The 2017 Budget Process: Change In The Right Direction By ‘Demola Adeyeye

Without doubt, the 2017 Appropriation Process has so far been without the several controversies that trailed the 2016 Process. This can be attributed to no less than the better rapport between the Presidency led by President Buhari and the National Assembly as led by Senate President Saraki. Even with the physical absence of President Muhammadu Buhari who is on medical vacation; the cordial relationship has been extended to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo towards ensuring the appropriation process is smooth all the way from its presentation to passage into law.

One major expectation when the 2017 Budget becomes law is for it to lead Nigeria out of recession; such that skyrocketing prices of goods and products crash and the exchange rate stabilizes. It has been identified that the most economically feasible way forward out of recession is through increased spending by Government. However, it will do us a lot of good as a nation if this increased spending is towards the purchase of goods, payment for procurements and contracts as well as provision of services done by our local Manufacturers and Industrialists.

The MDAs of the executive arm should as a matter of priority latch on to the different initiatives such as #MarketNigeria, #BuyNaijaToGrowTheNaira and #MadeInNigeria which have been envisioned and championed by members of the legislative arm and actually put government word into action. The executive both at the Federal and State levels should indeed take it as prerogative to engage local manufacturers in procurements of the many things to buy in the course of the 2017 Fiscal Year. From Police, Military and NYSC Uniforms/Kits to Computers and Softwares, Photocopiers, Clothes, Chairs, Tables, Printing Papers and even Toiletries should all be locally sourced.

In fact, the words of Senate President Bukola Saraki while opening the recent maiden three day public hearing on the 2017 budget pointed out the policy implementation direction which he expected the Federal Government to take at this crucial time. Dr. Saraki did not mince words in saying that “the 2017 capital budget proposal is intended to support activities that will help to speed up the diversification of the economy and the promotion of the non-oil sector, as well as create jobs for our youth. Accordingly, it is expected that “Made-in-Nigeria” (that is, domestic production of food, materials and other commodities) will be encouraged”.

The 8th National Assembly has also been able to galvanize unprecedented support across different strata of society through the involvement of the tax paying public in the 2017 appropriation process; an obvious improvement over the engagement of CSOs which was convened by Senate President Bukola Saraki during the 2016 Budget process. In normal climes, this involvement should even begin while the Budget Office prepares the medium term expenditure framework / fiscal strategy paper and the draft budget and the transparency on the budget which is actually a public document be further entrenched during the legislative process. For me personally as a Nigerian who is particularly interested in the workings of the legislature in our nascent democracy, the open mic forum which drew representatives from diverse labour unions, academics, civil society organizations as well as government officials is a trailblazer.

The Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki after the presentation of the 2017 Appropriation Bill to the Joint Session of the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday 14th December, 2016, had hinted that “when the current National Assembly introduced the Civil Society Public Hearing on the Budget initiative, the idea was to open up the budgeting space by incorporating the Civil Society into the budget process, thereby ensuring greater transparency and accountability. We are proud to say that this engagement has come to stay as a crucial part of our budget approval process”.  This, he again reiterated while opening the three day public hearing on Monday 13th of February, 2017 that “through this engagement, and others to come, we hope to increase the efficiency of government and its responsiveness to citizens needs as well as improve overall transparency and accountability in governance”. This people participation in the appropriation process by the 8th National Assembly is change in the right direction.

The forum which afforded several organizations such as the Centre for Social Justice, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre and BudgIT amongst others a platform to pinpoint suspicious, repeated, frivolous and needless estimates in the Budget also allowed others with vested interests such as the Nigerian Union of Pensioners, Action Aid, Wellbeing Africa, Millennium Agenda Nigeria, Development Agenda, Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement and the Academic Unions of Research Institutions et al speak on areas of interest which they wanted the budget to focus on. The public hearing also gave different executive parastatals the ample opportunity to respond to the several misconceptions on the line items that make up government spending.

It is with high hopes that Nigerians believe that all of the Senate Committees which have been meeting with MDAs for their budget defense will extend oversight to ensure quality locally manufactured products are extensively patronized and that the Almighty Joint Appropriation Committee co – chaired both by Former Gombe State Governor and Senator representing Gombe Central, Danjuma Goje and Honourable Mustapha Bala Dawaki will heed the recommendations of the public hearings and ensure a thorough fine – tuning of the 2017 budget such that by the time it comes out from the legislative mining process, it will indeed lead Nigerians out of the current economic abyss we unfortunately find ourselves.

