[ Masterweb Reports ] - As this month (April 2014) marks the 20th tragic anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide of April 1994, the leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law-Intersociety resolves to revisit what has become known globally as “one of the darkest events in recent world”. This international public statement is also in honour of late Madam Agathe Uwilingiyimana; the late courageous prime minister of the then Rwandan transitional government. The following account by Amnesty International summarizes the modern age butchery in Rwanda under reference: “Hundreds of thousands of women were slaughtered in a genocidal onslaught against the Tutsi ethnic group by soldiers and allied Hutu militia between April and July 1994. The victims included pregnant women, nuns, young girls and old women (vulnerable class). For nearly 12 weeks, women, men and children were murdered without mercy: most because they were Tutsi, but many others because they supported human rights or opposition political parties. The majority of those who escaped to neighbouring countries were women and their children. More than 300,000 Tutsis fled to save........ Read More.
*Photo Caption - Map of Rwanda
[ Masterweb Reports: Emmanuel Arinze reports ] – In an earlier article, I drew attention to my observations about Sahara Reporters’ reportage of the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. I had observed that as far as Sahara Reporters is concerned, Madam Iweala has not done much to deserve positive reportage. When I first noticed this trend in the course of my routine media analysis, I embarked on an independent survey so I could speak from an informed perspective.
Sampling the medium’s coverage of the Finance Minister over a two-year period, I discovered 41 mentions out of which 32 are negative, 8 indifferent and only 1 positive. I highlighted my findings in a piece which was published in September 2013. Ordinarily, one would think that an empirical report like that would cause the medium to rethink its strategy. It is over six months now since I first made that observation and unfortunately, little or nothing has changed. Sahara Reporters has not ceased to deliberately paint the Minister of Finance in bad light by filling the air waves with negative stories, most of which are usually unfounded or at best, blown out of proportion.
Like I pointed out earlier, I wouldn’t voice my opinion on this matter if I had not gathered verifiable data. To this end, I have included an updated record of my findings at the link below so that you can see things for yourself and draw your conclusions:
*Click here for the updated record of my findings.
Out of 106 reports Saharareporters have published about madam minister between October 2011 and March 2014, an alarming 71 of them are negative, while only a grudging 2 are positive. The natural question that comes to mind after assimilating these statistics is that, ‘is the woman that bad? Can anyone be that bad?’
How come Sowore and his crew close their eyes to positive developments about NOI and only zoom in on negative stories about her? Even if they choose to argue that some of those features are not their original reports, how come it is only the negative ones they are eager to publish? Why not cull the positive reports about the woman published by other media?
Isn’t it abundantly clear that Saharareporters is pursuing a deliberate agenda to malign the finance minister with its biased and ever negatively slanted reportage? From the evidence before us, it is difficult to avoid concluding that Oluyele Sowore and his crew are a vindictive lot and purveyor of falsehood.
Emmanuel Arinze is an Abuja-based Communication Consultant.
CLICK TO READ "Sahara Reporters vs Okonjo-Iweala: What Do We Make of This? (Part 1)"
*Photo Caption - Omoyele Sowore, Publisher of Sahara Reporters (Left); Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Right).
[ Masterweb Reports: Intersociety reports ] – PART ONE:
(Public Statement, Onitsha Nigeria, 5th day of April, 2014)-Following sustained attempts by politicians of underworld to blacken the towering image of Anambra State and her people over the outstanding leadership qualities and legacy shown and left by immediate governor of the State, Mr. Peter Obi, especially as it concerns public finances and their management, the leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law has re-visited the state of finances contained in Mr. Obi’s public stewardship account and handover note. While information contained in his public stewardship account was made public, that contained in his statutory handover note was sought by our leadership through friendly and Freedom of Information Act premises.
Introduction: Mr. Peter Obi governed Anambra State democratically from 17th March, 2006 to 17th March, 2014. Nine days to his handover, on 8th of March, 2014, to be precise, he publicly gave the account of his stewardship and presented a “blue book” containing many tangible and intangible projects he executed in office. One of the findings we made after perusing the contents of his “blue book” stewardship account, which is in the public domain with provable indexes, is that not all his completed projects are captured. The highlight of his stewardship presentation was his thunderous announcement of a surplus cash and investment balances of “N75 billion” for the State. This, being clearly unheard of in recent times in Nigeria, or any part thereof, made some never-do-well citizens including failed politicians unsettled. As a result, faceless groups and other malicious individuals were hired and recruited to place adverts in newspapers claiming that Mr. Peter Obi’s public stewardship account was a fiction.
Among indisputable and provable achievements associated with Mr. Peter Obi’s glorious administration were tarring and completion of over 800 kilometers of Trunk B & C roads, reconstruction of a number of strategic Federal roads on “ reconstruct and be reimbursed” basis, construction and completion of over 25 large and medium scale bridges, attraction of a number of strategic Federal projects to the State and the Southeast zone, which include Akanu Ibiam International Airport, commencement of work on Second Niger Bridge and construction of Onitsha- Nkpor Flyover.
Other provably completed projects of the former Obi’s administration are procurement and distribution of over 1, 700 vehicles to important organizations including security agencies, missionary, public and private schools and hospitals, distribution of over N20 billion saved since 2006 to organizations above named, distribution of 22, 000 computers and laptops, 1000 distribution transformers and hundreds of industrial generators to schools, hospitals and communities, reconstruction of various dilapidated public and missionary schools and hospitals, transformation and upgrading of a hitherto “glorified secondary school” called “Anambra State University” to befitting “Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University” and a number of State owned tertiary hospitals and schools with full accreditation of their key programs.
Mr. Peter Obi’s celebrated records in the area of “intangible projects” include his ingenuity and masterfulness in resources mobilization and less reliance on statutory allocations and raising of bonds or engaging in public borrowings, payment and liquidation of pension and gratuity arrears owed State and LGA serving and retired workers amounting to over N35 billion accumulated since 1995, reduction of the State’s previous debts from over N20 billion in 2006 to N10.7 billion as at December 31, 2013, restoration of decency and tolerance in politics of the State and invention of “economic governance” approach as against “political governance” approach.
Issuance of stewardship account in public governance under democracy and its provable scrutiny are not only important, but also a fundamental yardstick to measure the performance index of elected public office holders. Our archive vividly recalls that in March 2006, when the Enugu Division of the Court of Appeal, removed Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige as Anambra governor, he hurriedly issued a public statement saying that he left a staggering sum of N12.8 billion in the State coffers. Thorough checks that followed immediately after, revealed that unpaid certificates for projects completed by contractors amounted to N9 billion. When deducted from the cash balance, the actual cash left in the State coffers was N3.8 billion. It was further found that arrears of gratuities, pensions and salaries amounting to billions of naira were owed. There was also over N20 billion public domestic and foreign debts inherited from the Mbadinuju’s disastrous administration. In other words, the state of finance under Ngige, just like under Mbadinuju, was in huge deficit amounting to tens of billions of naira.
Our Investigation Of Peter Obi’s Credit Balances: Under the Freedom of Information Act of the Federation 2011, the corporate and private citizens’ right to seek and obtain public information from the constituted authorities for public interest is ensured. To this end, investigation of Mr. Peter Obi’s public stewardship account was recently carried out by our leadership. Provable facts at our disposal gathered from the investigation showed that as at Monday, 17th of March, 2014, the total investments and cash left for Anambra State amounted to N86, 665, 985, 574,066 (eighty six billion, six hundred & sixty five million, nine hundred & eighty five thousand, sixty six kobo). This alters the former governor’s earlier public declaration of N75 billion, which was made nine days to his handover date of 17th day of March, 2014. The latest investigated figure was arrived at after final updates and addition of cash left by ministries, departments and MDGs as well as certified bank balances.
In the course of our investigation under reference, we saw signed documents from heads of respective ministries and departments certifying the credit balances with banks domiciling them. We also saw certified bank accounts backing the cash balances including Fidelity, Access and Diamond Banks certified documents containing the dollar bonds of $156M or N26.5B bought by Anambra State, which includes their procurement and due dates together with expected accrued interests. We saw the statutory handover note of the former governor to his successor where all the fiscal and investment data were contained.
The highlight and striking thing we found in the course of our investigation is that no serving and retired civil servant salaries, pensions and gratuities both at the State and Local Government levels were outstanding as at 17th of March, 2014. This corroborated calls we received from some aggrieved LGA staff retirees approximately one month to the handover date (17/03/2014). The said aggrieved LGA retirees were afraid that since their names got missing from the compiled list of retirees, they might not be included in Obi’s pension and gratuity liquidation of arrears’ “final push”. Few weeks after, they called us to inform us that they were part of the last liquidation of LGA pension and gratuity arrears, amounting to N2.3 billion after the omission of their names was rectified. In the area of State contractors’ payment warrants or certificates, we found that under Mr. Obi’s policy of ‘be paid as you execute or complete’, all certificates bearing ‘completed projects’ were fully crosschecked and paid. Under the policy, contractors are not paid for jobs not completed. This explains why they now work in phases and get paid in phases. As a matter of fact, payment of contractual certificates for public projects completed, amounting to N5 billion, was cleared as at 17th day of March, 2014. It is a standing policy in the State of Anambra State, according to our investigation, that public contractors are not paid for jobs not completed.
