Archive for July 2018

Is Adeosun Still Nigeria’s Finance Minister?

July 23, 2018

Casmir Igbokwe

Mrs. Kemi Adeosun is a beauty to behold any day. She also has brain. The combination of beauty and brain apparently made President Muhammadu Buhari to saddle her with the responsibility of managing Africa’s largest economy. As finance minister, Adeosun attracts the admiration and trust of many Nigerians. This is why the controversies surrounding her alleged fake National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) exemption certificate trouble the heart.

An online newspaper, Premium Times, had reported that Adeosun forged her NYSC exemption certificate. She reportedly graduated from the Polytechnic of East London, now known as the University of East London, in 1989 at the age of 22. She could not do her compulsory youth service because she was out of the country then. But in September 2009, Adeosun allegedly obtained the said exemption certificate. It was signed by the director-general of the scheme, Yusuf Bomoi, now late, who allegedly retired from service eight months earlier than the date of issuance of the certificate.

The man who was the director-general when Adeosun obtained the certificate, Maharazu Tsiga, has said he couldn’t have signed such a certificate. According to him, NYSC has what is called a strong room, where they could have easily identified the status of the certificate.

The law establishing the NYSC requires that every Nigerian below 30 years must serve his fatherland, even if it is 30 years after your graduation. But you are exempted if you happen to be above 30 years upon graduation.

Adeosun didn’t fall within this exemption category. So, how did she obtain the exemption certificate? Why has she not come out to defend herself amid all the allegations?

What emerged as a defence was a vague response from both the authorities of the NYSC and the Federal Government. The corps said she indeed applied for an exemption certificate, but that it would investigate the authenticity of the certificate she allegedly obtained. Some weeks after, Nigerians are still waiting for the outcome of the investigation, which ordinarily should not take more than one day.

Rather than take a decisive action, the Federal Government decided to prevaricate. According to information minister, Lai Mohammed, government is not two. NYSC is an agency of the government; so, Mohammed noted, the government stood by the position of the corps.

Who is fooling whom? Adeosun and the government she serves obviously know that Nigerians have short memories. We make a lot of noise about an issue. After a few weeks, more troubling events occur and we forget the previous issues under discussion.

But we cannot continue to sweep things under the carpet. If we are serious about fighting corruption, as this government has professed, then we must be ready to investigate and punish every proven corrupt act, especially from public office-holders.

I don’t understand, for instance, how security agents would discover a whopping N13 billion in a flat in Ikoyi, Lagos, yet nobody has told us who owns the money. Nobody has been prosecuted. Government has given some percentage of the money to whistleblowers. Didn’t those who blew the whistle know or mention some likely owners of the money?

In Nigeria, the more you look, the less you see. The less you look, the more you see. At the just-concluded election in Ekiti State, both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) allegedly gave money to voters. As usual, they denied the allegations. But, so far, there has not been any serious investigation to unravel the truth.

Last week, the national chairman of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Ralphs Nwosu, alleged that the APC and President Buhari’s team were sharing N50 million to some members of opposition parties in order to cause crisis within the parties. The major response we got was a denial from the national publicity secretary of the APC, Bolaji Abdullahi. No serious investigation. No threats to arrest the culprits from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. And we say we are fighting corruption!

It is mainly when allegations of corruption involves an opposition party member that the anti-graft agencies bare their fangs. Immediately the announcement came that the PDP lost the Ekiti election, the EFCC started threatening to deal with Governor Ayo Fayose when he leaves office. I am not against investigating Fayose. My point is that the measure given to a Fayose should also be the same measure given to an Adeosun or even to the hidden owner of the Ikoyi cash.

In serious societies, Adeosun should have either resigned or been booted out. Recently, officials of ethics and anti-corruption commission (EACC) arrested a serving governor in Kenya for corruption. Governor Sospeter Ojaamong of Busia County faces charges ranging from abuse of office to conspiracy to steal public funds. The case is reportedly based on evidence of suspicious procurement practices for a solid waste management system project, which was never completed.

Kenya is not even a good example of how to tackle corruption and impunity. President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government has undertaken to give the fight against graft in a renewed push. But so far, the fight, like Nigeria’s, is feeble.

Nevertheless, a serving governor in that country is facing charges. This will never happen in Nigeria, where governors are protected by immunity. It would have been understandable if Adeosun were a serving governor. You could then argue that she was protected by immunity. But she is not. President Buhari appointed her like other ministers. He is at liberty to remove any of his ministers who has any skeleton in his cupboard.

