Powers, Limits, Extent Of Appropriation In Budget Matters By The NASS Vis-A-Vis The Role Of The President (Part 1)

By Mike Ozekhome

INTRODUCTION

We shall, this week, step down our running discourse on restructuring and take on a more urgent matter – budget padding. Budgets are regarded as “contractual agreements” between governments and the people they serve. According to Wikipedia, “a budget (from old French baguette, purse) is a financial plan and a list of all planned expenses and revenues. It is a plan for saving, borrowing and spending.”

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, (4th Edition) defines budget as “an itemized summary of estimated or intended expenditures for a given period along with proposals for financing them” Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines it more poignantly thus: “a statement of the financial position of an administration for a definite period of time based on estimates of expenditures during the period and proposals for financing them”.

From the foregoing, the operative words as regards budget are “plan” and “estimates”. This simply means that a budget is nothing but a mere plan, an estimate; a mere guesswork and probability, of how much may be required for projects.

The actual income or revenue may fall far short of what is expected, while the cost of the project may actually outstrip the expected revenue in the interim. Consequently, to determine whether the National Assembly has the Constitutional powers to pad, augment or increase the budget, it is apposite to examine the provisions of the Constitution itself.

Section 81 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 mandates the President to prepare and lay before each House of the NASS estimates of the revenue and expenditure of the Federation for the following years.

In a bill called the Appropriation Bill. Where this is insufficient, section 81(2) provides for supplementary Appropriation Bill. According to Business Dictionary, “estimate” means: “Approximation, prediction, or projection of a quantity based on experience and/or information available at the time, with the recognition that other pertinent facts are unclear or unknown.” It is crystal clear from the above provisions that the President shall first do his research on “estimate of the revenue and expenditure” for the year in question and present same before the NASS.

This means that the President is not in charge of the National purse; the NASS is. Indeed, the NASS in section 4 of the 1999 Constitution has the responsibility to make laws for the peace, order and good government of Nigeria, while the Executive headed by Mr. President exercises executive powers under section 5 thereof.

The Judiciary interprets. Furthermore, by virtue of Sections 59, 80, 81 of the Constitution, it is only the NASS that can appropriate funds to the estimates and plans presented by the Executive, or authorise funds to be spent from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The meaning of this is that the Executive epitomised by Mr. President can never spend money without the approval of the NASS. However, the Constitution itself, in furtherance of the doctrine of separation of powers, ably espoused by French Political theoretician, Baron de Moutesque in 1748, has made it clear, that the Appropriation Bill regarding the projected revenue and expenditure MUST originate from the Executive and not the Legislature.

Consequently, although the NASS has the last say as to whether or not funds should be allocated to a particular project, or whether such estimates are indeed, sufficient or not, it does not originate the bill. It must be conceded, however, that at the time appropriations are being made by the Legislature, the rough estimates may need adjustments or re-adjustments, where it is discovered that the initial estimates by the Executive regarding approval of funds is realistically inadequate.

Where for instance, the NASS has cause to believe that a particular estimate falls short of what is required in the budget, or that a particular head has been over-bloated by estimates, it may, suo motu, increase or decrease such amount as initially proposed by the President. It may even altogether cancel and refuse to allocate any fund to such if it believes that such project is a white elephant, or is not of priority.

Where any of the scenarios painted above occurs, the President is helpless about it. Even where the President believes that the NASS has hurt him by failing to provide funds for a particular project dear to his heart, he has no constitutional power to unilaterally draw funds from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to finance the said project without NASS approval.

Any spending by the President in the absence of due appropriations is ultra vires and constitutes a violent contravention of the Constitution for which the President may become classically liable to be impeached. This is because Section 143(11) of the 1999 Constitution envisages an impeachable offence as “a grave violation or breach of the provisions of this Constitution or a misconduct of such nature as amounts in the opinion of the National Assembly to gross misconduct.” The reason for the above position is simple.

The Appropriation Bill, when passed, becomes an Act of the NASS which the President must implement. Thus, it must pass through the furnace of Legislative heat. Even where the President decides to withhold his assent by vetoing the Bill, the NASS can again override his veto by exercising it’s counter-veto power under Sections 58 (5) and 59 (4) of the Constitution, which give the NASS the power to pass into law, a Bill previously vetoed by the President.

Section 80 of the Constitution establishes the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation and directs that all moneys raised by the Federation must be paid into it. It also forbids moneys being withdrawn from it except to meet expenditure duly approved by the NASS through an Appropriation or Supplementary Appropriation Act. For distributable money amongst the three types of government, Federal, State and Local Governments, section 162 of the Constitution again puts same at the door steps of the NASS.

NOW THIS

The concept of “appropriations” as developed through the centuries in England and as adopted by the colonies encompassed dual limitations on both amount and object. Legislative supremacy over public fund implies the right to specify how appropriated monies shall be spent, which takes on an added significance in a separation-of powers regime. This means that neither the legislature, the Executive, nor the judiciary should exercise the whole or part of another’s arm’s power.

The NASS is not a mere robotic, rubberstamping, but a vibrant, interrogative Legislature. Since the Legislature has the capacity to amend, or even wholly reject budget proposals of the Executive and substitute one of it’s own, it means that it is only the NASS that can actually make such appropriation. Any plan or estimates tabled by the Executive, but without such appropriation, will be tantamount to misappropriation in the eye of the law.

AND THIS BUDGET PADDING

“Padding” is defined as “something added unnecessarily or dishonestly”. It is interesting to hear about allegations of “budget padding” at the House of Representatives. Can there really be padding of a budget within the precincts or hallowed Chambers of the green or red Chambers, where such figures have been introduced, debated and agreed upon? I think not. Padding occurs at the Executive level where the budget is worked upon.

If it ever occurs at the legislative level, in the negative sense in which it is being bandied, then it must be shown that unauthorised external additions, subtractions and multiplications were smuggled into the budget during the journey of transmitting same to the president from the NASS, after a harmonized version had been duly passed at plenary and distilled into a Bill.

Otherwise, the real business of the Legislature on budgetary matters is nothing but “padding”. This is because the cumbersome process of rewriting, altering, amending, rejigging, adding to, subtracting from, replacing and multiplying figures, heads, sub-heads, projects, incomes and expenditures, on a budget already worked upon and presented to it by Mr. President, is nothing but padding. (To be continued…)

LAST LINE

Are the Legislators, Executives, Nigerians, et al, reading this piece and eagerly awaiting the concluding part of powers, limits, extent of appropriation in budget matters by the NASS vis-a-vis the role of the President on this Sunday Sermon on the Mount of the Nigerian Project by Chief Mike A. A. Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, FCIArb?

• Follow me on twitter @ MikeozekhomeSAN

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Fathers’ Day: Dogara Urges Leaders To Play Fatherly Role By Providing Qualitative Leadership

The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, has urged Nigerian leaders to play a fatherly role in governing the affairs of the country by providing qualitative leadership. According to a statement issued by Turaki Hassan, the Speaker’s spokesperson, Dogara made the call on Sunday during the Fathers’ Day service at the Aso Villa chapel, where he represented the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.

 

The service, which was presided over by the chaplain, Pastor Seyi Malomo, had a special segment during which children appreciated fathers, and the Speaker was presented with gifts of indigenous artworks from the Chapel for the President, the Vice President, the Senate President and for himself.

 

Speaking on the importance of fathers, Dogara said that: “the word “father”, in the Bible, stems from the word “Abba”, which means sustainer. That is what a father is. As the sustainer, the father is then the foundation and the root of the family, and no matter how beautiful a building is, it is not defined by the colour but by the strength of its foundation. When God created man, He said: “be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth” and in other versions, it says to dominate. The family institution is the way through which this mandate to have dominion over the earth can be achieved and as long as the family unit is disorganised, there is no way humanity can exercise the dominion that God has given us, and that is why it is important that we honour our fathers as they are the foundation of the family institution.”

 

The Speaker further stated that the Bible lays emphasis on honouring and obeying parents, explaining that the commandment about honouring parents was the first to have a condition attached. “I guess that is the importance of this day and whoever instituted this day, I believe, did so in line with the commandment of God which says to honour our parents.

 

“As the chaplain said, what do you do with fathers who are abusive, those who are never there and those who abdicate their responsibilities? We should honour them whether they deserve it or not, as God’s word is eternal and will never change. In such situations, the most important thing is forgiveness and if you haven’t learned how to forgive, then you have not taken the first step in Christianity. When we say the Lord’s prayer, we ask God to forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us, and this includes those categories of fathers.”

 

Dogara also urged Nigerian fathers to live in accordance with God’s commandments, saying: “when you honour God as a father – praise Him and live by his dictates – that moves God to make you a father of nations like he said and did to Abraham.”

He concluded his address by stating that leaders are the fathers of the nation, and should play their role by providing qualitative leadership and providing strong foundations.

Pastor Malomo, in his address, urged fathers to be more steadfast and to strive harder in raising children in accordance with God’s directives. The service ended with Dogara praying with the children in the kids’ section of the chapel.

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Asiwaju Bola Tinubu: Your Role in Nigeria’s Revival, By Adedayo Osho

Can we hope that with a reduction of about 17 billion naira from 6.077 trillion naira initially tendered, the passage of N6.060tn, being budget for 2016 will improve the lives of Nigerians under the Buhari presidency? In all sense of honesty, every single socio-economic development indicator is unfavourable to our ‘average citizens’ since past ten months. Only those who lie for a living would brand this proclaimed ‘Change’ as currently effective. And although sermons were preached upon APC ascension of how change usually takes time to materialise especially in fractured societies, the common man cannot continue to wallow in abject poverty while we pretend as if all is moving fine. For instance, it is pathetic seeing a pregnant woman of at least, 6 months, doing vehicle windscreen cleaning job in traffic – predominantly done by young boys in Lagos.

This is where the issue of ballooning wealth gap suffice. With a tiny percentage {very few} elites speedily climbing the ladder of abundant prosperity, their counterpart lower citizens find it difficult to attain middle class. A flurry of revelations even indicates the country’s elites are at no time interested in helping promising and intelligent children of the common man. They are full aware that by so doing, their children, majority of them spoiled brats will face future stiff competition in this brilliant and ambitious folks who possess high degree of civility.

