"We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism”--- Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr.
The legendary American civil rights leader could well be addressing the Nigeria of today given the relevance of the above excerpt from his landmark speech, “I Have A Dream.” Like the turbulent days of civil rights activism in America, Luther King’s nugget captures our prevailing emergencies which invariably now call for decisive, urgent action; or what may be defined broadly as the “fierce urgency of now”.
The current situation in our country has reached the stage where the divisive forces ranged against it constitute a clear and present danger to its corporate existence. The forces in question-corruption, which is the toughest enemy; terrorism, crime and Islamic fundamentalism, are well known to most Nigerians. What we don’t know is how the federal government intends to deal with these problems expeditiously before they get out of hand.
The government’s latest response to terrorism as exemplified by the Boko Haram insurgents is to grant them amnesty in line with the request of the Northern Elders Forum. How that would work remains to be seen. The fact remains that we are encircled by a whirlwind of violence that is threatening to blow the nation apart. Therefore, this is not the time for a gradualist approach to conflict resolution.
The massacre of scores of policemen in Bayelsa and Nasarawa states while on tour of duty has reinforced the argument that our law enforcement agencies are not on top of the situation. Equally of grave concern is the high handedness of some of our security personnel in dealing with people suspected to be terrorists or criminals. The Baga massacre is for instance a major dent on the integrity of our security forces in the ongoing war against terror. We must never justify extra-judicial killings for whatever reason.
Yet it must be said that corruption is the Frankenstein monster that birthed terrorism, crime and Islamic fundamentalism. So if corruption is checked, then other crimes like terrorism and related crimes would abate. Meanwhile, the nation is moving gradually to a stage where corruption has become so pervasive, so powerful in its impact on development that routine service delivery by agencies of government is being severely affected. The increasing violent crimes on our streets; and kidnapping for ransom are obviously telling that joblessness and economic alienation are at the heart of our current state of siege.
The anti-graft agencies and the existing legal framework within which they operate are not strong enough to engender speedy and effective prosecution of corrupt elements who are known to have very powerful government connections, and the capacity to mount stiff legal challenges in court because of their financial clout. The inadequacies of the law in dealing with corruption must be reviewed to give the required legal bite to the anti-corruption agencies.
A miasma of corruption now hangs over our once revered judiciary. One could only look back with nostalgia on those days when the men in wig and gown held out great hope for our society. Today, some of the verdicts emanating from our courts clearly undermine the integrity of the judiciary; that makes our situation really bad.
How can we kill the monster of corruption when the sacred altar of justice is also corrupt? That is the question. It underscores the fierce urgency of the present situation. But we have a precedent in dealing with rotten institutions of state. The late Gen. Murtala Muhammed carried out the great purge of the civil service in response to the decay of that institution. It was one of his memorable actions as military head of state, before he was assassinated in the aborted coup of February 13, 1976.
It may be argued that it was easy for a military head of state with sweeping emergency powers, to launch an anti-corruption war of that magnitude because he was not encumbered by the bureaucratic red tape that constrains an elected president who must act within the confines of the constitution. Yet, a president, regardless of his route to power, be it the ballot or the barrel of a gun, could launch an effective war against corruption if he is able and willing to muster enough political will. For example, ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo did battle with corruption in a way that its perpetrators couldn’t act with impunity as they are now doing under President Goodluck Jonathan’s watch.
The virus of corruption is now eating deeply and speedily into our economy as never before. Its effect on the nation is comprehensively devastating. It accounts for the slow pace of governance, no thanks to depleting resources as a result of the reckless pillaging of public coffers by government functionaries.
Given the foregoing, something drastic and urgent must be done to arrest it. Mr. Jonathan should act like a Murtala Muhammed to instill fears into the hearts of the heartless looters of our common patrimony. If corruption is fought frontally this way, resources meant for development would fulfill their purpose and expand the economy, which hitherto is experiencing paper growth without jobs to show for it.
Terrorist activities always flourish in environments where there is economic disequilibrium and mismanagement of national resources by a corrupt ruling elite. Opposition forces easily exploit religious sentiments, especially political Islam, to attempt to create instability and ultimately; Islamic rule where there’s a predominant Muslim population. That is the end game of Boko Haram.
This is also the pattern of instability and terror wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Islamic Maghreb, Somalia, the Arab nations affected by the Arab Spring and the North-east of Nigeria, home base of Boko Haram. The fierce urgency of our present situation can, therefore, not be overstated if we are not to become one of these fragmented, war lord countries.
•Okotie, a cleric and politician, former popular musician wrote from Lagos.
Nigeria’s foreign reserve has hit about $50 billion, the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala revealed and declared Nigeria as Africa’s current best investment destination
“With a foreign reserve of nearly 50 billion dollars, a stable exchange rate, strong banking sector, massive human and natural resources, Nigeria has indeed become one of the most attractive investment destinations in the world”, a statement from the ministry quoted the minister as telling visiting British investors led by the Lord Mayor of the city of London, Mr. Roger Gifford, in Abuja, yesterday.
