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Sunday, 16 September 2012 22:35

Nigeria Beyond Boko Haram

Nigeria Beyond Boko Haram

 

The current violence being perpetrated by the group “Boko Haram” is testing the strength and resolve of the union of Nigeria. Some international experts are predicting that Nigeria will not remain as one entity beyond 2015, and within the country those calling for a Sovereign National Conference are simply looking for a diplomatic way of dissolving the union.

 

Nigeria is a unique and complex country. Similar or even lesser stringent  issues have broken so many countries but it will take more than Boko Haram and MEND (Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta) to dissolve Nigeria. What started out as a group looking to end western education within the Islamic community of northern Nigeria has turned into anarchy, bombing of churches and insisting on a northern president in 2015?

 

The Issue

The problem with most African countries in post-colonial era is the fundamental issue of citizenship definition: Who is a citizen? What are rights of a citizen within the context of ethnic diversity and cultural pluralism? What is equality and limit of ambition among ethnic groups?  All are the citizens equal before the law? What should they expect from fellow citizens and from their leaders?

 

Although, all these questions may sound simplistic, but the inability to properly define them is what is manifesting itself in the forms of different separatist groups. In Nigeria’s case, groups such as MEND, Boko Haram, MASSOB, and Oduduwa have become interest groups at the expense of citizenship.

 

In Nigeria, every political zone wants to produce a president. Such a mind set automatically denies any other group of their full citizenship rights and especially, the right to aspire to whatever office they desire to. It also changes the basis for election of our leaders in democracy from competence and meritocracy, to ethno-religious allegiances and bias.

 

Instead of Nigeria focusing on electing a competent leader that will build the country and deliver the dividends of democracy comes 2015, instead every region is thinking on how to install “their own” which have proven to produce an inept government.

 

This issue does not only play out at the national level, but is also present on the state level where the majority ethnic group insists on governing. Even without producing little or no positive results, they continue to have the support of their constituencies simply because they are from the same tribe. The result is a clamour by the minority groups for their own states, just as on the national level the groups that feel marginalized continue to agitate for a separate country.

 

The Way Forward


At some point, Nigeria has to undertake a true nation building exercise and inventory.  The Way Forward is for Nigeria to accept its diversity beyond the three major tribes and allow democracy and federalism to thrive. This will enable religious tolerance and tribal harmony to take root in our diversify nation.

 

The simplistic framework of post colonial Nigeria that reflects: 3 major languages, 2 major religions and other limited interpretations were instituted by colonialist. The grouping of Nigeria into such simple blocks was important for the British to make colonization and administration easy.

 

However, a post-colonial Nigeria should open her eyes to her diversity and see it as strength.

 

We cannot continue to have two separate legal systems – the penal code in north and civil law in the south. What determines a crime should not be based on where you are, what religion you belong to or your social status. A sense of justice has to be implanted into the fiber of the society. Oppression must be recognized independent of the religion, tribe or affiliation of the oppressor.

 

The union called Nigeria will remain beyond Boko Haram and 2015. However, the fundamental issue of electing leaders must be addressed:  Are we going to remain on the path of rotating our leadership until every village rules and we find ourselves in a never ending worsening situation or do we make the tough choices necessary to grow up?

 

Gideon Nyan is a resident writer for Afripol.

 

 

Published in Gideon Nyan

 

Abubakar Shekau, Abubakar Adam Kambar and Khalid al-Barnawi

The United States, yesterday, named three alleged leaders of the Nigerian militant group Boko Haram as “foreign terrorists”, the first time it has blacklisted members of the Islamist group which claimed responsibility for many bomb attacks in the northern part of the country.

 

This is just as the alleged mastermind of the bomb attack on the United Nations building in Abuja which claimed 25 lives, Habib Bama, has been arrested after a gun duel with security personnel. The State Department identified the three Boko Haram leaders who have been branded terrorists as Abubakar Shekau, who it called the “most visible” leader of the group; Abubakar Adam Kambar and Khalid al-Barnawi, who it said were tied both to Boko Haram and to al Qaeda’s north African wing.

