Nigeria’s Faux Modest Culture By Nana Aisha Salaudeen

You went visiting a man alone, what did you think would happen?”

Those were the first words my friend, Bintu received from her family when she placed a phone call home informing them that she had been raped. She had dropped by her boyfriend’s place to talk things out because their two-year relationship was suffering. That evening, he invited himself into her body without her consent as some form of tasteless retaliation for whatever it was their union was undergoing. Bintu suffered chronic pelvic pain and vaginal inflammation forcing her to remain in the hospital weeks after the event.

Her family disregarded the emotional and psychological trauma the rape had caused her, and resorted instead to victim shaming. They held her responsible for the rape, called her names and at some point insinuated that she merited such an agonizing ordeal for ‘visiting a man’. Consequently, not much was done about the rapist. He was allowed to walk free under the nonsensical guise of protecting the family name and maintaining her modesty.

Bintu’s tale is not of a singular female who has been exposed to Nigeria’s disgraceful rape culture. She is a symbol for women who have been subjected to sexual abuse/violence and have had their rights shoved aside.

Rape culture is an environment or society in which core social practices, cultural ideologies and institutions (passively or actively) encourage and tolerate sexual violence/abuse by normalizing and excusing the act. Rape culture is propagated through blaming the victim, objectifying women’s bodies and trivializing sexual assault/violence?—?thereby creating a society that deserts women’s welfare and rights.

Nigeria has a rape culture and this rape culture is why our society has normalized marital rape/abuse/violence. For example, a husband forcefully having sex or hitting his wife for refusing sex is acceptable because he has paid her bride price and as such is entitled to using her body as much as he wants regardless of how she feels. Despite such a concept being insensitive and irrational as it insinuates that a woman is merely a commodity that can be bought or sold, it is the reality of many. This rape culture is also why perpetrators of sexual violence/abuse are absolved from blame. In 2011, for instance, a video of the gang rape of an Abia state university (ABSU) student by five men was posted on social media. What happened after the video went viral was typical, notwithstanding video evidence, the governor of Abia state instantly denied that anything of such happened in the state. The police state command excused the perpetrators of the crime suggesting that the victim consented to the rape because “we did not see the victim resist” in the video. Subsequently, the case was dumped. No charges, no arrests.

The most cringe worthy part of our rape culture is that it is impeccably tucked under the pretext of ‘modesty’ and partly driven by the fact that the nation is patriarchal. This so-called modesty and overactive scrutiny of the sexuality of females is what sanctions society to tell women what they should or should not wear to restrain their exposure to men and sexual violence/assault. This, in simple terms, infers that the body of a woman who is not dressed as society deems fit ought to be available for sex whether or not she permits. It is why what was she wearing? is often echoed first when a woman is raped, as if whatever she had on when the rape occurred is enough to exonerate the rapist from his actions. It is also this same faux modesty that places importance on females remaining chaste without holding males to the same standard. Why, for instance, are women tagged dishonored and shameful when they are sexually violated? What about their rapists? Is it the obligation of women alone to remain virtuous?

We, as Nigerians, need to do better and ask ourselves if this culture we preach is really that of modesty or rape. We need to create more awareness on the plague that has enveloped our society in form of sexual assault. We don’t have remain silent till the Bintu’s in our environment get sexually violated before declaring that the issue at hand needs acknowledgement.

Our deceptive modest culture, for the sake of posterity, needs to windup in other to shrink the country’s rape culture. Although it is not as simple as it seems, we should, for example, start by teaching our sons not to rape instead of teaching our daughters not to get raped. In place of asking girls what they were wearing when they got raped, we should openly humiliate rapists and instead of victim shaming we should aid rape victims in overcoming the distress from their assault.

The author is an economist and accountant with a knack for writing social commentary.

She is an advocate of good governance, gender equity and youth inclusion in politics and currently blogs on www.aishasalaudeen.com.

The Bush Sisters Wrote The Obama Girls A Letter

Bush is the CEO and co-founder of Global Health Corps
Jenna Bush Hager is a correspondent for the TODAY Show
Malia and Sasha, eight years ago on a cold November day, we greeted you on the steps of the White House. We saw both the light and wariness in your eyes as you gazed at your new home. We left our jobs in Baltimore and New York early and traveled to Washington to show you around. To show you the Lincoln Bedroom, and the bedrooms that were once ours, to introduce you to all the people—the florists, the grounds-keepers and the butlers—who dedicate themselves to making this historic house a home. The four of us wandered the majestic halls of the house you had no choice but to move in to. When you slid down the banister of the solarium, just as we had done as 8-year-olds and again as 20-year-olds chasing our youth, your joy and laughter were contagious.
 
In eight years, you have done so much. Seen so much. You stood at the gates of the Robben Island cell where South Africa’s Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for decades, your arms around your father. You traveled to Liberia and Morocco with your mom to talk with girls about the importance of education—girls who saw themselves in you, saw themselves in your parents, saw who they could become if they continued to study and learn. You attended state dinners, hiked in national parks, met international leaders and managed to laugh at your dad’s jokes during the annual Thanksgiving turkey pardon, all while being kids, attending school and making friends. We have watched you grow from girls to impressive young women with grace and ease.
And through it all you had each other. Just like we did.
Now you are about to join another rarified club, one of former First Children—a position you didn’t seek and one with no guidelines. But you have so much to look forward to. You will be writing the story of your lives, beyond the shadow of your famous parents, yet you will always carry with you the experiences of the past eight years.
Never forget the wonderful people who work at the White House. Our greeter as 7-year-olds at our grandfather’sInauguration was Nancy, the White House florist, who ushered us in from the cold. She helped us make colorful bouquets of winter flowers for our grandparents’ bedside. Twenty years later, Nancy did the flowers for Jenna’s wedding. Cherish your own Nancy. We stay in touch with our Secret Service. They were part of growing
up for us: there for first dates, first days and even an engagement and a honeymoon. We know it wasn’t always easy—the two of you and the two of us were teenagers trailed by men in backpacks—but they put their lives on hold for us.
Enjoy college. As most of the world knows, we did. And you won’t have the weight of the world on your young shoulders anymore. Explore your passions. Learn who you are. Make mistakes—you are allowed to. Continue to surround yourself with loyal friends who know you, adore you and will fiercely protect you. Those who judge you don’t love you, and their voices shouldn’t hold weight. Rather, it’s your own hearts that matter.
Take all that you have seen, the people you have met, the lessons you have learned, and let that help guide you in making positive change. We have no doubt you will. Traveling with our parents taught us more than any class could. It opened our eyes to new people as well as new cultures and ideas. We met factory workers in Michigan, teachers in California, doctors healing people on the Burmese border, kids who lined the dusty streets of Kampala to see the American President, and kids with HIV waiting to get the antiretroviral drugs that would save their lives. One tiny girl wearing her finest lavender dress looked young, which she was not. She was little because she was sick. Her mom admitted that she might not live to see these drugs work, but her brothers and sisters would. After meeting this girl, Barbara went back to school and changed her major, and her life’s path.
You have lived through the unbelievable pressure of the White House. You have listened to harsh criticism of your parents by people who had never even met them. You stood by as your precious parents were reduced to headlines. Your parents, who put you first and who not only showed you but gave you the world. As always, they will be rooting for you as you begin your next chapter. And so will we.
 
Barbara Bush is a co-founder and the CEO of Global Health Corps. Jenna Bush Hager is a correspondent for the Todayshow.

