assembly to make grant available to the Independent National Electoral Commission for distribution to registered political parties. However, with the coming into effect of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended, the provision for public funding of political parties was removed. It was therefore curious to read in the newspaper that River State Independent Electoral Commission has sustained the tradition of public funding for political parties operating in Rivers State.

A news item in Vanguard of October 12 reported that some 45 political parties under the aegis of the Rivers State Association of Frontline Political Parties have called on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to investigate the state’s Independent Election Commission, RSIEC, over the N4.7 billion grant by the state government for political parties for the conduct of the 2011 council elections. The parties alleged that 70 per cent of candidates in all the parties were disqualified by the Commission so that the money due the parties would return to the commission’s purse.

On Monday, October 17, RSIEC addressed a press conference where it responded to the allegations of the political parties. The Commission clarified that what was being given to the parties was not subvention but grant. It explained that while subvention is statutory, grant is discretionary. RSIEC admitted thus: “Since the inception of this Commission, grants have been given to Political Parties to enable them participate in Local Government Council elections. That was the case in 2008 and the 2010 elections into Ogba/Egbema/Ndoni Local Government Area (ONELGA). In 2008, Political Parties were granted Five Million Naira (N5m) each. In 2010, N3m was granted to each Political Party for the ONELGA elections.” The Commission also elucidated that contrary to the allegation that it received N4.7b from Rivers State Government; the amount it got was N550m only for all the Political Parties.

RSIEC stated further that “after the 2008 Council elections, these grants were not given carte blanche but subject to conditionalities, prescribed by the Commission in its Elections Guidelines made in exercise of the powers conferred on the Commission by the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission Law, as amended. The grant worked out at N8m for each of the Political Party, less administrative and bank charges. Of this N8m, the sum of N6m was designated for the 21st May 2011 elections into 21 Local Government Areas while the sum of N2m was designated for the 17th September 2011 Degema Local Government Council elections.”

The Commission explained further that “disbursement of the funds was on the basis of, (a) fixed/standard/across the board rate, and (b) pro rata basis. The across the board rate was paid either for or upon performance of the following milestones: Establishment of an Office in either PHALGA or OBALGA; Conduct of primaries of Political Parties in accordance with their Constitutions, by-laws and regulations; Submission of Names of Candidates that emerged from the primaries; Purchase of Nomination Forms; and Presentation of Candidates for verification and Eligibility of Candidates for elections.”

RSIEC clarified further that “In the administration of the grants, the Commission was confronted with many challenges and different scenarios. It was discovered that: Some Political Parties received the grant and did not hold primaries; Some Political Parties received the grants, and held primaries but did not purchase Nomination Forms; Some Political Parties held primaries, purchased nomination forms but did not return them; Some Political Parties held primaries, purchased forms, returned the completed forms and presented candidates for verification; In some instances even though the forms were returned, no candidate appeared for screening; Among the candidates presented by the Political Parties, some were qualified, while others were rejected. The reasons for the rejection were communicated to the Political Parties for necessary action; lastly, the success of the candidates at the verification was based essentially on the criteria earlier alluded to in the Guidelines. The qualification or rejection of the candidates had nothing to do with a latent desire by the Commission to conserve funds for itself.”

Hopefully the explanations given by RSIEC will douse the brewing tension between the Commission and the political parties.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The move to collapse Nigerian Prison System

The presidency and the National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives) have embarked on a strange move to collapse Nigerian prison system. How do I mean? An executive bill seeking to amend the Transfer of Convicted Offender (Enactment & Enforcement) Act Cap. T16 LSN 2004 (Amendment Bill 2001) is currently being processed at the National Assembly. Once the amendment sails through, the consent of convicted Nigerians serving various jail sentences abroad would no longer be sought before they are repatriated home to continue to serve their respective jail terms. This is because the prisoners’ swap legislation seeks the removal of “consent” and “verification procedure” from the Act.

I find this move which is said to be a request from British authorities curious because the situation of Nigeria’s prison system at present is heart-rending. According to a report in Thisday of October 2, 2010 titled ‘Nigerian Prison’s Rising Population’: “The Nigerian Prisons Service derives its operational powers from CAP 366 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 to among other things take into lawful custody all those certified to be so kept by courts of competent jurisdiction; produce suspects in courts as and when due; identify the causes of their anti-social dispositions; set in motion mechanisms for their treatment and training for eventual reintegration into society as normal law abiding citizens on discharge; and administer prisons farms and industries for this purpose and in the process generate revenue for the government. The Prisons Service in Nigeria is exclusively a Federal Government concern as no State for now has the power in law to operate or maintain prisons. The Nigerian Prison system was supposed to exist with the full complement of legal, vocational, educational, religious and social services but the situation has remained pathetic.”

