Archive for October 2019

Nigeria Customs’ offensive against car dealers

October 28, 2019

By Casmir Igbokwe

Nigerians deserve an unreserved apology from the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (Retd). Recently, he used the mouth with which he eats yam and cocoyam to say that 90 per cent of cars in Nigeria were smuggled. This was to justify the action of his men who sealed many car marts in the country in commando style. 

In Lagos, the raid affected big-time dealers like Coscharis, Globe Motors, Skymit and many others. Punishment for unauthorised removal of the seal is a fine of N100 million or 10 years imprisonment or both.

The Customs public relations officer, Joseph Attah, justified this raid. He said the action they took was based on credible information that there were smuggled vehicles in those car marts. 

But the question is, did the Customs carry out any investigation before sealing the business premises? From different accounts of some of the car dealers, the Customs strike force took this action without any investigation, without any notice and without asking for any document.

In a pre-litigation letter to the Comptroller-General of Customs, the lawyer to the car dealers’ association in Lagos, Monday Ubani, described the Customs action as a “demonstration of gross irresponsibility, unprecedented impunity and abuse of power.” It added that though the Nigeria Customs and Excise Management Act gives the Customs the power to examine, mark, seal and take account of any goods, the service “did not examine, mark, seal and take account of the particular vehicles identified as not being properly cleared, but rather sealed the entire premises without any form of examination or inspection of papers.”

Thus, the dealers have demanded the unsealing of their car marts. They have also asked the Customs to pay them N10 billion compensation within 30 days or face court action.

Meanwhile, many of these businessmen struggle to survive Nigeria’s harsh business environment. They provide almost everything for themselves – water, electricity, roads and what have you. Even most of the major roads the government provided are in a terrible state. People spend hours in traffic because of bad roads and sometimes end up being attacked by miscreants.

Undoubtedly, what the Customs has done is to open an avenue for its men to harass and extort money from innocent Nigerians. Now, they will randomly stop motorists on the expressway and ask for Customs papers. If you cannot provide them on the spot, they seize your car.

Hameed Ali said so himself: “The law allows us to stop you and ask for the car papers; if your papers are intact, we thank you and bless you. If it is otherwise, we will ask you to pay the duties.”

The same way they reportedly stopped Mrs. Adaeze Nwagboliwe at the Abuja International Airport and asked her to pay a duty of about N175,000 on a pair of trainers and a mini boy bag. The woman, who recently returned to Nigeria from London, said she bought the personal effects at a duty-free shop in Heathrow.  According to reports, the officers said her items did not qualify as personal effects because they were far above N50,000 worth of goods Nigerians were entitled to. Well, those who love to travel and buy gifts for loved ones should brace up for a raw deal.

Customs officers should realise that laws are made for man and not the other way round. They don’t have to kill businesses while carrying out their duties. Earlier in the year, importers and manufacturers of chemical substances in the country accused them of abusing the end user certificate. The office of the National Security Adviser usually issues this end user certificate. It is a document certifying that the buyer is the final recipient of a product and will not transfer it to another party. But Customs men allegedly demand this certificate on products that are not on the list of those that require it. Importers lament that this has caused them enormous losses.

It is high time Customs officers deployed their commando skills at the borders. Once inside the country, they should use tact and intelligence in enforcing their law.

Recall that their lack of tact was what led to the killing of five innocent Nigerians in January 2019. It was during a raid on a house suspected to be harbouring contraband goods at Yewa Community in Ogun State. One of the dead, Jamiu Bello, was a fresh graduate of Tai Solarin University of Education. In March 2017, they killed a cab driver known as Taofiq at Kobape town in Ogun State for allegedly carrying three bags of rice suspected to have been smuggled.

In February this year, there was uproar in the country when a Customs officer killed one Godwin Onoja while allegedly trying to extort N5,000 bribe from a group of travellers who just returned from Europe at Shagamu Interchange on Lagos-Ijebu Ode Expressway.

As Nigerians would say, agents of this government look for money with red eyes. The Customs boss put it succinctly when he said the country needed revenue from everywhere for development.

Hence, the Federal Government increased Value Added Tax from 5 per cent to 7.5 per cent with effect from 2020. It recently introduced charges on cash deposits from N500,000 and above for individuals and N3 million and above for companies. This is to encourage cashless transactions. Ironically, the cashless transactions are also taxed. Now, some marketers charge extra N50 if you make purchases with a point of sale (PoS) machine. They tell you it is a new rule from the Central Bank of Nigeria. The state and local governments have their own taxes. Also, the police and touts have a way of collecting their own levies.

Naturally, these formal and informal charges engender an upswing in the prices of goods and services. When the dust on the sealed car marts settles, for instance, the dealers will naturally increase the prices of cars to recoup their losses.