The Sale And Purchase Of Votes Undermines Our electoral Values, By Oyewole Michael Rolex

First, I like to impress on our consciousness that all major political parties in Nigeria induce the electorate financially to buy their votes. In plain words, votes are sold by the electorate and are bought by major political parties, sometimes the highest bidder wins the day. Read an article recently where the author was querying that where did political actors get such huge amount of money to throw around during electioneering period in a recessed economy? I have always being  a part of those who have often times vociferously condemned electorates who give their votes in exchange for financial or material gains. But, as I looked deeper after the just concluded Edo and Ondo States elections respectively, i came to the realization of something vital that made me have a paradigm shift.

Truth be told, this act of voting for the highest bidder has robbed us of the opportunity to produce responsible leaders who would deliver to the electorate the dividend of democracy. This act has further made the political class to consciously renege on all campaign promises made as they must accrue all the monies spent to purchase your votes immediately they get into office. This act has made the political class feel they owe us no obligations to ameliorate the living conditions of the electorate as they feel they have paid you for a span of four years. This act has endangered the future of our unborn children/wards as they have been bereft of positive legacies they naturally ought to consolidate on. This act has rubbished the core values of democracy. This act has made bamboozle more easier for the political class. This act has made the political class to be able to hold tight onto power even when they performed woefully in previous years or offices held occupied. This act if not curbed portends a grave danger to our dear country, Nigeria.

Some analyst were of the opinion that the recent Government at the Central has deliberately created hardship just for the purpose of winning elections via purchase of votes. Reason may tend one to hold true this posit as it was evidenced in recently conducted elections. Well, this majorly isn’t the purpose of this piece.

I noticed that votes are being purchased for as low as five hundred Naira (#500:00) and as high as twenty thousand Naira (#20,000:00), of course this sum also depends largely on what the opposing parties offers. Hunger, hopelessness and poverty has made the electorate to sell their votes without recourse to the long time consequences of their action. Do you blame them? For me, no. Based on this premise, take for instance, a man who has left his wife and children at home hungry, school fees unpaid and someone at the polling center is readily offering between #2,000 to #20,000 as the case may be. The man begins to think of his wife and children at home and how helpful such an amount of money would be at meeting the immediate needs, such a  man will gladly sell his vote just to put food on the table. Or a mother who has no clear means of livelihood and has children to cater for, she would never think of the long term implications, her senses will be inclined towards how to meet up with immediate financial demands. And so on and so forth. Do not underestimate the influence of hunger or how low an electorate who has no legitimate source of income would go.

These political class understands this and has obviously taken advantage of this to their own gain.

Although, I strongly condemn in strong terms the act of selling and buying of votes. This act is gradually becoming a norm. Sad still, security operatives whose shoulder rest the onus to apprehend and bring to justice those inducing voters are even the ones actively supervising the deed.

For the sake of the future of this country, the development of our country, the prosperity of generations yet unborn and to give credence to Electoral values, we all must unite and stand tall and endure current hardship and vote in line with our conscience and the credibility of candidates seeking public offices. STOP THE SALES AND PURCHASE OF VOTES AS THIS UNDERMINES OUR VALUES.

Oyewole Michael Rolex writes from Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State and can be reached via @Rolex7Michael or 08038796168.

The Neighbour Next-door By Cemal Yigit

The heart is the engine of very human being. It also plays that significant role in shaping our actions and inactions in the mold of our social interactions, our tolerance level, and accepting people the way they are. In the Holy Bible in Luke chapter 6 verse 45, its states “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”

For every human action and inaction, there are motives. For being kind, and also being irrational or wicked. That is the fundamental principle of life. Have we wondered why there are so much strife and hatred in the world today? Have we paused to ask ourselves what the issues are?  This brings me to the concept of altruism, and how it can solve a whole lot of societal problems.

The Hizmet movement has at the core of its values what is called irthar, the Islamic term for altruism, which means preferring others over oneself. Some might be wondering why I decided this line instead of the usual happenings in Turkey since the July 15th coup attempt. I figured out that I had dissipated so much energy on these issues without mentioning the probable causes of President Erdogan actions.

So, in deep thoughts, the concept of altruism struck me, and I placed one and two together and understood Erdogan’s actions against the Hizmet movement. I must state that the Hizmet movement is being persecuted not for plotting a coup or instigating violence of any sort. But simply because Erdogan has lost every sense of altruism there is, and he is no longer the neighbour next door that he pretended to be in the early stages of his administration.

As a start, Fethullah Gulen’s preaching and writings have the concept of altruism as the central theme. He emphasizes that “people with pure hearts will at the same time be full of feelings of beneficence and compassion toward humanity. And instead of living for themselves, they will try to make others live in the real sense by awakening their hearts to God.”

This altruistic attribute is what welcomes you upon encounter with a Hizmet, movement participant. This is so not because there is a creed somewhere that stipulates and religiously demands that, but because the Qur’an draws attention to the virtue of ithar (altruism) as follows: “…They prefer others over themselves, even though poverty be their lot” (al-Hashr 59:9). Erdogan’s actions are the opposite of the spirit of irthar despite claiming to be an advocate of religiosity.  But I promise not to dwell on Erdogan and his atrocities in this article.

Altruism is anchored on five pillars, and they are as follows:  Sacrificing one’s soul in God’s way (for God’s cause), being able, when it is necessary, to renounce a (rightful) claim to leadership or similar top position for the well-being and unity of society, preferring the welfare of others over one’s own, allowing others to benefit from one’s knowledge and ideas without expecting anything in return, giving to others out of one’s income-this includes responsibilities for the giving of the prescribed and voluntary alms (zakah and sadaqa), and showing warmth, speaking soft and kind words, being of use to others. These are some of the values of the Hizmet movement, hence the emphasis on dialogue, love, and tolerance.

Fethullah Gulen in his writings and teachings has suggested altruism as the antidote for the various conflicts ravaging the world. And that was why it is such a hard-sell to insinuate that a man who has spent over 50 years of his life preaching and teaching the values of peace, mutual respect, and altruism as being the mastermind of the coup in Turkey. And he says “Today, we desperately need the spirit of altruism, which is very closely related to faith, the religious life of the heart, being close to God, compassion, and helping others live in the real sense. What we need today are chivalrous souls who will push aside the world and its contents which appeal to fancies and desires; souls who will solely live for the sake of making others live, and will pray as such:”

And the life he has lived readily buttresses this concept. For instance, He has never had personal wealth to the level of sponsoring educational projects. Even though the impression in some quarters is that Fethullah Gulen owns most of the schools and hospitals operated by Hizmet movement participants. Far from it, I bet you he doesn’t even know some of the owners of the institutions or has met them before. These are only people his teaching and writings have inspired to place premium and invest in sound and quality education. On very many occasions he has been quoted to have said “I have no power, capital, or army—only an unstoppable love and enthusiasm for service. All I can do is explain this, tell those who will listen, and suggest.”

In a nutshell, the world would be a better place if we can imbibe the spirit of altruism.” Today, a transcending responsibility that falls on our shoulders is to rekindle the altruistic desire to let others live in the hearts of our fellow citizens…” Fethullah Gulen

Appraising Kaduna’s Smart Infrastructure Plan, By Bukola Ogunyemi

Kaduna State knows that infrastructural development is a straightforward way to inject money into the economy and lay the foundation for long-term growth. This is why it has committed N108 billion of its 2016 budget to capital expenditure and will further commit N130 billion in 2017.