The British investors are in Nigeria to explore investment opportunities in the country.
Speaking on Friday on the country’s economy, Okonjo-Iweala told the investors that Nigeria currently was the largest economy in West Africa, second largest in Africa with potential to become the largest African economy in the next five years.
The Coordinating Minister proudly told the investors that Nigeria has managed to bring her inflationary rate to a single digit of 8.6%.
In her explanation, she assured the investors that Nigeria is relatively enjoying a stable exchange rate, clean and strong banking sector.
Notwithstanding, the Minister of Finance told the investors that despite the huge success the country has recorded in the macro-economic sphere, there are other challenges staring at the nation which include unemployment, poor infrastructure, corruption, governance challenge and power. According to her, Nigeria is not relenting in tackling these challenges through several reforms in various sectors in order to rank among the eight strongest economies in the world, in no distant time.
Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, while detailing the steps so far taken in addressing these challenges said that through the Transformation Agenda of the present administration, Nigeria has tried to diversify the economy instead of depending on oil as the only source of income. In her words, Agriculture and Entertainment have been given enough priority owing to their capacity to create jobs for Nigeria teaming unemployed youths.
The Minister said that the government has made frantic efforts to reduce infrastructural problems that were inherited from past administrations in Nigeria. She said that the present government is partnering with China in order to revive the rail sector. Other areas that have received attention are construction and rehabilitation of roads which according to the Minister will boost easy movement of goods and services.
Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala assured the investors that the power problem would soon be a thing of the past as government has taken a bold step to privatise the power sector. She told the British visitors that the privatization had almost been completed.
On the aviation sector, the Minister informed the investors that there was serious re-modelling of the country’s airports to meet with international standards.
As a follow up, the Mayor of London, Mr. Gifford asked the Minister of the time frame for the completion of the privatization of the power sector, the Minister assured him of a speedy completion as all bottlenecks to the privatization process had been removed.
On the question of Nigeria debt management, the Minister informed the investors that due to past experiences, Nigeria is now allergic to borrowing and has also reduced its domestic debt to 19% and external debt to 2%.
The disagreement between the Rivers State Governor Amaechi, and the Nigeria Aviation Authorities have not ceased. Governor Amaechi was accused by aviation authority that the state aircraft was fraudulently obtained and registered with forged documents.
Joe Obi, media assistant to the minister of aviation, issued the below statement:
“The security implication of this requirement is further emphasised where a foreign-registered aircraft (such as the current aircraft) is engaged in domestic flight operations. Failure to fully disclose or attempting to conceal the identities of passengers aboard an aircraft is considered a serious security breach both locally and internationally.
“The facts currently available to the ministry suggest that the operators of the aircraft in question obtained several flight clearances from the Nigerian civil aviation authorities using documentation purportedly emanating from Caverton Helicopters. Furthermore, the aircraft attempted to and did operate within the Nigerian airspace on 26 April 2013 without any flight clearance whatsoever in total violation of all extant civil aviation laws and regulations.
“There is also the matter of the Coat of Arms and Identity of the Government of Rivers State being emblazoned and displayed on the aircraft in question, when there is no record or evidence of the state government’s ownership, lease, or other recognized legal or beneficial interest in the aircraft presented to or filed before the civil regulatory authorities.
“As stated above, available records indicate that the aircraft is currently registered to “Bank of Utah Trustee” until 30 September 2015, and the said registration is not transferable. The Ministry has therefore further directed a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the actual ownership of the aircraft in question.
“Upon conclusion of these internal investigations, the Ministry will take all necessary steps required by law.
“The aircraft in question with Registration Number N565RS is currently listed on the U.S. Department of Transport (DOT), Federal Aviation Administration Registry. The registration was issued to “BANK OF UTAH TRUSTEE” of 200 E, South Temple, Suite 210, Salt Lake City, UT 84111-1346.
“The registration was issued on 28 September 2012 and will expire on 30 September 2015. The registration certificate explicitly states that the aircraft registration is NOT TRANSFERABLE.
“The aircraft is currently insured with Alliance Global Risks US Insurance Company. The Policy Holder noted on the Certificate of Insurance is “ACASS CANADA LIMITED” of 6700 Cote de Liesse, Suite 206, Montreal, QC H4T 2B5, Canada. The Certificate of Insurance is dated 28 September 2012 to expire on 12 August 2013, and it appears to have been issued with respect to a “Ferry Flight Agreement” of September 2012.
“On 26 April 2013 the said aircraft was refused start-up at Akure airport due to insufficient and improper documentation. Specifically, the pilot failed and/or refused to file a proper Passenger Manifest declaring the full identity of all passengers on the aircraft for the intended flight as mandatorily required by the regulatory authorities.
“Upon review of the aircraft’s records, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) discovered that the aircraft was operating illegally within the Nigerian airspace. Specifically, it was revealed that the aircraft did not have a valid flight clearance for its operations on 26 April 2013 as the last purported clearance obtained for the aircraft expired on 2 April 2013.
