Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Nigeria and the twin evil of Pipeline Vandalism and Oil Theft

“It is embarrassing that it is only in Nigeria that crude oil is stolen. We will be decisive in putting an end to this malaise. Our charge to all relevant agencies and departments of government is to work cooperatively with the required urgency this challenge deserves.”
—President Goodluck Jonathan at the presidential maritime security retreat held in Abuja, on July 23, 2012
There are several problems bedevilling Nigeria’s maritime and petroleum sectors. According to President Goodluck Jonathan, the sectors are under threats of poaching, piracy, vandalising of pipeline, coastal insecurity, crude oil theft, illegal bunkering, non-payment of statutory levies and charges. Others include illegal entry of ships into our territorial waters, illegal importation of arms and hard drugs, amongst other sundry crimes. I intend to dwell on vandalising of pipeline and oil theft among the various threats. Recently, I watched with rapt attention the interview the Managing Director of Petroleum Products Marketing Company, Mr. Haruna Momoh, granted the duo of Alero Edu and Kayode Akintemi on Sunrise, the Channels TV breakfast show, on Saturdays. Momoh was interviewed on Saturday, February 23 on a wide range of issues affecting the oil industry in Nigeria. He spoke with facts and figures on the issues of vandalising of pipeline, oil theft, kerosene, LPG (cooking gas) among others.
Momoh said the PPMC was seriously challenged to police the over 5,120 kilometres of pipeline that crisscross the entire Nigerian landscape. He said the country loses over N162bn or thereabout to vandals and that the organisation was working with the security agencies to protect the pipeline as well as the state and local governments to secure the pipeline right of way. He disclosed the PPMC was embarking on directional drilling in order to further secure the pipeline. The question that was not asked or answered is why would people embark on vandalising of pipeline and oil theft? I got an insight into that during the Nigerian Navy 2013 Retreat held in Uyo on February 25, 2013. According to one of the paper presenters, a Navy Commodore, a number of reasons can be advanced for the soaring incidence of oil theft and vandalism in the country. One of such is the unemployment and abject poverty plaguing the Niger Delta.
According to him, the environmental degradation occasioned by oil spill through the activities of the international oil companies destroyed farmland and the ecosystem rendering the people of the Niger Delta who are into farming and fishing jobless. In addition, some of the communities do not have access to refined petroleum products yet they need such to power their boats, grinding machines and generators. When they get these products to buy, they are sold to them at prohibitive prices. On top of this, many of them have yet to feel government presence or enjoy dividends of democracy. With their environment degraded and their means of livelihood lost, some of these people are believed to resort to vandalism and oil theft to survive. In the process, they created worse environmental degradation as only about 30 per cent of stolen crude is refined through these artisanal means.
The naval officer noted, unfortunately, that many of Nigeria’s oil fields are built without much thought given to the security of the facilities and the personnel manning them. He cited the example of Bonga Oil Field which is about 140 nautical miles to the sea all alone without a good security network. It also came out clearly that the Nigerian Navy is grossly underfunded. The Navy got less than $1bn in 11 years which is just a fraction of what the country annually lost to oil theft. Figures from different sources showed that Nigeria loses between $10 and $20bn annually to oil theft. According to him, the Nigerian Navy spends an average of N6.6bn to fuel eight of its vessels in a year. Yet, the entire overheads of the navy in 2012 is N12.01bn.
The Chief of Defence Staff, Admiral Ola Sahad Ibrahim, in 2012 gave further insights into the challenges of fighting oil theft in Nigeria. According to him, these include complicity of insiders that worked in oil companies in the past; lack of information sharing among security agencies as well as a ready-made market for stolen crude oil. Despite its numerous challenges, in 2012 alone, the Nigerian Navy arrested over 40 vessels, 900 Cotonou Boats, and destroyed over 7,380 illegal refineries with thousands of these artisanal illegal refiners arrested and currently being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Nigerian Police.
Back to the Channels TV interview with the MD of PPMC, he revealed why kerosene is scarce and expensive more than petrol in the country. As he put it, about two years ago, the Petroleum Minister directed the PPMC to increase the importation of kerosene from nine million litres per day to 11million litres. In spite of this measure, it turned out ordinary citizens still had to pay more than the subsidised price of N50 per litre. In my area, a litre of kerosene is sold for between N150 and N180. This is triple the official price. He listed the problems to include trucking of the products which made it easy to be diverted by unscrupulous businessmen and women. According to him, the easiest, safest and cheapest way to transport petroleum products is through the pipeline but since they are routinely vandalised, the PPMC resorted to distributing them by trucks which is prone to diversion. He revealed further that kerosene is smuggled across the porous Nigerian borders to neighbouring countries to be sold at exorbitant prices.