Already, 421 contracts have been awarded for renovation of public primary and secondary schools in the state. These renovations are complete with the provision of solar-powered bore holes and cubicle toilet blocks. The aim is to expand class sizes to the extent that they cater for school enrolment rates which have soared from about 1 million pupils in 2015 to 1.8 million currently.

In the same vein, the Dangote Group alongside the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have provided funding support to the Kaduna State Government for the renovation and equipping of 1 Primary Health Care centre in each of the 255 wards in the state. Imagine how much of the state’s health burden will be relieved if 255 PHC’s function optimally across the state.

The more attractive option for politicians is to initiate new projects at the expense of uncompleted ones inherited from previous administrations. The tragedy this poses is that the likelihood of leaving behind even more uncompleted projects becomes high.

Luckily, Kaduna’s present administration is not thinking this way. Early in his administration, Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai contracted Bain and Company to review all inherited and ongoing capital projects in the state with a view to developing a prioritization mechanism for future ventures.  Among its truly shocking findings was the fact that N87.5 billion existed in outstanding contractual obligations. Examining the outstanding obligations further also revealed that most projects were awarded for the protection of political interests as opposed to the public interest.

In the years leading up to 2015, much of the state was without potable water. This will change in early 2018 when the N50 billion Zaria water facility is completed. Thanks to funders like the African Development Bank and Islamic Development Bank, the Zaria water project will supply 150 million litres of water daily and provide water coverage for 2.2 million people across 7 local government areas. Even for agriculture, the sludge generated from the water treatment process will be used as fertilizer.

In 2012 and 2014, construction on the project was disrupted when the contractors abandoned site due to the inability of the government to offset some N3.2 billion payment for completed and future works. Now, thanks to a deal brokered by the Governor and his team, the contractors will accept staggered payments of N300 million monthly until all outstandings on the project are cleared.

It is in making smart deals like these that the state raises the required funds for most of its infrastructural projects.

Already, the state government has begun a redesign of its entire transport infrastructure. With the support of the Nigeria Infrastructure Advisory Facility (NIAF) and funds from the UK Department of International Development (DFID), a transport policy was launched in 2016, the policy will ensure accessible and reliable public transport service that meets the mobility needs of the state.

The Zaria road in Rigassa, the Rabah road and Kawo roads are very major entry, intra and exit ways for Kaduna State. Unfortunately, these roads have become peculiar traffic areas.

The State Government has responded to this by implementing measures that streamline traffic inclusive of dualizations, repairs to dilapidated roads and the introduction of a bus rapid transport (BRT). The BRT will have an exclusive lane such that it can operate even at times when traffic is the most congested.

Another smart deal will fund Kaduna’s road interventions. The state receives about N1.3 billion monthly from the Federal Government to augment the prices of the fall in crude prices, it has negotiated a retainer-ship with 12 contractors who continue to work specifically on roads for an agreed monthly instalment until their contract prices are offset.

Besides these efforts, a N10 billion proposal was included in its 2016 budget to construct a Metropolitan Rapid Rail Line. The line will run through the Millennium City to Rigassa and Mararaban Rido, Zaria expressway to Sabon-tasha, Mando and Nnamdi Azikwe expressway. Expressions of interest have been sent out and a prequalification carried out on 18 companies.

The Kaduna State Governor, Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai knows that infrastructure spending unlike any other form of government expenditure puts an economy firmly on the path of sustained progress. This is why his administration is committed to putting in place infrastructure that guarantees easier access to both education and health services, improved transportation systems that result in easy accessibility and an overall increment in the standard of living.

Delay In Pensions Benefits Payment For Employees In The Public Sector And Matters Arising, Mohammed Bello

Benefit Payment for employees of the Public sector has not been paid for the last 12 Months, (Jan-Dec 2016) this has raise questions as to why the delay with some blaming the Regulator and PFAs, This understandable considering the fact that This are the two stakeholders that having direct interaction with Retirees.

The Pension act is structured in a way that the employee contributes  8% while the employer contributes the remaining 10%, However in the event of an employer defaulting either by delaying or outright failure to pay Then there will be delay in payment at retirement, This is not necessarily the Fault of Pension Commission or PFA which collects the contribution on behalf of the employees, PenCom as an organization do not have outright enforcement Powers and it can only relay on collaboration with other agencies to ensure compliance and even this can only be done to Private organizations in case of Public organizations there is no form of enforcement whatever

In case of delays by the Public sector (Federal Government) there is absolutely nothing that can be done by PenCom or the PFAs apart from continues show of understanding to the Government.
However there is but one Organization that can fight for this National Heroes/Heroines who have served this country for many years some for 35years the ORGANIZED LABOUR they can take up this issue with the Federal Government and ensure its resolved if indeed they have the interest of the workers they represent at heart.

PenCom should also as a Matter of urgency drew the attention of the Federal government to the threat facing the Pension Industry as a result of the delay in paying accrued rights. The Pension Industry as it is today stands out because of its ability to ensure people who retired are paid as at when due and if this benefit is only enjoyed by the Private sector employees then there is no difference between the current and the old scheme.

The Organized Labor in this case NLC and TUC instead of patronizing the government should urgently engage the Federal government to resolve this issue because the outcome is going to be a disaster to not only the Nigerian Workers and the Pension Industry but the Economy (The Pension industry is worth over 5 Trillion mostly invested in Federal bonds).

Another observation by expert in the industry as the fact that the stakeholders instead of fighting to ensure the scheme is bettered is busy fighting for their personal interest and are more interested in fanfares and self-survival.

President Muhammadu Buhari should kindly look into the Pleas of the federal retirees and should raise fund to pay off the 12 Months Backload (It was 14 Months Last week and will be 13 Months in two weeks’ time this is because Nov/Dec 2015 accrued right was only paid Last week and Jan will be added in 2weeks).

Mohammed Bello writes on Pensions and contribute this piece from Abuja

Re: The Sole Administrator, By Abiodun Komolafe and Kunle Owolabi

The article, ‘The Sole Administrator’ published in Thisday, January 9, 2017, refers.

To start with, can Governor Rauf Aregbesola be referred to as “the sole administrator” of Osun State, taking into consideration that he is only a victim of circumstances that are not due to his fault but were as a result of how the economy has played out? The answer, of course, is ‘No’! On the other hand, has the governor breached any laws of the land by not appointing commissioners “almost three years since his re-election”? As we are all aware, the establishment and composition of cabinet for a state is provided for in the Constitution of Nigeria and each state is expected to constitute its own cabinet as and when convenient. There is no law directing that the composition must be simultaneous across the 36 states. Besides, no number is specified unlike in the case of Ministers of the Federal Government, which the constitution says must be one from each state of the federation.

Section 192 Sub-section 1 of 1999 Constitution (as amended) establishes the offices of commissioners for the states of the federation. Section 192 States inter alia: “There shall be such offices of Commissioners of the Government of a state as may be established by the Governor of the State.” In constituting such a cabinet, the Constitution also directed that the governor, in making the appointment, should conform with the provision of section 14 (4) of the constitution. And Section 14 (4) directed that the governor tailors his composition of cabinet to reflect “diversity of the people within its area of authority and the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the people of the federation (in this case, people of the state).”

