Tuesday, January 31, 2012

EKSIEC’s Fight against Political Corruption

Unknown to many, there are two constitutionally recognized electoral management bodies in Nigeria. The most widely known is the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC which conducts general elections into the positions of President, National Assembly (Senate and House of Representatives), Governor, State House of Assembly and the six Area Councils of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The other election management body is the State Independent Electoral Commission which conducts election into the Local Government Area Councils. There are thirty-six (36) of them. While the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria (as amended) established INEC in section 153 (f), the grundnorm gives birth to SIEC in section 197 (1) (b).

Ekiti State Independent Electoral Commission is responsible for the conduct of election into the chairmanship and councillorship of the sixteen (16) LGAs of the state. EKSIEC is at present earnestly preparing to hold local council election on February 4, 2012. The earlier scheduled date of January 21 had to be shifted due to the strikes, rallies and protests that greeted Nigeria aftermath of the sharp increase (N65 to N141) in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (Petrol). Mercifully, with the strikes called off and normalcy restored, EKSIEC now has a clear coast to conduct the much awaited election.

As part of the preparation for the council polls, Ekiti State House of Assembly passed a new State Electoral Law titled “A Law to provide for the conduct of elections into all the elective offices provided for in the local government laws and for other matters incidental thereto. Number 17 of 2011 Ekiti State of Nigeria.” The new electoral law signed into law on September 30, 2011 by Dr Kayode Fayemi, the Executive Governor of the State, effectively repealed the Ekiti State Electoral Laws No. 5 of 2001 and all subsequent amendment thereto.

A derivative of the state electoral law is the Ekiti State Independent Electoral Commission Guideline for Local Government General Election also published by the Commission. The guideline amplified some of the provisions of the electoral law as well as contained the timetable for the council elections. Of greater interest to me are the provisions of the state electoral law on campaign finance. It is very interesting to note that unlike many other SIECs, EKSIEC is not charging administrative fees on the candidates. This is much in line with INEC which also does not charge administrative fee on candidates contesting elections under it.

Under the Ekiti State Electoral Law, a possible ground for disqualification of a candidate is if such has no evidence of tax payments as at when due for a period of three years immediately preceding the year of the election. (See section 6 (b) of the law). A very weighty anti-corruption provision in the new statute is contained in section 15 under the sub head of Campaign Offence. It states “A candidate or an agent who offers bribe to the voters directly or indirectly either by paying money to them or providing inducement, unsolicited services or treating them to parties, commits an offence under this Law and shall be punished as provided under subsection 3 of this Section. A candidate or an agent who commits an offence under subsection (3) of this Section is liable on conviction in a Magistrate Court to a fine of N500, 000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both such fine and imprisonment.” This is a strong message even though there was no subsection 3 under the section.

Section 18 of the Ekiti State Electoral Law defines what constitute corrupt practices. These include undue influence and bribery. Section 20 (1) interpret undue influence as “ A person who corruptly, by himself or by any other person either before, during or after an election, directly or indirectly gives or provides money, or pays wholly or in part the expense of giving or providing food, drinks, entertainment or provisions to or for any person: a) for the purpose of corruptly influencing that person, or any other person to vote or refrain from voting; or (b) on account of that person or any other person , having voted or refrained from voting.”

Subsection 2 says “A voter who corruptly accepts or takes any food, drinks, entertainment or provisions to which subsection (1) of this section relates at an election is guilty of undue influence.” Furthermore, section 22 of the law has a copious meaning of bribery and in section 23 stipulated punishments for undue influence, bribery and related offences as N200, 000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or to both such fine and imprisonment. In addition, anyone convicted of undue influence, bribery and similar infractions shall not be eligible to be elected into the local government council for a period of five years and if elected before his or her conviction shall not retain his or her seat. He or she shall also not be eligible to vote in the council election for same period of time.

These are very strong provisions aimed at creating a level playing field for all contestants at the polls as well as engendering free, fair and credible local government election in Ekiti State. Noble intentions, I dare say, but the big question is, does EKSIEC have the political will, technical know-how and financial resources to enforce these provisions?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Pains and gains of January 2012 protests

The January 2-16 people’s revolt against fuel subsidy removal is a clear testimony that Nigerians are no longer docile. The uprising shows that my compatriots no longer enjoy ‘suffering and smiling’. Since 1980 or thereabout when the former President Shehu Shagari’s administration introduced austerity measures down to 1986 when the Structural Adjustment Programme was inaugurated by former military president Ibrahim Babangida, it has been only the masses that have been making all the sacrifices, tightening their belts, while our leaders loosen theirs due to their bulging tummies. Never again shall we suffer the fool. There is a saying that “you can fool some of the people all the time, all the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.” It is true that some people died in the course of the two weeks protest; many, including government, lost huge revenue (the National Bureau of Statistics estimated that Nigeria’s economy lost N207.4bn ($1.2b); property were destroyed by rioters in states like Niger and Kano; many people also had to postpone their long planned events such as conferences, workshops, marriages, funerals, etc. These are some of the pains of the rebellion.

