Sunday, October 30, 2016

Before FG reintroduces toll plazas in Nigeria

For some time now there have been heated debates on how Nigeria can fix her deplorable road network. Many are of the opinion that government is not doing enough to give Nigeria drivable roads. It is perceived as a double standard for the law to empower Vehicle Inspection Officers to certify vehicles road worthy and impound rickety ones from plying the road while relevant government ministries, departments and agencies are not held responsible for the bad roads which in no small measures contribute to damaging vehicles that drive on such roads. There have been several agencies set up to undertake road maintenance at federal, state and local government levels. I recall the existence of Public Works Department as an agency under Ministry of Works and Transport in the 60s. More recently, we have Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA). Yet, a trip on some Nigerian roads is like embarking on suicide mission given the depth of despoliation on such roads. They are filled with potholes, gullies and failed portions while many bridges on them are near collapse.

Many have attributed the state of disrepair of Nigerian roads to inadequate funding for their maintenance. Up until 2004 when the administration of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo abolished tolling on Nigerian federal roads and ordered the demolition of the various toll plazas across the country, additional income for road maintenance was accruing to government coffers through them. It was alleged that toll gates were cesspool of corruption as civil servants manning the plazas were involved in all manner of racketeering ranging from issuing fake receipts to motorist to diverting money realised to private pockets. Also, it was a form of gatekeeping for unscrupulous members of security agencies like police and customs who extort money from road users. Toll gates also cause hold-ups and congestions on highways with heavy traffic.

Anyway, since the coming into office of this new administration last year, it has been toying with the idea of reintroducing tolling.  The government got the backing of Nigerian Senate last Tuesday, October 25, 2016 when it passed a motion for the reintroduction of toll gates on federal roads. Senator Suleiman Nazif from Bauchi North moved the motion titled ‘Need for the Re-establishment of Toll Gates on Our Federal Highways,’ during plenary. Nazif said the fees will be used to maintain federal roads and construct deplorable ones. Brilliant idea that is long overdue! However, before all the legislative and administrative paperwork are done, let’s spare some thoughts to audit our past failures in this respect. The big issue is:  Will Nigerians get value for the money they are going to be paying? How will government tame the monster of corruption that led to the scrapping of the policy in 2004?

Not all roads are toll worthy and not all thoroughfares should be tolled. First and foremost my concern in this write-up is with federal highways.  I know for a fact that states and Local Governments are also empowered by law to charge toll on roads under their authority. Even airports charge toll on streets within their operational areas. It would also be recalled that during the tenure of Babatunde Raji Fasola as Governor of Lagos State, he built toll plaza on Lekki Expressway. Road is a social infrastructure and as such ordinarily there should be no charge to using it. However, economic meltdown has compelled a paradigm shift necessitating a modest charge for road usage.

There are different models that can be adopted for road construction and maintenance financing. Three models that I wrote about in my column on this page on November 22, 2015 in an article entitled “Nigeria’s Deplorable Highways” involves public-private-partnership (PPP). A quote from the aforementioned piece will say it better:  “I think it is high time government looked more towards the BOT option. By this I mean the Build, Operate and Transfer whereby private companies are allowed to build the roads using their own funds which they will recoup through tolling over a period of time and thereafter transfer the ownership back to government. Alternatively, government can also go into joint venture with private enterprises to build roads while they also jointly manage it. Their investments will also be recovered through payment of tolls by the road users. Even government can engage private companies to manage its road networks for it. I mean roads that are currently wholly owned by the various tiers of government. In any of these options, there is no way we can do without tolling. To continue to wish that we will use all roads free is to live in delusion.”

The good thing with the reintroduction of toll is the concomitant likelihood of reviving Nigeria’s comatose weigh-bridges. Many a time, I ask myself if there is any enforcement of carriage capacity for many of the articulated vehicles popularly called trailers that ply our roads. Very often you’ll see these long vehicles including Lorries and cars carrying twice the size of what they are designed for. Weigh bridges are meant to checkmate this disobedience. It was heartwarming to read that the Federal Government would reintroduce the use of weigh bridges on the nation’s highways. The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fasola made the disclosure recently while answering questions from newsmen during the Made in Nigeria Summit 2016 at the Eko Atlantic City in Lagos. He said government has commenced repairs of some of them pursuant to flag-off of enforcement order. Now, the link between the toll plaza and the weigh bridges is that the former accommodates the latter. Many weigh bridges are cited at the toll gates and that makes for easy enforcement of the policy.

As federal government plans to reintroduce tolling, it is imperative to make them fully automated in order to checkmate fraud and avoid congestion which are the twin challenges associated with manual operation. This will involve the procurement of hi-tech, digitised equipment and sensitization of road users on how to use the facility. Security agents that will be deployed there should also mind their business rather than turning them to goldmines for collecting ‘family support’ from   motorists. Proper accountability and transparency in the administration of toll plazas are the irreducible minimum requirement that Federal Government owes Nigerians. In whatever guise we may call it, this is additional taxation and Nigerians will want to see a safe, passable, smooth road network with appropriate traffic signs and lights. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Imperative of a new Nigeria National Communication Policy

It was a rare honour and privilege to be part of the august gathering of communication experts from across the country that gathered on October 17 and 18, 2016 at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru near Jos. It was a rainbow coalition of sort. Participants were drawn from the Academia, Civil Society Organisations, Political Parties, Regulatory Agencies, Media Professionals, Research Institutes, Professional Bodies and Security Agencies to brainstorm on Nigeria’s National Communication Policy and Strategy. Some 29 years ago, precisely in 1987 at Administrative Staff College of Nigeria in Badagry, Nigeria produced her first draft National Mass Communication Policy which effectively came into operation in 1990. Efforts were made in 2004 and 2013 to revise the policy; unfortunately, this is yet to be consummated.

According to NIPSS, last week’s conference was aimed at providing a platform for stakeholders to dialogue on the need for a comprehensive National Communication Policy and Strategy for the country; carry out a diagnostic review of the NCPS; conduct a Strategic Gap Analysis of the NCPS; and also make recommendations and proffer implementation strategies. In a paper entitled “Diagnostic Review of National Communication Policies and Strategies (1987 – date)”  ace broadcaster, lawyer, newspaper columnist  and former Director General of Nigerian Television Authority, Dr. Tonnie Iredia said inter alia that Nigeria was 17 years late to have her first  NCPS in 1987. Even at that, the effort was neither well-articulated nor comprehensive. It was also too ‘governmental’ and heavily ministerial, having left out the private media.   He also observed that public communication system in Nigeria is politicised, just as he submitted that the country’s communication efforts remain elitist, city based and urban bias.