From the foregoing provisions of the constitution, which is the grundnorm guiding the running of the space called Nigeria,  the commissioners, appointed not elected, are to assist the governors in the day-to-day running of the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) for administrative convenience. Since no timeframe within which the governor should appoint commissioners was ever stipulated, the time to appoint is at the discretion of the governor. The legal implication of this section is that, by not appointing commissioners up until now, the governor has not in any way breached any section of the Constitution.

Constitutional provisions apart, the systematic running of government certainly goes beyond the appointment of commissioners alone. Government  administration, either at the state or federal level, involves both political office holders and the civil servants. For instance, the most senior technocrat/civil servant in any government ministry is the Permanent Secretary and it is the next in rank to a Commissioner. Logically therefore, a Permanent Secretary stands in the stead in the absence of a Commissioner. Thus, the Governor (Rauf Aregbesola); his Deputy, (Grace Titi Laoye-Tomori); Secretary to the State Government (Moshood Adeoti); and the Chief of Staff to the Governor (Gboyega Oyetola) are in office, ably supported by the Permanent Secretaries in the conduct of government businesses.

Believe it or not, the afore-mentioned political appointees and the Permanent Secretaries are also taken care of by the Constitution as “Governor-in-Council”. Which means, technically, a pseudo cabinet is in place. Besides, all former commissioners in the state are around, making the sacrifice supporting and assisting the governor in the conduct of government businesses for the state, which is obviously going through economic downturn. With this structure in place, governance in Osun has not for a day suffered any neglect. Rather, it has been running smoothly without let or hindrance.

It will be recalled that, during his first term too, Aregbesola was quick to detect that the treasury was empty by the time he assumed office on November 27, 2010. As a way out of the woods, he had to devise an alternative means of generating revenue for the running of government. Hence, it took him eight months before he constituted his cabinet. That singular action saved for his budding administration several millions of naira which provided the springboard for easy running of government by the time the cabinet was constituted.

This time round, by the time he was re-elected in August 2014, signs of economic hardship had fully manifested, first in the state. The state’s monthly statutory commitment to workers was put at staggering N3.6 billion. However, without a cabinet in place; and, with the modulated salary structure adopted by the government in the wake of the economic challenge faced by the state, the statutory commitment reduced greatly to N1.7 billion. With the situation of things, one is in doubt if Aregbesola’s government would have survived till today. were the whole paraphernalia of the executive in place. In other words, had the governor constituted a cabinet, appointing at least 20 Commissioners and Special Advisers, the monthly wage bill would probably have been out of this world. Needless to repeat that all these Commissioners will also appoint aides in the process, which will no doubt add more burden to the existing huge ones. This Modus Operandi; that is, cutting of overhead cost, delay in the constitution of cabinet, assistance being rendered by former Commissioners without drawing salaries, all have helped the state government in no mean ways. So far, so fair! Delay in appointing the commissioners therefore is a blessing in disguise.

Well, this is not an argument that cabinet is not necessary in the life of an administration. Far from that supposition! Only that one cannot but question the essence of a “constitutional democracy” that is lacking in funds to run its day-to-day affairs. In any case, the constitution of cabinet is compulsory and the governor is committed to constituting it now that the hardship is gradually easing. Interestingly, he has hinted that a cabinet would soon be in place.

“Truth may be stretched, but cannot be broken, and always gets above falsehood, as does oil above water”, said Miguel De Cervantes. That Aregbesola “squandered his goodwill” is an old, worn-out tale that has taken – and will always take – its promoters nowhere.  If indeed the governor has squandered his goodwill as the author would want us to believe, how come he beat the opposition to its tricks at the August 9, 2014 Osun governorship election?  Well, that writer could describe the difference between 394,684 and 292,747 votes, with 23 out of the-then 30 Local Governments in favour of the winner as “managed to scale through” smacks of political mischief.

The writer also missed the point by describing  members of the Osun State House of Assembly who were only diligently discharging their responsibilities in accordance with the laws of the land as ‘toothless bulldogs’. If they were,  how come they had the audacity to probe the disbursement of the N34.9billion bailout fund which sanity and sanctity the author secretly acknowledged in his piece? Well, if the cordial and rewarding relationship that exists between the executive and the legislative arms of government in the state is ignorantly or mischievously misconstrued for the spirit and letters of ‘toothless bulldogism’, so be it!

The writer also attempted, futilely, to mislead the public by submitting that Osun, under, Aregbesola, was riled in poverty. Even, if the writer has forgotten the point at which the governor took off, he ought to have remembered that the state, under this pragmatic leader, was once the highest paying state in the country. When the going was smooth as a result of huge earnings accruing to the state from the sale of our crude oil, salaries, pensions and other allowances were paid as and when due. Even, workers at that time, were getting ’13th month’ without stress. All these continued until the country got enmeshed in the economic miasma occasioned by a sharp drop in oil prices.  Even, at that, Aregbesola still continued to discharge his statutory responsibilities to the workers as can be seen in the up-to-date payment of salaries and pensions to the state civil servants and pensioners respectively.

Yes! Aregbesola’s government is “unusual”. And that’s what it is! Or how else do we describe an administration that has done so much in terms of infrastructure development of the state in so short a time?

May principalities and powers, assigned to rubbish our leaders’ efforts, scatter!

KOMOLAFE and OWOLABI wrote in from Osun State

RE: Osun Pensioners Open IDP Camps For Members By Omowaiye Oluremi

The government of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola of the State of Osun has suffered the worst form of media attacks in the hands of half-baked journalists, economic saboteurs, religious fundamentalists and political neophytes. Over time, their unending attacks have been orchestrated to malign the governor, incite the people against him by distorting facts and putting up a false narrative of the true state of events in Osun.

It is pertinent to say that the monumental strides recorded in Osun under Governor Aregbesola are legendary and would forever remain indelible in the hearts of the people. It is worthy of note also, that even under the present inclement financial weather, Ogbeni Aregbesola has paid the salaries of civil servants and pensioners up till December 2016, a rare feat in the country, which is commendable.

Going down memory lane, in November 2010 when he assumed the mantle of leadership in Osun, the price of crude oil was well above $100 and he inherited a net wage bill of just N1.4 billion. As at today, with increase in minimum wage, even when the price of crude oil has dipped to around $50, Osun salary obligation hovers around N3.6 billion. It takes a measure of ingenuity, creativity and sacrifice on the leadership of the state government to be able to pay salaries, run the government and provide social and economic infrastructure, despite this glaring shortfall in revenue.

Although, a cadre of the workers, those on grade level eight and above, have not been collecting full salary under the modulated salary scheme contained in the agreement signed by the state government and the workers unions, which implementation and operations have been adjudged successful.

In the same vein, the teeming pensioners in Osun have been treated with the same consideration and courtesy. A case in sight is the concessional loan obtained by states governments from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in 2015 for defraying backlog of salary arrears in which Osun got N34 billion. Despite the clear directive from the CBN that the grant was for the payment of active workers only and the insistence of labour unions to exclude pensioners, Ogbeni Aregbesola in his magnanimity and consideration for the retirees still released a whopping N7.44billion to offset the outstanding arrears of pensioners – N5.42billion for State pensioners and N2.02 billion for Local Government pensioners.

In contrast, there have been undenied reports of neglect of pensioners by various State Governments across the country, including in an Eastern State where retirees have not received a dime in the last 72months.