Nigerian kerosene, being Dual Purpose Kerosene, can be upgraded and downgraded into other products. For instance, the aviation industry uses it as JET A1; that is, it is upgraded into Aviation Fuel. It could also be blended with diesel in what is known in the industry as rice and beans. Furthermore, it is used by construction companies in building roads and by manufacturing companies. The question is: Where are the men of the Department of Petroleum Resources, who are supposed to ensure quality assurance by checking adulteration of petroleum products as well as curtailing the activities of marketers who under dispense products or sell them above the official prices. The agency is simply not doing enough to protect the citizens. Momoh enthused that only five per cent of Nigerian households use LPG, better known as domestic cooking gas, 27 per cent use kerosene while over 50 per cent rely on firewood and charcoal for their cooking. Though he claimed that cooking gas is grossly underutilised, it is expensive. It is heartwarming to note, however, that a road map is being developed to encourage the use of cooking gas.
I align myself with the solutions put forward by the naval officer quoted earlier. Among other things, he proffered that there is the need for a Maritime Security Trust Fund; increased budgetary allocation to the Nigerian Navy and other agencies responsible for maritime security to enable them to effectively perform their role; provision of cheap refined petroleum products to the riverine communities in the Niger Delta (this could be done through the establishment of the NNPC floating mega stations) and ensuring environmental resuscitation through the clean-up of the despoiled Niger Delta communities to enable those who want to earn legitimate income through farming and fishing to go back to their business. He also mentioned the idea of backward security integration and the need to factor security into the building plan of our oil fields. Lastly, he called for the sustenance of the amnesty programme. I would add that the Niger Delta Ministry, the governors of the nine Niger Delta states, and the Niger Delta Development Commission need to do more to make the impact of good governance felt in the Niger Delta areas through the provision of good road networks, pipe borne water, schools, hospitals and other sundry social amenities. Government also needs to fish out the godfathers of these oil thieves and bring them to justice alongside their foot-soldiers. Even if all these antidotes were to be promptly applied, it would take a long time to come before vandalism and oil theft will be a thing of the past in Nigeria. Reason? They constitute an irresistible honey-pot for the courageous.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The menace of unqualified Nigerian teachers

The screaming headline in Daily Trust of Friday, February 15, 2013 reads: “1,300 Kaduna teachers fail primary school test”. The rider says, “Head teachers, education secretaries unqualified”. The unsavoury news was broken by the Kaduna State Commissioner for Education, Alhaji Usman Mohammed. He made the dreadful disclosure at an education summit tagged, “Education for all is responsibility of all”, held at the Hassan Usman Katsina House on February 14. The report quoted the commissioner thus: “A total of 1,599 teachers selected from across the state were given primary four tests in Mathematics and Basic literacy. Only one of them scored 75 per cent, 250 scored between 50 and 75 per cent and 1,300 scored below 25 per cent”. According to him, the same examination was conducted for 1,800 primary school pupils but a larger per cent of them failed woefully. The commissioner said many of the head teachers of the primary schools are not competent, and also that a majority of the Education Secretaries of the local government areas are appointed based on political patronage hence their inability to perform well.
Another speaker at the summit, Mohammed Yunusa, who is the chairman of the state House of Assembly Committee on Education, was also quoted as saying that “out of the 36,000 teachers in the state, 15,000 are not qualified.” The story noted further that in November 2012, the late Governor Patrick Yakowa also disclosed that a verification by the state government had revealed no fewer than 2,000 teachers with fake certificates employed in public schools.
Are these revelations alarming? Of course, they go to confirm our worst fears about the collapse of education in Nigeria. The Kaduna episode resonates with earlier revelations in Kwara State in 2008. According to Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi who was the Education Commissioner in the state then, “An aptitude and capacity test was organised for a total of 19,125 teachers in the state’s public school system. Out of these, 2,628 were university graduates. The teachers were given tests that were designed originally for primary four pupils in English and Mathematics.
At the end of the exercise, only seven teachers out of the 19,125 crossed the minimum aptitude and capacity threshold. Only one out of the 2,628 graduate teachers passed the test, 10 graduates scored outright zero. The teachers fared worse in literacy assessments which recorded only 1.2 per cent pass rate. More worrying is that nearly 60 per cent of the teachers cannot read information or use the information in preparing a simple lesson.”