Broad Street Prison, Nigeria’s first jail, was established in 1872 to cater for 300 prisoners, the country currently has about 146 convict prisons, 83 satellite prison camps, 12 major farm centres, nine cottage industries, nine subsidiary farms and 124 market gardens. Others include three borstal institutions meant for remand and treatment of juvenile offenders, (at the moment, the Prisons Service has only three of such in Kaduna, Ilorin and Abeokuta), one open prison camp, one staff college and four training schools.

On July 6, 2011, at the commissioning of a new federal prison at Ikot-Ekpene built by the Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, the Controller-General of Prisons, Mr. Olusola Ogundipe decried the menace of Awaiting Trial Congestion in the Nigerian Prisons Service stating that more time and resources are being expended in containing the pre-trial suspects than in the reformation of convicts. He informed the audience that the prison had over 48,000 inmates in custody but only about 14,000 of them were convicts. This he said hampers in no small measure the core mandates of the Nigerian Prisons Service.

Earlier on July 31, 2010 while speaking at a one-day quarterly roundtable on prison reform, Ogundipe had stated thus: “It may interest you to know that up to 50 per cent of these ATPs (Awaiting Trial Prisoners) have been on remand for between 5 and 17 years without their cases being concluded. Ikoyi prison has an original capacity for 800 persons. Today, the population is 1,900. Out of this number, only 24 prisoners are convicts. Port Harcourt Prison has an installed capacity for 804 persons. Today, the prison locks up 2, 924 persons out of which only 117 persons are convicts. Awka Prisons with an installed capacity for 238 persons presently accommodates 486 inmates out of which 21 are convicts.” The prisons boss also harped on the need to expand the prisons like other arms of the criminal justice system as the situation had led to one prison servicing many judicial divisions. He gave an instance of Kuje Prison in Abuja which serves 30 judicial divisions including Abaji. Any wonder there have been series of jail break in Nigeria?

The above paints a graphic picture of the state of Nigerian prison at present. With the proposed amendment to the Transfer of Convicted Offenders (Enactment and Enforcement) Act Cap T16 2004, the floodgate of prisoners will be open which our current holding capacity cannot contain as the facilities on ground are grossly inadequate. Moreover, these prisoners whose consent clause for repatriation was being removed did not commit the offence for which they were jailed in Nigeria. Why then should they come and serve their sentence in Nigeria?

A July 8 and 9, 2009 report in The Guardian and Daily Mail of UK respectively had reported that Britain is planning to build a £1million jail in Nigeria to take convicts whose crimes were committed in the UK. The prison would house 400 Nigerian inmates incarcerated in British prisons who cannot be forcibly sent home to complete their punishments. The report quoted Lin Homer, the chief executive of the UK Border Agency, as telling the British MPs that "We are in negotiations with Nigeria to help them establish better prison conditions … it is about helping them generate a structure that can cope. We are prepared to invest if that would enable us to send people home.” The deal , according to Lin, would save taxpayers' money, because “the UK would no longer have to pay the £30,000-a-year cost of keeping inmates in our own jails. “ Has Britain built any prison in Nigeria before pressuring Nigerian officials to pass the amendment? Not that I know of.

No matter the merit of prisoner swap move, a comprehensive justice sector reform (Police, Judiciary, Prisons reforms) is needful before such amendment should be considered. We must not lose sight of the fact that this move is not a bilateral agreement between Nigeria and Britain alone but something all other countries worldwide could take advantage of to further congest Nigerian prisons. The overwhelming awaiting trial inmates need justice as the current situation is a breach of their right to fair trial. It is high time Nigerian judicial system avail itself of other penal options such as suspended sentence, parole, weekend sentence, etcetera. This is in addition to the current periodic amnesty to prisoners by the president and governors. Decongestion of Nigerian prison is long overdue and swapping foreign prisoners would only exacerbate a deplorable situation.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

21 Years of Intellectual Activism and Media Advocacy

I do the best I know how, the very best I can, and I mean to keep on doing it to the end. If the end brings me out all wrong, what is said against me will not amount to anything.
– Abraham Lincoln.

When Dr. OBC Nwolise of the Department of Political Science, University of Ibadan charged students in the Advanced Level Extra Mural Class at Emmanuel College, Agbowo, Ibadan in 1988 to use media advocacy to demand for better society, many heard but only few heeded his advice. I am one of the few who chose to take up the challenge.