Yet, from the recently released Paris Club refund of N11.7 billion used in offsetting backlog of workers salaries, 21,552 Osun pensioners got a total of  N2.57 billion for the payment of September to December 2016 salaries. For emphasis sake, just as the active workers, Osun pensioners, both State and Local Governments, have been paid till December 2016. Though Osun got a sum of N11.7billion from the shared Paris Club refund, a verifiable sum of 14.2 billion was expended for payment of salaries and wages of September-December 2016 salaries.

It’s worth noting that under the modulated scheme, a total sum of N3.98bn was paid to state pensioners for year 2016 while their counterparts in the Local Government gulped a total sum of N3.90 billion, totalling N7.88 billion as pension payment in 2016 for Osun retirees.

It is however disheartening to read The Punch newspaper make mockery of the government by circulating tendentious picture of misguided pensioners, less than 100 in number, claiming to have opened an IDPs camp, without recourse to ethical and professional requirement of investigation, in order to have a well-balanced report.

This is nothing other than the hijack of a media organisation for propaganda and incitement of the people against the government by obsolete political marauders who have failed to see anything good in the government of the day. We are unperturbed by their moves as their combined efforts remain insignificant politically in the politics of Osun, as indicated in all elections conducted in the state since 2011 in which they have continued to suffer heavy defeat.

We share the pains of the people and governments of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States, who have some of their citizens and residents in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps. We sympathise with the victims of terrorist attacks who have lost family members, their homes, valuables and possessions and are left with no other home apart from the IDPs camps. If the dream of the writer of the malicious story and his cohorts such as a dismissed female Judge and a fake cleric is to have Osun host an IDP centre, in a state where peace and tranquillity is second to none, where ongoing projects are nearing completion, where masses oriented programmes are applauded internationally, then we leave posterity to be the judge of their wicked intentions.

The Aregbesola administration is forging ahead to deliver on all promises to the people of the state, complete all projects embarked upon, make life more meaningful for the citizens, expand the horizon of economic activities, attain enviable heights in all facets of human endeavour and leave behind a legacy for championing a free and egalitarian society devoid of poverty, violence, crime and injustice.

We appeal for understanding, support and cooperation from all citizens and residents, in order to transform our dream of a great and prosperous state into reality for our generation and the yet to be born.

 

Engr . Omowaiye Oluremi A.

B-Tech, MBA, CEH, MCTS (SQL 2005,WEB & WINDOWS TECH) MCP, MNSE, REngr, MCPD

Dressing Mrs Buhari In Mrs Jonathan’s Garb Is Futile. It Won’t Fit, By Lauretta Onochie

I feel very sorry for those who are making a great deal of effort at tainting everyone around the President. It’s a case of, “We are filthy and rotten, we must wrestle you till some of our filth rub off on you.” If it doesn’t fit, It won’t stick!

They started with President Buhari himself. Lies upon lies where cooked up about his person. How, years ago, he misappropriated funds while serving at the Petroleum Trust Fund. That fell on its face. Flat on its face. Years ago, it was thoroughly investigated and found to be untrue. TOTALLY UNTRUE.

They moved on to President Buhari’s religion. They have mapped out the plan of how Pres. Muhammadu Buhari planned to Islamise Nigeria, just that he was not part of the arrangement. Only those with no common sense and some mischievous intents, believe the trash. It did not matter that Ex-Pres. Jonathan was a regular at the meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Conference and benefitted financially from the Islamic organisation, while making policy statements in churches.

Nigeria is a nation and has no religion. Only individuals have religious leanings. If it’s difficult or even impossible for a Christian to be convinced to abandon his or her Christian Denomination for another Christian denomination, how can Pres. Buhari convince Christians to all become Moslems? Only those who have poached eggs for brains would believe and parade such utter nonsense.

After they failed woefully to cast aspersions on, and taint the Buhari-led war on corruption, they went back to the drawing board where it was decided, “If we can’t pin anything on the eagle, let’s smear the eaglets with tar.”

We haven’t forgotten how Gov. Ayo Fayose of Ekiti,  frustrated by the exposure of the massive electoral fraud that brought him to power, targeted the Wife of the President for a smear campaign. After all, Pres. Buhari is fighting corruption and should now charge his wife to prove his anti corruption stance. Even on completely false and cooked up allegations? It didn’t stick as the lies were promptly exposed to have been fraudulently concocted by the serial electoral fraudster.

APC leaders, Chief Bola Tinubu and Gov Rotimi Amaechi are their favourite floor mops. These leaders who were not born in 2015, suddenly became criminals in that year because of their closeness to Pres. Buhari. But so far, they have hit brick walls with these respectable APC leaders.

So they turned their attention to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Engr. BD Lawal. Also in their radar are the Chairman of the EFCC, Mallam Magu, the Comptroller General of Customs and Excise, Rtd. Col. Hammed Ali, the Attorney General of the Federation, and other principal officers of the Pres. Buhari-led government.

They are now back again to the wife of the President. When I first saw the allegations of Mrs. Buhari’s wrongdoing with the British High commission, I knew it could not be further from the truth. The timely rebuttal by Mrs Buhari’s Media Aide, Adebisi Ajayi, made it crystal clear the allegations were nothing but the continued attacks on those around the President. It was a clear case of, “Get the eaglets if you can’t catch the eagle.”

Mrs. Patience Jonathan, who paraded herself as an unconstitutional First Lady and her husbands favourite Staff, Mrs Diezani Madueke, are both in the news for all the wrong reasons. They are competing for the crown of the Queen of Corruption, in the forfeiture of cash and properties, under the supervision of Mallam Ibrahim Magu’s EFCC. So their thinking is, why not show that Mrs Aisha Buhari is not different from these women! No, there’s a world of difference. Aisha Buhari is not cut from the same fabric as Patience Jonathan and Diezani Madueke. She is a different breed.

You see, Aisha Buhari is a ray of sunshine in many respects. For starters, she’s a thorough-bred. She knows and stands on the constitution as a law-abiding citizen of our great nation. She said it herself that there’s no provision for the office of the First Lady in our constitution. She is quite happy and pleased to be simply addressed as who she is, “The Wife of the President”. And why not? Her husband, President Muhammadu Buhari is a globally acclaimed incorruptible man of integrity the corrupt love to hate!

The fact that there’s no governmental provisions for the Wife of the President has not stopped Mrs. Buhari from making giant strides in humanitarian works in our nation. Her eyes are open, watching like an eagle, for areas she could bring relief, even in a small way, to the less privileged in our nation.

Her ears are open to the cries of the suffering ones among us. And she does not just draw attention to the plight of the ones suffering, she mobilises materials and medical services needed to alleviate the pains and anguish of these Nigerians.

Her hands are extended to those in anguish. At the commemoration of the second year in captivity of the Chibok girls, Mrs. Buhari hosted representatives of the abducted Chibok girls’ parents and the parents of the massacred Buni Yadi boys. She launched a textbook, an academic textbook she had written and pledged the entire proceeds to both sets of parents. It was a magnanimous gesture on her part, not only because this was her first book but that the parents were getting the compassion they deserved and it it was Aisha Buhari, the wife of their President, that extended that compassion to them.

She is continually in troubled spots, bringing the much needed support to people, especially women and children. She is somehow obsessed with bringing healthcare closer to pregnant women and nursing mothers aiming to reduce the risks, associated with those in such conditions.

She is supporting and equipping children in the troubled North East to return to school after years of being away from formal education.