Not wanting to be seen as mere arm-chair critic, Iredia made the following recommendations: citizen journalism/ new media trends should be recognised; institutional actors need to be better mobilised; public media should belong to the people; systems approach should be applied to formulation / implementation of policy / strategy; and lastly, Nigeria’s communication policy document should be integrative. 

In a presentation entitled “Strategic Gap Analysis of Nigeria’s Communication Policy and Strategies (1987 – date), Dean of Faculty of Communication, Bayero University, Kano, Prof. Umaru Pate observed among other things that the “Implementation of the national communication policy was not  successful due to poverty, inconsistency in direction of government, emerging global realities,  corruption, difficult operational climate, weakening government investments and failing public media sector, commercialisation and its consequences, skewed elite and urban centred orientation  and  absence  of local participation”.  Speaking on the last attempt to review the country’s communication policy in Calabar in 2013, the communication expert said the vision of the reviewed policy was to make Nigeria “a communicating nation”: sustain open, constant, widespread, inclusive, constructive and development-oriented communication. The objectives include enhancing quality of life of Nigerians, resolving social conflicts, and facilitating systematic, coherent and comprehensive implementation of the Millennium Development Goals and other national priorities.

Among the yawning gap noted by Pate on the last NCPS was the fact that the review process was not broad based as it did not address the need to integrate policy implementation at the three levels of governance viz.  Federal, state and local government levels.  The eminent scholar also noted that the extant national communication policy has a huge gap between the existence of the policy and its understanding among the stakeholders.  Additionally, there is a hiatus between the spirit and letter of the policy and its implementation while very little visible efforts have been made by the government to make it work.

Many of the participants criticised the renaming of the country’s National Communication Policy as National Information Policy in 2013 owing to the separation of Ministry of Communication from Information. Despite the big gap earlier identified above by various speakers, the chair of Centre of Excellence in Multimedia and Cinematography / Radio Unilag 103.1 FM, Prof. Ralph  Akinfeleye in his paper entitled “Nigeria’s National Communication Policy and Strategy: Approaches, Policy And Possible Options”  observed that “In what appeared like a fall-out of the review exercise for the National Information Policy in 2013, the federal government in April 2015 announced the granting of broadcast license to a total of 17 community radio stations distributed across the six geo-political zones of the country.” Unfortunately, only three of these seventeen are currently operational.

Akinfeleye reiterated the need for a consistent and clear-cut communication policy that fosters national development. The renowned communicator stressed the need to de-emphasise urban journalism and put more emphasis on rural communication, community journalism or what he tagged ‘Peoples’ Press’. He argued that since most of our media houses are city-based, the rural areas and people are usually neglected or ‘information starved’ particularly on developmental issues as encapsulated in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

President of Association of Communication Scholars and Professional of Nigeria, Prof. Lai Oso in a paper entitled “Challenges for Nigeria’s Comprehensive Policy and Strategy” noted that “ICTs as tools of globalisation has no doubt weakened the capacity of nation states to control what comes in through the airwaves.” Global public sphere, he noted, is not only open but admits just anybody, anytime from anywhere at any location. He subsequently called for the need to identify the organs through which the policy will be implemented when eventually revised.

There were far too many paper presenters and discussants whose views can be captured in a synthesis like this. Suffice to say that the conference ended with a Declaration. I was privileged to be part of the team of four that crafted the nine point Declaration which includes the following: The need for one comprehensive, integrated and functional national communication policy for the country. This should reflect the Constitution, national core values and align extant and relevant policies; there is a need to constitute a committee of experts to fill in the identified gaps expeditiously using scientific research in line with global best practices; the national communication policy and strategy should be locally relevant, culturally nuanced and should serve Nigeria’s national interests.

Others are:  the NCPS along with a clear action plan should be reviewed every five years. The action plan should include training, research and measurement of effectiveness; the review process should include government and non-governmental stakeholders (private sector, civil society, and political parties);  the NCPS should include the strategic communication needs of security and non-security Ministries, Departments and Agencies; the NIPSS should engage with all relevant MDAs required to expedite the completion of the review of the NCPS as well as the necessary action plan (possibly within six months); the outcome of the Stakeholders’ Conference should be presented to the National Council on Information meeting of October 26 – 29,  2016 in Asaba, Delta State and the National Council on Communication.

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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Inordinate ambition of Nigerian politicians to capture power

Periodic and credible election is one of the pillars of democracy. Others are independent judiciary, free press, vibrant civil society, strong political parties, etc. Nigeria’s electoral democracy dates back to 1922 when Clifford Constitution came into existence. Many political observers have opined that Nigeria is yet to experience flawless election as each one conducted by the election management body ends up being hotly disputed with myriads allegations of uneven playing field, rigging and all sorts of chicaneries. There are two major actors in the electoral process. They are the election management bodies and the political parties. While the EMBs set the rules of engagement, timelines, codes of conduct and actual conduct of the polls; the political parties field candidates to contest in the elections. In order to ensure credibility of the electoral process, the EMBs accredit the media, civil society and the security agencies to help ‘police’ the process. The legislature set up the legal framework through the enactment of relevant laws while the executive arm provides the funds for the conduct of the polls.

What many political commentators do not know or rather chose to ignore is that the EMB, per se, do not have the capacity to ensure credible, peaceful and successful elections. The EMBs, whether it’s the Independent National Electoral Commission or the State Independent Electoral Commission, need the buy-in or robust support of the other actors and stakeholders for that feat of flawless polls to be achieved. Coming straight to the point, I do hope many of us are following the unfolding revelations since the 2015 general elections were conducted by INEC. I hope we’re tracking and taking note of the humongous amount allegedly taken from Nigerian treasury in the Central Bank through the office of the immediate past National Security Adviser and funneled to prosecute the electoral war of June and August 2014 in Ekiti and Osun States as well as the March/April 2015 general elections by the People’s Democratic Party.