However, I couldn’t bring myself to communicate to the public through the media until 1990 because I had low self esteem having failed to get credit pass in ‘O’ Level English and Mathematics to enable me move to tertiary institution. This went on from 1985 – 1990. Secondly, being the era of military rule when freedom of speech was severely curtailed with several media houses proscribed by the ruling junta, it was suicidal expressing anti-government opinion then. After overcoming my initial fear and failure, I decided to put pen to paper and write to media houses to express my feelings on wide range of developmental issues. Sketch newspaper in Ibadan was the first to oblige me the use of its platform to express my views on topical national issues.

The little acorn sown in 1990 has grown into a mighty oak. Today, October 12, 2011 marks my 21 years of media advocacy and intellectual activism. Exactly twenty-one years ago, my first commentary was published in Daily Sketch under the title ‘Complete Iwopin Paper Mill.’ Since then, I never looked back. I have risked hunger, arrest, harassment, contempt, and my job to stand resolute in my advocacy for a better Nigeria. The immortal words of Frantz Fanon continue to prod me. Fanon, many decades ago, opined that “The future will have no pity for those men who possess exceptional privilege of being able to speak the words of truth to their oppressors but have taken refuge in an attitude of passivity, of mute indifference and sometimes of cold complicity.”

As at October 6, 2011, available records show that I have been published 334 times in 24 national newspapers and 12 magazines cum newsletters. The newspapers that have printed my views include the following: The Punch, The Guardian, Thisday, Daily Sun, The Nation, Nigerian Tribune, Vanguard, Daily Trust, National Mirror, Daily Independent, Daily Champion, Nigerian Compass, Next, Leadership, People’s Daily, The Pointer, The Chronicle (Ghana), Daily Triumph, Third Eye, National Concord, Daily Sketch, AM News, Post Express and Weekend Classique. The magazines and newsletters include: The Independite, Image, Exquisite, The Statesman, Corper Courier, Electoral Reform News, Women Advocate, Voters News, The Ethics magazine among others.

I have been on radio and television programmes 52 times. These include Focus Nigeria, Kakaaki , Insight, Open Assembly and Democratic Licence on Africa Independent Television (AIT), The Iris on NTA International as well as Dateline Abuja on Channels TV. I have also been guest discussant on Radio Link, Africa Thisweek and Platform on Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), Political Platform on Raypower 100.5 FM, Burgami on Vision 92.1 FM, Change Hour on Hot 98.3 FM, Voice of Nigeria and OGBC2 FM Mailbag.

In July 2009, I became a blogger through the influence of a friend, Sola Adetunji and in commemoration of Nigeria’s golden jubilee and 20 years of my media advocacy, I became an author with a book titled “Nigeria, My Nigeria: Perspectives from 1990 – 2010” . The tome which was a compilation of some select published commentaries was launched on November 25, 2010. My greatest achievement as a writer is the friendship gained with people of like minds. First among them being Sheriff Folarin, PhD, lecturer at Covenant University and a columnist with National Mirror. I and Sheriff had met at the office of Mr. Nosa Osaigbovo, then Features Editor with Daily Sketch now a columnist with Nigerian Tribune. Since that fateful day in 1993, we have remained friends.

I have engaged broad range of issues cutting across governance, economy, legislature, judiciary, education, health, politics, elections, media, global affairs, security, electoral reform, labour, sports, religion and society. Sadly, many of the issues I engaged decades ago are still plaguing Nigeria. We have made little progress towards national development. When shall we have a Nigeria with basic infrastructures and good living standard for the citizenry?

In this moment of retrospection, let me know how you perceive my commentaries. Compatriots, do I speak your mind when you read my articles or hear my analysis on radio and TV? Am I communicating and connecting with you? My guiding principle is to share my knowledge to multiply it and add to knowledge to expand it. Your frank feedback will be most appreciated. Thanks readers for being the pillar of my strength.

In closing, let me share my favourite poem with you. It was written by the great Zik of Africa, Nigeria’s first president:

Give me my Due

Give me what is my rightful due,
While I still live and breathe and love
For little I have of you
When I am called from up above.

No flowers gay upon my bier
Will I require when I am gone
If when I lived there was no cheer
To boost me when my work was done.

So keep your violets sedate
I’ll have the Roses whilst is bloom
But should you choose to vacillate
Shed not your tears to ease my doom.

Dr Nnamdi Azikwe, Lincoln University 18 October 1929.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Imperative of electoral offences commission

On September 21, I attended a memorial lecture organised by a coalition of youth groups in honour of 10 National Youth Service Corps members killed in Bauchi State in the wake of the post-elections crisis that greeted the April 16 presidential election. The lecture with the theme ‘Youth and Election Security’ was put together by Youth Action Initiative Africa, Centre for Public Policy and Research, CAFA Foundation, Nigerian Youth Manifesto Project, Network of Civil Society Organisations on Voter & Civic Education, Digital Peers International and Y-Count Campaign. The guest speaker at the event was a renowned Professor of Criminology from the University of Jos, Etennibi Alemika.