 

“Under Shekau’s leadership, Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks in northern Nigeria, its primary area of operation. In the last 18 months, Boko Haram or associated militants have killed more than 1,000 people,” the State Department said in an announcement, noting that “these designations demonstrate the United States’ resolve in diminishing the capacity of Boko Haram to execute violent attacks,”

 

The action by the State and Treasury departments, first reported by Reuters on Wednesday, follows growing pressure on the Obama Administration to take stronger action against Boko Haram, which has stepped up attacks on Christian places of worship this year.

 

U.S. officials say the decision to list individual Boko Haram members, rather than apply the more sweeping “Foreign Terrorist Organization” label to the group as a whole as some U.S. lawmakers have demanded, reflected a desire not to elevate the group’s profile. The action freezes any assets the three men have in the United States, and bar U.S. persons from any transactions with them.

 

This is the first such action the U.S. government has taken against Boko Haram, but falls short of demands from some U.S. lawmakers and the Justice Department to designate the entire group as a “foreign terrorist organization.” The State Department has been under pressure to act against Boko Haram for months. In January, Lisa Monaco, the Justice Department’s top national security official, sent a letter to the State Department arguing that the Nigerian group met the criteria for a “foreign terrorist” listing because it either engages in terrorism that threatens the United States or has a capability or intent to do so.

 

More recently, a group of Republican senators led by Scott Brown of Massachusetts introduced legislation requiring the State Department to determine whether Boko Haram should be designated as a terrorist group. Republican Representative Patrick Meehan, who chairs a Homeland Security subcommittee in the House, also introduced an amendment that would force the administration to add Boko Haram to the terrorism list or explain why it was not doing so.

 

Boko Haram henchman Habib Bama shot, arrested

Meanwhile, Habib Bama ex-army officer allegedly responsible for bombings of UN offices in Abuja, Abacha barracks and other places has been arrested. He was said to have been brought down in a shoot out with the JTF who shot and wounded him. Habib was declared wanted early this year by the SSS, after the arrest and confessions of Boko Haram spokesman, Abul Qaqa

 

4 killed as midnight killings haunt residents

 

There was still palpable tension in Kaduna State, yesterday, despite claims by the government that the area was now calm as it was gathered that four people were killed at Kujama in a renewed clash between some Muslims and Christians. The Chairman of Kujama was, however, said to have explained on the Kaduna State Media Corporation, KSMC, that the fight took place in the market and not in the night.

 

At Mararaba Rido, Vanguard gathered that   rival groups  moved from house to house in search of who to kill or maim as well as torching such houses. This came as some medical officers at the 44 Military Hospital said that the mortuary was full with dead bodies even as four other victims being treated in the hospital died between Wednesday night and yesterday morning. There were no fewer than 30 people with serious injuries in the hospital, even as more patients were  brought in for admission same Wednesday night.

 

Reliable sources said the hoodlums took advantage of the absence of both military and police officers on the streets in the night to embark on reprisal killings. It was said that the withdrawal of soldiers from the streets followed allegations that a  military officer killed an adherent of a religion other than his own, thus inflaming passion on the side of the religious group which lost its member to the bullets from the soldier.

 

A resident of Barnawa who craved anonymity said, “there is curfew but without either the military or police on the streets criminals will not be deterred from carrying out their nefarious activities. The government cannot just declare a 24-hour curfew and leave the streets empty. It must deploy security agents on the streets to monitor compliance. We expect Governor Patrick Yakowa to do more by matching actions with words,” the source said.

 

Calm however seemed to have been restored in Kaduna town and environs, yesterday, at the time of this report. Meanwhile, most streets in Kaduna were deserted throughout yesterday, with schools, filling stations, shops and offices remaining shut, as government re-affirmed its determination to enforce the curfew.

 

Governor Yakowa had in a statement by his Media Assistant, Mr Reuben Buhari affirmed that the 24 -hour curfew was still in force and warned residents to ensure compliance. The statement read: “The Governor of Kaduna State, Sir Patrick Yakowa, once again commiserates with all. While sharing in their grief, it is however important to inform the whole state that the 24- hour curfew earlier imposed on the state is still in force and security agencies have been asked to ensure its full compliance.