Ultimately, we only end up de-marketing the country greatly. Foreign investors will be wondering if investing in this country is worth it. With Ali’s 90 per cent smuggled cars theory, they may think all Nigerians are criminals. Do we still need to wonder why companies are relocating to Ghana?

Re: Aisha Buhari’s last laugh

Dear Cas, do you not think that some residents in Aso Rock are disturbing our queenly First Lady for no just cause? To be candid, no matter her gait, she deserves it and it is her God-given turn. From today, let all the noise about her cease forthwith. Fatima should be automatically banned from the Presidency. That place should not be for all kind of people. We have had other First Ladies in the past, but not with this kind of noise. 

– Pastor Livy Onyenegecha, Ibeku Okwuato Mbaise, Imo State, 08036174573

Now that our First Lady Aisha Buhari has apologised to Nigerians, may we accept her apology. The so-called cabal’s plans to boot her out with a failed marriage show that God is on the side of our First Lady over her outspokenness against evil vices happening in governance.

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

Casmir, the attitude of Mr. President to various national issues was re-enacted in that Aso Rock embarrassment. When you think about the economy, security and general governance, the President seems to be asleep until much pressure is mounted on him. From the Aso Rock episode, I see Aisha Buhari as a very respectable hardworking woman who desires her husband to succeed. Unfortunately, she is slowed down by Mr. President’s attitude, which she can’t change.

– Pharm. Okwy Njike, +2348038854922

The Daura family is the cause of the tension in Presidential Villa.

– Mr. Chinedu Ekwuno (JP) 08063730644

Re: Malleable judiciary and executive recklessness in Nigeria

There’s no separation of powers in Nigeria. Everything bordering on governance is decided by the all-conquering executive that ‘does no wrong’. As you have rightly observed, the executive headed by the President controls the DSS, police, army and the like, which it mindlessly uses at will to coerce both the legislature and judiciary to submission so that they remain as mere appendages of the executive. The Nigerian President wields the most enormous powers, more than the United States’ President who presides over not only America but also carries out ‘oversight’ functions over the rest of the world. The Nigerian President, by virtue of his enormous powers, makes, executes and interprets our laws, even to the extent of unilaterally determining what constitutes national interest and which in his own ruling supersedes or is superior to the rule of law. Government prosecutors, aware of the enormity of the President’s powers, are occasionally heard threatening to report a non-compliant judge to the President over their poorly prosecuted cases, which they feel must always be decided in favour of government.

The beginning of Nigeria’s true democracy is if and when we have a constitution amendment that whittles down these undeserved powers of the President, which are mostly used to protect his political interests and or cover his nakedness. The very unfortunate peculiarity of Nigeria demands that the heads of judiciary and legislature must similarly enjoy constitutional immunity in order to avoid executive distractions.

– Edet Essien Esq., +2348037952470

Dear Casy, currently, we have a weak, myopic, religious and tribal bigot that doesn’t know anything about democratic leadership. As for the judiciary that provided court affidavit that gave Buhari the presidency in the midst of these electoral frauds in the last general election, what do you expect from this present government? Nigeria has become abracadabra state. God bless you.

– Eze Chima C. Lagos, +2347036225495

  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, 28 October 2019.

Aisha Buhari’s last laugh

October 22, 2019

By Casmir Igbokwe

Aso Rock provided Nigerians some comic relief last week. At the centre of the drama was the wife of the President, Mrs. Aisha Buhari. When we thought her adversaries had cowed her, she sprang surprises and gave them an uppercut. There is a simple lesson here: never underestimate the power of a determined woman.

The cabal in Aso Rock thought they could control affairs in the Villa without her. The arrowhead of this cabal is said to be President Muhammadu Buhari’s nephew and close confidant, Mamman Daura. He allegedly became the neck of Nigeria’s number one citizen. You know wherever the neck turns is where the head goes.

Aisha, who naturally should be Buhari’s neck, was not happy about this. She waited for the right time to strike. Daura’s daughter, Fatima, provided that opportunity. According to the story, which trended in the media last week, President Buhari had asked the Daura family to vacate their Glass House residence in the Villa for his son, Yusuf. He gave them another house in the same Villa. The Dauras delayed in relocating. This led to a series of events that culminated in a quarrel between the First Lady and the Dauras. A video of the quarrel later went viral.

As Mrs. Buhari put it, security officers “failed to do anything about it because it was Mamman Daura’s daughter, Fatima, that videoed me. So, both me and the security, our hands were tied to do anything, and it continues like that…”

Fatima further played into the First Lady’s hands with the interview she granted the Hausa Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). She said the First Lady was hurling insults and shouting.

“She was making a lot of noise, saying she was being oppressed. I filmed the encounter to show our parents and security officials, in case something happens,” she blurted.