We would be missing the point if we think it is only in Kaduna and Kwara states that such unqualified tutors are found. Perhaps, a similar scenario would have played out in Ekiti State had the teachers not vehemently resisted the attempt by the state’s commissioner for education to force them to sit for a similar competency test. Half-baked teachers are in all states, and at all levels of our academic system from primary to tertiary institutions. The Nigerian education foundation is very wobbly. Aside from the phenomenon of unqualified teachers, there are other challenges ranging from inadequate funding leading to overstretched resources including manpower, structures and equipment, frequent strikes by the teachers, truancy on the part of pupils and students, policy summersaults on the part of government, inadequate monitoring of teachers by the inspectorate division of the education ministry, parents aiding and abetting their children and wards to cheat in exams by paying for the services of impersonators or buying them answer scripts.
The aforementioned do not only manifest in public schools. Even though the malaise is more pronounced in government owned institutions, it has also spread to privately owned schools. Many of the private schools operate illegally without proper authorisation by the education ministry. The structures of some of them are very terrible. They are located in uncompleted buildings without conveniences for the pupils. No playing ground and the teachers, who are not allowed to unionise, are poorly paid. These led to high turnover of teachers in some of these schools. The upshot of all these is the mass failure of pupils in internal and external examinations.
The Universal Basic Education Programme was introduced in 1999 by the Federal Government as a reform programme aimed at providing greater access to, and ensuring quality of basic education throughout Nigeria. The UBE programme objectives include: Ensuring an uninterrupted access to a nine-year formal education by providing free, and compulsory basic education for every child of school-going age under six years of primary education and three years of junior secondary education providing early childhood care development and education; reducing school drop-out and improving relevance, quality and efficiency as well as acquisition of literacy, numeracy, life skills and values for lifelong education and useful living.
Since 2005, the UBEC has been providing matching grants to states to assist them in providing basic infrastructure for their schools. Information on the website of the commission shows that states such as Nasarawa, Ebonyi , Imo and Ogun have yet to access their 2010, 2011 and 2012 grants while only seven states and the Federal Capital Territory have claimed their 2012 matching grants as of February 4, 2013.
If we are to turn things around positively in our basic education which is the pillar upon which secondary and tertiary education lies, we need to do things differently. This malaise of unqualified teachers has to be urgently addressed and redressed. Ace musician, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, was spot on when he sang many years ago “Teacher don’t teach me nonsense”.
There are no two ways about it, an unqualified or ill-trained and ill-equipped teacher will teach nothing but nonsense. Many states in Nigeria need to declare a state of emergency in their academic institutions, yet they are playing politics with the issue. Schools need to be well-resourced in order for the teachers and pupils to excel. Our education budget in Nigeria is very short of the 26 per cent recommended by the UNESCO. The Federal Government voted about nine per cent for education in the 2013 budget while in some states, the figure is less than two per cent. Given this, how then can we expect our schools to churn out quality pupils?
Our teacher training schools need to be rehabilitated and well-equipped so that they can produce quality graduates. Teachers need to be trained and retrained with modern day curriculum that has Montessori and other contemporary skills. They also need to be well remunerated. The inspectorate division of ministry of education and local government need to be well staffed in order for them to be able to effectively monitor the performance of these teachers. It behooves guardians and parents alike to complement government effort by paying their children and wards school fees and other legitimate fees. They need to buy them needed textbooks and other learning materials. These are the ways we could roll back illiteracy in Nigeria and hope to attain the Millennium Development Goals come 2015.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Super Eagles, sustaining the winning streak

Hearty congratulations to our football heroes, the Super Eagles, who did us proud at the Africa Cup of Nations 2013 held in South Africa. I salute the gallantry and sterling performance of our soccer ambassadors and the coaching crew led by Stephen Keshi, and other technical and support group.
On Sunday, February 10, Nigeria won the AFCON for the third time (the previous times being 1980 and 1994) and after several failed attempts spanning 19 years. It was a sweet victory for the underdog Super Eagles who though did not lose any of their six matches in the tournament, were not favourites to win the cup given their slow and lacklustre performances during the group stage. Their matches against Burkina Faso and Zambia at that stage were average while their 2-0 victory over Ethiopia saw them qualify from the group stage as the second best from Group C. It was not until the Super Eagles defeated the more fancied and experienced Elephants of Cote D’Ivore in the quarter-Final and walloped the Eagles of Mali by 4-1 in the semi-final that millions of soccer-loving Nigerians gave the team a chance of bringing back the trophy. Nigeria as African champion has thus qualified for FIFA’s Confederations Cup which will hold later this year in Brazil. The last time Nigeria participated in the competition was in 1995 when the competition was launched and played then as the King Fahd Cup in Saudi Arabia.