However, the gains far outweigh the pains. It is unprecedented that Nigerians across economic divides will unite to fight a cause. In the January ‘Harmattan Protest’, both the bourgeoisie and the proletariats united to fight our common oppressor, which is the government which though claimed to feel our pain, decided to add to our economic burden. Apart from many cities in Nigeria such as Lagos, Abuja, Kano, Kaduna, Owerri, Benin, Niger, Port Harcourt, Ibadan and Bauchi, Nigerians in the Diaspora in countries such as Ghana, South Africa, the United States, and United Kingdom also defied chilling cold weather to stage their own protests.

Other palpable gains of the protest are the forced commitments of the Federal Government to reduce waste and fight corruption. In his first televised broadcast on January 8 aimed at preventing the commencement of the strike by organised labour and civil society, President Goodluck Jonathan made the following pledges: 25 per cent cut in the basic salaries of all political office-holders in the executive arm of government to begin from this year; review of the number of committees, commissions and parastatals with overlapping responsibilities with a view to restructuring them; and a directive to all ministries, departments and agencies to take steps to reduce their overhead expenses. Others include the speedy launch of a mass transit intervention programme to bring down the cost of transport nationwide to be implemented in partnership with state and local governments, labour unions, transport owners, and banking institutions while funds (N15bn) would be given to transport stakeholders at zero per cent interest; a promise to grant import duty waivers on all needed parts for locally made mass transit vehicles, as part of the efforts to create additional jobs in the economy; directed all MDAs to execute projects designed to cushion the impact of the subsidy removal in the short, medium and long-term as outlined in the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme document; the mobilisation of contractors to rehabilitate the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri railway line and to complete the Lagos-Kano railway line; the immediate commencement of a public works programme that will create jobs for 10,000 youths in every state of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, thus creating 370,000 jobs nationwide.

In his January 16 broadcast, President Jonathan made further concessions. These include the reduction in the price of a litre of petrol from the earlier announced N141 to N97. Furthermore, he promised that the legal and regulatory regime for the petroleum industry is to be reviewed to address accountability issues and current lapses in the industry. In this regard, the Petroleum Industry Bill will be given accelerated attention. The report of the forensic audit carried out on the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation is being studied with a view to implementing the recommendations and sanctioning proven acts of corruption in the industry.

Many committees have also been constituted to assist with the implementation of some of the promises. These include the Justice Alfa Belgore committee saddled with the responsibility of interfacing with organised labour and other stakeholders with a view to resolving issues that may arise from the removal of the subsidy on petrol and the Dr. Christopher Kolade-led Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme Board. The board is to oversee and ensure the effective and timely implementation of projects to be funded with the savings that will accrue to the Federal Government from subsidy removal. Another committee is the Senator Udo Udoma-led Special Task Force for the quick passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill.

The Hon. Farouk Lawan-led Ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives on petrol subsidy which commenced sitting on Monday, January 16 is also among the numerous gains of the revolt. Startling revelations being made by different ministries and agencies of the government at the public hearing surely validated the long held view of many Nigerians that our oil industry is a cesspool of corruption. Some of the disclosed sharp practices include the prevention of the Nigerian Customs Service from asking for proper documentation from the oil importers; the diversion of mother vessels to Cotonou and Lome before using smaller vessels to bring in the imported petroleum products; the non-subtraction of the volume of locally refined crude oil from the imported one in the calculation of the subsidy.

Others include, the licensing of companies that do not have storage facilities and other basic requirements to import petroleum products; the application of rule of the thumb rather than proper authorisation by the Ministry of Finance to the NNPC for subsidy payments; the alleged importation of 59 million litres of PMS when in actual fact Nigerians consume only 35 million litres per day thereby encouraging smuggling of petrol to neigbbouring countries. All these mind-boggling revelations and more have come to the fore since the probe panel began sitting. That the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has been called in to examine the books of Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency and other agencies involved in the subsidy scam is also a direct benefit of the struggle against the removal of fuel subsidy.