Many Nigerians voted for Buhari in 2015 because they believed he would be committed to accountability and transparency. So, why the President has not done the needful in this matter remains a puzzle that may not have any useful answer. Even the minister of youth and sports, Solomon Dalung, who had promised to brief Nigerians on the matter after obtaining valid information from the NYSC boss, Brigadier-General Suleiman Kazaure, has remained mute.

It is pertinent to note that giving false information or obtaining the NYSC certificate illegally is a criminal offence. Section 13(4) of the NYSC Act stipulates up to three years jail term for such offenders. The same section also stipulates 12 months imprisonment and/or N2,000 fine for any eligible candidate who skips the service.

So, why should an important minister hesitate to clear her name from such grave allegations, if she is innocent? What moral right has the incumbent government got to arrest and prosecute anybody for contravening the law of the land? Why did the National Assembly confirm her appointment, if it actually did a thorough job of screening the minister? And where were the ubiquitous security agencies when Adeosun was made a minister? Did they screen her at all?

As usual, many questions, few answers. What is at stake here is public trust. If Adeosun were to be doing her private business, nobody would know whether she served her fatherland or not; nobody would poke nose into her business or life. But she is serving the Nigerian public in a very high capacity.

This is why she must speak up now. If she fails to do so, she should be ready to take the Salisu treatment. Remember Salisu Buhari? He was one-time young and handsome Speaker of the House of Representatives. He claimed to have graduated from Toronto University in Canada. He also claimed to have done the compulsory NYSC scheme. But because it is difficult to sustain a lie for too long, his cookie crumbled sooner than he imagined. Toronto University denied him. He resigned ignominiously from office in 1999. So, what is Adeosun still waiting for?

Celebrating Peter Obi @ 57

Former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, marked his 57th birthday last Thursday, July 19, 2018. It is an opportunity to draw attention once again to the legacies of this man who every current and intending leader should understudy.

In this era of certificate forgery, budget padding, acute corruption and profligate governance, Obi comes across as a man who should be emulated by all and sundry.

As governor of Anambra State, he ran the most accountable government in Nigeria. He not only did not borrow a dime to run government, he also left behind about N75 billion in cash and investments for his successor.

His love for education is unrivalled. During his tenure, Anambra started emerging tops in external exams in the country. Even after leaving office, he has continued to impact on the lives of many students. He has visited many schools in the country and on each visit, he donates at least N1 million for development. On a day when many others in his shoes would have thrown lavish parties, Obi decided to mark it with students.

In spite of his pedigree and success, he has remained humble and easily accessible. It is a man like this that Nigeria needs at this period of national confusion.

  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, July 23, 2018
Advertisements

Like Fayose, Nigeria’s democracy has serious neck pains

July 17, 2018

Casmir Igbokwe

The build-up to the just-concluded Ekiti governorship election was highly dramatic. Act One, Scene One: Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige, urges the electorate to vote for Governor Ayodele Fayose.

At the All Progressives Congress (APC) rally in Ado-Ekiti, Ngige, in Pidgin English, blunders, “If you marry two wives, you go know which one wey better. Fayose is the better wife. E dey cook, e dey give husband food. E no dey give am trouble. You must bring back Fayose on Saturday.”

Of course, it is common knowledge that Fayose was not the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The PDP’s candidate is Prof. Kolapo Olusola who happens to be Fayose’s current deputy. The APC’s candidate is Dr. Kayode Fayemi. Ngige apparently mistook ‘Fayemi’ for ‘Fayose.’

Act One, Scene Two: Fayose weeps like a baby. A day after Ngige’s act, precisely at the PDP rally in Ado-Ekiti, Fayose sobs, “They (the police) are beating anybody who has any sign of PDP on them. They are not picking our calls; they’ve made up their minds to do this evil.

“I am in pain, I am in severe pain. (Sobs) I can’t turn this neck anymore. If anything happens to me, the Inspector-General of Police should be held accountable.”

Like Fayose, our democracy has serious neck pains. It needs urgent treatment. One of the maladies happens to be the security agencies. They tend to show bias for the government in power. Before the above scenario painted by Fayose, security operatives had reportedly dispersed supporters of the PDP from the popular Fajuyi Park in Ado Ekiti, where they had gathered for the rally.

They reportedly thwarted every move by Fayose to lead his supporters back to the park. Moving the rally to the Government House did not help matters. The outgoing governor claimed that the police manhandled him and many PDP members there. He cried for justice and pleaded for the intervention of the international community, lamenting that Ekiti State, nay Nigeria, was in trouble.

In 2014, when the PDP was in power at the centre, Fayose was the beneficiary of the invasion of Ekiti State by security agents. He moved about like an emperor and later won the election. Then, he did not lament that Nigeria was in trouble. As the saying goes, the measure you give is the measure you get.

