The Sun News » Editorial http://sunnewsonline.com/new - Voice of The Nation Thu, 02 Jul 2015 00:07:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.5 Buhari’s lamentation on ‘empty treasury’ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/buharis-lamentation-on-empty-treasury/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/buharis-lamentation-on-empty-treasury/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 23:00:38 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=125621 The state of Nigeria’s treasury at the exit of the Goodluck Jona­than administration has been a subject of intense speculations in the past couple of weeks. Last week, President Muhammadu Bu­hari told Nigerians that he inherited a country with “virtually an empty trea­sury” from his predecessor. Speak­ing with State House correspondents, he explained that his [...]]]>

The state of Nigeria’s treasury at the exit of the Goodluck Jona­than administration has been a subject of intense speculations in the past couple of weeks. Last week, President Muhammadu Bu­hari told Nigerians that he inherited a country with “virtually an empty trea­sury” from his predecessor. Speak­ing with State House correspondents, he explained that his administration could be seriously hampered by a debt overhang running into billions of dollars. He stopped short of revealing the exact amount of debt in question, and assured Nigerians that he would do his best to salvage the country from the brink of collapse. The report of the Transition Committee headed by Mallam Ahmed Joda, however, in­dicated that the Goodluck Jonathan government left behind a staggering N7 trillion deficit.

The former ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has swiftly refuted the president’s claim, de­scribing it as an “excuse” for the pres­ent government not to fulfill its cam­paign promises. The former Minister of National Planning, Dr. Abubakar Suleiman, added that the Jonathan administration left $30 billion in the treasury.

The claims and counter-claims on the state of the national treasury are far from over. There is, however, no doubt that the financial status of Nigeria and most of its component states is far from healthy. The Federal Government and many of the states are virtually insolvent, as they often have to go a-borrowing to meet their obligations, including payment of their workers’ salaries and pensions.

The poor financial situation of the country apparently worsened in the final months of the Jonathan govern­ment due to a combination of factors, among them, lack of prudent man­agement of resources, outright fiscal recklessness and the plummeting oil prices in the international market. The net effect of these factors is the cur­rent cash crunch which has culminat­ed in the state’s inability to meet their financial obligations.

It is, however, heartening that the President has promised to recover stolen funds. He should constantly keep this promise in view. He has also warned that the era of financial recklessness and immunity is over. He must remain alert to ensure that this percolates down to all public of­fice holders in the country.

The president should be remind­ed that he will be judged by how he is able to turn things around for the good of the citizens. Playing the blame game may not quicken the quest for good governance. Nigeria could well be facing a national finan­cial emergency at both federal and state levels. The situation calls for earnest efforts to restructure and di­versify the economy, as well as adopt cost cutting measures such as the reduction of the present high cost of governance. These will help to make funds available for essential services and projects. In the maze of corrup­tion and profligacy in which Nigeria found itself in the run up to the gen­eral elections, the national treasury is bound to be worse for it.

We urge the president to focus his attention on stemming the country’s drift to insolvency. With the Stephen Oronsaye report on the restructuring of the Public Service and the Joda Transition Committee report, he does not need to grope in the dark on what to do to bring about the ‘change’ he promised. These two reports are good guides on the problems plagu­ing different sectors of the economy and what can be done to solve them. Nigerians know that these problems exist, and they are not insurmount­able.

Even if past administrations had turned deaf ears to the demands of the people that the problems should be addressed, President Buhari should realise that the people rely on him to solve them and bring about positive change in the country.

He should eschew the tendency to play to the gallery on the shortcom­ings of the past administration and remain focused on efforts to trans­form the country for the better. He cannot afford to fail.

]]>
http://sunnewsonline.com/new/buharis-lamentation-on-empty-treasury/feed/ 0
Funding the National Assembly http://sunnewsonline.com/new/funding-the-national-assembly/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/funding-the-national-assembly/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 00:58:52 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=125511 How much has Nigeria spent on the National Assembly since the restoration of democracy in 1999? The huge expenditure on the federal legislature in the last 16 years is clearly unknown to the vast majority of Nigerians. Most of the financial dealings of the Assembly are shrouded in mystery. ]]>

How much has Nigeria spent on the National Assembly since the restoration of democracy in 1999?  The huge expenditure on the federal legislature in the last 16 years is clearly unknown to the vast majority of Nigerians. Most of  the financial dealings of the Assembly are shrouded in mystery.

Going by present signals, however, this situation may change soon. The leadership of the 8th National Assembly, before the recent adjournment till July 21, set up an ad-hoc committee to review the budget of the institution and also determine how to improve transparency in its financial operations. This move is a fallout of the public demand for a reduction of the huge expenditure on the Assembly, especially the high salaries and allowances of its members.

From what is now public knowledge, the National Assembly spent about N600 billion between 2011 and 2014, at an annual budget of N150 billion. This is the figure the present Assembly is trying to cut to N120 billion. Before 2011, the annual budget was a princely N50 billion.

At the last count, our national legislators earn about 14 allowances, including the controversial constituency and wardrobe allowances. The current members of the House of Representatives, despite the on-going national brouhaha on legislative earnings, have been reported to have collected N10 million each. The Senators, as is the tradition, will collect even higher amounts.  The question, then, is: For a job in which they do not have to do so much, and seeing how challenged our economy is, should our legislators be earning so much?

As Issa Aremu, factional Vice-President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), pointed out in a recent interview, the budget of the National Assembly for one year is about twice what some states receive from the Federation Account for a year.

Although the defenders of the National Assembly have argued that its annual budget is not for the 469 federal legislators alone, but includes the National Assembly Commission and their support staff, it is still necessary to ask if the population of all National Assembly workers is in any way close to the population of states,  that run into millions. Ekiti State, for instance, has a population of 2,384,212 and its 2015 budget is N80.774 billion. Ebonyi budgeted N80.02 billion for its 2,173,501 people. This payment structure that is heavily lopsided in favour of legislators is replicated in over half of the states of the federation.

At the end of the day, it is the privileges of just a few thousand people overriding the need of millions of other Nigerians for good roads, steady power supply, good health facilities and other public infrastructure. It is also necessary to ask what percentage of the N150 billion annual budget for the National Assembly, is used to service the NASS Commission and legislators’ aides?

Do legislative aides actually get their real salaries from their pay masters? It is a well known fact that many of our legislators often shortchange their support staff, paying them only a pittance from what they receive as allowances for their aides.

Our legislators are among the highest, if not the highest paid legislators in the world. In South Africa, legislators   earn about US$147,000 per annum. In Kenya, they earn about $78,000 dollars, compared to their Nigerian counterparts who earn about $2.8 million per annum.

What is the justification for this huge pay, when our economy is not the most buoyant in the world and our legislators are not the most productive in the universe!

Sadly, Nigeria appears to be in a cul de sac on the matter of legislators’ pay. Our legislators are the nation’s lawmakers, and they approve the budgets for all arms of government. Nigerians can only, therefore, appeal to their sense of good reasoning to reduce the National Assembly budget. They should, henceforth, resist the temptation to abuse their powers, to appropriate excessive funds to themselves. These times call for sacrifice and a national re-birth. We expect them to rise to the occasion and be counted on the right side of history.

As soon as they resume work, they should submit themselves to the demands of Nigerians and co-operate with the processes that they and other statutory agencies have initiated for a downward review of their perks of office to reflect the current economic and social realities in the country.  Funding of the National Assembly should not be a national albatross. Our legislators should let commonsense and good reasoning prevail on this matter.

]]>
http://sunnewsonline.com/new/funding-the-national-assembly/feed/ 0
Tackling corruption in the judiciary http://sunnewsonline.com/new/tackling-corruption-in-the-judiciary/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/tackling-corruption-in-the-judiciary/#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 01:32:06 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=125401 Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed, struck the right chord recently when he decried what he termed the devastating influence of unscrupulous, fraudulent and corrupt persons occupying judicial offices in the country.]]>

Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Mahmud Mohammed, struck the right chord recently when he decried what he termed the devastating influence of unscrupulous, fraudulent and corrupt persons occupying judicial offices in the country. Speaking   at an induction course for newly appointed judges and khadis in Abuja, he condemned the rising incidence of corruption in the judiciary, which has been a cause for great concern to successive Chief Justices and, indeed, all stakeholders in the system.   The immediate past CJN, Aloma Mukhtar, was particularly strident on the corruption challenge. Her strong stance on the menace led to the suspension and sack of some judicial officers who were found guilty of acts unbecoming of their offices.

We are glad that the incumbent CJN has taken up this same challenge. The onus is now on him and others saddled with that responsibility to ensure that the bad eggs in the system are identified and flushed out, to pave way for the much-needed restoration of confidence in this very vital arm of government.  It is one of the sad realities of life in the country that our judiciary is riddled with corruption. As the famed “last bastion of democracy and the hope of the common man for justice”, where would Nigeria and its ordinary citizens be if we continue to condone corruption in the judiciary?

The law setting up the National Judicial Council (NJC) in Section 153, paragraph 1, Schedule 3, charges it with the recommendation of suitable persons to the president for appointment as judges. The NJC also exercises disciplinary control on members of the judiciary. The CJN, as the number one legal officer and chairman of the NJC, therefore, occupies a vintage position to ensure that only upright persons work in the judiciary. Hence, the occupant of the sensitive office must not be seen to shirk his responsibilities at any time.

That is why we align ourselves with the calls for the separation of the offices of CJN and Chairman of the NJC, for the avoidance of conflict of interests as we have witnessed in the country. In this regard, we recall the ex-CJN Aloysius Katsina-Alu versus ex-President, Court of Appeal, Justice Salami case, which tainted the judiciary, and many others which we cannot recall here. The challenge for the judiciary is to, at all times, do justice in all matters and to all persons, beyond reasonable doubt. That is not an easy call, but every effort must be made by judicial officers, especially those at the head of the ladder, to ensure this.