Whatever article, column or open letter, the kind commonly written to President Muhammadu Buhari on state of the nation’s economy and politics should also be addressed to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Since the latter is APC’s national leader, with such hierarchical ranking and stature in the party making him the proverbial ‘Power behind the Throne’ in the game of politics. His position on topical national issues carry weight and seem to be in a better position to advise the president, more than any appointed official, however highly placed.

Jagaban should as a matter of urgency remind these selfish politicians that APC is a party which has ‘Left of the Center’ as its ideology. Of course, no single party can be traced to any distinct political ideology in Nigeria, the Broom party have little time within the ambience of grace to prove the promised Change will be delivered to even the most hitherto wretched rural dweller: this in itself is the goal of any party which embraced social welfare, limitless opportunity for individual enhancement and progressive national development as it claimed during campaign.

It is increasingly clear at this moment that Nigerians need an efficient government which can lift millions out of sufferings.

– Adedayo Osho

 

Editor: Opinion expressed on this page are strictly those of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of abusidiqu.com and its associates

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Sokoto Govt, UNICEF Train 830 ‘Role Model’ Female Teachers

Sokoto government, in collaboration with the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) is training 830 female teachers in a pioneer scheme to provide enough role models for female students especially in rural communities in different parts of the state.

The Female Train the Trainee scheme is being executed under UNICEF’s Girls Education Project (GEP3). It’s main aim is to train female teachers from rural areas who would in turn go back to their communities and teach.

Giving an insight into the project when she led a team on a sensitisation visit to the wife of the state Governor, Hajiya Mariya Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, a Consultant overseeing the implementation of the project, Maryam Usman Na’ibi, said the GEP3 project also aims to get out of school rural children back to school without further delay.

“We have discovered that among the reasons behind girls dropping out of school children are poverty, religious misconception, ignorance, cultural beliefs and insecurity. Parents are afraid of sending their girl children to school because of fear that they may be molested by male teachers.

“So in order to reassure communities holding such misconceptions, we decided to train female teachers from among themselves who will in turn take the lead in teaching children from their localities,” she added.

Naibi said in order to take care of poverty issues, the Sokoto state government and UNICEF introduced a cash transfer programme where mothers or care givers get 5000 Naira monthly for sending a girl child to school to assist them buy books and other things for the girls.

In addition to the payment to mothers and care givers, the trainee female teachers also get paid to aid their education while at the end of their studies, they are absorbed into the state civil service as teachers in their localities.

So far, the GEP3 is implemented in six local government areas namely Binji, Bodinga, Gudu, Goronyo, Kebbe and Wurno.

While the state government sponsors 600 of the female teachers, UNICEF takes care of 230 for the FTTSS programmes.

In her remarks, Hajiya Mariya Aminu Waziri Tambuwal commended UNICEF and the state government for their concern for the girl-child education in the state.

She promised to support the project and forward their complains to state government for further action.

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My Role In Ese Oruru’s Abduction Saga – Emir Sanusi


Emir of Kano Alhaji Muhammadu Sunusi II Monday blamed the Nigerian police and other para – military forces over there failure to reconcile Ese Rita Oruru who was allegedly abducted by his subject with her family barely 6 months it was sealed.

Narrating his role on the controversial abduction of the Bayelsa born teenager, Sunusi II said ” I ordered Ese’s repatriation since September 2015 through the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone 1, but to my surprise the issue is still hanging in between the sharia commission, Hisbah and the police”.

The former Apex Bank Governor categorically said “Police are those behind this delay. I have done my best for her and even directed for action, it’s unfortunate that the police are delaying this matter”.

Sunusi II who expressed worry over the turn of event disclosed that “I received phone call from friends outside the shore of this country over Ese today, but what I knew was that the matter is something which I had settled over the last six month”.

Ese-Oruru The emir recalled how he directed that the District head of Kura, Sharia commission and Hisbah to investigate the allegation Ese raised over threat by her estranged parents to her life, adding that the report confirmed the allegation and had since requested police intervention to provide cover.

The emir who declared null and void the purported marriage of Ese Oruru off to her suspected lover declared “Ese is under age and she can’t be marry off as underage. Every Muslim also knew that marriage can’t be without a guidance. She must be taking back to her parent and can only marry when she reached the age of 18 years”.

Sanusi II stressed ” It is unislamic for someone to marry a lady without a guidance. This abduction of Ese by my subject to Kano is worrisome because it will cause disunity among our people. I feel it is something we should urgently call to order.”

The emir further directed the shariah commission to liaise with the Assistant Inspector General of police and repatriate the girl back to her family.

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Minister Commends Media’s Role In Fight Against Corruption, Terrorism

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has commended the media for its role in the ongoing national campaigns against terrorism and corruption, saying the media has availed itself creditably in keeping the people informed about the campaigns.

“So far we have enjoyed tremendous support from the media, especially in our anti-corruption fight and our fight against terrorism. I think the media has done very well,” he said while receiving members of the Nigerian National Committee of the International Press Institute (IPI), who paid him a courtesy visit in his office in Abuja on Tuesday.

He reiterated his earlier statement that in a time of national crisis, the media cannot afford to be neutral

”We are not saying that you should suspend your professional judgement, but you cannot afford to sit on the fence when the issues we are talking about are issues that are capable of affecting the unity of the country.

 

”Just the same way that the media rallied round us when we had Ebola crisis, they are rallying round us today over the Boko Haram issue. I think that the kind of support we have received from them and which we will continue to receive from them is very gladdening,” Alhaji Mohammed said.

He promised to collaborate with the IPI to improve the welfare and safety of journalists practicing in Nigeria.

The Minister urged the IPI to lend its voice to the ongoing fight against corruption, saying the government will continue to prosecute the war within the confines of the law.

 

He advised those standing trial for corruption not to prolong their trial by deploying unnecessary legal tactics, and said the rule of law should not be misconstrued as a shield to protect corruption suspects from standing trial.

Alhaji Mohammed also expressed the willingness of the federal government to partner with the IPI to explore the possibility of hosting the 2018 Congress of the Institute in Nigeria.

Earlier, the Chairman of the Nigerian National Committee of the IPI, Mallam Kabiru Yusuf, stressed the need for Nigeria to host the Annual Congress of the Institute in 2018 because of the opportunity it will provide for the nation to interact with leading global media professionals and also improve the image of the country.

 

“It is important that while we are trying to fix the country, we should also fix its image. This will have to take some doing and we have to do it ourselves and show the best sides of this country,” he said.

Alhaji Yusuf disclosed that the Institute is planning some training for journalists in the country, especially in the area of safety in view of the challenging work environment created by the insurgency in the North-east.

The IPI is a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists who are dedicated to the furtherance and safeguarding of press freedom, the protection of freedom of opinion and expression, the promotion of the free flow of news and information, and the improvement of the practice of journalism.

 

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The Role I Played In Buhari’s Emergence As President – Tinubu

National leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, yesterday revisited the circumstances that played out in the months leading to the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari in last year’s election and said God merely used him to play a crucial role in the polity.

“God in His wisdom placed me in the position to recognize the change that was needed and to help effectuate that change,” Tinubu said in a prepared speech at The Sun Newspapers Man of the Year award ceremony in Lagos.

But he said the victory ultimately was achieved through the collective effort of Nigerians of diverse backgrounds.

“What was accomplished in 2015 was not a singular effort. It was done through the collective love and labour of millions of Nigerians,” he said in the speech issued by his media office.

Continuing, he said: “a handful of them were well known. Most of them are hardworking anonymous people who together constitute the backbone and great strength of this nation. It was this collective effort that produced the unprecedented change.

“Many sacrificed greatly to achieve this great turn of events. Some practically surrendered their businesses. Some provided funds. Especially that elderly 90-year old woman, Hajia Fadimatu Mai Talle Tara, who donated N1 million, her life savings for the campaign of President Muhammadu Buhari, (may her soul rest in peace).

“Others worked ceaselessly, hour after hour, day after day until the historic job was done. Many hit the campaign trail day and night from Katsina to Lagos. I reserve a special recognition and commendation for the youth across this nation who formed part of the foot soldiers in the struggle for change.”

He dedicated the award to “these heroes.”

But he warned that Nigeria, having reached this point in its desire to move forward must not look back, saying:”we have come to a point where there is no turning back for there is nothing worthy of the sacrifices so recently made to turn back to.

“We have reached the juncture at which we must reform our institutions, rid our country of corruption or admit that we have mortgaged away the good future due us. The infrastructural decay of past decades, the unemployment time bomb, the challenging security situation make a compelling case for us all to join with this government embrace a new politics that will help build a new country.”

He added that the renaissance for a better society must come from within through perseverance, strong determination and an irrevocable sense of patriotism.

Tinubu charged Nigerians to remain steadfast and build a nation that all can be proud of.

“The nation is going through a challenging period and truly we must build our tomorrow today-together,” he said.

On the award itself, he said: “I am honoured to have been picked as The Sun Man of the Year. The decision to give me this award I understand resulted from a thorough process reviewing the significant political developments that our country in the last quarter of a century has witnessed and particularly the monumental happenings in the past one year.”

He said there were equally other Nigerians eminently qualified for the award.

“I am humble enough to know that The Sun could have chosen any one of several figures. Their decision would not have been gainsaid. I think particularly of the man at the helm of affairs and who won the election, President Muhammadu Buhari.

“Yet, I am mindful enough to realize such Awards do not come frequently and that I better grab the good thing given me.”

The publisher of The Sun, Dr. Orji Kalu called on Nigerians to rise up to the task of nation building. He said the country was passing through a critical stage and needed patriotic people to join hands to salvage the country from the problem it was facing.

He said those who were honoured were considered in view of their track records to the betterment of the country. “Those selected made positive impact on Nigeria, so we are celebrating excellence and achievement.”

The award was formally presented to him by The Sun publisher and former Governor of Abia State, Dr.Orji Uzor Kalu who recalled Tinubu’s involvement in the fight for democracy from the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) days till now.

As Tinubu was called to step forward to receive the award, a large coterie of his friends and political associates including Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. David Babachir, Labour Minister, Chris Ngige, Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, former Minister of State for Defence, Mr. Demola Seriki and Secretary to the Lagos State Government, Mr. Tunji Bello accompanied him to the podium.

Also flanking him was his wife, Oluremi.

Also honoured at the ceremony were former military head of state, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (Lifetime  achievement award); Anambra State Governor Willie Obiano (Governor of the Year); General Ike Nwachukwu (rtd), Gen. Samuel Ogbemudia, Justice Aloma Mukhtar, Chief Kessington Adebutu, and  Chief Mbazulike Amechi,.