(Public Statement, Onitsha Nigeria, 5th day of April, 2014)-This is the concluding part of the above named statement on Obi’s trilling credit balances in office. The breakdown of the updated credit balances contained in the former popularly elected governor’s handover, investigated by our leadership, is as follows:
- Local Investments in SABMiller, Independent Power Project, Orient Petroleum, Agulu, Awka & Onitsha Hotels as at 17th of March, 2014 stood at N27 billion.
- Foreign Currency Investments (external bonds with due dates & interests) spread in Diamond, Access and Fidelity Banks as at 17th day of March, 2014 stood at $156million or N26.5 billion.
- Certified State / MDAs / MDGs’ cash balances as of the date under reference at N28.165 billion.
- Federal Government of Nigeria’s approved refund for federal roads done and completed on its behalf by the Government of Anambra State as at 17th day of March, 2014, stood at N10 billion.
- These bring the grand total to N91, 65 billion. When deducted from the received and paid certificates of already executed projects of N5 billion, the total remaining balance as at 17th day of March, 2014, stood at N86.665 billion.
- In other words, as at 17th of March 2014, Mr. Peter Obi’s former administration left total investments and cash balances of N86.665 billion and not N75 billion as previously stated. It is also important to point out as at 31st of December 2013, the official records of the Debts Management Office of the Federation still showed that Anambra State owed total domestic and foreign debts of N10. 7billion. In the context of “continuity” doctrine or tradition, this ought to have been reflected in both stewardship account and statutory handover note of former governor Peter Obi. On the other hand, even if it is deducted from investments and cash balances of his N86.665 billion, Anambra State under him is still on sound financial footing with N76 billion worth of cash and investments.
States Of The Federation & Their Huge Debts: While it is important to ignore the antics of some failed politicians rattled by Obi’s trilling billions of credit balance, it is also important to curtail their nuisance values by throwing more light into the sorry state of finances in most of the States in Nigeria. It is an irrefutable fact that most States in Nigeria including the super oil States of Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom and super IGR (internally generated revenues) States of Lagos and Ogun are hugely indebted, both internally and externally. We are therefore, not surprised at the antics of some failed politicians to cast a doubt at the celebrated healthy financial state of Anambra. It is an indisputable fact that Lagos State debts alone are more than total debts owed by the five States of the Southeast zone. As of 31st of December, 2013, official records showed that the State under reference was indebted to the tune of over N350 billion. It additionally borrowed $200M in 2013 to be spent in its 2014 fiscal year. The above did not include domestic debts through bonds accumulated since January 2012 till date. Some insider sources hold a strong view that the State’s total actual debts, domestically and externally are up to N500 billion. Lagos State is also said to have reached a ‘‘debt ceiling’’.
The domestic and foreign debts of 15 most indebted States in Nigeria as at December 2011 and June 2013 respectively are the following: Lagos N350Billion (excluding domestic debts incurred in 2012 and 2013), Bayelsa N167Billion, Cross River N107Billion, Delta 93Billion, the FCT N91Billion, Rivers N89Billion, Kaduna N75Billion, Ondo 56Billion, Akwa Ibom N50Billion, Ogun N47Billion, Ebonyi N46Billion, Edo N45Billion, Kogi N39Billion, Imo N34Billion and Adamawa N30Billion. It is important to state that domestic debts incurred by the States above named in 2012 and 2013 were not added. Imo State’s N34 billion debts as disclosed by the DMO is strongly questionable because it is one of the States that have reached “debts ceiling”, which depicts reckless borrowings and over-sized indebtedness. Anambra State, on its part, remains one of the least indebted States and only credit State in Nigeria with a total debt of N10.7Billion, which is made up of local debts of N6.4Billion and foreign debts of $27.3Million or about N4.27Billion. The State’s dollar cash balance in bonds of $156M or naira equivalent of N26.5 billion is two and a half times higher than its total debts of N10.7 billion. As we write, some States like Ebonyi, Enugu, Bauchi and Niger are back in local capital markets, seeking to borrow again. The total loans being sought by the four States in the country’s local capital markets is said to be between N90 billion and N100 billion.
At the six geopolitical zonal levels, South-south geopolitical zone is the most indebted zone in terms of domestic debt with a total of N508, 692Billion. The zone is home to Nigeria’s superbly rich oil States of Rivers, Delta, Bayelsa and Akwa Ibom. The second most indebted geopolitical zone in the country’s States’ local debts is Southwest, which owes N305.9Billion. The North-central zone and the FCT is the third most indebted zone in terms of local debts with N214.7Billion, followed by Southeast with N107.1Billion, Northeast zone with N72.7Billion and Northwest with N69.8Billion. Another important thing to note is the fact that local debts incurred by the States in the affected zones since January 2012 till date are not included. In the area of foreign debts, the Southwest zone is the most indebted zone owing $1,18Billion as at December 31, 2013, out of which, Lagos State alone owes $857 million. The second most indebted zone in foreign borrowings is the Northwest zone, which owes $540Million. The Nigeria’s third most indebted zone in foreign loans is South-south zone with $302.2Million, followed by the North-central and the FCT with $230.6Million, Southeast zone with $217.1Million and Northeast with $198.6Million.
Finally, the common characters of many, if not most of Nigeria’s public office holders are coherent at all times with any negative definition, including malcontent, treacherous, subversive, wicked, beastly and mischievous. In the country, fundamental yardsticks to measure public governance are fundamentally lacking. In other words, whatever a public office holder, like a State governor calls good governance is what good governance becomes. If he or she decides to mortgage the future of the State in serial borrowings (i.e. Lagos), it becomes a norm. If he or she adopts State terrorism and mass killings as an official policy (i.e. Anambra under Mbadinuju & his Bakassi boys killer squad), it becomes a norm and celebrated. Nigeria’s whistle blowers and watchdogs are like locomotive engines adorned with steady noise without end. The likes of Government of Lagos State now divides and calculates its huge public loans by GDP to justify being neck-deep in serial public loans’ procurement. This is in-spite the fact that Lagos State is a N24 billion monthly internally generated revenue economy. This type of act is expressly deemed “economic crime and sabotage” and can attract death penalty by hanging in countries like China.
What we call “government” today has its root from agriculture, which, in turn, originated from family. As it is traditionalized in family and agricultural circles, when a family head is debt free, he becomes happy and highly respected among his family members and kindred. Same thing applies to a debt free farmer. There is no amount of justification that will make borrowing a credit factor. Borrowing is bad in all its ramifications and remains a deficit factor. One of the greatest weapons China has against the United States of America today is her credit status and worthiness. China is also America’s global landlord in world economy because of its huge investments in USA’s economy including billions of dollars loaned to USA. This has become her major foreign policy weapon against USA. China is the world reigning “creditor country” and fastest growing economy.
Flowing from the forgoing in its totality is the fact that Mr. Peter Obi of Anambra State has become Nigeria’s “Chancellor of Exchequer” and should be treated and celebrated in the like manner. The highly organized and well funded campaign of calumny by politicians of underworld and their failed counterparts against him and his record breaking achievement in office are not unexpected because when a leader or public office holder in Nigerian context records what his or her colleagues failed woefully to achieve, he or she becomes the target of image, character and physical assassination. In Nigeria, it pays to do evil or be a monumental failure in public office than to be a great achiever.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
Comrade Justus Uche Ijeoma, Head, Publicity Desk
*Photo Caption – Peter Obi, immediate former governor of Anambra State
[ Masterweb Reports: Intersociety reports ] – PART ONE: (Onitsha Nigeria, 26th day of March, 2014)-The leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law-Intersociety is shocked and alarmed over the reported squandering of a whopping sum of N7Billion (about $45M) by the Federal Government of Nigeria at the ongoing National Confab. The shocking huge sum is being shared among the 492 delegates to the Confab on the basis of “N4Million per delegate” monthly, which translates to N12Million per delegate for three months the Confab is expected to last. Our dependable sources disclosed that N1, 4Million has already been disbursed to each delegate as at Saturday, 22nd day of March, 2014.