Once judicial officers, especially judges, are found to be corrupt, they must be shown the way out as a deterrent to others who may want to follow suit. Not only that, those found wanting must be further punished by denying them the proceeds of corruption and making them spend time behind bars. The severity of the offence and the damage it is doing to the national psyche deserve no less punishment.

In addition, the disciplining of judicial officers must be a continuous exercise. If this is to be so, the high turnover of the presiding officers in the judiciary, especially as it concerns the office of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, may call for a review. The fact that these most eminent judicial officers hardly settle down in office before they retire, cannot allow for the implementation of any worthwhile agenda. The result is a frequent shift of focus from CJN to CJN, which does not augur well for the development of the judiciary.

It is, perhaps, pertinent that the call from the CJN is coming now that the election petition tribunals are sitting across the country. In our recent history, the tribunals have served as a major source of corruption in the judiciary because of the high stakes involved in the high profile cases. Those serving in the tribunals must heed the call to resist corruption, from whatever source.

The way they discharge their onerous responsibilities will go a long way in determining the  health and well-being of the country. That is not a charge to trifle with, or subject to the lure of filthy lucre.

]]>
http://sunnewsonline.com/new/tackling-corruption-in-the-judiciary/feed/ 0
Arresting soaring unemployment http://sunnewsonline.com/new/arresting-soaring-unemployment/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/arresting-soaring-unemployment/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 00:32:01 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=125258 Nigeria’s high unemployment rate has once again been brought to public consciousness as latest figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reveal that unemployment  rate in the country increased to 7.5 percent in the first Quarter (Q1) of 2015, from 6.4 percent in the last quarter (Q4) of 2014. The statistics office said that [...]]]>

Nigeria’s high unemployment rate has once again been brought to public consciousness as latest figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reveal that unemployment  rate in the country increased to 7.5 percent in the first Quarter (Q1) of 2015, from 6.4 percent in the last quarter (Q4) of 2014. The statistics office said that the increase in the number of unemployed persons was 861,110, while only 469,070 jobs were created within the period.
The statistics also show that a total of 17.7 million Nigerians between the ages of 15 and 65 were either unemployed or underemployed in the first three months of this year.  Also disturbing, according to the new report, is the low number of jobs created by public institutions in the country.
Only a mere 5,726 jobs were created by this sector between December 2014 and March 2015, while the informal sector generated less than 400,000 within the same period.  One fact to deduce from these statistics is that the number of people that became jobless (861,110) in the first quarter 2015 far exceeded the number of those who got jobs within the period. This is clear evidence that some persons who were previously in employment lost their jobs.
Altogether, the report from the NBS is a clear indication that unemployment in the country remains a grave concern which the federal government, and indeed, state governments, must tackle headlong. Failure to address this problem, especially graduate unemployment, could have far-reaching economic and social implications for the country.
The new statistics are not completely unexpected. They, indeed, appear to be a conservative estimate of the actual number of jobless Nigerians, especially the youths. At least 1.8 million graduates are reported to enter the labour market every year. Clearly, successive governments have not done much to create enabling environment for job creation.
Enablers of job creation such as energy supply, roads, access to finance and other infrastructure are still lacking. It must be said that regular electricity supply, which is a catalyst for job creation, is still a major problem.
The troubling unemployment rate, as grimly and graphically demonstrated in the trampling of graduate job seekers to death at last year’s Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) recruitment exercise, means that more pragmatic steps need to be taken in both the public and private sectors of the economy to create jobs and encourage more jobless persons to start their own businesses.
Government agencies and institutions charged with job creation and implementation of poverty reduction programmes should be up and doing. Sitting on the fence is no longer an option, as the soaring rate of unemployment is a time-bomb. It could worsen the incidence of criminality or even provoke social unrest in the country.
President Muhammadu Buhari administration needs reminding of its promise to create more jobs. This is time to walk the talk by delivering on this promise. In that regard, we urge the Federal, State and Local Governments to design realistic job creation programmes. The methods used by the past administration for creation of jobs were apparently not effective enough. The Federal Government should bear in mind that high rate of unemployment and low per capita income are two key indices used to assess development. However, reduction of unemployment is not the responsibility of the government alone. Unemployed persons need to start working towards self-employment.
Emphasis should be placed on skill acquisition rather than paper qualification, while our institutions of learning need to restructure their curricula to give priority to entrepreneurship.  Overall, Nigeria’s quest to be among the 20 top global economies will be a mirage if the current unemployment and poverty levels are not drastically reduced.

]]>
http://sunnewsonline.com/new/arresting-soaring-unemployment/feed/ 0
Nigeria’s woeful football outings http://sunnewsonline.com/new/nigerias-woeful-football-outings/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/nigerias-woeful-football-outings/#comments Sat, 27 Jun 2015 23:00:32 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=125165 With the recent dismal performance of the Super Falcons in the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada, and the embarrassing exit of the Flying Eagles from the FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand, it is not raining sports woes in Nigeria, it is pouring. Football is one pastime with a strong unifying force in [...]]]>

With the recent dismal performance of the Super Falcons in the FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada, and the embarrassing exit of the Flying Eagles from the FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand, it is not raining sports woes in Nigeria, it is pouring.
Football is one pastime with a strong unifying force in the country. It transcends every divide, buries every misunderstanding. It makes every Nigerian line up behind our national flag whenever our teams are playing. It is a sport we must develop and strive to perform well to fully harness its potentials for the country.
But, winning at international football events requires sound training, hard work, talent, ambition, drive and going the extra mile. These were clearly not on display at the two FIFA competitions in question. The Super Falcons played three games, lost two and drew one. With one lone point, it came last in its group, and was ejected. After the last disastrous World Cup performance of the Super Eagles, which brought weeks of national melancholy, many Nigerians were counting on the womenfolk to reverse the trend. Alas, their performance was worse. The Flying Eagles that had always been considered the arrowhead and future of Nigerian football flopped. The team struggled through the first round and got knocked off in the round of 16 by Germany. Its Head Coach, Manu Garba, later told the press that Germany “are a very tough and highly tactical team”, as if that was not what he was employed to make of the Flying Eagles.
The lacklustre performance of the two teams is thus a symptom of the general malaise that plagues the nation. Many football analysts in the country think that our teams could have performed better. Being African champions, they represent the best Africa can field. So, it was humiliating to be sent packing at the early stages of those competitions. A plethora of reasons have been given for the poor outings. They range from the dysfunction which has kept the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) in turmoil, and almost endless litigation. Preoccupied with these squabbles, the Federation apparently cannot give enough attention to the plans for the various competitions.
These endless squabbles create a situation in which every competition takes the Federation by surprise. For example, the qualification for the women’s football tournament in next year’s Rio Olympic Games begins on August 2. There is no word about preparations for the crucial qualifying matches. The usual thing is for our football authorities to forget such competitions, only to wake up a week or two to the country’s first match, to hurriedly assemble a team which would lack cohesion. The fire brigade method produces teams that are not adequately trained; teams that lack the physical fitness required to withstand the rigours of a competition like the Olympics.
There is unanimity that we have the talents to be able to do much better in these competitions. But, talents are not enough. There must be organisation and training, discipline and psychological preparation for a tournament. There must be that extra drive which makes the difference between success and failure. Virtually all technical experts think the Super Falcons demonstrated basic abilities, but lacked the spark to make the difference.
We must, therefore, reorganise our football to raise the technical skill of our players. The American goal that came seconds before half-time and the sending off of Falcons’ Sarah Nnodim by her second yellow card are preventable disasters. Benching Kelechi Iheanacho much of the time in New Zealand was not wise, considering his talents, experience and exposure.
We think it is time to do a thorough review of our football to spare Nigerians further heartaches from embarrassing performances in international competitions. A deliberate plan to hunt for talented football players in our primary and secondary schools will help us have a pool of players that can be trained to fly the country’s flag high in future international competitions. We also need to have a total reorganisation of the clubs to make them more attractive to Nigerians. Strong patronage and support of these clubs can make a lot of difference in their performance. Nigerians spend so much time and energy supporting foreign clubs. A way must be found to make our own clubs play the game well enough to attract the funds, TV sponsorships and coverage to engage Nigerians.
There is no arguing the fact that Nigerians love football. Any investment to improve the country’s performance in the game is worthwhile.

]]>
http://sunnewsonline.com/new/nigerias-woeful-football-outings/feed/ 1
Dan Maraya Jos (1946 – 2015) http://sunnewsonline.com/new/dan-maraya-jos-1946-2015/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/dan-maraya-jos-1946-2015/#comments Fri, 26 Jun 2015 23:00:40 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=124909 A frontline Hausa musical icon, Dan Maraya Jos, died last week­end in Bukuru, Jos, the Plateau State capital, after a protracted illness. His demise at the age of 69 shocked many of his admirers. It ended a golden chapter in the life of a talented musician, poet and philosopher who put his pecu­liar brand of [...]]]>

A frontline Hausa musical icon, Dan Maraya Jos, died last week­end in Bukuru, Jos, the Plateau State capital, after a protracted illness. His demise at the age of 69 shocked many of his admirers. It ended a golden chapter in the life of a talented musician, poet and philosopher who put his pecu­liar brand of Hausa music on the national and global stage.

Born and named Adamu Wayya in 1946, the departed musician was known worldwide as Dan Maraya Jos, which means the “Little Orphan of Jos”, having lost his parents at a very early age.

If music is food for the soul, and it exists to remove the sorrows of life, Dan Ma­raya Jos provided that food with a flour­ish, and in great abundance, throughout much of his life. Undoubtedly, his brand of music is unique, and he was a different kind of entertainer. Many music lovers in Nigeria agree that his compelling music is manifestly the work of a genius.