I hate to do a comparison between Mrs Buhari and Mrs Jonathan. Mrs Jonathan is not an epitome of womanhood. We are not even sure how she acquired a knack for alleged looting. Patience Jonathan is a woman who joined her husband and his more than forty thieves in the looting of the nation’s treasury, firmly placing millions of Nigerian families below the poverty line. So how can anyone try to bring our Queen of hearts to the level of those who are suffering the consequences of their actions.

Apart from being male, there is also no common grounds between Pres. Buhari and Ex-Pres. Jonathan. While the ex president was docile, president Buhari is alive to his responsibilities and has the will to charge anyone found wanting. But to think that the President would act on gossips, lies, fabrications and innuendos is to live in Jonathan’s era.

Anyone in authority under the watchful eyes of Pres. Buhari who crosses the line of corruption should be exposed and punished. But to frame innocent individuals with falsified documents and stories, aimed at tainting, embarrassing and humiliating them, is unjust, unfair, uncharitable and condemnable. Dressing Mrs. Buhari in Mrs. Jonathan’s robe is an effort in futility. It won’t fit. Let’s get out facts straight.

Lauretta Onochie

@Laurestar

Re- Thinking The Igbo Agenda By Mecha Udo

It is strange how we expect positive things to happen in our lives and our country even as we express extreme negative sentiments and exhibit stunningly negative conducts about ourselves and in our country. It is getting worrisome listening to the manner of negative expressions and dispositions that come out of most of us these days. We are now all experts in criticizing every action of government and its agencies without making any attempt at proffering any solutions. We must understand that we can only get what we wish for, and what we work for. The attitude seems to suggest that we would rather this government failed than succeed. This trend is most prevalent amongst my Igbo brothers who seem to have allowed themselves to be so negatively skewed that some sound like they would prefer a portion of poison than see any good in the present administration.

It is extremely saddening that a Yoruba man (Femi Fani Kayode), reintroduced the politics of hate and acrimony that his father was known for, in order to market the bad product that he was mandated to sell in the 2015 general elections. Nigerians rejected his message and went ahead to kick out his principal. But some Igbo brothers who were sold to this bizarre campaign followed it and today they wrongly perceive Jonathan’s loss as theirs. Igbos who were also prominent in Jonathan’s administration (but did absolutely nothing to uplift the Igbo collective) reinforced this trend and continued to mislead our youths into believing that the Yorubas and Hausas are our enemies.

As our people hold on to that belief, Femi Fani Kayode, has received his pay (even if ill gotten), and has moved on to attend to his litany of cases of misdemeanors and graft,  even as he continues to fan the ambers of disunity between Igbos and other tribes. Our selfish leaders and representatives, who represented themselves at the national village square, have all gone on to nest in their mansions, built from largesse they received by answering our names. Our home administrators (except for Obiano and Umahi) are busy building personal estates for themselves and ignoring the development of our land and we are not asking them any questions.

Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dr. Michael Okpara and Dr. Akanu Ibiam are only but a few Igbos who championed the unity of Nigeria and pursued pan Nigerianism knowing that Igbos stood, and could still stand toes to toes with any other tribe in the country in the areas of human, social and economic development. Doubtlessly there was an unnecessary civil war which we have since come out of and  have recaptured the soul of commerce and industry in Nigeria in record time, despite being handed a paltry twenty pounds per person no matter how much we were holding in the banks as at the end of the civil war. Our resilience has even spread us abroad to the extent that we are now the second most populous tribe in just about every state of Nigeria and in some cases other countries. But we have fared very poorly politically.

Unfortunately the political teams that have followed our political founding fathers introduced the concept of “iracha ube” which they understand to mean the practice of converting public wealth to family and personal wealth. Selfishness, greed and sheer banditry have been the hallmark of Igbo political leadership ever since. Most contracts for the development of the southern region were awarded to Igbo sons and daughters and in most cases, these contracts were either abandoned after they would have collected monies or they were never executed. Today, we have no infrastructure, we have lost our domestic economic advantages and are now building economic empires in more conducive and economically friendly parts of the country. Made in Aba has since been replaced by made in Lagos, Port Harcourt or other Nigerian cities and states where the local and state governments have created the avenue for the development of entrepreneurial skills. We are dissipating our energies fighting the wrong battles by accusing others of our deprivation while failing to understand that in a country or set up like ours you only get what you have worked and fought for. An Igbo man supervised the division of Nigeria into six transport zones without creating one in the south east despite the south eastern region being recognized as one of the six geo political zones in the country. An Igbo man stood the brightest chance of becoming the first civilian President of Nigeria in 1999 at the time of the return of the country to democratic practices only for that opportunity to be scuttled by another Igbo man. Igbos have been at the helm of affairs of just about every aspect of our national life except the Presidency but have since 1979 had the honour of producing the first post military rule vice president. We have led in national security, the legislative arm of government, the army, the police, the economy (including the co-ordination of the economy), infrastructure development, power, foreign affairs and other critical sectors of the economy, but what do we have to show for all these?

It is time for the Igbos to look in the mirror to see where their problems are coming from. The political controls the economic and the commercial, so we must get the political right. We must get reintegrated into the national political mainstream, we must reorganize ourselves locally and identify our common goals and aspirations, and we must abandon personal ambitions and accept to pursue the broader Igbo nay Nigerian goal. We cannot achieve all of these alone as Igbos, that is why it is necessary to reach out and collaborate with the other tribes. Our traditional political ally last time teamed up with the south west to grab the presidency in 2015, because no group can do it alone. Today our young men and women have been brain washed into believing that they (the northerners) are the cause of our problems and our worst enemies only because the tendency that has emerged has not profited the Igbo political elite. Governors in the north have created an avenue to solve the power problems in their region a situation that will engender economic growth and cure unemployment in that region, a south west economic belt is emerging right in our faces with a lot of our sons and daughters seeking relevance in this set up, other initiatives are taking full shape all over the country. We are further losing our people in the Niger Delta region while erroneously calling them minorities because of our lack of a sense of history, tact, focus, direction and leadership.

Truth be told, we are better off in today’s Nigeria than seeking to stand alone when we have even shown an amazing capacity for self mis-governance. We should as it were be in the fore front of keeping Nigeria together so that we can also benefit from the union as others have; after all we have contributed the most in the building of this country.  If the country were to be divided, you can be sure that the south west will get running immediately because there are structures currently in existence upon which they can build. Instead of pursuing a wrong-headed agitation, we should be seeking better accommodation in the Nigerian state. Some people have merely by massobing become billionaires from the blood and sweat of our youths, this trend of misleading and basically exploiting our innocent youths must be stopped. Agitation by groups is now becoming another form of business endeavor in our land. We must stop the abuse of Igbo land and spirit in this manner.

All we need to do is to either get our current leaders to lead or get kicked out. But since most of them do not have the requisite skills for leadership having gotten there through brigandage, the only option we have is to chase them away by refusing, or resisting their untoward methods of ascension to positions of power and authority. We must reject their ill gotten and blood money, accepting such is tantamount to accepting the deplorable conditions we now find ourselves. We must have better representation at all levels of government in Igbo land and Nigeria at large. The macabre dance of shame in Abia where a renowned cultist and school dropout is manipulating the state assembly in order to take over the house is one that calls for intervention by all well meaning  Igbos, this is despite having looted the state with his father, to a state of hopelessness. It cannot be said that the state initiated by the admirable, well respected and foresighted Dr. Michael Okpara is now fully under the control of a criminal gang made up of miscreants and nay do wells. Our people must reject criminality, violence, vain hero worship, and enthrone a culture that will make no room for mediocrity that seems to be holding sway in our land today. We have always pursued excellence and crooks have never been known to have a place of accommodation for them in our midst.