This is said to have covered “the preamble allowances” of the Conferees. The sum is part of the bloated monthly allowance of N4Million. The bloated monthly allowance under reference covers hotel accommodation, meals, transport and sitting allowances. There are reliable speculations that the Confab will be deliberately or “technically” extended beyond three months to create room for further squandering of public funds. It is most likely that the Federal Government of Nigeria will end up squandering N10Billion ($62.5M) or more. Already, long and unnecessary adjournments have set in. Five days adjournment granted to the Conferees just ended.
From our extensive investigations, the N7Billion being squandered at the Confab is borrowed. Further findings indicate that a whopping sum of N5, 9Billion, out of the said bloated sum, will be squandered on the 492 delegates on average of N135, 000 a day, while the remaining N1.1Billion will be lavished on other costs associated with the Confab. The N135, 000 (about $850, 00) daily pay for each delegate is equivalent of monthly block pay wage of a Grade Level 12 civil servant and above and more than ¼ of a block monthly salary of a public university professor (N450, 000) in Nigeria. There is no member of the 492-member Confab that legitimately earns daily business profit or public pay of N135, 000, not to talk of a whopping sum of N4Million a month.
As if that was not enough, some Conferees like Alhaji Hassan Adamu; a former ambassador, have the temerity to reportedly agitate for inclusion of the Conferees’ retinue of aides in the scandalous allowance jamboree. Shockingly, too, most of the so-called “24 Nigerian CSO” delegates to the Confab, including three out of the four pastoralist activists, who said “they are representing Southeast zone”, have also gone dumb and blind over the matter. The likes of Mr. Mike Ozekhome appear to have applied infantile and unsound logic to justify involvement in sharing the widely condemned bloated allowance. His likes reportedly argued that “if the N4Million is rejected by each of them, Nigeria’s pervasive corruption situation may make it grow wings and disappear from government coffers”. They also reportedly claimed that their own share of the bloated and widely condemned allowance “will be given to the poor”. This reason or excuse is totally rejected by us at Intersociety.
Borrowing To Squander: It is a truism that Nigeria borrows to squander. It is also a truism that the country has over the years, steadily recorded and still records monumental revenue shortfalls, warranting her reckless and crude borrowing policies. The monetary obligation met over the protracted public universities industrial disputes that ended few months ago over the 2009 ASUU/FGN Agreement, was met on the basis of capital markets’ borrowings, not from non-borrowing revenue reserves.
In totality, it is correct to submit that the bloated sum of N7Billion being squandered at the conference under reference, is borrowed from the local capital markets. This is more so when the 2013 and the 2014 real and proposed budgets of the Federal Government of Nigeria contained huge deficits. For instance, the 2014 budget proposal of N4, 9 Trillion (about $30.1Billion) including SURE-P proceeds of N268Billion, contained a total huge deficit or borrowing package of N911.6Billion (about $5.7Billion). The official borrowing figure in the appropriation proposal for 2014 is N571Billion. In the 2013 budget of N4, 99 Trillion, another whopping sum of N727Billion was borrowed. While N591 Billion was spent on “debts servicing” in 2013, the sum of N712Billion is to be spent on same in 2014.
The idea of borrowing to squander has tragically become a norm in Nigeria. Out of every N100, 00 spent publicly in the country, it is tragically observed that N80.00 out of it goes for recurrent or non-productive expenditure. This explains why out of the 2014 budget proposal of N4, 91 Trillion, a whopping sum of N3, 5 Trillion is being spent on recurrent expenditures. This includes N592Billion spent annually on 12, 788 Local Government top executives in the country involving chairmen, deputies and councilors.
Whereas the capital cost of the budget gulps a paltry sum of N1.1 Trillion, its personnel (real salaries, allowances and emoluments) gulps a staggering sum of N1, 723 Trillion. The remaining N2, 43 Trillion goes for non debt and non personnel recurrent expenditures called “real overheads”. In other words, the sum of 1, 723 Trillion spent to service the salaries, allowances and emoluments of federal civil and public servants in Nigeria is greater than the sum of N1. 1 Trillion budgeted for capital expenditures or provision of social amenities including fixing and maintenance of critical infrastructures. It also means that the sum of N2, 43 Trillion spent on running and maintaining Federal Government machineries is twice greater than the sum of N1.1 Trillion spent on capital expenditures.
The collective and individual silence shown by most of Nigeria’s CSO’s delegates (except few like Tunde Bakare and Olisa Agbakoba), whether imposed, nominated, selected or elected, is roundly shocking. Except few like Pastor Tunde Bakare and Olisa Agbokoba, who commendably rejected the bloated allowance and vowed not to collect it, others have kept mute or sanctioned such fiscal recklessness on the basis of “share the money after all our politicians have been eating it from left, right and center”. By refusing to condemn this fiscal “ovambe”, the affected CSO’s National Confab delegates have no moral standing both now and in future to challenge the Federal Government’s crude economic policies including reckless borrowings and pro-corruption policies.
They have also become accomplices of moral economic and financial crimes by making themselves beneficiaries of roguery financial and economic policies of the present federal government. “Where does the money come from?” “Is it from borrowing or missing oil billions?” “Is it from the 2013 spent budget or the 2014 un-passed budget?” “Is the allowance not too bloated considering the sorry state of the country’s economy?” These should have been the frontal questions of the country’s CSO’s delegates at the Confab, who always portray themselves as “social saints” and “best shadow public managers” both locally and internationally. This is more so when it is on record that the Federal Budget of 2014, in law and in the eyes of the populace, is still “an appropriation proposal or bill”.
(Onitsha Nigeria, 28th day of March, 2014)-On Wednesday, 26th day of March, 2014, the leadership of Intersociety released the first part of this public statement, detailing with strong condemnation “how Nigeria borrows to squander” with specific reference to borrowing and squandering of a whopping sum of N7Billion at the ongoing National Conference on “ delegates’
allowances and related logistics”. The legal source of the money has also become a national concern as it could not be traced to the un-passed federal budget of 2014. The huge sum is believed to have been borrowed and squandered without considering the fact that the country’s teachers at the public colleges of education and polytechnics have been on indefinite strike since October and late December 2013 respectively over a twenty-point of disagreement with the Federal Government of Nigeria.
This is not minding the fact that one of the major reasons why government exists is the provision of quality, uninterrupted and affordable education to the citizenry. Education is also a second generation industry after family and shares the same boundary with “the fundamental right to life”, because an uneducated person is not only a moron, but also a beast-like being and life without education is an incomplete life. When school pupils are in classes they are kept away from juvenile delinquencies and when students are in classes, they stay away from crimes and avoid being in conflict with the law especially the criminal law. Education is an industry because it offers formal and informal employment to those accessing it both as the mentors and the mentored. The fundamental provisions of the Nigerian laws make the following express pronouncements and commandments on education.
“Government shall direct its policy towards ensuring that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels”–Section 18(1) of the Chapter Two (Fundamental Objectives & Directive Principles of State Policy) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 as amended in 2011. Section 18(2) says: “Government shall promote science and technology”. Section 18(3) provides: “Government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy; and to this end, Government shall and when practicable provide (a) free, compulsory and universal primary education, (b) free secondary education, (c) free university education; and (d) free adult literacy programs”. Section 39 of the Chapter Four (Fundamental Human Rights) of the Constitution strongly adds “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference”.
Coming from the angle of Article 17 of the African Charter on Human & Peoples’ Rights of the AU 1981 (African Charter on Human & People’ Rights Ratification & Enforcement/Domestication Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1983), “Every citizen shall have right to education” and according to Section 1(4c) of the Nigeria’s National Policy on Education of 1998, “Every Nigerian child shall have a right to equal educational opportunities irrespective of any real or imagined disabilities, each according to his or her ability”. Its Section 1(5) clearly and unambiguously states “Nigeria’s philosophy of education is therefore based on: (a) the development of an individual into sound and effective citizen; (b) the full integration of the individual into the community; and (c) the provision of equal access to educational opportunities for all citizens of the country at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels both inside and outside the formal school system”.
Shockingly, the successive squandermania governments of the Federation of Nigeria and the present ones have criminally and immorally turned blind eyes to these sacred provisions. Instead, they channeled and continue to channel over 70% of the country’s annual gross earnings into “real overheads” and “real recurrent (personnel)” bloated expenditures. These huge public expenditures have no direct positive impacts whatsoever on most Nigerians, except a paltry 17, 500 top public office holders and their subordinates. Specifically, the Federal Government’s spent budget of N4.99 trillion of 2013 and the un-passed and unspent budget of N4.91 trillion of 2014, clearly show that only 1, 113 top federal public office holders, which include the President and his vice, about 472 ministerial and non ministerial executives, 172 federal judges and 469 federal lawmakers and machineries of their offices, out of the country’s 17, 500 top public office holders, take over N2 trillion off the respective budget.