Those who know him and listen to his music with passion would attest that Dan Maraya Jos used his music to great ef­fect. It was a strong voice in the effort to promote national unity, peace and stabil­ity, as it preached togetherness and the common brotherhood of all Nigerians. The lyrics of his music are peculiar to him. He was known to have worked for hours, always perfecting the lyrics of his songs, gestures and movements, so that they came together precisely the way he intended them to. The heights he at­tained in Hausa folk music will remain an inspiration to generations of folk mu­sicians in the country.

It is not surprising that Dan Maraya inherited his talents from his late father, who was a court musician for the then Emir of Bukuru, who later adopted him as one of his children after his parents’ death. Dan Maraya reportedly showed early interest in the Hausa folklore brand of music. He was so eager to learn and perfect this genre of music that he will­ingly put himself under the tutelage of lo­cal professional musicians.

Although he sang about the rich and the famous, he also focused on commoners, as one of his popular songs “Wak’ar Karen Mota, a song for the driver’s mate, attests. The song is in praise of the young men who call passengers in and out of buses and do the dirty job of changing tyres.

In addition, his music was dedicated to social commentaries on issues such as marriage and family values. For instance, he sang against forced marriages. He titled this song “Auren Dole”, while an­other of his songs, “Gulma-Wuya”, which means “The Busybody”, talks about a neighbourhood gossip who ultimately dis­rupts marriages.

Also, during the Nigerian Civil War, he was reported to have composed numerous songs in praise of soldiers of the Federal Army. Perhaps, his inspirational civil war songs would have been invaluable to mo­tivate our troops currently fighting Boko Haram insurgents.

The originality of Dan Maraya’s mu­sic speaks volumes about his creative genius. This creativity is exemplified in his versatility and dexterity in the Hausa instrument called Kontigi, a small, single-stringed flute, whose body is usually a large, oval-shaped sardine covered with goatskin.

The surge of sympathisers at his Bau­chi Road residence in Jos and the streams of tributes from the rich, famous and commoners alike are clear evidence of his unique place in Nigerian music, par­ticularly in the North. Many lives were touched by his performance and the ex­emplary life he lived as he trudged on in his effort to transform the society through music. He, undoubtedly, defined and ably communicated Hausa folklore, culture and tradition to the rest of Nigeria and the world.

Among those who have paid tributes to the late musician are the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dog­ara, and the Artistic Director of National Troupe of Nigeria, Mr. Akin Adejuwon. All acknowledged and extolled his unique place as a soloist in the entertainment in­dustry.

Already buried according to Islamic rites, perhaps, the best way Nigerians can honour his memory is to continue living together in peace, harmony and unity, as he sang throughout his life. This, indeed, was the main thrust of his beautiful lyrics that earned him a place of honour in Ni­geria. Surely, he will be missed by music lovers and the entertainment industry in the country.

]]>
http://sunnewsonline.com/new/dan-maraya-jos-1946-2015/feed/ 0
Amnesty International’s indictment of the Nigerian military http://sunnewsonline.com/new/amnesty-internationals-indictment-of-the-nigerian-military/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/amnesty-internationals-indictment-of-the-nigerian-military/#comments Wed, 24 Jun 2015 23:00:52 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=124769 Since early June when the in­ternational human rights or­ganisation, Amnesty Interna­tional, published a damning report on the Nigerian military and its fight against Boko Haram, reactions of Nigerians have been mixed. They range from outright denunciation of the group to exculpatory explanations, if not justifications, of the accusations against the military. President Muham­madu Buhari’s reaction [...]]]>

Since early June when the in­ternational human rights or­ganisation, Amnesty Interna­tional, published a damning report on the Nigerian military and its fight against Boko Haram, reactions of Nigerians have been mixed. They range from outright denunciation of the group to exculpatory explanations, if not justifications, of the accusations against the military. President Muham­madu Buhari’s reaction has so far been reasonable. He told Nigerians that he would order a government indepen­dent investigation to uncover the truth or otherwise, of Amnesty’s troubling accusations.

Among the charges laid against the Nigerian military are torture and ill-treatment of detainees; failure to in­vestigate allegations of torture; de­nying the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) access to military detention facilities; extra-judicial exe­cution of hundreds of detainees; death of thousands of detainees through starvation, suffocation and sundry ill-treatment. Nine staff officers of the Nigerian military – two brigadier-gen­erals, three major-generals, two army chiefs and two defence chiefs, were also indicted for war crimes and pos­sible crimes against humanity.

The alarm raised in military circles by this sweeping indictment is under­standable. The outrage of many Nigeri­ans who think Amnesty’s report is lop­sided against the military while saying nothing about the barbarities of Boko Haram is equally not surprising. There is the fear that the report might de­moralise the military in the war against insurgency. The morale of war fight­ers is a sensitive thing that should not be trifled with. The war commanders would know better how to motivate the troops without compromising the law and conventions of such conflicts.

The scepticism about this report is normal. What is not is to wave it off or begin to assign ulterior motives to its author. Nigerians should avoid the temptation of regarding Amnesty In­ternational as a Western ‘imperialist’ agent. This is a popular epithet which is not always useful for two reasons. First, it will not address the issue at hand, which is the conduct of our own military personnel. Secondly, the world tends to believe Amnesty International in arguments of this nature. In other words, we will not be doing Nigeria much good by attacking Amnesty, even if we disagree with its conclusions and can find holes in its factual presenta­tions.

There may be some substance in the unattributed reaction of some senior military officers who blame the report on the fifth columnists in their ranks. It is as good as admitting that there may be Boko Haram sympathisers in the military. Our military commanders have the duty to close ranks, plug leakages, identify the saboteurs and spies, and go for victory.

Amnesty International is no respect­er of countries when it comes to issues like this. Even the US government, during the Bush Administration’s war in Iraq, tried so hard to discredit Am­nesty International but failed over the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. This ended the career of some very senior US com­manders. Amnesty made the same kind of accusations – torture, as well as inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees. Even the foremost defend­ers of the military in the American Con­gress bailed out. Virtually all Ameri­cans agreed that the country does not torture anyone, no matter the situation.

Thus, no matter what Boko Haram in­surgents do, the Nigerian military must demonstrate the difference between throat-cutting beasts and well-trained Nigerian soldiers. If 683 detainees died in custody between October 2012 and February 2013 – a period of five months –, as alleged by Amnesty, alarm bells should be ringing at Nigeria’s Defence Headquarters.

Also, if 4,700 bodies were brought to a mortuary from a detention facility in Giwa Barracks in one year, and if in June 2013 alone, 1,400 corpses were delivered to the mortuary from this fa­cility, the Chief of Defence Staff ought to hear about it.

Those who go to equity must go with clean hands. It is not true that all is fair in war and love. That is why the world drew up laws of war and the interna­tional conventions about prisoners of war. Nigeria is a signatory to all those laws and they have become part of our Constitution. They must be obeyed, and seen to be obeyed.

We salute our military officers and commend their onerous efforts to end the Boko Haram insurgency. It will, however, be in their interest to have the Nigerian government’s independent in­vestigation of Amnesty’s claims, if only to exonerate them of these grievous al­legations.

Let the president make good his promise to investigate these claims, to clear Nigeria’s image. Such a promise was made by the immediate past gov­ernment early in 2013 but broken, and Amnesty cited it as evidence of impu­nity. The president should quickly set the mandate of the investigation, its composition and timeline, so that the nation can have closure on this matter.

]]>
http://sunnewsonline.com/new/amnesty-internationals-indictment-of-the-nigerian-military/feed/ 0
The ban on locally-brewed gin http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-ban-on-locally-brewed-gin/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-ban-on-locally-brewed-gin/#comments Fri, 19 Jun 2015 23:00:16 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=124289 Following a harvest of deaths traced to methanol poisoning of locally-brewed gin, the Fed­eral Government on June 8 slammed a nationwide ban on the con­sumption of the product that is widely known as ogogoro. Seventy-one per­sons reportedly died recently follow­ing the consumption of tainted gin at local bars in some local government areas in Rivers [...]]]>

Following a harvest of deaths traced to methanol poisoning of locally-brewed gin, the Fed­eral Government on June 8 slammed a nationwide ban on the con­sumption of the product that is widely known as ogogoro. Seventy-one per­sons reportedly died recently follow­ing the consumption of tainted gin at local bars in some local government areas in Rivers State. Not too long ago, over 18 people died in two local councils in Ondo State after also con­suming local gin. But for the vigilance and diligent investigations by the au­thorities in Ondo State, the cause of the deaths would probably not have been known, and more people would have fallen victim of the deadly drink.

It is ironical that the government had to stop local brewing of this prod­uct at a time that unemployment fig­ures in the country are rising. Local gin is widely consumed all over the country, and its production could add value to the economy if it is properly harnessed and regulated. Instead of improving on the drink, which was labeled “illicit gin” during the colo­nial era, its producers now frequently adulterate it with all manner of chem­icals, with the result that it sometimes becomes poisonous, and kills its con­sumers at random.

Profiteering has led to a lowering of standards, such that instead of mak­ing the drink in the traditional way, its producers seek ways of multiplying its quantity and potency by blending in chemicals, such as ethanol. The addi­tion of methanol to the brew has been identified as responsible for the recent deaths of consumers of the product in Ondo and Rivers states.

In this regard, the government is right to ban the consumption of ogogoro until its production is cleaned up and streamlined. There is value in improving the manufacturing process for local gin to sustain the age-old in­dustry. It is an industry that we must seek to enhance, not tarnish and kill.

The first step to restoring integrity to the local gin is to return to the tra­ditional ways of producing it with fer­mented natural grains and palm wine. There must not be any chemical addi­tives which could make it unsafe for consumption. Secondly, producers of the drink should be registered, while regulatory agencies such as the Na­tional Agency for Food and Drug Ad­ministration and Control (NAFDAC) certify the product for consumption.

On the surface, this prescription looks difficult, given the almost ubiq­uitous brewing and distribution of the product. But, with aggressive and sus­tained public enlightenment, major­ity of consumers can be made aware of the new regime and encouraged to uphold it for their personal safety and public health.