Fatima’s action was sacrilegious. She might have been emboldened by her father’s advertised influence and the First Lady’s perceived weakness and helplessness in Aso Rock’s power game.

In an interview she granted the BBC in 2016, the First Lady amplified this apparent helplessness when she said the cabal had hijacked governance in the country and sidelined those who fought for the victory of the President in the 2015 election. Noting that the President did not know 45 out of 50 of his appointees, Mrs. Buhari even threatened not to support her husband’s re-election in 2019, if the situation continued. Buhari’s response to his wife’s anger was to say that she belonged to the other room or “za oza room,” as some mischief-makers would say.

Nevertheless, Mrs. Buhari never relented. In the build-up to the 2019 general election, she fumed against perceived injustices in the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress. She also took a swipe at the national chairman of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, regretting that he could allow such impunity in the APC despite his background as an activist. Still, nobody reckoned with her outburst.

This was in contrast to the enormous influence some wives of Nigeria’s former Presidents wielded. Under former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the late First Lady, Stella, was very powerful. The late Mrs. Maryam Babangida was phenomenal. Patience Jonathan? That one was a fighter. You dared not mess with her.

As if to further dare Aisha, the news spread, penultimate week, that the President would wed his lovely Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Umar Farouk. Though the story eventually turned out to be false, I had this feeling that it would turn things around for the First Lady.

So, I was not surprised when the news broke last Wednesday that the President had approved the appointment of six aides for his wife. Madam was full of praises for her husband for approving these new aides. The aides are Special Assistant, African First Ladies Peace Mission; Special Assistant, Organisation of African First Ladies for Development; Special Assistant, Non-Governmental Organisations; Special Assistant, Media and Publicity; Special Assistant, Domestic and Social Events, and Personal Assistant, Domestic and Social Events.

What I don’t understand is why Domestic and Social Events portfolio has two assistants – special assistant and personal assistant. And how is the First Lady’s office funded, since Buhari himself acknowledged that it is unknown to the Nigerian Constitution?

Recall that the President said during his campaign in 2014 that there would not be anything like office of the First Lady because it was not provided for in the Constitution. When he assumed office in 2015, his wife was addressed as wife of the President. In June this year, Mrs. Buhari told Nigerians to address her as the First Lady. According to her, she realised that it caused confusion from the states as to whether the wives of state governors were to be addressed as the first ladies or wives of the governors.

Now, there is no confusion anymore! Our First Lady has melted the heart of the Lion King and firmly established herself. To let sleeping dogs lie, she has apologised to her children, family members and the public for the embarrassment the video of her altercation with Fatima caused. For effect, wives of governors from the 36 states were with her on a solidarity visit at the Presidential Villa to receive the apology on our behalf. Also at the solidarity visit were the wives of the Vice-President, Dolapo Osinbajo; wife of the Senate President, Maryam Lawan; wife of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Salamatu Gbajiabiamila; and some other important wives.

The First Lady, in appreciation, perhaps, pledged to construct a regional secretariat for the African First Ladies Peace Mission (AFLPM). She said she had successfully secured 2.7 hectares of land in Abuja for this purpose and the foundation laying would soon be conducted in the presence of African First Ladies.

Kudos, our dear First Lady! All I can say to her enemies for now is, anytime Buhari goes back to London for medical check-up, she is the one who will be beside his bed to nurse him. Neither you nor Daura’s daughters will be there. Anytime their son, Yusuf, gets married, it is two of them who will take greater share of the glory. And only two of them know what happens when they retire to the other room. So, don’t be jealous.

I just have one plea for the First Lady. Now that she has had the last laugh, she should not forget to demand some palliatives for the over 100 million extremely poor Nigerians. She should continue to deploy her dogged spirit in the fight to enthrone an egalitarian society in Nigeria.

Re: Malleable judiciary and executive recklessness in Nigeria

Casmir, we know that in a democracy like ours, judiciary is one of the three arms of govt. Its main duty is to interpret the laws of governance. The function is so crucial that it is branded the last hope of the common man. To function effectively, this arm must be incorruptible. Selection of key officers must be based on merit and not quota system. Unfortunately, this is not so in Nigeria.

– Pharm. Okwy Njike, +2348038854922

The CJN and Appeal Court president should keep their words over obeying court orders as they promised. They should hit the ground running by releasing those that courts have already granted bail to show their seriousness that rule of law must be obeyed. The lawlessness in the judiciary must stop and they should stop seeking financial assistance from the executive.

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

I will call the judiciary presently in Nigeria auxiliary executive, while legislature is appendage. You also talked about arms of government. Where does that exist in Nigeria? How will democracy thrive where the executive chooses the order of court to obey and the legislature is castrated? Democracy can’t flourish where there are no proper checks and balances. It is only in Nigeria that history keeps repeating itself. But APC should remember that everything on earth is ephemeral because Abacha, Babangida, OBJ failed with public opprobrium. Equally, PDP contributed immensely to this mess because their senators are selfish.