 

“As distasteful as the imposition of the 24- hour curfew is, the good citizens of Kaduna State should understand that the measure became necessary for the good of the state and the benefit of its citizens. People are expected to cooperate fully with security agencies saddled with the task of restoring full peace and order in our state. The Governor further calls on people to absolutely disregard all mischievous text messages and rumours being circulated on impending crisis or attacks. All these rumours are meant to further throw the state into chaos. He also calls on all the inhabitants of Kaduna State to show love to one another, regardless of religious or ethnic differences.”

 

However, in the suburbs, residents sat outside, while youth converted open spaces into football fields, even as the  wailing sounds of sirens from vehicles of security agents who patrolled the streets rent the air once in a while. The ban on movements was said to be taking its toll on residents, most of whom did not store food and other basic items at home before the bombings and reprisal attacks between Sunday and yesterday.

 

Source: Vanguard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, 27 February 2012 13:42

Boko Haram:The Dangers of Appeasement

It is not compromise. Compromise is a pragmatic means of negotiation. Appeasement is giving in to conditions that equal blackmail. It is unequal exchange. Ultimately, and in the long run, it undermines the goals and the fundamental objective of the enterprise.

 

In more recent history, it was Neville Chamberlain, who as the British Prime Minister in the inter war years, gave the term "appeasement" its worst name, in ceding much grounds to Hitler in Germany, with the Munich Agreement, and eventually plunging Europe into a war with global consequences following Hitler's invasion of Poland.

 

Appeasement is like sweeping the dust under an already dirty rug. This is precisely what many are pushing the Nigerian president to do in the calls and the pressure to "negotiate" with Boko Haram. I'd like to register a total disgust for that move on two grounds (a) it further weakens the hands of an already weak government and (b) it continues to perpetuate the indeterminacy of the Federal government on matters of national security.

 

By its own avowal, Boko Haram is intent on overthrowing the Federal Government of Nigeria by force of arms and by acts of treasonable subversion, and having secured its aim, upturn a central, cardinal principle of the Nigerian federation: its status as a secular democratic republic by imposing a Sharia theocracy.

 

In tune with its aim, Boko Haram has launched deadly, violent attacks against the institutional symbols of the Federal Government of Nigeria - police stations, military installations, the office of immigration, Nigeria's security personnel, as well indeed as churches and mosques.

 

They upped their ante with the attacks on the United Nations building in Abuja, and the killings of Christian worshippers on Christmas day with the bombing of the St. Theresa's Catholic Church in Madalla, as well as the horrendous attacks on the city of Kano that left hundreds dead. Boko Haram is an equal opportunity killer - they kill Moslems and they kill Christians in the north.

 

They group has killed over two thousand people and counting since it launched its open revolt against the Federal Government, a situation that has exacerbated the uncertainty of the continued union of Nigeria. In December of 2011 it "ordered" all Christians and Southerners to leave the North of Nigeria, failing which they would be attacked. Boko Haram's plan seems to be working, for quite clearly the migrant frenzy has gripped the Igbo in Kano, with MASSOB reportedly sending a retinue of twenty buses to evacuate many Igbo willing to leave the North and setting up a "refugee camp" in Igboland.

 

A rising separatist mood is shaping around the moment and it is very obvious that this political game has moved too far, and as some observers of the trend have noted, might require the intervention of Nigeria's armed forces to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria as a nation. Even that prospectis increasingly weakened by the potential fissures within that institution and by a current doctrinal forbearance. But the point this column is willing to make at this stage is that President Jonathan must not, under the current circumstance, succumb to the pressure and blackmail of "negotiating" with Boko Haram.

 

He must indeed stop negotiating with any terrorist group intent on blackmailing Nigeria into supine tolerance of the very powerful factors and interests that are attempting by their criminal activities to subvert and supplant the Nigerian national endeavor.