“Upon further investigation however, it also emerged that the last purported flight clearance (and indeed several flight clearances previously obtained for this aircraft) had been obtained using the name of Caverton Helicopters. A letter from Messrs. Caverton Helicopters dated 26 April, 2013 expressly disclaimed any knowledge of or involvement with the flight clearances previously obtained in its name for the said aircraft.
“The NCAA’s investigations specifically further revealed that the following flight clearances were obtained for the aircraft using the name of Caverton Helicopters:
(i) Flight Clearance for
04 – 06 January 2013
(ii) Flight Clearance for
23 – 27 January 2013
(iii) Flight Clearance for 28 March – 2 April 2013
“In view of Caverton’s letter expressly denying its involvement with the said clearances applications, the Ministry has directed the NCAA to commence a full investigation into all the circumstances surrounding the false clearance applications.”
“The flight clearance process is a vital safety and security component of civil aviation worldwide. It requires the involvement of both the civil aviation authorities and the national security agencies before approval is given and full disclosure of the aircraft, passengers and crew must be provided as required by law. The security implication of this requirement is further emphasized where a foreign-registered aircraft (such as the current aircraft) is engaged in domestic flight operations. Failure to fully disclose or attempting to conceal the identities of passengers aboard an aircraft is considered a serious security breach both locally and internationally.
“Furthermore, the presentation of false information or forged documentation to regulatory authorities in the processing of official approvals or permits is clearly a serious violation of the Civil Aviation Act, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations and other extant criminal laws in the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The facts currently available to the Ministry suggest that the operators of the aircraft in question obtained several flight clearances from the Nigerian civil aviation authorities using documentation purportedly emanating from Caverton Helicopters. Furthermore, the aircraft attempted to and did operate within the Nigerian airspace on 26 April 2013 without any flight clearance whatsoever in total violation of all extant civil aviation laws and regulations.
“There is also the matter of the Coat of Arms and Identity of the Government of Rivers State being emblazoned and displayed on the aircraft in question, when there is no record or evidence of the state government’s ownership, lease, or other recognized legal or beneficial interest in the aircraft presented to or filed before the civil regulatory authorities.
“As stated above, available records indicate that the aircraft is currently registered to “Bank of Utah Trustee” until 30 September 2015, and the said registration is not transferable. The Ministry has therefore further directed a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the actual ownership of the aircraft in question. Upon conclusion of these internal investigations, the Ministry will take all necessary steps required by law."
credits: primestonenews, tribune
BAGA, Nigeria -- Fighting between Nigeria's military and Islamic extremists killed at least 185 people in a fishing community in the nation's far northeast, officials said Sunday, an attack that saw insurgents fire rocket-propelled grenades and soldiers spray machine-gun fire into neighborhoods filled with civilians.
The fighting in Baga began Friday and lasted for hours, sending people fleeing into the arid scrublands surrounding the community on Lake Chad. By Sunday, when government officials finally felt safe enough to see the destruction, homes, businesses and vehicles were burned throughout the area.
The assault marks a significant escalation in the long-running insurgency Nigeria faces in its predominantly Muslim north, with Boko Haram extremists mounting a coordinated assault on soldiers using military-grade weaponry. The killings also mark one of the deadliest incidents ever involving Boko Haram.
Authorities had found and buried at least 185 bodies as of Sunday afternoon, said Lawan Kole, a local government official in Baga. He spoke haltingly to Borno state Gov. Kashim Shettima in the Kanuri language of Nigeria's northeast, surrounded by still-frightened villagers.
Officials could not offer a breakdown of civilian casualties versus those of soldiers and extremist fighters. Many of the bodies had been burned beyond recognition in fires that razed whole sections of the town, residents said. Those killed were buried as soon as possible, following local Muslim tradition.
Brig. Gen. Austin Edokpaye, also on the visit, did not dispute the casualty figures. Edokpaye said Boko Haram extremists used heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades in the assault, which began after soldiers surrounded a mosque they believed housed members of the radical Islamic extremist network Boko Haram. Extremists earlier had killed a military officer, the general said.
Edokpaye said extremists used civilians as human shields during the fighting – implying that soldiers opened fire in neighborhoods where they knew civilians lived.
"When we reinforced and returned to the scene the terrorists came out with heavy firepower, including (rocket-propelled grenades), which usually has a conflagration effect," the general said.
However, local residents who spoke to an Associated Press journalist who accompanied the state officials said soldiers purposefully set the fires during the attack. Violence by security forces in the northeast targeting civilians has been widely documented by journalists and human rights activists. A similar raid in Maiduguri, Borno state's capital, in October after extremists killed a military officer saw soldiers kill at least 30 civilians and set fires across a neighborhood.
Sunday afternoon, the burned bodies of cattle and goats still filled the streets in Baga. Bullet holes marred burned buildings. Fearful residents of the town had begun packing to leave with their remaining family members before nightfall, despite Shettima trying to convince some to stay.
