Category Archives: opinions

Nigerian Law School And The Need For Change

Nigerian Law School And The Need For Change

By Abdulrazaq O Hamzat
A law graduate or lawyer that cannot defend his or her own basic rights as contained in the constitution does not deserve to be called a legal practitioner. Why because, such person is not fit to defend the right of others. You can’t defend the right of others if you can’t defend your own rights.

This is why I have always maintained that there are very few lawyers in Nigeria who deserve to be called legal practitioners, what we have are businessmen and women who trade in the legal profession. If not, the abusive system in the Nigerian Law School could not have been tolerated for this long without much resistance. It appeared lawyers are now trained to be docile, so they could not defend human rights, but to wear wigs and collect certificates.

For the Nigerian law school, which has become notorious in flagrant violation of basic rights of many Nigerians, including female Muslim students who have been consistently denied their right to decent dressing as prescribed by their constitutionally guaranteed right to religion, the time for change is now.

To change an unjust system, there must be at least one disobedient person who is very much aware of the unjust system and purposefully decides to disobey it, with the intention of causing change and permanent restructuring. This is exactly what has happened during the recently conducted call to bar by the Nigerian Law School.

A Muslim lady, Amasa A Firdaus who graduated from University of Ilorin and Nigerian Law School, Abuja campus was barred from entering the International Conference Center (ICC) for the call to the bar program because she refused to remove her decently worn hijab in defiance to the repugnant tradition of the law school, which bans the use of hijabs by female Muslim students.

Firdaus is not the only victim of this violation of basic rights, thousands of female Muslims have continued to suffer similar abuse over the years.

Few days before the unfortunate incident at the call to bar event in Abuja, some young people had taken to the social media to launch a campaign to call for change in the law school discriminatory practice against female Muslims. It appeared Firdaus, a female law graduate, who was the Ameera of Muslim Students Society (MSS) at University of Ilorin resolved to take up the challenge to fight for all victims, as she also presides as the Ameera of Nigerian female Muslim lawyers at the law school.

While I understand that rule 36 (a) of the Rules of Professional Conduct in the Legal Profession Revised (2007) expressly decries the “wearing of apparel and ornament” that draws attention to a legal practitioner appearing before a judge, the hijab doesn’t fall into such apparel ornament that can be decried upon, because it is a constitutional right that no bye-law can suppress on a permanent basis.

It has been established that the constitution is a ground norm and by section 1(1) & (3) thereof, it is Supreme and binding on all authorities and persons in Nigeria and as well above the ordinary laws of the land. Since the constitution recognises ones right to manifest one’s religion and belief in practice and observance, a female Muslim, being a Nigerian too, has the right to wear her veil anywhere, anytime.

“The Constitution of Nigeria is the basic norm from which all the other laws of the society derive their validity. Any other law that is in conflict with the provision of the Constitution must give way or abate.” This is the position of the law court in the case of PDP V CPC (2011) 17 NWLR (pt 1277) 485 at 511.

Besides the above, there are numerous court judgments from the Appeal Court and even Supreme Court that has maintained that the use of the hijab by female Muslims is a right that cannot be denied because the veil is part and parcel of religious practice of a female Muslim if she chooses to wear it.

The Court of Appeal Ilorin Division in the case of *PROVOST, KWARA STATE COLLEGE OF EDUCATION, ILORIN & 2 ORS VS BASHIRAT SALIU & 2 ORS

Appeal No CA/IL/49/2006, delivered on the 18th day of June 2009 held that:“The use of veil by the respondents, therefore, qualifies as a fundamental right under Section 38 (1) of the Constitution.”

In another court of Appeal judgment in Massoud Abdul Rahman Oredola, JCA, it was held that; “The right of the Respondents to wear their hijab, veil within the school campus and INDEED ANYWHERE else is adequately protected under our laws.

I therefore hold the views that, the only reason why such archaic rule still existed in the Nigerian law school is because nobody has been courageous enough to challenge it like Firdaus has now done and all well-meaning Nigerians must rise up to defend our law and not their personal sentiments.

It is important to note that, if the law school can make rules to deny people their right under the guise of the profession, then to what use is the constitution? That means every profession can then proceed to make unjust laws and claim it is to protect a professional ethics. We must not allow this to continue.

I am also aware that religious right is not absolute. The right is subject to section 45 of the constitution which gives the government the right to disregard citizen’s right to religion in the interest of defense, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons. But the practice in the Nigerian law school doesn’t fall into any of these categories.

While some people might want to argue that it falls into the public order category, but they have to explain how exercising a right to wear hijab impedes public order. And even if it is for public order for the purpose of defense, such ban cannot be permanent; it can only last for some time.

The Supreme Court decision in M.D.P.D.T. v. Okonkwo (2001) 6 NWLR (Pt.710), explained that, for the purpose of public interest, such right would be held in abeyance.

In view of the above, the Nigerian Law School must begin the process of changing all of its rules that are inconsistent with the Nigerian constitution. This is the only way to guarantee peace and teach law.

Abdulrazaq O Hamzat is a Human Rights Ambassador and Executive Director of Foundation for Peace Professionals. He can be reached at

Culled from SaharaReporter


Prohibition of the use of Hijab/veil in some public institutions: The position of the law



             _O. G. CHUKKOL._
One of the challenges Muslim females are facing is the wearing of hijab. Hijab is a veil they use in covering their body. These challenges are found even in public institutions. The proscription of the use of veils is normally done through rules made in those institutions. For example there has been complaint that hijab is not allowed in Nigerian Law School, it happened also in Kwara, Lagos, Osun State etc where students were not allowed to wear hijab to schools.