There is also work for the financiers of small and medium-scale enterpris­es. Research, creative funding and or­ganisation of local gin producers into cooperatives can greatly improve the quality and value of the product.

Nigeria should do this for the local gin industry because, at the end of the day, it should be improving the sourc­es of local employment, not depreciat­ing them. The challenge of stimulat­ing the local economy is one that we must face with courage and vision. In this task, no local industry is too small or irrelevant, given our long years of import dependence.

There is no doubt that local gin has a high concentration of alcohol and so must be consumed with caution. Those who are disposed to alcoholic beverages must also be informed of the dangers inherent in the habit. But, to render local gin producers jobless, or stop those who love to drink it from doing so, is not the best way to go in the long run.

Who says ogogoro cannot be cleaned up, properly regulated and packaged for export? The government must go beyond the present ban to standardis­ing the manufacturing of this popular drink for both local consumption and export.

]]>
http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-ban-on-locally-brewed-gin/feed/ 1
As Ramadan begins http://sunnewsonline.com/new/as-ramadan-begins-2/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/as-ramadan-begins-2/#comments Fri, 19 Jun 2015 01:40:58 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=124212 The Muslim holy month of self-denial and self-purification known as the Ramadan kicked off yesterday with many of our Muslim faithful in all parts of the country ]]>

The Muslim holy month of self-denial and self-purification known as the Ramadan kicked off yesterday with many of our Muslim faithful in all parts of the country partaking in the important religious obligation. We salute all Muslims who are undertaking this religious responsibility that is marked with prayers, religious teachings and fasting from dawn till dusk. As true Muslims all over the world deny themselves of the enjoyment of food, drinks and intimate physical relationships in this season, we wish them swift answers to their prayers, and special grace and strength to see the fasting season through.

For Nigeria, the Ramadan season has come at an important period when we have a change of guards in the leadership of the nation. It has come at a time of a new beginning that the people expect to end the era of lamentations over the dearth of good governance in the country. It offers our Muslim brethren the grace to make special supplications to Almighty Allah, to usher in a period of peace, progress and stability for the country.

The Ramadan is a key pillar of Islam that all true Muslims are enjoined to observe. We advise strict adherence to the demands of the religious observance so that its gains can be manifestly seen in the lives of the faithful and the country at large. There is no doubting the need for divine intervention in the lives of individuals and countries. This divine intervention can only come when adherents of all the religions in the country are righteous, and abide by the dictates of their faiths. Since Ramadan is the period in which the Holy Quran was sent down, this fasting season requires closer attention to the Holy Book and what it requires of the faithful. The Quran has been described as a perfect guidance for mankind. It has, within its pages, clear teachings on righteous living. It goes without saying, therefore, that a closer observance of its tenets will go a long way in helping Nigeria to build a just and egalitarian society. It will help Nigeria in the effort to build a more humane society.

Ramadan also offers Muslims another reason to practise the Quranic injunction on giving to the less privileged in the society, forgiving those who have offended them, and showing acts of mercy and love to all, in the spirit of humility. It is also a time to pray and receive blessings from God as a reward for strict obedience to the dictates of the Holy Book. This fasting season is yet another reminder to Nigerians of all faiths to move closer to God and live right with Him. It is a time to eschew materialism, greed, selfishness, wickedness and ostentatious living. It is a period to put the virtues of our faith in focus and strive to demonstrate them in our daily living. It should be a time to say no to armed robbery, insurgency, child trafficking, kidnapping and all those ills that demean us as a people, and question our faith.

More importantly, it is a time for the Muslim intelligentsia to irretrievably knock out the argument for terrorism and point out the injunctions on tolerance and peaceful living that are hallmarks of the Islamic religion. They should use the admonitions on peace in the Holy Book to defeat the teachings of groups such as Boko Haram, Islamic State and Al Shabaab.

Many programmes on the Muslim faith will be taking place at different fora during this Ramadan season. We enjoin all true Muslims to avail themselves of the opportunities that these programmes offer. They will go a long way towards renewing their faith and building their confidence in the infallibility of God and his ability to do whatever they want in their lives and that of the nation at large. The teachings will also draw them closer to God and help them to live holier lives for their own benefit and that of the country.

Above all, this season calls for sober reflections by all Nigerians. We should, therefore, use the opportunity to appraise the state of our country, and make a fresh resolve to change the Nigerian story for the better in our individual and collective capacities. This is the time to eschew adversarial followership and cooperate with our leaders in the effort to build a great country.

We wish all our Muslim readers a happy and fruitful Ramadan season. Ramadan Kareem.  

 
]]>
http://sunnewsonline.com/new/as-ramadan-begins-2/feed/ 0
Managing the challenges of rainy season http://sunnewsonline.com/new/managing-the-challenges-of-rainy-season/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/managing-the-challenges-of-rainy-season/#comments Wed, 17 Jun 2015 23:00:57 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=123965 The rains are here with us again. The Nigerian Meteorologi­cal Agency (NIMET) Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP) for this year is quite high. It shows that we must gird our loins and be well prepared for the challenges that come with the rains. As we welcome the rainy season and the prospects of a bountiful har­vest [...]]]>

The rains are here with us again. The Nigerian Meteorologi­cal Agency (NIMET) Seasonal Rainfall Prediction (SRP) for this year is quite high. It shows that we must gird our loins and be well prepared for the challenges that come with the rains.

As we welcome the rainy season and the prospects of a bountiful har­vest that it has brought, we must ask if we are prepared for the problems that it brings. Going by recent expe­riences in the country, it is doubtful that the relevant authorities are ful­ly prepared for the management of the challenges of this season. Since the rains are a natural phenomenon which come at about the same period every year, we should not be caught napping or allow its adverse effects to get the better of the country.

One of the most critical problems associated with the rains is that of floods, which place the lives and property of people in many parts of the country at risk. Flooding is wors­ened by the lack of proper drainages and channels into which the rains can flow. Rain water also poses a challenge to roads which drastically worsen during the period. Flooded pothole-ridden roads particularly pose serious danger to motorists and other commuters.

In many states of the South-east and South-south geo-political zones, the perennial erosion problems are worsened by the rains, leaving local communities counting their losses and becoming refugees in their own country.

The ecological funds created to ad­dress these unavoidable visits of na­ture are frequently misapplied, and sometimes used to reward question­able loyalty to the central govern­ment. This practice must stop. We demand accountability in the admin­istration of ecological funds and oth­er resources that should be used to address flooding and erosion in the country.

The country needs to be more pro-active in mapping out areas prone to flood disaster. In this regard, we must credit the effort of Lagos State which has been more active of late in deal­ing with the challenge of excess rain­fall. Only last week, it listed a number of communities in the state that are susceptible to flooding and asked residents to vacate them. The trou­ble is where such residents would go to in the interim, and whether the problem would ever be permanently solved for them to live in confidence and peace in their homes.

This is where the government of La­gos and other coastal states need to do more. There are new technologies that can convert the excessive hydro resources into power while also gen­erating a number of other useful re­sources like bitumen. The times we live in require thinking out of the box, for creative and enduring solutions to the problems we face. Our govern­ments must therefore rise to the oc­casion.

In addition, the responsibility of the citizens cannot be wished away. Pub­lic sanitation and disposal of wastes remain big problems and major sourc­es of flooding. Whereas the govern­ment is doing its best by providing waste disposal and waste conversion mechanisms, the citizens still need to avail themselves of these facili­ties to ensure that wastes are prop­erly managed. The habit of dropping wastes everywhere has been with us for too long and should be discarded if we are to make any headway with the flooding challenge. Carelessly disposed wastes often block drainag­es and channels built to control water flow and result in heavy flooding and erosion.

All of the flooding control mecha­nisms like the planting of trees and clearing of drainages must be imple­mented fully and on time too. The ex­perience over time is that all levels of government in Nigeria and their agencies are more reactive than pro­active. They hardly anticipate areas that are prone to rain disasters with a view to nipping them in the bud. To achieve maximum results, all the rel­evant government agencies like the Ministries of Agriculture, Environ­ment, Health, the National Emergen­cy Management Agency (NEMA) and NIMET must work in concert. Farm­ing methods that involve bush burn­ing and logging of wood for charcoal and other uses have been known to accentuate the problem of flooding and desertification, which can only worsen the problems of the rains.

As we grapple with the challenges of this rainy season, we urge the gov­ernment and all Nigerians to wake up to their responsibilities. Most impor­tant of all, we hope that the country will be spared the ugly circle of avoid­able losses of lives and property which have attended our rainy sea­sons in recent years.

]]>
http://sunnewsonline.com/new/managing-the-challenges-of-rainy-season/feed/ 0
Adesina’s election as 8th AfDB President http://sunnewsonline.com/new/adesinas-election-as-8th-afdb-president/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/adesinas-election-as-8th-afdb-president/#comments Tue, 16 Jun 2015 23:57:48 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=123845 Nigeria’s immediate past Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, made Nigerians proud on May 28 as he was elected the 8th President of the African Development Bank (AfDB).]]>

Nigeria’s immediate past Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, made Nigerians proud on May 28 as he was elected the 8th President of the African Development Bank (AfDB). In a keenly contested election, he beat several other contestants to emerge as the helmsman of the very important continental body. This is the first time a Nigerian is attaining this highly sought after office after several attempts in the past.

The African Development Bank was established in 1964 to “fight poverty and improve the living conditions on the continent through promoting the investment of public and private capital in projects and programmes that are likely to contribute to the economic and social development of the region.”  It is also to serve as a financial provider to African governments and private companies investing in the regional member countries through the instrumentality of its entities namely, the African Development Bank, the African Development Fund and the Nigeria Trust Fund.

On the weight of expectations and balance of performance therefore, the AfDB still has a long way to go. Over fifty years since its formation, the African story has hardly changed. The continent still sports damning statistics, with the vast majority of its citizens wallowing in abject poverty. Though the African economy is regarded as one of the fastest growing in the world, there is still a very wide gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots.’  The World Bank figures for 2014 put the Gross National Income for sub-Saharan Africa at $1,608 for 2012 and $1, 686 for 2013. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annual growth was put at 3.7 per cent for 2012 and 4.1 per cent for 2013.