"Everyone has been in the bush since Friday night; we started returning back to town because the governor came to town today," grocer Bashir Isa said. "To get food to eat in the town now is a problem because even the markets are burnt. We are still picking corpses of women and children in the bush and creeks."
The Islamic insurgency in Nigeria grew out of a 2009 riot led by Boko Haram members in Maiduguri that ended in a military and police crackdown that killed some 700 people. The group's leader died in police custody in an apparent execution. From 2010 on, Islamic extremists have engaged in hit-and-run shootings and suicide bombings, attacks that have killed at least 1,548 people before Friday's attack, according to an AP count.
In January 2012, Boko Haram launched a coordinated attack in Kano, northern Nigeria's largest city, that killed at least 185 people as well. However, casualty numbers remain murky in Nigeria, where security and government officials often downplay figures.
Boko Haram, which means "Western education is sacrilege" in the Hausa language of Nigeria's north, has said it wants its imprisoned members freed and Nigeria to adopt strict Shariah law across the multiethnic nation of more than 160 million people. While the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan has started a committee to look at the idea of offering an amnesty deal to extremist fighters, Boko Haram's leader Abubakar Shekau has dismissed the idea out of hand in messages.
The Boko Haram network, which analysts and diplomats say has loose links to two other al-Qaida-aligned groups in Africa, has splintered into other groups as well. Its command-and-control structure also remains unclear. Recent Internet videos featuring Shekau have shown him with fighters carrying military weapons he said were stolen during attacks on Nigeria's military. Those weapons have included rocket-propelled grenades and other heavy weapons.
Fighters suspected to belong to Boko Haram also have been seen in northern Mali, where heavily armed Islamic extremists took power in the weeks following a military coup in that West African nation. Analysts also have worried that Boko Haram may get its hands on weapons smuggled out of Libya following its recent civil war.
Despite the deployment of more soldiers and police to northern Nigeria, the nation's weak central government has been unable to stop the killings. Meanwhile, violent atrocities committed by security forces against the local civilian population only fuels rage in the region.
Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Lagos, Nigeria, contributed to this report.
Early on, probably before I could even talk or walk, I was given the message that being black was an affliction, that as a black human being I needed to be adulterated, corrected, improved. Even my mother - born and raised in Nigeria - seemed to want to de-Africanise me as quickly and as absolutely as possible.
She started out by avoiding giving me an Igbo* name. Even my middle name is as caucasian as can be. Within days of my birth, I was plunged without warning into white culture like a screaming lobster being dropped into a boiling pot. I was a few days old when my mother sent me to be raised by a white family in an enclave of rural England where the population was 100% white (until I arrived.) Years later, my mother would boast to her relatives and peers that you couldn't even tell I was black when you heard me speaking on the phone. Bizarrely, and sadly, people actually seemed to be impressed.
Growing up in my white foster home, in my white town, some of the earliest words I heard about myself were: "we're at our wits' end." "We've tried everything." "Don't know what to do for her - poor little mite."
Was I suffering from a terminal illness? Had I been disfigured in some way? No, I'd simply been born black with afro hair. This reality in itself was presented to me as a tragedy. The afro hair needed to be altered, disguised, hidden, in order for me to be acceptable and accepted.
But then when I was six I finally visited Nigeria. Being reunited with my Nigerian family, finally seeing other people who looked just like me, taught me to accept myself, right? Wrong. My Nigerian family praised me heavily for my white accent and for the fact that my skin's a few shades lighter than most of our family members. Meanwhile, they criticised the "tough" texture of my hair, the flatness of my nose. One aunty said: "You're beautiful but what a shame you've inherited this same ugly African nose we have."
Upon my return to England, the Hair Wars began in earnest. During a weekend visit to my mother's home (I was still being raised in the countryside, by my white foster family), my mother took me to a hair salon to literally straighten me (or my hair, at least) out.
Years passed and still this corrosive idea lingered, this idea that our blackness has to be altered, covered up, in order to be deemed decent. Twenty years later I was the mother of a young daughter who'd begun asking me what was "wrong" with her hair and why it didn't flow and hang straight like the white girls' hair. I sat there, wearing a straight silky weave, trying to convince my daughter that her natural hair was beautiful. The weave sat on my head, contradicting my words, begging the question: if unadulterated African hair is so beautiful, so acceptable, what's with the weave?
That very weekend, I took the weave out and went to visit my mother sporting my huge and gorgeous new afro. My mother, who was still, after so many years, refusing to give me an Igbo name, took one look at my hair and said: "I beg you not to enter your office on Monday with that hair." My stepfather darted into his bedroom and returned with a bottle of Sta Sof Fro and he sprayed it at my head as if spraying Raid at a roach. He advised me to at least keep the hair "low" if I must wear it like that at all, so as to avoid drawing attention to it.