The Super Eagles did not only beat the Stallions of Burkina Faso 1-0 to win the AFCON, individual players also won honours for themselves. While Victor Moses won the Samsung Fair Player of the Tournament, Emmanuel Emenike was the Pepsi Tournament Top Scorer and Mikel Obi, Orange Man of the Match for the final match. Furthermore, the Confederation of African Football selected five members of the Super Eagles for the Africa Best Eleven. Goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama; defender Efe Ambrose; midfielder Mikel Obi; and forwards Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike were selected for the African XI. The AFCON victory also meant Nigeria coach, Stephen Keshi, became the second man to win the tournament as player and coach. The other man to accomplish that feat was the late Egyptian Mahmoud El Gohary, who helped his country defeat Sudan 2-1 in the 1959 final and guided the Pharaohs to a 2-0 victory over South Africa 39 years later.
Now, as we indulge in backslapping, wining and dining over the Super Eagles’ victory, we must not allow the import of the victory to elude us. We need sober reflection on how to maintain the winning streak so that we don’t quickly become former champions too soon. The tragi-comedy of the resignation and subsequent withdrawal of the letter by Keshi on Monday night leaves a sour taste in the mouth. It became apparent that the Nigerian football family house is on a quicksand rather than being on a rock and that things are not at ease between the Nigerian Football Federation, the coaching crew and the players. Issues of backlog of salaries, owing of match bonuses, lack of an official car and distrust of the competence of chief coach came to the fore. This is a very unfortunate development which all stakeholders must quickly address and redress.
The Super Eagles and other national teams on continental or international assignments must begin early preparations. To fail to prepare is to prepare to fail. Nigeria’s World Cup qualifiers begin in March while the FIFA Confederations Cup is in June and all hands must be on deck to ensure that the Super Eagles remain focused. Adequate funding, early preparations, free-hand or independence are what our coaching crews need to excel in their assignments.
Six home-based players were among the 23-man squad that represented us in South Africa, just as 17 of them were making their debut at the fiesta. It was a home-based player, Sunday Mba, that scored the winning goal in the quarter final and the final. The question then is, what is the state of Nigeria’s Premier League? Starting with the stadia, many of which are in deplorable conditions. Federal and state governments need to rehabilitate the national and state stadia that dot our landscape. Otherwise these sporting facilities should be privatised for better management. It is heartwarming that the National Stadium, Abuja is currently receiving attention after public outrage on its dilapidated state last year. Same attention needs to be paid to other national stadia including the ones in Kaduna, Lagos, Ibadan and Port Harcourt.
Cantankerous members of the board of Nigeria Premier League who have been using litigation to draw back the hand of progress of the NPL need to sheathe their swords and allow peaceful settlement of their bickering. The Minister of Sports, Bolaji Abdullahi, National Sports Commission, NFF, Football Club Owners Association, Nigeria Football Supporters Club, the private sector and all other critical stakeholders in Nigerian football must synergise to ensure that the new dawn that was birthed with the AFCON 2013 win is sustained.
We need to revive our local league; and make it attractive to our sport fans to identify with. I must hasten to mention that the Women’s League also deserves equal attention too as the men’s. Female football has given Nigeria more continental trophies than the male’s. At the last count, the Super Falcons have won the African Women Championship a record six times! Due recognition and attention must therefore be given to female football.
It is high time the private sector invested heavily in sports. The business of sport is huge and very rewarding if well-structured. The ‘food is ready’ attitude of our private sector is condemnable and should be discontinued. A good number of companies are identifying with Super Eagles only when they are coasting home to winning the trophy. Many of them did not deem it fit to meaningfully support the national team when they were preparing for the competition.