The most supportive First Lady of the Year went to Hajia Nana Shettima, Public Service Award went to Chenelo Anohu-Amazu; Banker of the Year went to Yemi Adeola; Business Man of the Year, Anthony  Chukwuka.

Others were Erick Umeofia, Uche Ogah, Amaju Pinnick, Josephine Ugwu, Obateru Akinruntan , Rockview Hotels, Omoni Oboli and Harrison Okiri for their impact on the society.

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The Role Of  Nigerian Youth In Nation Building By Alabede Surajdeen

The term nationalisation refers to a process whereby private assets are being transferred into public ownership by a national government with the sole aim of achieving economic stability, productivity and efficiency. As we all know that it is the responsibility of all citizens to promote nationalisation. Thus, the participation and involvement of youth in nationalisation is mandatory. In fact, youth play a vital role in nation building. Youth and nationalisation seems to be a nexus that cannot be separated if we want to achieve economic development.

Youth are the engine room of every nation. The similitude of the importance of youth to nation building could be likened to a car engine, without which, vehicles can’t move, so also without youth, a nation cannot thrive. The role of the youth in nation building is too relevant to be jettisoned – they serve as the back-bone of a society. They can make or mar a nation based on what is programmed in them. They are a feedback system because if they are well equipped and garnished with the best available resources, they give a positive outcome, but, if otherwise, negative outcome should be expected.

Nigerian youth are surely among the most talented and creative youths in the world. They are fast learners; they have the ability to work under pressure and bring out desired result for any organisation or institution. The role of Nigerian youth cannot be underestimated in nation building. Nigerian youths from time immemorial have been contributing their quota towards national development. The likes of Sir Tafawa Balewa, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe and Herbert Macaulay fought tooth and nail in their youthful days to deliver the political independence we all enjoy today as a nation.

It is only an insane man that will say Nigerian youths are not productive because there is practically no aspect of nature, physical or anthropological, material or human, complex diversity or undefined homogeneity, regional, international, academic or sport, Nigeria cannot boast of, even in religion or ethnicity. Name any field of learning you would not see a Nigerian youth renowned locally or internationally. Mention any aspect of living, good or bad, a Nigerian youth will not be actively and not passively recognised. There is nowhere in the world one would not see a Nigerian youth with the buzzing I-can-do spirit; In fact they drive the wheel of several countries in the world.

In the same vein, it is paramount to state that most of the monuments we celebrate in this nation today were put in place by the then military regime led by young productive minds and they still remain ever green in our hearts. The present day youth are still trying their best in making sure that the effort of their heroes past is not in vain.

It is important to state clearly that the civic role of every Nigerian youth in promoting nationalisation should dwell on these five concepts; patriotism, reading culture, critical reasoning, skill acquisition and policy making.

Foremost, patriotism is the first trait lacking in Nigerian youths. For any nation to move forward, the people and most especially the youth must love their country unconditionally. Love makes the world go round, it cherishes, it adores, and it brings about all the good things of life. All the evil that befall this country, like corruption, terrorism, ethno religious crisis are as a result of lack of patriotism. If we truly love this nation, we will do anything to protect her interest and we will have in mind that Nigeria is bigger than any individual or institution. Patriotism should reflect in our everyday life as Nigerian youth. If we are patriotic, we won’t give room for corruption and we will not loot the country’s treasury if we are opportune to occupy any political office.

It is when youth love their country with passion that they will want to live there and helping it in all ramifications to meet world standard and this will help to maintain a balance between Nigerian population and resources. That is, resources will be shared based on equity and not equality. Patriotism will build sense of belonging in every Nigerian youth, it will make them more emotionally concerned about their country and it makes them use their strength, intelligence and skill in the development of such nation. Nationalisation would be promoted if the youths are ready to bear the hardships and sufferings being witnessed in their country because it brings about willingness to forgo some of their personal interest for public interest and temporal gains for future ones.

More so, every Nigerian youth should know that there is no alternative to reading. The popular maxim good for illustration is “a reading nation is a leading nation”. It is quite disheartening that most Nigerian youth are lazy when it comes to reading and the few ones that read are reading for pleasure sake. It is when we wake the reading spirit in us that we will be self acquainted with the country’s history and we will not be able to repeat the mistakes of the past. It is only when we turn to a  reader that we will know what it takes to be a citizen of a country, the civic responsibility, our roles as a youth and the government roles in nation building. It is through reading that we can contribute to national issues and bring about world changing ideas.

Youth that read are always abreast of latest information, they will be able to tackle any challenges and they will be fully groomed to depend on their own.  It is also very important to state clear that one should try to sieve what to read as a youth because the type of books you read influence who you are, that is why late Chief Obafemi Awolowo made it known that “he who reads books especially the good ones will suffer intellectual mal-nutrition and attrition“. Parents should take it as a challenge in making sure that their wards learn new things before going to bed. We can only be the partners of today and leaders of tomorrow if we devour good books and become hungry for knowing more in making a difference in our society.

Furthermore, critical reasoning is the only tool that can be used by Nigerian youths in bringing about innovation and invention. As we all know that innovation refers to a new idea and the creation of such ideas brings about invention. John F. Kennedy was of the notion that we should always “think not of what our country can do for us but what we can do for our country”. Youths around the world are coming up with new ideas based on the ability to think in a critical manner and come up with something that can benefit the whole world.

A good example of such a youth is Mark Zuckerberg and his friend Eduardo Saverin, when they invented a social networking service called ‘Facebook’ which was launched in February 2014, when they were between the ages of nineteen and twenty. The world will forever remember this young computer programmers and internet entrepreneurs for their world changing innovation. I have no doubt in my mind that there are many Nigerian youths that can come up with quintessential innovations better than the ones the world have witnessed, which will bring about positive change to Nigeria, but, we should not forget that it is when we read that we will be able to think, critical thinking brings about good ideas and good ideas helps a country to thrive.

In continuation, it is apparent that unemployment is one of the major problems bedevilling this nation. Nigerian youths should start to depend less on government and start to acquire skills that will help put food on their table rather than waiting for white collar jobs. Skill acquisition and entrepreneurship such as sewing of clothes, weaving of hair, bead making, bag and shoe making et cetera will help in the growth and development of Nigeria because less stress will be on the government in providing employment opportunities. As youths, we should not wait for large capital before starting a business, we can start with the little we have, from where we are and move to a greater height of becoming a business mogul of our dream. Creativity is all that is needed to package our product and make it the best among its pears. We should start to be creative as a youth and look at things in different dimensions so as to bring out the best in them. If we can be smart, agile and intelligent youth, unemployment will be a thing of past in our dear country. Doing all this will not make us think otherwise and we won’t be idle because it is only a busy man that has a few idle visitors, to the boiling pot the flies comes not.

As if that is not enough, youth should also be engaged in policy making to make Nigeria a country to reckon with and become one of the super powers of the world. It is only when youth are giving the opportunity to participate in decision making process that we will have a better policy formulation, implementation and evaluation. The youth are also obligated to contribute their quota, views and ideas irrespective of their gender, ethnicity, religion and background. The sole reason they must be carried along is because they are the leaders of tomorrow and the supporters of today. It is only the youths that know what they want; how they want it and what they are going through, but if they are not part of the policy making team, how do we know what they are going through, their pains and the best way to tackle their problems.

As we all know that Nigerian youths are full of vibrant ideas, when adequately guided and properly motivated, they will channel every good thing they have upstairs in formulating good policy. Nigerian youths should erase the feeling that only the leaders and the elderly ones can formulate good policy. If they take it as a challenge and work hand in hand with the government, they will surely come up with critical ideas that can be implemented even if not now but later in the future. If they are able to do this their names will be written in the book of life and generations unborn will continue to say good things about them.

If I have the chance to vote over and over again I will always choose Buhari to Jonathan, the journey may still be rough though, but I strongly believe the destination is smooth. We are glad that the change we have all been clamouring for is here at last, but this change will not be a positive one if the youths are not being catered for and carried along in developmental policies.Youths have the patience to learn from mistakes and the ability to try out new things if they are given the chance. It is no gain saying that if the government fails to put the strength, intelligence and resources of Nigerian youths into efficient and effective use economic prosperity cannot be achieved. In similar vein, Nigerian youths should also know that it is their responsibility to be a good ambassador of this great nation anywhere they found themselves and they should always contribute their quota in making sure that Nigeria becomes a home to all and sundry and a country to reckon with.

 

Alabede Surajdeen is an environmentalist, writer and speaker. He wrote this piece to celebrate Ogun State @40. He can be reached on:

Twitter: @babssuraj

Gmail: alabedekayode@gmqil.com

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Dasukigate: Editors Collected N50m – Obaigbena… Explains Role Of Petrochemical Company

The president of Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria, NPAN, Nduka Obaigbena, on Monday said the Nigerian Guild of Editors collected N50 million from the Office of the National Security Adviser.

Mr. Obaigbena, who is also chairman and editor-in-chief of Thisday newspaper, revealed this in a letter to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, dated December 30, 2015.

In the letter, the former editor in chief of ThisDay newspaper also explained why Hydrocarbos Nigeria Limited received funds on behalf of Thisday Newspapers.

The Ag. Executive Chairman,

Economic and Financial Crimes Commission ( EFCC),

5, Fomella Street, Wuse 2,

Abuja, Nigeria.