Nevertheless, two wrongs do not make a right. The problem is that most of our politicians consider our elections a do-or-die affair. Just consider this: the Federal Government deployed 30,000 police personnel, armoured personnel carriers and some other security hardware for the Ekiti election. Commanding the security operations was a Deputy Inspector-General of Police (DIG), assisted by an Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG), and three commissioners of police (CPs). The DSS was also there in full force. And please note that Ekiti is not an isolated case. Similar security build-up had occurred in the past in such states as Anambra and Ondo.

This type of scenario only creates unnecessary tension and verbal warfare in the polity. After the alleged assault on Fayose, for instance, the PDP and the APC traded accusations to no end. In Abuja, Anambra, Imo, Nasarawa and some other states, members of the party protested and condemned what they saw as an assault on the nation’s democracy.

The national chairman of the PDP, Uche Secondus, described it as a civilian coup. As he put it, “We are aware and we have been reliably informed that INEC and a section of the security agencies are preparing to rig the election in Ekiti. That is why Ekiti today has been militarised and policed. Over 30,000 policemen are in Ekiti. The citizens of Ekiti are afraid, they are traumatised, they are harassed and they are being guarded not to come out of their homes.”

The APC didn’t waste time to defend itself. It rejected the claim by the PDP that policemen were drafted to Ekiti State to harass PDP supporters in Saturday’s governorship election.

The APC further noted, “With PDP’s claim in its press statement, it is obvious that its leadership does not have the facts of the actual events in Ekiti State or it is deliberately attempting to divert public attention from the comical performance put up by Governor Ayodele Fayose on Wednesday, which was clearly contrived to give the impression to the public that he was being persecuted.”

Nigeria’s democracy has become a potpourri of tragicomedy. In some cases, it provides comic relief. In some other instances, it makes you sad and troubled. Or how do you explain police rationalisation of what they did. They said they prevented the PDP rally from holding to forestall the outbreak of violence between the two leading political parties; and that they acted because the two parties intended to have their rallies at the same date in Ado-Ekiti metropolis.

Incidentally, the APC had a successful rally the previous day in Ado-Ekiti. Nobody molested its supporters. No tear gas. No fracas. So, how the police came about the story of two leading parties holding rallies the same day remains a matter of conjecture.

The PDP sustained its allegations against security agencies even on Election Day. Its candidate, Professor Olusola Eleka, said his party contested against security agencies and that there were plans to tinker with the results of the election.

Democracy suffers when security agencies that are supposed to be neutral begin to show open bias for a particular political party or individual. People not only lose confidence in such security agencies, they begin to take the law into their hands.

They begin to use financial muscle to buy their way through. This was what happened during Saturday’s election in Ekiti. The PDP reportedly dispensed its cash from Government House, Ado-Ekiti. The APC, according to media reports, set up its own money base in a hotel along University Road.

At Government House, the PDP allegedly gave voters, excluding civil servants and pensioners, between N4,000 and N5,000. Civil servants and pensioners reportedly got theirs through the banks.

On its part, the APC was said to be distributing cash and rice at different centres through authorised agents.

President Muhammadu Buhari would do well to stop these anomalies. He should start by calling security agencies to order. Observance of the rule of law is the cornerstone of democracy. When that is breached, what you have is a jackboot democracy.

The other day, the Department of State Security (DSS) whisked Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe away while he was attending a function at Transcorp Hilton Hotel Abuja. Abaribe was with them for five days. Former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, has been in detention for over two years despite different court orders that he should be released.

Different agencies of government, especially the notorious Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the police, have continued to violate the rights of Nigerians. In some cases, they kill people for no just cause.

Besides, the President should also caution himself. The other day, he issued Executive Order Number 006. This permits security agencies to freeze the assets of persons standing trial without recourse to court order.

Little wonder the Senate, last Wednesday, condemned what it sees as a continuous assault of the Nigerian Constitution and worsening anti-democratic activities by the executive. It resolved to summon the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, to explain the reasons behind the alleged violations of human rights of Nigerians by the executive.

Happily, Nigerians are beginning to build confidence in the electoral process. People are now conscious of using their voter cards to either elect or remove a government. Currently, Nigerians queue for hours and stand under the sun just to obtain their permanent voter cards (PVCs). It will be a tragedy if, after all the sacrifices, they still face half-hearted democracy.

Soon, campaigns for the 2019 elections will start. The usual intrigues, alignments and realignments have started. Will political parties observe the rules of the game? Will their campaigns be violence-free? Will the President allow the electoral processes to flow seamlessly without interruptions from any quarters? Will the incumbent leaders concede defeat if their opponents win election? Have past suspects of electoral crimes been tried and punished?