The ten martyrs of Nigerian democracy were Adewumi Seun (Ekiti); Teidi Olawale Tosin (Kogi); Adowei Elliot (Bayelsa); Okpokiri Obinna (Abia); Gbenjo Ebenezer Ayotunde (Osun); Ukeoma Ikechuwku Chibuzor (Imo); Nkwazema Anslem Chukwuonyerem (Imo); Adeniji Kehinde Jehleel (Osun); Akonyi Ibrahim Sule (Kogi) and the only female among them, Agnes Ezennadozie (Anambra), who was pregnant at the time of her death.

Other speakers at the symposium were the Chief Technical Adviser to the Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman, Prof. Okey Ibeanu, and Dr. Chidi Anslem Odinkalu of the Open Society Justice Initiative as well as representative of the Minister for Youth Development. They all condemned the murder of the young Nigerians who were on national service and expressed regret that more than five months after the premeditated murder, the perpetrators were yet to be prosecuted. It was identified at the forum that two major malaise of our electoral system in Nigeria is the growing culture of violence and that of impunity, as perpetrators of electoral violence, more often than not, get away with their heinous crime. They therefore called for the establishment of the Electoral Offences Commission.

The clamour for the establishment of the EOC was first mooted by the Justice Muhammadu Uwais led electoral reform committee which submitted its report on how to overcome the country’s electoral debacle in December 2008 after 16 months of collating and analysing the views of Nigerians. This recommendation was accepted by the government of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua as a Bill for an Act to Establish the Electoral Offences Commission and for other Matters Connected Therewith was sent to the National Assembly on April 30, 2009. Well, the federal lawmakers preferred to first deal with constitutional amendment before taking a look at the EOC and other ancillary bills such as the proposed Political Party Registration and Regulatory Commission and that of the Centre for Democratic Studies.

Ordinarily, we do not need an electoral offences commission as the current federal electoral law has vested the power for the prosecution of electoral offenders in the INEC. Sections 149 and 150 of the Electoral Act 2010, as amended are very explicit on this. In fact, S. 150 (2) emphatically says, “A prosecution under this Act shall be undertaken by the legal officers of the commission or any legal practitioner appointed by it.” The Chairman of the INEC, Prof. Attahiru Jega, who incidentally was a member of the ERC, however, has openly solicited the establishment of the EOC as he admitted that his commission does not have the capacity (manpower and financial resources) to embark on a comprehensive prosecution of electoral offenders.

Jega made one of such calls on July 7, 2011 while delivering a public lecture on the theme, ‘2011 General Elections and the Consolidation of the Democratic Process in Nigeria’ organised by the Centre for Social Research and Advocacy, University of Lagos. He said there was no way INEC could prosecute 870,000 multiple registrants detected after the January 2011 registration. I dare say that not even an EOC would have the capacity to prosecute such huge number of infractions. What I think the INEC needs to do is to carry out selective prosecution of the persons with clout who might have been fingered among the perpetrators as such will send a warning signal to anyone who may wish to do such in future.

INEC said it has entered into agreement with the Nigerian Bar Association to assist the commission in the prosecution of electoral offenders. It is heart-warming to note that the electoral management body is gradually breaking the culture of impunity in Nigeria as it claimed to have secured 24 convictions out of the 321 cases of electoral malpractices it charged to court. Other cases are at different stages of prosecution. This was made public in a statement issued by the Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Mr. Kayode Idowu, on August 29.

Much as it is desirable to have the National Assembly expeditiously pass the electoral offences commission bill as it gives the commission power to investigate and prosecute electoral offences; however, I do not support its passage in the current shape and form. The EOC bill sent by President Jonathan to the parliament in 2009 arrogates a lot of powers to the President as against the prescription of the Uwais Committee. For instance, in Section 3 of the Electoral Offences Commission bill, 8 of the 10 member board (the other two being ex-officio members from Federal Ministry of Justice and Nigeria Police Force) are to be appointed directly by the president without recourse to Senate as prescribed by the ERC; Section 4 of the bill proposed that the president can unilaterally remove members of the board; while in section 5, the EOC may establish state offices including one for FCT. This is tantamount to creating another huge bureaucracy.

There is no funding from consolidated revenue fund for the proposed Commission while power of the president to give general directives which must be complied with can be found in section 25 of the EOC bill. The bill in its explanatory memorandum is concerned with electoral offences committed only during general elections. Who then prosecutes electoral malpractices and sharp-practices committed during party primaries, by-elections, re-run and supplementary elections?