I have gone to this length to highlight the many assurances that helped to extinguish the ember of revolution that was kindled by the removal of fuel subsidy so that we all can hold government accountable to all these promises. Eternal vigilance is the price for liberty!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Giringory: Symbol of Artiste and Pensioner's Neglect

Reading about the plight of septuagenarian ace actor, James Akwari Iroha better known as Giringory Akabuogu of the famed but now rested soap Masquerade in Saturday Sun of January 21, 2012, I was moved to tears. According to Emeka Anokwuru, the reporter who interviewed him, James Iroha who is now 70 years old is sick, poor, blind, and dying gradually. Giringory was one of the two troublesome servants of Chief Zebrudaya Okoroigwe Nwogbo, alias 4:30 played by the ace comedian Chika Okpala. The other servant being Clarus. Other members of the cast of Masquerade later renamed New Masquerade were: Chief Jegede Shokoya, the youngest millionaire in the whole universe; Apena wife of Jegede played by the late Christy Essien Igbokwe; Ovularia, wife of Chief Zebrudaya; Natty, etc.

I recall with nostalgia other soaps on air between 1970s and 1990s which used to thrill me. These include Cock Crow at Dawn with cast such as Uncle Gaga, Papa Bitrus and the likes; Hotel De Jordan; Samanja; Iche Oku; Ken Saro Wiwa’s Bassey and Company; Unibadan Performing Company with cast like the ageless Clarion Chukwura, Becky Musa, the late Sam Loco Efe, etc. In the Yoruba drama genre were Awada Kerikeri cast of Moses Olaiya (Baba Sala) and his group; Ojo Ladipo (Baba Mero) and his theatre group; the threesome of Jacob, Papalolo and Aderupoko; Oyin Adejobi and his Kootu Asipa crew; Isola Ogunsola (I sho pepper), Chief Lere Paimo and his drama group as well as many others too numerous to mention.

The aforementioned were sterling artistes who gave their all to drama in those good old days when Nollywood movies were not yet conceived. James Iroha is a graduate of Theatre Arts from the world famous University of Ibadan in 1966; indeed the best graduating student pre-war of the university. He conceptualized and produced the Masquerade which told the story of the adventures of Chief Zebrudaya Okoroigwe Nwogbo, alias 4:30 as a means of reliving the sorrow of his people, the Igbos, who have been worsted in the three years internecine civil war where over a million people were alleged to have died. He was the producer, yet, he played the role of the servant. What humility! James has put 46 years of his life into acting having started as a thespian when he was 24 years old.

The patriot who created avenue for his people and indeed Nigerians to be entertained has this to say about how the effort of his drama group was appreciated in those days: “Government ab initio was projecting us and said we ought to have been paying them. According to them, that they gave us a medium to express ourselves was good enough; so they were even asking us to pay. They were paying us N250 per episode of the Masquerade. Some of us got N2; others received N10 only, and even at that we kept praying and hoping that we would appear the next week. So unlike now, we were not paid any professional fees.” You may say that they were lawful captive but in my own opinion they were patriots who chose fame over fortune and who out of selfless love for their profession gave their best to make us happy and relief our stress. When they were actively plying their trade, there were not many companies ready to sponsor television drama hence they have to make do with the little they got.

James Iroha who was honoured with a national award of Officer of the Order of Niger (OON) during the former President Shehu Shagari era in the 80s has this to say about himself: “Now there is nothing between poverty and me. I’m just nose-to-nose with poverty…… I’m a pensioner and my pension is not regular. Government sometimes does not have money to pay us our pension. In that situation, they pay their regular staff before thinking of pensioners. We are dead woods.”

This comment on the parlous state of our senior citizens and pensioners is heart-rending. In a country where life expectancy is estimated at between 46 for men and 48 for women, those who managed to live older are made to suffer for their longevity. Pensioners go through harrowing experiences after they retire as their pension and gratuity are often not paid as at when due. Not even the new pension scheme introduced in 2004 has been able to fully address this anomaly. In the name of pension verification, an octogenarian, Pa. Olusa Ayodele slumped and died on October 10, 2011 in Akure, Ondo State.

Nigerian newspapers of Friday, January 20 published that N151billion fraud had been discovered in pension offices across the country. The chairman, Pension Reform Task Force, Mr. Abdulrasheed Maina was credited with this disclosure. He said that out of the amount, the team in conjunction with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) traced and recovered a total of about N24bn and N15bn worth of properties from some corrupt government officials in the Pension Department of the Office of Head of Service, while 66 illegal bank accounts with a combined balance of N180m were also discovered.