This article seeks to establish that prohibiting Muslim females from wearing veils in public institutions is unconstitutional. Whether the position is the same in private institutions or not is outside the scope of this article.
To clear a preliminary point, I am a Christian and shall by the grace of God die a Christian. This work is based on my little understanding of the law and love for rule of law. The work is also informed by my agreement with the words of *Martin Luther King Jr.* who once said:
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
In other words, it is Muslim female facing it today, tomorrow it may be Christians. So, I feel spade should be called a spade.
Let us first examine the basis of the use of hijab by Muslim women. *Chapter 24 verse 30-31 of the Glorious Holy Quran* says:
“… Enjoin believing women to COVER THEIR GAZE and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that THEY SHOULD DRAW THEIR VEILS OVER THEIR BOSOMS AND NOT DISPLAY THEIR BEAUTY except to their husbands, their fathers, their husband’s father, their sons, their husband’s Sons, their brothers or their brother’s Sons or their sisters’ sons or other women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, …”
It follows from the verse above that wearing of hijab by Muslim women is a Quranic injunction so a Muslim female is bound to obey it without question. 
The next point is whether a Muslim female can capitalize on the provision of Glorious Qur’an to insist that she is entitled to wear Hijab everywhere. The answer is obviously in the affirmative.

*Subsection (1) of section 38 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (2011 as amended)*, it provides as follows:
“Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion…and IN PUBLIC or IN PRIVATE) to MANIFEST AND PROPAGATE his RELIGION or BELIEF in worship, teaching, PRACTICE and 


(emphasis mine)
The constitution is a grundnorm and by section 1(1)&(3) thereof, it is Supreme and binding on all authorities and persons in Nigeria and as well above the ordinary laws of the land. Since the constitution recognizes ones right to manifest ones religion and belief in practice and observance, a Muslim female, being a Nigerian too, has the right to wear her hijab anywhere.
In the case of *PDP V CPC (2011) 17 NWLR (pt 1277) 485 at 511* ​it was held;
_“The Constitution of Nigeria is the grundnorm, otherwise known as the basic norm from which all the other laws of the society derive their validity. Each legal norm of the Society derives its validity from basic norm. Any other law that is in conflict with the provision of the Constitution must give way or abate”._
Courts have consistently held that, having regards to chapter 24:30-31 of the Holy Quran, a Muslim female has the unfettered right to wear her hijab anywhere.
The Court of Appeal Ilorin Division in the Unreported case of *THE PROVOST, KWARA STATE COLLEGE OF EDUCATION, ILORIN & 2 ORS VS BASHIRAT SALIU & 2 ORS Appeal No CA/IL/49/2006,*

*delivered on the 18th day of June, 2009*, per Hussein Mukhtar, JCA,held at page 15 – 16 of the lead judgement thus:
“The foregoing verses of the Glorious Qur’an and Hadiths have left no room for doubt on the Islamic Injunction on women’s mode of dress, which is clearly in conformity with not only the Respondent’s veiled dress but also the controversial article J of the 3rd Applicants’ dress code. The use of veil by the respondents, therefore qualifies as

a fundamental right under Section 38 (1) of the Constitution”.

The Court of Appeal further held *per Massoud AbdulRahman Oredola, JCA at page 2* of the concurrent judgement;
“The right of the Respondents to wear their Hijab, veil within the School campus and INDEED ANYWHERE else is adequately protected under our laws. Human rights recognizes and protects religious rights. Section 38 of the

1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guaranteed freedom of religion to all and sundry. Thus things that lawfully constitute OPEN MANIFESTATION, PROPAGATION, WORSHIP, TEACHING, PRACTICE AND OBSERVANCE of

the said religion are equally and by extension similarly guaranteed and protected by the Constitution. Indeed the Hijab, Niqab or Burqa, being part and parcel of Islamic code of dressing and by whatever standard a dignified

or vividly decent one cannot be taken away by any other law other than the Constitution”
Just last year, 2016, Justice Falola of the Osun State High Court restated the law as pronounced in the Court of Appeal decision above while delivering judgement in the case of *Sheikh Oyinwola & Ors V The Governor of Osun state & Ors SUIT NO. HOS/M.17/2013* *delivered on the 3rd of June, 2016*. Bound by the time honoured principle of Judicial Precedent, the court held that the use of Islamically prescribed headcover called

Hijab by the Muslim Female Students in all Primary and Secondary

Schools in Osun State forms part of their fundamental rights to

freedom of religion, conscience and thought as contained in Section

38 of 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) and also declared that Article 8.2(v) of the “Guidelines on Administration

and Discipline in Osun State Public Schools“ issued by the Ministry

of Education prohibiting Muslim females from wearing hijab in public schools is not only discriminatory against Muslim female students but also uncalled for, inconsistent with Section 38 of 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and a clear violation of the fundamental rights of Muslim female

students in Public Schools in Osun State to freedom of religion and therefore null, void and of no effect whatsoever.
A month after, A specially constituted panel of the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos on *Thursday, July 21, 2016* unanimously reaffirmed its decision delivered in 2009 at Ilorin, Kwara state Division. It reversed the *judgment of a Lagos State High Court in Ikeja which on October 17, 2014* banned the use of hijab in Lagos State public primary and secondary schools.

The appellate declared in a unanimous judgment on Thursday that the ban was discriminatory against Muslim pupils in the state.