But why shouldn't I draw attention to it? Asian women are praised for their long straight shiny black hair. Why shouldn't I show off my healthy, thick, inherently African textured hair? Of course there are far more important things to think about than hair. But for me, hair is an emblem. The question is: why is anything distinctly black seen as a fault in urgent need of correction?
*The Igbo people are an ethnic group of south-eastern Nigeria.
PS: My mother finally gave me an Igbo name: Obinne, which means "a mother's heart."
Obinne Precious Williams is a Journalist, author of the memoir PRECIOUS (Bloomsbury 2011) Twitter: www.twitter.com/preciousthebook
Abuja, the capital of the oil rich nation Nigeria, a “planned city” built in the 1980s, is one of the wealthiest and most expensive capitals in Africa.
Very few Nigerians can afford living there. Shanty towns with mass poverty, high unemployment, and poor sanitation is a much more common environment for the vast majority of the population.
The reason for this? Weak governance and endemic corruption.
Nigeria’s corruption troubles are well known. Graft is costing the federal government billions of dollars each year. It deprives ordinary citizens of basic services and exacerbates social problems like crime and insecurity. Because of a lack of effective and appropriate sanctions against offenders, many in Nigeria see corruption and embezzlement as risks that are worth taking.
Tackling corruption in Nigeria was the subject of a meeting in February, hosted by the Open Society Institute for West Africa.
The meeting provided an arena to discuss these issues and how Transparency International could support anticorruption efforts in Nigeria. Participants, a mix of activists, academics, and community leaders spoke hard truths: the magnitude of systemic corruption, the lack of adequate strategies and resources to confront corruption, and the need for a strong anticorruption movement in Nigeria. They stressed that TI could play a key role in amplifying local voices against corruption, strengthening advocacy capacity, and offering expertise and knowledge.
Soji Apampa from Integrity Nigeria strongly felt that Nigerian civil society organisations needed to learn from the wider anticorruption movement to make a stronger impact at home.
Yet, there were also reasons not to lose hope. The millions of Nigerians who took the streets in 2012 to protest removal of the fuel subsidy and poor management of oil revenues demonstrated that people from all walks of life were ready to speak up against corruption with a connected voice through rallies, strikes and technology.
For an organisation like Transparency International, this is good news. Empowered citizens can engage in the fight against corruption. From Kenya to Madagascar, this is what Transparency International chapters are doing. By giving a voice to victims and witnesses of corruption, educating the youth on integrity, and helping journalists expose graft, Transparency International works to ensure that everyone feels responsible for making change happen.
“Every help, big and small, is needed to succeed, and citizens should be part of the solution”, according to Auwal Musa Rafsanjani from the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre in Nigeria.
Change will not happen overnight in Nigeria. It will require collective resolve and decisive action.
Lilian Ekeanyanwu of the Technical Unit on Governance & Anti-Corruption Reform concluded that any serious effort to end corruption should focus both on “building public pressure and reforming institutions and professional bodies”.
Nigeria was ranked 139 out of 174 countries in the 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index. Expectations are high that Transparency International will lend a helping hand. Transparency International stands ready to take this challenge and work with local stakeholders for a corruption-free Nigeria.
Marie-Ange Kalenga is West Africa Regional Coordinator at Transparency International.
No actual health-care facility nationwide had as many, and in fact a few still have none at all. But as soon as a Nigerian newspaper took a photo of the ambulances and published a story about them, they suddenly disappeared — probably to an underground garage.
Jonathan is president of Nigeria, which should be among the world’s most prosperous nations. After all, it produces an estimated 2.4 million barrels of oil each and every day. With oil now selling at $93.61 a barrel, that’s $224 million in income daily. And yet many hospitals can’t afford to buy an ambulance. The reason, in my view: Nigeria is the most corrupt nation on earth.
Sure, Transparency International lists almost three dozen states as more corrupt – Chad, Haiti, Laos, Yemen, Cambodia and the like. But are any of those nations as wealthy as Nigeria — taking in $81 billion annually, just from the sale of oil? No, not even one of them. So Nigeria steals and squanders more money than any other nation, making it the world’s most corrupt, by that measure.
Nigerian journalist Musikilu Mojeed finds all this so discouraging.
“With its geopolitical power, economic resources and middle class,” he laments, “no country (with the possible exception of South and Egypt) has the power to change the course of black/African civilization like Nigeria.” After all, Nigeria is Africa’s most populous state — and large, twice the size of California.
So Nigerians are living an opportunity squandered — particularly now. Egypt is in turmoil. In just the last few days, in fact, many Egyptians have been calling for a military coup — anything to rid the state of its widely despised Muslim Brotherhood government. And a new report by the World Economic Forum ranked Egypt the least safe and secure tourist destination among 140 tourist nations evaluated.
Egypt has lost its place as the Arab/African worlds’ leader, and Saudi Arabia never had it. So for Nigeria, the time is ripe. But its leaders seem interested only in stealing the state’s money to make themselves rich beyond imaging. Think about it: $81 billion a year just from the oil, while most every local government official still tells his people the nation just doesn’t have enough money to fix the roads, schools or hospitals. (Roads are in such terrible shape that government officials generally travel any distance by helicopter.)