Maina was quoted further as saying that the ordeal of Nigerian pensioners were caused not necessarily because of paucity of funds, “but due to large scale corruption through diversion and mismanagement of pension fund, manipulation and falsification of data, non-improvement in the pension administrative structure and bureaucracy with poor, unreliable and inefficient accounting system.” The Pension Reform Taskforce Chairman said his team had successfully conducted nationwide biometric verification of pensioners, and in the process, detected 71,133 fake pensioners. Whao! Perhaps it is these fraudsters in pension offices across the country that is making life more difficult for people like Pa. James Iroha.

Giringory’s case is not a hopeless one. He has cried out to Nigerians that he needs personal rehabilitation. He wants to be able to pay his rent, buy his medicines and repair his car. Will Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State emulate what Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as Governor of Lagos State did for the music maestro Pa. Fatai Rolling Dollars when he donated a house to him? Am sure Ochendo can do more than that. He can use Giringory to score a cheap political point by donating a new house and a new car to Pa. James and top it with a free Medicare in any part of the world so that our dear James Iroha can have a glorious twilight.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Chronicle of My Media Advocacy in 2011

Welcome to 2012. In keeping faith with my fans, here is the highlight of my media advocacy in 2011. In the out-gone year, I got busier, minding how my country Nigeria is governed. Among issues I commented on were Elections, Politics, Economy, Violence, Sports, Women, Health, Agriculture, Unemployment, Legislature, Judiciary, Education, Population and other sundry national issues. On the whole 57 of my articles were published 76 times across 12 national newspapers and two newsletters. I was on radio six times and on television only once in 2011.