While N1.4 trillion is provided in the 2014 un-passed budget for maintaining their office machineries, another whopping N1.723 trillion is to be spent on “real recurrent” (salaries, allowances and emoluments) of the same 1, 113 federally privileged citizens and other federal public and civil servants. According to the Salaries & Allowances for Top Public Office Holders in Nigeria Act of 2002 as amended in 2008, there are 17, 500 top public office holders in Nigeria. They include 11, 788 LGA councilors and executives (8, 692 councilors and 3, 096 executives), 2, 664 State executives, 1, 152 State lawmakers, 762 State judges, 472 Federal executives, 469 Federal lawmakers and 172 Federal judges. The said top public office holders’ wage Act, after its amendment in 2008, was astronomically reviewed from N755 billion in 2002 to N1.13 trillion in 2008.
In other words, it now takes (officially) Nigeria a whopping sum of N1.13 trillion annually to service her 17, 500 top public office holders. This includes N592 billion spent on 11, 788 top Local Government officials, out of which, N550 billion goes for allowances alone and only N42 billion spent on their statutory salaries. Conversely, the reality as evidenced by the budgetary provisions under reference, shows that more than this amount is spent annually in servicing the Federal Government’s 1,113 top office holders in the form of “salaries, allowances and emoluments” and “real overheads” (running government affairs).
For instance, the 2014 budget proposal arithmetically shows that out of N4.91 trillion proposed, N1.723 trillion is to be spent on payment of salaries, allowances and emoluments (real recurrent) of federal top public office holders and public and civil servants. Servicing of Federal Government machineries called “overheads”, manned by 1,113 top citizens is to cost N1.4 trillion, while N712 billion is reserved for debts servicing. Only a paltry sum of N1.1 trillion is to be spent on capital projects. In other words, out of every N100.00 spent publicly this year, N80.00 is on recurrent and overhead and out of N4.91 trillion budgeted, 12% of it is borrowed and its 14% is returned to the coffers of the borrowers as “debts servicing”.
Industrial Crisis In Public Colleges Of Education & Polytechnics:
As a result of the December 11, 2013 fresh agreement between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the over five months industrial action embarked upon on July 1, 2013 by the latter was brought to an end. The ASUU/FGN disagreement that led to the strike was as a result of non-implementation of the 2009 Agreement, which included “Earned Allowances” for public university teachers amounting to about N92Billion. As expected, the Federal Government went to local capital markets and borrowed to appease the striking university teachers. In response to the above, the public tertiary institution teachers under the aegis of Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) and the Colleges of Education Academic Staff Union (COEASU) went on indefinite strike in October and late December 2013 respectively.
There are 297 universities and other post secondary school institutions in Nigeria as at December 2012. They include 37 Federal and 37 State universities as well as 50 private universities (124). Others are 22 Federal, two State and two private Monotechnics (26), 36 Federal, 48 State and 13 private polytechnics (97) and 17 Federal, 30 State and three private colleges of education (50), totaling 297 publicly recognized higher institutions in Nigeria. In other words, 36 Federal and 48 State polytechnics (84) as well as 17 Federal and 30 State colleges of education (47) have been on strike for the past five and three months respectively. While the National Universities Commission (NUC) Act of 1974 regulates universities in Nigeria, the National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE) Act of 1989 as amended in 1993 overseas the colleges of education. On the other hand, the National Board for Technical Education (NABTE) Act of 1977 regulates polytechnics and other technical institutions in the country.
Grievances Of The Striking Public Academic Institutions:
Public Polytechnics: 1. Renegotiation of the 2009 ASUP/FGN Agreement. 2. Non release of the white paper on the visitation panel to federal polytechnics. 3. Non establishment of a National Polytechnics Commission. 4. Non passage of the Federal Polytechnics Review Bill by the National Assembly. 5. Non appointment of qualified rectors at public polytechnics. 6. Dilapidation in the State owned polytechnics. 7. Need to address the discriminatory inclusion of polytechnics in the Integrated Payroll & Personnel Information System scheme. 8. Structured and comprehensive funding of polytechnics in Nigeria. 9. Lopsided distribution of “Tetfund” grants and other interventions in tertiary sector. 10. Non full implementation of the salary structure approved for polytechnics in 2009. 11. Removal of discrimination of HND graduates in public service or during job search. 12. Non release of funds for the implementation of “CONTISS 15 migration and its arrears”.
Public Colleges Of Education: 1. Infrastructural decay in public colleges of education and poor funding. 2. Non implementation of the 2010 COEASU/FGN Agreement. 3. Need to address poor conditions of service in public colleges of education. 4. Need to address the issue of brain drain or academic capital flight. 5. Illegal imposition of Integrated Payroll & Personnel Information System scheme. 6. Refusal by the Federal Government to fund peculiar and responsibility allowances as obtained in “Earned Allowances” of the public universities. 7. Refusal by the Federal Government to implement the migration of lower cadres as obtained in the public polytechnics. 8. Non accreditation of selected programs of the colleges of education in Nigeria, among others.
(Onitsha Nigeria, 1st day of April 2014)-On 26th and 28th of March, 2014, our organization, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law-Intersociety issued part one and two of this public statement. The two-part statement was titled: “Squandermania At The National Confab: How Nigeria Borrows to Squander Amid Protracted Industrial Crisis in Higher Education (1 & 2)”. This part three of it, which borders on suggestions and solutions, is second to the last part. In other words, the coming part four is the concluding part.
Suggestions & Solutions (1): It is a fundamental truth that one of the major challenges facing the economy of Nigeria presently is high or astronomical cost of public governance. Monumental wastage and corrupt practices are other factors. All these are cloaked in the layers of “clueless public policies and mercantilization of public governance in Nigeria”. These and related others are holistically responsible for the stunted performance of the country’s economy in the past 34 years. The healthy performance of Nigeria’s economy was briefly witnessed in the first quarter of 1970s to 1980 and in 1997(when Nigeria recorded a federal budget surplus of N47 billion). It showed a sign of recovery in 2006 after Nigeria’s exit from Paris Club of Creditors and consolidation of the banking system and collapsed again from 2007 till date. Apart from these short periods of slightly healthy performance, the country’s economy has since stocked in “poverty in the midst of plenty”, propelled by bloated governance costs, corrupt, mercantilist and visionless public policies and governance styles.
One of the solutions to the sorry state of the country’s economy is drastic and downward review and tackling of “allowance squandermania” in Nigeria. It has been discovered in the course of our investigation into the abysmal performance of Nigeria’s economy and good governance policies that public salary and pension scheme in the country is not a spanner in the wheel of the country’s economy, but allowance pay scheme. In other words, the country’s economic downturn has nothing to do with salary and pension package for her top public office holders and public and civil servants. Good a thing, while public salary and pension policy is statutorily and rigidly instituted with universal application, the public allowance pay scheme is flexible and subject to easy modifications according to the state of economy of a given social clime. When an economy begins to feed the few in a bloated manner and starves the majority socially, then there is not only a serious problem, but also an urgent surgical intervention is needed to reverse the trend.
“Public allowance squandermania” in this respect should be understood to mean any public earning outside statutory salary and pension that goes to any public office holder, public or civil servant in Nigeria, whether at federal, State or local government level, which includes “earned allowance”, “sitting allowance”, “traveling allowance”, “recess allowance”, “newspaper allowance”, “sabbatical leave allowance”, “leave allowance”, “constituency allowance”, “vehicle and house allowances”, “domestic, office and constituency staff allowances”, “terminal benefit allowance”, “retirement allowance”, “logistics allowance”, “professional & expert allowance”, “political aides’ allowances”, “gratuity allowance”, to mention but few.
Using as a statistical example the annual wage pay of the country’s 11,788 elected councilors, deputy chairmen and chairmen in the 776 Local Government Councils, contained in “ the Salaries & Allowances for Top Public Office Holders’ amended Act of the Federation of 2008, it is shockingly discovered that out of a whopping sum of N592 billion (about $3.6B) spent on them in the form of “ annual salaries and allowances”, only N42 billion (about $260M) is spent on their salaries, while a whopping sum of N550 billion (about $3.42B) is spent on their allowances. This simply means that less than 8% of this huge sum is spent only on their statutory salaries, whereas the remaining 92% goes for their allowances. This is totally unacceptable to us at Intersociety.
Borrowing from the foregoing, it may most likely be correct to say that out of a staggering sum of N1.723 trillion (about $10.1B) budgeted for “real recurrent” (salaries, allowances and emoluments) for public office holders, public and civil servants of federal category in the 2014 budget proposals, less than one-third would go for salaries, whereas over two-thirds would be kept for their “allowances and emoluments”. This explains our call for the immediate reversal of such governmental thievery. This has also been responsible for acute statutory allocations to capital projects, which, in turn, is responsible for mass poverty owning to near-absent of social infrastructures, social welfare schemes and employment opportunities.