 

-‘Demola loves the Legislature. He tweets via @AAAdeyeye and can be reached on demmyadeyeye@gmail.com

Nigerian-ness: Who Are We? Who Am I? Unlocking National Identity, By Ade Ilemobade

My discourse in this piece I will start by using Lectures on the Philosophy of History by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel as the foundation because of its significance in fleshing ”philosophical light” on the background misconception and misrepresentation on the question of identity and the role of meta-rationality in elucidating human history.

Hegel’s in his attempt at clarification splits history into Original History, Reflective History and Philosophical History.

It is from this Hegelian classification that I will be attempting the unlocking of our national identity as a reflective questioning of the ontological characterization of the quality of being Nigerian.

Who is a Nigerian? What are the inherent character traits of a Nigerian? What is Nigerian-ness?

These are fundamental questions ruminating my mind after my recent encounters with groups of Nigerians in Tunisia and South Africa and I begin to wonder repetitively whether Nigerian-ness or the quality of being Nigerian is in association with certain ethnic amalgamation occupying a given geopolitical space or is it about intangibles, behavioural paradigms of cultural peculiarities/similarities.

I do not have any solid characteristic(s) to hold up into the sky as evidential reflecting the Nigerian-ness I often hear my country men talk about in a braggadocious mannerism, uhm maybe the braggadocious mannerism is really the Nigerian-ness that I am looking for fruitlessly?

Mindful of the negativity mere mentioning of the word Nigeria connotes globally, my reflective mind went into overdrive looking for elucidation in awkward places as to whether the elusive Nigerian-ness can be found in the rationalization and justification of a state of mind purvey by the concept of unity engendered with the amalgamation of Nigeria by Lord lugard in 1914.

This warp reflective mind of mine has been proven wrong when I take a vivid look into the historiography and identity problems of Nigeria from independence till date and I could not find one single unifying symbol reflective of the much talked about Nigerian-ness politically. Uhm, some people have told me that the fruitlessness of my search is in itself an answer to the ontological question WHO ARE WE? WHO AM I?

The issue here is how do I unlock our national identity? To do justice here is to posit for consideration the question WHO AM I? How can we know WHO ARE WE without knowing WHO YOU ARE. It would be fruitless to talk of WHO, WHAT and WHERE you belong when you do not know YOURSELF.

My Tunisia and South Africa encounters with Nigerians ”ginger my swagger” to question whether there is any characteristic(s) that all Nigerians have in common. A common denominator(s) that we give the nomenclature Nigerian-ness.

Given the fact that most common denominator(s) behavioural paradigms-wise that I encountered during my trip to both countries amongst Nigerians have nothing to do with WHO I AM and there are so many Nigerians in my category, it is evident that behavioural paradigms cannot be the only means of identification eventhough they are necessary may not be sufficient to give a definite answer to the question what is Nigerian-ness.

I like to focus more on behavioural paradigms because of the perceptions weave around the power of habits in a communalistic society like ours wherein generalization as to WHO ARE WE? Is commonplace without taken into consideration personal identity in defining Nigerian-ness. I am a Nigerian, Philosopher and Management Consultant but I do not share the same behavioural paradigms with those Nigerians I met in Tunisia and South Africa yet we all claim to be Nigerians because of our identification with a geopolitical space which consists of ethnic, socio-cultural groups we identify ourselves with but that in itself is not Nigerian-ness.

The Nigerian-ness exhibited by Ibori and his supporters is exactly the replica of what I witnessed in Tunisia and South Africa, where Nigerian-ness is often identified with negative idiosyncrasies and stereotyping based on the previous or ongoing developments in respect of behavioural brigandage of our people. We need to move our narratives away from these pigeonholes of behavioural disaster by remodelling, reshaping and sustaining our identity doing something positively impactful in our host communities.

I may accept all other elements of identification previously mentioned in this piece as necessary but they are not sufficient to give a definite answer to the question what is Nigerian-ness, this is because there are other nationalities, ethnic groups who share the same or similar traits and elements of identification.