– Smart, +2348134774884

Re: The other side of Nigeria Police Force

Corruption in Nigeria thrives at institutional and individual levels. And take notice that the days of imprest and funding of governmental institutions are over and are now a matter of history. An important institution like the Nigeria Police Force, which is central to our justice delivery system, has remained neglected and underfunded for decades. Whether at governmental or individual level, corruption has overwhelmed the entire fabric of the Nigerian society. Or haven’t we now heard of the shocking news of phone theft and forged certificates at police recruitment venues? Those are corruption dragons about to slip in and further worsen the already stinking system. Occasioned by the unfortunate circumstances, which the police institution is exposed to, complainants are now made to pay for mobilisation, while suspects are mindlessly extorted in the name of bail before their freedom is temporarily granted. What is extorted is purportedly used to execute their job while the greater part goes into the officers’ pockets. Why would corruption not rear its ugly head and fester when government neglects its funding role to the extent that a supposed police prosecutor at the court is easily induced by the recurring frustration or sheer weakness of his mind to trade in both the complainant and accused’s interest? Let the truth be told: this ugly side of the Nigeria Police is both government-induced and heightened by the naturally corrupt officers who capitalise on government’s neglect to line their pockets.

– Edet Essien Esq., Calabar South, +2348037952470

  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, October 21, 2019

Malleable judiciary and executive recklessness in Nigeria

October 14, 2019

By Casmir Igbokwe

The executive arm of government controls the police and other security agencies. Somehow, it also controls the judiciary, which is supposed to be a separate arm of government. Being tied to the apron strings of the government in power, these handicapped institutions find it difficult to uphold the rule of law. This is the fundamental problem of Nigeria’s democracy. And unless we find a solution to it, we are going nowhere as a nation.

Take the police, for instance. After my intervention penultimate week on the Nigeria Police Force, a very senior police officer sent me a message. According to him, a lot of journalists and some Nigerians alike do not care to find out the challenges divisional police officers go through in maintaining their stations, patrol vehicles and getting their stationery.

“Casmir, could you believe,” the man lamented, “that government only provides the sum of N20,000 quarterly for maintenance of patrol vehicles, fuelling and purchase of stationery?” He challenged me to investigate further and write accordingly. 

My first reaction was to doubt the veracity of the story. How, I wondered, can the police survive with this kind of funding? And how can an average Nigerian obtain justice in this type of situation? Obviously, this scenario can only breed cash-and-carry justice or rule of force.

The same problem of underfunding militates against military operations. Those fighting the Boko Haram insurgency in the North are the worst hit. With poor and insufficient equipment, they face terrorists who sometimes overwhelm them with superior firepower.

It is in the judiciary that the problem is more devastating. At the special court session to mark the commencement of the 2019/2020 legal year, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, lamented, “If you say that I am independent but, in a way, whether I like it or not, I have to go cap in hand asking for funds to run my office, then I have completely lost my independence. It is like saying a cow is free to graze about in the meadows but at the same time, tying it firmly to a tree. Where is the freedom?”

If I may add, where is the hope for the common man? Little wonder some powers that be recently charged some citizens who exercised their freedom of expression with phantom crimes, ranging from treason to insulting public officials.

The recent travails of some Nigerians like Omoyole Sowore and Agba Jalingo illustrate this better. Sowore, activist and publisher of Sahara Reporters, is facing trial together with Olawale Bakare for alleged treasonable felony, fraud, cyber-stalking and insulting President Muhammadu Buhari. He has been in detention since August 3, 2019, when the Department of State Services (DSS) picked him up for organising “Revolution Now” protests in the county.

On September 24, 2019, Justice Taiwo Taiwo granted bail to Sowore.  The DSS bluntly refused to release him. To add insult to injury, the Federal Government threatened to drag Justice Taiwo to the National Judicial Council for granting bail to the activist. The FG apparently forgot that this same judge had granted the DSS the permission to detain Sowore for 45 days. The case was later reassigned to Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja.

Justice Ojukwu imposed stringent bail conditions on the defendants. She granted Sowore a N100 million bail with two sureties who must be resident and have landed properties in Abuja. The sureties must deposit tax clearance certificate for three years and the original documents of their properties to the court registry. The judge also barred the journalist from travelling outside Abuja and asked him to deposit his passport with the court. The two are still languishing in DSS dungeon.

On his part, Jalingo, who is the publisher of online CrossRiverWatch, is facing treason charges over a report alleging that the Cross River State governor, Ben Ayade, diverted N500 million. He appeared in court handcuffed to another inmate on October 4, and was denied bail by Justice Simon Amobeda of the Federal High Court, Calabar.