 

Recently, leaders of the Arewa Consultative Assembly began to claim that "only a negotiation with Boko Haram" can solve the problem. But here is the trouble: negotiate on the basis of what? To cede control of the federal government to them? What exactly is Boko Haram fighting for and for whom? Colonel Hamid Ali says "military action will not solve the problem." Perhaps indeed not. But that problem will not be solved either by a dawdling and compromised government willing to appease a mindless and fascist revolt against the Nigerian state. It requires decisive action one way or the other.

 

It is appeasement that brought us here. The subversion of Nigeria, since 1998 has much to do with the Obasanjo administration's inability to establish a civilized democracy. The idea of democracy as "a civil" government has roots in the notion that law and abiding by civic order is the mainstay of a civil/civilian/civilized society.

 

But the unresolved killings, political murders, kidnappings, assassinations - including the assassination, execution-style of Nigeria's sitting Attorney-General and such other prominent, public deaths without consequence gave rise to the sense that Nigeria is not only a failed state, and a savage enclave, but one in which atrocity directed at its very soul goes unpunished.

 

Boko Haram is not the first terrorist group in Nigeria. The Niger delta militia was organized, presumably to fight the injustice of oil exploration in the Niger Delta. In time these "militants" of the Niger Delta, first recruited as political thugs, soon morphed into armed insurrection, killing kidnapping, and generally rendering the creeks impassable and inamenable to oil exploration.

 

One could sympathize with them on the basis of their fight for economic justice.

 

But it does seem that the business of national subversion is big businesses - it sells arms and it guarantees huge concessions. Under Yar Adua, the militants were appeased and settled. Today one of them, Tompolo, has a concession for maritime security.

 

Boyloaf is an international envoy for the president. We reward bad behavior: anybody who could organize a private army against Nigeria is bought off with concessions. That is appeasement. Yet, the problem persists. In the end, in spite of all the killings, and with the pressure to negotiate, President Jonathan is moving towards the appeasement of Boko Haram. Nigerians must reject that option. Indeed, the option left for the president is fairly simple: he must re-establish the authority of the Federal Government of Nigeria, by any means necessary.

 

It is time this government establishes law and order and bring to the books any Nigerian, no matter how highly placed, who is connected in any way to the subversion of the nation. Selective and dilatory law enforcement is dangerous to the health of nations. The National Assembly must provide the president grounds with a National Security Act to proscribe Boko Haram, MASSOB, Niger Delta Militia, Oodua People's Congress and other fissiparous entities, and to launch a national security initiative to permanently degrade their activities by both symmetric and asymmetrical methods.

 

It is past time to, as the poet Odia Ofeimun once wrote, take Nigeria seriously. It will not be by appeasement. The greatest security threat to Nigeria is not Boko Haram. It is a government that is unwilling to rise toits highest duty, which is to restore the public trust - the ability to guarantee its citizens national security which includes economic and social security. Selective appeasement of criminal gangs and armed political thugs will not do it.

Friday, 03 February 2012 16:46

Boko Haram: Fallouts from bombings

Fallouts from bombings in Nigerian

A lot has happened as reactions from the bombings and killings of innocent citizens since the surfacing of Boko Haram, the most recent being end of year 2011 Madalla blast and Kano multiple blasts on 20th January, 2012, barely one month after the Madalla’s.

The most serious reaction, as Nigeria has often proved to be a reactionary nation, is the declaration of emergency in some local government areas across the nation and the eventual sacking of the Inspector General of Police Hafiz Ringim and some top officers in the police who are believed to have done not enough to forestall peace and safety of the citizenry. It is, then, hoped that the new IG Muhammad Abubakar will tow the path clearly different from his predecessor. Straight to point, he should not allow the sacked officers to go home completely without explaining their possible connections with the happenings they failed to curtail or curb. Can this new IG be different!?

Truly the security situation in Nigeria has been of serious concern to many patriots as it has created a false Muslim-Christian faceoff which has never existed in the country to such a disturbing level. Some disgruntled elements in the society have been found to be using the trigger-headed, vulnerable and gullible youth to pursue their heinous political cum social pursuits, exploiting religious and ethnic sentiments.