Therefore, being a Nigerian does not necessarily translates into having an absolute solid unifying edifice(s) or characterizations that we can typify as Nigerian-ness.

OTUNBA ADE ILEMOBADE IS A PHILOSOPHER

TWITTER @PEARL2PRINCE

Is Fake News The New Normal? By Simon Kolawole

Heard the latest? The Central Bank of Nigeria has been selling the elusive dollar to some end users at 61 kobo/US$1, while the rest of us are busy buying the stuff at over N500/$1 in the parallel market. Goodness Gracious! It is time to fire Mr. Godwin Emefiele as the CBN governor. He should not only be sacked, he should be jailed. This is simply getting too much. Since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office, Emefiele has not only conspired with himself to destroy the naira — singlehanded and cold-hearted — he has even gone to the extent of selling the almighty dollar to his cronies at 61 kobo! The information is right there on the CBN website! Emefiele must go!

Now, I don’t need to do any research to know that what you just read is an excellent piece of fake news. Terrific fake news. I will give just three reasons on the spot. One, the CBN does not sell forex directly to bank customers. Anyone with the faintest idea of how the financial system works knows this for a fact. When you request for forex from your bank, the bank bids at the central bank. If it sails through, your bank debits the naira equivalent from your account and transfers the forex to your designated beneficiary. These transactions, as recorded by the bank and approved by the CBN, are then published in the newspapers and on central bank’s website.

Two, since the CBN does not deal directly with bank customers, will a bank buy $1 at N305 from the CBN and then sell to customers at 61 kobo, thereby making a loss of N304.39 on every dollar? Is that the new attribute of Father Christmas? Even Father Christmas charges a gate fee! Let’s even say the CBN sells directly to end users. Why would it sell at 61 kobo to one customer and at N315 to another and have the audacity to publish the information on its website? Are they that dumb at the central bank? Something like: “Dear Nigerians, we sold $1 at 61 kobo to Chief Kudi and another $1 at N497 to Eze Ekeshi. If you doubt us, check our website. Thanks for your understanding.”

Three, when we started using the naira as national currency on January 1, 1973, it exchanged at 65 kobo/$1. From then, the best rate has been 61 kobo. In fact, only in one year did the naira average 61 kobo to the dollar — and that was as far back as 1981. Are we now saying 36 years after, the dollar would still be sold for 61 kobo? Even when our foreign reserves, including excess crude earnings, hit $65 billion, dollar did not exchange for 61 kobo. Even when crude old sold for $147 per barrel, dollar did not exchange for 61 kobo. Even the generous Hajj rate, Jerusalem rate and DSS rate are more than 61 kobo. On what economic or political basis would it now be 61 kobo?

I did not pay attention to the allegation until I read that Mr. Abubakar Malami, the attorney-general of the federation, had couriered a query to Emefiele based on a petition that a dollar was sold for 61 kobo. The CBN issued a statement dismissing the allegation, insisting that the transactions in question were not conducted in dollars but “in a third currency”. Let us say, for instance, that the bank transaction is in South African rand. Since $1 goes for R13, someone will just take a look at the rate and conclude that $1 was sold for N13. It becomes a scandal, goes viral on the social media and produces a query from the attorney-general. And Emefiele must go!

Nevertheless, I would conclude that there is always a basis for fake news, no matter how tenuous. There is a vacuum that fake news seeks to fill — or create. Since Buhari went on “medical leave”, the fake news industry has been very buoyant. He said he was going away for 10 working days. He, curiously, extended it. The wife, Aisha, went to UK, headed for Saudi Arabia for lesser hajj and then returned to Nigeria. This was a very good tonic for fake news: Buhari has been moved to Saudi Arabia for further treatment. After all, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua swapped Germany for Saudi Arabia in 2009 in his last days. In the final analysis, fake news feeds on something.

I did not buy the Saudi Arabia story in Buhari’s case because if indeed he is critically ill (or bedridden), his wife would not leave for Nigeria. To come and do what? Pack some clothing and toiletries? It doesn’t make sense. When Yar’Adua was terminally ill in 2009, his wife, Turai, was there from the beginning to the end, till her husband was flown back to Nigeria, under controversial circumstances, in February 2010. She never left his side. I don’t know how many women would leave the bedside of their dying husbands and return to Nigeria, no matter what. But in the world of make-believe, the deal is to make you believe everything.