It accordingly reinstated the use of hijab in Lagos schools.

This writer is not unaware that section 38 of the constitution (right to religion) is not absolute. The right is subject to section 45 of the constitution which gives government the right to disregard citizen’s right to religion in the interest of defence, public safety, 

public order, public morality or public health; or for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons. For instance during the Bokoharam insurgency in the North East, government was right when it temporarily banned the use hijab because then some suicide bombers hid bombs therein.
Another example is the fact that every person has the right on religious ground (say Jehovah Witness sect refusal of blood transfusion) not to submit to treatment recommended by a doctor even if the refusal of treatment can lead to the death of the patient. However for the purpose of public interest, and relying on the authority of the Supreme Court decision in *M.D.P.D.T. v. Okonkwo (2001) 6 NWLR (Pt.710)*, such right would be held in abeyance if the disease, like Ebola and the like, is contagious.
In the light of what has so far been stated and in the absence of any exceptional circumstance as the ones mentioned above, every Muslim female has the unfettered right to wear her hijab anywhere. Prohibition of wearing of hijab in some public institutions is unconstitutional. The institutions concerned are hereby advised to reverse those rules.
*O. G. Chukkol is a student, Faculty of Law, ABU, Zaria.*

Beyond the Brutalities of Police SARS

Beyond the Brutalities of Police SARS

The Verdict By Olusegun Adeniyi,

If there is any lesson from the current revelations about how men of the Police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) molest, torture, maim and sometimes kill innocent citizens, it is that seeking questionable validation, especially when not on solid grounds, can go horribly wrong. When the first reports about the brutality of SARS hit Twitter, the police authorities felt so indignant that, aside labeling those peddling such stories as “armed robbers”, they asked for proof. As it would happen, they got an avalanche, backed with concrete visual evidence, as several video clips of sundry acts of brutality by men and officers of SARS were uploaded online.

The whole saga reminds me of the story of a wealthy politician who was in a relationship with a lady to whom he was considering marriage. Apparently not prepared to take any chances, he hired an investigative agency to do a background check on the lady. The agency assigned a detective who was not told of either the reason for the discrete investigation or the client’s identity. On completion, the detective sent his report in a sealed envelope which the agency, without opening, simply handed to the politician who was already waiting. The terse report read: “The young lady is a splendid person, except for one unfortunate blemish: She recently started dating a politician of dubious character.”

Although the Inspector General of Police, Mr Ibrahim Idris has stepped in with some reform measures, he cannot pretend to be unaware of the reputation of SARS whose men have always been associated with indiscriminate arrests and detention of citizens as well as the extrajudicial killings. While the law presumes crime suspects to be innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, men and officers of SARS take such persons to be guilty until they are able to prove innocence in their (SARS) own “court” where suspects are detained and tortured to make “confessional statements” after which they are paraded before the media. With reporters participating in the “cross-examination” of these suspects, usually from the poor of our society, they are easily lured into incriminating themselves and for many, that is a one-way ticket to the grave.

I am sure the police authorities are aware of many of these abnormalities that are well documented in Amnesty International reports but let us presume that they may not be by highlighting some. On a regular basis, SARS operatives stop citizens either on street corners or on the highways and subject them to “stop and search” which is usually extended to telephones, laptops and iPads without any court orders as required by the Cybercrimes Act. Like other law enforcement agencies in our country today, these men and officers of SARS operate above the Constitution which has guaranteed the dignity and liberty of citizens, the privacy of their homes and correspondence.

In April 2012, the Centre for Victims of Extra-Judicial Killings and Torture (CVEKT) claimed that between 2008 and 2011–a period of four years–a total of 7,198 extra-judicial killings were carried out in our country by the police. Citing a report by the Network on Police Reform in Nigeria (NOPRIN), the CVEKT averred that the Police had always relied on Order 237 which authorises their officer “to shoot any suspect and detainees trying to escape or avoid arrest” as an alibi for such dastardly act.

Indeed, the way and manner the police abuse the rights of citizens are far too numerous to highlight though it may be important to put the issue in context. This recourse to abuse, according to the late Professor Claude Ake in his book, “Democracy and Development in Africa”, can be understood from the character of the Nigerian state which, perhaps because of its colonial heritage, has “continued to be totalistic in scope” while relying on police and other security agencies “for compliance on coercion rather than authority.” This has in turn led to a situation in which those whose primary responsibility is to maintain law and order in the society see themselves more as bodyguards for those in authority while ordinary citizens are treated as expendables. We have seen far too many examples of that lately.

In trying to rationalize the very partisan act of IGP Idris whose plan to meddle in last month Anambra State gubernatorial election backfired spectacularly, following a clear rebuke by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Force spokesman, Mr Jimoh Moshood gave the number of police officers attached to Governor Willie Obiano as 221. And he gave a breakdown which, in itself, tells a compelling story of Nigeria. Incidentally, when the IGP faced a similar allegation of partisanship in April this year, the same Moshood also offered a breakdown of the personnel attached to the Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike.

Like that of Obiano, there are also 221 police officers attached to Wike but let us take the story directly from the Force spokesman. “The breakdown is as follows: One ADC (SPO); one CSO (SPO); one Unit Commander (Special Protection Unit) SPO; one Escort Commander (SPO); one Camp Commander (Counter Terrorism Unit) SPO; one Admin officer (SPO) to administer the Police Personnel, 54 Inspectors of Police; 136 Police Sergeants and 24 police corporals”. Moshood’s statement concluded with this self-indicting line: “Obviously, the total number of 221 police personnel attached to His Excellency, Mr Nyesom Wike, the Governor of Rivers State, is more than the strength of some Police Area Command formations in some states of Nigeria.”