This false faceoff, though latently propounded by the bigots has reared its ugly head, resulting from the indiscriminate bombings and killings that have been orchestrated by Boko Haram. Government and people of Nigeria have attempted to resist this development by all legitimate means without causing more bloodshed or misunderstandings. So, those Nigerians who still think of Nigeria breaking-up should desist from being wishful thinkers. By God’s grace, the 2015 prophecy and any attempt of such kind will fail.

It is more worrisome that some miscreants have utilized the situation to cause more tension. So, it is important for Nigerians to note that national security is the responsibility of every citizen. Any attempt by any group of persons to cause disunity amongst the citizenry wherever each citizen chooses to live should be resisted.

But again, it is pertinent to make some clarifications on the present security situations in the country. Boko Haram must be clearly identified as a militant group. Recent events and revelations have proved that merely linking the group with Islam is a misnomer that should be avoided if the collective effort to subdue the group is to be meaninggful. The Niger Delta militants, the OPC, the MOSOP, the MASSOB and other regional groups fought for clear regional causes that were never interwoven with religious sentiments, despite they were threats to national existence. As it were, many Nigerians are still in the dark over the real motives of Boko Haram which is killing Christians and Muslims alike, including prominent political and religious leaders of northern extraction.

However, many Nigerians among the elite know that it was a creation of political manipulations which has turned out to be fighting an unacceptable cause. The activities of this group have been vehemently condemned by both the political and traditional leaders of the north in particular and Nigeria in general.

As the name denotes adversity to westernization (not Christianity), it is not hidden that a good percentage of the Muslims of the north have been heavily westernized. And apart from nationhood, there are many similarities between Muslims and Christians. Islam does not refer to the Christians and Jews as infidels. That is why it has been observed that the group has targeted every person who identifies with western ways of life including deceitful politics.

Nigeria is a home for all Nigerians and every Nigerian should be free to seek legitimate livelihood in any part of his or her fatherland. Therefore, the threats by Boko Haram against Christians in the north and such counter threats by militant groups against northerners in the South should carefully be handled by the nation’s security outfits. On the other hand, every Nigerian who sincerely believes in the cause of unity, peace and progress of the nation should not be cowed to leave his place of birth. There are many Southerners living in the north and many Northerners living in the South who ONLY KNOW their states of origin by names. That is the best way to seal the fallout of colonialism and our amalgamation.

Cases have been recorded that Boko Haram is a gang-up of people who profess different religions and ethnic backgrounds. A case was reported of a Christian woman in the north who attempted to bomb a church that was not her denomination under the instruction of her own church leader. A national daily also reported of a non-Muslim dressed in kaftan and turban who attempted to bomb a church in a Southern state.

Also, use of firearms during festive periods often cause harm and sometimes make it difficult to differentiate between genuine celebration and attacks by hoodlums. I recall an incident in a southern city when during festive periods, armed robbers raided homes and people could not differentiate between gunshots and such firearms commonly used by revellers.

Another dimension in this is that Boko Haram would claim responsibility of any bomb blast since it is seeking relevance just as it happened during the Niger Delta crisis when even armed robbery cases – which have become quotidian in Nigeria – and kidnappings were ascribed to the Niger Delta militants and specifically to the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).

Howbeit, reactions and counter reactions from even highly placed religious and political leaders especially those of President of Christian association of Nigeria (CAN) Ayo Oritsejafor said Christians, the Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar 111, Muslim groups NSCIA and JNI, South East zone of CAN, Odua Peoples Congress (OPC), Northern Progressive Forum, Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), League of Imams in Abuja, leader of the Dariqa sect, Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi, amongst others have been recorded. Distinguished political calibres such as Senate President David Mark, National Security Adviser Andrew Azazi, Niger State Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, Chairman, Nigerian Governors Forum and Governor of Rivers State, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi and a host of them have made commendable comments that should douse tension and foster understanding amongst Nigerians in their diverse backgrounds.