For a population of close to one billion as at today (936.3 million in 2013), these are hardly cheering figures. But, they are the figures that Adesina must work hard to improve on. The job before him is tough, but we are confident that he is well equipped to do it. The new AfDB president is intelligent, very experienced and passionate about development on the continent. These should stand him in good stead.

As Nigeria’s Agriculture minister, he was easily one of the best performers in the Jonathan administration. He brought a lot of innovations to his work, introducing the e-wallet system in the fertiliser distribution chain and, in the process, eliminated the endemic corruption and underhand practices that had long been associated with it. He also promoted cassava bread and local production of the national staple. Adesina also greatly increased rice farming and significantly brought down the nation’s huge food importation bill.

These are achievements which we hope he will take to the regional body and improve upon. As he has said in his four-point agenda, the fight to eliminate or greatly curtail poverty in Africa is a daunting one. He will need all the help he can get within and abroad.

Africa expects a lot from him and he should not let the continent down. His vast experience in agriculture and his wide network of contacts abroad will be sorely needed in this job. His patience and industry too will be tested to the hilt. This post provides for a renewable five-year tenure, and we hope that he will discharge the responsibilities of the office with distinction. Adesina should do himself and the country proud.

]]>
http://sunnewsonline.com/new/adesinas-election-as-8th-afdb-president/feed/ 0
The controversy over Buhari’s assets declaration http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-controversy-over-buharis-assets-declaration/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-controversy-over-buharis-assets-declaration/#comments Tue, 16 Jun 2015 00:24:58 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=123641 The flurry of criticisms trailing President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo over their failure to make details of assets that they declared to the Code of Conduct (CCB) public is somewhat premature and needless. ]]>

The flurry of criticisms trailing President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo over their failure to make details of assets that they declared to the Code of Conduct (CCB) public is somewhat premature and needless. The duo duly complied with the provision of Section 140 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) by filing their assets declaration forms with the Bureau on assumption of office on May 29. The widespread demand that they make the details of their declared assets public cannot, therefore, be realised by the force of law. It can only be gotten through moral suasion, based on the fact that Buhari, in particular, had promised to make details of his assets public during his campaigns for the office of president.

The request for the president to publicly declare his assets is based on the fact that he hinged his campaign for the office on the plank of integrity. He, therefore, has a moral burden to discharge on this matter.

This controversy, that was inadvertently stoked by his media aide who counseled those who may not be satisfied with the president’s assets declaration to the CCB to avail themselves of the FOI Act and approach the courts for an order to access the assets declaration documents, is unfortunate. His advice to Nigerians to approach the courts on the matter is probably a gaffe. It does not reflect the real intention of the president on the matter, as the recent clarification from the Presidency that the contents of the assets declaration forms would be made public as soon as they are verified by the CCB has shown.

Whatever the case, we believe that the controversy on this matter came a little too early. Given the president’s antecedents and his well known commitment to the fight against corruption, we expect that he would take the moral high ground of a public declaration and do the needful soon. We must recall the example of the late president, Umaru Yar’Adua, who set a good example with the public declaration of his assets. In his case, it took about one month after his assumption of office and declaration of his assets to the Bureau before it was made public.

We believe that the same scenario may be playing out again. One can expect some time between the filing of assets forms and the verification of same by the CCB before public office holders who are so inclined may make their assets public. That way, needless controversies that may arise on the true value of the declared assets would be avoided. The public officers would thus be saved from needless distractions from their otherwise challenging engagements.

It is early days yet, but President Buhari has a covenant with the people of Nigeria on this issue. He cannot afford to renege on his promise. We are persuaded that the president is well aware of the burden he carries. He should know that one of the easiest ways to lose the support of the people is to alienate significant sections of the electorate who may have voted for him solely because of his anti-corruption and transparency antecedents. He should not disappoint the people on this count.

Nigerians will do well to recall that former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan declined to publicly declare their assets. This negatively affected public perception of their commitment to the fight against corruption. Today, the people do not know what the two ex-leaders were worth on assumption and expiration of office. This is why, even as we await the promised public declaration of Buhari and Osinbajo’s assets, we urge the immediate past president, Goodluck Jonathan, to not only declare his assets as demanded by the law, but also make them public.

President Buhari should try not to be classed among leaders who refused to make their assets public.  He should disclose his assets within a reasonable time and go further to encourage all those who would serve with him to do the same. Considering Nigeria’s bad experience with corruption, the old game of simply complying with the provisions of the law on submission of assets forms to CCB is no longer enough.

Buhari should permanently change the game and set new standards of ethical conduct for the country. The people should know the possessions of their leaders both on assumption and expiration of office. In that way, they can judge if the leaders have served them transparently or used the opportunity of public service to amass wealth for themselves.

While the president has done nothing wrong by not publicly declaring his assets, he, indeed, has a date with history on this matter, and we urge him to meet it with courage and dispatch.

]]>
http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-controversy-over-buharis-assets-declaration/feed/ 0
EFCC, ICPC should recover looted funds http://sunnewsonline.com/new/efcc-icpc-should-recover-looted-funds/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/efcc-icpc-should-recover-looted-funds/#comments Mon, 15 Jun 2015 01:02:18 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=123483 With the 2015 transition programme successfully concluded, and newly-elected officials sworn-in at the federal and state levels, the time has come to establish a new era of pro­bity and accountability in the country. Sadly, however, the people’s hopes for an end to the rapacious looting of public funds may not be realised any­time soon, as [...]]]>

With the 2015 transition programme successfully concluded, and newly-elected officials sworn-in at the federal and state levels, the time has come to establish a new era of pro­bity and accountability in the country.

Sadly, however, the people’s hopes for an end to the rapacious looting of public funds may not be realised any­time soon, as some unscrupulous gov­ernors and other public officials who brazenly looted public funds during the immediate past administration have simply been allowed to walk away with their loot, with no questions asked by the public and the nation’s anti-corruption agencies.

Many of the looters of these funds have used it to procure tickets into other public offices, especially in the National
Assembly, thereby getting a chance to continue their orgy of corruption and encouraging succeeding generations of public officers to toe the same path o0D

The time has, therefore, come for the anti-graft agencies, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices (and other related offences) Commission (ICPC), to rev up their machinery to bring those among the former public officials who corruptly enriched themselves with public funds to justice.

These agencies must wake up from slumber and begin to perform the functions for which they were set up, if only to tell the newly-sworn-in public officers that the corruption tea party in the country is over. These corrupt former public officers should not be allowed to get away with their loot. It is necessary that an example is made of them to serve as a deterrent to all other public officials and to ensure that they are not allowed to enjoy these stolen funds. Delay in bringing them to book will leave room for them to cover their tracks, and turn around to accuse the agencies of a witch-hunt.

It is very important that we recover these looted funds because the coun­try sorely needs all the money it can get at this difficult period. The short­age of funds for public infrastructural projects and payment of the huge sala­ries that are owed by many state govern­ments could be addressed if substantial sums could be recovered from the cor­rupt officials who were recently allowed to stroll out of office with stolen monies. Many of the past state chief executives should be made to answer questions on their states’ huge debt profiles, espe­cially those that have nothing on ground to show for the huge loans taken during their tenures. Indeed, the nation’s $63 billion indebtedness should form the ba­sis of a separate enquiry, to determine who took the loans and how they were utilised.

Nigerians are at a loss on how the na­tion got back into the debt trap, so soon after most of our debts were paid to our international creditors during the Oluse­gun Obasanjo administration. The na­tional reserves have been badly deplet­ed and our debts have grown so huge that all levels of government are cur­rently unable to meet certain basic ob­ligations. Not only are workers in some states owed up to six or more months salaries, pensioners in many states suf­fer the same indignity, while some have died out of frustration. Pensioners in Osun State, for instance, recently took to the streets to protest non-payment of their entitlements.

Even more worrisome, is the fact that over 70 per cent of the present debt pro­file is domestic. What this simply means is that the local economy is denied much-needed funds. It is no wonder, then, that things are in a flux in the country.

Now that we are at this sad juncture, things cannot continue as usual. Other­wise, the change mantra which the Mu­hammadu Buhari campaign canvassed and won the election on, will not have any meaning. Government officials must be accountable for their actions and in­actions. This is the way forward. For too long, we have swept corruption issues under the carpet and allowed people to believe that political offices are a bazaar.

Section 308 (1) of the 1999 Constitu­tion provides for immunity of public of­fice holders and how it may be applied: The President, Vice president, Governors and their deputies, enjoy the protection of the clause as soon as they are sworn into office, but lose same immediately after they leave office.

This is the time, therefore, for our anti-graft agencies to move in on corrupt ex-public officials and pros­ecute them, no matter the new of­fices they have managed to corner for themselves in the new dispensa­tion. As long as they do not occupy any of the offices which are to enjoy immunity from prosecution, that are listed above, they should be invited for questioning and looted funds re­covered from them, if both the EFCC and the ICPC are on top of their re­sponsibilities.

Until now, provisions in our laws for the punishment of corrupt public of­ficials have been a mere paper tiger, observed more in the breach or with­out the simplest intent to bite. Too many of our corrupt past public of­fice holders are walking the streets free, whereas they have cases to answer on account of their steward­ship. The nation will be the biggest loser as this situation gives the im­pression that political office holders can get away with corruption.

That is why we must break with this bad tradition. The EFCC and ICPC should come alive and bring these former public office holders to account. While we are not encourag­ing wholesale probes which could distract the new government, no ef­fort should be spared to recover all looted funds.

With President Buhari’s much-avowed zero tolerance for corrup­tion, friendly governments can help with the recovery of these looted funds as they can be sure that they will be well utilised when returned to the country.