There is a sense in which we can say the Yar’Adua experience influenced perception in the ongoing Buhari saga. Yar’Adau was critically ill in Saudi Arabia. It was reported that he was brain dead. He then granted the BBC an interview to prove that he was still awake. He even wished the Super Eagles success in the Africa Cup of Nations in Equatorial Guinea. But many believed his voice was cloned. It was believed that a “cabal” wanted to create the impression that Yar’Adua was healthy enough to be issuing orders from his sick bed. The attorney-general at the time, Mr Mike Aondoakaa, famously said the president could rule from anywhere.

As a result of this experience, Nigerians have become very sceptical of any bit of information from government. This scepticism provides the perfect setting for fake news. When Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Chief Bisi Akande visited Buhari in London and the pictures were released, a fake news manufacturer grabbed his phone and started typing a “denial” by Tinubu, claiming Tinubu said he was in Ibadan and could not have visited the president. It soon went, as they say, viral. Some still insist Buhari did not speak with US President Donald Trump, that Buhari is unconscious and cannot talk to anybody. All pictures taken with Buhari so far have been declared as “photoshopped”.

Fake news — that art of concocting stories from your bedroom because you have a smart phone with cheap data — is becoming the biggest thing in town. No, it is not new. It was not invented in this generation of social media. We have been living with fake news most of our lives. The SAP riots of 1989, for instance, were sparked off by fake news. Some highly talented rumour mongers printed leaflets claiming that the military president, General Ibrahim Babangida, and his wife, Mariam, had the biggest wristwatch company in Switzerland, the best fashion house in Paris, etc. It was spuriously attributed to Ebony magazine. Riots broke out and several people lost their lives.

Can we do anything about fake news? It is a global phenomenon, as we saw in America last year during the presidential electioneering. Last year, an attempt by Nigerian lawmakers to hold fake news purveyors responsible through legislation was soundly rejected. There was an outcry, with some merit, that the law could be used for censorship. Yet we know that mischief makers who propagate fake news need to be held responsible at some point. But as I have argued before: ultimately, consumers of rumours and fake news will have to determine for themselves what is believable, what is speculative, what is fable and what is mischief designed to mislead the gullible.

My conclusion, though, is that fake news will continue to blossom. Information has never been this free in the history of mankind. It is free as a right — social media is a lawless society. It is virtually free in terms of cost — since your data subscription is for all purposes. Anybody who dreams of a world free of fake news needs to quickly wake up. Every mischief maker with a mobile phone and data subscription can set off a fake story anytime. There are thousands of eager sharers waiting to rebroadcast with the obligatory caveat, “shared as received”. Fake news is going to be very normal in the years ahead. Authentic news will become an endangered species. Quote me.

“Nevertheless, I would conclude that there is always a basis for fake news, no matter how tenuous. There is a vacuum that fake news seeks to fill — or create”

GOD BLESS DICKSON
The people I admire the most are not those who say there are problems. Identifying a problem may be a good attribute on its own, but I prefer those who proffer solutions. Even more to be admired are those who take practical steps to solve the problems. Thumbs up for Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa state for creating 1,200 hectares of land at Pame, in Yenagoa, for the Fulani herders. It may solve a political problem, who knows, and contain the farmers/herders conflict. But it is certainly also an economic masterstroke. The livestock will be healthier and yield more beef and milk both in quality and quantity. The herders, after all, produce the beef we eat in Nigeria. Win-win.

HOPE RISING
With oil production returning to 2 million barrels per day, price hovering around $54 per barrel, and an expected inflow of $1 billion from the eurobond issue (plus a rumoured $2.5 billion World Bank facility in the works), the cup is suddenly looking more like half-full than half-empty for Nigeria. But the dollar at $510, in spite of these positive signals, is no good news at all. The naira has lost too much weight in two years. Nevertheless, what we should all crave at this time is stability. If the naira will fall to N550 and stay there for the next four years, I can live with that more than it falling by N5 every day. With stability, we can plan much better. Hope.