Is it not shameful that the police would admit that, in a nation that is under-policed and where crime rate is rather high, they have allocated 221 just to protect one man? When you now multiply that number by 36 for the governors before you add those allocated to other political office holders at both the federal and the states, you get a picture of the number of policemen that are doing guard duties with politicians. And we have not added those serving bankers, businessmen of all hues and the idle rich who have no means of livelihood. Yet, many of these police officers, as observed in 2014 by the then Inspector General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, are “turned into house boys and house girls” by these important personalities.

However, notwithstanding the foregoing, I believe those clamouring for the scrapping of the SARS unit miss the point and may not be fair to the Police because I still believe majority of our officers and men are good professionals whose image are being smeared by a few bad eggs. Many of them are also victims of the Nigerian malaise. Besides, while it is convenient to record acts of misdemeanor, there are also many people who have stories to tell of acts of bravery, decency and professionalism on the part of our policemen who bear risks on behalf of all of us. For those who may not remember any, let me quickly remind them of one.

On 22nd February this year, there was a bank robbery in Owerri, capital of the state of ‘Happiness’, which claimed the life of a police man whose family was abandoned until the footage of the Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) camera which captured the incident went viral. In the video clip, Sergeant Chukwudi Iboko was seen engaging the robbers in a gun duel, killing one of them before he was himself shot. He died the next day from the wounds. It is noteworthy that if the case had not been brought to the public, his family would have had to carry their cross alone like many of their colleagues, including two other Sergeants who sustained injury from the same operation.

I am sure there are many Idokos within the police, including even within SARS; men and women who risk all in the line of duty, even when they know the authorities of the institutions they serve and the society at large do not appreciate them. Therefore, we should also ask ourselves whether we have not unwittingly created a situation in which our policemen, having themselves been brutalized by the state and society, are now lacking in compassion when dealing with fellow citizens.

Let me share another example of the criminal neglect of the police that many Nigerians may also have forgotten: The scene on 7th October 2011 when the then Police Affairs Minister, Mr Caleb Olubolade, visited Ijeh Police Barracks in Obalende, Lagos. The footage must still be available in the archives of some of our television stations. On that day, a police officer’s wife, simply identified as Agnes, spoke for her colleagues in a tone of agony. “We have been suffering in silence. These barracks are like a refugee camp. We have no toilet facilities, no pipe-borne water and no electricity, and we are now being threatened by flood and reptiles. We live a little above animals. We are like sub-human beings here. This is a place of death; the mosquitoes here don’t surrender to insecticides”, she said as her colleagues wailed openly.

I remember those words because they formed the basis of a three-part editorial titled “The Police and the rest of Us” done by THISDAY in 2012 where we wondered why Nigerians “expect the spouses of these hapless, and obviously helpless, women to enforce laws, arrest law breakers, deal with emergencies, fight terror gangs and generally prevent crimes. We are deceiving ourselves!” Besides, as we also noted, “when those who protect and defend us, whatever their shortcomings, are left to their own devices, and treated in a manner that devalues their self-esteem, we, the people, lose the right to point fingers at their failings.”

Unfortunately, the police authorities neither care about the welfare of their rank and file nor the image of the institution they head. In April 2014, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), as part of its statutory mandates, conducted an assessment of 369 police stations across 21 states of the country. According to the commission’s report, only 10 police stations (from a list of 369!) performed creditably under five areas of key indicators namely: community orientation, physical conditions, equal treatment of members of the public, transparency and accountability and detention conditions.

What the foregoing reveals quite clearly is that for the police to regain public trust, they must begin to deal with the issue of their own dignity and being accountable to the people on whose behalf they bear arms. While police brutality is a universal phenomenon, as we saw with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ riots in the United States which led to the revenge killings of some policemen, the authorities in Nigeria should be careful in the manner they handle the protest against SARS so that the people are not pushed to carry the campaign beyond Twitter posts to a street war.

All said, there can be no better time for the much talked about reform of the police than now!
Culled from ThisDay 

Abdullahi’s Inside Story On Jonathan

Abdullahi’s Inside Story On Jonathan

Azu Ishiekwene

Of the three presidents who ruled Nigeria between 1999 and 2015, President Goodluck Jonathan appears, so far, to have been the subject of more controversial books than his two predecessors.

Five notable books about or significantly touching on former President Obasanjo’s tenure are his memoir, My Watch; Olusegun Obasanjo: The Presidential Legacy (Vols. I & II) 1999-2007, by Ladipo Akinkugbe et al; Obasanjo, Nigeria And The World, by John Illiffe; and Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s Accidental Public Servant.

Segun Adeniyi’s Power, Politics and Death, is perhaps the most definitive book yet on late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s tenure.

Within two and a half years of Jonathan’s exit from power, however, five books on his tenure have, so far, been published, three of the most notable of which are – Against the Run of Play, by Segun Adeniyi; Facts Versus Fiction: The True Story of the Jonathan Years, by Reno Omokri; and now, On a Platter of Gold, by Bolaji Abdullahi.

Adeniyi was an insider in a different era, but even though the other two – Omokri and Abdullahi – served in the same government at different levels, their views are strikingly, but unsurprisingly, different.