Newspapers
The Punch Friday, January 7, 2011 My Wishes for Nigeria in 2011 Article
Daily Sun Wednesday, January 12, 2011 Reward as incentive for Electoral Violence Article
Daily Independent Friday, February 4, 2011 The Nexus Between Campaign Finance and Electoral Violence Article
Daily Sun Tuesday, February 8, 2011 Nigeria 2011 Party Primaries in Retrospect Article
National Mirror Friday, February 18, 2011 Issue Based Campaign, Please! Article
Thisday Friday, February 18, 2011 Issue Based Campaign, Please! Article
The Guardian Wednesday, March 23, 2011 Of Businessmen and Politics Article
Daily Independent Friday, April 1, 2011 Nigerian Youths and 2011 Elections Article
Daily Sun Wednesday, April 20, 2011 Issues in Nigeria's 2011 Budget Article
Thisday Thursday, May 5, 2011 Nigeria's 2011 Polls in Retrospect Article
Daily Independent Thursday, May 5, 2011 Nigeria's 2011 Polls in Retrospect Article
Champion Monday, May 9, 2011 Nigeria's 2011 Polls in Retrospect Article
Champion Monday, May 16, 2011 Nigeria's 2011 Polls in Retrospect Article
The Guardian Wednesday, May 18, 2011 Cash Limit Policy: The Likely Implications Interview
Daily Sun Thursday, May 19, 2011 Appeal to Nigeria's Election Petition Tribunals Article
Champion Thursday, May 19, 2011 Anatomy of the Role of Money in Nigeria's 2011 Elections Article
Daily Independent Friday, May 20, 2011 Anatomy of the Role of Money in Nigeria's 2011 Elections Article
The Punch Tuesday, June 7, 2011 The Path to National Transformation Article
Daily Champion Thursday, June 9, 2011 SIECs and the Consolidation of Nigeria's Democracy Article
Guardian on Sunday Sunday, June 12, 2011 Enough of Ibadan NURTW Rascality Letter
The Punch Tuesday, June 14, 2011 Nigerian Women and National Development Article
The Guardian Wednesday, June 15, 2011 Two Years of CBN under Sanusi: An x-ray Interview
Thisday Thursday, June 16, 2011 SIECs and the Consolidation of Nigeria's Democracy Article
Saturday Independent Saturday, June 18, 2011 The Path to National Transformation Article
The Punch Tuesday, June 21, 2011 Good Governance as a Counter to Terrorism Article
The Nigerian Daily Tuesday, June 21, 2011 SIECs and the Consolidation of Nigeria's Democracy Article
Vanguard Wednesday, June 22, 2011 SIECs and the Consolidation of Nigeria's Democracy Article
Sunday Champion Sunday, June 26, 2011 Guidance and Counselling for Nigeria's Parliamentarians Article
The Punch Tuesday, June 28, 2011 Let's Roll Back Illiteracy in Nigeria Article
Daily Sun Wednesday, June 29, 2011 Guidance and Counselling for Nigeria's Parliamentarians Article
The Punch Thursday, July 7, 2011 Fixing Nigeria's Ailing Health Sector Article
Nigerian Compass Tuesday, July 12, 2011 Tackling Nigeria's Food Security Challenge Article
The Punch Friday, July 15, 2011 Needless Fuss Over Minimum Wage Article
Nigerian Compass Tuesday, July 19, 2011 Nigeria's Sickening Health Sector Article
The Punch Monday, July 25, 2011 Overcoming Nigeria's Disaster Management Challenges Article
Nigerian Compass Wednesday, July 27, 2011 Asset Disclosure in Nigeria: A Paper Tiger? Article
Thisday Monday, August 1, 2011 Examining A Decade of GSM Article
The Punch Friday, August 5, 2011 Conditional Support for Single Term for the Executives Article
Nigerian Compass Monday, August 8, 2011 Civil Society and Consolidation of Democracy in Nigeria Article
The Guardian Wednesday, August 10, 2011 Banks' Nationalisation: Matters Arising Interview
Daily Independent Thursday, August 11, 2011 Winning the Unemployment War in Nigeria Article
Nigerian Compass Tuesday, August 23, 2011 Clarion Call on Federal Government Printer Letter
The Nation Tuesday, August 23, 2011 Clarion Call on Federal Government Printer Letter
Thisday Tuesday, August 23, 2011 Rethinking Nigeria's Privatisation Programme Article
Daily Independent Monday, August 29, 2011 Checkmating Drug Trafficking and Abuse in Nigeria Article
The Guardian Wednesday, August 31, 2011 2012 Budget: Is Government Racing Against Time? Interview
Daily Sun Friday, September 9, 2011 Nigeria's Black Friday Article
Nigerian Compass Thurs, September 22, 2011 After Maputo Games, What Next for Nigeria? Article
Thisday Thurs, September 22, 2011 Let's Rebuild University of Ibadan Letter
Sunday Punch Sun. September 25, 2011 Checkmating Drug Trafficking and Abuse in Nigeria Article
Daily Sun Thurs, September 29, 2011 Nigeria: 51 Years of Platitudes Letter
The Punch Wednesday, October 5, 2011 Imperative of Electoral Offences Commission Article
The Guardian Thurs, October 6, 2011 Calling on UI Alumni Letter
Saturday Punch Sat. October 15, 2011 The Plot to Collapse Nigerian Prison System Article
Thisday Tues. November 8, 2011 The Plot to Collapse Nigerian Prison System Article
Nigerian Compass Wednesday, November 9, 2011 Recognition for the Amazons Article
Saturday Independent Saturday, November 12, 2011 Worthy Recognition for the Amazons Article
Saturday Punch Saturday, November 12, 2011 Implication of Nigeria's 167 Million Population Article
Leadership Sunday Sunday, November 13, 2011 Future Elections in Nigeria will Improve Interview
Daily Sun Tuesday, November 15, 2011 Recognition for the Amazons Article
Nigerian Compass Tuesday, November 22, 2011 Justice Musdapher's Directive to Nigerian Judges Article
The Punch Monday, November 28, 2011 Revisiting Musdapher's Advisory to Nigerian Judges Article
Nigerian Compass Monday, December 12, 2011 Perspective on 2011 National Honours Awards Article
Nigerian Compass Tuesday, December 27, 2011 Will 2012 be a happy year for Nigerians? Article
The Punch Wednesday, December 28, 2011 2012 Budget Proposals in Perspective Article
The Guardian Wednesday, December 28, 2011 Nigeria's Economy: Victim of Mismanagement Interview

Newsletters
Political Finance N'letter January 2011 (Volume 2, Issue 1) The Nexus Between Money and Electoral Violence
Political Finance N'letter March 2011 (Volume 2, Issue 3) Profiteers of Nigeria's 2011 Elections
ACE Newsletter Mar-11 Nigeria's 2011 Elections and Consolidation of Democracy
Political Finance N'letter April 2011 (Volume 2, Issue 4) Campaign Finance at the Brink of Nigeria's Elections
Political Finance N'letter May 2011 (Volume 2, Issue 5) After the Elections, Accountability must Follow
Political Finance N'letter July 2011 (Volume 2, Issue 7) In Between Elections - Asset Disclosure in Nigeria
Political Finance N'letter August 2011(Voume 2, Issue 8) Rethinking Public Funding for Parties in Nigeria
ACE Newsletter Sep-11 Nigeria after 2011 General Elections
Political Finance N'letter October 2011 (Volume 2, Issue 10 RSIEC and the Public Funding of Political Parties
Political Finance N'letter November 2011(Vol. 2, Issue 11 ENSIEC and Campaign Finance


May Nigeria experience a peaceful and prosperous 2012. Cheers!