Is the Ekiti experience a signpost of what to expect in the elections coming up in 2019? If we have to deploy 30,000 policemen in one state for a governorship election, how many will we deploy in all the states in 2019? In simple terms, will there be free and fair election in 2019? Will the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) be an unbiased umpire?

These and many more questions are on the lips of many Nigerians. The answer lies with the Federal Government, the INEC, and security agencies.

 

Re: Nigeria’s embarrassing gold medal in extreme poverty

The last paragraph of your article titled “Nigeria’s embarrassing gold medal in extreme poverty” is very interesting. All hands must be on deck in fighting corruption. I have personally secured convictions in the Anambra State local government system. I ensured three months suspension of an officer who mutilated a cheque of N600,000 to the tune of N1.6m and banned him from holding any financial position till his retirement. I also ensured the demotion of an officer from GL.16 to 15, removal as a local govt treasurer and ban from holding any financial position till his retirement.

These will be deterrent to others.

  • Chinedu Ekwuno (JP), 08063730644

Our leaders are the architects of our poverty because they refuse to do the needful in governance over their selfish interest of looting the fund.

  • Gordon Chika Nnorom, +2348062887535
  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, July 16, 2018.

Nigeria’s embarrassing gold medal in extreme poverty

July 17, 2018

Casmir Igbokwe

Last Wednesday, Ahmed set himself ablaze. That was at Omole Phase 1 area of Lagos. Hardship was purportedly the main cause. Said to be a barber in his 20s, the young man had sustained third degree burns before passersby could rescue him. He was rushed to the hospital. But there were reports that he eventually died.

The scene was reminiscent of what happened in Tunisia on December 17, 2010 when a street vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire. The action triggered the Tunisian Revolution and the wider Arab Spring against autocratic regimes.

Trust Nigerians, Ahmed’s death will not trigger even a street protest. Some would have even made a caricature of him or busied themselves snapping him and uploading on the social media. But, at least, the incident will remind us of the current existential realities in the country. Like Ahmed, some people had similarly committed suicide on account of hardship.

Earlier in the year, both the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank said unemployment and poverty rates had increased in Nigeria. The African Development Bank also estimates that 80 per cent of Nigerians live below the United Nations poverty threshold of $2 per day. And according to the National Bureau of Statistics, about nine million jobs have been lost in the past three years. The number of newly unemployed rose from 8.03 million in 2015 to 15.99 million by the third quarter of 2017.

Little wonder it was reported recently that Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty.  According to the report by the Brookings Institution, a non-profit public policy organisation in the United States, extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute. This is the highest number in the world. The survey showed that at the end of May 2018, Nigeria had an estimated 87 million people in extreme poverty. India had 73 million, which is actually a decline from what it used to be. Comparing ours with India is even misleading. India is far more populous than Nigeria. A 2016 estimate put India’s population at 1.324 billion whereas Nigeria’s is about 180 million.

Corruption and mismanagement are at the core of our problems. A few individuals privileged to be in government have siphoned and continue to siphon our commonwealth. Today, we hear of budget padding and double salaries by those at the helm of affairs.

Meanwhile, many of those who toil day and night to make Nigeria better are denied their entitlements. The other day, the Head, Department of Internal Medicine at the Kogi State Specialist Hospital in Lokoja, Dr. Chukwudibe Rosemary, suddenly died in agony. Since February this year, Doctor Rosemary and many others have not been paid. Her case was so bad that she could not even pay for some of the tests such as Pylori that were to be run on her.

Not wanting Rosemary’s fate to befall them, some policemen in Maiduguri, last week, went to the streets to protest non-payment of some allowances. These are men who are in the theatre of the Boko Haram war. To owe them even one kobo is evil.

We cannot continue to live this way. We cannot continue to waste billions of naira as security votes when there is no serious control over the spate of killings in the country. We cannot claim to be the giant of Africa when one in three Nigerian children is chronically malnourished; when millions of these children are out of school.

The questions are: Why should a state governor owing workers several months of salary continue to fund the so-called office of the First Lady? Why should our political office-holders continue to jet out for medical attention abroad when millions of Nigerians like Dr Rosemary cannot afford even common Paracetamol and do not have access to quality health care?

Why would governors engage long and overzealous convoys when the majority of Nigerians cannot afford N200 transport fare? What are those 10 aircraft or so doing in the Presidential fleet? Does the Presidency operate a commercial airline? And why will a governor charter flights when there are commercial airlines going to many destinations in Nigeria?