I was all ears when Kaakaki programme of African Independent Television (AIT) of Thursday, 29th December 2011 specifically discussed matters arising from the Christmas Day Bombings. A clergy, Tennyson Amazama and Director of Niger Delta Non-Violence Movement, Onengiya Erekosima were featured. Amazama noted that if top ranking political officers die from the bombings ravaging parts of the country – as the ordinary citizens have bee – a bill would be immediately sponsored and all the carnages would stop.

According to him, the political leaders seem not to be too serious about the bombings since their children and wards and immediate family members are either outside the country or are protected by the security men who are supposed to work for the majority of Nigerians.

Erekosima particularly noted that many Nigerians have been pushed to the wall by the way affairs of the peoples are run by the governments. Said he, “I have never condemned the Boko Haram, but their acts. The President should listen to the people like his predecessor, late President Yar’Adua. He should understand and note the significance of the amnesty instituted by Yar’Adua.”

He opined that solutions to the security crisis in the country can be gotten from outside the circle of security chiefs, most of who have proved otherwise. “We know those security men who remove their uniforms and go to cause these troubles. When security votes receive huge money, it does not need explanation that the beneficiaries will not want the crisis to end. It has happened before. If just a percentage of such huge money is given to us, we can restore peace in the whole country.”

All in all, can it be ascertained that non-Northerners, non-Muslims and quite possibly non-Nigerians are also into this conundrum?

 

Muhammad Ajah is a writer, author, advocate of humanity and good governance based in Abuja. E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

Friday, 11 November 2011 18:19

Ignore Boko Haram, invest in Nigeria

President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday asked foreign investors to ignore the menace of Boko Haram and invest in the country.  He also gave the security agencies a pass mark in the fight against terrorism.

He said, “Nigeria experienced 30 months of civil war and we were able to survive that crisis. Anybody who doesn’t want to come and invest in Nigeria now because of the activities of Boko Haram would simply regret it because this is very temporary.

“Every country has security challenges, even in America; it’s just that terrorist activities are new in Nigeria. Before now, we had challenges of assassination and armed robbery and those are the kinds of crimes that we were dealing with. But for terrorism, we are acquiring the relevant infrastructure to combat it and I assure you that we will solve the problem.”

Jonathan  spoke at a gathering of select  businessmen during the Presidential dialogue with global chief executive officers at the 17th Nigeria Economic Summit in Abuja.

Panellists at the presidential dialogue included  the Global Head, JP Morgan International Public Sector Group, Daniel Zelikow; Executive Vice-President, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, Izumi Kobayashi; and President, General Electric, Africa, Jay Ireland.

Others are President, Dangote Industries Limited, Aliko Dangote; Managing Director, Procter and Gamble West Africa, Manoj Kumar; Chief Executive Officer, MTN, Sifiso Dabengwa; and Vice- President, Shell, Sub Saharan Africa, Ian Craig.

President Goodluck Jonathan President Goodluck Jonathan

Addressing the issue of the violent Islamic sect vis-a-vis security challenges in the country, Jonathan told his audience, “The issue of Boko Haram that we are experiencing today is not peculiar to Nigeria because most countries of the world have one form of terrorist attack (or the other).

“These are temporary challenges that we have, but let me reassure Nigerians, and the world in general, that given the challenges that we have, the Nigerian Security Services have made progress in the fight against terrorism.

“Yes, we have the Boko Haram challenge now but (it is) just like the terrorist attacks in other countries. We are working on it and it’s not like the government is not doing anything about it and I assure Nigerians that it’s only a temporary setback.”

Asked if the security situation in the country would not frustrate the Federal Government’s effort to attract investors, the President said,“The Nigeria Security Services have made progress in the fight against terrorism. You are aware that on October 1, last year, that there was a bomb blast and all the people that were involved in that bomb attack have been arrested”

Of recent the country’s security services have been heavily criticised for the increasing number of attacks carried out by the Islamic sect. The sect commenced a violent campaign of bombings against the government since 2009 and had killed over 750, including the 24 that died in the attack on the United Nations’ building in Abuja on August 26.