Before these arrests, there had been clampdowns on journalists and activists and suppression of freedom of expression, in contravention of the UN human rights treaties. Some media organisations like DAAR Communications Plc and Daily Trust newspapers were victims of this clampdown in recent times.

In Kaduna, blogger and human rights activist, Steven Kefas, has been in Kaduna Prison without bail for about five months now for alleged inciting comments against Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State and the chairman of Kajuru Local Government Area, Cafra Caino. Last Thursday, Kefas reportedly filed a N500 million suit against el-Rufai, Inspector-General of Police Mohammed Adamu and four others at the Federal High Court, Kaduna, over alleged infringements of his fundamental human rights.

The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has decried the disturbing suppression of citizens’ human rights in Nigeria. In an open letter it sent to the CJN recently, SERAP noted, “These charges, refusal of bail and granting of bail on stringent conditions seem to be dangerous manipulation of judicial authority and functions by high-ranking politicians, something which the NJC and the judiciary under your watch should resist.”

It is this judicial loophole that some politicians exploit to buy and manipulate justice. They rig election and when the case gets to the tribunal, they rig it there as well with money. Recall that the late Justice Kayode Eso of the Supreme Court once described election tribunal judges as billionaire judges.

It is to prevent things like these and enhance the independence of the judiciary that First Alteration Act 2010 came into being. Essentially, Section 6 of the act amended Section 81 (3) of the 1999 Constitution by ensuring that funding for the judiciary goes directly to it. But it appears this too is not working.

An apparently frustrated CJN threatened last Friday that disobedience to court orders would attract grave consequences. Speaking at the launch of the 9th House of Representatives Legislative Agenda, the CJN, represented by Justice John Tsoho, said, “Justice must be served without fear or favour. Every law of the land must be obeyed. Let me assure everyone present here that the consequences of disobeying lawful court orders will be too grave to bear. We all should gird our loins to do our constitutionally-assigned duties with due diligence so that Nigeria can be the pride of everyone.”

Very good! The CJN should start by decisively dealing with all those who have disobeyed court orders to release former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd), leader of Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheik El-Zakzaky, Sowore and many others.

Re: Beyond Nigerian Army’s spiritual warfare  

Casmir, for us who believe in supremacy of God, the army’s spiritual warfare is a well thought act. David, the psalmist, believed it. That is why Ps. 127 vs 1, said, “If the lord does not protect the city, it is useless for the sentries to stand guard.” However, there are rules. The army must acquire the right trainings and gadgets. Again, they must have faith in God. If there is faith, the leadership must not deny the combatants their rights. A commander who buys inferior weapons for houses and cars at the expense of the armies at the warfront must not expect miracles. 

– Okwy Njike, +2348038854922

Casmir, it is crystal clear that the present military chiefs have overstayed their usefulness and exhausted their strategies because one can’t give what one doesn’t have. Hence, rejigging is long overdue. Does it mean that Boko Haram and bandits are more sophisticated and equipped? Also, what happened to the allowances, welfare and the families of the deceased soldiers? Of course, morale is supposed to be low. The military echelon should stop sending our soldiers to the warfront with obsolete weapons. For them to perform efficiently, there must be a carrot-and-stick approach, since there are bad eggs among them. Otherwise, the law of karma will be invoked.

– Smart, +2348134774884

If prayers and fasting will be solution to the insecurity in Nigeria, let security agencies embark on it now. Insecurity is threatening the unity of Nigeria and something has to be done. Every hand must be on deck to fight insecurity; not only security agencies will do the job. If there is security in Nigeria, everybody will enjoy it.

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

Re: Other side of Nigeria Police Force

Casmir, I was so impressed after going through your beautiful write-up and equally very sad. But why the mixed feelings? A lot of our journalists and some Nigerians alike do not care to find out the challenges DPOs go through in maintaining their station, patrol vehicles and getting their stationery. Casmir, could you believe that government only provides the sum of N20,000 quarterly for maintenance of patrol vehicles, fuelling and purchase of stationery? Kindly assist in finding out what I told you through your investigative journalism. Let it be your next write-up. Waiting patiently to read it. Wishing you the best. 

•Anonymous, +2348126125812

Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, October 14, 2019

Beyond Nigerian Army’s spiritual warfare

October 14, 2019

By Casmir Igbokwe

Like many Nigerians, most of our security agents are “deeply religious.” Last week, I went to a police station in Lagos to honour an appointment with a female inspector. Recall that I narrated my experience with that bribe-seeking inspector on this page last week. Her colleagues told me she was in a fellowship within the station. She later emerged from the fellowship with the two suspects I had a case with. They all clutched new Bibles and looked like angels. I wondered if they just repented or were simply being hypocrites.

It was with the same wonder that I read the story of a seminar on spiritual warfare against terrorists held by the Nigerian Army last Monday. The theme of the seminar held in Abuja was “Countering Insurgency and Violent Extremism in Nigeria through Spiritual Warfare.”