The questions are legion. But there is one simple answer: curb profligacy in government; make political offices less attractive to thieves. Politicians cannot be swimming in money while the majority of the people wallow in extreme poverty.

Fair enough, the Federal Government appears to be fishing for solutions. Apart from the feeble fight against corruption, the government had boasted that it was reviving agriculture; that it was moving Nigeria closer to self-sufficiency in rice. That is a good step if the herdsmen menace will allow farmers to produce the food we desperately need. The nation can no longer afford to rely solely on oil.

The Federal Government also said it was paying conditional cash transfer of N5, 000 monthly to 297,973 poorest and most vulnerable households. And since 2016, the government said it had disbursed N10 billion to no fewer than 300,000 beneficiaries. It now plans to disburse the recovered $322 million of the late Sani Abacha loot to some households. These are palliative measures.

There is need for urgent reforms to give poverty a red card in Nigeria. Government should start by providing the security and enabling environment for businesses to thrive. If you have all the wonderful business plans and there is no guarantee of security, all the efforts will be in vain. Who, for instance, would want to invest in a place like Maiduguri at this point in time?

Beyond government, Nigerians should take their destinies into their own hands. It has been predicted that Nigeria would become the world’s third largest country by 2050. We need to learn how to control our libidos. The era when we kill a cow for a woman for having 10 children is far gone. Breeding children with the hope of giving them out as houseboys or maids is irresponsible. Nobody can train or love your child better than you.

Above all, we need to begin to seriously punish acts of corruption. Until we give red cards to corrupt leaders, poverty will never leave us alone. Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the Federal Capital Territory High Court recently jailed two former governors, Jolly Nyame and Joshua Dariye, for corruption and abuse of office. That is the way to go.

 

Re: Plateau killings and Presidency’s you-too fallacy

Good afternoon Mr. Casmir Igbokwe. I just finished reading your column in today’s SUN newspaper. Thanks for such wonderful work. I have been praying for another good writer from Igboland since the death of the late Mr. Dimgba Igwe. Keep it up. I’m truly impressed with your write-up.

Okpoko Daniel in Bauchi, +2347035639518

With these inexcusable killings, destructions, occupations of “conquered” territories, Buhari’s further 4 years reign? FRIGTHENING!

Anonymous, +2347035390254

I read your note in The Sun; you don’t need any soothsayer to tell you that this is ethnic cleansing of Christians in different parts of the country to Islamise the country. They shall never arrest any Miyetti Allah leader. Fulani indigenes in the army always go with them; when they finish they go back to the barracks. It’s jihad. Youths should be ordered now to enter bush in every community and drive away one day so that there should be no breeding space. That’s the solution. It should be simultaneously done.

Chukwu, +2348080484851

My dear Casmir Igbokwe, I’m an old man of 74 years relocated to Lokoja from Kaduna. I don’t take breakfast until I go through dailies especially Daily Sun. Each time I read your write-up, I feel I’m 40 years old because you nail the nail without fear. Today’s episode (July 2nd) is nothing but the truth. May the Lord guide & see you through. Amen.

Dada Jacob, +2348162956049

Casmir, haba! Why are you so selfish to the extent that you reduced your write-up to a local, illiterate, parochial and drunk politician in a village square of Birom hamlet campaigning to win election in Jos North LGA of Plateau state? Niger Delta, IPOB, Birom cattle rustlers & armed gangs etc are all right but others are bad? How many soldiers, police, and other security agencies do we have in this country? Buhari is God sent messiah and we pray for his success till your types are cleared for better/sincere analysts to surface.

Anonymous, +2348126660234

Earlier this week, Mayetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association’s Chairman was boasting that all land in Nigeria belongs to the Fulani. What does this tell us? What we have in this country is that the British handed power to the Fulani who are now our new colonial masters. The Fulani will continue the killings until the people of Middle-Belt, their errand boy, accept the Fulani’s condition and gradually it will reach the whole south. All the security chiefs in this country are Fulani and you want us to believe they are helpless.

Anonymous, +2348033584682

Sir, Nigerians think the media can do more than they are doing now to help this Country. You people watch BBC, CNN and see how incidents are hammered to sensitise the electorate. You media people will be talking grammar and the country’s population will continue to decimate! What is wrong with us? Where are our youths in tertiary institutions? They are our future leaders? Papers are full daily! No plans! No directives! No suggestions. Nothing! We will all be sitting duck till we all die and four legged things occupy our premises!