IN MEMORY OF WALI
Today, at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, Ambassador Isa Wali will be remembered on the 50th anniversary of his death. He was at various times Nigeria’s high commissioner to Ghana and permanent representative to the UN. A progressive politician of the Aminu Kano school, Wali was a known critic of religious and political suppression, and a campaigner for the underprivileged. His family, in collaboration with the Isa Wali Empowerment Initiative, will hold a lecture and fundraiser in his memory today, with the minister of environment, Hajia Amina Mohamed, delivering the keynote. The memory of the upright is always blessed. Remarkable.

CORRINGENDUM
In my article, “The Drama Republic of Nigeria” (February 12, 2017), I wrote that even if President Buhari had not written to the national assembly that he was going away, “Osinbajo would still have legally started acting as president after 21 days”. I attributed this to the amendment of the 1999 constitution to correct the Yar’Adua scenario when Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan could not act because there was no letter to that effect from the president. In fact, the proposed amendment did not sail through. The position of the constitution remains that the president has to write become the VP can be acting president. Apologies.

Withdrawal Of Charges Against The Supreme Court 3: What Is, What Should And What Could Be, By Umar Hassan

If its allowed to smell fishy for too long, the mind inevitably goes fishing in search for answers.Conspiracy theories almost always do no government any good because of the likely outcomes of its opponents keying into uncertainty to paint it bad or the people eventually stumbling on the truth.One thing I have in common with Mr Charles Adeogun Philips, the former government prosecutor in its cases against Justice Sylvester Ngwatu and 3 officials of the Supreme court is the fact we both smell something fishy about his sack from those cases and the fishing expedition in search for answers has spawned some very interesting questions.

The Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami SAN via a statement issued by his Special Assistant on media and publicity, Salihu Isah claimed Adeogun-Philips was fired primarily for failing to disclose a conflicting interest in another criminal matter he was handling and I ask-why didn’t the AGF refer this to the Legal Practitioners disciplinary committee having known Adeogun-Philips had contravened Section 55 of the Rules of Professional Conduct for legal practitioners?. Judging by that Section, Mr Adeogun-Philips is guilty of professional misconduct and liable to punishment as provided for in the Legal Practitioners Act. My subscription to any Conspiracy theory especially the one formulated by Mr Philips about how his objection to the withdrawal of charges against 3 corrupt officials of the Supreme court led to his sack is hinged more on the AGF’s magnanimity in letting him walk than anything else. The fact that the nature of the conflict was not disclosed in the letter terminating his appointment (in line with the principle of fairness) nor to the general public further lends credence to the theory that he was relieved of his job for not agreeing with the unjust dealings of his employers.

Like Mr Philips, i find the plea bargain deal entered into with the 3 officials including the Chief Registrar of the Supreme court, Mallam Ahmed Gambo Sale devoid of any sense at all. If indeed a bigger fish was complicit in the N2.2 billion fraud they were accused of committing, the authorities would have traced him to them in the course of their investigations. Otherwise whatever they say and against whoever will only amount to another classic case of ‘their word against his’.

Secondly, in virtually all allegations of corruption against Supreme court justices ever known to us, the targets were reached out to directly, through a colleague or senior lawyers. Who are the 3 Supreme court officials going to co-operate with the authorities against?. I don’t think any litigant rich enough to bribe Supreme court justices would reach out through the registrar or director of finance.

The opaqueness of this situation has given rise to some theories, prominent among them the one claiming interceders on behalf of the officials (who are all northerners) met a willing President Buhari who has never been one to hide his bias for his fellow northerners. An escape route was made for the 3 officials and considering that the President who served under Gen. Abacha as PTF Chairman has publicly stated that there is no Abacha loot even when the funds are still being returned till date and the fact that Babachir Lawal, the current Secretary to the Federal Government was allowed to walk amidst glaring evidence indicting him in the IDP contract scandal, no one can put it above the President to create a soft landing for corrupt individuals he deems worthy.

Then there is also the fact that the Chief Registrar of the Supreme court, Ahmed Gambo Sale has being nominated for the Executive Secretary position in the National Judicial Council. Mr Philips himself alleged enormous pressure started being put on the prosecution after the nomination of Sale and that he was relieved of his job for refusing to succumb to them.

There is something nobody is telling us about the withdrawal of corruption charges against 3 officials of the Supreme court and the refusal of the number one law officer in the land to file a complaint against Philips for unprofessional conduct only makes that obvious.

