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The Expressway to Anarchy

The Expressway to Anarchy

Senate President, Bukola Saraki and House of Representatives Speaker, Yakubu Dogara

The Verdict By Olusegun Adeniyi, Email: olusegun.adeniyi@thisdaylive.com

Let nobody be deceived, none of the actors in the game of political brinksmanship going on within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is thinking about the people of Nigeria: It is all about retaining powers and privileges. Has anybody, for instance, wondered why neither the executive nor the legislative arm of government has intervened on the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) certificate scandal involving the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun? That is simply because their interest is the same on that sordid matter.

Therefore, no matter the pretensions to the contrary, the ongoing power struggle is not about the people and their welfare. At a period the population keeps growing amid shrinking opportunities and pervasive poverty even as the number of out-of-school children is increasing by the day, the only response from many of the politicians who now command national attention is to produce Nollywood video to celebrate their ‘home my home’. I am just going to sit by and enjoy all the drama while taking some notes that could prove useful one day.

However, I am also aware that when Nigerian politicians get desperate, as APC leaders on both sides of the divide are right now, danger is not too far away for the polity. When adjournment of a federal legislative house becomes a cynical political weapon, when public officials who are supposed to be fighting corruption begin to wear the campaign lapel of the president as part of their daily uniform to beam searchlights only on regime opponents and when leading ‘transmission’ agents behave like muscle men for Aso Rock, democracy is definitely imperilled.

As an aside, I find it particularly amusing that when a similar drama is staged and restaged at different times in our country, the actors never improve on their performances. In June 2011 when a new session of the National Assembly was to commence, President Goodluck Jonathan did not want Hon Aminu Tambuwal to be speaker so it was felt that the easiest way to achieve that was for the police and other security agencies to prevent the current Sokoto State governor from accessing the National Assembly on inauguration day. At the end, Tambuwal still beat hundreds of security men to arrive at the House of Representatives and the rest, as they say, is now history.

When, in 2014, some members were to decamp from the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the APC, efforts to prevent the House from sitting failed rather spectacularly. Now fast-forward to June 2015. In an attempt to prevent Dr Bukola Saraki from becoming the Senate President, both his residence and the premises of the National Assembly were invaded by the police and other security outfits. Yet, Saraki managed to find his way into the Senate chambers to achieve his ambition. And despite the early morning drama of Tuesday, the Senate still had their session where some APC members decamped to the PDP.

The question then is: How can security outfits that serially bungle simple operations like keeping politicians in their bedrooms to prevent them from mischief handle complex national security challenges? That is why a dead and ‘fatally wounded’ Abubakar Shekau has ‘reincarnated’ again and again to threaten our peaceful existence even as sundry criminal cartels are now on the prowl, turning our country into a huge killing field. While these are issues for another day, it would appear that some people are playing the Peruvian Fujimori script of the nineties but students of history also know how that misadventure eventually ended. It is therefore in the interest of President Muhammadu Buhari to call to order those who may be abusing their powers in his name.

Meanwhile, the real danger to our democracy today is not the shenanigan of politicians jumping from one political party to another but rather the disobedience to court order and the justifications being provided by the Attorney General and Justice Minister, Mr Abubakar Malami, SAN, who ordinarily should defend the rule of law. From the continued detention of Sheikh Ibraheem Elzakzaky and his wife despite the order of the Federal High Court for their release to the consistent disobedience of no fewer than six successful bail application rulings on the former National Security Adviser (NSA), Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd), it should worry critical stakeholders that our courts are being rendered impotent.

With the example set by the federal government, it is also becoming increasingly common for state governments to ignore court orders they consider unfavourable. Yet the greater implication is that when those who swore to uphold the law treat the court with contempt, they are only unwittingly sowing the seeds of anarchy because what they encourage is for citizens to resort to self-help in settling disputes. Besides, no rational investor will bring their money to an environment where court judgements are treated with scorn so the implications for the economy are also enormous.