The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai, explained, “The fight against terrorism, Boko Haram and ISWAP, as well as other security threats, cannot be left to the troops in the battlefield alone. Yes, we will do our duties, but the need to tackle groups through spiritual warfare and re-orientating the followers against the ideology is also a necessity.”

The army chief noted that terrorism and terrorist groups could not be totally eliminated by mainly military actions. This, he said, meant focusing their efforts on the underlying narratives through ideologies that were employed by these terrorists to lure innocent citizens to their fold.

To an extent, Buratai is right. Extremist religious ideologies have caused more harm than good in the world today. In Nigeria, deviants of the two major religions, Islam and Christianity, are the worst culprits. Boko Haram adherents, for instance, believe that Western education is a sin. Some others believe that killing an infidel automatically takes one to paradise. These sects indoctrinate their members such that they constitute serious nuisance to right-thinking members of society.

Surely, religion is one way to get people to act without reason. Hence, many politicians and public office-holders employ it to maximum use. They sponsor religious pilgrimages when it should have been a personal affair. Sometimes, they sow the seed of discord among people by deploying religious sentiments to achieve selfish ends.

Unfortunately, many Nigerians have resigned themselves to fate. They hope and believe that only divine intervention will cure the country of its many maladies. Early last year, for instance, the then Speaker of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Mr. Konbowei Benson, reportedly hired a powerful man of God, Dr. Uma Ukpai, for a three-day crusade against ritual killers, kidnappers, rapists, pirates, armed robbers and other sundry criminals in his Southern Ijaw Constituency 4.

I am not sure how far that crusade went in eliminating the evildoers in Bayelsa. I am not also sure how far Buratai’s spiritual warfare will go in eliminating Boko Haram. What I know is that soldiers are trained to ward off external and internal aggression. It is not for nothing that they are called armed forces and not armed spirits. Just as terrorists conscript people by force and throw their ideologies down their victims’ throats by force, our soldiers should use maximum force to dislodge them.

Yes, engaging the citizens to counter the ideologies of terrorists is a good counter-insurgency strategy. But there are some questions we need to answer first: Are the soldiers fighting the insurgents well motivated? Are they well equipped with modern, sophisticated weapons? Do they go for regular training? Why has it been difficult for our professional soldiers to defeat this ragtag team of terrorists?

Only the military authorities and the Presidency can answer these. In the recent past, there were reports that the top echelon of the military supplied substandard equipment and starved troops fighting Boko Haram of some allowances. In 2014, the morale of soldiers in Maiduguri was so low that some of them attacked the then General Officer Commanding the 7 Division of the Nigerian Army, Major General Ahmadu Mohammed. The man was addressing his troops when some disgruntled soldiers fired gunshots at him. He escaped narrowly.

Today, the morale of these soldiers is still low. Nothing much has changed. To solve part of the problem, members of the House of Representatives are tinkering with the idea of creating a special fund for the armed forces. But throwing money at a problem is never a solution to that problem.

This type of special fund is prone to abuse and diversion. Towards the end of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s regime, there was a special fund amounting to $2.1 billion. It was meant to procure sophisticated arms to fight the terrorists in the North-East. How that money was used remains a contentious issue till date. Today, a general is facing trial for allegedly ferrying about N400 million cash, which became public knowledge when the soldiers escorting the consignment hijacked it.

Before embarking on any spiritual journey, the military should first of all deal with every act of corruption in its system. It should critically monitor some of its officers and overhaul its intelligence network. Look at what happened in Taraba State the other day. The police arrested a suspected kidnap kingpin, Hamisu Wadume. But some Nigerian soldiers waylaid the policemen, killed three of them and a civilian and released Wadume. Luckily, the man was re-arrested.

Recall that, during the time of Jonathan, the American officers who came to help rescue the young Chibok schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram in April 2014 reportedly said they would not share intelligence information with their Nigerian counterparts.

What were the American soldiers afraid of? What is it that actually makes them tick? How have the Israeli armed forces been able to subdue militants from hostile neighbours? Is it spiritual warfare that made the Russian and Chinese armies what they are today? I leave you to ponder over these posers, General Buratai.

Re: The other side of Nigeria Police Force

Casmir, your experience and many others have made mockery of the slogan ‘Police is your friend’. The leaders cannot claim ignorance of such actions. Hypocrisy! In the country we call Nigeria, you will see such in every facet of life. Only God will save us.

– Pharm. Okwy Njike, +2348038854922

Nigerian police station is not a place where someone should pray to go because of what you will pass through if you have a case. But there is a slogan that says police is your friend and bail is free. All these things don’t work in Nigeria. With what is happening in stations, you should ask God not to allow ugly things happen to you that will take you to a Nigerian police station.