Abdullahi’s 397-page 12-chapter book is an X-ray of Jonathan’s five-year rule, the forces that made him a democratic president and how Jonathan’s apparent inability to manage some of those forces eventually brought down his government.

When the author said from the title of the book that Jonathan was handed the Presidency on a platter of gold, I don’t think it was to suggest that Jonathan was unworthy of the bequest.

The trope was in the context of other political heavyweights who had given everything for the office but still failed to get it. And Abdullahi named them in the introductory chapter of his book.

But there was more to Jonathan’s golden chance than the list of those who tried but failed to become president. The economy, for example, was on a better footing with the external reserve at $43 billion (oil price at $84 pbd); the amnesty programme started under Yar’Adua was bearing fruit and calm was returning to the Niger Delta; the country had substantially regained its goodwill and respect abroad. And on top of all this, by 2011, the ruling PDP had swallowed its own vomit by setting aside zoning to back Jonathan.

With party and country rooting for him and the tailwinds behind the economy, the President could not have wished for more auspicious circumstances.

From Abdullahi’s account, three things defined Jonathan’s Presidency – discontent within the relatively weakened party he inherited; the handling of Boko Haram, which pre-dated him; and the attitude of Jonathan’s government to corruption.

President Jonathan has, of course, added two other reasons why he lost: he has blamed the Northern elite, especially the leadership of the party (which has in turn blamed Jonathan for recruiting outsiders who used vile language during the campaign); and he has also blamed foreign powers, specifically the US, France and the UK.

Until he stops threatening to write and actually writes his own memoir, however, we’ll have to wait and see if the man in the mirror will ultimately take responsibility.

Outsiders were probably familiar with the episodes summarised above, but perhaps not with the intricate, riveting details of who did what, when and how.

The author takes the reader by hand through the corridors of power in Aso Rock into the Glass House, the chambers of council meetings, and other such sanctum sanctorum where decisions are taken in the name of the country but which often bear the disgusting imprint of narrow personal and group interests.

Who could have known that two women in the presidential godhead – Diezani Allison-Madueke and Stella Oduah – while presenting a façade of a public interest, still managed to corner the President behind each other’s backs, with long knives? And that if Diezani did not whisper into Jonathan’s ear, he might have spared Oduah even after a presidential panel had indicted her in the N250 million bulletproof car saga?

In hindsight, though, it is quite interesting to see that Diezani, of all people, was Jonathan’s closet lecturer on how to tackle corruption!

Who could have thought that Dame Patience Jonathan, apart from her famous gift for drama, could also summon the presence of mind in her post-election moment of distress to remind the Attorney General of the Federation of some fine points of history after accusing him of betrayal?

Or that Minister Adewunmi Adesina, in spite of being President Jonathan’s poster boy, would be among the first to jump ship, openly courting the opposition, after Jonathan’s defeat? But it’s all there in the book, in details not previously known and in words that will make you cry and laugh. Or think.

The author appears to suggest that on his own, Jonathan was a very nice man, a happy-go-lucky fellow who will not offend anyone. I think most people would agree.

But that was, also, part of the problem. A leader who does not want to offend anyone, who does not want to break eggs, cannot expect to make omelet. A leader who will say one thing in the morning and another in the afternoon just to please the last listener, may not be motivated by vicious incompetence, but incompetence is incompetence. There’s no need for an adjective.

Yet, we also see from the book that power can be a very, very lonely place.

When it came to the decisions that unmade Jonathan’s presidency – whether it was about what to do with the fuel subsidy scam or how to respond to Boko Haram, which covered one quarter of the book; how to handle the Chibok girls or how to respond to the rebellion in his party and the momentous exit of five governors; whether to accept defeat after the election or charge his party to appeal – the man was utterly alone.

Would the trajectory have been different if Jonathan had a different temperament? Had he grown so used to being number two that he could not adjust to the nation’s top job? Or was Jonathan, well, just Jonathan?

We now know a little more from an insider. Jonathan meant well. He promised a free and fair election and he delivered it. He said his election was not worth the blood of a single Nigerian and conceded defeat even before the final results were in.

As to why he failed reelection, the single most telling revelation from the author is that all said and done, the job was beyond him, a point on which two of the three notable post-Jonathan era books agree.

In the last chapter of his book, Abdullahi, who was Sports Minister, narrated how Jonathan executed nine ministers in one day of cabinet shuffle. He said he was penciled in but was later “saved for another day.”

Well, that day came to pass but the story is missing in his book! That’s probably a story for his next book.

Ishiekwene is the Managing Director/Editor-In-Chief of The Interview and member of the board of the Global Editors Network.

Severance pay and severe pain

Severance pay and severe pain

by Simon Kolawole

For Mr. Mounir Gwarzo, director-general of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), these are not the nicest of times. He must be in a severe pain. He has just been suspended by Mrs Kemi Adeosun, minister of finance, over allegations of impropriety. Gwarzo was accused, among other things, of paying himself a “severance package” of N104,854,154 as a former executive commissioner — shortly after being named DG of the same commission. The argument is that since he was still serving in the same organisation, it was wrong for him to have collected the benefit. “Severance package” is theoretically a one-off exit payment for political appointees.

In other news, Gwarzo does not think his suspension has anything to do with the petition over severance pay. Reports here and there attribute the suspension to Gwarzo’s insistence on conducting a forensic audit of Oando Plc over allegations of insider abuses and irregularities. The forensic audit would have led to the suspension of the Oando management and the appointment of an interim management. Adeosun reportedly asked Gwarzo to impose fines on individual members of the management rather than carry out the audit, for which SEC has already engaged the services of Akintola Williams Deloitte.