Let the anti-graft agencies do their work, while the supportive agencies play their role. The State Security Service (SSS) should also begin to closely check the antecedents of persons aspiring to public offices in the country. The National Assembly, in particular, should not be allowed to become a safe haven for corrupt ex-governors and other public offi­cials. It is not too late to bring them to justice, to send a strong message to the present crop of political office holders that corruption will no lon­ger be overlooked. This is the path that all countries that have largely surmounted the public corruption challenge have taken.

]]>
http://sunnewsonline.com/new/efcc-icpc-should-recover-looted-funds/feed/ 0
Supporting the war against cancer http://sunnewsonline.com/new/supporting-the-war-against-cancer/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/supporting-the-war-against-cancer/#comments Sat, 13 Jun 2015 23:00:16 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=123294 As the activities marking the National Cancer Week draw to a close, we commend the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP) of Nigeria for a good job. The 2015 Cancer Week began on June 7, which is marked as the International Cancer Survivors Day all over the world. June 9 was dedicated to “Advocacy and Fundraising”, [...]]]>

As the activities marking the National Cancer Week draw to a close, we commend the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP) of Nigeria for a good job. The 2015 Cancer Week began on June 7, which is marked as the International Cancer Survivors Day all over the world. June 9 was dedicated to “Advocacy and Fundraising”, for what the committee has dubbed the “Big War Against Cancer.”

The committee’s ambition to acquire and deploy mobile cancer centres in each of the nation’s 36 states, and Abuja, is noble and worthy of support. It has also come up with public enlightenment posters on “The Ten Habits of A Cancer-free Life”, which it is soliciting the help of the media to publicize. These veritable initiatives of CEPC are life savers that deserve the attention and support of all Nigerians.

We appeal to all Nigerians to contribute to the effort to rein in cancer in the country. Treatment of cancer is not cheap anywhere in the world. The disease is no longer a death sentence but it requires early detection and huge funds to treat. A single mobile cancer centre costs N120 million. Here’s a great cause for Nigerian philanthropists to demonstrate the generosity they are known for. The fundraising entitled “#Giving Tide” is being co-ordinated by Prof. Pat Utomi. The Anchor of the National Cancer Week is Dr. Christopher Kolade, while Lady Maiden Ibru, is the Lead Advocate.

The big war on cancer is a just war because it kills 80,000 Nigerians every year. Because we have no answer when it attacks, the death rate in Nigeria is 80 per cent. In other words, it kills four out of every five persons it attacks. Three common cancers – cervical cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer – kill 90 Nigerians daily.

Cervical cancer, in particular, is virtually 100% preventable while the survival rate for early stage breast cancer and early-stage prostate cancer is virtually 100%. This is where the mobile cancer centres come in. The committee has said that if the mobile cancer centres are bought and deployed all over the country, the incidence and mortality rate for this ailment would be reduced by 70%. If every Nigerian can be screened once a year, much of the cancers would be discovered before they become life-threatening. At that stage, treatment is not just cheaper, the chances of a cure are highest.

The Cancer Week should be an occasion to remind the Federal and state governments of the need to invest in our health care as an important national investment. Nothing demonstrates the country’s misplaced priorities as its utter neglect of health infrastructure, especially those for cancer.

Dubai has just unveiled a city it is building to set up a health care industry with state of the art technology and specialist personnel. The first Indian cancer centre opened as far back as 1941. Today, India boasts of more than 120 comprehensive cancer centres. Indeed, the Tata Cancer Centre in Mumbai today treats 70% of its patients for free. The largest cancer centre in the world is in Bangalore, India, in a city of eight million inhabitants. Egypt has the largest cancer centre for children in the world. Smaller, much poorer African nations like Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa have comprehensive cancer centres.

Nigerians, in contrast, spend at least $200 million a year to seek health care for ailments such as cancer abroad, yet the Nigerian government is not investing in the establishment of specialist cancer units. Indeed, Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka recently drew attention to the fact that there are only few oncologists in the country whereas there are at least 220 oncologists of Nigerian descent in the Diaspora.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has stated that one third of all cancers can be prevented, another one-third can be effectively cured with early diagnosis and palliative care can improve the quality of life of the last third. We urge Nigerians to get involved in the National Cancer Prevention Programme and do their best to contribute to the CEPC effort to acquire 37 mobile cancer centres, and six comprehensive cancer centres, one in each geopolitical zone in the country.

The case for early detection is overwhelming. Stomach cancer kills five Nigerians daily and has claimed many notable personalities in the country. Liver cancer can be prevented through Hepatitis vaccination, yet it kills 32 Nigerians daily. Bladder cancer can be prevented by detection and oral treatment of schistosomiasis, yet it kills over 600 Nigerians a year.

As the National Cancer Week winds up with an event tagged “Banquet of Stars Vs Cancer” holding at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Lagos, today, we appeal to all philanthropists and other Nigerians of goodwill, rich and poor, to join the fight against this disease and give generously to the cause. If we all support this war, there is no doubt that cancer can be beaten.

]]>
http://sunnewsonline.com/new/supporting-the-war-against-cancer/feed/ 0
Relocation of Boko Haram war command centre http://sunnewsonline.com/new/relocation-of-boko-haram-war-command-centre/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/relocation-of-boko-haram-war-command-centre/#comments Fri, 12 Jun 2015 23:00:28 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=123069 President Muhammadu Bu­hari struck the right chord in the hearts of many Nige­rians with his decision to re­locate the military command centre of the fight against Boko Haram to the epicentre of the insurgency in Maidu­guri. His announcement of this deci­sion was clearly one of the highlights of his inaugural address to the nation on [...]]]>

President Muhammadu Bu­hari struck the right chord in the hearts of many Nige­rians with his decision to re­locate the military command centre of the fight against Boko Haram to the epicentre of the insurgency in Maidu­guri. His announcement of this deci­sion was clearly one of the highlights of his inaugural address to the nation on May 29. The applause that greeted the presidential directive headlined the widespread approval of the plan, even if it appeared to have initially been received with mixed feelings in some circles.

President Buhari has since followed up the directive with several meet­ings with the military high command, and visits to Niger and Chad which are collaborating with Nigeria on the war against insurgency. The Nigerian Army has announced the establish­ment of the Military Command and Control Centre (MCCC) in Maidu­guri for the war against Boko Haram, which has been code-named Operation Zaman Lafiya. A conference of Chiefs of Defence Staff of member-countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) has also been hosted by Nige­ria’s Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshall, Alex Badeh, in Abuja, to fashion out the modalities for the take-off of the Multi-National Joint Task Force for the campaign against terror in the region.

We welcome the apparent fresh re­solve to fight insurgency in Nigeria and the sub-region. The pledge by a number of our significant partners to commit men and resources to the cam­paign is encouraging, and should help the efforts to end the insurgency.

The reorganisation of the Multi-Na­tional Joint Task Force under the Lake Chad Basin Commission and the ap­pointment of Nigeria’s Major-General Tukur Buratai as Force Commander with office in N’djamena, capital of Republic of Chad, are also commend­able.

Though some commentators have criticised the wisdom and benefit of the relocation of the command cen­tre to Maiduguri, the significance of the move cannot be lost on discerning Nigerians. One benefit of this move is that it will buoy the spirits of our mili­tary personnel who are in the front­line of the war and spur them on. The positive effect of this decision on the psyche of our soldiers cannot be quan­tified. The proximity of the command centre to the theatre of the war against insurgency will also likely aid real time understanding and response to chal­lenges that an unconventional war like the present one against Boko Haram demands.

The relocation will also send a sig­nal to the insurgents that Nigeria has upped the ante in this war, and that their time is almost up. The increased attacks by the sect are, therefore, a sig­nal of its desperation to appear strong and remain relevant, even as the multi-national campaign closes up on it.

We are not, however, deluded that the Boko Haram insurgency will end any­time soon. The increased rate of bomb­ings and other violent attacks that have occurred after the inauguration of the Buhari government, are signs that Nigeria and her coalition partners must increase their efforts to rout the sect. For the first time since the Boko Haram insurgency started, successful attacks have been carried out in Yola, Adamawa State, while the insurgents still claim control of the dreaded Sam­bisa Forest. This is clearly a war of at­trition and our military must be pre­pared for the long haul.

We must commend the zeal with which President Buhari is galvaniz­ing our military and its coalition part­ners. We hope, too, that the search for the missing Chibok schoolgirls is still receiving the necessary attention. What relief and joy it would be to find the girls alive and return them to the warm embrace of their parents and loved ones.

The security of the nation and her citizens should be the number one pri­ority of any government. It is, there­fore, reassuring that the president has rightly made it so. We wish the government quick success in the cam­paign against terrorism in the coun­try.

 

]]>
http://sunnewsonline.com/new/relocation-of-boko-haram-war-command-centre/feed/ 0
Leadership of the 8th National Assembly http://sunnewsonline.com/new/leadership-of-the-8th-national-assembly/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/leadership-of-the-8th-national-assembly/#comments Fri, 12 Jun 2015 02:39:14 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=122983 We salute members of the 8th National Assembly on their inauguration and congratulate the new Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, on their election.]]>

We salute members of the 8th National Assembly on their inauguration and congratulate the new Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, and the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, on their election.  The remarkable emergence of Mr. Ike Ekweremadu, who is of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as Deputy Senate President, is a good omen.  It confirms the growing maturity of the Senate and demonstrates the spirit of national unity in the chamber.

The wrangling and jostling for leadership in the National Assembly are normal, as these occur in all political institutions.  The inability of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to settle on a single candidate in its caucuses in the Senate and the House obviously led to the disappointment some members now feel about the outcome of the leadership contests.

Section 50 of the Constitution is explicit on the process of electing the leaders of the National Assembly.  It states that the exercise must be carried out inside the two chambers among the members themselves without outside interference of any kind. The statement credited to the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, berating the conduct and outcome of the leadership elections, is therefore unhelpful.  The election was conducted as prescribed by the Constitution.   His assertion that “the party is supreme and its interest is superior to that of its individual members” is unfortunate.  The Constitution did not assign a political party any role whatsoever in the election of the principal officers of the National Assembly.