Law alone is not the panacea for Nigeria’s growing culture of electoral malfeasance and hostility. The approach to the menace has to be multi-pronged. There is the need for adequate civic and voter education on the abhorrent behaviours. Security agents and INEC also have to take pre-emptive measures to forestall such untoward and unbecoming acts. Meanwhile, the souls of the Bauchi Ten and hundreds of others murdered in cold blood during the 2011 general elections cry for justice.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Chronicle of Nigeria’s Post 2011 General Election Events

Nigeria’s general elections were held from April 9 – May 6, 2011. The elections started with the National Assembly (Senatorial and House of Representatives) elections on April 9, followed by the presidential elections on April 16 and gubernatorial elections on April 26. Gubernatorial elections in Bauchi and Kaduna State were postponed and held on April 28 as a result of post election violence that trailed the presidential election in which Human Rights Watch claimed in a May 16, 2011 report that 800 lives were lost and property worth billions of Naira were destroyed. A political logjam ensued in Imo State as the April 26 gubernatorial election in the State was declared inconclusive. A supplementary election was thereafter held in four local governments and one ward on May 6 before the governorship election was concluded.

Thereafter, observer groups have taken turns to release their final reports on the polls. The European Union Observation Mission (EU EOM) presented its final report on the elections on May 31. In the opinion of the Mission: “The legal framework, the general performance of the Independence National Electoral Commission INEC and of other stakeholders provided for the 2011 General Elections an overall democratic foundation for further democratic development in accordance with international principles and with international instruments ratified by the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

In its closing report on the elections released on May 18, Project Swift Count 2011 made up of Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN), Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC)/Caritas, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and Transition Monitoring Group (TMG) observed thus “....the Nigerian voting populace were provided with opportunity to exercise their franchise and in general their votes were counted. The April general elections were conducted within the frameworks of and conformed to the Nigerian Constitution, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocols on Democracy and Good Governance, and the African Union (AU) Declaration on the Principles Governing Democratic Elections in Africa.

While the elections were not perfect .......they marked a departure from flawed and sour elections that this country has experienced over the last twelve years, particularly the 2007 elections. The elections were generally characterized by the determination of INEC to halt the history of fraudulent elections and the desire of many Nigerians to restore and sustain the democratic process.” The reports of other observer groups such as the Commonwealth, AU, ECOWAS and International Republican Institute (IRI) were not markedly different from the aforementioned two.

Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had accepted the commendations and criticisms with respect to the last general elections in good faith. The Commission had participated in several post election roundtables by the civil society organisations such as the one organised by Reclaim Naija and Election Situation Room on May 26 and June 1 respectively, as well as the one put together for CSOs by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa in Enugu on July 25 and 26. Not only that, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) had also partnered INEC to conduct some post election audit retreat for different cadres of the staff of the Commission including the Electoral Officers, Heads of Departments at both the headquarters and the State offices of INEC, Resident Electoral Commissioners and the board of the Commission (made up of 12 National Commissioners and the Chairman). The tenure of 13 out of the 37 Resident Electoral Commission had also ended with new appointments made by the President to fill some of the vacant positions.

On August 18, in pursuant to the provisions of S. 78 (7) (ii) of the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended), the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) de-registered the following Political Parties: Democratic Alternative (DA); National Action Council (NAC); National Democratic Liberty Party (NDLP); Masses Movement of Nigeria (MMN); Nigeria People’s Congress (NPC); Nigeria Elements Progressive Party (NEPP) and National Unity Party (NUP). This has reduced the number of registered parties in Nigeria to 56 from 63. At present, the Commission has been supported with an eight member Registration and Election Review Committee which was inaugurated on August 2 to among other things “critically review the registration and elections of 2011 and transmit its findings to the electoral body.” The committee, headed by Prof. Adele Jinadu, was given six weeks to carry out its assignment. The Commission had also promised to restructure its departments and units to enhance better efficiency and effectiveness.

A presidential committee on post election violence was set up on May 11, 2011. The 22-man panel of inquiry headed by Sheikh Ahmed Lemu is probing the post election violence. According to its terms of reference, the panel is, in part, intended to “investigate the immediate and remote cause(s) of the pre-election violence in Akwa Ibom State, as well as the tide of unrest in some states of the federation following the presidential election and make appropriate recommendations on how to prevent future occurrence; ascertain the number of persons who lost their lives or sustained injuries during the violence; identify the spread and extent of loss and damage to means of livelihood during the period in question and assess the cost of damage to personal and public properties and places of worship and make appropriate recommendations. Moreover, the Committee will investigate the sources of weapons used in the unrest and recommend how to stem the tide of the illegal flow of such weapons to the country; and, to examine any other matter incidental or relevant to the unrest and advise government appropriately.” Meanwhile, out of the 321 cases of electoral malpractices charged to court by INEC, the Commission has so far secured 24 convictions nationwide while 21 others were discharged, according to the Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Mr Kayode Idowu.