It is good that a number of sport academies have sprung up but post-academy mentoring is also necessary. Sport promotion and marketing are a gold mine that can be exploited. Sport management, I mean, coaching, managing footballers and athletes, agency representation and many more are very profitable. The athletes themselves are cash cows especially when they get juicy contracts either abroad or within the country. The positive contribution of our foreign based athletes to our national economy is gargantuan while the image laundry and honours done the country are also enormous. The victory of the Super Eagles is therefore a wake-up call to harness our sporting potential for national development.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fighting corruption with plea bargain

The January 28 sentencing of the Assistant Director in the Police Pension Office, Mr. John Yakubu Yusuf, to two years imprisonment or N750, 000 fine, has again brought to the fore the propriety or otherwise of the mechanism of plea bargain in Nigeria’s criminal justice system. Many commentators were alarmed at the inconsequential punishment meted out to the culprit. Not even the fact that the assistant director is forfeiting 32 houses in the Federal Capital Territory and Gombe State as well as N325m cash is considered enough atonement for his sins. Left to many Nigerians, the man should ‘rot in jail’ or be made to face capital punishment.
There have been many legal opinions on how the plea bargain mechanism is alien to our jurisprudence. Many argued that it is not in our constitution or any of our statutes. In fact, at the Alternative Dispute Resolution Summit organised by the Negotiation and Conflict Management Group and the National Judicial Institute on November 15, 2012, a former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Dahiru Musdapher, said, “The concept is not only dubious but was never part of the history of our legal system – at least until it was surreptitiously smuggled into our statutory laws with the creation of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.” He observed further that the concept of plea bargain is indeed a threat to the criminal justice system in Africa. The eminent jurist did have a point there. However, how did we get to this sorry state where the anti-corruption agencies now prefer or explore the window of a ‘mid-way settlement’ with criminals?
At the above mentioned event where Justice Musdapher made his assertion on plea bargain, the Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, also noted that the advantages of plea bargain were “incomparable with the alleged disadvantages”. Pointing to the delays in the trial of some former governors charged with corruption, Lamorde reportedly said the EFCC was able to employ plea bargain to conclude some high profile cases, including those involving Emmanuel Nwude; former Inspector-General of Police, Tafa Balogun; a former Bayelsa State Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha; ex-Oceanic Bank Managing Director, Cecilia Ibru, and a former Edo State Governor Lucky Igbinedion. Lamorde observed further that, “We are all witnesses to the fact that cases commenced as far back as 2007 against some former governors such as Uzor Kalu, Chimaroke Nnamani, Saminu Turaki, and Joshua Dariye have hardly made any meaningful progress in their trials because of regular exploitation of the inherent problems in the justice system to truncate the trials.”
Indeed, despite its current imperfections, it is better to recover our commonwealth from those who have pilfered it through plea bargain than to continue to waste scarce resources of the state on interminable prosecution of corrupt officials. That is a realistic choice to make. It saves time, cost, and aids quick recovery of loot. None of the alleged corrupt governor from 2003 whose cases have been in court has been successfully prosecuted with the exception of Igbinedion and Alamieyeseigha who of their own volition pleaded guilty of their crimes. None of the former bank executives charged to court since 2009 has been successfully brought to justice except Mrs. Ibru who admitted guilt in exchange for a light sentence and forfeiture of some of her ill-gotten wealth. The reason why these cases drag on endlessly is because the accused are people with means who are able to afford the best of lawyers and can easily perfect their bail conditions. Their lawyers raise all manner of interlocutory objections and technicalities as well as seek frequent adjournments. This act of filibustering is to wear out the prosecution while seeking means of subverting the course of justice either by buying out witnesses or scaring them off witness box.
The question to be asked is: How come our corruption preventive mechanism has failed to work? I mean all manner of measures were put in place by government and its agencies to curb corruption, yet we still have these eye-popping cases of corruption. Not too long ago, electronic payment (e-payment) was substituted for cash or cheque payments. In spite of this electronic money transfer, a lot of fraud still get perpetrated. Not only that, a couple of years ago, the Central Bank of Nigeria came up with a policy of revalidation of bank accounts. All manner of documentations were requested by banks from their customers during this exercise. Where has that led us? Any deposit or withdrawal above a certain amount is supposed to be reported to the EFCC and Financial Action Task Force, why then have these measures not helped to reduce the incidence of corruption and money laundering in the country? I am sure that many of these frauds in the Ministries, Agencies and Departments are carried out in cahoots with some unscrupulous bank officials.
Again, where are our ethics, values and mores? Mr. John Yusuf is a Christian, at least by name. This action of his is morally reprehensible and very ungodly. Did his parish priest counsel him against his avarice? What about his family and circle of friends; were they happy and envious of him that he was living well above his means as an assistant director in the public service? The loss of our moral compass has contributed immensely to this decadence in our society. We hero-worship the wealthy irrespective of how they make their money and covet their ostentatious lifestyle without batting an eyelid.
