Immunity For NASS Members: We Smell A Rat – MURIC

There was pandemonium in the House of Representatives yesterday when members debated a bill seeking to amend Section 308 of the 1999 Constitution which confers immunity on the executive arm of the Nigerian government. The sponsor of the bill is proposing immunity for leaders and principal officers of the House.

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) rejects this attempt to shield lawmakers from the law made by them. It is despicable, outrageous and preposterous. Simply put, it is legislative rascality. This legislature will go down in history as the most controversial, most self-centered and most unproductive.

Coming at a time when the leadership of the National Assembly (NASS) is facing court trial over criminal charges, the timing of the bill is not only suspect, it is also infantile and provocative. The proposed bill is self-serving and politically motivated. Its authors seek to gain from the bend what they could not get from the straight. This bill belongs to the dustbin of history.

The NASS is taking Nigerians for a ride. We will not allow that to happen. The proposed bill is a reactionary measure. It is designed to take Nigeria back to the Stone Age. Bothered by the concentration of too much power being wielded by presidents, democracies around the world are seeking to remove immunity even from the executive.

The supreme court of Guatemala successfully stripped its president of immunity in September 2015. How can Nigerian legislators turn themselves into tin gods at a time like this? It had better not be. Whoever wants to enjoy the immunity clause should go to his state and contest for governorship.

We are aware that in the year 2013 a committee of the same House recommended the expunging of the immunity clause for the president and his vice in order to check executive lawlessness. What happened between then and now? How can the present House confer immunity on those who hitherto did not enjoy it? We smell a rat.

It is a calculated assault on two of the basic principles of democracy, namely, probity and accountability. The masses are being skinned alive. First, we cannot hold the executive arm of government accountable until after the end of its tenure and now, the legislature wants to dig in deep. It is not only daylight robbery but also an attempt to subject the citizenry to the tyranny of Draconian legislation. Those who make the law must submit themselves to the same law. Only thus can they have a taste of the pudding.

The refusal of the Speaker of the House to subject the bill to a voice vote is undemocratic and most condemnable. Honourable Dogara wants to turn Nigeria into a huge Animal Farm where all animals are equal but some are more equal than others.

The conduct of some of the members of Senate is equally disgraceful. The alleged use of vulgar language by Senator Dino Melaye and his alleged threat to beat up a female colleague in the House is most unbecoming of the status of a parliamentarian and a distinguished senator for that matter. His belligerence constitutes a threat to the continued involvement of Nigerian women in politics.

MURIC calls on female politicians and feminists across the country to speak up on this unprovoked assault on womanhood. The Senate President must call Melaye to order. In addition, female members in the NASS must insist on getting an apology from Melaye.

To sum up, we charge the House of Representatives to throw out the self-serving and politically motivated bill. We urge Nigerian lawmakers to avoid widening the disconnect between them and the electorate, desist from unnecessary confrontation with the executive and adhere to international best practices in parliamentary matters.

Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Director,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)

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The Smell Of Trivia By @GarShehu

A good number of the reactions to President Muhammadu Buhari’s announcement that Nigeria has joined the Islamic Coalition Against Terrorism, show quite clearly that many Nigerians do not fully understand the president’s motives for this decision.  With the rise of the Boko Haram Terrorist group of the past few years, Nigeria faces a threat such as no other in its entire history and existence.  Desperate times require desperate, unusual, measures.

 

The girls in Gwoza who were raped by militants do not care where the help comes from as far as they will eventually be able to move about freely without fear of being kidnapped and used as sex slaves.  The mothers in Bama whose sons were slaughtered before their eyes do not worry whether Boko Haram is defeated by a Christian or Muslim coalition.  The hundreds of thousands in IDP camps are concerned simply about when they can safely return to their homes and resume their normal lives.  For these ones most hard hit by the Boko Haram terrorists, whether the help they so desperately need comes from the United States of America or from Saudi Arabia does not matter.

 

One of the main thrusts of President Buhari’s campaign was the war on terror.  He promised that his administration would bring an end to Boko Haram, and set about doing just that as soon as he was elected, travelling to different countries and meeting with various heads of state to discuss the way forward on the issue. At the time, no Nigerian worried that President Buhari was seeking help from the West.  No one worried about the ideology of those willing and able to help our country to defeat terror.  Nigerians were simply united with their President in a determination to bring Boko Haram to an end so that our brothers and sisters in the northeast can resume their normal lives.

 

It is on account of these people and their desperate situation, and on the basis of national interest only, that President Buhari accepted the offer, with both hands, of assistance from G7 countries at the commencement of his administration. Religion was not a consideration then. It is also not a consideration now that he has made the decision to embrace help in fighting terror from the Middle-East. The safety of Nigerians and the total annihilation of Boko Haram is of more importance than the unfounded worries of Nigeria’s so-called Islamisation.

 

Those efforts by President Buhari led to several gains, including the technical defeat of Boko Haram by the end of 2015 as he had promised during the election campaigns.  Once again, our Commander-in-Chief has sought help where he believes our country will benefit and the religious affiliation or ideology of our benefactors should not be the paramount consideration.  It is simply one of those cases where the enemies of our enemy has become our enemy. The enemy of terrorists all around the globe is our friend.