Attention: Ibrahim Musa

At your request, we provide the following clarifications on payments of N670,000,000 received by GENERAL HYDROCARBONS LTD on behalf of THISDAY NEWSPAPERS GROUP (N550,000,000) and THE NEWSPAPERS PROPRIETORS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (NPAN), for member newspapers ( N120,000,000) from The Federal Government of Nigeria through the Office of The National Security Adviser ( ONSA) between 2014 and 2015. I have set out the areas of possible questions and concerns and provided answers below:

1. Why GENERAL HYDROCARBONS LTD?

General Hydrocarbons Ltd was set up as the power supply, diesel and fuel logistics arm of the THISDAY NEWSPAPERS GROUP, servicing the power and fuel logistics requirements of the There are other business units that service supplies and imports such as newsprint, ink, chemicals and consumables, machinery, etc. It is standard practice within large media groups to have business units meeting special logistics, infrastructural and supply needs;

2. Why was the payment made to General Hydrocarbons Ltd and not to THISDAY directly?

First, President Goodluck Jonathan made it clear at the beginning that he did not want to create  a precedent by paying THISDAY compensation given we had several victims of Boko Haram bombings around the country. Once payment was approved for the reconstruction of the UN Buildings in Abuja, that continued refusal or reluctance to pay us became tenuous as we were the next institution to be so bombed after the UN and Police Headquarters buildings which were then being reconstructed by the Federal Government. So when the ONSA said that they had approval to pay us, but would rather not set a precedent by paying THISDAY directly, we nominated a member company of the THISDAY Newspapers Group, called General Hydrocarbons Ltd., to receive the payments on behalf of the group of companies, given that the assets of General Hydrocarbons Ltd – mainly generators – were also destroyed in the bombings;

3. Why did THISDAY Newspapers Group not seek insurance payments for the bombings?

We did ask our insurance consortium to pay compensation but they said we were not covered for war and or terrorism risk. Until that time, we never knew we needed war or terrorism insurance in Nigeria as the Government had not officially declared war. With the power of hindsight we now know better;

4. What was the N550,000,000 paid to THISDAY used for?

We simply used the compensation funds to defray some 30% of the 7billion we already paid to 3rd party printers for services in lieu of the Abuja press (please see attached for a listing of each of these payments) while we went to our banks for refinancing printing presses, computer-to-plate and other facilities;

5. Why was the payment classified by ONSA as payment for “Energy Consultancy”?

We do not know and cannot determine why and how security and intelligence agencies classify their payments in whatever manner they General Hydrocarbons Ltd did not engage in “energy consultancy” – whatever that means – with the Federal Government and or ONSA. They simply acted in agency collecting approved payments for and on behalf of THISDAY Newspapers Group and the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) – to which the newspapers group belongs;

6. Why did ONSA pay General Hydrocarbons Ltd and not directly to the account of NPAN?

We did supply the account of NPAN to the Federal Government through the ONSA once we agreed the N120,000,000 compensation for member newspapers. But when I got a call from an official of the ONSA informing me that the payments agreed with The President was ready and should arrange to pick up cash, I balked and refused, asking him to pay to the NPAN account. Even when he suggested that The Nigerian Guild of Editors – NGE -(who are now calling for a probe) was paid N50,000,000 cash by the ONSA when President Jonathan donated to the building of the NGE secretariat, I still refused to collect cash and in any case, I had no independent confirmation the Nigerian Guild of Editors had collected cash. And even if they  did, I was not prepared to do so. And when he insisted, after I had refused to pick up such a  huge amount in cash, we agreed in good faith they credit the account of General Hydrocarbons Ltd, who upon legal advice, were acting in agency in line with industry practice where most payments are received through agencies, but in this instance, at no cost. General Hydrocarbons Ltd did receive the payments on behalf of NPAN and delivered same to NPAN, at no cost, despite bank charges. General Hydrocarbons Ltd – a member of the THISDAY Newspapers Group – who are bonafide members of NPAN – therefore collected the compensation on behalf NPAN and passed on exactly what was collected in fulfillment of the out-of-court settlement reached between President Goodluck Jonathan and the expanded leadership of NPAN who attended the June 12, 2014 meeting, at the invitation of The President, at State House Marina, Lagos to ensure newspapers are never again clamped down after years of military harassment. Indeed the newspaper chiefs were very concerned that the military authorities would accuse them of using their circulation vans to ferry bombs on behalf of terrorists and feared that this  was a pretext for more sinister action against the media by the Federal Government. Against this background, we summoned a high – powered NPAN team that reached the out-of-court settlement with the Federal Government and they included: Nduka Obaigbena (THISDAY), Chief Olusegun Osoba ( Past NPAN President invited to underscore the seriousness of the issues), Uncle Sam Amuka (Vanguard Newspapers), Lady Maiden Ibru (Guardian  Newspapers), Wale Aboderin (Punch Newspapers), Victor Ifijeh (The Nation Newspapers), Femi Adesina ( Sun Newspapers), Bayo Onanuga ( The News Magazine Group), Frank Aigbogun (BusinessDay), Mrs Nwadiuto Iheakanwa ( Champion Newspapers), Comfort Obi ( Source Magazine and General Secretary), Mr Akanni Aluko ( New Telegraph), Gbenga Adefaye (Vanguard), Toke Alex Ibru ( Guardian), Ayo Arowolo (THISDAY), and Feyi Smith ( NPAN). Everyone who attended this meeting did so with their heads high in defense of Free Speech and sought nothing beyond the national interest and an enabling environment for the media to operate in a democratic setting;

7. Did NPAN members receive the N120,000,000 payments and did they know these payments were from the ONSA?

At the NPAN meeting of March 17, 2015 held at the offices of Media Trust, Abuja, ahead of honoring the invitation of then Presidential Candidate of APC, General Muhammadu Buhari, at Sheraton Hotel Abuja, members were, again, informed that the Federal Government through the ONSA had agreed to make the payment of compensation for newspapers that had made claims for the military crackdown on newspapers. Indeed when the ONSA asked for their own meeting between President Jonathan and the media ahead of the elections, he was told that the NPAN would not meet with him or President Jonathan until the out-of-court settlement was paid. The NPAN captured this in the Minutes of the meeting as follows:

“The President (of NPAN) reported on a request by the National Security Adviser for a meeting for the following Wednesday and added that he made as a pre- condition for attendance, the payment to affected members, of the agreed sum of N10million compensation for the June 2014, military seizure of newspapers and distruption of circulation. The (NPAN) meeting endorsed the decision. It also endorsed that each beneficiary will pay N1million of the paid sum to the Association for its development activities.”

– Extracts from Minutes NPAN Meeting of March 17, 2015 held at Media Trust offices, Abuja

Once payment of the full N120,000,000 was received, we realized that we had 13 newspapers claiming instead of 12 and bank drafts were then issued as follows:

1. THISDAY Newspapers / N9,000,000; 2. Media Trust Newspapers/ N9,000,000; 3.VANGUARD / N9,000,000 ; 4. Leadership Newspapers /N9,000,000; 5. The Nation Newspapers (Vintage Press) N9,000,000; 6. Business Day / N9,000,000; 7. The SUN Newspapers/ N9,000,000; 8. Blueprint Newspapers / N9,000,000; Daily Independent / N9,000,000; 10. Peoples Daily / N9,000,000 (with secretariat);11. Tribune Newspapers / N9,000,000 ( with secretariat); 12. Guardian Newspapers / N9,000,000 ( with secretariat) ; 13. New Telegraph / N9,000,000 ( with secretariat) and NPAN /N3,000,000. TOTAL : 120,000,000.00 as received from the ONSA ( Not a penny less). The association had ruled that members should first bring their membership accounts current with the NPAN Secretariat and then collect their cheques. The onus of whether or not to collect cheques for compensation they had voluntarily and collectively claimed remains with each member.

8. Did NPAN members know these payments were from Arms Purchase budget to fight Boko Haram?

The NPAN and indeed THISDAY Newspapers and / or even General Hydrocarbons Ltd could not have known which budget head payments ordered by The President through the ONSA came from, given that security and intelligence agencies have several payment conventions unknown to the But what is in the public domain is that The Appropriations Act 2014 and the Appropriations Act 2015 provided N28.5 Billion and N26.49 billion respectively in capital expenditure for the ONSA which included such miscellaneous subheads, that did not include arms purchase, from which the payments agreed with the President on June 12, 2014, could have been made after due process given that it was the ONSA that oversaw the crackdown on newspapers. Separately, the same Appropriations Act 2014 and the Appropriations Act 2015 provided the Ministry of Defense with arms budget of some N35.4 billion and N36.7 billion for capital budget and arms purchase. We never dealt with the Ministry of Defense. So any suggestion that payments made to NPAN and THISDAY Newspapers Group were for arms purchase is like calling a dog a bad name in order to hang it; incite the public against us and create panic amongst our members and stakeholders in such an important national institution as the media. We never participated in any arms purchase in any shape or form and only demanded compensation for a horrendous terrorist act against us. In the same way, the United Nations and others who may have received some compensation, could not have known the line budget items for the funds being used for the reconstruction of the UN Abuja buildings. Even the Nigerian Guild of Editors, which may have received donations for their secretariat from the ONSA, could not have known which subhead it was paid from. We simply cannot know or be expected to speculate which line item the spending was made from  by the ONSA. There is simply no nexus between payments made for compensation, to us victims of terrorism as well as to newspapers in compensation for an unprovoked attack on free speech, and any arms purchase budget. It will be of interest to have a full and complete list of  all payments made by the ONSA between 2014 and 2015 to make an informed determination and to understand what happened to the over N70 billion in arms budget allotted to the Ministry of Defense for armament;

9. At the end of the day, we were victims of a horrendous terrorist attack and should not be victimized any further as the terrorists will be celebrating what we are now being put We do not deserve further trauma because some official(s), outside of our control, may or may not have followed due process. All victims of terrorist attack deserve a fair and just compensation. The fact that we have received some remedy should be reason to accelerate compensation for all victims of Boko Haram attacks across Nigeria however big or small. We never wished this upon ourselves. The central purpose of government is the security of life and property of all citizens. And the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as other international law instruments and conventions of which Nigeria is a signatory underscores this – and infact requires that we receive effective remedy and compensation.

10. Please find attached statements by the expanded Executive Council Meeting convened in the wake of these.

Thank you.

Nduka Obaigbena Chairman & Editor-in-Chief, THISDAY Newspapers Group.

President, Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria.

35 Creek Road Apapa, Lagos.

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The Role Of The Church In Nation Building, By Obiageli (Oby) Ezekwesili

PROTOCOLS.

I am delighted at the privilege of being asked by the leadership of FOURSQUARE Church to deliver this Diamond Lecture in celebration of sixtieth year of the Church in Nigeria. Let me specially thank Reverend Felix Meduoye,  The General Overseer of FOURSQUARE for the honour he bestows on me whenever he asks me to speak to his congregation of fellow believers in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. Please accept my congratulations for the Diamond celebration which is happening under your inspiring and visionary leadership. I wish to also thank a dear brother, Femi Adesina who pressed on until my very swampy schedule opened up to enable me fulfil the promise I made several months ago when I could not be with you at a similar event in Lagos. Speaker of our House of Representatives-  Honourable Yakubu Dogara, delighted to have you chair this event. Other distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, thanks for being here today to listen to this lecture.