When we institute credible and reliable leadership and representations we would be better positioned to engage the other component units of our country. Our leaders must emerge through transparent traditional processes, elections, consensual agreements and definitely not by imposition. It is then and only then that the leader will attract the followership of all after agreeing what is best for the greater majority.

We must remember that those said to be against us are the same people that have finally activated the building of a second Niger bridge, a project that has been the instrument of grand deception of Igbos for decades, the once forgotten Enugu-Port Harcourt expressway is currently receiving accelerated rebuilding, refurbishment and reconstruction as the case may be, so is the Enugu- Onitsha road, Abakaliki to Enugu boasts of one of best roads in the federation today, Arochukwu people finally went home for the past Christmas and yuletide holiday. One of the most cheering news of the season is that Geometric Power; the first Independent Power Plant in Nigeria will finally commence supplies of electric power to Aba and communities around it, we will recall that this project was a victim of the politics of favoritism of persons of the last administration. It is time for the people especially the youth to think, in politics there are no permanent friends, only permanent interests. A new year has dawned, new opportunities are emerging, this is the season for the entrepreneur, the industrialist, the hard working agriculturist, the innovative, the commercial giant, the miner, the technology expert; we are known for all these and more so this is the season for the Igbos, may we not lose this opportunity by continuing to allow ourselves to be drawn away from these opportunities by the manipulative schemes of a few self seeking brothers.

Turkey in the Eyes of the Storm By Cemal Yigit

“Every terrorist act carried out in the name of Islam profoundly affects all Muslims, alienating them from fellow citizens and deepening the misperceptions about their faith’s ethos.” Fethullah Gulen

Turkey is indeed in the eyes of the storm. The signs are visible, and it calls for great concern from all stakeholders. On 11th December 2016, there was a twin bomb attack outside a football stadium in Istanbul that killed 38 people and injured more than 160 others. On 20th December 2016, the Russian Ambassador to Turkey was shot dead by a Turkish police officer. On new year eve, a gunman opened fire in a nightclub in Istanbul killing more than 39 people.

These three incidents are amongst the long list of terror attacks and insecurity in Turkey in recent times. Much as this calls for great concern from the relevant stakeholders, it would be pertinent to try and trace the root causes of the spate of insecurity in Turkey.

The first issue is the growing radicalization going on in Turkey that has led to damage to the traditional mainstream understanding of Islam, which had always resisted any form of religious extremism and a radical interpretation of Islam. There has also been an upsurge in the political expression of Islam brought about by the AKP party led by President Recep Erdogan who over the past 12 years has taken Turkey away from the secular state into the fold of Islamism. One way the rise of Islamist dictatorship in a country can be noticed is when there is an increase in the number of mosques, religious schools, and prisons. Can this be said to be happening in Turkey? Your guess is as good as mine. Let me attempt to break it down in simple terms.

The Justice Ministry said the government would build 174 new prisons within the next five years and create space for as many as 100,182 people. Ebubekir Isik in his article on how the purge in Turkey would accelerate Islamist radicalisation was of the opinion that the government decree that shut down and seized thousands of private science schools is in itself a crucial indicator of how the social fabric of the country is being changed. He further averred that many of the private science schools which were confiscated after the coup attempt are now being transformed into religious education facilities (Imam Hatip schools).

Imam Hatip is state-run religious schools; that could pass for an imam training school. As at 2014, the number of children studying in Imam hatip schools had risen to 983,000 from 63,000 in 2003. Erdogan attributes the growth in such schools to a climate in which students are questioning western-centric education. Since 2002, 17,000 new mosques were built by the government, while plans are underway to build an enormous mosque more than 150,000 square feet in size.

And the result is the birth of extremism which has somewhat led to an increase in the level of insecurity in Turkey today. Many scholars have written extensively on this topic, with some arguing that President Erdogan, together with AKP party has dealt Turkey a huge blow.  Some argued that “the impact of the post-coup era can be seen already in many aspects of Turkey’s social and political patterns because the current rise in homegrown Islamist radicalization is another sign that Turkey’s social fabric is undergoing a noxious change.”

I would want to agree with this school of thought using the example of the police officer that went berserk and pulled his trigger. Which ironically would become routine for Turkey in the months and possibly years to come. Two things are responsible for this. One is that Erdogan has succeeded in using religion and incitement for short-term gain. Two is that he declared war on the Hizmet movement that has witnessed unprecedented purges in all sectors of the Turkish society.

And this can be buttressed by the act of the young police officer that went berserk because he was recruited when Erdogan began his witch-hunting and demonization program that saw the exit of thousands of well-trained police offers. Painful as this might sound, some questions are begging for answers. And one of them is whether the police officer acted alone and in isolation. While this issue cannot be explained, it can be suggested that there is a tendency that there might be one of two persons he shared his thoughts with, or who share the same ideology with him or possibly have been brained washed from the same source because he is part of the “religious generation” Erdogan wants to raise. According to Magnus Frank in an article he wrote, he stated that “Since Erdo?an and his Justice and Development Party took power more than ten years ago, much has changed. He has enacted measures to raise a “religious generation,” that would do his bidding. But he made a mistake because, in the long—run, he won’t be able to contain the situation that has started manifesting in Turkey.

Fethullah Gulen in one of his articles stated that “it is important to promote a holistic understanding of Islam, as the flexibility to accommodate the diverse backgrounds of its adherents can sometimes be abused. Islam’s core ethics, however, are not left to interpretation. One such principle is that taking the life of a single innocent is a crime against all humanity (Quran 5:32). Even in an act of defense in war, violence against any non-combatants, especially women, children and clergy, is specifically prohibited by the Prophet’s teachings.” Need I say more?

Daddy GO And The “Coded” Controversy, By Yinka Ogunnubi

Preamble: It was somewhat difficult for me to do a thread on the governance code because I share the sentiments of the community of faith concerning some of their grievances on the subject of the governance code for Non-For-Profit Organisations (NFPO). However, I have learnt that in the public square, facts/objectivity matters more than sentiments.

I had the premonition that a controversy will be stirred once we had that famous breaking news on the 7th of Jan that our favorite “Daddy” had “stepped aside” and appointed a “National Overseer” (GO) while still retaining the global leadership of the church as the GO. The news headlines and chatter on social media that followed within the next 24 – 48 hours confirmed my fears. Allow me to start by listing some of what was being said and implied.

That President Buhari’s FG is “dabbling” into Church leadership.

That the Governance Code had been suspended therefore there was no need to comply with it.