In terms of election dispute resolution, the number of election petitions filed at the tribunals bears witness to the credibility of the 2011 General Elections. As against about 1, 750 petitions filed after the 2007 elections, only 733 petitions were filed at the various election petition tribunals across the country post 2011 elections. Some of the petitions have been dismissed at the pre-hearing stage while few of the 2011 election results have been upturned with some of them currently on appeal. Unfortunately, controversy from adjudication over the 2007 elections, particularly Sokoto governorship election, had led to the suspension of the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Isa Ayo Salami on August 18, 2011 and the appointment of an acting President for the appellate court in the person of Hon. Justice Dalhatu Adamu who was sworn in on August 22. This has led to a lot of protests from civil right groups and the Nigerian Bar Association who alleged victimisation by the National Judicial Council against the suspended PCA.

On the issue of legal reform, the spokesperson to President Goodluck Jonathan issued a statement to the press on July 26 signifying the intention of the president to initiate a bill to the national assembly for amendment of the relevant sections of the Constitution to peg the terms of office of president and governors from maximum of two terms to a single term from 2015. This has generated a lot of furore with many commentators arguing that it is not a priority issue worth dedicating attention to by the President. The electoral commission, INEC had however joined several civil right groups to demand for the establishment of Electoral Offences Commission.

On August 3, INEC announced the timetable for the conduct of gubernatorial elections in some states. According to the INEC Commissioner in charge of information and publicity, Prince Solomon Adedeji Soyebi, the Commission would conduct governorship elections in Kogi, Adamawa, Bayelsa, Sokoto, Cross River and Edo states in 2012, Ondo and Ekiti states in 2013; while Anambra and Osun states would have their turn in 2014. The dates of the 2011/12 governorship elections are as follows: Kogi, December 3, 2011; Adamawa, January 14, 2012; Bayelsa, February 11, 2012; Sokoto, March 10, 2012; Cross River, April 14, 2012 and Edo, July 14, 2012. INEC had also commenced preparation for continuous voters’ registration exercise which will start in Kogi State before the end of September 2011. Many of the State Independent Electoral Commissions have started arranging to hold council polls. While Lagos State Independent Electoral Commission, (LASIEC) has fixed October 22 to hold local government elections in Lagos State, Rivers SIEC had conducted elections in the State’s 21 local government areas on May 21 while Sokoto State had followed suit on July 23, 2011.

All the aforesaid underscore the fact that Nigeria’s post election period had been action-packed. It remains to be seen if future polls will bring significant improvement on the widely acclaimed 2011 elections. To achieve this, all stakeholders’ viz. security agencies, national assembly, media, civil society organisations, political parties, donor community and members of the executives must continue to support the two electoral commissions (INEC and SIECs) in their onerous task of consolidating the nation’s democracy.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Nigeria: 51 years of platitudes

October 1 is here again and it is another season of ‘celebration’ of Nigeria’s independence anniversary. There will be speeches, parades, exhibitions, religious services, dinners and all manner of pageantry.

Unfortunately, it will be another vacuous celebration with the president, governors and other political as well as religious leaders issuing press statements appreciating God for keeping Nigeria together and enjoining Nigerians to patiently wait for dividends of democracy.

The religious leaders will be telling us to continue to pray for our leaders for that is what the Holy Books say. I have been hearing these platitudes since my adolescent years yet we continue to wait for Godot as we dream on for better and higher standard of living.

At the country’s golden independence anniversary in 2010, President Jonathan gave a number of sound-bites such as “I prefer to see the silver lining in the dark cloud rather than the dark cloud in the silver lining.” “We may not have overcome our challenges, but neither have our challenges overcome us.”

At the nation’s golden jubilee celebration, President Goodluck Jonathan made the following commitments: visionary and committed leadership; ensure public safety and security; improve the quality of education and to give Nigeria the edge in human capital development; rebuild our economy by continuing the implementation of the reforms in the banking and other sectors to ensure economic progress; fight corruption and demand transparency; implement a national fiscal policy that will encourage growth and development; give priority to wealth creation and employment generation; focus on addressing our infrastructure needs, especially power, as this is the biggest obstacle to our economic development and wealth creation; pay special attention to the advancement of our democracy through credible elections.