 

The fears that our country’s membership in this coalition will draw Islamic State, ISIS’s attention to Nigeria are too late.  As the President has repeatedly maintained, it is Boko Haram that proclaimed allegiance to ISIS, thereby dragging us into the global terrorism network. By pledging allegiance to ISIS, the terrorists already drew the international terror group’s attention to this part of the world.  ISIS proudly and openly accepted this proclamation of allegiance.  They have their sights set on us already.

 

Terrorism is heathen and knows no religion. It can only be defeated by the unity of entire humanity. Criticism of the membership of this alliance only shows our disarray and a lack of unity against terror and will only make the terrorists happy. The fears of so-called Islamisation are strange and unfounded, and meant only to feed the fear and suspicions existing among Nigerians.

 

With a precedent as shown above, it will be unkind and uncharitable of anyone to accuse President Buhari of executing deception. In an unusually harsh commentary, this country’s most respected newspaper The Punch on Sunday  succeeded in exactly doing this. Read this:

“The presidency’s doublespeak on Nigeria’s membership of the Saudi Arabia-led anti-terror Islamic coalition is unfortunate in the extreme. In the beginning, an aide to the president on media and publicity issued a statement to the effect that the president had declined Nigeria’s membership of the coalition and therefore did not attend its meeting while on a diplomatic visit to Saudi Arabia.

But barely two weeks after, President Muhammadu Buhari himself confirmed Nigeria’s membership of the coalition in an interview with a foreign television station, Al- Jazeera. Buhari, who never tabled such a sensitive matter before the National Assembly, said there are terrorists in Nigeria who have claimed to be Muslims. So, according to the him, “We are part of it because we have got terrorists in Nigeria who claim that they are Islamic. So, if there is an Islamic coalition to fight terrorism, Nigeria will be part of it because we are casualties of Islamic terrorism.

“This explanation is simplistic, to say the least and does not do any good to expected political astuteness of President Buhari. In the main, membership of any such coalition is unacceptable for it offends the sensibilities of Nigerians in their diverse inclinations and should be reversed.”

Sensibilities offended? Can anyone face the more than two million unhoused, mostly Muslim refugees displaced by terror now being fed, almost exclusively by Christian charities that it is offensive them, or that it matters to them who, between Christians and Muslims is supplying the next meal? The one who raised a tent over their heads?

Let me say that the presidential aide in question is no other than myself. Although I write statements emanating from the Presidency, I don’t choose what headline writers will use to caption those stories.

To that extent, it is untrue of anyone to say the President had ab initio rejected a membership of the coalition against terror.

What the President said, to paraphrase him, was that “we may not be with you, but we will support you in every possible way we can.” This does not presuppose rejection. Even if it was one, nothing says that a government cannot move or adjust its position based on new, superior facts as we individuals do in our daily lives.

That some of the criticism against the President is coming from opposition Senators is even more absurd, showing a  lack of judgement and discrimination- or even worse.

It holds up a mirror to the PDP’s cluelessness and total absence of strategy to defeat Boko Haram terrorism. The party’s projection of itself as better than the APC in this regard is hobbled by their own record of indecision and serial abdication on Chibok girls as disclosed by Ambassador Packock and greed, corruption and a general incapacity to drive the anti terror war.

A set of politicians who failed to confront or attack terrorism while in power have no right to challenge President Buhari’s hounding of them. To global acclaim. Trivia smells. There is a need for a new fragrance in the air.

 

Garba Shehu

SSA to the President (Media and Publicity).

 

 

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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2016 Budget: Same Taste, Different Smell

I was lying down on a beach mat, in the lush green grass in the garden, shortly, I drifted into a nap. Imagine that you are trapped in a dense, dark jungle, virtually all sunlight is blocked by the lush canopy overhead, surrounded by thick vegetation, you can barely move. To escape,you must cut your way through with a machete and a lantern, such is the state of the nation.

The shout of ‘change’ politics, inspired by a white hope in a nation that seems barren and hostile and cold was unexpected, and the change,when it came was too sudden.

It is a bit of a problem that anybody human has got it tough these days, from Lagos Okada riders to the Abia woman on her bicycle, to bankers, to self-employed, all are living from hand to mouth, no matter how much you try to eke a living. Hope for all,of equal opportunities daily vaporising before our very eyes,as Nigerians,all have poverty as frater cousin,in a country that has so much to offer.

It is really difficult to pinpoint what went wrong and at what point, but one thing was certain,and that is the general state of pervasive poverty and lack all around . But we can do a cumulative overview of the nation the PMB administration inherited in future.
Today, ours is a nation,  where wrong desires coincide with opportunity and greed,where seeing through the veil of optimism and hope have become especially challenging.
The mass of the people have an unending struggle for rights and survival. The nation’s constitution does not grant us rights,rights are natural. But some evil took our rights away, to the extent that even Economics forces was no longer been made to control,regulate and or direct the attainment of the prosperity and social wellbeing of the citizens.