The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, commonly referred to as the Foursquare Church, is a Pentecostal denomination founded in 1923 by one of the historically outstanding female preachers — Aimee Semple McPherson in Los Angeles, United States of America. She it was who described the basis for the naming of the Church from the revelation of Prophet Ezekiel as recorded in the Bible depicting the four faces of God that he ( the prophet) had seen. Pastor Aimee McPherson elaborated this even further stating that the four faces “were like the four phases of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the face of the man, she saw Jesus our Saviour. In the face of the lion, she saw Jesus the mighty Baptiser with the Holy Spirit and fire. In the face of the ox, she saw Jesus the Great Burden-Bearer, who took our infirmities and carried our sicknesses. In the face of the eagle, she saw Jesus the Coming King, who will return in power and victory for the church. It was a perfect, complete Gospel. It was a Gospel that faces squarely in every direction; it was the “Foursquare Gospel.”

The church propounds that its call is to preach Jesus Christ, God’s Son, as The Savior, The Baptizer, The Healer and The Coming King. In so doing, it seeks to glorify God, advance the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus as it undertakes His Great Commission of preaching the gospel and making disciples of all nations. Over the ninety two years of existence, the Four Square has experienced successions which has helped with its growth into a world wide church. Today, the Foursquare Church has more than 1,700 U.S. churches and more than 66,000 churches globally and meeting places in 140 countries and territories.

Nigeria is one of those several countries in which FourSquare has flourished since the Reverend and Mrs. Harold Curtis first brought the message of Four Square to our country in 1955 to three founding members Reverend James Boyejo, Rev. Samuel Olusegun Odunaike and Rev. Friday Chinyere Osuwa. The year of the inauguration of the first FourSquare Church is remarkable seeing that it was just five years before Nigeria gained her independence. The Nigerian branch of the Church has since spread in prolific growth not just across the entire country but also across the continent of Africa. The FourSquare Church is according to data considered one of the largest Pentecostal churches in Nigeria.

BIBLICAL CONTEXT FOR CHURCH.

The Bible documents  the spoken words of God to His people, written to shape the sacred beliefs of those who were first called Christians because their observers declared that “they had been with Christ” as they scrutinised their conducts in the city of Antioch.  So, it is natural for most people to assume that Church when defined as “organised gathering of people as a group and under some clear leadership” is a phenomenon only of the New Testament. The reality however, is that the Church evolved from the Old Testament into the New Testament in the form we know it today. It can be said that Church started in the Garden of Eden where God used to come down to fellowship with the first man that He had created- Adam; but that ‘gathering’ was interrupted by sin. The fall of Adam and Eve, aborted the awesome plan of God for humanity as expressed in Genesis. God subsequently made several other provisions, ranging from Noah to Abraham, to Joseph, to Moses, to Joshua, to Deborah, to Eli, to Samuel, to Elijah, Elisha and several other priests and prophets that were to “gather” God’s people regularly in harmonious fellowship with Him.

The New Testament church as recorded in Acts2 started at the Pentecost in the Upper Room led by the twelve Apostles of Christ and the many other believers in His teachings who gathered in fellowship after His death and resurrection aptly captures this classic definition of the Church in its characteristic attributes.  Acts 2:42-47 records:

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

The definition of Church as an “assembled group of people who met regularly under an organised leadership” places the emphasis on the human beings and why they gather much more than the building in which they do so. It is perhaps for this reason that Apostle Paul counsels the Hebrews to “not forsake the assembly of the brethren” making it all about relationship rather than a visit to a location. It is the people in fellowship with God and among themselves  more than where they gather that makes a gathering  of faithful followers of Christ, a Church of the modern ages.  The Early Church of the Acts of Apostles  still remains the model by which any gathering of people as Church is measured in terms of their relationship with God and with fellow believers.

When we read and observe the journey of the children of Israel as the ” The Old Testament Church” making their  way to the the Promise Land, we are awed at the similarity their gathering has with the New Testament church. Reviewing both the old and New testaments of the Bible to understand the concept of Church better, one cannot but remember the roles of certain prophets of God as they led the children of God to the land of promise. The priests and the prophets who ministered in the temple were no different from our Pastors in churches today with a congregation of human beings that are no different from the flawed men and women of that era; who were beneficiaries of God’s  grace.

In effect, church may have evolved from Old Testament tents of meeting, to temples and synagogues into the Upper House, peoples’ houses and then elegant church buildings; but the unchanging Owner of the Purpose  of every gathering of His people remains steadfast in what He wants from His people. Even as they journeyed through the wilderness as  His “…… treasured possession out of all the peoples” what He expected was that they “. . . shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.” With the favoured admission of those who were formerly Gentiles through redemptive grace of Christ, Apostle Peter still declares in striking continuity in the New Testament: ” But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” The people of God are created to be exemplary to all others. Simple.

In the Old Testament, Micah 6: 8 the prophet Micah asks, “What does the Lord require of you?” And answers, “To do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.” Apostle Paul speaks similarly in the New Testament in Ephesians 4: 1 says “To the church at Ephesus Paul writes, “I beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling.” Whatever may be the purpose that the people of God gather; if they be followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ; who believe in the power of the Holy Spirit; there is but one common denominator for both the Old Testament and the New Testament congregations. It is Holiness. There cannot be a “gathering” or “fellowship” of the people of God with God, without Holiness. In Leviticus 19v1-2, He repeated that same charge of Holiness which He had made to Abraham when He promised to make him “blessed to be a blessing” in Genesis. Without Holiness, God cannot be in the midst of those who have gathered to qualify it for His own definition of the Church that “the gate of hell cannot prevail against”.

The manifestation of the working of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament Church differentiates it from the Old Testament church. The Spirit of God brought great liberty to the individual who having confessed Jesus Christ as Lord is spoken of our Lord as “being greater than the Great John the Baptist even if such a one were the least in the kingdom.  The importance of this is best appreciated as one reads the assessment that God made of the Churches in Revelations2-3 where it is the Spirit of God that is expressly talking to the Church via the revelation experience of John the Beloved an Apostle of Christ. This is unlike in the days of old when God would speak to the Prophet or Priest who would in turn carry the message to the rest of the people.

HISTORY OF THE CHURCH IN NIGERIA

History records that the Church in Nigeria is some 172 years old having started with the Catholic priests who were part of the Portuguese trade incursion into the coastlands of Nigeria. It was only after some hiatus, that there was the arrival of a more sustained missionary exploits of the Methodist Missionary Society in 1842 pioneered by the works of Thomas Birch Freeman. The Christian Missionary Society followed suit later that same year with the visit of Henry Townsend from Sierra Leone. Some years later the Catholic Irish missionaries arrived and much later down the line, Nigerians saw the emergence of indigenous churches that interpreted the Christian experience to have local relevance. Churches such as the Aladura movement in Western Nigeria, the Apostolic movement, the Evangelical, Charismatic and Pentecostal movements were founded and thus the Church in Nigeria was fully formed as an organizational concept coincident with the era of independence. For example, the Redeemed Christian Church of God a mission in which my husband and I have the privilege of having joined in the early 90s from our Anglican/Catholic backgrounds, is an indigenous Pentecostal/Evangelical church founded by Pa. Josiah Akindayomi sixty three years ago.

Each denomination of the Church in Nigeria flourished in  numerical growth and in an environment of relative religious freedom and constitutionally guaranteed secularity of governance, they individually carried on with their respective missions without the need for any structured collective structure. However, when during the military rule of General Ibrahim Babaginda, the Church in Nigeria collectively felt the threat resulting from that government signing up Nigeria as a member of the Organisation of Islamic Countries they came together under the umbrella of the  Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in 1976. Today, CAN is constituted by Churches under five groupings that are the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, The Christian Council of Nigeria, the Christian Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria/Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, the Organisation of African Independent Churches and Tarrayar Ekelesioyoyin Kristi. The Christian Association of Nigeria enunciates the following objectives: to serve as a basis of [action for] the unity of the Church, especially as [intended] in our Lord’s pastoral prayer: ‘That they all may be one’to act as a liaison committee, by means of which its member churches can consult together and, when necessary, make common statements and take common action to be a watch-dog of the spiritual and moral welfare [of] the nation to propagate the Gospel to promote understanding among the various people and strata of society in Nigeria.

A critical analysis of the role that the Church has played in the nation along the lines of living up to its objectives of Unity of faith and collective action; its spiritual and moral watchdog of the nation objective; its promotion of understanding and peaceful relationship objective; is highly recommended for not just CAN but for all church leaders and their denominations. Any such objective assessment will reveal the deficit in acting to realize these lofty vision of CAN. Whereas it has done relatively well in some aspects of its vision, the association of Christians has a long journey to being the mega rallying point of Christians as the light of the Nigerian society that we are called to be.

WHAT IS NATION BUILDING?

Nation building in its simple definition refers to the use of the power of the state to construct or structure a national identity. Nation building is especially used in relation to countries in Africa and Central Europe where territorial habitation of people forces disparate nationalities to belong to a country and yet feel no common sense of shared identity among themselves. So, in basic terms, one could say that nation building aims to unify diverse people of ethnic, religious and other pluralities who have found themselves living together in a globally recognised entity known as a United Nations member country. The process of attempting to unify  the diverse nationalities within a territorial construction to make it politically stable and viable, is something that would resonate for all Nigerians-North, South, East and West-  seeing how so much it describes our story in the 101 years of amalgamation and 54 years of independence of our country.

“Today is Independence Day. The first of October 1960 is a date to which for two years, Nigeria has been eagerly looking forward. At last, our great day has arrived, and Nigeria is now indeed an independent Sovereign nation.  Words cannot adequately express my joy and pride at being the Nigerian citizen privileged to accept from Her Royal Highness these Constitutional Instruments which are the symbols of Nigeria’s Independence. It is a unique privilege which I shall remember forever, and it gives me strength and courage as I dedicate my life to the service of our country. This is a wonderful day, and it is all the more wonderful because we have awaited it with increasing impatience, compelled to watch one country after another overtaking us on the road when we had so nearly reached our goal. But now, we have acquired our rightful status, and I feel sure that history will show that the building of our nation proceeded at the wisest pace: it has been thorough, and Nigeria now stands well-built upon firm foundations.”