Let us assess these presidential commitments in the last one year. How has the country fared since the 2010 Independence Day? Without being uncharitable, am yet to see the president’s vision and mission beyond the rhetoric of campaign sloganeering of transforming Nigeria. If there is any sector the president is yet to grapple with, it is that of public safety and security. Even as the president was reading his speech at the Eagle Square last year’s October 1, Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta detonated two bombs killing at least 10 persons and injuring 36 persons including 11 policemen. Since that ugly incident, Boko Haram has taken over the baton of terrorism from MEND, using improvised explosive devices to kill, maim and destroy many innocent souls around the country.

Abuja has experienced series of terrorist attacks with the August 26, 2011 bombing of the United Nation’s House in Abuja being the most devastating with 23 deaths and 116 injured. Plateau State, especially Jos has also not known peace in the last ten years with sporadic wanton and wilful destruction of lives and properties. These terrorist attacks, with growing incidences of banditry and kidnappings, have made living in Nigeria, particularly in the last one year an excruciating exercise. Most unfortunately, our security agencies seem clueless about finding lasting solutions to the country’s nagging security challenges.

On the quality of education and human capital development, these have not experienced any significant improvements. Mass failure continues unabated. On Friday, September 23, National Examination Council (NECO) released the result of the 2011 internal Senior Secondary School Examination result and less than 25% of the 1,160,561 candidates that sat for the examination passed at credit level. In the May/June 2011 West African School Certificate examination conducted by West African Examination Council (WAEC), only about 31 per cent of the students who participated in the exams got up to five credits including English and Mathematics. This has been the trend in both WAEC and NECO exams in the last few years.

On economy, the banking reform has claimed three casualties as Afribank, PHB and Spring Bank were nationalised on August 5 with shareholders of these banks losing enormously from the exercise. There were claims of economic growth and reduction in inflation but these have not resulted in real development as youth unemployment rate according to Central Bank Governor, Sanusi Lamido has hit 41.6 per cent. He said this on July 16, 2011 in Kwara State. The Statistician General of the Federation, Dr Yemi Kale on September 14, 2011 said about 32.5 million Nigerians are unemployed. N50 billion was earmarked for job creation in 2011 budget but it is yet unclear if this money had been used for the purpose meant for as government seem silent on the proposed unveiling of the National Job Creation Scheme.

On the administration’s fight against corruption Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch in the group’s 2011 report on Nigeria said: “There were high hopes for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission as Nigeria’s most promising effort to tackle corruption since the end of military rule. But its efforts have fallen short because of political interference, institutional weakness, and inefficiency in the judiciary that cannot be ignored.” Many of the politically exposed persons including the bank executives arrested and charged to court years ago are yet to have their cases decided. This is not the making of the anti-corruption agencies alone; lawyers and judges share in the blame.

Nigeria, 51 years after independence is generating a paltry 4,242 megawatts of electricity. This is as at September 17, 2011, according to the Minister of Power, Prof. Barth Nnaji. Nigeria has spent billions of dollars on various power projects since 1999, yet, this is the best we can produce. How then can we improve industrialisation, reduce unemployment and poverty? Unfortunately, Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Agency is proposing to increase electricity tariff by 50 per cent by January 2012. How’s that for a new year present? Government has also said that it will remove subsidy on refined petroleum products, thus paving way for total deregulation of the downstream sector. All of these are happening while many state governments have refused to pay N18, 000 minimum wage to their workers.

As Nigerian government continue to mouth provision of social infrastructure, there was an outbreak of cholera in 15 states of the country with over 2,135 infections and 234 deaths in 2011. Polio and malaria still kill hundreds in Nigeria; our roads are still death-traps. Yet, this is a country that wants to be one of the best 20 countries in the world by 2020.

The only area, in my estimation, where government seem to have delivered in the last one year was on the promise of credible elections. Nigeria’s April/May 2011 elections were adjudged to be credible and lay a solid foundation for deepening of democracy. Even at that, the elections were conducted at a huge financial and social cost. According to President Jonathan in his September 12 media chat, about N130 billion was spent on the last general elections. Over 800 lives were also lost to post election violence according to a May 16, 2011 Human Rights Watch report.

I propose that this year’s Independence Day should be sombre and low keyed. It is not time to roll out the drums in celebration. It is time for sober reflection, a time to set measurable and achievable targets for national development. Enough of platitudes!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Let's Rebuild University of Ibadan

For many years now, geographers, climatologist and meteorologists have been warning about climate change occasioned by ozone layer depletion. We were warned about change in weather pattern and that there will be unusual rise in water levels and flash flooding. Our governments did little or nothing to prepare for the likely consequences of the climate change. Yes, we have National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) but how many states have their Emergency Management Agencies? How well-funded are our disaster management agencies especially the Federal and State Fire Services across the country? As I write this, after over 50 years of oil explorations, gas flaring continue unabated in the Niger Delta, there is growing desertification in the Northern Nigeria causing drought and threat to food security. I do hope we will not wait for Tsunami and Hurricane before taken pre-emptive actions.