It may be useful at this point to put the whole issue within the context of an ongoing global debate. We are at a period in history when the age-old issue about strong man and strong institution is resurfacing, especially given what is happening in the United States. In a 6th February 2017 piece titled, “Will Donald Trump be the one to put rogue courts in their place?”, following a temporary stay against the ban of foreigners from seven countries granted by a federal judge in Seattle, popular American radio talk-host, Mr Steve Deace, advocated that President Trump should disobey the order. “Despite his dominant personality, Trump officially became just another Republican president this week. Handcuffed from doing the people’s will by a pernicious lie whose bluff should’ve been called a long time ago”, wrote Deace.

Incidentally, it is not only people like Deace who believe an American president could act above the law, there are also respected politicians who rationalise such viewpoints. “We have had an executive branch that has emasculated itself by surrendering constantly to the idea that once the court says something, that’s it; it’s the law of the land,” argued Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor, on Fox News before he added that he was “glad to see” Trump attacking James Robart, the Seattle judge who had blocked key parts of his executive order. At the time, Trump had actually commented wryly: “We’re going to see what happens. You know, some things are law, and I’m all in favour of that. And some things are common sense. This is common sense.”

I am making the foregoing point not only to highlight the tension between those who believe a president has absolute power to infringe on individual liberty under the guise of national security and those who argue that the court is the final arbiter in such matters but also to show that even the America that most of us see as the ideal is not a perfect system. The difference between us and America is that there are several layers of checks to the excesses of the president that are sorely lacking here with the most significant being the subordination of the military and security agencies to the Constitution and not the man in the White House!

In Nigeria, the primary responsibility of those who superintend those critical institutions of state is regime protection for whoever is in Aso Rock. That is why we cannot afford a situation in which the president and his enablers will also render our courts prostrate. Unfortunately, in an incoherent interview with the Voice of America (VOA) Hausa Service last week, Malami rationalized the disobedience to court orders in the Dasuki case on grounds that the former NSA, who is yet to be convicted of any offence, was “instrumental to the death of over 100,000 people” because “there was massive mismanagement of funds meant for military hardware which the military could not access and that led to the death of many.”

What that says quite clearly is that Dasuki has already been convicted by the federal government so you wonder what role the court still has to play in his case. Incidentally, it is the same disposition that the administration has adopted on Elzakzaky as well as in the war against corruption. Once you are accused of an offence you are deemed guilty, regardless of whatever the courts say and notwithstanding that they may even not be able to produce any credible evidence beyond the nebulous blackmail line of “corruption is fighting back.”

According to Mr Femi Falana, SAN, it is the height of contempt which smacks of official impunity for any public official to justify the disobedience of a valid and subsisting order of a properly constituted court of law. “Even under the defunct military dictatorship in Nigeria, detainees were released from illegal custody once the detention orders issued pursuant to the obnoxious State Security Detention of Persons Decree No 2 of 1984 were set aside by the law court”, said Falana.

He is not alone. At a public lecture at the faculty of law, University of Lagos, on 31st May this year, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen warned about the possible effects of disobeying court orders. “Any government that is against the enthronement of the rule of law is by implication inviting anarchy into the system. A democratic government must not only obey the law but also courts’ orders,” Onnoghen said.

Against the background that so much song and dance was made of a recent invitation of President Buhari to The Hague by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the 20th anniversary, one wonders whether this administration worries about its predilections for hypocrisy. At the ICC event, President Buhari said the co-operation of Nigeria with the Court “is borne out of our strong belief in the respect for the rule of law and human rights, and in our firm commitment to the sanctity of fundamental freedoms at international and domestic levels as ingrained in the objectives for establishing the Court.”

Speaking at the 2017 All Nigerian Judges’ conference last November, CJN Onnoghen said while Nigerians easily refer to the Supreme Court judgment on the Kenyan presidential election to conclude that the judiciary in that country is doing better than ours, they “forget to mention that President Uhuru Kenyatta promptly accepted the judgment annulling his victory and agreed to a re-run against his opponent”. I hope President Buhari will get the message and begin to accord more respect for the rule of law in Nigeria.

On the Dasuki and Elzakzakky cases, it is not enough to cite the usual higher national security excuses for their continued incarceration against the law. If indeed these excuses have substance, they ought to have been canvassed in court. A situation where government casually undermines the very foundation of democracy under excuses hinged on ‘the reason of state’ is a ready escape into the realm of autocracy. Considerations of ‘national security’ cannot be a leeway for any government to cherry-pick which laws to obey and which to arrogantly disregard.