We commend President Muhammadu Buhari who, from the beginning,  expressed absolute neutrality in the choice of the National Assembly leaders.  This is in sharp contrast with his predecessors who were obsessed with hand-picking the officers.  The President’s stated   readiness to work with whoever emerged through the wisdom of both chambers underscores not only his willingness to accommodate an independent legislative branch but a policy of non-interference in the affairs of the National Assembly.  His ready acceptance of the new leaders is in line with his principled stand.  His predecessors, on the other hand, were ready to go to war to ensure that their choice candidates prevailed.

We urge the senior officials of the APC who are reportedly upset to take a cue from the president, abbreviate their grief and settle down to work.  This is not the time for unnecessary brinkmanship or ego-tripping.  The nation is watching and waiting, not for political melodrama but action in furtherance of the many promises the party made to Nigerians.

This incident and the APC reaction to it bring into sharp focus the manifest confusion of thinking ‘presidential’ and acting ‘parliamentary’ which is a legacy of our political history.  But, even in the parliamentary system, Nigerians did not relish their government being overwhelmed by political parties.  When political parties become too visible in the affairs of state, they tend to appear like parallel governments.  The APC should learn from this episode and permit the governments they elected into office, at both Federal and State levels, to implement the manifesto of the party rather than trying to bully or steamroll elected officials to do the whimsical bidding of party chieftains.

Nigerians expect a robust National Assembly.  It was produced by a historic election in which, for the first time, an incumbent government was defeated.  It has made history already by being the first National Assembly in which the minority party produced the Deputy Senate President.  We urge the National Assembly to function as an independent arm of the government. It should hanker after accountability of not just the executive branch but also the legislative arm.

Nigerians have been looking forward to a National Assembly that can truly conduct oversight functions over our public institutions and be at the forefront of the battle against corruption in the country.  The remuneration of its officials should not be state secret, or outside the reality of the Nigerian economy. It should compare favorably with those of legislators in other countries.

The situation of the country calls for a dynamic National Assembly. The legislators should, therefore, creatively take the nation through new paths.  They should strive to reverse the negative image which past National Assemblies have conjured in the minds of Nigerians in terms of integrity, hard work and concern for the welfare of ordinary Nigerians.  That way, they will deserve the trust that Nigerians have reposed in them.

 
]]>
http://sunnewsonline.com/new/leadership-of-the-8th-national-assembly/feed/ 0
Resolving the unclaimed dividends controversy http://sunnewsonline.com/new/resolving-the-unclaimed-dividends-controversy/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/resolving-the-unclaimed-dividends-controversy/#comments Thu, 11 Jun 2015 00:12:27 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=122895 THE directive by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to banks and registrars of quoted com­panies to return all unclaimed divi­dends that have been in their custody for more than fifteen months to the paying companies has been received with mixed feelings across the country. The order has once again reopened the age-old debate on [...]]]>

THE directive by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to banks and registrars of quoted com­panies to return all unclaimed divi­dends that have been in their custody for more than fifteen months to the paying companies has been received with mixed feelings across the country. The order has once again reopened the age-old debate on what to do with the humongous un­claimed dividends in the country. If not properly handled, the controversy over these unclaimed monies could discourage investment in shares.

The SEC directive came recently in the wake of reports that unclaimed dividends in Nigeria now amount to about N80 bil­lion. This staggering sum requires imme­diate action to end this controversy once and for all.

Unclaimed dividends are profit pay-outs by quoted companies which are yet to be claimed or received by the shareholders and equity investors in the company. How­ever, the order from the SEC, which is the apex capital market regulator, can only make a difference if the affected compa­nies comply with it.

Part of the directive is that registrars should file evidence of unclaimed dividend remittances with the commission not later than the end of this month. Registrars are responsible for keeping records of share­holders and also ensuring that the amount of shares outstanding in the market cor­responds with what is authorised by the company. However, the directors seem not to be diligent enough in ensuring that investors receive their dividend warrants.

Among those who are opposed to the SEC order is the Shareholders Solidarity Association of Nigeria. The association, in a statement, argued that the regulatory agency’s directive is contrary to the Com­panies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), which stipulates that once dividends are declared, the money belongs to share­holders and not the companies until after 12 years.

Available statistics on unclaimed divi­dends could erode the confidence of the investing public in the stock market. For instance, by December 2013, the amount of unclaimed dividends was put at N60 bil­lion. The figure has continued to grow at an unacceptable level. The increase has been put at over 600 percent in the last 15 years. In 1999, it was about N2 billion, rose steadily to N8bn in 2008, N41bn in 2011, N60bn in 2013, and N80bn at the end of last year.

Of the estimated N80bn worth of un­claimed dividends, Nigerian Breweries, Diamond Bank, former Intercontinental Bank and Bank PHB (now Keystone Bank) are listed as the big four with large hold­ings of unclaimed dividends. Many factors have been listed as responsible for these unclaimed dividends by the SEC. These in­clude fraudulent activities of some market operators and banks’ refusal to pay divi­dend warrants into shareholders’ savings accounts.

Two years ago, ex-Director General of SEC, Ms. Arunma Oteh, had cited igno­rance on the part of some shareholders for the accumulation of unclaimed dividends. She claimed that some of the sharehold­ers did not inform the registrars of compa­nies they invested in when they changed their forwarding addresses, thereby mak­ing it difficult or even impossible for them to receive their dividend warrants. Further blame has also been put at the doorsteps of Nigeria’s poor postal system. There are also instances of the death of some share­holders and the inability of their heirs to do what is required to access their dividends.

Nonetheless, these are not sufficient reasons for unclaimed dividends to con­tinue to mount. To resolve this issue, SEC should rein in registrars who are allegedly profiting from these unclaimed dividends. The agency should make good its threat that failure by registrars to “comply with the directive shall attract appropriate sanc­tions without further recourse”. Without doubt, compliance with this directive will improve confidence in the regulation of the capital market, which is currently expe­riencing a downturn on account of the fall in the prices of shares.

Besides, leaders of Shareholders’ As­sociations, company secretaries and legal advisers should ensure that this matter is resolved quickly. We are concerned about the unsuccessful attempt by the 7th Na­tional Assembly to classify unclaimed divi­dends as “Abandoned Property”, and to devolve the title of such dividends to the Federal Government. Government should not under any guise be allowed to reap where it has not sown. Dividends, once de­clared, belong to shareholders and should not under any circumstance be ploughed back into the companies. The use of such monies to trade by the companies, as has been alleged, is illegal.

All in all, SEC and directors of quoted companies should urgently find a way out of this situation. We support the sugges­tion by SEC and other stakeholders that dividends should be paid directly into shareholders’ accounts, under the e-divi­dend policy. This would ensure that share­holders get their dividends as due. But, investors need to be properly educated on the benefits of electronic dividend man­agement, and their bank account num­bers collected at the point of purchase of shares. There should be public enlighten­ment campaigns on this matter, the same way bank customers are being educated on the Bank Verification Number (BVN) scheme.

In addition, it is important that the SEC seeks the amendment of the Unclaimed Dividends Law through a bill. The bill should, among other things, aim at review­ing the 12-year bar placed on unclaimed dividends in the capital market. The present stock of unclaimed dividends will continue to accumulate unless section 383 of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA) is amended. It must be clearly stated that dividends, once declared, belong to share­holders and should not under any circum­stance be ploughed back into the compa­nies’ operations, or used as slush funds for trading as some quoted firms are allegedly doing. Altogether, it is imperative that SEC and directors of companies find a solution to this problem. All the factors responsible for the accumulation of unclaimed divi­dends should be addressed immediately so that their owners can take full posses­sion of the fruits of their investments in the capital market.

]]>
http://sunnewsonline.com/new/resolving-the-unclaimed-dividends-controversy/feed/ 0
Ekiti: Nipping kidnapping in the bud http://sunnewsonline.com/new/ekiti-nipping-kidnapping-in-the-bud/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/ekiti-nipping-kidnapping-in-the-bud/#comments Wed, 10 Jun 2015 04:14:30 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=122671 Kidnapping for ransom is one of the latter day manifestations of insecurity in Nigeria which had, hitherto, not been widely associated with Ekiti State in South-Western Nigeria. ]]>

Kidnapping for ransom is one of the latter day manifestations of insecurity in Nigeria which had, hitherto, not been widely associated with Ekiti State in South-Western Nigeria. The state, however, got into the news recently following the abduction of several persons, including an 11-year old boy.  These kidnappings significantly heightened the air of insecurity occasioned by the threats of political violence in the state.

The Ekiti kidnapping stories, however, ended on a happy note recently as a combined team of policemen and local vigilante officials rescued eleven kidnap victims in the state. The rescue followed the outcry of Governor Ayodele Fayose to the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Solomon Arase, who immediately deployed a special squad to join forces with local vigilantes to rescue the victims.

The rescued persons include Dr. Femi Omisore, Associate Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife; Dr. (Mrs.) Kikelomo Adegun and Dr. (Mrs.) Folasade Alade, both of the Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti; and Mrs. Margaret Aladenika, Theatre Nurse at the Federal Teaching Hospital at Ido-Ekiti. Some of the rescued persons were not residents of the state, but had been kidnapped in transit, while some were abducted from Ibadan and Ilorin.

We commend the Ekiti State governor for his prompt appeal to the police headquarters in Abuja, which led to the rescue of the abducted persons. His appeal to the leadership of the police for help indicates his zero tolerance for such a criminality activity. This should go a long way in stemming kidnapping of persons for ransom in the state.

We also commend the police high command in Abuja and the Ekiti State Police Commissioner, for working alongside local hunters to rescue the abducted persons from a deep forest in Esure Ekiti, in Irepodun/ Ifelodun LGA of the state.