It is our suggestion that all public allowances in the country, irrespective of names called, should be cut down by 50% so as to recover enough money for capital development, provision of social welfares and turning the country off from acute borrowing and debts servicing policies. For instance, if the N550 billion for LGAs’ top officials annual allowances are halved, a staggering sum of N275 billion will be recovered every year. If approximately N1.5 trillion meant for allowances and emoluments of the federal public office holders, public and civil servants in the 2014 budget proposals is halved, an intimidating sum of N675 billion will be recovered and if N10 million meant for the payment of the gratuity of a Grade Level 15 public or civil servant retiree, is halved, N5 million will be recovered.
It is also very important to inform the policy makers in the country and those attending the National Confab that there is need to streamline in the Constitution the number of political aides to be appointed by top public office holders and what will be paid them as allowances. This is because a situation whereby a minister has as many as 10 assistants with bloated public allowances for them is totally unacceptable. At the 469-member National Assembly of Nigeria, there are over 1,300 assistants alone, who are serviced monthly from Nigeria’s commonwealth.
Apart from bloated ministerial cabinet size of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, there are over 500, if not 1000 assistants working under the President Jonathan, the Vice President, the ministers, heads of top federal departments and parastatals. At the States, there are between 100 and 1000 assistants in each of them. In the State Houses of Assembly and LGAs, there are thousands of such political aides attached to them. The amended Public Pay Act of 2008 also contained staggering amount for monthly servicing of these “inferior political aides”. In all, there may most likely be over 25,000 “inferior political aides” working for 17, 500 top public office holders in Nigeria, who draw their monthly allowances from the country’s commonwealth.
In 2002, when Nigerians went to sleep, the arrow heads at the Presidency and their co-travelers at the National Assembly immorally and criminally too, created and recognized through an unpopular Act of Parliament, 17, 500 top public offices and allocated a whopping sum of N755 billion annually for the upkeep of those manning them. As the likes of late Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAM, SAN, was contesting it, they gathered again in the wee hours of 2008 and jacked it up to N1, 113 trillion per annum. This marked the beginning of “public allowance squandermania” in Nigeria, which has also been extended and duplicated in the federal appropriations. The aspect of this thievery in the appropriations is called “real overheads”, where the likes of the Senate President and his office is allocated a whopping sum of N250 million ($1.55M) every three months in the form of “overheads”.
In view of realities on the grounds, which make it impossible for members of the National Assembly and the Presidency to popularly reverse this ugly and dangerous trend, the sacred responsibility now falls on the Conferees at the National Confab to revisit it and ensure its immediate and constitutional reversal. To this effect, the number of ministers at the Federal Executive Council and Commissioners at the State Executive Councils of the States should be trimmed down. The number of political aides for the 17, 500 top public office holders in the country should be trimmed down as well.
The use of “special adviser” by ministers, federal and States speakers, senate president and their deputies and all other top public office holders in the country, other than the President, Vice President, Governors and their deputies, should be abolished and prohibited. The category of political aides to be allowed for other top public office holders, to be serviced from public wealth in Nigeria should begin and end with “special assistants”. The use of “senior special assistant” is not only tautological, but should also be eliminated. The President, Vice President, Governors and Deputy Governors should be banned from using “senior special assistants”, “special assistants” or “executive assistants”. They should revert to the constitutionally stipulated “special advisers” and above, which must not be bloated.
We firmly recommend one “special assistant” for each of the 17, 500 top public office holders under reference, to be serviced monthly from Nigeria’s commonwealth under a constitutionally or statutorily stipulated monthly allowance. The President, Vice President, Governors and Deputy Governors should make do with their constitutionally approved “special advisers and above. On the other hand, all the top public office holders under reference will be at liberty to recruit as many “inferior political aides” as their purses can carry them provided they are forbidden constitutionally and statutorily from servicing with from the country’s public wealth.
Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman
International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law-Intersociety
Comrade Justus Uche Ijeoma, Head, Publicity Desk
*Photo Caption – Ex-Chief Justice of Nigeria, Idris Kutigi, Chairman of 2014 Nigeria National Conference
[ Masterweb Reports ] - 'Will the Falcon hear the Falconer?' This is an extremely distressing epoch in global politics on all counts. The shared crise de conscience and crisis of authority being central to these developments—whether it is in judging, in speaking or in taking action: who has the authority to speak for whom and why? It brings to the fore new questions of security, natural resources, livelihoods, above all emphasising the need for intercultural dialogues to clarify ambiguities and dispel misconceptions that give rise to prejudice and hate. Current happenings in Egypt, the horrific civil wars in Syria, bombings in Lebanon and Nigeria, the tensions between the Ma’alia and Rezeigat people in west Darfur, Buddhists and Rohingas in Myanmar, the simmering rage (despite the Partition) in the Sudan, the continuous firing along the India and Paksitan borders among other events elsewhere have brought in its wake several conversations and journeys through time reminding us starkly that we remain besieged by damaging transgressions of the not so........ Read More.
*Photo Caption - As seen.
[ Masterweb Reports: Charles Ajunwa reports ] - When a writer sets out to denigrate somebody but ends up presenting himself as the man in the mirror he deserves no pity but scorn. That was the web that one Ebere Wabara spun for himself in an article entitled “Kolawole’s Lies About T.A. Orji” published in the Daily Sun of Wednesday March 19, 2014. The writer who attached to his name an unenviable title of media advisor to Kalu (Orji Uzor Kalu, former Abia State governor) was obviously piqued over the truth that Simon Kolawole had written about the development-focused Governor of Abia State, Chief T.A. Orji (Ochendo Global) in his column on the back page of THISDAY, the Sunday Newspaper of March 16, 2014. Wabara’s grouse was that Kolawole, a well known forthright columnist and development expert, used the performance of T.A. Orji to drive home his point while discussing ‘Conflict and Underdevelopment’ in his column.
In response to Kolawole’s views Wabara went haywire and laboured albeit in vain to present an unbiased article as a product of “personal drives (which) comes first before any other extraneous consideration.” The so-called Kalu’s media advisor went further to state that because of personal drives “mercantilism has been enthroned in media practice. Everyone in the communicative business now, unlike before, seems to have a price.” This is where Wabara looked into the mirror and what stared him in the face was his own pitiful image. Yes, he cuts the same image he painted of those who, according to him, “seems to sadly have a price”. Wabara got himself into this mess in his spin control mission in his effort to do the bidding of his pay master at the expense of the same journalism ethics and national interest which he lamented were no longer observed by media people. Wabara has unwittingly portrayed himself as a bread and butter journalist, who is ever ready and willing to destroy people’s integrity, character if only to satisfy the whims and caprices of his pay master. He has no iota of respect for elders and persons in positions of authority and antagonistic to opposing views. Or why else did Wabara have to express his frustration with Kolawole’s views by describing his column as “euphemistically entitled ‘Conflict and underdevelopment’ and illustrated with T.A. Orji’s repulsive face”.
True to his warped mindset Wabara could not hide his derision for the chief executive of God’s own state, who has been delivering democracy dividends that Wabara’s principal (Kalu) had told the world was impossible during his eight locust years in power. It is pertinent to let the people know the real reason why the likes of Wabara have been hired to paint Governor T.A. Orji and his administration with tar brush. Week after week Wabara is provided with a space in the Daily Sun to wage media war against the government and people of Abia State. All his writings reek of mischief, malice, falsehoods, odium and utter disrespect to the person and office of Abia State governor. Is that what journalism is all about? Why should those who call themselves journalists allow themselves to be used by selfish politicians to terrorize people? Wabara is nothing but a hate writer. His raison d’etre is to launch ferocious attacks on anybody whose views differ from Kalu’s own. And if one dares to point out the failures of the Kalu administration and the Augean stable he left behind which the present administration has been cleaning, then Wabara would go on suicide bomb mission.
That is why Simon Kolawole, a former editor of THISDAY and a dispassionate columnist came on the firing line for pointing out the correlation between conflict and development and how Kalu’s belligerency stunted Abia’s growth for eight years! Wabara was ready to turn logic on its head and pass off Kalu’s conflict with former President Olusegun Obasanjo as enough reason for Abia State to record zero growth in all sectors under Kalu’s watch. What the unsuspecting members of the public may not recognize was that Kalu’s quarrels were the smokescreen he devised to divert attention from his failings in governance. Given that “Obasanjo hates the Igbo with an uncanny passion” and that “Kalu was at loggerheads with Obasanjo over developmental issues that bordered on the maltreatment of the Igbo” as Wabara wrote, was that enough reason for Abia to suffer under Kalu. He even carried his confrontations to a ridiculous level of blaming the Ota farmer for all his failings as a governor.