Ibadan in Oyo State witnessed backlash of climate change on Friday, August 26, 2011. A seven hour torrential rain wreaked havoc on the ancient town. Houses were destroyed, roads, bridges, culverts were washed away, property worth billions of Naira were lost, thousands of people displaced and over one hundred died in the deluge. My alma-mater too was not spared in the disaster. My beloved University of Ibadan, the premier university in Nigeria, established in 1948 suffered destruction in the neighbourhood of N10 billion. The incumbent Vice Chancellor of the Ivory Tower, Professor Isaac Adewole in a statement issued to press and published by many newspapers in their edition of Wednesday, August 31, 2011 said that the loss was so much that the management had appealed to the Federal and State governments as well as individual and corporate organisations for assistance.

According to the V.C: “The major calamity suffered by the university include the washing away of the Fish Farm with different species of fish valued at about N300 million, over flooding of the Zoological Garden, leading to the death of animals, extensive damage of the Teaching and Research Farm and the destruction of books estimated to the tune of N2 billion. Besides, many gigantic buildings, laboratories and expensive equipment were destroyed by the flood which equally pulled down the university fence and 13 electricity poles, thereby compounding the hitherto poor electricity supply to the institution.” The Vice Chancellor added that the disaster also affected students living at the Obafemi Awolowo Hall, especially those in ground floor and topmost floor. Corroborating the V.C, Head of Department of Fishery, Dr Bamidele Omitoye, said that special species of fish such as claias gariepinus, heterobranchus bidorsalis, oreochromis niloticus and parachana obscura were swept away.

Ibadan is very dear to my heart. It is the land of my birth where I was also nurtured. All my schoolings were done in the ancient town with the exception of my first degree which I did at the prestigious University of Lagos. Before my admission to study for my Masters degree in the University of Ibadan, my first contacts with UI as the institution is fondly called are my family’s regular visits to the Zoological Garden during the festive period. At Easter, Christmas or New Year my family often form part of the annual pilgrimage to the Ibadan Zoo. For us, it is our primary contact with many of the wild animals and birds. If not for Ibadan Varsity Zoo, I would only have seen Lion, Elephant, Ostrich, Peacock, Monkeys, Gorilla and wide variety of snakes in films and documentaries on satellite television stations.

When I read about the calamity that befell UI, I could not resist the urge to canvass for the support of the Greatest UItes both at home and in Diaspora on the planned restoration of the destroyed assets. University of Ibadan is in its 63rd year of existence and has graduated hundreds of thousands of students from its various programmes spanning certificate, diploma and degree courses. I believe the Federal and State governments will assist the University to rebuild damaged infrastructure but considering the enormity of the loss, University of Ibadan Alumni Association has a lot to do as well. The Alumni Association both at the national and State level need to partner with the University of Ibadan authority to reach out to graduates of the school to come to the aid of their alma mater.

The school management also has to organise a fundraiser to rebuild the school. That apart, all the blue chip companies in Nigeria, both foreign and local should be formally written to donate generously to the rebuilding project of the premier varsity. The donation should not be limited to cash but also inclusive of materials. For instance, if the books that were lost could be identified in a database, UI authorities could write to their publishers to donate such books to the institution. Philanthropic organisations and individuals could also be formally contacted to help rebuild some of the destroyed hostels, auditoriums and laboratories. Corporate entities and public spirited individuals could also donate laboratory equipments, animals and fishes that need to be replaced.

Staff and students of the university are also not left out of the restoration agenda.
Staffs could donate 5 -10 per cent of their salary in a month to the rebuilding project. This could be deducted at source for easy accountability. The University management should therefore reach out to Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU), Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU) and other labour unions on campus to agree to the salary deduction for the sole purpose of restoring lost facilities. As regards students, UI authorities should partner with the student unions on campus to get their buy in for the compulsory development levy. The levy could be as little as N1, 000 for certificate, diploma and degree students, N2, 000 for Masters Degree students and N5, 000 for doctoral students. All these could be done over a six month period. However, all financial and kind gestures must be made public and accounted for. The N10 million donation from Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN who is the University’s Pro-Chancellor is exemplary and laudable. More help is still desired. I will do mine in due course, what about you, other greatest of the greatest UItes?