 

Umar Sa’ad Hassan is a lawyer based in Kano.

Twitter: @alaye26

Email:uhassan077@gmail.com

The Politics Of State Robbery In Nigeria By Chido Onumah

Late last month, as a section of the country awaited the triumphant return of James Ibori, an ex-governor of Delta State, who was jailed, incidentally, in the UK for his egregious looting of his state’s treasury while in office, the Nigerian media landscape was abuzz with stories about the mind-boggling salaries, allowances and other perquisites of office that elected officials and state functionaries in the country enjoy.

According to the report in Vanguard newspaper, forty-seven former governors from 21 states in the country, draw as much as N37.4 billion from the public treasury. There are twenty-one serving senators currently receiving pensions from government as ex-governors and deputy governors. There are also ministers in the current government who are receiving pensions as ex-governors. Of this group, Rotimi Amaechi, the minister of transportation stands out. I shall return to this. If you consider the fact that Nigerian senators and other elected officers are among the highest paid, if not the highest paid, in the world, then you can appreciate the outrage.

Of course, this story is not new. During the political transition two years ago, many state governors hurriedly signed or amended existing laws to give themselves fantastic pensions. Let’s take two examples: In 2014, Godswill Akpabio, now a “distinguished” senator, while leaving office as governor of Akwa Ibom State, passed the Governors and Deputy Governors Pension Law which entitles a former governor and spouse in the state up to N100 million a year, and a former deputy governor and spouse up to N30 million, for medical treatment. If this is not slush fund, I don’t know what it is. You can be sure that whether Mr. Akpabio and his spouse are sick or not, they will pocket 100 million Naira a year meant for their medical treatment. So, why would Mr. Akpabio, as governor, be interested in fixing the health sector in his state when he can rob the state to take care of himself and his family indefinitely?

Akpabio’s law provides that as ex-governor, he and his deputy will receive pensions equivalent to 100% of annual basic salaries of the incumbent governor and deputy, one house not below 5-bed maisonette in either Abuja or Akwa Ibom for the former governor and 500% annual basic for the deputy for accommodation. For transportation, he and his deputy will get one car and one utility car every four years.Add to this, a furniture allowance, every four years, that is 300% of annual basic salary. He will receive N5 million and his deputy gets N2.5 million for domestic staff. Akpabio is not done. He will get a car maintenance allowance that is 300% of annual basic salary, entertainmentallowance, 100% of annual basic salary, utility: 100% of annual basic salary, and severance gratuity: 300% annual basic salary.

The Lagos State Governor and Deputy Governor Pensions Law of 2007, endorsed by ex-governor Babatunde Fashola, now minister of power, works, and housing, is even more lucrative. It provides that a former governor is entitled to six new vehicles (three cars, two back-up cars and one pilot car) every three years and a house in Lagos and another in Abuja, the country’s most expensive housing markets. His deputy gets five vehicles every three years. They and their family members—you only need to invoke the governor’s name to qualify as a family member—are entitled to unlimited free medical services. Their pension will be the equivalent of 100% of annual basic salaries of the incumbent governor and deputy.

There is a furniture allowance for these former “excellencies” that comes to 300% of their annual basic salary every two years. House maintenance: 10% of annual basic salary. Interestingly, these former executives are entitled to a cook, steward, gardener and other domestic staff who are pensionable. Their security will consist of two State Security Service (SSS) operatives, one female officer, eight policemen (four each for house and personal security) for the ex-governor; one SSS operative and two policemen (one each for house and personal security) for the deputy. There is an additional 25% of annual basic salary for their personal assistant, car maintenance: 30% of annual basic salary, entertainment: 10% of annual basic salary, utility: 20% of annual basic salary, etc.

There is no name for this other than robbery. That it is sanctioned by the state makes it no less grievous than armed robbery. Of course, state robbery has no party affiliation. As it is for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) so it is for the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP). This robbery unites our political elite, no matter their party, religious or ethnic affiliations. Once they are in power, they use the instrumentality of the state to feed fat, robbing their states and the nation at will, and covering up their crimes in the name of the law.

Make no mistake, state robbery is not a new phenomenon in Nigeria. It dates to the period before independence when the political elite who opposed British colonialism saw themselves as heirs to the throne of the departing colonialists. Therefore, after independence, very little was done to shake off the feeling of entitlement and bridge the gap that existed between the rulers and the ruled.