Equality of the government and the governed, irrespective of circumstance, is the highest aspiration of all democratic culture. The private whims of an individual leadership must therefore not in any way be disguised as national security nor should we allow autocratic flirtations to undermine this fragile democracy even with all its imperfections.

Abuja Teens Conference!
If you reside in Abuja and environ and you have children/wards in their teens, please be informed that online registration for the 2018 Abuja Teens Career Conference has commenced on http://www.rccgteapteens.org where all the relevant information (including about past editions) can also be glimpsed. Only those who register online will be allowed to attend the conference with the theme, ‘if you can dream it, you can make it happen!’

• You can follow me on my Twitter handle, @Olusegunverdict and on http://www.olusegunadeniyi.com

Culled From ThisDay

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Fake Buhari by Sonala Olumhense

Fake Buhari

Sonala Olumhense

The All Progressives Congress has won back the Ekiti governorship. It is a story that should only have attracted jokes, not big headlines, because there was no reason for former governor Kayode Fayemi not to have regained the job handily.

But he didn’t, not easily and not without controversy. Election observers reported that APC, like its PDP counterpart, engaged in vote-buying, thuggery and intimidation. “Party agents had huge cash and were close to voting points,” one electoral observer said. “Security agents were indifferent to cash inducement of voters…”

The government of President Muhammadu Buhari ferried 30,000 policemen into Ekiti for “security,” an election trick to protect the ambition of the power in Abuja. In 2014, the same manoeuvre served the PDP well on its way to “victory” for Fayose.

It is little surprise then that the Centre for Credible Leadership and Citizens Awareness in Abuja, among others, described disturbing “arrests of political stalwarts by security agents and snatching of electoral materials by political thugs.”

Clearly, given that Nigeria operates no state police system, those arrests were not done by the PDP. What is equally curious is how to explain political thuggery in the full view of 60,000 police eyes.

But the electoral commission, as is its character in these situations, swiftly served the interest of the ruling party by chalking up one for President Buhari.

Two days later, in an anniversary speech he gave at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the Nigeria leader bragged that his country’s general elections in 2019 would be “free and fair.”

But he did not tell his listeners his party had just won a state election with some dubious methods.

In other words, election-manipulation is alive and well under his watch, and it is anybody’s guess how much of the N242.45bn he requested of the National Assembly for the elections will go into buying votes by the APC.

Of equal importance, it is notable that a sizable new effort is going into selling Buhari, who is running for re-election, the government seizing every opportunity to put him up for polishing. But if votes needed to be bought in Ekiti where Fayemi was popular, to what extent will Buhari—who is considerably less popular than he was four years ago, dispense with “free and fair”?

Providing eloquent warning in this regard was an effusive “press statement” following Buhari’s performance at The Hague, signed by presidential spokesman Femi Adesina, in which he gushed about “Mr. Integrity” and how much the world adores him.

Adesina described witnessing President Buhari around the world as he spoke to various multilateral bodies. And then: “I have been on the entourage of President Muhammadu Buhari to scores of countries round the world, I have seen how he is well respected by global leaders, and how that reverence rubs off on Nigeria. I tell you, despite all the challenges our country currently faces, we have a leader the world adulates. His honesty, integrity, transparency, love for his country, personal discipline, and many others, are stuff that fairy tales are made of.”

Mr. Adesina misunderstands, or is mischievous about, two things. The first is the nature of international engagement. When a Head of State or Government addresses an international forum, it is normally followed by applause, sometimes even a standing one. That is normal diplomatic practice, and only arrogance, ignorance or mischief can interpret it as personal approval. I have sat through thousands of such speeches: both heroes and scoundrels are accorded the same reception.

To be sure, some speeches are less pretentious or perfunctory than others. Some speakers are potent orators, while others describe genuine accomplishments.