The President also dwelt on the removal of petroleum subsidy, stressing that it would help to correct the imbalance in the petroleum sector.

He said that the issue of subsidy removal was a developmental policy that should not be muddled with politics.

Alleged members of Boko Haram

He submitted, “I know some key players in the economy, who before this time, were against subsidy. Now, they have brought politics into it. That is why I still appreciate people like General Muhammadu Buhari, who is the only person that said it clearly that the issue of subsidising petroleum products was a fraud. He did not play politics with development. So, it is not everybody that would have the mind of someone like General Buhari.

“I have told people that if we don’t deregulate now, in the next 10 to 15 years, this country will be importing petroleum products from Ghana, Chad, Niger, and even Cameroon. And these are countries that just discovered crude oil very recently.”

The President said that the controversy surrounding the SWF had been resolved with the state governors.

He said, “We initially had some challenges on the SWF with the states, but I spoke to the state governors that it is when the economy has a positive outlook that investors will come and invest.

“This administration has the political will to do it right. The money that is going to be saved in the SWF belongs to the federal and state governments, and if another president comes in after me, he won’t have any power to tamper with that fund.”

Also speaking at the dialogue, Dangote urged the Federal Government to formulate policies that would help stimulate investment in agriculture, mining and petrochemicals. The sectors, according to him, have the capacity to outperform the petroleum industry in terms of revenue generation.

 

PUNCH NEWS

 

Published in Archive

Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige chats with SIMON EBEGBULEM of Saturday Vanguard

Former governor of Anambra State and now the Senator representing Anambra Central District, Dr Chris Nwabueze Ngige, was in Benin City last week for the retreat organized for governors in the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) controlled states.

In this chat with SIMON EBEGBULEM of Saturday Vanguard Ngige speaks on the ongoing legal battle between him and the former Minister of Information, Prof.Dora Akunyili, the 7th Senate and the issue of Boko Haram. He warns that with the prevailing security situation in the country, the nation is sitting on a keg of gun powder.Excerpts:

We hear you may abandon the governorship election legal battle since you are now in the senate.

Dr Chris Nwabueze Ngige:

No no no!. I have not abandoned the gubernatorial legal battle. As you know, I went to court to challenge two things. First, I said that the man declared winner did not meet the constitutional requirements. He has majority of the votes cast quite alright but he did not score 25 per cent of all the votes cast in 2/3rd of all the Local Governments in Anambra state. Anambra state has 21 local governments and 2/3rd of 21 is 14. He has that in 13 but they are claiming that what we are talking about was all the votes cast, not valid votes cast.

In the INEC manual, they defined all these things. That is the first leg. Then the second leg is the voters’ register. 17 per cent of people in Anambra state were alleged to have voted and that 17 per cent translated to about 203,000 voters. Out of it you have 1.8million voters. The issue of whether that register was valid, that is the big question. Can we start to go for an election? INEC has partially answered it. When after their retreat in Uyo, they declared that Nigeria’s voters register was faulty and in particular that of Anambra and Akwa Ibom.

So the question becomes when you deprived people of voting, people who registered and they turned out on election day and their names were not seen, and the people are in the majority, about 83 per cent, can such an election said to be in compliance with the Electoral Act? We are saying no, it should be nullified and a fresh election should take place. So the case is still on. As a matter of fact, the Court of Appeal sitting in Enugu, delivered judgment two days ago, saying that we should go back to the Tribunal, that a new tribunal should be set up for us to try the case de novo. So we are waiting now for the Court of Appeal to give us a new tribunal to try the case.

It seems you enjoy having political battles with people. Recently, it was Prof Dora Akunyili. How do you feel always battling?

Prof.Akunyili is my family friend. I don’t want to discuss her but it is good that we are in this political logjam now and it affords one the opportunity to re-appraise relationship you had in the past and know whether the relationship was blossoming because one is gaining from you or the other way.