For instance, when Kalu could not provide potable water for the people of Abia he told them that he had enough water to deluge the whole state but could not pump the water to homes because Obasanjo refused to provide power. He also said that the absence of street lights in Umuahia the capital city was because Obasanjo refused to provide electricity to power the lights. But just within the first 100 days of Governor Orji’s first tenure the dried taps in Umuahia suddenly started gushing out water to the delight of the people. And the state capital was aglow with street lights. Naturally people started asking if the new man at government house came with a magic wand. How was he able to do what his predecessor had made the people believe was an impossible task. This new development did not offer Orji Uzor Kalu any source of comfort. It was bad news for him because his successor had lifted the veil with which he had covered his colossal failure as a governor. Kalu’s worries gradually turned to consternation and desperation when Ochendo came up with LEGACY PROJECTS. The execution of these projects has opened new vistas of development in the over two decades of Abia’s existence as a state. Let us even remove the infamous Obasanjo presidency as a factor in the underdevelopment of Abia State during the Kalu locust years. Kalu was elected as the chief executive of Abia State and his mandate required him to drive the development of the state with available resources internally and externally generated. The federal government only plays a complementary role in the development strides of Nigeria’s component states. Aside from Lagos and Abuja, there is no other state or city in Nigeria where the federal government has played a major role in its development. And this is understandable because Lagos was a former national capital and still remains the commercial capital of Nigeria while Abuja has taken over as the federal capital territory. So did Obasanjo prevent Orji Uzor Kalu from giving Abia State all the necessary infrastructure and social amenities that his contemporaries were putting in place in their respective states? Did Obasanjo stop Kalu from creating conducive environment to attract local and foreign investors to Abia?
We all know that Obasanjo did not provide stable electricity to Nigeria. He refused to build second Niger Bridge and also denied the Southeast geopolitical zone an international airport. But were all these enough reason for Kalu to spend whole eight years lamenting and howling at the imperious dictator to the neglect of Abia development. For all we know, the Ota farmer, despite his Igbo phobia, never at any time denied Abia State government or its 17 local governments (Lagos treatment)) their share of federal allocation when Kalu was governor. Unlike his contemporaries Kalu has no legacy project and Wabara has no reason to blame Obasanjo for that. Kalu did not limit his conflict to Obasanjo. Instead of increasing Abia’s internally generated revenue (IGR) to improve the lots of Abia people Kalu instead indulged in increasing internally generated conflicts (IGC). He was not at peace with the National Assembly members from Abia, except his own brother, Nnanna, who spent eight years in the House of Representatives dozing in his hotel room at Abuja. The federal lawmakers from Abia were branded Abuja politicians. In response they kept away from the state and were unwilling to attract federal projects to their constituencies. Kalu scorned the fathers and elders of the state and antagonized everybody so much that none was making any contribution for the development of Abia. Today, the difference is clear as Governor Orji has reconciled all the political elites and everybody is making contributions for the overall development of Abia. The federal lawmakers are falling over themselves in a healthy rivalry to attract federal projects and also engage in personal empowerment programmes for their respective constituents. Is that not a proof that development CAN NOT thrive in an environment of conflict. Wabara should search his mind and come up with an honest answer if he still retains any modicum of conscience. Abians know that Ochendoism stands for development while gamjism (deceit) as propounded and practiced by Kalu is synonymous with underdevelopment.
Analysis of Wabara’s serial satanic verses in the Daily Sun has revealed that he is a victim of post-mamacracy delusion syndrome (PDS). This disorder is defined as a psychological affliction that prevents a successful adaptation to life under good governance after experiencing eight years of gamjism. Thankfully only an infinitesimal number of Abians have been diagnosed with this disorder. The victims of this malady are people like Wabara and his fellow lackeys of Orji Uzor Kalu. Their sense of perception is conditioned not to identify developments when they see it. That is why Wabara can unashamedly croak that “nothing is happening in Abia” and that “all the good roads in Aba have turned to craters since Kalu left”. If only Wabara was sincere to himself he would not have made such a callous statement. Aba residents would not forgive him and would in fact stone him for reminding them of the “gamji” or deception years of Kalu. The few roads that Kalu managed to build in Aba in eight years of governance did not last more than three months. They were washed away by the rains under the very eyes of Kalu. However because of the successes of Enyimba international Football Club in the CAF champions league Aba residents only grumbled. They had been fed with the opium of their darling club winning the CAF champions league trophy back to back. As the effect of the opium wore off Aba residents today curse anybody who reminds them of the so called roads that Kalu built. In their ingenuity Aba residents have come up with a fitting name for the so called Kalu roads. They dubbed them “419 roads”. And rightly so because the roads were meant to deceive and not to serve as durable infrastructure that would enhance the welfare of the people. It is now that Enyimba people are seeing quality roads in their city. Not only that, the perennial flooding of Aba that Kalu never paid any attention to has been successfully tackled by Ochendo. Aba is today a clean city. The only heaps of refuse are the ones existing in the mind of Wabara and his likes who suffer from post-mamacracy delusion syndrome. It is the dirty Aba of Kalu era which had registered in his mind and could not be erased because of his psychological malady. Wabara may not have realized that he actually acknowledged that there are tangible structures today in Abia that one can point at as legacy projects. He even named a few of them, including the dualised roads in Umuahia, multi-storey secretariat, judiciary complex, international conference centre, specialist hospitals and diagnostic centres, new markets etc. But instead of eating the humble pie and acknowledge that things are indeed changing for good in Abia and then give credit to Ochendo for making Abia to rise again, Wabara cowardly labored in vain to appropriate the projects to his pay master as “renovated projects of Kalu”. What a pity! The corollary of such claims is that it has now dawned on Kalu that he had left no legacy after eight years as Abia State governor. So in his desperation he has instructed his lackeys to find a way of appropriating Ochendo’s legacy projects. But the subterfuge would not work. Abians know better. The simple challenge to Wabara is to point to those projects that Kalu built that survived his tenure for which he should be remembered. No matter how hard Wabara continues to churn out his satanic verses the good people of Abia State would not stop celebrating the new dawn of transformation powered by Ochendo.
Ajunwa is the Chief Press Secretary to the Executive Governor of Abia State.
*Photo Caption - Ebere Wabara
[ Masterweb Reports ] - After an endless series of unprofessional reporting and no sign of willingness to change for the better, some of us have profiled Saharareporters as chief among those online media that were set up to enrich the pockets of their founders through blackmail-and-settlement reportage and Machiavellian journalism. Indeed our submission has been proven true times and over, the most recent being the story of a seating governor in Nigeria who decided to appropriate a state co-owned oil and gas venture to himself and would stop at nothing to eliminate those standing in his way. A New York-based news medium reportedly got a whiff of the story and went public with it, only for the story to be yanked off the site some days later after the governor concerned had played........ Read More.
*Photo Caption - Mr. Omoyele Sowore, Publisher Saharareporters
[ Masterweb Reports: Valentine Obienyem reports ] - On the 4th of May, 1996, the Nri Kingdom crowned Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu Ezeigbo. It generated a lot of controversy. I am proud to be one of those that argued that Ojukwu was eminently qualified for such an honour. I wrote in the papers on the development.
Today, the UNN will honour him with a posthumous Honorary Degree in Law. I wish to re-present my argument in 1996 to show that no honour is enough for that illustrious son of Igbo land.
On Whether Ojukwu Deserves The Title Of Eze-Igbo
There is no primary school boy of Igbo origin who does not know that title taking in Igbo land is a step towards the recognition of a person’s achievements. Honour involves the expression of respect, which is due to a person either by virtue of his role on a particular occasion, or by virtue of his status or rank, which is expressed in titles and demonstrated in deference. Hence honour is not only the internalization of the value of society in the individual, but the externalization of his self image in the world.
In a complex society like Nigeria, individual views may differ, and different groups may have different standards for acknowledging greatness. But the significance of the acts and the granting of dignities are essentially the same: they place the seal of public recognition on reputation that would otherwise stand in doubt and endow them with permanence. Therefore, to value a man is to honour him; and the honour in Igboland often comes through titles.
Thus by endowing one with a title, his achievements are institutionalized, even as he is indirectly urged to do more. Igbos therefore cultivate, cherish and promote an elitist culture whose parameter is judged by the excellence of one’s achievements and commitment to the upliftment of the people. A lot of things have happened but the urge to excel and to be titled remains the heritage of the Igbo spirit. Unless Igbos continue to respect hard work, they will become misguided progenies of their illustrious ancestors.
In Igbo land, leadership is not an exclusive preserve of a single family or lineage: leadership is not in blood but is achieved. Igbos know the principle of individualism and keep it. They could only allow persons of proven superior traits to lead them. There are many such people, but Ojukwu stands out.