These were the very gushing and giddy words of the first Prime Minister of Nigeria Alhaji Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa on October 1, 1960.

Sadly,  the reality of our trajectory as a country is that we never transited from country to nation contrary to the poetic declarations of our first leader. To call a spade a spade, our nation building process has been extremely dismal in outcome and so fifty four years after, we are at the Diamond event of FourSquare Church which is five years older than independent Nigeria; still discussing matters of “Nation Building.” Our Founding Nationalists, simply equated our becoming a country with attaining nationhood. Our founding leaders forgot  that a State- i.e. A country-  is not always a Nation . True, Nigeria became a self-governing political entity that negotiated a federal structure in cognizance of the near autonomy of each of its constituent ethnic nationalities. The painful fact however is that our independent Nigeria does not yet act like a Nation after five decades. The inability to achieve the consensus necessary for nation building has robbed us of the fundamentals of shared identity, vision and values known as “nation formations”. Research proves that these fundamentals  are what have helped other countries in similar circumstances as Nigeria to transit into the more progressive concept of “State Building”. It is after Nation Building that the phase of State Building which focuses on the building of the social, human and physical infrastructure as well as the critical institutions can commence on a solid foundation. It is State Building that progresses a territory of unified people to citizens of economically, socially and politically viable nation-state through what is known as a “Capable State”.

Countries with multiple divides do not just melt into one happy union. It requires deliberation and intentionality for diverse people with divergent interests, threats, opportunities and strengths to forge a common and shared framework for lasting unity of purpose. In some of the instances where this has happened either through wars and or dialogues/negotiations or their combination , it had required the elite of such countries to lead the rest of the people in a deliberative process of nation building. Nation building agenda envisions the forging of a  common identity that all have resolved that they will defend at all time with clear mechanisms for conflict resolution. For countries like South Africa and more recently, the people- led constitutional process were their pathway.  It is the visionary power of the elite to move a people of diversity beyond the lowest common denominator of mere citizens of one country into a nation of people. It is what  makes the United States to stand out as a model multi-cultural society. Hence, even “with its multicultural society, the United States is also referred to as a nation-state because of the shared American “culture.”

Some people may of course dismiss this crave for evolution from country into a nation and say it does not matter. For those ones, I recall the wise words Carolyn Stephenson, who is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Hawaii-Manoa. She could have premised her thesis specially for Nigeria. Professor Stephenson states that “ Nation-building matters to intractable conflict because of the theory that a strong state is necessary in order to provide security and that the building of an integrated national community is important in the building of a state, and that there may be social and economic prerequisites or co-requisites to the building of an integrated national community” Simply put, if a people of diversity in a country truly wish to succeed, they must forge a shared identity, vision and values to realise their goal of building a strong, secure and viable nation- state.

THE PAST, THE PRESENT OF THE CHURCH IN NIGERIA AND THE NIGERIAN CONDITION. CAN THE CHURCH IN BECOME THE CATALYST FOR A NEW NIGERIA?

That failure to immediately use the early days of independence to commence the nation building process is what I consider the biggest missed opportunity in the history of Nigeria. So, it was not surprising that shortly after the novelty of our political independence wore off, the troubling underbelly of our nascent 1959/60 democracy was revealed in the rather prescient reading of the situation at that time by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)  of the United States its memorandum of 1966. CIA wrote thus:  “Africa’s most populous country (population estimated at 48 million) is in the throes of a highly complex internal crisis rooted in its artificial origin as a British dependency containing over 250 diverse and often antagonistic tribal groups. The present crisis started” with Nigerian independence in 1960, but the federated parliament hid “serious internal strains. It has been in an acute stage since last January when a military coup d’état destroyed the constitutional regime bequeathed by the British and upset the underlying tribal and regional power relationships. At stake now are the most fundamental questions which can be raised about a country, beginning with whether it will survive as a single viable entity. The situation is uncertain, with Nigeria,……is sliding downhill faster and faster, with less and less chance for unity and stability. Unless present army leaders and contending tribal elements soon reach agreement on a new basis for association and take some effective measures to halt a seriously deteriorating security situation, there will be increasing internal turmoil, possibly including civil war”.

The question anyone of reading this should ask in the context of our topic is, “where was the Church in Nigeria at the time these lethal strains that became entrenched even up until today,  were brewing? How could the Church have been irrelevant in the foundational work of unifying diverse aspirations by woefully failing to influence the individual actors of that era considering that many of them wore and do in fact continue to wear their ecclesiastic garment as boldly as they wore and wear their ethnic cleavage? Even if the other end of the dialogue was the mostly Muslim North, could there not have been a way that the church could have helped to prevent the needless deaths that started and degenerated into a pogrom, claiming the largest number of our people?”

In a similar situation in Rwanda, the Church has had to face the scrutiny on its failings or complicity in the genocide that almost wiped out an entire ethnic race. I do not recall that the Church in Nigeria has reviewed or been compelled to review its role in the 60s multiple tragedies of our country. The satanic seed of deep ethnic distrust, mistrust and hostility were sown unchallenged in that era. It pervades the Nigerian society today engulfing all generations in their relationships and explains why other ethnic groups often withhold  empathy from any other of the groups which is faced with challenges at any given time.

Nigerians engage in what I call “equal opportunity suffering”. Not having received empathy in their time of pain, they see no reason to empathize when it is the “turn” of another ethnic group to suffer their “own pain”. Nothing is more revealing of the absence of the spirit of nationhood as this inability to rise beyond ethnic trenches and show humanness to another group, regardless of past hurts. What one has known from advocating for our abducted 219 Chibok School girls and the North East more broadly, reveals extremely deep divides that should not exist where the Church in Nigeria living up to its Reconciliatory role.  Unfortunately, the Church is very woven into the fabric of inter and intra ethnic conflicts. Such conflicts have become very common within the Christian fold in Nigeria, thereby robbing it of the moral pedestal it must have in order to play the role of reconciliation in a country where conflicts easily erupt and escalate unnecessarily.

I dare say that our protracted  failure to build a nation out of a country is what changed the course of Nigeria’s history and squandered the huge benefit that empirical research shows is possible for diverse societies. That our political elite could not speedily and “sincerely act” on the lofty ideals espoused in their nationalist struggle when they successfully united against a common “enemy” and brought us our independence,  is the reason our language remains divisive, churlishly clannish and religiously irredentist. Rather, our political elite turned their backs on the supposed “independent sovereign nation” and resorted to lethal ethnicity. Worse, they hid under their fiery brand of ethnic and religious politics to paradoxically unite in offering a toxic variant of leadership that is mostly  devoid of altruism. Now, what remains of leadership if it is lacking in sacrifice?

Rather than thread a collective path toward nation building, what Nigerians know as the prevalent character of the political elite class across board is that they frequently push the country to a precipitous slide that has become the lot of Nigeria since independence. It was within this context of elite failure that the 1966 military coup struck and unleashed a huge canvass of governance instability epitomised by long period of military adventurism in governance, that abated only recently in 1999 with the coming on of the fourth Republic. It is only in the last sixteen years that our fifty four year old country finally got the longest season of the sins qua non democratic context that helps a people to negotiate their differences through freedoms of discourse, disagreement, dialogue and principled negotiation. The question however is, will our country ever seize the opportunity for such and achieve triumph through the pain and discomfort of the nation birthing process?

There is an incentive for us to push ourselves toward this painful choice.  Not having deliberately engaged the best medium for shaping our consensus around a shared national identity, shared vision and shared values we continue to struggle. Even in the last sixteen years of the latest cycle of being a Democracy,  Nigeria stays struggling to commence sensible and sustained “State Building” process. I mean, how can you possibly commence the structure of a house without laying the strong foundation required by engineering standards? That is precisely what we as Nigerians have been doing in “pretending to build a capable state” when basic nation building remains an unfinished business.

The unfinished business of nation building has created room for the wily elite class to cleverly capture what passes for the “State” and push the larger population of the excluded who dot the entire landscape of Nigeria to the fringes of the benefits of governance. Such elite capture and “pocketization” of  the “pseudo state” is exemplified by the governance failures of the past fifty four years that has engaged academic researchers around the world. Nearly all of Nigeria’s problem is traceable to poor governance and its more manifest symptom of cancerous corruption. Corruption is empirically proven to be the greatest obstacle to Nigeria’s development. Grand corruption which is the variant popularized by the elite of our society created the current endemic and systemic corruption. That in turn, has produced the most unacceptable levels of poverty in a country that evoked great expectation at the time of independence. Today, poorer segment of citizens all over the country, who find themselves caught in the corruption-poverty-corruption trap are angry at the “crumbling state” that has failed to provide them the most basic services that people of other nations enjoy. Hence, regardless of what part of the country they come from, what language they speak, what culture they practice, what religion they believe, Nigerian citizens are gradually realizing that the ethnic jingoism of our elite may after all be purely self serving.

Over the years, the depth of poor governance and corruption by the political class and their private sector collaborators and to a lesser extent the acquiescing religious elite has worsened the cynicism, pessimism and skepticism of citizens leading to huge erosion of our Social Capital. No society can build for a lasting future  without some reasonable measure of Trust of government by the people. That citizens do in fact openly express trenchant cynicism about the uninspiring role that the religious spheres including the Church has played in bring forth a values- deficit and broken down Nigeria- State is heartbreakingly opposite of the standard set for the modern church by the Early Church.  The collapse of our values and the depletion of our social capital heightened have further sharpened the ethnic and religious fault lines and increases conflicts. Conflicts of all kinds have further deepened poverty among the poor citizens already excluded from the benefits of recent economic growth. Feeling abandoned by the Nigeria- State, our society is seeing a growing number of people among the excluded cynically following after the “examples” of their elite. They do so by engaging  in all manner of acts of criminality and wickedness in apparent attempt at lashing out against the country which they believe has failed them.

And yet, the nation building process is one in which all of society  must. play a role and happens faster when it is designed as an all inclusive process that leaves no one, no segment, no group, no gender, no class and no sphere behind. Lessons from other lands show that in negotiating and agreeing a shares identity, the religious sphere for its inherent tendencies to building and nurturing human relationships usually play a strong role. The Church therefore-  both for its individual members and as a group/ organization has always had a central role to play in nation building – in fostering the sense of shares humanity of a people bound minimally by territorial neighborhood .