According to reports, the rescue followed a tip-off by a native who noticed strange movements in the forest and promptly reported to the traditional authority of the town. The high sense of responsibility of this native is commendable. It is indicative of how much success can be achieved in detecting and bursting crime when ordinary citizens are vigilant and    cooperate with the relevant agencies to ensure security of their domain.

The police deserve kudos for the prompt response to the appeal for help from Ekiti. We advise that the same sense of responsibility and urgency should be brought to bear on the efforts to rescue the Regent of Akungba-Akoko, Princess Oluwatoyin Omosowon, who was kidnapped in neigbouring Ondo State last week.

Three suspected kidnappers were arrested during the rescue of the 11 kidnapped persons in Esure Ekiti. They should be prosecuted, while efforts are made to apprehend their accomplices. No effort should be spared to ensure that this case is brought to a deserved closure and Ekiti spared the pain and opprobrium of kidnapping.

Ekiti, which prides itself as the “Fountain of Knowledge”, cannot afford the degenerate alias of a kidnappers’ den. The entire people of the state should, therefore, join Fayose in his resolve to keep kidnappers out of the state.

The challenge for all the states where kidnappers are holding the people to ransom is to see that the menace is quickly stamped out. Kidnapping, in addition to other crimes like armed robbery, fraud and terrorism have given the nation a bad name on the international front.

As the Ekiti example has shown, the kidnapping challenge is surmountable if all hands are on deck to end it. We, therefore, urge everyone to be vigilant and avail the police authorities with information that could help them burst kidnapping rings in all parts of the country. It is important that we all treat this   security problem with the seriousness it deserves, as happened in Ekiti, to improve our chances of stemming kidnapping in the country.

]]>
http://sunnewsonline.com/new/ekiti-nipping-kidnapping-in-the-bud/feed/ 0
Buhari and implementation of national confab report http://sunnewsonline.com/new/buhari-and-implementation-of-national-confab-report/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/buhari-and-implementation-of-national-confab-report/#comments Mon, 01 Jun 2015 00:14:30 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=122497 The National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) has added its voice to the numerous others calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure the implementation of the report of the 2014 National Conference convoked by former President Goodluck Jonathan. Making the call recently in Lagos, the chairman of the pro-democracy group, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (rtd), urged the [...]]]>

The National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) has added its voice to the numerous others calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure the implementation of the report of the 2014 National Conference convoked by former President Goodluck Jonathan. Making the call recently in Lagos, the chairman of the pro-democracy group, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (rtd), urged the president not to abandon the report because no change will be effective in the country without its implementation.
Aside NADECO, other socio-political groups like Afenifere, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Lower Niger Congress (LNC) and Pro National Conference Organisation (PRONACO),  have made similar calls.
It will be recalled that Jonathan, in his October 1, 2013 Independence Anniversary broadcast, said that he would convene a National Conference to enable Nigerians iron out their bottled up grievances and chart the way forward as a truly united country. While most Nigerians hailed Jonathan for this initiative, others, especially those of the opposition, did not welcome the idea. Some of them argued that the timing, coming very close to the 2015 general polls, would confer political advantage on Jonathan. Yet, others regarded it as a jamboree and a waste of national resources.
Regardless of what people think of the confab, its outcome is the decision of representatives of the Nigerian people. Their resolutions represent the resolutions of all Nigerians. Such resolutions should not be toyed with. The new administration owes Nigerians a duty to implement it because government is a continuum.
Some far-reaching recommendations of the Confab, which Jonathan forwarded to the National Assembly on May 27,  two days to the end of his administration, are part-time legislative duties at all tiers of government, power rotation among the six geo-political zones, creation of new states, and resource control/derivation/ principle/ fiscal federalism. Others include non-provision of immunity from prosecution for criminal charges for president, vice president, governors and deputy governors, reduction of Federal Government’s allocation to 42.5% and abolition of government sponsorship of pilgrimages.
As things stand now, it is unlikely that the 7th National Assembly, which ends on June 5, can do anything with the report. Therefore, the responsibility for its implementation now rests on the new Buhari government and the 8th National Assembly.
There is no doubt that the Nigerian federation as presently constituted requires re-structuring. Our country is not truly run on federal principles. At best, the nation is run on an amalgam of elements of unitary and federal governments.  That is why most states in the country cannot stand on their own, financially.  Their dependence on Abuja every month for life support does not mean we are operating a true federalism. It is not a surprise that the recent fall in oil revenue has led to non-payment of workers’ salaries in most states.
The first and last time Nigeria operated a truly federal system of government was during the First Republic. The regions controlled their affairs and contributed an agreed percentage to the national pool.  But, the military intervention of January 15, 1966, abrogated that and introduced the unitary system of government which every government has erroneously practised ever since.
The extant 1999 Constitution has not helped matters as it has 68 items on exclusive legislative list and 30 on the concurrent list. Unfortunately, there is no item on the residual list. In a truly federal system of government, there should not be more than 12 or 13 items on the exclusive legislative list as we had it in the First Republic.
Like NADECO and others that have made a case for the implementation of the confab report, we urge the Buhari administration to implement it. Doing so will conform to the change mantra of the new party in power. We also believe that Nigeria will not witness any appreciable change if the nation’s structure remains unchanged.
Apart from creation of more states, especially the additional state that will put the South-East at par with zones that have six each, there is urgent need for devolution of power from the federal government to the states. If Nigeria will survive, we should not hesitate to change from the present unitary system to a truly federal government, with fiscal federalism, as was the case during the First Republic. Neither the federal nor the state governments should have anything to do with religion as is the case in other democratic countries. We should, as the confab recommended, either go back to the old parliamentary system of government or run a modified presidential system of government, with the sole aim of drastically reducing the cost of governance.
Let Buhari and the incoming 8th National Assembly do whatever is necessary to ensure the implementation of the confab report. Non-implementation of the report will amount to not listening to the voice of the people. Since governance is about people, government should do what the people want. Surely, one of them is the implementation of the confab report.

]]>
http://sunnewsonline.com/new/buhari-and-implementation-of-national-confab-report/feed/ 1
Time up for Nkurunziza http://sunnewsonline.com/new/time-up-for-nkurunziza/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/time-up-for-nkurunziza/#comments Sat, 30 May 2015 23:00:11 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=122320 Yet another African leader, President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi, is playing games with the fate of his country and jeopardizing the lives of millions of its citizens in order to satisfy his selfish ambition to remain in power beyond the tenure stipulated by the Burundian constitution, or justified by reason. Nkurunziza has been in power [...]]]>

Yet another African leader, President Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi, is playing games with the fate of his country and jeopardizing the lives of millions of its citizens in order to satisfy his selfish ambition to remain in power beyond the tenure stipulated by the Burundian constitution, or justified by reason.

Nkurunziza has been in power for ten years already. In every civilized setting all over the world where tenure is regulated by law and order, ten years is considered more than adequate for a leader to render service to the best of his abilities and institute initiatives for the improvement of the lives of his people.

The Constitution of the people of Burundi prescribes two terms of five years each. Nkurunziza’s tenure ends in July. He has designed a specious argument to justify a third term by arguing that his first five years in office should not be counted. Unfortunately, the Constitution did not say that his first term should not be counted and the universal rule is that you do not take what the constitution does not give.

He has tried to latch onto a decision of the constitutional court which said he could seek a third term. Unfortunately for him, the vice president of that court, Mr. Sylvere Nimpagaritse, has revealed that on April 30, the court reached the unanimous conclusion that President Nkurunziza was not eligible to contest again. But, no sooner had the decision been made public than death threats assailed the judge, forcing him to flee and he is now in Rwanda. His colleagues, fearing for their lives, recanted.

It seems President Nkurunziza wants to remain president by trampling on the corpses of his people. More than 50 are already dead, most of them, ordinary Burundians protesting his power grab. The president does not care a hoot. His pictures are all over the world showing him playing football, enjoying himself while thousands of his countrymen are protesting in the streets of Bujumbura and being maltreated up by the police.

At the best of times, the Nkurunziza regime was more of a dictatorship than a democratic administration. Human rights groups have criticized the regime for its crackdown on the opposition and the use of draconian measures to silence voices of dissent. The current political tension is the final chapter of a regime whose ten years has been characterised by political intolerance and repression. The failed attempt to oust him through a coup d’état last week was apparently one final desperate effort by his erstwhile intelligence chief, Major-General Godefroid Niyombare, to give effect to the wish of the people. The coup’s failure and the subsequent crackdown on its leaders and supporters, as merciless as it has been, has not deterred thousands of Burundians from coming out daily to protest Nkurunziza’s third term bid.

We think it is now time for the East African Economic Community (EAEC) to act. Its recent meeting seems to have arrived at no conclusion on the way forward. This is not the time to play games with civil strife. Already 105,000 Burundians have fled the country. More than 50,000 are living on the shore of Lake Tanganyika on the border with Tanzania.

Millions more are already jittery and do not want to re-live the nightmares of the 13-years of civil war which came to an end less than ten years ago. This is just not the time to start mischief over power aggrandizement. The EAEC should talk Nkurunziza out of his potentially disastrous adventure. They should also prepare a contingency plan in case he is unmoved. This should include comprehensive sanctions and some form of intervention force in case genocidal wars begin again.

The international community is fully aware of the tinder box which President Nkurunziza has set up in his country. As a former Hutu rebel leader, he cares very little about the consequences of the violence he is about to provoke. The threats by the European Union and the United States to withhold aid is not enough, it is time to get the United Nations to show enough interest in this matter now before the world has another Rwanda in its hands.

We urge President Nkurunziza to review his ambitions. How many more Burundians need to die before he realises that a peaceful handover in July is worth more than his staying on in power by force? He should heed the advice of well meaning leaders and organisations from all over the world and jettison his vaulting ambition to spend another five years in office.

]]>
http://sunnewsonline.com/new/time-up-for-nkurunziza/feed/ 0