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

My bro, this is just an eye-opener/part one to show you what ordinary people pass through in the hands of Nigeria Police Force. Secondly, if commuters narrate their own stories, you will agree with me that the system is rotten. NPF only specialises in how to go after defenseless citizens like IPOB, IMN, but facilitate the compensation of bandits and Boko Haram. Some people prefer to complain to God rather than the police.

– Smart, +2348134774884

Re: Now that Buhari is ‘eminently qualified’

Constitutionally speaking, Muhammadu Buhari is academically qualified, it is also a trite fact that he is eminently qualified, having had the requisite experience and even acquired certificates that surpass the minimum academic mark or platform as contemplated by the 1999 Nigerian Constitution, as amended. But the argument goes beyond this point! A combined reading of sections 131(d) and 318(a-d) of Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution discloses the meaning, intents and purposes of the framers of the Constitution regarding the minimum academic entry point for one who intends to vie for Nigeria’s presidential seat. Without further explanation, Section 131(d) merely states that ‘he has been educated up to at least school certificate level or its equivalent’.

Which school certificate level does the phrase refer to? In Nigeria, we have many school certificate levels such as senior secondary school certificate level, junior secondary school certificate level, primary six school leaving certificate level and the like. And does it mean the acquisition of the school certificate itself or reading up to the exams level and passing or failing same? Or reading up to the exams level but not partaking in the certificate exams? Section 318 (a-d) has generously supplied answers to some of these questions in the following order: S.318(a) secondary school certificate itself (b)education up to secondary school level (c)primary six school leaving certificate, though with additional ‘qualifications’ as stated in (c) (1-111).

Section 318 (d) has particularly thrown open a much wider and accommodating platform, which is subject to abuse by the leadership of INEC. It states thus: ‘Any other qualification acceptable by the INEC’. Having dissected sections 131(d) and 318(a-d),it can be observed that, while there is an academic qualification ‘floor’ for one who seeks the presidential seat, there’s no ‘ceiling’ attached to it. It is not now contentious that the minimum academic entry point for one to contest for Nigeria’s coveted presidential seat is primary six school leaving certificate.

The 1999 Nigeria’s Constitution with regard to the minimum academic qualification for a presidential candidate is too elastic to the extent that all and sundry are easily accommodated. And isn’t it a huge fraud that has needlessly opened the floodgate to today’s controversy? As contemplated in section 318(d) where a candidate’s fate is tied to ‘any other qualification acceptable by INEC’, can’t any ‘bread label’ that assumes the semblance of an academic certificate be made to pass this qualifying test? We need an amendment of our Constitution.

– Edet Essien Esq., +2348037952470

  • First published in the Daily Sun of Monday, October 7, 2019.

The other side of Nigeria Police Force

October 3, 2019

Casmir Igbokwe

My experience at a police station in Lagos last week opened my eyes to the other side of the Nigeria Police Force. Some hoodlums had invaded a wedding reception in my town hall penultimate Saturday. In the melee that ensued, some people, especially women, lost their phones, wigs, shoes and other valuables. Some others were seriously wounded.

As the chairman of my town union in Lagos, it behoves me to make a formal report to the police. The moment I and those who accompanied me stepped into the police station, the female Inspector at the counter stretched her hand and bellowed, “Scratch my hand.”

She continued, “You will also mobilise the policemen who will go with you to make some arrests.” We did mobilise them as directed. Hence, they went and arrested one suspect from his place of work. When we came back from the arrest, the female hand-scratching officer demanded N5,000 for file. Five thousand Naira for a file! I wondered. “Don’t you know that police file is a special one? Even the sellers know this and that is why they sell it to us at a high price,” the woman said. After much argument, we paid for the file. But it didn’t end there.

We needed to effect the arrest of some other suspects. Again, mobilisation fee came up even when it was my car that was used. The officers who joined me on this particular trip demanded N5,000. According to them, they were a special team and they don’t go for such assignments. They said they accompanied me because those who should have done that were not available.

After the day’s hassles, we made to go. But the female officer instructed us to come back the following day with N20,000 mobilisation fee for the continuation of the case. Also, the matter was to be charged to court. That day, we had mobilised vehicles and some other logistics as we were asked to do. Suddenly, the same female officer came with one sheet of paper where she apparently wrote the charges. She demanded money for typing. I gave her N500. She flared up, “What is the meaning of this? Since you started coming here, you have not given me any money. You are not serious. I will tear this paper, if you are not ready for this case.”

When I reminded her of the file money and some others, she retorted, “Is it not only N3,000 you gave me for the N5,000 file? Yesterday, you gave me only N1,000. I can see you are not serious.” She walked out in anger. At this point, I lost my cool and lambasted her.