Concerned and aggrieved citizen, +2347019287625

 

Plateau killings and Presidency’s you-too fallacy 

July 2, 2018

Casmir Igbokwe

Nigeria is currently on edge. Almost on a daily basis, people are being hacked to death. In Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, Plateau and many other States, gunmen suspected to be herdsmen have made human life worthless. The recent killings in Plateau State claimed the lives of at least 86 people. Unofficial figures put the number at over 200. Amnesty International estimated that since January 2018, at least 1,813 people had been murdered in 17 states. This is double the 894 people killed in 2017.

My concern here is not the killings per se. It is the impunity with which these acts are carried out. For instance, the gunmen in Plateau State reportedly attacked 11 villages for at least seven hours without intervention from security forces. They also destroyed over 50 houses. Rather than fish the culprits out and deal with them decisively, the authorities in Abuja have regaled us with undue excuses and you-too fallacy.

Last week, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, tried to rationalise the Plateau carnage. According to him, more people died when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was in power than now that the All Progressives Congress (APC) is in the saddle. To justify his statement, Adesina reeled out the spate of killings from 1999, when democracy smiled on Nigeria again, up until 2015 when the PDP lost to the incumbent government.

Recall that the PDP had declared seven days of mourning and also announced that its flag would fly at half mast in honour of the victims of the Plateau carnage. The party urged the people of Plateau State to exercise their rights as global citizens. This they could do by working with other public-spirited Nigerians and groups and taking President Muhammadu Buhari and his government to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague for acting helpless in the face of continuous mass killings in Nigeria.

This statement riled Adesina. To him, the pot was calling the kettle black. He noted that there was no declaration of national mourning for the deaths that occurred during the time of the PDP; and that the opposition party was not only shedding crocodile tears but was also playing cheap, infantile politics.

Adesina added, “Those who take pleasure in twisting statements from the Presidency may claim we are saying that many more people were killed under the PDP than under President Muhammadu Buhari. It would be unconscionable to do so.”

He said the intendment of his statement was to show that wanton killings had been with us for a while and that the incumbent government was working towards enduring solutions.

Adesina is right to an extent. There were also killings during the reign of the PDP. But the Presidential spokesman got it wrong when he started comparing what happened when PDP was in power with what is happening now. Two wrongs do not make a right.

Any student of critical thinking will tell you that Adesina’s argument is nothing but you-too fallacy or tu quoque.  This is a type of argument in which a person turns a charge back on the accuser. That is, when a person does something and tries to rationalise it by claiming that his accuser did it as well. Politicians are very good at this. Mr. Adesina is not a politician. He is a thoroughbred journalist but his job as the spokesman of the president has invariably made him speak like politicians.

It has also become the stock-in-trade of this government to engage in blame game. Almost every anomaly in the country today was caused by the PDP. To the ruling party, the PDP was the reason behind our poor economy. The opposition party was responsible for the hike in exchange rate. And soon, the PDP may be accused of being behind marital and intra-party quarrels within the APC.

The truth of the matter is that what the PDP said about the Plateau killings is in order. The fundamental duty of government all over the world is the protection of life and property. Does the ruling party expect the opposition, nay Nigerians, to continue to fold their arms while innocent citizens are being daily hacked down by marauders?

Any person or group with conscience will condemn what is going on in the country currently. The carnage is such that even some world institutions have broken their silence. The United Nations, for instance, expressed concern over the increasing frequency, intensity, complexity, and geographic scope of violent conflicts across West and Central Africa. It wants the Federal Government to take action and put a check on the wanton killings. It also called on all concerned governments, regional organisations, civil society and other relevant actors to work together to find acceptable and lasting solutions to the conflicts.

On its part, the Amnesty International said its investigations show worrying details of how frequently the security forces failed to protect villagers. According to it, the attackers, usually arriving in their hundreds, spend hours killing people and setting houses on fire and then disappearing without a trace. By failing to hold murderers to account, the Federal Government, the agency regretted, was encouraging impunity that was fuelling rising insecurity across the country.

Groups like the Nigerian Governors Forum, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, PENGASSAN Jama’atu Nasril Islam and individuals like Prof. Wole Soyinka have all condemned the Plateau killings. Even the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) condemned the murders. They all called on security agencies to ensure the arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators.

PDP’s crime, perhaps, is that it is in direct opposition to the ruling party. It is also unfortunate that not even our President, Muhammadu Buhari, inspired hope and trust in his own statements. He simply called for God’s intervention and attributed the Plateau killings to desperate politicians. These politicians, he noted, had increasingly cheapened human life in their quest to establish a reign of instability and chaos in the country for political gains. Buhari said through his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, that those behind the killings hoped that it would give them an advantage in the coming elections.