The question today however,  is how has the Church in Nigeria fared as a potential catalyst that helps propel Nigerians toward a positive trajectory and progression into nationhood?

Let us even narrow this evaluation of the role of the Church to the fundamental premise of my considered opinion that Nigeria has been a victim of an elite crisis. Doing so, would mean asking how much of a restraining or constraining  influence has the Church tried to be on the Nation-State destructive  role of our “power elite”?  Has the Church not mostly acquiesced with this class of people in the manner it  is welcomes  and honors those of its folks who ordinarily should receive its moral sanction?

There is if not empirical, at least some reasonable anecdotal basis for probing the role of the Church in so far as the public piety of its flocks is concerned. The privileged class are traced to the grand ills of the Nigerian society in nearly all the instances of truncation of governance by coups. Here is a classic description of the “power elite” of Nigeria in the statement “justifying” the 1966 coup:  “enemies are the political profiteers, the swindlers, the men in high and low places that seek bribes and demand 10 percent; those that seek to keep the country divided permanently so that they can remain in office as ministers or VIPs at least, the tribalist, the nepotists, those that make the country look big for nothing before international circles, those that have corrupted our society and put the Nigerian political calendar back by their words and deeds.”

Every other coup more or less repeated the text until the last one in 1993. One can reasonably conclude that what we today confront as systemic corruption only metamorphosed to the gargantuan scale as Nigeria’s elite class perverted the values of our country and distorted our incentive and disincentives regimes. It has been so since the painful 60s unto this day, robbing the poor who the Church exists to be their voice of the better life possible in Nigeria.

So, sure the economy has been growing  at 7% every year in the last ten years but what quality of growth have we had with still more than 61% of poor in the land, 24% unemployment level with more than 40% level among the youthful segment? We have a negligible changed structure of the Nigerian economy since independence with the consequence that manufacturing has stayed at less than 15% thus narrowing the opportunity for rapid absorption of labour.  The massive unemployment and underemployment is because our indigenous private sector is underdeveloped compared to the countries of Asia and Latin America where small businesses account for more than 60 percent of the economy or 75% in America. Our private sector that thrives mostly does so by depending on the distortion of policies, the corruption of the public sector and influence peddling while the small businesses suffer the severe adverse effects of failure of the same policies.Inequality and growing disparity between few that have had grown deeper. Regrettably the elite fail to understand the implications of such an unsustainable pattern of power and wealth relations in any society even as the heinous effects of long lasting poor governance in the North East of Nigeria stares us in the face.

All of the foregoing are policy, institutional, investment and broadly governance matters that constitute the State Building process. Our effort at tackling them without tackling the faulty foundation of absence of nation building has produced disappointing results. The corruption-poverty-corruption trap has thus capped the possibilities of our larger population of citizens while unlike the Early Church, today’s Church busies itself with materialism. That the Church in Nigeria provides a place of comfort rather than rebuke and sanction to the elite of the land who in one factually evidenced basis or the other are culpable for poor governance and corruption makes it unwittingly acquiescent in the entrenched inequality In the land. God cares for the poor. God wishes that His Church should also care for the equity and justice for the poor and to stand on the side of the weak and vulnerable and not with those who oppress them.

While the political and to a lesser degree, the business elite  set the stage for the broken and deficit foundation of Nigeria, the rest of our society must also accept their fair share of the blame for helping to accelerate the slide by their apathy, lethargy or indifference. The governed, be they men or women have a major role to compel their elite to act in always that promote the collective good of society. Those citizens who not understanding the power they wield and to collectively deploy it in demanding for good governance and accountability for resources and for results from those that lead them pay huge costs for their ignorance. To simply accept and applaud acts that injure a citizen is injustice to both the person and the rest of society. When citizens of Nigeria fail to actively engage, participate and exercise their voice in helping shape course that the country is taking, nation building will be further delayed.

To return to the basics and compel this all too important and painful process of nation building, I recommend that the Church in Nigeria acting as a collective, can become the Catalyst that galvanises individual members, families, civil society to set out an agenda for a discourse of our common identity, vision and values. There is no better organisation of people to trigger a Values Renaissance as a lasting counter to the present “distorted normal” . What happened to virtues like honesty, integrity, character, dignity, hard work,  selfless service? The distorted VALUES of the failing Nigerian society seeped so badly into the church such that we are reminded “if the foundations be destroyed or broken, what will the righteous do”? Is it not the case that we also have crisis of leadership values in the church today? Should we not first repent for failure to be the SALT,  THE LIGHT AND THE CITY UPON THE HILL.  Reading Prophet Hagia’s first and second chapters, one will conclude that like the children of Israel in his time, we the Church of Nigeria of today sit  in church praying to all become prosperous while the vineyard (Nigeria) that God had given us over grows with weeds. “Consider your ways”, the Prophet roared then. Where are our own Prophets to roar at His church?  If today they will emerge,  then God will return to us!

Who better than the Church can boldly take this agenda to the top of our national discourse determined to force our deliberation of the ideals upon which vibrant and successful nations emerge? The justification for the Church to make such a bold move is the urgency necessitated by growing inequality that seeks to engulf the land but which the political elite class that should provide leadership is too distracted by the pattern of power conflicts to give its attention.

A corrupted Nigeria will eternally rob the same poor that the Church should be protecting. Has today’s Church not mostly failed to use its Voice on behalf of the poor in the land by systematically living up to its “watchdog” roles in the same manner  as our Lord Jesus, John the Baptist, Prophets Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos and several others? How ready is the Church to champion a credible sanction era to punish the cancerous corruption that afflicts our land? Would it not be a tragedy if the government becomes actually serious to lead such a corrective war to rebuild our foundations and what the church does is to “blow the trumpet in an uncertain way” such that the people fail to prepare for battle?

The Lord understood that His children would have needs but His assurance that if we kept the matters of the kingdom— such as nation building, being the standard bearers in our nation as the “Salt of the Earth and the Light of the World”, excelling in our “Ministry of Reconciliation and Peace” unto which He has called us, then ALL THESE OTHER MATERIALISTIC “THINGS” ( Note that He belittles them as mere “things”) shall be added unto us. God forbid that the Church will become irrelevant because it joined the people of the world to mind the irrelevant things and not the Lord’s  mandate! The Lord goes further and warns that should His Church busy itself with “things” then it is no longer the “Assembly of the people of God” but a gathering of heathen.

I believe that this awakening calls the Church to deep retrospection and introspection to unreservedly discover where we missed it and veered into the path of perfidious acquisition craze. How did we, who should lead as His Light become the LED, into darkness? How did the Church become so “at ease in Nigeria” that we are now misled by our political and business elite who should have been under our positive influence? One pathway out of this quagmire is for the Church to judge itself and admit that it has fallen short as a cleansing ground; and that in order to qualify to function as a Cleanser in this land, we would all need to plead with the Lord of the Church to mercifully come into the sanctuary and purge His people. Is the Church ready for the painful purging?

When evil is prevalent in a society we know that God  keeps for Himself a Remnant.  There remaineth a REMNANT as Prophet  Isaiah declared in chapter  10 verse 20. How come FourSquare Church has tied its entire Diamond Anniversary to the issues of the Nigeria condition? It is because the Church senses that a new season has come.  It is a season of opportunity to “do a new thing that can spring forth!”. As Solomon said, there is a time for everything under the sky. A time to be indifferent and a time to become involved. A time to ignore and a time to no longer ignore. A time to sit in church and just pray and a time to both pray and work like Prophet Nehemiah and like the four carpenters that Prophet Zechariah spoke about. The season we are in is the season when the salvation of Nigeria is closer than when we first began. The season for a new birth has come and so there is a restiveness in the Spirit of the people of God. We shall both pray, groan in the spirit, travail and walk our beliefs for the birthing of the New Nigeria through deliberations that will transit us from country to NATION.

When Nehemiah heard the news of the broken walls of Jerusalem, his heart was burdened at what he was told about not just the city but the poor in the land. Nehemiah had no reason to be so distressed because after all, his situation as the King’s cupbearer was remarkably privileged for one in captivity. Yet, his sorrow new no end. He prayed and asked God for a strategy and received it immediately because God loves and supports those who care about His vision. Nehemiah, set out on the journey back to Jerusalem determined to succeed. Of all the tools that Nehemiah needed for a successful reconstruction effort— money, men and material– a good read of his book shall reveal to us  that it was none of these that brought the prophet his successful delivery on target. What did bring the completion of work despite all the challenges he encountered, was RIGHTEOUSNESS. Nehemiah new how to do the RIGHT THINGS. He did not engage in the wrong things while praying to get a good result. In nation building, we know that it is “Righteousness that exalts a nation while sin is a reproach to any people”. It was the Church as in the members not the buildings that Christ commanded to be known for “a pattern of well doing”.

Today, because it is appropriate to nation building, I have decided to use the concept of righteousness as the pattern of “doing the right things” even by a person or nation that is outside of the Christian Faith. We have an example of a country like that – of a people who do not confess our Lord Jesus Christ – as majority of our Christian folks do here in Nigeria.  It is a nation with similar multi- ethnic, history of colonisation and poverty challenges like we had in the 60s at independence. That nation, is known as Singapore. Together with Nigeria and many other developing countries, it started on the Development journey with Gross Domestic Product  – GDP per capita of less than $500 in the 60s. By first resolving the nation building process and then moving on to the state building process with leadership that “did the right things consistently” , Singapore today has a GDP per capita of $60,000 compared to  our beloved country’s  $2300.

Where then are our own Nehemiahs? Where are our Deborahs? Where are our Ezras? Where o country of Nigeria, are your Modecais and Esthers who have made up their minds to not bow but to rather dethrone the STRONG MAN OF CORRUPTION that is sitting over NIGERIA? It is time, Church! This is the season!! It is time to:

To PRAY !

To WORK!!

To WALK!!!

To BUILD …………. Until we become a Nation. ….. Until our New Nigeria emerges. Until the Nigeria of God’s dream comes. Until Nigeria becomes a praise in all the earth. I BELIEVE.

 

Obiageli “Oby” Ezekwesili

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Role Of The Judiciary In Frustrating Nigeria’s National Development, By Usama Dandare

The renewed war against corruption embarked upon by President Muhammadu Buhari has kindled oodles of intrigues in Nigeria and beyond, anti-graft agencies responsible for battling corruption are on the fore with the judiciary becoming a point of convergence.
Since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, all previous governments made promises of combating corruption but surprisingly, little or no success has been achieved so far.