Billions of dollars meant for the fighting of the war against insurgency in the North East were allegedly diverted by the former NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki to support the PDP candidates in Ekiti and Osun State. Former Minister of State for Defence, Musiliu Obanikoro was fingered to be the arrowhead who distributed this slush fund. News report has it that Obanikoro informed EFFC last week that ONSA transferred the sum of N4.685bn to Sylva McNamara Limited (a company allegedly linked to the ex-Minister). He allegedly told EFCC interrogators that N3.880bn of the N4.685bn was allocated to Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State and Senator Iyiola Omisore. He also said he handed over $5.377m (about N60m then) cash to Fayose at Spotless Hotel, Ado-Ekiti in the presence of the former Secretary of the People’s Democratic Party in the state, Dr. Tope Aluko and other party stalwarts.  

In the build up to the 2015 general elections huge sums of money was also reportedly funneled through the ONSA to PDP chieftains in order to ensure victory for the party. Among those who benefited from the largesse were even opposition party leaders and officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission. Apart from ONSA, another centre of distribution of slush fund for the election was the immediate past Petroleum Resources minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke.  A whopping $115m was reportedly distributed to some INEC officials and politicians ahead of the elections. The crime was allegedly perpetrated in cahoots with some bank executives.

Even the accredited observer groups were not left out in the desperate rat-race of Nigerian politicians bid to win at all cost.  According to an April 30, 2016 news story in The Nation, the Transition Monitoring Group said that agents of the former President Goodluck Jonathan administration offered it a bribe of N2bn for the purpose of compromising the outcome of the 2015 elections. The bribe offer allegedly came by way of what the immediate past TMG chairman, Comrade Ibrahim Zikirullahi, branded as a dubious proposal. He was quoted to have said that: ”Specifically, some errand boys from the Presidency at the time came to us with a dubious proposal that 50,000 agents of the PDP be fielded as TMG observers” 

Even the judiciary is not spared. Two justices of the Supreme Court who were arrested during the purported sting operation by the Directorate of State Services on October 7 and 8, 2016, Sylvester Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro, had reportedly written to the Chief Justice of Nigeria to the effect that their arrest and persecution are not unconnected with their refusal to do the bid of some politicians to pervert the course of justice. The two justices alleged that the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and Minster of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonaya Onu at different times reached out to them to influence decisions of the election petition tribunals. 

Justice Okoro  in his four-page letter dated October 17, 2016 and addressed to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, said that Amaechi had a hand in his travails because the Supreme Court ruled against the All Progressives Congress’ governorship candidates in Akwa Ibom and Rivers states. He said both the minister and the APC’s governorship candidate in Akwa Ibom State in the 2015 poll, Mr. Umana Umana, made attempts to use him to influence the decision of the Supreme Court on the election cases.  Similarly, in a letter dated October 18, 2016, and addressed to the CJN, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta alleged said the Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu asked him to help influence the apex court’s decisions on the Ebonyi State governorship election case last year. Expectedly, those fingered had vehemently denied ever reaching out to the judges. However, as the saying goes, there is no smoke without fire.

Nigerian politicians do not also leave out the electorates. One of the major minus of the September 28, 2016 Edo gubernatorial election was the issue of vote buying. Many accredited observer groups reported open distribution of money to voters during and after voting. It would be recalled that in the build up to the June 2014 Ekiti governorship election, Governor Ayodele Fayose said giving out foodstuffs and money to voters is his own way of ensuring his supporters get stomach infrastructure. That was how that crept into Nigeria’s political lexicon. Part of the desperate measures exhibited by Nigeria politician is by using the security agencies to orchestrate postponement of elections under the guise of security threats. This happened in the lead up to the 2015 general elections when the security agents pressured INEC to postpone the elections by six weeks (February 14 to March 28, 2015). This again happened in Edo State when police and DSS sent a strongly worded letter to INEC to postpone the election. The Commission reluctantly yielded and shifted the poll by about 18 days.

It is important to state as follows: Desperate politicians are to be found in all registered political parties in Nigeria particularly those with significant membership and moneybags.   It is also not peculiar to Nigeria. It is a global phenomenon. Even the United States of America with 240 years of electoral democracy is experiencing her own level of politicians desperate to capture power at all cost in the forthcoming 2016 elections. In order to moderate this desperation from the political elites, the regulatory agencies such as the security agencies and the EMBs would have to retool their strategies to effectively combat this menace. However, there are no easy solutions because members of the institutions such as the legislature and the executive who should lead in the reformation agenda are themselves beneficiaries of the adoption of Machiavellian principle of ‘the end justifies the means’ in Nigerian politics.

Jide is the Executive Director of OJA Development Consult. 



Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Stop violence and discrimination against girl-child!

The United Nations had declared every October 11 as the International Day of the Girl Child. This year’s theme was Girls' Progress = Goals' Progress: What Counts for Girls. Though there are 17 Sustainable Development Goals, SDG5 speaks of Gender Equality while SDG10 talks of Reduced Inequalities. The Nigerian girl child needs both. The United Nations says: “Only through explicit focus on collecting and analysing girl-focused, girl-relevant and sex-disaggregated data, and using these data to inform key policy and programme decisions can we adequately measure and understand the opportunities and challenges girls face, and identify and track progress towards solutions to their most pressing problems”. Spot on! In Nigeria, credible data has been a serious challenge. More often than not we rely on data provided by international agencies. Such data themselves might be based on projections and not actual figures, hence not totally reliable for planning purposes.

Truth be told, the Nigerian girl is seriously challenged.  How do I mean? The chances of a girl child realising her full potential is slimmer than those of a boy child. This is because there are more out of school girls than there are boys. There are also more girls dropping out of school than their male counterpart. This is largely due to the primordial sentiment as expressed by our dear president in Germany last week when he said his wife belongs to the kitchen, the living room and the other room. That is the belief of many uneducated parents. They see no need to send their female children to school as they are viewed as cooks and baby making factories. The skills for these tasks are not necessarily acquired in the four walls of a formal school but via home training. Because of this erroneous belief, many girls are married off early in life even before they reach the age of puberty.

Incidences of forced marriages of teenage girls have been on steady increase. There are many reported cases of our governors, senators, traditional rulers and very important personalities marrying teenage girls who ordinarily should be in school studying; all because they believe their culture and religion endorse it. These child-bride and baby mother phenomena have health implications as many of them end up contracting Vesico Vagina Fistula better known as VVF due to complications during child bearing. 