It is unfortunate that we found ourselves in this situation. Unfortunate, in the sense that at least she came to solicit for my blessing as former governor of the state sometime in October last year and she came again in December. That time, I had not made my interest known because my party had not told former governors that we were the ones that would carry the party’s flag in the senatorial elections so that we could make our party alive. And that was what I did.

What is your focus in the senate?

The 7th Senate will be the best Nigeria will have. As a matter of fact, the 7th National Assembly will be different. We have many former governors there and apart from that, we have people who came from the House of Representatives. We have also some senators coming back for third term and fourth term like the senate president. So the membership is already a qualitative one. Again Mark as senate president is very experienced; he went to school and vast in many ways. So he knows the politics of the place.

So we have good leadership. And when Senator David Mark wanted to come back, some of us voiced our apprehension about the image of the senate. And we know that one of the cardinal things that made the image bad was the so called jumbo pay. And before we came in, we surveyed that issue of jumbo pay and we discovered that actually it was not a question of salaries and allowances of senators that was called the jumbo pay, it was a misconception. Whatever they took in terms of allowances and salaries were as prescribed by the Revenue Mobilization Commission, so it constitutional.

It is this same commission that fixed the salaries of President, Vice President, Judges, senate president and National Assembly members. So National Assembly members did not breach that. What people misconstrued as jumbo pay was the running cost of the National Assembly. And that was what Sanusi was alluding to that it was gulping 25 per cent of the national recurrent expenditure not the entire budget.

Over head cost, which includes refreshment, fuel, stationeries and others, so this is what is called recurrent expenditure. So in order for the National Assembly to feel the pain of the ordinary Nigerians, we advised that they must be slashed. And the Senate President being the chairman of the National Assembly, consulted with former Speaker Bankole before we were sworn in.

And they agreed that the money must be slashed. And after we were sworn in, he informed us that some of those things we were talking about before swearing in have been taken care of. 40 per cent slash of the recurrent expenditure. And it is a very big sacrifice because it means that even the travels and tours funds were slashed.

And from this recurrent expenditure, you take care of your own constituency offices and sometimes it is actually very expensive because you have to open constituency offices in your area, like I am planning to open seven constituency offices which I will furnish and employ people there.

Boko Haram has been holding Nigeria hostage. How do we tackle that?

It is a socio-political religious problem. We need jobs for these people to keep them busy. We need skill acquisition centres. When people apply skills, they will discover that they will make more money than those working in the offices. With that, they will stay out of trouble. This is the social aspect of it. If you go to the political angle, the politicians use them during elections.

We have some big people backing them. Those people also believe that they can destabilize the government. Then the religious aspect of it, this is where the Imams, Mallams who teach the Holy Koran should come in. These people have been brain washed that they are fighting for Allah. That everything Western education is bad. So we must re-orientate them.

The Islamic scholars have big job in their hands now for this country. If they are patriotic to this nation, they should move in now. I know that other Mallams are afraid to go into the matter seriously because of the dangers involved. The security agents must rise to the occasion. It is not enough to start playing politics with security now. I as a matter Chief Executive of a state noticed when I was governor that the SSS and the police hardly collaborate. This is not the time for it.

The office of the National Security Adviser must stand up and be useful. And the job of that office is the coordination of all the arms of security. The enforcement of all security laws is very necessary. The politicians who are doing this should be fished out because they want to destabilize both the state and federal governments. Again, schools, skill acquisition centres should be opened everywhere. If you go to the South East, that is why you see kidnapping everyday. They recruit them because they are idle.

Above all, the government and the elites should know that we are all sitting on a keg of gun powder. If we do not do something to make majority of Nigerian people happy, things will go bad, we might lose Nigeria and we don’t pray for that.

Government must encourage education, it is a weapon against poverty, it is a weapon against ignorance. Once you have gotten education, you have fought poverty, disease, ignorance. So this is the cardinal thing. People should be treated for malaria free of charge. Pregnant women the same. These are social security issues we need to tackle.

Credit: Vanduard

 

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HOUSTON °F
ABUJA °F
LAGOS °F
JOHANNESBURG °F
    Ferienhaus Ostsee

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