When it comes to human life, we should learn to do away with hypocrisy and doublespeak that are the hallmarks of politicians. The questions are: are politicians also behind the killings in Benue and elsewhere in the country? Have the security agencies interrogated the leaders of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACABAN) to ascertain the involvement or otherwise of herders in the killings? Will God’s intervention or prayers push our soldiers to take action against the terrorists?

This is why people like the Defence Minister, Mansur Dan-Ali, feel emboldened to vomit trash without qualms. The other day, he attributed the killings by herdsmen to the anti-open grazing laws in some states. The law is currently operational in Benue, Ekiti and Taraba States. According to Dan-Ali, the suspension of the law would reduce tension. But the law is not in operation in Plateau State; so can Dan-Ali tell us why the marauders still visited mayhem on Plateau?

With a Defence minister like this, you don’t need any soothsayer to tell you why the security situation in the country is comatose. And it is still inconceivable why Buhari has not deemed it fit to rejig the security architecture of the country. It is either that our security chiefs are incompetent or they are sympathetic to the cause of the attackers.

Currently, there is serious suspicion arising from the fact that almost all the heads of security agencies are from a section of the country. Little wonder, the former Minister of Defence, Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, submitted recently that the military was biased and had embarked on ethnic cleansing in different parts of the country.

Rather than cry wolf and engage in unnecessary name calling, the Presidency should find lasting solutions to the herdsmen crises in the country. The President himself is the patron of the Miyetti Allah. I don’t understand why he cannot call them to order. He is unwittingly giving credence to the suspicion that he sympathises with them because he is one of them.

Nigeria is for all of us. It does not solely belong to any particular group. So, whoever is claiming superiority over others and even acting as such is an enemy of the state and should be treated as such. You cannot proscribe the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) which has not fired any shot at anybody and turn a blind eye to the atrocities of herdsmen who parade the streets with AK 47 rifles and engage in killing spree across the country.

Human life is more precious than that of a cow. Security agencies must begin to arrest and prosecute all those threatening the peace and unity of this country. Enough of this bloodshed!

ISIS and other threats to Nigeria’s security

July 2, 2018

Casmir Igbokwe

Nigeria has serious security challenges. One of them is Boko Haram insurgency. The other one is Fulani herdsmen terrorism. There is great fear that Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is gradually joining the fray. The greater fear is that our government and top military hierarchy appear not coordinated and sincere in the fight against these terror groups.

A few examples here will suffice. Recently, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) alleged that the Federal Government planned to recruit ex-Boko Haram terrorists, who recently underwent de-radicalisation programme, into the army and police.

The President of CAN, Dr Samson Olasupo Ayokunle, through his spokesman, Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, said CAN was visibly disturbed at the reports. It condemned such a policy in strong terms and asked the Federal Government, especially security agencies, to withdraw the directive capable of compromising the nation’s security system.

The government has not denied this allegation. If it is true, then there is a problem. It is pertinent to note that one of the strategies insurgents like Boko Haram employ when the heat is on them is to pretend to have repented of their sins. With this strategy, they infiltrate the society and get more information that will help their future plans. When they are done, they become deadlier and more vicious in their attacks.

The questions are: how committed will an ex-Boko Haram member recruited as a soldier be in fighting his former colleagues? How deep is this so-called de-radicalisation programme? Will it change their murderous and evil orientation and indoctrination? Is the government telling us that they have renounced their long-held view that killing in the name of Allah catapults one to paradise?

Honestly, the atrocities these people have committed and continue to commit do not give room for any sympathy for them. They have dispatched thousands of innocent citizens to their graves. They have destroyed property worth billions of Naira. They have also displaced many people from their homes. Even, they still visit some Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camps in the North-East with terror. To the evil doers, nowhere is sacrosanct.

The worst is that they kidnap young girls and turn them into suicide bombers. In April 2014, they invaded a school in Chibok, Borno State, and kidnapped hundreds of female students. These innocent girls remained in their custody until recently when the Federal Government secured their release. Of course, some of them died in the custody of the terrorists. Some were raped. Many of them may never recover from this trauma for life.

We were still celebrating the release of some of the Chibok girls when the evil ones struck again. They went to a secondary school in a town called Dapchi in Yobe State and kidnapped over 100 girls. Some negotiations led to the recent release of the students. Unfortunately, one of the girls, Leah Sharibu, is yet to regain her freedom. She refused to renounce her Christian faith and embrace Islam. For this, her kidnappers still hold her hostage. It is heart-rending.

As if the evil of Boko Haram is not enough, the country now has ISIS to contend with as well. Recall that Boko Haram had pledged allegiance to them. Now, there are reports that these ISIS fighters are sneaking into Nigeria to plot devastating attacks.