I strongly advocate the constriction of all the loopholes being explored by these scoundrels to perpetrate fraud. Preventive measures have to be scaled up with more proactive accounting and audit controls. We also have to come to terms with the tightening of the nuts and bolts of our criminal justice procedures and laws. Though plea bargain may have been “smuggled” into our legal framework as a doctrine of necessity, now is the time to set up formal parameters and procedures for its application. A former EFCC chairman, Ms. Farida Waziri, had shouted herself hoarse calling for special courts or judges to try corruption cases as well as the passage of asset forfeiture and whistle blower protection bills. The feasibility of these propositions should be dispassionately looked into with National Assembly passing expeditiously all anti-corruption bills pending before it. If we are truly tired of the negative label of ranking among the most corrupt countries in the world, the Federal Government and its agencies need to demonstrate greater capacity, efficiency and effectiveness.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Philanthropy as Political Investments

A news item in The Punch newspaper of January 1, 2013 caught my attention and sent me thinking of the ingenious ways many politicians use philanthropy as political investments. The referenced report has it that “A political group, the Omo-Ilu Foundation, has commenced the distribution of 500 vehicles, 1,000 motorcycles and 1,800 bags of rice worth N800m to members of the Peoples Democratic Party in Ogun State. The Foundation also said plans had been concluded for the installation of 33,000-litre kerosene tanks in various locations to dispense the product at N50 per litre to the people in the 236 wards in the 20 local government areas of the state.”

The leader of the Omo-Ilu Foundation and PDP financier in the state, Mr. Buruji Kashamu was quoted as having said that the gesture was aimed at empowering members of the party to enable many of them to start their own private businesses. He commented further that since inception in 2009, the Foundation has given out over 700 vehicles free.

It is noteworthy that many politicians have used this strategy to actualize their political ambition. Rochas Foundation set up by the incumbent Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State since 2001 has been giving free education to primary and secondary school students across the country. Information gleaned from the website of the Foundation says it builds schools that offer free education to the poorest of the poor in the society. Apart from the five colleges and one primary schools established by the Foundation, it also  provides free health services to its  students and  pupils, staff and host communities. The Foundation’s Economic Empowerment Programme assists underprivileged young Nigerians to start small scale businesses, by empowering them to be self-reliant. It has also provided free motor vehicles and motor bikes through free-interest loans to beneficiaries.

There are other politicians who do not have a formal structure of Foundation but nevertheless embark on acts of philanthropy like digging boreholes or supplying potable water through water tanker vehicles to communities that have no potable water.           Some others donate electricity transformers to communities that do not have lights; some offer to sponsor hundreds of people on yearly pilgrimages to ‘holy lands’ (Mecca for Muslims and Jerusalem for Christians); yet some others build community health centers or bring in health practitioners to offer free medical services to the sick in their communities. The list of these acts of charity is endless and is done over a number of years but usually gather momentum between six to three months before elections.

 One of the persons who reaped bountifully from his acts of charity was the late Bashorun MKO Abiola, the presumed winner of the 1993 presidential election in Nigeria. For many years Abiola was philanthropy personified. He was ever willing to help support the needy. He built schools and offered scholarships to indigent students, make endowments to several tertiary institutions across the country, pay medical bills for the sick, established a football club known then as Abiola Babes FC of Abeokuta. Aare-Ona-Kakanfo Abiola was almost always invited to high profile fundraisers and he never disappointed his hosts as he made generous donation to any worthy cause. The payback for him came when he contested and won, with a landslide, the 1993 presidential election but was denied victory by the military that annulled his election.

These acts of philanthropy, strictly speaking, do not amount to campaign finance if not done within the electioneering period (usually when the notice of election has been issued by the election management body. See section 91 subsection a, b, and c of Electoral Act 2010, as amended for exemptions to candidate’s campaign finance expenses). However, it is one creative strategy political elites employ to nurture their political dreams. It is also not uncommon for incumbent political office holders’ such as  president, governors and local government chairmen to engage in sudden act of charity in the pre-election period. They churn out contract awards for all manner of projects from road construction to building new hospitals. Some even take it a step higher by announcing salary increase and bonuses. Some clever ones also use the opportunity to employ more staff and commission phony and uncompleted projects; all in a bid to cajole the citizenry to retain them in power at the next election.