And Nigeria’s people — well, they are as mistreated as any on earth. In only nine nations — among them Liberia, Sierra Leone and Somalia — do more mothers die during childbirth. And in only 10 states, including Chad, Afghanistan and Zimbabwe, is the average life expectancy lower. Right now the average Nigerian’s average life span ends at 52. That may be why the median age of Nigerians is just 18.
A few months ago, the Economist Intelligence Unit published an evaluation of the best places for babies to born in 2013, given their probable welfare as children and the chance for a safe, comfortable, prosperous life. Switzerland, Australia and Norway were the top three. The United States came in at 16th, largely because “babies will inherit the large debts of the boomer generation.”
Dead last: Nigeria. “It is the worst place for a baby to enter the world in 2013,” the report said.
Even with all that wealth, only just over half the population has access to clean drinking water, and one-third to a toilet, UNICEF says. Two-thirds live below the poverty line. Only one child in four who contracts pneumonia is given antibiotics, and only about half the population is literate.
The CIA also cites endemic “soil degradation; rapid deforestation; urban air and water pollution.” All this in a county whose gross domestic product stands at $236 billion a year, in the same league as Denmark, Chile, Israel and the United Arab Emirates — prosperous, successful states to be envied.
Goodluck Jonathan is certainly aware of all of this. After all, taking the oath of office, he swore to “devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of Nigeria. So help me God.”
Well, just last week he demonstrated who he really is and what he stands for when he pardoned a former state governor who’d been convicted of embezzling state funds and laundering the money. That pardon triggered a broad, angry uproar.
Good luck, Mr. Jonathan. It’s time you were impeached.
Joel Brinkley is the Hearst professional in residence at Stanford University and a Pulitzer Prize-winning former correspondent for The New York Times.
*Chief Richard Akinjide (SAN), Nigeria's former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, speaks on Nigeria-Biafra civil war years to Gbenro Adesina of PM News
What are your recollections of the Nigerian Civil War?
The Nigerian Civil War is now part of our history. The war has come and has gone and Nigeria is stronger for it. One of the major unfortunate aspects of that war is that many Nigerians who know so much about it have not told the truth about what happened. This makes it correct to say that there are certain things in Nigerian history that may not see the light of day for a very long time to come. I was in the parliament when the first coup took place; I was there before independence. I had access to a great deal of information, some of which will never see the light of day. That is understandable because people like to leave certain facts to future historians. The three critical persons during that period are all dead: Chief Obafemi Awolowo from the West, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe from the East and Sir Ahmadu Bello from the North. To me, it is clear that as at that time, Nigeria was not a nation, but a country. Meanwhile, I must admit that today, Nigeria is a nation not a country. The forces at play at that time have played themselves out. We must admit that what really triggered the war was the coup of 15 January 1966. If that coup had not taken place, the history of Nigeria would have been totally different. Though young at that time, I had access to certain important information. When I entered the parliament in my 20s, we were using the British system for intelligence gathering. The people that had enormous access to information at that time were British and a lot of it will not see the light of day. Let us thank God today that Nigeria is a single, solid country. We are one and we will remain one forever.
You said Nigeria was a country, but is now a nation. But considering the agitation for self-determination, zoning of the presidency and other fault lines, do you think it is right to describe Nigeria as a nation?
A nation is like one family. All the forces that work regard themselves as an entity. In a nation, all the components see themselves as one. We are already a nation. Nigeria is a nation, not a country. The fact that Nigeria has 36 states doesn’t mean we are a country; we are a nation. The zoning you mentioned is a duty of political parties to decide where they want the president to come from. It is not in our constitution.
What were the roles played by each of the critical persons you mentioned in the civil war?
Chief Awolowo, Azikiwe and Ahmadu Bello were very critical to the history of the country. It is impossible to write the history of this country without those people. They played very critical roles. That is the truth. And the roles they played have not been critically analysed by our historians. I have read a lot of history books, but I am yet to see the type of objective and critical analysis as they do in civilised countries and I like to believe that when we do the analysis, their roles are going to be very critical because we could not have created what really emerged without the solid foundation of what those people did.
You were quoted in the secret US diplomatic dispatches we published as saying that Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu was subconsciously seeking revenge for his early rejection by his father as well as trying to seek the recognition he was denied. Could you throw more light on this?
The reasons for the war are very many. Possibly, what you just said is one of them. But the immediate cause was the 1966 coup. The Igbo people felt they suffered too much in the North and that many of their people were killed. But many important people from other parts of the country were also killed in that coup. How do we explain the deaths of Balewa, Ahmadu Bello from the North; S.L. Akintola, Ademulegun and others from the West?
Don’t you think the fact that the Igbo felt persecuted made the war a necessity?