To cut the long story short, we paid for every little service the police rendered to us. Even the paper that was used to write the statement was paid for. They will tell you that government doesn’t give them anything. What baffles me is the shameless way they ask for this scratching of hand in the open. To them, it is normal.

This is even nothing compared to the atrocities some operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) commit on a regular basis. The ones at the Benin section of the Benin-Ore Expressway appear to be more notorious. Stories abound on how they intimidate and extort money from passengers travelling to the eastern part of the country. They randomly stop people, especially young men, search their phones and woe betide you if they discover that you have some money. You must be ready to share that money with them, if you want your freedom.

Last year, I wrote about some evil methods of SARS on this page. I also mentioned some of their victims and the trauma they went through. These operatives can accuse you of anything. Amnesty International had detailed how they systematically tortured detainees to extract confessions and lucrative bribes. Their torture methods include hanging, starvation, beatings, shootings and mock executions. It was so bad that Nigerians moved to the social media two years ago to campaign for the disbandment of the unit. Also, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, as Acting President, ordered the reform of the squad.

Even the Senate, earlier in the year, passed the Police Reform Bill. The bill aimed at establishing a service-oriented and modern police that would meet globally acceptable policing standards in a democratic setting. Like a typical Nigerian thing, the bill has gone into limbo. And from the recent lamentations of friends and relatives about SARS, it’s obvious a pig will always remain a pig, no matter how hard you try to bathe it.

Little wonder, the Nigerian police are adjudged to be the most corrupt institution in Nigeria. In a survey released in March this year, a civil society group, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), gave the police the first position in corruption perception in Nigeria. The power sector came second. Others in the corruption web are the judiciary, education and health ministries.

The report partly reads: “Corruption remains a significant impediment to law enforcement, access to justice and basic public services such as affordable healthcare, education, and electricity supply. Several Nigerians have to pay a bribe to access police, judiciary, power, education and health services. Corruption is still a key concern in the country, with 70 per cent of Nigerians describing the level of corruption as high and in the same measure in the last five years.”

The report indicated that there was a 63 per cent probability that an average Nigerian would be asked to pay a bribe each time he or she interacted with the police.

You can hardly think of any institution in Nigeria that is free from this malaise. Is it the Immigration Service? Is it the Nigeria Customs Service? Is it the military? Is it the civil service? They are all entangled in this corruption web. And they all end up giving the country a bad image abroad.

When President Muhammadu Buhari came on board in 2015, a lot of people thought a messiah had come. He promised to tackle corruption. He still mouths eradicating it at almost every forum he attends. But the more he talks about it, the more it festers. Now, corruption even dines and gets fatter within and around the Presidency.

We are deceiving ourselves if we think the problem will go away soon. It will not. Only a tough and sincere leader can minimise it. It will take a while for that type of leader to emerge in Nigeria. In the meantime, police authorities in Abuja should seriously look into their Zone 5 in Benin. Why are these SARS absurdities too frequent in that zone? The Assistant Inspector-General of Police for Zone 5 has some questions to answer.

As for my town’s case, I am thinking of withdrawing from going to court. If we continue, it may come to a point they may ask us to bring mobilisation fee for the judge and the Divisional Police Officer. The case may even drag for 10 years, and we may never even recover our money in any way. Simply put, Nigeria’s justice system stinks!

Re: Wobbling economy, cash deposit charges and Vision 2020 

Casmir, thank you for your write-up. In a country where government has not done well in helping the private sector to grow, cash deposit charges are an indirect way of increasing hardship and insecurity. In the words of Fela, “When dead body get accident, na double wahala for dead body and the owner.” Surely, people and corporate bodies will not go to banks for deposits. People will change their money into pounds and dollars and store them in their homes. There will be job losses, as establishments will fold up. All sorts of crimes will increase as insecurity will go back to haunt the government.

– Pharm. Okwy Njike, +2348038854922

It is very unfair for Central Bank of Nigeria to introduce this policy that will bring hardship to bank customers. This policy will make people to keep their money inside their houses. CBN should revisit that policy and change its mind because it’s an avenue to make banks rich on poor people’s income. Nigerians have been complaining about charges banks impose on their money with different policies without any interest coming out of it.

– Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia, +2348062887535

According to Karl Marx, capitalism has laid the seed of its own destruction. We are tired of the self-centred/trickle-down policies of Nigerian politicians. A responsible government always considers the effect of policies on the citizenry first. For the Vision 20-20, it is a mirage and dead on arrival, like the previous ones, because there is no specific plan of its actualisation, like the time we were promised Eldorado in 2010. On the issue of VAT/taxes, what have they done with the fund previously? Rather, the money is being shared among themselves, stooges and scions. This is a clarion call to our leaders. Anger/frustration is piling up in the land.

– Smart, Abakaliki, +2348134774884

  • Also published in the Daily Sun of Monday, September 30, 2019.