With the establishment of two anti-graft agencies to facilitate the fight against corruption, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) by the Obasanjo administration, Nigerians anticipated a though battle against treasury looters and thoughts corruption will eventually be stamp out if not completely but to a reasonable length.  However, the two anti-graft agencies were able to make some progress which were neither enough nor worthy of commendation, perhaps the so-called fight on corruption was as dead as never. To make things worst, these agencies were rendered blunted and pointless under the administration of late President Musa Yar’Adua, not to mention of the corruption tainted regime of former President Goodluck Jonathan where stealing of public funds was officially glorified and separated from corruption.

Instead of a decrease in the level corruption within the Nigerian system, corruption continued to escalate in the last sixteen years of democratic rule. Experts attributed Nigeria’s inability to stamp out corruption on the lack of readiness and fairness in the entire system, with the anti-graft agencies indulging in corrupt practices themselves. While these institutions have had their own share of the blame, the judiciary also has contributed tremendously in frustrating the fight against corruption. Unfortunately, the institutions created by the law to fight corruption has found themselves completely and deeply submerged in corruption.

The judiciary may pretend to be clean but under no disguise, can it exonerate itself from the allegations of  clear corruption cases established against some of its top officers. The courts also cannot absolve itself of blame in the past government’s inability to secure major conviction and prosecution of those involved in high profile financial frauds.

It is typical of Nigerian courts to delay proceedings and convictions of suspects brought before its for prosecution, and later handed them soft judgments. A typical scenario is that of a pension director, John Yakubu who agreed to have looted over N2 billion from the pension fund but to everyone’s dismay, Justice Talba ordered the self confessed thief to pay N250,000 fine, John Yakubu immediately paid the so-called fine and was told to go home and enjoy his remaining ill-gotten funds. Similarly, numerous high profile cases of corruption are still pending in court for about 5-15 years without conviction.

The judiciary also sabotages the war against corruption by issuing injunctions to shield corrupt officials from facing the wrath of the law. As in the case of Diazeni Allison-Madueke, a former minister of petroleum who was alleged to have spent N10 billion annually to maintain a chartered jet for her office, but when the National Assembly invited her for questioning, she quickly ran to court and the judge surprisingly ruled that the NASS and all security agencies should completely stay away from the corruption tainted minister.

Just last month or so, the Economic And Financial Crime Commission (EFFC) went after the immediate past governor of Kano state and now Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, for alleged financial scandal. The senator was accused of misappropriating over N10bn meant for pensioners in the state but to my greatest dismay, one Justice Mohammed Yahaya of the High Court of Justice issued an injunction restricting all anti-graft agencies from arresting, investigating or even inviting Kwankwaso for whatever amount he was alleged to have embezzled.

Similarly, an Abuja High Court, presided by Justice Valentine Ashi, few days ago barred the Department of State Security Services, Police, Immigration, ICPC, EFCC and the National Security Civil Defence Corps from arresting, interrogating, detaining, inviting or investigating the immediate past Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, Kingsley Kuku over alleged diversion of billions of Naira meant for amnesty programmes for former militants in the oil-rich Niger Delta.

Annoyingly, these menace of granting interlocutory injunction to shield criminals from arrest is fast becoming a constitutional right in Nigeria. The case of Senator Buruji Kashamu who had been on the wanted list of the United States government for drugs trafficking for several years now is a clear example of Nigeria’s judicial deformity, there’s no reason whatsoever for any legally founded court to restrict the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) from arresting a drug baron like Kashamu or extraditing him to the United States to face the wrath of his action. This is a clear repugnance of the law and a mockery to the Nigerian judicial system, why won’t the court allow his extradition for him to prove his innocence once and for all? It is absolutely barbaric and constitutionally ridiculous, this is akin to a Boko Haram suspect or an armed robber getting a court injunction stopping the police or the military from arresting, investigating, detaining or charging him for a déjà vu crime.

This judicial gross irresponsibility, flagrant abuse of power and judicial misconduct has been going on for decades, casting doubts in the minds of many spectators that nothing much will be achieved in the renewed fight against corruption in the country as long as the judiciary continues to do things in the old order, but now that the era of impunity is over, things have to change. This reminds me of a judicial rascality in 2009, when one Justice Ibrahim N. Buba of the Federal High Court granted the former governor of Rivers state, Mr. Peter Odili, a blanket immunity from prosecution by issuing a perpetual injunction restricting all security and anti-graft agencies from arresting or investigating Mr. Odili for life, after the former governor siphoned off billions of dollars belonging to the people of Rivers state into his private accounts. This Judicial Misconduct and Violations of the Code of Conduct for Judicial Officers must stop now or never, it is time Nigerians call a spade by its real name ‘SPADE’ not a farm implement.

The judiciary should not be a clog in the wheel of progress as today’s case may be, it should be concerned more with substantial justice rather than resorting to or hiding under the subterfuge of legal technicalities to undermine the efforts of anti-corruption agencies in ensuring that corrupt politicians and other avaricious public servants who looted public resources are punished. And by this act of letting corrupt corrupt officials off the hook, the judicial arm of government are undermining the nation’s national development.

Unlike the previous government which paid lip-service to the fight against corruption, the present government of President Muhammadu Buhari has made it clear that it will not condone corrupt practices either by the courts or any individual. The recent declaration by the Chairman Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption – “any judge who grants preliminary objection or interlocutory injunction to stop a court, police or anti-graft agencies from arresting, investigating or prosecuting anybody is joking with his/her job and will be guilty of obstruction of justice. She/he will be disciplined by the NJC. There will no longer be sacred cow as all corruption cases will now be revisited” – further substantiates Buhari’s readiness in the renewed efforts to eradicated corruption.

In the ongoing offensives against corruption, efforts should not be directed to the arrests and prompt arraignment of some former governors and other political figures implicated in corruption and the plundering of public funds alone, it is imperative for the anti-corruption crusade to visit the judiciary, which is undoubtedly responsible for making the fight a success or failure.

There is the need for the federal government to sustain its non-interference attitudes in the work of EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies, for them to be credible and effective while the agencies must also be free from political interference. The anti-graft institutions must enjoy full independence and operational autonomy, while acting within the bounds of the rule of law.
The EFCC, ICPC and DSS especially must sustain the new drive to rid the country of corruption, they should not to be distracted or blackmailed to shy away from doing what is right under the law to ensure that corruption does not kill Nigeria. Alas, “we must kill corruption before corruption kill us.”

Usama A. Dandare
osadaby@yahoo.com
@osadaby

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Federal Cabinet: The Technocrat/Politician Faceoff And The Role Of The Constitution By Gbolahan Yusuf

As the sun rises and sets every other day in this month, the average political observer in the country right now takes note of how many days September has to elapse, seeing as President Buhari has assured that by the time September passes, the names of his cabinet members will be public knowledge. The level of anticipation attached to this ministerial list is one that has never been matched by any previous government in the land and this anxiety is simply borne out of the anxiety by the people to see the change they voted manifest in the choice of ministers. How does change come in the form of a list?

In the sixteen years that the PDP governed the country, ministerial appointments often served for political compensations, in what was a blatant abuse of administrative powers. Governors were saddled with the responsibility of nominating ministers from their state and often-times it was the loser in the party primaries, the son or daughter of the party godfather, or another loyalist of the governor/godfather, that got the nod. Many calls were made as to the point that ministerial positions were not political, and quite aptly were to have technocrats or experts manning the several portfolios rather than politicians. The previous administration however had many experts in its cabinet, but still had enough room to accommodate failed gubernatorial aspirants (one in particular resigned to contest for governor, lost primaries and got re-nominated for minister). When the cabinet list of President Muhammadu Buhari is made public, it is expected that PDP elements will again wail at the presence of politicians on the list rather than technocrats, as it was often criticized for in its sixteen years, but is there really a way out of this maze? Can the President really have a cabinet devoid of politicians?

When President Muhammadu Buhari  said that “ministers are noisemakers, civil servants do the job”, he might have been wrong but in some cases, the assertion is correct. Afterall, the ministry is more important than the minister. One could conclude however, that with the President saying that ministers are noisemakers and with the delay in picking a cabinet,  he has accepted that politicians will make up ministers, even if the always-cautious president is not too comfortable with the idea. The government at the center now is an APC government, ruling with the APC manifesto as drawn up by the party. To expect the government to work without such party members is an empty wish. The misconception has always been that a politician cannot be a technocrat. A quick look at the ruling party, and the caliber and background  of contestants it has often put forward(the current Vice President is latest example) quite rubbishes that idea, which was inspired by the PDP who in all honesty, lacked such brilliance, or if they didn’t, rarely pushed them forward. It is also a constitutional requirement that every state in the country produces one minister, and this also plays a part in why politicians will never be excluded from ministerial lists. How does this constitutional requirement play a part?

Let us give it a try. Say we have 40 portfolios to fill, and we do not want any politician. The assignment gets quite tedious, maybe too tedious. We need to find an expert for every portfolio and this search will be easy; we are short of many things but great minds definitely will not be one. Where it gets tough is when the states of origin of the 40 nominees are drawn up and about 15 states are not represented while some states are over represented. What happens next is cancelling of some experts’ names because other experts share the same state to create room for other states from where, experts are maybe not known or the experts known have their field occupied by better candidates from another state. The web becomes so confusing in trying to pick experts while trying at the same time to be equal with the states to meet the constitutional requirement. You will never solve the conundrum perfectly. Therefore, the result is a mixture of political and technocratic members into the cabinet. How does this rub off on governance?

President Buhari in delaying the appointment of ministers has been able to put the incoming ministers in a tight corner seeing as he now has a firm understanding of the state of their ministries before they resume and it should lead to increased transparency and accountability on their part and ultimately, this is all that matters. The last administration witnessed a near assassination of our petroleum industry under a petroleum minister who had spent all of her career in the petroleum industry and there are many other examples. In essence, being a good technocrat does not guarantee being a good minister, neither does being a good politician. What does is the level of transparency and accountability brought to bear by the ministers. I think I’d make a good minister, because I’d work with experts anyway, and I will be transparent and abhor corruption in the system, that way I will be doing a lot more than those who looted the country dry. But what do I know? I am neither a politician nor a technocrat.

Gbolahan Yusuf

tweets via @G1gbolahan

 

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