The emergent rulers at independence didn’t see themselves as the representatives of the exploited and oppressed people of the newly independent nation but ordained successors and, therefore, entitled to all the British colonialists enjoyed, and more! That tradition has continued to the present. Essentially, what happened was that in the name of independence, the country replaced one form of oppression with another. But in exploiting Nigeria, even the colonial masters applied enlightened self-interest. They knew when to draw the line. They knew they had to keep the oppressed alive; not so their local successors.

I have given this background to show that we are currently up against a deeply ingrained worldview perpetuated by a mindless elite that feels it is God-sent and entitled to everything that the state can offer. Political office in Nigeria is essentially a feeding trough. While this robbery is going on, states refuse to pay salaries and pensions of citizens, some of whom put in thirty-five years of public service; infrastructure where it exists, continues to decay at alarming rate because, thanks to corruption, it wasn’t built to standard.

Back to Amaechi. He was speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly from 1999 to 2007 and governor of Rivers State from 2007 to 2015. He most likely collected a sweet severance package as ex-speaker, that is, if he is not receiving outrageous pension. He is collecting mouth-watering pension package as ex-governor and currently collects salary, allowances and other perks of office as “honourable” minister of transportation.

Of course, Amaechi is not alone. Take ex-president Goodluck Jonathan. Let’s ignore his public jobs as education inspector, lecturer, and environmental protection officer, before he was elected deputy governor of Bayelsa State in 1999. So, he is entitled to pension as deputy governor, governor, vice-president and president. It is probably the same for the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari. He is an ex-military administrator, ex-minister, ex-head of state, and retired general in the Nigerian Army. Same for David Mark, also an ex-military administrator, ex-minister, retired army general, ex-president of the Nigerian senate and still a sitting senator.

Relying on the law, as Bukola Saraki, president of the senate, wants us to do, these public officers are entitled to everything the state can offer. As one of the beneficiaries of this state-sanctioned robbery, Saraki told Vanguard, in response to public misgivings, that he could not act otherwise since he was acting within the provisions of the law. He said his “pension entitlements were being used for charity, especially for educational purposes, which he noted, have positively impacted the needy in his state”. So, in the name of pension and the law, you rob your state of money that ordinarily should have gone to education and you give back the money as charity. Quite ingenious!

Do we still wonder why Nigerian politics is a do or die affair or why a governor today a minister or senator tomorrow? It is all about the politics of state robbery. In understanding the current decay, poverty and underdevelopment in Nigeria, the question we should ask is: what kind of system makes it possible for anyone to serve as governor for four or eight years and live a lifetime of luxury while citizens of his state wallow in penury. That system needs to be uprooted.

What is to be done? All of us victims must rise in one voice to bring a quick end to this exploitative state. The mission of this generation of Nigerians is to continue the glorious struggle of their forebears, overthrow the current order, retire, and consign these vampires, posing as statesmen, to the garbage heap of history!

Onumah is the author of We Are All Biafrans Contact him on conumah@hotmail.com; Follow him on Twitter: @conumah

Inside Story Of Andrew Yakubu’s $11m ‘Gift’ By Azu Ishiekwene

One of the most frequently asked questions this week is, which Andrew? There was once an Andrew in the first coming of President Muhammadu Buhari who popularised that name.

That Andrew was a metaphor for the millions of frustrated young people who wanted to “check out” for greener pastures because politicians had wrecked the country and robbed it blind.

As part of General Buhari’s war against indiscipline at the time, there was a radio jingle appealing to Andrew and his generation to stay and trust in the promise of a better future. The pop song, “Nigeria Go Survive” by Veno Marioghae, drew heavily on the Andrew metaphor.

That was not the Andrew in the news this week. If there was any other similarity apart from the name, it could only be that, by some grotesque twist of fate, the Andrew of old had changed into a monstrosity worse than the politicians whose corrupt and ugly ways brought despair and the urge to escape.

The Andrew-in-the-news is more like the cousin of Pahom, the tragically fictional character in Leo Tolstoy’s classic, “How Much Land Does A Man Need?”