In achievements, antecedents and capability, not many of Ojukwu’s critics in Igboland can confidently dream to match him, or exude his charisma! In thinking of the man’s character, Innocent Okafo said: “Ikemba is from all indications a man of proven integrity, man of his people, and voice of Ndigbo as well as the defender of Igbos’ interest in our national life.”1 Chekwas Okorie concurs: “Igbos recognize in Ojukwu the qualities of a hero in war and a great man in peace, a mind imbued with a high sense of justice and pride, and a courage unshaken in the command of armies.”2 What is the secret of Ojukwu’s attraction, of his enormous seductiveness to the Igbos?
The secret is very much open: Igbos have tested his leadership, and found their interests secured in his hands. If there is one thing on which many Igbos agree, it is that Biafra would have been unthinkable without this one unparalleled Odegwuanyi as Zik used to call him. There could not have been that national dedication to a cause, that fantastic faith in their own strength, which the people displayed under him. He made Biafra the credo of a mass movement, and he, essentially alone, created that mass movement itself. None of his associates, not even those who criticize his taking of the Eze-Igbo title, could show any comparable combination of ideological ability with practical, cool politics, and his exceptional talent to organize the Igbo masses.
On the day he made his triumphant procession, after his return from exile, through Enugu to Nnewi, it was overwhelming to watch the masses of people who jubilantly greeted him in ecstatic enthusiam. It was as if mass intoxication had overcome more than half of Igbo people along the way wherever Ojukwu came into view. Some had tears in their eyes (tears of joy) because they were deeply moved by what they saw and heard. Igbos must have longed for him, else how shall we explain the eagerness with which they welcomed him. Many Igbos still regard his pardon as the supreme success of Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s Presidency. If after his return, he had promised to bring Igbos back to the mainstream of Nigeria politics, that has always been his goal. Some people feel that he has not quite fulfilled that, but they should be objective enough to judge him vis-à-vis the political situation in the country. Indeed, we have not played real politics that would have made his dream come true. In the end, the ultimate question should be: Has Ojukwu had an opportunity to advance the Igbo course and did not take it? In contemplating this question, Tagbo Oguejiofor was forthright:
If there is one man that understands the Igbo problem he is the Ikemba Nnewi, Chief Odumegwu-Ojukwu. I have no doubt in my mind that Ojukwu, given the chance Zik had, Igboland would have been the Japan of Africa and the most progressive ethnic group in Nigeria. Apart from being the most popular Igbo man living or dead, his civil war records speak eloquently for him.3
Is it for nothing that he has, more than any other Igbo man continued to speak out against the marginalization of the Igbos? In 1994, single-handed, he mobilized Igbo elders under the banner of Ndigbo and led them to Aso Rock for talks with the then Head of State, late General Sani Abacha. The delegation was not for any partisan interest, but wholly for the welfare of the Igbos. In his speech, he said that Igbos regretted to observe that their sweat, labour and sacrifices had not been matched with fitting appreciation and reward rather our people, even in very recent times, were victims of unwarranted, unprovoked, and merciless destruction of life and property by fellow Nigerians. This was at the heat of the June 12 crisis. So, if the criteria for being the king of Igbos is: one’s love for the Igbo people, one’s care and concern for Igbos, and one’s selfless service to the Igbo people, Ojukwu deserves the title of Eze-Igbo more than any person. He is among the few Igbo men that have had the rather “odd” record of rejecting a party he could have personally gained from because of his people. “It is difficult,” writes a frank Igbo historian, Ebenezer Achebe, “to distinguish where the Ojukwu in him stops, and the Igbo man in him starts.”4
In the past, Igbos had followed many people whose idea of politics did not transcend their selfish schemes. Such false, selfish leaders would rather not have Igbos under one single symbol of unity, because it will prevent their continued exploitation of Ndigbo. These are the people who always distract attention by saying that Igbos have no king and need none. They say that the title of Eze-Igbo is useless and non-existent. It is obvious, however, that Igbos need a rallying point, and are visibly enthused to have found one in Ojukwu. Chief Ignatius Ezeigbo speaks briefly but illuminatingly about this development:
In the north, they are running to take shelter under the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Maccido. In the West, the Yorubas run to the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade, while the Igbos are usually beclouded by the fact that they are said to be republicans.5
From the foregoing, the following questions become pertinent: Is the claim that Igbos are republicans an absolute truth to be taken at its face value, and not diluted as metaphor? Does it mean that Igbos are very tolerant, ultra-democratic and highly individualistic? Or does it mean that Igbos have no hereditary government? These questions jostled with each other for answers on 4th of May, 1996.
On the above date, the Nri town as important to the Igbos as Ile-Ife is to the Yorubas, decided to give Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu- Ojukwu the highest symbol of Igbo authority, OFOR NA ALOR, thus honouring him as the Eze-Igbo i.e., the king of Igbos. They did that, having considered the exigencies of the time or as the head Adama, Chief Shedrach Mbanefo assured us, “After having received the requisite spiritual revelations.”6
As expected, emotions were let loose. Some Igbo elite were more frightened than pleased at what they saw, albeit wrongly, as an ominous interlude in the development of Igbo custom. At once, the sturdy rock on which Ohaneze, the apex Igbo organisation was built began to shake. The entire hullabaloo was due to the limited understanding of the import of the title. Ojukwu relieved their fears by assuring them that “Eze-Igbo has no territorial claims. It is purely a pre-eminence over the spirit of Ndigbo. Eze-Igbo gives no orders. It is an honour. A mark of respect for somebody who is preeminent.”7
Not satisfied, some Igbo elite detected in this act what they thought was Ojukwu’s move to deify himself. Consequently, they marked him out as a man to be broken at all costs. Some newspapers satirized him in hilarious caricatures: they forgot his genius and mischievously remembered only his faults. Some placed a disclaimer on him to the effect that the title is “Non existent and spurious.”
Scandal mongers, even as they acknowledged the right of the title to exist insofar as it came from Nri, assued us that the title was actually paid for. They traced the origin of Ojukwu’s genius to the devil, just as some journalists declared that the title of Eze-Igbo was useless and unwarranted.
In the midst of these devilries, some skeptics joyfully announced to the world that a palace servant gave the title. This is an orchestrated move to discredit the revered Adama. Some prominent Igbos accussed both Ojukwu and the Adama of so bold a violation of precedent: “Our forefathers had no kings,” they said. They cited the saying: Igbo enwe eze i.e., Igbos have no king, to buttress their argument. Yet the Igbo masses were delighted at the elevation of Ojukwu to an Eze-Igbo. Their dream had come true because they saw him as a foremost Igbo patriot, an Igbo man to the core, who has been given his due. They saw the diatribes of the opposition as the rantings of saboteurs and suggested a worthy punishment to them – banishment from Igbo land. Ugochukwu Onwuegbu echoing those who approve of Ojukwu’s title has this to say:
Ojukwu is the Dikedioranma of Igbo. He is the brightest and the best of the luminous sons of Igboland. He is the first before the rest. Anybody who tries to detract from his person or his achievements is nothing but a saboteur.8
Strengthening Ugochukwu’s assertion, Jones Ejikeme notes: “Facts and figures have revealed beyond every doubt that the leadership of the Igbo nation can never be contested until Ojukwu ceases to exist. “All other Igbos,” he said with some hyperbole, “are made of silver; Ojukwu of silver and gold.”9
Ojukwu listened and heard the views of both the opposition and supporters and was at once happy and angry. His initial reaction was to ignore them. But the alleged reaction of Ohaneze startled him. He felt betrayed. In a fit of anger, he kept muttering “Ohaneze!” repeatedly. Finally he said, “I cannot possibly believe that with what Ohaneze stands for and with their idea of right and wrong, they could have authorized such unworthy excess.”10 He felt very offended but still maintained with confidence that this was a misunderstanding that could be easily resolved. I share Ojukwu’s confidence and look forward to a cheerful resolution of the misunderstanding.
The fact that Igbos need to speak with one voice was amply demonstrated during the coronation of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Maccido. Ojukwu led a delegation of almost a hundred Igbo Chiefs. At the Shehu Kangiwa Square, the venue of the coronation, a great concourse of Igbos, including chiefs, commoners, traders, civil servants and urchins followed him. At the end of the coronation, the emotions of the crowd were stirred beyond control. In a frenzy of zeal, they intoned: Eze-Igbo, Eze-Igbo Ojukwu ka anyi ga-eso, ma o na-eje eje ma o na ana ana, Ojukwu ka anyi ga-eso. This when interpreted literally means: “We shall always follow Ojukwu, the king of Igbos, wherever he goes.” What to note here is that Igbos were attracted to Ojukwu as a rallying point at the occasion. He is an Eze-Igbo. For those who maintain that the title does not exist, let them note that it did not exist, but it now exists. It is a move by the Igbos to redefine their essence in the Nigerian society. Even prior to Ojukwu’s coronation, Igbos have always known him as their numero uno, the Adama merely announced an existing truth. Even the Igbo traditional rulers recognize that.