It was most unnecessary. The American Civil War became necessary because it was forced on Abraham Lincoln, not because Lincoln wanted it. He was determined that America must remain a nation and no part should be allowed to break away. In Nigeria, the government at that time, headed by Yakubu Gowon, believed that Nigeria should not break up and therefore, like America believed that if it needed a war to preserve the unity of the country, they just had to do it.
Who should get the blame for the genocide on the Igbo?
I don’t accept there was genocide. During the First World War, a lot of people died. The same thing happened during the Second World War. But nobody calls those two events genocide. Therefore, it is absurd to call what happened in Nigeria as a consequence of an all-out war genocide. Nobody could have prevented it. During crisis, there is bound to be casualties and we should know that.
How well did you know Ojukwu?
I knew him, but not very well. He was quite a brilliant person and well brought up. He attended very good schools in Nigeria and UK and he spoke very well. I liked him very much. The biggest mistake he made was to have put the country through an unnecessary war. He had to leave the country when he realised he would lose the war. He should have negotiated and secured a political solution rather than going to war, which is too evil and bad for any nation.
What are the lessons from the war?
The first lesson is that we should not fight such a war again. No matter how difficult, we should always negotiate because we are brothers and sisters. There was no need for the war and the evil that followed it.
The US documents also quote you as saying that Ojukwu suffered from “Hitler-like megalomania”
Hitler was a very peculiar person. Though there might be something in Ojukwu which might be similar to some traits in Hitler, but Ojukwu was far better than Hitler. I will not say that he was as bad as Hitler. But I would have preferred that he didn’t go to war at all. I had the privilege of drafting the instrument of pardon that President Shehu Shagari instructed me to do, which Shagari signed to give Ojukwu pardon. Whatever he might have done was forgiven by that presidential action and all those are now part of our history.
Do you blame all Ojukwu did on his father’s unwillingness to accept him?
It is difficult for me to make a statement on that because I did not speak to the father, so I don’t know his own side of the story. I did not speak with Ojukwu either.
So, how did you come to your conclusion on Ojukwu, as recorded in the US dispatches?
I made my judgment on the information I collected from certain sources.
Who are the sources?
I don’t want to mention the sources.
Considering that Nigerians continue to be aggrieved about uneven distribution of wealth, perceived marginalisation and sundry issues, how do you think we can move forward and avoid another civil war?
I believe we are moving forward. I believe President Jonathan has been excellent and I don’t think someone else would have done better. Nigeria is moving forward. Nigeria is one of the fastest growing countries in the world. This is recognised globally by economic writers and political commentators. Those who are running Nigeria down have been unfair to the government and Nigeria. The economic growth of Nigeria is unbelievable. It is better than that of Europe or America.
“Nigeria’s Foreign Reserve at $47 Billion. A Strong foreign reserve is good economics.” - AFRIPOL
Beyond its cosmetics largess and intimidating attribute, strong foreign reserve plays a fundamental role in the stabilization of a nation’s currency. In case of Nigeria, the country’s currency which is naira must be stabilized for a healthy and thriving economy to be sustainable. Naira’s stabilization can be functionally achieved when a reasonable accumulation of foreign reserve is met and sustain.
At the interim, Nigeria foreign reserve stood at $47 billion; with naira increasingly stability and rising oil price, the erstwhile depleting external reserve fund have been replenished. In September 2008 the foreign reserve was $62 billion and it was propelled solely by high price of oil. But now the stabilization of naira is coming into a play, thus aiding in propping up the reserve by bolstering strong confidence in the investors, thereby attracting portfolio investments.
The role of naira stability must be treasured for contributing to the appreciation of the foreign reserve. Sound macro-economic stability, essentially the stable naira has open door to inflow of investments especially in the capital market.
Many Nigerians including many high ranking politicians are lately questioning the reason for the accumulation of relatively large foreign reserve by Nigerian government, which was engineered by the country’s financial policy makers. Therefore it makes ample sense that the role of foreign reserve must be readily made available to all Nigerians who are eager to understand how it works. The policy makers at executive branch and at country’s apex bank have not done a good job in communicating to stakeholders – the masses of Nigerians who are surviving with less than $2 a day while country is maintaining a large foreign reserve.
Naira must be protected from fierce and perilous world of currency trading especially from hostile speculators that are bent on making their ‘kill’ without being considerate on the detrimental side effects of their actions.
A strong foreign reserve becomes a bulwark to speculators who will be intimidated by large foreign reserve of a nation. Strong foreign reserve becomes a powerful tool for adjustment of the exchange rate when it deems necessary with regards to the international trade and payments.
Foreign exchange reserve can be used to stimulate export and depressed importation. An export orientated nation with arrays of products to export does not want a very high valued or overvalued currency that may make their products expensive for foreign buyers. In this case, the country will tap into her reserve and buy foreign notes that will lessen the value of her currency.
But to discourage importation, the strong reserve comes into handy too, by buying up local notes that will make imported goods expensive and increased the value of the local currency.