Even when girls are enrolled in school they are no longer safe and secure. Many of these girls are now being sexually harassed and molested by their teachers. There have been several reported cases of such in the media. Besides, the creeping phenomenon of abduction of school girls is also rampant. The April 2014 kidnapping of over 200 Chibok secondary school girls was a case in point. Thankfully, 21 of them were released by their abductors last Thursday with some of them pregnant or nursing babies. Even for those not in either category, no one can vouch for their virginity having being in captivity for more than two years. On February 29 this year, three teenage girls of Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary Ikorodu were abducted from their school. They were eventually rescued after few days in captivity. Early this month, kidnappers also went to Igbonla Model College, Epe in Lagos where they abducted four students, a teacher and Vice Principal. One of the four students was a girl.

Incidentally, while there are lots of advocacy against violence against women, not much is being done in ensuring that there is no violence against girls. Yes, Child Rights Act was passed and signed into law since 2003; however, only about 16 states have passed similar law in the 13 years existence of that Act.  Even at the federal level, how much enforcement has the Child Rights Act witnessed? I asked this question because many of the things that have been criminalised by the Act are still being done with impunity. Children, especially girls are still being trafficked and used as house maids or prostitutes. They are still being used for forced labour such as hawking when they should actually be in school. Sadly too, with the commencement of war on terror in Nigeria, insurgents have started to prime girls as suicide bombers. Sad, very heart rending!

Another ugly phenomenon that has refused to go away is some men’s undue preference for male child. This is most prominent in Igboland and to certain degree, Yorubaland. In these two cultural milieus, premium is placed on male child. This is due to the believe that he is  the one who will perpetuate the family name while a girl will grow to marry and adopt her husband’s surname. It bears being stated that many marriages have been destroyed over this issue of male-child-at-all-cost syndrome. Some women have been forced to cheat on their husbands all in a bid to bear male child. Some have had to buy a male child to save their tottering marriages. What men who make fuss of having only female children do not know or chose to ignore is that, they, and not their wives, determine the sex of their children.  While women have XX chromosomes, men have XY chromosomes. It’s when a man releases the Y chromosome to join one of the X of the spouse that the woman is able to have a male child.  Unfortunately, men who held on to this anachronistic belief fail to understand that boy is not superior to girl either physiologically or psychologically. There is practically no profession where both sexes cannot excel. Today, the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel is a woman, the Prime Minister of Britain, Theresa May is a lady and the projected next president of the most powerful country in the world, the United States of America, Hillary Clinton is also a woman. Thus, women are now drivers of world economies by virtue of having these women at the helms of their political affairs.

It is high time we changed our negative attitudes against the girl child. Girls need special care and protection. They need to be empowered with the right formal and informal education. Yes, they have social roles to play when they grow up to marry and procreate. However, such social roles do not preclude them from exercising and enjoying their rights to engage in decent work, aspire to political offices and own property. Enough of discrimination and violence against the girl child! I stand with the girls!

Follow me on twitter @jideojong  

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Avoiding mob mentality in Nigeria’s fight against corruption

Last weekend, precisely on October 7 and 8, 2016, the unprecedented happened in the history of Nigerian judiciary. Homes of seven Judges were invaded by the operatives of the Department of State Security Services better known as DSS. The exercise which was carried out at night in a Gestapo like fashion led to the arrest of Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro, both of the Supreme Court; the suspended Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, Justice Mohammed Tsamiya; Justice Kabiru Auta of the Kano State High Court and Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja. Others arrested were a former Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike, and Justice Muazu Pindiga of the Federal High Court, Gombe Division.

Opinions are divided among Nigerians about the propriety or otherwise of the purported sting operation of the DSS against the affected judges. Many Nigerians who subscribe to the notion that judiciary is the most corrupt arm of government lauded the action of the security operatives.  (I don’t know of any empirical or scientific study which has proven this). These Nigerians including senior lawyers swallow every information released by the DSS on the arrested judges hook, line and sinker. They concur to the saying of a philosopher that ‘a dose of autocracy is the cure for liberty misuse’. Left to this group of people, the indicted judges should not be tried in court but should be tied to stake and shot like armed robbers. They are quick to recite the immortal words of the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais which says that:  “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.”

Let me briefly recount what the DSS accused the judges of. It was alleged that they were corrupt having, in the opinion of the DSS, been living ostentatious lifestyle. It was reported that during the sting operation last weekend huge raw cash (sums) of various denominations, local and foreign currencies, were recovered from the suspects. DSS gave the summaries of these to include: N93,558,000.00; $530,087; £25,970; and €5,680 (a total of over N270m). A judge was accused of having 15 cars among which is a Rolls Royce and a house worth over a billion Naira. National Judicial Council which has the responsibility of disciplining judges was accused by DSS of shielding these corrupt judges by either not acting on its petitions or giving the accused judges light punishments which DSS referred to as  ‘soft-landing’.

Many gullible Nigerians believe all of these accusations and join the mob who wants these accused crucified. I refused to join the fray. I believe that irrespective of the alleged crimes, the onus of proof is on DSS as it is a dictum in law that he who alleges must proof. More fundamentally, since it is criminal allegations that have been made against these judges, DSS have to proof beyond reasonable doubt in a competent court of law. I am not in support of corruption but in fighting the menace due process must be followed. This is a democracy for God’s sake! I won’t fall for the bait that we need to go autocratic in order to solve our corruption challenge. During the military junta, various regimes make scapegoat of every other institutions except members of its constituency. Military claimed to be fighting corruption by arraigning politicians at its kangaroo tribunals and condemning accused persons to long terms of imprisonment without fair hearing. At the end of the day, it is now a common knowledge that the military as an institution is even more corrupt than the political class. There have been a lot of missing funds under the military junta while Abacha loot alone is in billions of dollars and is being repatriated almost twenty years after his demise.

The statement issued by the NJC last Thursday at the end of its emergency meeting of October 11 showed that DSS has been feeding the public with half-truth at best. Here are few examples: While DSS informed the public that it sent petitions to NJC on the Supreme Court Justices Ngwuta and Okoro, NJC claimed that it never received any petition against the aforesaid Judicial Officers. While DSS claimed that Justice Tsamiya received a bribe of N200m (Two Hundred Million Naira), NJC clarified that he only demanded but did not receive the bribe. Even at that, at its meeting of September 29 this year, NJC had suspended the judge and has recommended him to President Muhammadu Buhari for compulsory retirement from the bench.

Furthermore, the DSS allegation of corruption against Hon. Justice Mu’azu Pindiga of Gombe High Court was investigated with both parties sending legal counsels to defend their positions. According to NJC, “at the end of the investigation, the DSS could not substantiate any of the allegations of corrupt practices either by documentary or oral evidence against the Hon. Justice Pindiga. Consequently, at its Meeting of 15th July, 2016, Council decided to exonerate Hon. Justice Pindiga of the allegations of corrupt practices leveled against him by DSS”. NJC claimed that unlike the impression created in the media by DSS it only received two petitions from the security agency against Justce Nnamdi Dimgba and Justice Pindiga both of which were investigated. The Council dared DSS to contradict it on this claim if it is wrong.

The Council said all petitions and complaints forwarded against Judicial Officers bordering on corrupt practices and professional misconduct have been attended to and investigated, where applicable, by Council since year 2000 to date. It even went ahead to publish its scorecard. According to the NJC, from year 2000, when the National Judicial Council held its inaugural Meeting to 2016, 1,808 petitions and complaints against Judicial Officers, including Chief Justices of Nigeria, Justices of Supreme Court and Court of Appeal were received.  82 of the Judicial Officers were reprimanded (suspension, caution or warning), by Council, in the exercise of its exclusive Constitutional Disciplinary power over Judicial Officers. 38 of the Judicial Officers were recommended to the President or Governor where applicable, for compulsory retirement from office; while 12 were recommended to the President or Governor as the case may be, for dismissal from office”. Can both the executive and legislative arms of government come up with their own scorecard at self-cleansing?

There is no doubt that there are corrupt judges just like there are corrupt officials in every institution of government and even the civil society. NJC has been dealing with corrupt elements in its fold within the ambience of powers vested on it by the Nigerian Constitution. The wheel of justice does grind slowly but surely. We should allow due process to take its course in the fight against corruption. The alternative to judicial process is anarchy or self-help. Media trial of judicial officers as currently being done by DSS will erode people’s confidence in the institution and that in my opinion is very dangerous.  Many uninformed or misinformed criminals may seize the opportunity of this open ridicule of judges to attack even the innocent ones among them. We should not forget that some judges and members of their families have been kidnapped and attacked in the past. DSS should expedite actions to charge the accused judges to court and lay bare the purported overwhelming evidences it has against them to ensure their conviction.  In my own view, the best anti-corruption strategy is preventive measures.

Jide is the Executive Director of OJA Development Consult.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

DSS abduction of seven Nigerian judges

One of the canons of President Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign promises in the lead up to the epochal 2015 general elections was anti-corruption. Nigeria has consistently ranked low on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.  Just few months back the immediate past Prime Minister of Britain, David Cameron remarked that Nigeria is ‘fantastically corrupt’. Since his inauguration last year, President Buhari at more than one occasion lamented the frustration of his anti-corruption crusade by Nigeria’s judiciary. There were hints that the president was shopping for upright judges to help fight corruption in the country. The president also set up a presidential advisory committee headed by the constitutional lawyer, Professor Itse Sagay,   to perhaps come up with a roadmap for him. Sixteen months after coming into office, the current administration doesn’t seem to have made much headway in its campaign against corruption. 

With a low public confidence in his administration as a result of the economic recession  which has seen many Nigerians slipping into unemployment and poverty, the president, it will seem decided to overhaul the judiciary in order to rejig his anti-corruption war. The president decided to clean the Augean stable  by first attempting to weed out corrupt judges , fastrack his anti-corruption crusade, recover looted funds and assets to reflate the recessed  economy and send the right signal to fellow Nigerians that there will be no sacred cows in his anti-corruption campaign. Rightly or wrongly there is a widespread notion that Nigerian judiciary – the bar and the bench including judicial workers - is deeply corrupt. There is rife impression that justice is for sale in the country and that with the right amount of money a culprit can buy off punishment.

The above is my postulation of the mindset of the presidency as facts begin to emerge on the melodrama which played out last Friday and Saturday, October 7 and 8, when the Directorate of State Security Service  in what it called a sting operation  arrested Justices Sylvester Ngwuta and Inyang Okoro, both of the Supreme Court;  the suspended Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Ilorin Division, Justice Mohammed Tsamiya; Justice Kabiru Auta of the Kano State High Court and Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja. Others arrested were a former Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike, and Justice Muazu Pindiga of the Federal High Court, Gombe Division.

Nigerians including myself were outraged when news broke that ‘oracles of the temples of justice’ were arrested in a Gestapo manner in the dead of night. The case of Justice Ademola was most pathetic. His home was thoroughly vandalised as doors to his apartment were forcefully removed in order to arrest him as he was alleged to have informed his staff that he has travelled out of town when the DSS operatives swooped on his residence in the early hours of Saturday. The judge perhaps wanted to evade arrest by locking himself up in his bedroom and have to be smoked out like a common criminal for obstructing the course of justice. Eventually, when he was arrested, huge sums of money was alleged to have been recovered in his house.

While defending its action, a senior officer of the DSS, Mr. Abdullahi Garba, who spoke with journalists in Abuja on Saturday said, “The DSS action is in line with its core mandate, as we have been monitoring the expensive and luxurious lifestyle of some of the judges, as well as complaints from the concerned public over judgments obtained fraudulently and on the basis of money paid.” Garba stated further that “The judges involved were invited, upon which due diligence was exhibited and their premises searched. The searches have uncovered huge raw cash (sums) of various denominations, local and foreign currencies, with real estate worth several millions of naira and documents affirming unholy acts by these judges.”  He gave the summaries of these to include: N93,558,000.00; $530,087; £25,970; and €5,680 (a total of over N270m). The presidency in defending the DSS raid on the judges’ home said it is not judiciary that is on trial but corruption.

Expectedly, mixed reactions have greeted the incident. The Nigeria Bar Association through his President, Abubakar Mahmoud (SAN) described the DSS action as unconstitutional, declared state of emergency on the judiciary, constituted a crisis management team to engage with the government on the issue and demanded immediate and unconditional release of the arrested judges.  Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State described the DSS action as assault on democracy. The judiciary workers union also threatened to embark on indefinite strike if the arrested judges were not promptly released unconditionally while in his own first official reaction on the issue last Monday, the Chief Justice of Nigeria,  Justice Mahmud Mohammed described the development as ‘very saddening and deeply regrettable’. Latest information has it that the arrested judges have been released on bail on self-recognition.

Even though I believe it was wrong for DSS to invade judges home at unholy hours of the day to forcefully arrest them, however, as the saying goes, if we must blame the hawks for wickedness, first blame mother hen for exposing her children to danger, so says African proverb. I think in the light of more revelations on the unfortunate incident, the National Judicial Council may have wittingly or unwittingly contributed to the inglorious happenstance of last weekend. According to the DSS, the poor cooperation of the NJC accounted for the dramatic way its men apprehended the judges. It said correspondences were exchanged between the NJC and the Federal Ministry of Justice for certain information and dossier. The Ministry of Justice complied but the NJC refused. DSS was also unhappy with the soft landing NJC gave corrupt judges it reportedly sanctioned at its meeting of September 30, 2016.

NJC had wielded the big sticks on Justices Mohammed Tsamiya, I. A. Umezulike, and Kabiru Auta.  It   had recommended to President Muhammadu Buhari, the compulsory retirement of Justice Mohammed Tsamiya from office - the Ilorin Division of the Court of Appeal  and  also recommended the Chief Judge of Enugu State, Justice I. A. Umezulike, for compulsory retirement and Justice Kabiru Auta of Kano State High Court for dismissal. The allegations against them were that of corruption and abuse of office. However, DSS felt the judges ought to have received a more severe punishment such as prosecution and being made to serve jail terms for their ignoble acts. NJC was also alleged to have cleared a judge who was accused of having received N500m bribe of wrongdoing despite the DSS security brief on him detailing the incontrovertible evidences of corruption against him.

It will be interesting to hear NJC’s reactions to these allegations of shielding corrupt judges in its fold from arrest and prosecution. However, Buhari’s government should tread carefully in its bid to quicken its anti-corruption campaign. It should beware of unintended consequence as resorting to invasion in order to arrest unarmed judges may send signal of the government of the day wanting to use bully tactics to cow another arm of government. The judges could have been quietly picked up during the day and charged to court promptly with the supposed overwhelming evidences DSS has on them. More so, shouldn’t the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission or the Police have been the one to make the arrest and prosecute the accused judges since their offence was primarily corruption? Subjecting accused persons to media trial as DSS is currently doing does not serve the course of justice as the law presumes an accused innocent until otherwise proven guilty. Indeed, until the rotten tooth is pulled out, the mouth must chew with caution.

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Saturday, October 8, 2016

Valuing Nigerian teachers, improving their status

According to information gleaned from its website, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural organisation (UNESCO) proclaimed October 5 to be World Teachers’ Day in 1994, celebrating the great step made for teachers on that date in 1966, when a special intergovernmental conference convened by UNESCO in Paris adopted the UNESCO/International Labour Organisation recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. The recommendation sets forth the rights and responsibilities of teachers as well as international standards for their initial preparation and further education, recruitment, employment, teaching and learning conditions. Since its adoption, the recommendation has been considered an important set of guidelines to promote teachers’ status in the interest of quality education.

This year World Teachers’ Day marks the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. It is also the first world Teachers’ Day (WTD) to be celebrated within the new Global Education 2030 Agenda adopted by the world community one year ago. This year’s theme, “Valuing Teachers, Improving their Status”, embodies the fundamental principles of the fifty-year-old recommendation while shining a light on the need to support teachers as reflected in the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A specific education goal, SDG4, pledges to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.

Teachers, UNESCO rightly observed, are not only pivotal to the right to education, they are key to achieving the targets set out in SDG4. The roadmap for the new agenda, the Education 2030 Framework for Action, highlights the fact that teachers are fundamental for equitable and quality education and, as such, must be “adequately trained, recruited and remunerated, motivated and supported within well-resourced, efficient and effectively governed systems”. However, in order to achieve this goal, it is necessary not only to substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers but to motivate them by valuing their work. By 2030, 3.2 million more teachers will be required to achieve universal primary education and 5.1 million more in order to achieve universal lower secondary education.

Last Wednesday, Nigeria was not left out of the global community that celebrated the nation builders called teachers. There were seminars, press conferences and the likes organised by the Nigerian Union of Teachers. The theme of this year’s World Teachers Day was very apt. Do we actually value teachers in Nigeria? Have we done anything to improve their status? How many pupils or children, while choosing a career path, will want to grow up to be teachers in this country? Truth be said, the plight of Nigerian teachers leaves a sour taste in the mouth. Where does one begin to recount? By the way, my late father, Deacon Isaac Oyeniyi Ojo was a thoroughbred teacher who taught in Oyo and Osun States for forty years and retired as a headmaster in 1995 before his demise in 1998. I have also taught, albeit on part time basis, at both secondary and tertiary education level. Thus, whatever I am saying here is that of an eyewitness.

There is no gainsaying that teaching is a noble profession as teachers rank next to parents in moulding the character and charting the course of life of a child. There is no professional alive, be you Engineer, Lawyer, Judge, Architect, Medical Doctor, Visual Artist, Journalist or inventor that is not taught by a teacher. Unfortunately, the banana tree that nursed the cocoa seedling to maturity ends up being treated with scorn and disdain by its very beneficiary. Teaching profession is in shambles in Nigeria.

Teaching, in Nigeria, has become an all comer’s affairs with a lot of impostors operating in the system. Since the advent of private schools, a lot of school proprietors who are themselves not teachers end up populating their schools with non-professionals who though may be graduate of tertiary education but were never trained teachers.  Even in public schools, there are many of them whose main source of teaching staffers is drawn from National Youth Service Corps. This crop of untrained teachers, many of whom only took to the profession after years of fruitless search for better jobs, lacks teaching techniques as they do not know how to write Notes of Lesson and have never been involved in teaching practice which is mandatory for graduates of education in Teachers College,  Colleges of Education and Universities.

That aside, there is also the challenge of dilapidated structures and lack of teaching aids. A visit to many public and private schools in Nigeria will reveal their deplorable conditions. Many of the schools have dilapidated buildings, lack furniture for staff and students, do not have toilet facilities, lack perimeter fence, still rely on blackboards and chalks when the rest of the world uses whiteboard and markers as well as interactive multimedia teaching aids. The school curriculum in many respects is archaic and not in tune with modern day trend in imparting life skills, numeracy and literacy.

Again, there is a nagging issue of welfare of teachers. They are poorly remunerated. There is a saying in local parlance that ‘how much does a teacher earns that s/he uses saliva to count his wages? Salaries of teachers is one of the lowest in the public service in Nigeria, yet, that paltry sum is still not paid as at when due. It is an open secret that many state governments and private school proprietors owe their teachers months in salary arrears and leave bonus. Many retired teachers are worse off as their pension and gratuities are not paid as at when due. My father was a victim of this wicked practice. The old man died three years after retirement without collecting a dime in pension and gratuity.

The most heartrending development is the challenge of safety and security of teachers and students at their workplace. For many years there have been abductions of students and pupils from schools with the Chibok girls incidence of April 2014 receiving global attention. However, last Thursday, October 6, 2016  a new twist was added to the unfolding tragic phenomenon as kidnappers invaded Lagos State Model College, Igbonla in Epe  and went away with  four students, a teacher and a vice principal. The fiends are now demanding a ransom for their release.

Teachers as destiny moulders and nation-builders deserve a better deal from their employers. They need to be valued and their status improved like the theme of this year’s World Teachers Day enjoined. It is saddening that despite the early warning from the President of Nigeria Union of Teachers, Mr. Micheal Olukoya that the 500,000 teachers being recruited by President Muhammadu Buhari’s government should be made up of trained teachers so that the quality of teaching in our public schools can improve significantly, the administration is pressing on to employ all manner of non-education graduates with a promise to organise two weeks crash programme for the new recruits in teaching techniques. This fire brigade approach should totally be avoided due to its counter-productive consequences. Nigeria has more than enough trained teachers from which government can source this half a million new recruits into teaching profession.

In closing, UNESCO has shown us the way to go by enjoining our government and indeed all employers of teachers to ensure that teachers are “adequately trained, recruited and remunerated, motivated and supported within well-resourced, efficient and effectively governed systems”. This is the condition precedent to attaining SDG4. It therefore behoves government at all levels to redouble their efforts to ensure that education is well resourced for the attainment of national development.

Jide is the Executive Director of OJA Development Consult.





Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Another electoral reform committee? Not again!

From the blues came the information that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari had identified 24 Nigerians to be led by a former Senate President, Ken Nnamani, to embark on another voyage of electoral reforms. A statement released to the press on Sunday, October 2, 2016 by Salihu Isah on behalf of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said, “The committee is expected to review electoral environment, laws and experiences from recent elections conducted in Nigeria and make recommendations to strengthen and achieve the conduct of free and fair elections in Nigeria.”
With due respect, I do not think this is a priority issue now. Even if it is, it’s a right thing being done at the wrong time.
In August 2007, former President Umaru Yar’Adua, seeing the deeply flawed election of that year, set up Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais 22-member committee to reform our electoral process. The committee sat for 16 months and came up with 83 recommendations which many informed Nigerians believed if well-implemented would therefrom give the country credible electoral process and outcomes.
When the report was submitted in December 2008, Yar’Adua set up a White Paper committee headed by the then Attorney-General and Minister of Justice who submitted its report in March 2009. Thereafter, President Yar’Adua sent six electoral reform bills to the National Assembly many of which were rejected. Though some of the key recommendations of the ERC were vetoed by the White Paper committee, it still stands to the credit of Yar’Adua that the 2010 constitution amendments and Electoral Act which eventually gave the country a credible election in 2011 were derived from the ERC report.
Despite the successful and credible general elections of 2011, about 800 lives were lost and properties worth billions of naira destroyed in pre-election violence in Akwa Ibom State and post-presidential election in some northern states.  President Goodluck Jonathan on May 11, 2011, inaugurated the Sheikh Ahmed Lemu-led 22-member presidential panel of inquiry to investigate the remote and immediate causes of the incidences of electoral violence. The panel submitted its findings to the former President on October 10, 2011. It is instructive that five years after, many of the recommendations, just like those of the ERC report before it, had yet to be implemented. To the best of my knowledge, the only thing I’m aware Jonathan did was to pay compensation to some of the victims of electoral violence. The arrowheads and their foot soldiers who perpetrated the mindless acts were never brought to justice.
After that came the 2014 National Conference set up by President Jonathan. About 500 eminent Nigerians were brought to Abuja from all over the country to jaw jaw for months. They came up with hundreds of resolutions. The confab cost the country about N7bn, yet it has been kept on the shelf in the Presidency. None of the beautiful recommendations has been implemented.
In the lead-up to the 2015 general elections, the two chambers of the National Assembly voted billions of naira to carry out a comprehensive constitution amendment exercise. A total of 360 public hearings were held across the federal constituencies while another 109 public hearings were held at all the senatorial districts. Memoranda were submitted by different interest groups and eventually when the amendments were passed in 2015 and sent to Jonathan for assent, he refused to append his signature to the bill because, according to him, it was not passed by at least four-fifths majority of all members of each House of the National Assembly as stipulated in Sections 48 and 49 of the Constitution. The President listed 10 other reasons that made him withhold his assent. That was how the billions spent on the Fourth Amendment of the 1999 Constitution went down the drain.
If indeed President Buhari was convinced of the need to have another presidential committee on electoral reforms, why did he tarry to this time? Why did he decide to allow the National Assembly to inaugurate another constitution reform committee before coming up with this Nnamani panel? Do we even need another electoral reform committee when, as cited above, there have been several electoral reform proposals from the Uwais’ ERC, to Sheik Lemu’s and even the National Conference report? Like Nnamani said at a civil society event sometime ago, Nigeria is becoming a nation of perpetual reformers. The issues with our electoral process have been well-articulated and solutions proffered but government has been tardy and sloppy with implementation. What assurances do we have that this 24-member Nnamani committee is not a ruse?
To drive home my point, part of the ERC recommendations was the establishment of Electoral Offences Commission. The Presidency adopted this and the Federal Executive Council in 2012 or thereabout approved the set-up. Yet, the inauguration of this all-important commission that would have helped to sanitise our electoral process has been kept in abeyance. The 1999 Constitution, as amended, in spite of its perceived weaknesses says emphatically in Section 7 that the local government system shall be democratically governed.
 As I write this, more than half of the LGAs are administered by sole administrators and caretaker committees as governors claimed that they do not have money to fund State Independent Electoral Commissions to conduct elections into the LGAs. Meanwhile, these same governors are in a rat race to establish Local Council Development Authorities thereby increasing exponentially the cost of local government administration. Nigeria has one of the most vibrant and robust political finance regulations but these have been observed in the breach. Last Wednesday’s election in Edo State was reported to have been tainted by high level of inducement and vote buying by major political parties. What did the Independent National Electoral Commission or the security agents do about it?
Sincerely, my worry about the inauguration of the Nnamani electoral reform committee is that it has a tendency to distract INEC from its plan for 2019 general elections. Nnamani was quoted ahead of the inauguration of his committee that their report would be passed on to the National Assembly. The body is already neck-deep in a constitution reform exercise. Will it hold back for the Nnamani committee to finish its work and pass on its report to it?  Whatever timeline the committee is given to do its work, the Presidency will still set up a White Paper committee to review it before it will now forward the recommendations that need legal reform to the National Assembly which may decide to filibuster on it and pass the bill late so as to make it inapplicable in 2019.
 It is a truism that the beneficiaries of a systemic malaise will be reluctant to change the status quo. My final submission on this matter is that we do not need another electoral reform committee. What we need is the implementation of the extant reports on this critical issue plus attitudinal change of stakeholders without whose support and buy-in there can never be credible and successful polls.
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Sunday, October 2, 2016

Nigeria at 56: The fortes and the foibles

Hearty congratulations to fellow Nigerians on this auspicious occasion of our dear motherland’s 56 independence anniversary! Nigeria, the giant of Africa gained independence from Britain, her colonial master on October 1, 1960. Prior to that, she had experienced over two hundred years of slavery and hundred years of colonial rule. Many are quick to say that those two issues contributed in no small measure to our underdevelopment. Yet, the country is arguably the giant of Africa being the most populous Black Country in the world, the country with the biggest population in Africa and indeed one of the most endowed with natural resources. I have granted three interviews prior to today to two news media – Galaxy Television and Nigerian Television Authority (a programme called Frontiers and another special report). In all the interviews I have been asked if Nigeria has anything to celebrate and my response has been in the affirmative.

Truth be said, the country has greatly underachieved her potentials but in my training as a BRIDGE (Building Resources in Democracy, Governance and Elections) facilitator you are not expected to see issues from one perspective. There are two sides to every coin and as a sage once observed; life is a unity of opposites. (Good and bad, darkness and light, male and female, strong and weak, etcetera.) In my own opinion, we do have cause to celebrate, albeit, modestly. Some of the reasons we should be joyful are as follows: Nigeria, despite numerous challenges facing her, is still a united entity. The country fought three years of civil war between 1967 and 1970 and came out still united. Where is Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) today? Where are Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Sudan today? They have split. I am not unmindful of the calls for self-determination by some Igbo and Ijaw youths owing to some perceived injustices meted to their communities by the federal government. However, as the catchphrase of Hillary Clinton says, we are ‘stronger together’, if only the federal government will address the issue of marginalisation raised by the agitators for self-determination. 

Another reason to rejoice at 56 years of independence is the return to civil rule and enjoyment of civil liberties.  Nigerian military truncated civil rule barely five years into the country’s democratic experiment. The First Republic was short-lived likewise the Second and Third Republics. Out of our 56 years of nationhood, the military ruled for 29 years cumulatively. Out of Nigeria’s 13 presidents and Heads of States, the military provided eight. Thus, we have had more of military than civilian rule. Little wonder we still have military hangover 17 years after the birth of the Fourth Republic. Truth be told, the military had never left governance. They still remain meddlesome interlopers! Out of 17 years since the return to civil rule, two former Heads of State viz. Olusegun Obasanjo and the incumbent, Muhammadu Buhari have transited from military to civilian presidents. They have merely shed military khaki for civilian robes as their administrations still have dose of military autocracy.   Even among the ranks of executive governors and members of parliament are military elites who have previously served as Military Administrators or members of Armed Forces Ruling Council. Names like Senator David Mark who is Nigeria’s longest serving Senate President, Senator Jonah Jang, late Governor Mohamed Lawal of Kwara State readily comes to mind.

One thing we cannot take for granted is that Nigeria has had uninterrupted 17 years of civil rule – 1999 to 2016 in this Fourth Republic. This is unprecedented! In this dispensation we have had five general elections held as at when due. This happened in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015. The quality of our elections is also improving as votes have started to count and the wishes of the electorates respected. To an extent there is observance of rule of law (supremacy of the law, equality before the law and fundamental human rights). Though the percentage score here is still low but compared to what obtains under military rule the country now fare better. Under military the country is ruled by decrees and edicts as the constitution is suspended. But in this civilian administration, 1999 Constitution as amended is the grundnorm. No matter the objections some section of Nigerians may have about the current constitution, it is a lot better than being governed by military decrees. Equality before the law is not absolute and doubtful in Nigeria. However, to the extent that every citizen has one vote each at elections and as we see members of military and political elites being arrested and charged to court for crimes against the state, equality before the law could be said to be in practice.

By far a source of joy for me at this year’s independence is the increased respect for fundamental rights of citizens of this country.  Imagine a situation where National Human Rights Commission is now vested with powers to summon and investigate anybody or institutions including the military for human right abuse allegations. Individuals and corporate organisations now have unfettered access to the courts to seek redress when their rights are trampled upon. The judicial arm has also been up and doing adjudicating on disputes and dispensing justice. Of course, there are still some perceived miscarriages of justice but this is not the norm. Just on Friday, September 30, 2016, the National Judicial Council wielded the big still by dismissing three high ranking judges including a Chief Judge and justice of Court of Appeal over corruption and abuse of office allegations. This shows that the system is self-correcting.

Nigeria media is perhaps the most vibrant in Africa with the private and public sectors competing robustly to inform, entertain and educate Nigerians and indeed the global audience. Compared to the military era when gagging of the press and media repression  held sway, the situation is remarkably different now as the media space has been widen and media practice is less endangered. With the new media coming into the mix citizen journalism has made information dissemination more spontaneous and real time. It must be stated however that publication of falsehood and fabricated stories largely by citizen journalists on social media has heightened concerns about media practice in Nigeria.

In spite of all the positives highlighted above, Nigeria remains a crippled giant. The country is still bogged down by malaise of corruption, insecurity, nepotism, impunity, poverty and unemployment to mention but a few. Executive recklessness, legislative rascality and judicial connivance are still prominent. It is no longer news that the country is witnessing one of her worst economic recession with the country’s currency, Naira, in a free fall against other world currencies like Dollar, Euro and Pound Sterling. Mismanagement and maladministration is still a big issue with square pegs being inserted in round holes at different levels of governance. There is a strident call for the restructuring of the country. I believe this should be done on a mutually agreed terms. Nigeria will yet fulfill her noble destiny. I refuse to give up on her. I choose to see the cup as being half full than being half empty. Best wishes to my native land at 56!

Jide is the Executive Director of OJA Development Consult.