With Nigeria’s economic dependence intensified, its consequences for the Nigerian people were also intensified, and the resultant effect is the visible decline of agricultural production and the increasing dependence on food imports that have plagued the nation,since God knows when. The proceed from Crude oil -substantial foreign exchange earner is no longer sufficient to meet the country’s needs. It has become necessary to abandon all dreams about economic independence by past administrations, as a result, the real income of the vast majority of the Nigerian population has decreased, particularly burdened are the poor of the people who depend on subsidised basic services.

A credit squeeze pervades the financial system. Manufacturing capital has been crippled, especially in enterprises that rely on the constricted domestic market. Unemployment increases rapidly and the country willy nilly further nestled and integrated into the global capitalist system as a marginalised peripheral and subservient member. Thus the struggle for economic independence further postponed,even the popular base for it is being increasingly further weakened. In the eyes of the world Nigeria has remained ” big for nothing “, a nation that is inexorably squandering its potential for greatness.

This scenario have escorted the nation to increase in senseless, violent acts and mindless fleecing,personal safety and neighbourhood morals compromised.  This means something is seriously wrong with society, and a leadership, chronically tensed like a motor that stays revved up.A push toward disaster is waiting to happen, with the nation’s ruling elite increasing personal wealth,which makes them to see themselves as above the people and the law, except the PMB administration bare its fangs to beard the czars of corruption past and present. It is also to tame the government officials of#1.126 tr yearly.

I had only just woken up from my nap and wasn’t fully compos mentis, when the rerun of the PMB’s 2016 budget speech came on air. At a canter, ( and one feels it in a nebulous way, because our democracy is still wet behind the air), expecting from the speech, intimidation like a mosquito in a dark bedroom. But in a pensive mood, he was perspicacious enough to sound like things were soon going to change.
He has shown that he is dealing with real people with real problems, first by offering apologies. Here I would have thought to agree with my brother and boss, Alhaji Lai Muhammed on the fuel issue,but then,both of us would have been dead wrong, since PMB took the vicarious responsibility,which represents a complete volte-face in government reasoning and thinking over the years.

With the cadence in his speech, he hammered on what the nation need to do to recover from the pig in a python, upending values of the past, of feelings shattered like fine glass,and the broad parameters required to tow the path of honour and dignity,as encapsulated in the ‘change ‘agenda, on which his deepest affection and deeper ambitions are centred around;
in pursuit of justice and fairness,especially on the economy, for a people expecting a restoration of prosperity and a new epoch in their political life.

The nation’s political foundation have endured the vicissitudes of life in the hands of corrupt corporate fleecing, the tides of prosperity and depression and a weak public service,  who refuse to go with the believe that expanding the scope of government would ensure the progress of the nation and the welfare of its citizens.
The administration should however, note that what the economy needs is a new impetus for the ‘change’ agenda goals for greater democracy and social justice, honest government and effective regulation of business and a revived commitment to public service to have the much desired character and effects.
Nigerians, who hitherto have been cooperative would be implacably opposed to any plans to the contrary.
It is stalking time for Nigerians but not a propitious time for PMB, and he hasn’t all the gifts, no!I don’t think he will succeed in the corruption crusade that has put the nation up a tree  (I do have my reasons), still,he can but try. Nigerians should however, be ready to answer for his discretion.

Back to the 2016 budget, the ball is now in the court of the National Assembly and court of public opinion. The NASS need to know how to be alone and not be defined by any person,body and or group in the collective pursuit of our aspirations for social justice and equal opportunities for all. Nigerians are now straining every nerve, watching and waiting for who will fluff their new found hope and optimism,and this is enough to spell the ground rules of doing things and also the NASS should note that the job of law making and appropriation is not about preventing people from enjoying life or oppressing them, but the establishment of limits on behaviour; of one request several pragmatic answers.

Our eyes are flickering with excitement,chest swelled to the uttermost, we need the administration to find a capacity for improvisation and ingenuity to raise a nation in distress. The NASS-a microcosm of the Nigerian people and community at large, and duly and constitutionally mandated by “We the people,should be circumspect when dealing with the budget, look at it painstakingly and holistically, with the mixed miscellany of its micro and macro economic implications and relevance to the mass of our people in mind.

The dreams and expectations of change from the ferocious and fervent attacks on our bread, milk, honey, and our sleeping in the tropical sun on a bed of golden basmatic rice rather than on roses, must be achieved. But,you can’t keep doing the old things and hope to get new results,neither can we go forth with sharpened sticks to hunt woolly mammoths to get the often elusive winning formula in the will-o-the-wisp called success.

Achieving lasting peace,buoyant economy is a destination that is achievable, but you can reach it only if you know where it is.
Now that PMB seems to have kickstart the rebirth, we must be willing and ready to confront and meet all challenges that will arise on the nose. While working their socks off,our new leaders must resist any attempt or foil to hold them hostage.#
Jimi Bickersteth is a blogger and a writer.
He can be reached on twitter
@ alabaemanuel
@ bickersteth jimi

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