Gwarzo was said to have objected, leading to a reportedly heated argument with the minister who allegedly seized the moment to remind him of the petition against him “pending since January”. The SEC DG requested that her directive be put in writing — to which Adeosun was said to have pointed out that she herself takes verbal instructions from President Muhammadu Buhari. Gwarzo left her office and wrote her on November 28, 2017, summarising the discussions at the meeting and asking again that the request be put in an official letter. He got a letter, dated November 29, 2017, quite all right, but it was to suspend him from office over the allegations against him.

The sequence of events and the circumstances would fit perfectly into the narrative that Adeosun decided to dig up the petition because Gwarzo continued to insist on the forensic audit, but the office of the minister has strongly denied the allegations. Oando Plc, understandably, has refused to join issues and would prefer to be left out of the picture. The oil company actually secured a court order to stop the forensic audit which it considers to be a witch hunt. In the final analysis, we are only left to work with rumours and speculations on what really transpired between the minister and the DG. Suspicion is not terribly helpful in this matter. It is neither here nor there.

My bigger interest is in the allegations against Gwarzo — that he got a mouth-watering severance package and that he awarded contracts to a company, Madusa Investments Ltd, in which he has interest. While confirming that he collected the N104 million pay-off in 2015, he denied any wrong doing, citing a board decision way back in 2002 which authorised the payment to DGs and commissioners who had served for a minimum of two years. He also said Madusa is a family business from which he had resigned his directorship when he was appointed a SEC commissioner in 2013. He denied that the company has done any job for, or received any payment, from SEC.

Now that he is being investigated, I think the anti-graft agencies are in a better position to prove or disprove the allegations of impropriety against him. This may sound funny, but we can say that since the ICPC and EFCC are also going to carry out their own “forensic audit” of Gwarzo, it is only proper to ask him to step aside while this is being done so that an interim manager can also be in place. The trouble, though, is that this may further complicate things for Oando and Adeosun — if the forensic audit of Oando does not go ahead eventually, it may prove too difficult to convince Nigerians that there is no truth in Gwarzo’s allegation. Fingers crossed.

My curiosity in this matter, lest I forget, is the legality of the severance pay. If indeed the board of SEC approved as far back as July 2002 — 11 years before Gwarzo became a commissioner — that the benefit should be paid to the DG and “permanent commissioners”, the suspended DG would have no case to answer. The quantum of the pay wouldn’t matter as long as there is no infraction involved. The real issue would be: was it legal or not? Are there documentations to prove it or not? However, if there was no such board decision and Gwarzo collected the benefit illegally, then he would have to keep a date with the hangman.

If he truly followed the letter of the law in collecting the pay-off, there are still more questions to ask — and in asking these questions, we will discover more loopholes in the law or policy, as the case may be. Should he have collected the benefit while still in service even if occupying a different office? It would mean that, technically, he is entitled to another severance pay after his current tenure since the processes of appointing an executive commissioner and DG are different. What this shows us clearly is that there is a lacuna in the policy. Those who made the policy did not take care of a situation where a commissioner is promoted DG after two years.

Gwarzo can even pursue a hypothetical argument — that if he serves as an executive commissioner at SEC for two years, doesn’t collect the severance benefit, gets appointed as the DG of another agency and is removed after one year, then he would have lost out on the benefit completely. On the other hand, if he forgoes the hefty package (let’s say out of “patriotism”) and gets appointed as a minister, his severance pay would be probably N5 million. Therefore, there was a higher incentive for him to quickly claim his benefit as a former SEC commissioner. There is a huge dichotomy between the benefits of a minister and the heads of “specialised agencies” serving under them.

There are loopholes in the way severance pay is defined and structured. I’m sure many public officers have been benefitting from this at federal, state and local levels. While you cannot punish or prosecute someone for what is legally permissible, you can fine-tune the law or policy to address the loopholes. I am, therefore, looking beyond Gwarzo in my argument. I am canvassing a comprehensive and standardised policy on severance pay such that everything will be clear to all. I guess this is the job of the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission and National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission. They should be the clearing houses for all such payments.

It gives me severe pains to know that there are some governors who, after getting a second term in office, pay themselves severance for their first term. That means they will collect a second severance pay after the second term, in addition to pension. I am also told that there are some legislators who get paid severance package at the end each term. So if they are re-elected five times, they get paid the benefit five times. I hope I am being misled — it is too bad to be true. We are also made to understand that some former governors who are now senators still collect pensions in addition to their hefty allowances in the national assembly. It may not be illegal but it is immoral.

To be clear, I have not declared Gwarzo culpable or not culpable. That is beyond my pay grade. Whether he is being punished over the Oando issue or over the petitions against him is beside the point. My worry, which I have managed to state clearly, is that we need to work on avoiding the lacuna in the severance benefits. This Gwarzo affair offers us an opportunity to streamline the payment of these benefits. I propose that an active public servant should be entitled to severance pay just once in a lifetime, preferably on final exit from government. That is more morally defensible, so let us standardise it — and legalise it.



Having read Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi’s book, ‘On a Platter of Gold: How Jonathan Won and Lost Nigeria’, I confess that I have developed more sympathy for the former president. Yes, he was imperfect. He was indecisive, too soft and highly vulnerable. He did a million things wrong. But you could see a simple and listening leader who, in the midst of the chaos, never loved to hurt people or do illegal things, so much so he deferred to his attorney-general, Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, on critical matters of law. My impression remains that Jonathan simply could not grow fast enough into the role of a president, and the company he kept did not help matters. Undoing.


Did you listen to Senate President Bukola Saraki’s insightful comments on the 2018 appropriation bill? “Sometimes I wonder if technocrats want to embarrass government and try to do some things knowing it can’t work,” he said. “Why would the budget be predicated on 2.3mbpd when the country was only able to record 1.9mbpd in 2017? In addition, even though in the past two months when oil price has been as high as $60, the report from FAAC is that they have not been able to put any money in the excess crude account. The only reason is that it must be that oil production is much less than what we are budgeting for.” I hope President Buhari is listening. Damning!


Was the Obama administration right to support the overthrow of Col. Muammar Ghaddafi as the Libyan leader? Many who said “yes” in 2011 must be saying “no” today. Libya has since dissolved into a mess since then, and Nigeria is facing the repercussions. It’s established that Boko Haram was strengthened by the arms flowing from the anarchy that ensued. The North African country now offers a booming route for human trafficking, illegal arms and illicit drug trade. It came to a head recently with the revelation that black Africans (Nigerians inclusive), illegally en route to Europe, are being sold off as slaves, tortured or killed in Libya. Grief.


Nigeria keeps getting Argentina as opponents at FIFA World Cup. We must be getting sick and tired of each other’s face by now. We’ve been drawn together at every World Cup we’ve played, save for France ’98, and they have always beaten us. But I love our sense of humour in Nigeria. I thoroughly enjoyed these tweets “Next time, they should just put Nigeria and Argentina together before drawing the groups” (@mrokike) and “Nigeria and Argentina should just marry!” (@ellytomall). With highly talented Croatia and giant-killing Iceland also in the mix, we should not make the mistake of thinking we are sure bets for the knock-out stages. Caution.
Source: TheCable

Atiku’s pathological defections and the party system

Atiku’s pathological defections and the party system

Abubakar Atiku

By Anthony Akinola

One major difference in the politics of the advanced democratic nations and that of contemporary Nigeria is that one is highly “individualistic” while the other is still largely “communal”. By this I mean there is a greater degree of independence in one than exists in the other. Whereas the divorce lawyer may not be summoned because a wife has chosen to hold a political view that is different from that of her husband, this may not be the case in a communal society where the choice made by one person could be taken, invariably, as the choice made by others. It is precisely because of this communal culture that the phenomenon of defections, i.e. crossing over from one political party to another, attracts the attention it hardly deserves.

When a key political actor has defected from one political party to another, there is a “bandwagon” effect helped by a very low level of political education as well as economic poverty on the part of others. I remember when my father, the late Chief Josiah Akinola Oisa was “coerced” into transferring his loyalty from the National Council of Nigeria and the Camerouns (NCNC) in the late 1950s, quite a number of erstwhile supporters of the party followed him to the ruling Action Group (AG) in the then Western Region. He was quite an influential chief, very intelligent as he was equally principled and bold. However, the “regional government” threatened him with deposition if he did not switch loyalty. Deposition was, and still is, some kind of disgrace no one would wish for. My father reluctantly abandoned the political party he so much cherished, thanks to the intolerance of those in positions of power and authority. He was not given the option of being paid “a penny a year salary.”

Armed with what I observed as a very young child, I took exceptional interest in the phenomenon of defections during the Second Republic (1979-83). I was about arguing a thesis that the presidency would bring about a two-party system in Nigeria, hence the excitement in an observation that members of minor political parties were defecting in large numbers to the then two relatively successful parties, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). I saw the development as a process of “party cross-breeding.” The termination of the then democratic experiment, not least because of the culture of election rigging, frustrated whatever outcome or conclusion one was anticipating.

There have been quite a few noticeable defections since political party activity resumed in 1999; however, no individual has been identified with this phenomenon more than Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, erstwhile Vice President between 1999 and 2007. He has moved from one party to the other on several occasions and any prostitute could easily have become jealous of his shifting loyalties. Even when his most recent defection from the ruling All Progressives Congress “APC” back to his former party, the Peoples Democratic Party “PDP”, could be justified by his avowed supporters, there are not a few who would be incensed by what has become his pathological obsession with the presidency. Many had predicted he would quit the APC for another political party if he was not going to grab the presidential candidacy of that party for the putative 2019 election. Whatever might be his strength and good qualities, critics would nevertheless say that Atiku is a politician with unstable character- someone who has never been a good team player.

The ease with which our politicians change political party support clearly suggests that ideology is of little relevance in our politics. Our politicians are divided by their greed and selfish interests than by anything else. Where there is commitment to ideology, a politician will not transfer his or her loyalty for the fear of competition by potential rivals. They will not be running from the political party they believed in for the fear that its structure could be hijacked by another. On the contrary, an ideologically-informed politician will remain in his or her party and sort out whatever problems might have arisen therein. In the well-established political parties with broad-based support, politicians belong in varied wings of the ideological divide-left, right, centre or moderate, etc. Their views may diverge in specifics, but what they share is unanimity of purpose.

It will take quite a while for the Nigerian party system to stabilise. The party system is evolving, still some kind of work in progress. The one good thing to take from current observations is the potential for integration being exhibited by the presidency as a political institution. There will be those arguing for Nigeria to return to the parliamentary system of government which was practised in the First Republic, not least because it is believed to be less expensive than the presidential alternative. However, when it comes to the issue of political integration, I shall be one of those arguing that the presidential system should be accepted as having come to stay. A return to the parliamentary system will be a return to another era of ethnic political parties and the erstwhile culture of conspiratorial ethnic alliances.
There is nothing to be nostalgic about in the practice of the parliamentary system as witnessed at the federal level of political governance until its deserved death on 15 January 1966. The emergence of the PDP and the APC, as broad-based political parties, has revealed the centralising influence of the presidency and proved beyond reasonable doubt that there is no place for ethnic political parties in the current dispensation. The future of the party system depends on how disciplined the politicians can be, as well as the sophistication of the electorate.
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Beyond Mugabe: The Other Vultures In Harare

Beyond Mugabe: The Other Vultures In Harare


Azu Ishiekwene

Robert Mugabe overstayed his welcome by miles. But he wouldn’t come this far without the support of his former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the ruling ZANU-PF party and the military top brass. They were in it together.

Ordinary Zimbabweans wanted Mugabe out at least over a decade ago. The clearest expression of that was in 2008 when they voted Morgan Tsvangarai of the Movement for Democratic Change in a general election later stolen by ZANU-PF after the first round of voting.

Mugabe’s party didn’t only stop at stealing the vote. The government used massive violence against the opposition and ordinary citizens who were protesting. To teach him a lesson, the government arranged two near-fatal car accidents for Tsvangarai.

That was a watershed moment. After 2008, the country descended rapidly into chaos. While Mugabe and his inner circle clung onto wartime memories of the guerrilla struggle against Ian Smith and other colonialists, the rest of the country wrestled with a harsh existence and a hopeless future. Many either migrated or were forced into exile.

After a promising start in 1980, Zimbabwe has become a disaster in Mugabe’s handcart: one Zimbabwe, one Mugabe.

But none of this happened behind Mnangagwa’s back. He was Mugabe’s right hand man and vice president since 2014. He has been linked to some of the most repressive actions of the government, including the alleged killing of nearly 20,000 people in Matabeleland after the government threw Joshua Nkomo under the bus.

As inner circles go, they don’t get closer than Mnangagwa, described by one writer as the steel behind Mugabe’s iron fist.

In a rare public admission that his country was unraveling Mugabe complained last year that $15 billion worth of diamonds were pillaged. Fingers have been pointing up and down Mugabe’s inner circle where Mnangagwa had a front seat.

The buck must stop with Mugabe but it would be naïve to assume that those who propped up his regime for 37 years are suddenly latter-day saints. Mnangagwa and the military top brass stepped in not necessarily to save Zimbabwe but to manage the transition to their own advantage.

It was self-preservation first. Zimbabwe was accidental to the coup. If Mnangagwa was not removed last month, he would still have found a way to manage the bitter power struggle and, perhaps, kept the military, the party and other renegades at bay.

There were rumours that after Mnangagwa’s removal the military top brass got wind that they would be next on the firing line. They struck to preempt Mugabe.

Grace Mugabe was a bad influence all right, a caricature of Marie Antoinette who at the height of her insolence asked French peasants to eat cake if they could no longer afford bread.

Many Zimbabweans could neither afford cake nor bread.

Yet, Grace was overrated. She might have had an ambition to succeed her husband, but it’s difficult to see how she could cut a path through the gerontocratic labyrinth of Zimbabwe’s ultra-conservative ruling party. Many feared her, but in party circles, she was a loathed outsider, an interloper who could be contained, as long as there was money to spend.

The thing that Mnangagwa and co worried about the most was not Grace or Jonathan Moyo or any of the other contestants for power around Mugabe. It was the unknown, the X-factor, that terrified them.

The fear that the Old Fox might pass on without an orderly transfer of power was what united and terrified his inner circle the most.

They moved in to stave off their worst personal and collective fears, treating Mugabe with respect partly out of a sense of history but mostly out of a sense of gratitude for the gravy train of the last 37 years.

When Mugabe’s government nationalised white-owned businesses, his cronies were the major beneficiaries of the assets from farms to steel and from nickels to diamonds. They won’t forget that in a hurry.

Even though the country has come under severe sanctions that has further pauperised most of its citizens, its elite, especially Mnangagwa and those in the inner circle, have continued to live in the other Zimbabwe where privileged access guarantees them the best things in life.

The last thing they wanted was a transition over which they would have no control – or worse, an upheaval.

I perfectly understand the outpouring of joy in the streets of Harare. We’ve seen it many times before in the streets of Lagos, Accra and other African capitals. But Zimbabweans will soon find that no soldier carries out a coup – even a slow-motion coup like the one we saw last week – to help civilians get back their footing.

Mugabe has gone but the accident of self-interest that removed him also gives Zimbabweans a chance to hold to account all those who ran the country aground in cahoots with him.

The protracted negotiations with Mugabe even when it seemed the army had him over a barrel, should serve as a lesson. Zimbabweans are on a long road and the post-1980 generation that has watched protests mostly on TV must now prepare for a tortuous journey.

In these uncertain, early days, the wolves in sheep’s clothing would roam the land distancing themselves from the odious past that they had been a part of and promising Zimbabweans heaven on earth.

Mugabe is past tense. But the public must keep an eye on Mnangagwa, the generals and remnants of the ZANU-PF. Everyone who has seen a palace coup knows that the more things change, the more they remain the same.

If Zimbabweans are in doubt, they should ask Nigerians or any of their neighbours in West Africa.

– Ishiekwene is the Managing Director/Editor-In-Chief of The Interview and member of the board of the Global Editors Network.
Culled from Leadership