It will be recalled that the epidemic of happiness that greeted Ojukwu’s return in 1982, infected them too. In a rare show of solidarity, all of them gathered together at Nnewi, Ojukwu’s town, and pronounced him the “ Morning Star of the Igbo Nation.” They followed it up by crowning him Dikedioranma (the hero who is loved by all) of Igboland, a title that in its totality made him in all but name the king of the Igbos (Eze-Igbo). I therefore conclude that the title of Eze-Igbo from Nri, which would make its recipient the primus inter pares in Igboland, has been given to the right person.
Valentine Obienyem reports from Anambra State
*Photo Caption – Late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu
[ Masterweb Reports: Akpandem James reports ] – March 26, 2014: Today’s session of the National Conference commenced with a debate as to whether the Conference should invite memoranda from the public outside issues to be presented by delegates. The question was put by the Conference Chairman, Justice Idris Legbo Kutigi.
While some delegates were of the opinion that much time would be wasted in seeking memoranda from members of the public in view of the deadline given the Conference to conduct its deliberations, others said the Conference was not in a better position to speak for the generality of Nigerians.
First to speak on the issue was Bello Mohammed who suggested that no memorandum should be invited from the public in view of the fact that the Presidential Advisory Committee that preceded the Conference had already toured all areas of the country to gather opinions on the Conference.
His suggestion that to shorten time, the Conference should fall back on those memoranda gathered by the advisory committee was countered by Kunle Olajide who said the memoranda collected by the advisory committee were tailored towards the organization of the Conference.
Olajide said it would not be right not to ask for memoranda from the larger public. According to him, “I don’t think it would be right not to collect memoranda from the public. We need to know what the people are saying.”
Olajide was supported by Dr. Adaeze Nwouzo, Dozie Ike and Felicia Sani who said the advisory committee did not seek inputs regarding the Conference but on the necessity of and modalities for the Conference.
Also speaking in support of the call for memoranda was Muhammed Maigari Dingyadi who said inputs from the public would make deliberations by the delegates more democratic and rich.
His position was supported by Mosunmola Umoru, Ekaette Judith Umoh, Sanni Zoro, Nnimo Bassey, Esther Gonda and Olawale Osun; among others.
However, Josephine Anenih, in her contribution said calling for memoranda would certainly delay the Conference in its assignment; she suggested that delegates should rather use the weekends to visit their constituencies and source for opinions on several issues.
At the end of the debate when the question was put, majority of the delegates voted in favour of the issue. The Conference was mandated to call for memoranda with a deadline of two weeks while other businesses of the Conferences will continue.
Immediately after the first debate, the Conference was adjourned to reconvene in the afternoon to enable 50 representatives of the six geo-political zones have a close-door meeting with the Conference Chairman, Honourable Justice Kutigi, towards resolving the argument behind the voting pattern during the Conference.
It would be recalled that through a motion on Tuesday, the Conference Chairman was mandated to convene a meeting involving leaders of delegates across the country to deliberate on the issue of consensus, three-quarter majority votes or two-third majority.
When the Conference resumed in the afternoon, Justice Kutigi announced that the meeting with the selected delegates would continue since it was necessary to exhaustively discuss the issue. The meeting had made tremendous progress before going on break which was why it was decided that it should continue for other outstanding issues to be resolved before returning to plenary on Monday.
Assistant Secretary, Media and Communications
National Conference 2014
*Photo Caption – Map of Nigeria
[ Masterweb Reports: Sulay B. Conteh reports ] – All over the world, Kabbah has been described as a war-time president. Indeed, Kabbah took power during the peak of a brutal civil/rebel war in Sierra Leone. In fact, Kabbah’s own very presidency was violently interrupted for a period of nearly one year by a brutally bloody coup led by AFRC. Nevertheless, Kabbah relentlessly worked for peace and indeed eventually forged relative peace in Sierra Leone before the end of his presidency in 2007. Kabbah is also widely credited for systematically laying the foundations of constitutional democracy, social justice/security and economic prosperity during his eleven years of presidency. These are among the most notable good side of Kabbah as the president of Sierra Leone.
Although Kabbah initially galvanized Sierra Leone at the start of his presidency in 1996, he unfortunately left the country in a relative discord at the end of his rule in 2007. Whether because of the war he inherited or merely out of the drunkenness of power, it is simply true that Kabbah oversaw the demise and death of so many in Sierra Leone during his eleven period of presidency. In addition to the so many who were directly destroyed by the war, Kabbah signed the death and imprisonment of scores of AFRC junta members. Kabbah even crafty masterminded the capture and eventual destruction of RUF leader, Foday Sankoh, after it became evident that Sankoh was about to boycott peace deal.
Notably and perhaps most devastating was Kabbah’s orchestrated heartless prosecution, imprisonment and eventual destruction of his then Defense Minister, Hinga Norman. Norman was as much a veteran politician as he was a career soldier. It was Norman who sacrificed everything he could in order to restore Kabbah to power after he was violently overthrown by the brutal AFRC junta. It was this same Norman who, under the tribal-politics-driven influence of the north, that Kabbah heartlessly destroyed. Eventually, Kabbah became so tribally driven that he nearly single-handedly turned over the SLPP Party (a predominantly southeast-based party) to his northern clique. In his eleven years of rule, Kabbah systematically reduced SLPP (the party that brought him to power and stardom) to nothing less than a mountain of debt. Kabbah craftily sowed the seeds of non-compromising discord among SLPP Party elders and diehards and reduced them to dejectable irrelevance in the party in particular and in Sierra Leone in general.
But Kabbah indeed lived the rest of his life to pay the prize for his heartless actions towards the people and party who gave him life, power and stardom. Kabbah latter woefully failed to maneuver to have his then Foreign Minister, Momodu Koroma (another fellow from this northern caucuses), as the Flag-bearer of the SLPP Party in the 2007 elections to succeed him. Momodu Koroma was Kabbah’s closest confidant and he trusted him to hide his wrong deeds in SLPP and protect him from prosecution ceding power. Because Kabbah never hard his will completed in SLPP, he instead turned to Earnest Koroma (another brother from the northern caucuses) of the then opposition APC Party to succeed him. This was why Kabbah nullified an unprecedented number of SLPP votes in favor of the APC Party, and indeed it was how the APC Earnest Koroma took the mantle of power in 2007. In Sierra Leone we say “wata wei na for you, yi nor go run pass you”.
But the ever proven adage that “whatever goes around always comes around” can just not be unproven. After his manipulation in favor of APC Koroma, Kabbah’s first public shunning by the party he so assiduously worked to bring to power was during the coronation inauguration of Koroma. Kabbah had prepared countless pages of policy achievements of his government; including the unfinished projects with secured funds worth billions of dollars and his government’s strong successes in taking Sierra Leone from a country with immense debt to a country with billions of dollars in foreign reserve. Allowing Kabbah could have been extremely damaging to the Koroma APC as we now know that the APC agenda for change was to deplete the nation’s reserve and put Sierra Leone back into a massive debt. Needless to say that Sierra Leone is now crumbling in a spectacular way under the agenda for prosperity.
After he was so publicly shunned, Kabbah immediately came to the realization that he had done an undone blunder of an epic magnitude. Worst still was the fact that Kabbah had absolutely no chance to undo the effects of his nasty blunders. It is imaginable that Kabbah left the APC coronation alone and lonely and so was the rest of his life in next six years that followed. In the process of coming to terms with his heartless deeds, Kabbah lost his wife and children. This added salt to injury as Kabbah had to further endure the long six years in extreme agony, solitary and loneliness. This could have been what doomed Kabbah so soon. At the age of just 82 and barely six years after ceding power, Kabbah ambivalently left us.
Irrespective of what he did to the SLPP Party and the southeasterners in particular and the people of Sierra Leone in general, Kabbah has now departed us for his final place of rest. In this end-of-life situation, we can only say out our condolences and pray that Allah grants Kabbah eternity. In that respect, we sign the book of condolence in respect of Kabbah’s life and all he survived by as follows:
Sierra Leone Has Lost Yet Another Great Son. President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah Will Most Be Remembered For Taking Sierra Leone From War To Peace And For Laying The Building Blocks Of Constitutional Democracy And Economic Prosperity. Yet As Human As Kabbah Was, He Had His Own Downs; And Perhaps The Most Notable Being The Way He Treated The Party That Brought Him To Power And Stardom. Whatever Our Misgivings, Kabbah Has Now Departed Us In The Peace He Forged In Sierra Leone. On This Note, We Stand United In Praying That The Almighty Allah Grants Kabbah The Best Of Eternity. May His Soul Rest In Peace!
Sulay Conteh ( Email: firstname.lastname@example.org reports ).
*Photo Caption – Late President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone.