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Challenge for Lagos State government

Not many Nigerians could have vouched for a suitable successor to Raji Fashola, as governor of Lagos State, where he distinguished himself such that President Muhammadu Buhari tapped him as triple minister of works, power and housing. Significantly, that appointment was impliedly endorsed by the public, which did not raise any objection.

That, therefore, solidified the monumental task of the new man in Lagos State as governor to match the standard of the immediate past. Here is Akinwunmi Ambode coping with that task. Notably, he enhanced the standard of his predecessor in all ramifications, including decongestion of notorious points of traffic gridlock by mere inversion of bus stops away from main roads to extreme sideways. Such bus stops are all over the place to ensure free flow of traffic.

Capital projects, including the fourth mainland bridge, are at unprecedented level. What nobody, including Ambode, ever bargained for was the menace of kidnappers at any time of the day. It all seemed the invasion of the criminal elements was aimed at discrediting the state government, whose main duty, like that of any other authority in place, is the security of life and property.

Ambode, therefore, had to react by rushing through all necessary processes of the law  to deal with the kidnappers. Whether the law was the product of government efforts or the concern o the state legislators, the end product is turning out to be too soft to scare the criminals. How could the kidnappers be discouraged with a law stipulating mere seven years’ imprisonment? With the spate of kidnappings all over Lagos State, there is yet a single trial to be concluded with the sentence of seven years in jail.

The major cause of this very disturbing situation is the distinction in the law, providing the death penalty ONLY if there is anybody killed by the kidnappers during their operation. Why that distinction? The message of that distinction is that kidnappers could murder their victims as long as they (the culprits) could escape. The proof? Despite the new law signed by Ambode, the rate of kidnapping has increased in Lagos State and that is a direct and open challenge to the government to enforce the death penalty.

An alarming aspect is that even after the law came into force in Lagos State, at least, two people have been killed in kidnap operations in an estate in Lagos. Whether out of desperation for survival (as canvassed by sympathisers of the kidnappers) or in total defiance of the law, which has now being violated, Ambode has  no choice than enforcing the death penalty for kidnappers. At least, one of the criminals has been arrested. If the Lagos State governor pussyfoots, he will, henceforth, be ridiculed by not only the criminals but also the public, and he should be ready for the consequences.

Ambode cannot be better placed than now to display his determination to combat the menace of kidnapping in the state. If he fails to enforce the law in one case, specifically, the instant case, he would have handicapped himself against the next case(s), as the signal would have been given to the culprits that, no matter what, government would not enforce the law. Laws are not meant to decorate the statute.

What image does Ambode aim to acquire? An effective or ineffective governor? That is the challenge the man faces now that kidnappers have taken the war to his (Ambode’s) very constituency, Epe Senatorial District, where farmers and school pupils are routinely and daringly kidnapped even in suicidal shoot-outs with armed police. Ambode must, therefore, realise the problem of law enforcement on his hands.

It would have been a different situation if the death penalty for kidnappings, resulting in fatality was not in force before the latest incident on an estate in Lagos State. The death penalty was contemptuously violated and must be enforced. Those who criticised Gen. Muhammadu Buhari in1984 must know better today. Faced with the menace of drug peddling by Nigerians at home and abroad, Buhari, then military Head of State, enacted a decree, providing the death penalty for drug offences.

Two convicts who committed the offence before the decree was promulgated were awaiting execution. But two others fatally doubted the firmness of the military administration and committed a drug offence after the decree came into force. All four of them were executed. Drug offences instantly subsided throughout Nigeria.

That is the challenge facing Ambode today. His problem is not made easier by events of the past on the same issue. Some state governors tried grandstanding by rushing through laws stipulating death for the crime of kidnapping. When the law was defied, instead of enforcing the penalty, the governors developed cold feet, with then governor of Delta State, Emmanuel Uduaghan, claiming that, as a medical doctor, his orientation was to save live. He should have borne that in mind before seeking the office of governor, whose inescapable imperative is to enforce laws, a duty that he swore on oath to perform. On his part, Ambode is not a doctor and has no excuse to dodge his duty of enforcing the law.

If Governor Ambode fails to enforce the death penalty for the kidnappers who killed their victims  recently, he would have thrown Lagos State into potential total insecurity, where kidnappers would be on the rampage making governance impossible.

The governor is not enviable in matters of law enforcement.

Another example is the law on collapsed buildings in Lagos State. The penalty for not abiding with regulations for buildings, which eventually collapse, especially ending in deaths is a (penalty, that is) multi-dimensional and such is not meant for only  low members of society. Ambode cannot allow big men in society to get away with murder. How many people died in the collapsed church in Ikotun, Lagos? How many (at least, 30) died in the collapsed estate at Lekki the last time?

The Lagos law states that owners of such collapsed buildings will forfeit the entire property (buildings and land) to the state government. Ambode will be under close watch in the matter of enforcing laws to the letter on these two main issues, kidnapping and collapsed buildings.

There can be only one winner in Lagos State, either Governor Akinwunmi Ambode  on one side enforcing existing laws or, on the other side, criminals violating laws on kidnapping and building regulations. There cannot be any coalition. It may interest Ambode that Nigerians need tough handling. Whether high or low, kidnappers or billionaire property developers, they will always violate the law. Ambode may note this. Before the trials of the kidnappers and owners/contractors of collapsed building end, more victims will be kidnapped and more buildings will collapse in Lagos State. He can halt that slide into anarchy by continuous, strict enforcement of the law.

While other state governors shirked their responsibilities in dealing firmly with kidnappers, former Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, introduced the death penalty and hanged the first four convicts. All other aspiring kidnappers disappeared from Edo State and commenced operations in Delta State, where, soon after, their major victim was Prof. Okonjo-Iweala, mother of the then coordinating minister of the economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

And, only lately, kidnappers in the same Delta State caught a big fish, Mrs. Emefiele, wife of Central Bank of Nigeria governor, Godwin Emefiele.

 

Flexible forex indeed

No matter how we assure ourselves to be smart, Nigeria’s Central Bank rates us as “mumus,” Fela Anikulapo-Kuti’s description of the unintelligent ones. Largely owing to various commitments that the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, made during the campaign for the 2015 election, the man (Buhari), on assumption of office, would have nothing (at least, publicly) to do with naira devaluation.

He said as much in his television interview last year. But pressure, mainly blackmail or expertise, mounted on him, while the Central Bank governor was almost choked by critics, demanding devaluation of the naira. Nobody was prepared to take responsibility for the economic poison. We all went to sleep.

While Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, as chairman of the economic council, both pretended to be looking the other way, the CBN dished out its policies, and the naira fell to serial adjustments ending in uncomfortable N198 to the dollar. As we were told, there was no room for Nigeria’s foreign reserves to accommodate luxurious expenditure for overseas medical treatment, fees for students abroad and overseas holiday. Those interested in these show-offs were directed to approach the black market, where the dollar could cost up to N350.

Then, suddenly, the CBN tricked us that Nigeria’s foreign exchange policy would be made more flexible. The naira was not officially devalued against the dollar but only made to compete with free-spending, especially at the black market. Before we knew it, the naira, from the erstwhile N198 to the dollar, dwindled to N301 to the dollar. Still, no official devaluation.

Then, suddenly, again, the Central Bank somersaulted and claimed that more foreign exchange would be released to commercial banks for customers willing to remit fees for students overseas, or desperate for medical treatment or holidays abroad.

However, according to the CBN, such customers lately lavished with increased foreign exchange for transactions abroad, would have to pay not N301 to the dollar but N375 to the dollar. From N301 to the dollar?

There is yet no devaluation o.

Those interviewing Buhari, next time, must ask him why his administration was so scared to mention devaluation on the two occasions the naira was devalued.

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