According to The Sun of UK, the fear is that IS will exploit regular flights between Lagos and London to export more evil to the UK. As part of their new global terrorism strategies, ISIS Spokesman, Abu Hassan Al-Muhajir, reportedly said in April that the terror group was plotting to “bring bloodshed to the skies.”

A senior Nigerian Air Force (NAF) officer, Group Captain Isaac Subi, was said to have informed the UK newspaper that ISIS trained their fighters in Nigeria and that some of our insurgents too were granted access to their training in Yemen and Syria. He described the situation as a virus that spread across our borders, leaving trails of blood, tears and Sorrow.

Similarly, in a recent report, a specialist global risk consultancy, Control Risk, said Sub-Saharan Africa suffered under a sharp rise in the number of Islamist militant attacks. In the report, Control Risk discovers that the number of incidents rose from 317 in 2013 to 1,549 for the period April 2017 to April 2018. In West Africa, where 36 per cent of the incidents were reported, Nigeria suffered most (220 incidents), followed by Mali (194) and Cameroon (96).

Many Nigerians have ascribed most of the recent attacks, especially in the North-Central, to Fulani herdsmen. But it is possible that some of them were inspired by the so-called Islamic State (IS). President Muhammadu Buhari had alluded to this fact when he blamed the rise in attacks by suspected herdsmen on foreign militia once trained by Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.

Besides, the United States military recently expressed great concern over incessant attacks by foreign extremists in Nigeria and other West African countries.

The Commanding General of the U.S. Army, Africa, Brig-Gen. Eugene LeBoeuf, said at the recent African Land Forces Summit in Abuja, that the invasion of foreign extremists in the West African region had fuelled insecurity and terrorism in Nigeria and other neighbouring nations.

The other day, the Department of State Services (DSS) arrested two Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) commanders in Kukuntu village, Gwgwalada, Abuja. The suspects are Bashiru Adams and Rufai Sajo. On April 28, the service also arrested one Umar Dogo, a suspected member of ISWA at Muda Lawal market in Bauchi. The suspects reportedly intended to collaborate with Boko Haram to carry out heinous violent attacks on innocent persons.

Following some of these threats, the FG alerted the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) and the Nigerian Customs Service to intensify stricter passenger screening and tougher security measures for commercial flights. In line with this directive, FAAN said it had beefed up security at the major airports in the country. The move was aimed at forestalling any untoward occurrence at the airports.

It is disturbing to note that amid these threats to the security of the country, the military hierarchy is singing discordant tunes. Last Wednesday, the acting director of defence information, John Agim, reportedly said Nigeria was not under any threat by ISIS.

Agim stated categorically that “there is no concrete evidence on the ground to back the claim.” He assured Nigerians that the military was capable of defending the country. Hence, he urged the citizens to disregard what he calls the ill motivated stories, clips and their claims.

On the contrary, the Minister of Defence, Alhaji Mansur Dan Ali, said the government was aware of the infiltration of ISIS, as the issue topped the agenda of the Meeting of the Ministers of Defence of the Community of Sahel Saharan States (CEN-SAD) which held in Abuja between 20th and 22nd of June. He said it would be elaborately discussed with a view to finding lasting solutions to it.

Even the Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Gabriel Olonisakin, also observed that the need to combat terrorism, arms proliferation and extremism had become imperative given the wave of attacks in recent times.

So, who do we believe? Agim who said there was no cause for ISIS alarm or Dan-Ali who said government was aware of the threats and was trying to find lasting solutions to them?

In the current situation Nigeria finds herself, there is no need to deny the obvious. What the various security agencies in the country should do is to collaborate and adopt a unified approach when dealing with internal and external threats to the country. This is why the reported decision by the Federal Government to outlaw the training of private security guards by consultants is a welcome development. Now, the government will closely monitor their training. One way or the other, these private security outfits can be of help in the entire security architecture of the country.

We cannot afford to compromise our national security in any way. Realizing that our uniformed men are overstretched, every stakeholder in the Nigerian project needs to collaborate to tackle our security challenges. Citizens should volunteer information to relevant security agencies when they notice any security breach in the country.

Government, on its part, should overhaul the intelligence network of the security agencies. It should endeavour to block the sources of funding and weapons for terrorist organizations. It should also continue to seek international assistance in the war against terrorism. Although Britain has deployed 150 troops to assist train Nigerian soldiers in counter-insurgency operations, it can do more than that.

In all, the Federal Government should beware of how it handles sectarian crisis in the country. It should ensure that no group is favoured against the other and no individual should be unduly maltreated or persecuted on account of their belief. Feelings of marginalization and persecution could force a group to align with a terrorist organization to cause havoc in the country.

  • First published in The Sun of Monday, June 25, 2018.