An ample foreign reserve gives a sense of power and security for a nation to be able to manipulate is exchange rate and value at its will and when she deems it necessary.
At the macroeconomics level, a strong foreign reserve is quite significant. When it comes to quantity of international trade and commerce; the regulation of inflation and employment with desirable outcomes could become realizable with strong foreign reserve in the hands of good managers.
United States of America has been complaining that China is manipulating her currency for her own maximum benefit. American politicians and policy makers are concerned about China’s relatively weaken currency that made it possible for China’s products to be cheaper to buy, simultaneously making it more expensive for local Chinese consumers to buy foreign products.
China per say is not doing anything illegal but they are rather tapping into their incredible mind-blowing foreign reserve that may be up to three trillion dollars. With such an enormous and large foreign reserve, one can correctly say that China is manipulating its currency but she is not breaking any laws. China is playing the game to beneficent of her economy. The big problem in this case may be the potential invitation of trade and currency war, such a scenario will not be a welcomed development for the global trade because everybody will be a loser.
As the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria acknowledged, "We need to go into a period of strong and serious fiscal restraints and consolidation. We must continue to build up external reserves and protect the economy from external shocks and focus on the strength and resilience of the banking system. We are building buffers for the economy in the event of external shocks."
That is a well taken point because Nigeria is still a chiefly one commodity based economy. Nigeria’s majority of foreign reserve comes from oil export and a sudden drop in the price of oil will greatly affect the economy and reduce the reserve. It is therefore logical and necessary for building up of reserve to continue, for nobody knows how long the price of oil will stay up. Nigeria without diversity of the economy is still hanging by the thread whenever the price of oil nosedives.
Nigeria’s quest to become a major industrial economy by 2020 or 2030 requires a sound macroeconomics. Therefore the importance of an enabling foreign reserve cannot be overemphasized. A strong economy is an economy that has the financial and economic tools needed to set its agenda, bring it to fruition and to be sustainable on a global scale despite competition. Therefore in today’s Nigeria and in the future, a strong foreign reserve is inevitable.
This year's International Women's Day's theme; "Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum - ending the cycle of violence" could not have come at a better time especially for countries such as Nigeria where the 'life cycle' of women happens to be a very eventful one. Though national figures suggest a life expectancy of 50 years for women as compared to 48 years for men (Nigeria Democratic Health Survey 2008), the rigors women experience throughout their lifetime cannot be overemphasized and in some cases, are unimaginable.
As a woman in Nigeria, the struggle begins from birth. In many communities, the birth of a girl does not call for a grand celebration and the girl child is still not accorded the same educational opportunity as her male counterparts. This puts her at a disadvantage from a very young age. Girls are also exposed to the hazards of rape and sexual violence from as early as three years of age. This inevitably results in a greater threat of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, most notably HIV/AIDS.
The challenges of childbearing and management of fertility also put women at a very high risk of illnesses and death. While access to skilled birth attendance greatly improves the outcomes of women and their babies, less than 40% of women in Nigeria have this and up to 20% are delivered by untrained traditional birth attendants (National Demographic Health Survey 2008). Essential services such as family planning are poorly utilized, with only 24% of women using modern methods. As a result, an average Nigerian woman is likely to give birth to more than five children by the end of her childbearing years.
It is against this background that the Partnership for Transforming Health Systems Phase II (PATHS2), a six year project funded by UK aid from the Department for International Development (DFID), has been supporting the government of Nigeria at the national level and in five focal states (Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Enugu and Lagos) to implement client focused interventions aimed at improving the health of women and children especially in rural areas. As part of national level support, PATHS2 is partnering with stakeholders to support efforts to ensure the National Health Bill becomes a reality. This bill pledges to provide a basic minimum package of healthcare services to all Nigerians by allocating resources to fund essential healthcare services such as pregnancy care, skilled birth attendance, post-natal care and routine immunization which are critical to the lives of women and children especially in the poorest communities.
To support health facilities to better serve the needs of communities, most especially women and children, PATHS2 has renovated 87 primary health care centers in its five focal states. In addition, drugs and essential equipment such as ultrasound machines have been delivered to 1,440 health facilities. More than 1,500 health care workers in PATHS2 supported states have also been trained on life saving skills, Post Abortion Care, Family Planning, Newborn Care and Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses among others. Through these interventions, health facilities have become better equipped to provide quality services in a client-focused approach.
At the community level, PATHS2 works closely with community volunteers to raise awareness on women's issues and mobilize men and women to become advocates for maternal and child health. Rapid awareness raising and safe motherhood initiatives are also being conducted in rural communities to inform citizens about common health problems and the importance of accessing health care in health centers.
PATHS2 will continue to support the government of Nigeria to improve the health and lives of women, especially in rural communities. It is hoped that through these interventions and more, Nigerian women will be able to join their counterparts in other parts of the world to truly celebrate International Women's Day.
Dr Amina Aminu, Director of Service Delivery, Partnership for Transforming Health Systems Phase 2. Twitter: www.twitter.com/paths2