That the “law” is targeted at weakening the church and make it vulnerable to attack

That certain provisions of the code conflicts with provisions of the FRC Act and CAMA

First, let’s go to the origin of the controversy. In 2011 the Senate passed the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria Bill which created the Financial Reporting Council replacing the defunct Nigeria Accounting Standard Board. The then Executive Secretary of the NASB (Jim Osayande Obazee) subsequently became the Executive Secretary of the FRCN. Under the Act, the FRC among its other objectives was expected to  – “ensure good corporate governance practices in the public and private sectors of the Nigerian economy”. It was in this light that it set out in 2013 to put together a governance code for Public, Private and NFGO. It subsequently published a draft in 2015 after much consultation with major stakeholders. As expected, many stakeholders had issues with some provisions within the code and they (including churches) were given the opportunity to make submissions on their reservations with the code. The FRC was consequently sued by some Pastors and Lawyers purportedly representing Pentecostal churches in July of 2015.  They sought 6 reliefs among which were:

a declaration that the purported Not-for-Profit Sections Codes 2015 is illegal and unconstitutional because it amounts to duplication of the functions of the CAC saddled with the responsibility of registration and monitoring of compliance of charitable organizations/groups;

that the term of reference in section 1.1 of the 2015 Code as well as sections 8,9,10 and 37 are illegal and unconstitutional being inconsistent with section 7 and 8 of the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria Act Cap F42

As things turned out, the plaintiffs who claimed to be representing Pentecostals lost the case as the court ruled in favor of FRC. In light of the court order, the FRC went ahead to release the codes effective from 17 Oct  2016 with mandatory compliance for Private Sector and “Comply or Justify non compliance” for NFPO. The Public Sector codes were put on hold. Not long after the release, the Minister of Trade and investment was reported to have written or issued a query (depending on who you believe) to the FRC to suspend the code until all issues it had raised concerning it were resolved. The Minister’s main queries were:

Was the Governance Code in line with the FRC 2011 Act?:  Section 2(1) and 10(d) of the FRCN Act suggests that the Board will be responsible for the overall control of the Council. The Executive Secretary of the FRCN was therefore asked to explain how the Code passes the compliance test given that the FRCN Board is yet to be constituted.

Does the Code supersede any legislation or any other Code?: It is a well known fact that a subsidiary legislation cannot supersede a principal enactment. The Minister then requested that the Executive Secretary explains the clear conflict(s) between the Code and various legislation inclusive of the FRCN Act as well as any other legislation. A case in point is that of the Central Bank of Nigeria where it was implied that it will have to take on the burden of implementing the Code in the financial sector while the Code itself take’s precedence over the CBN’s Code.

I know that many have tried to link the fact that the Minister of Trade and Investment is also a Pastor in RCCG to this whole suspension issue, but to be fair to him there was nothing in his letter to the Executive Secretary of the FRCN that suggested he was pushing the church or RCCG agenda. In fact his letter was more in line with concerns of the private sector than it was about concerns of leadership and succession in the church.

The expectation within the financial sector was that based on the Ministers’ letter to the Executive Secretary, the code was indeed suspended. Wrong! It turns out that the Exe Sec disagreed. The FRC refused to honor the suspension request on the basis that there is no gazette to back it up. We certainly would not have known of this had Pastor Adeboye’s not made that announcement.

With this evidence alone, we can perish the notion of “PMB admin is “Dabbling in Church Leadership to weaken it”.  It is clearly not true. If anything, the evidence available to us points to the PMB admin trying to ensure that the code in its present form is not implemented. In fact, it appears that the FG might be under intense pressure to sack Jim Obazee because of his many excesses and some “EFCC troubles of his own”.

Now, let’s go to the corporate governance codes itself. By and large what the code tries to do is to first enforce the minimum requirements of Part C of the CAC registration under which religious organizations are registered. For instance, religious bodies are supposed to make Annual Returns of its Financial Statements to CAC after the audit of its books by external auditors. It is also expected to organize yearly Annual General Meetings (AGMs) where it would present the financial statement to its members. The code reinforces the legal fact that any entity that collects money must “render accounts”, whether you are a bank, a business owner or a religious body. There seem to be no dispute about this requirement even among religious organisations. However, there is the small issue of Tax. Should religious organisations be taxed when they engage in “For Profit” activities even if those activities is for the benefit of the organization? Jim Obazee and his team says Yes! – They must be taxed if they engaged in any activities designed to extract financial benefit. He put it this way “if they pursue non-charitable activities like running schools, hospitals etc, they are to account for them separately as profit-making entities”. This is one of the areas of conflict as many Churches have subsidiaries under them that have blurred the lines between charity and profitability.

The second and obviously most contentious issue has to do with Tenure of the Founder or Leader. Now this is exactly what the section 9 of the code says.

  1. Position of the Founder or Leader

9.1. The Founder or Leader of a NFPO occupies a special position in the Organisation and is committed to the success and longevity of the NFPO. Accordingly, a Founder or Leader should not take on too many responsibilities in the organisation or have an indefinite term in the running of the organisation.

9.2. Where for any reason, a Founder or Leader of NFPO also occupies any of the three governance positions of Chairmanship of the Board of Trustees, the Governing Board or Council, and the Headship of the Executive Management (or their governance equivalents), the following provisions shall apply before the end of the organization’s financial year in which this Code takes effect.

9.2.1. The Founder or Leader shall cease to occupy these three governance positions simultaneously. This is to ensure the separation of powers and avoid possible concentration of powers in one individual.

9.2.2. The Founder or Leader may however choose – subject to the agreement of the organization’s apex authority as expressed in the Annual General Assembly, Annual Meeting, Annual Stakeholder Engagement, Annual Conference, Annual Synod, Annual Fellowship Assembly or their equivalents – only one of these three governance positions subject to his current tenure. This is to ensure a clear division of responsibilities at the head of the organization between the running of the governing body and the executive responsibility for the management and fulfilment of the organization’s mission.

9.3. Where the Founder or Leader has occupied all or any of these three governance positions for more than twenty years, or is aged seventy years or above, the choice in section 9.2.2 above should only relate to the Board of Trustees as in section 9.4(c) below, except the constitution of the organization otherwise provides.

In the case of religious or cultural organizations, nothing in this code is intended to change the spiritual leadership and responsibilities of Founders, General Overseers, Pastors, Imams and Muslim Clerics, Presidents, Bishops, Apostles, Prophets, etc. which are distinguishable from purely corporate governance and management responsibilities and accountabilities of the entities.

It is important to understand that for an NGO, there are 3 governance bodies: The Board of Trustees, The Governing Board and The Management Committee. Now typically, the founder/leader usually occupies the position of the head of these 3 bodies at the same time. So what the code prescribe is that 1. The founder can only occupy only one of these position as head. 2. If he already heads all of them, he needs to relinquish two and 3. If he has served as head for more than 20 years in any of those organs and is more than 70 year of age, he must resign his position and his choice limited to the board of trustees. Even with these provisions, the code recognize the unique position of founders as the “Spiritual Leader” of the organization. Meaning the code does not in any way invalidate the spiritual authority which these organizations subscribe to and to which they derive their relevance.

The notion that these codes should not be applicable to churches as their matters are ecclesiastical, celestial and not terrestrial as said by a SAN as utterly ridiculous. If they are celestial, then why seek registration under Part C of the CAC laws? Why not just go to heaven and get registered. These organizations are legal entities known to law. They can sue and be sued. They can exist or cease to exist. They are very terrestrial. They are charitable organizations that survive on gifts and donations. They need to be transparent and accountable. This must be emphasized.

Let me conclude by saying that one issue that should concern us is whether or not a minister has the power to suspend the activities of an agency known to law in the exercise of its functions. My take is that there are legal grounds to challenge the powers the FRC seems to be flexing. Recall that this was the same agency used to illegally suspend a sitting CBN Governor. So the FRC as presently constituted is not without freckles.

My final take is that these codes are in the interest of the church and we should embrace it rather than fight it. It will help to separate the wheat from the chaff. It will also help bring transparency to the church and make them accountable not only to God but to the people they serve.

Yinka Ogunnubi

Economist and Author writes from Lagos, Nigeria

Follow him on twitter on @yinkanubi

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