Pahom was the man who, after buying forty acres of land, went on to buy 125 acres; and still not satisfied, he craved to buy 1,300 acres for just one thousand rubles.

As he was about to clinch the deal, a tradesman tells him about the Bashkirs, a family from which one could buy an acre of land for less than a penny just by being nice to the chiefs.

Pahom grabs the chance and strikes a deal with the Bashkirs. He could have all the land he could walk around for just one thousand rubles. Just one condition: if he does not return to the spot from where he set out on the same day, he would lose his deposit.

He set out. The further he went, the more good land he saw and the deeper his craving to cover more ground. He exhausted himself trying to make the circuit and dropped dead.

His servants picked him up and dug his grave with the spade he had been using to mark the land.

Six feet from his head to his heels was all he needed.

Let’s be clear. The Andrew-in-the-news, Andrew Yakubu, is still an innocent man in the eyes of the law. He’ll remain so until a competent court makes a judgment.

But nothing in the news, at the time of this writing, could help make sense of how Andrew Yakubu came by $9.8 million and £74,000 neatly stored in his improvised cash warehouse, once his family’s home.

It could well be that he was keeping the bills of crisp foreign currencies in safe storage for the country against the onslaught of Boko Haram, the sort of thing Al-Mustapha told us that Abacha did with the billions of dollars he stashed away in overseas havens.

Or maybe Andrew Yakubu, a native of Southern Kaduna, had foreseen the mayhem that would occur today and was frontloading rehabilitation funds for his community.

What a credible source told me tends to corroborate Yakubu’s claim that the money was a gift, but it was a most curious gift indeed.

Between 2012 and 2014 when Yakubu was the GMD, there was a practice among four Nigerian banks of playing games with deposits in their care managed by NNPC for the country.

The banks routinely played fast-and-loose with public funds deposited by ministries, government departments and agencies, but the one with the NNPC took the barrel.

According to the source, dividends from the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) and proceeds from crude oil sales in NNPC’s own accounts with the banks were well over N1trillion at the time.

The deal between the banks and at least three top people in NNPC – the GMD and two others, including the minister – was for a brokerage of two percent yearly on the average monthly float/balance in the accounts.

It was paid in cash monthly, often converted to foreign currency and shared among the top three. The source estimated that to retain the deposits, the banks were paying out about N2billion monthly and that continued for at least two years.

It was precisely the type of gift that drove the Andrew of old mad; the type of greed that made Pahom crave the land he did not need. But the Andrew-in-the-news had more than enough room for it.

How much land does a man need?

I’m told that Andrew Yakubu was a good guy, a regular Joe who grew up amidst the grinding poverty in Sabon Tasha, the Kaduna equivalent of Ajegunle, a Lagos slum. He struggled through school and joined the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation as a youth corps member.

Thirty years ago when Aret Adams was group managing director of NNPC and Andrew Yakubu was just an officer in one of the refineries, he won the GMD’s Award. Ten years later, he again won the presidential award by the Nigerian Society for Petroleum Engineers.

It was only a matter of time before he would get to the top of his career. One rung at a time, he finally reached the peak in July 2012 when he was appointed GMD.

The GMD of NNPC is not the mate of the managing director next door. His salaries and allowances are in multiple digits. And if you are Andrew Yakubu, a man who rose through the system, you knew just what to do not only to make the system pay but to make it pay handsomely.

So, why did Andrew Yakubu have to stash away nearly $11m in a family house, in a community which remains as wretchedly poor today as it was when he was growing up, if not worse now?

We’re told he said it was a gift. We have an idea where the “gift” came from, but even if he was born to receive, this was one gift he did not need.

From BudgiT’s infographics, the money, approximately N3.03billion (at the official rate N308/$), could have, among other things, constructed a 700mw hydropower project, constructed an off-grid renewable solar panel to light up his community and environs or reconstructed a major highway.

As we return to the crime scene, trying to get to the bottom of just one in nearly a dozen cases of obscene thefts exposed recently, we must ask the question, what next?

Except we deal – root and branch – with this monstrosity, our servants, like those of Pahom, may just be waiting at the door, ready to use the same spade that feed our greed to dig our six feet.

 

Ishiekwene is the MD/Editor-In-Chief of The Interview magazine and board member of the Paris-based Global Editors Network.