The difference with Nigeria today is that there is a clear ramping-up of applause for Buhari by his team that is not in consonance with the feelings of Nigerians. Buhari does not speak to Nigerian audiences, and the real measure of a leader is when he speaks to his own people in a democratic setting. Any leader can pretend and tell lies abroad, and they often do.

Nonetheless, as I have often said in this column, a speech, no matter how elevated the platform on which it is delivered, is not an achievement. That counts twice if the words are penned by a hired wordsmith.

Of Buhari’ speech at the Hague, Adesina was foaming with joy: “The applause was thunderous, as a man of integrity, Mai Gaskiya (the honest man) concluded his address. It was a day of glory for Nigeria, and all Nigerians of goodwill. Truly, a prophet often has more honour outside, than in his own country. But then, this prophet undoubtedly has honour everywhere.”

And here is part of a soliloquy on Twitter on Thursday by presidential aide Lauretta Onochie: “Ques: Why is the world fascinated by the man, Buhari? Ans: With the greedy and corrupt leaders we had for nearly 17 years, no one believed a saintly leader could ever emerge from our Nigeria…”

Saintly?

Let us see if the evidence backs the propaganda. The first problem is Buhari’s narrative, because he defines corruption only as stealing money. While he may have never stolen one kobo personally, he has no problem surrounding himself with those who have, or in protecting anyone close by whose character is challenged. He has not been tested for accepting gifts.

Integrity? Two of his closest officials have been exposed in the past two weeks for certificate-forgery, with Buhari eerily silent. Is pretending to be holy the same thing as being holy?

Buhari runs a system in which, by definition, nobody near him or appointed by him can be probed, or if probed, prosecuted. “Semi-honest” is not a compliment.

Buhari last week stood in front of the ICC talking about the rule of law, conveniently ignoring the fact, among others, that he has refused to publish the lists of looters ordered by two Nigerian courts, thereby protecting the looters.

Buhari talked incessantly about accountability until Nigerians gave him the presidency. Is it talking about something or doing it that gets the job done?

How does Buhari derive saintliness from the strange case of Abdulrasheed Maina, a fugitive who, under his superintendence, was recalled to federal service with unprecedented semi-military security protection, given a double promotion, and paid his entitlements?

In 2016, a scandal erupted concerning the illegal hiring by the Central Bank of nearly 100 relatives and candidates of privileged Nigerians, including Buhari. Similarly, last month, it was revealed that a scholarship scheme for trainee railway engineers being offered by the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation has been hijacked by government officials. Is that not the PDP’s playbook?

Has Buhari read the scandalous 2016 report of the Auditor-General of the Federation, which, like the 2015 report, is loaded with scandal and embarrassment? And did he hear the Auditor-General say that since Buhari took office more government offices have refused to be reviewed?

Let it be clear: the more Buhari apologists and propagandists insist on his fake narrative, the more important it is to challenge it, because even the PDP did not stoop so low.

And because the Buhari of their imagination is dangerously fake.

Between Nigeria Airways and Nigeria Air

Between Nigeria Airways and Nigeria Air

Simon Kolawole

Anytime Senator Hadi Sirika, minister of state for aviation, spoke about setting up a “national carrier”, I always switched off. Even though I like his ideas — and I still salute his single-mindedness in closing down the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, for a critical runway reconstruction last year — I just could not see eye-to-eye with him on the matter of a national carrier. It was going to be a waste of time and resources, I argued. I had evidence. For decades, the Nigerian government has satisfactorily shown that it cannot run any business professionally. There is no single commercial entity run by the government that does well. We always end up burning money.

The defunct national airline, Nigeria Airways, started off so well in 1958 but eventually crashed in 2003 as the Nigerian disease of mismanagement ate it up. Its business class seats were reserved for government officials and their cronies, girlfriends and families — most of whom flew free of charge. That is the way government business is run in our country. Nigeria Airways flew from turbulence to turbulence despite the economic opportunities in the aviation industry. Ethiopian Airlines, Kenya Airways and South African Airways, owned by their respective governments, were doing fairly well but our own Nigeria Airways was descending both in service quality and profitability.

President Olusegun Obasanjo assumed office in 1999 lamenting that Nigeria Airways had 32 aircraft when he left office as military ruler in 1979. Twenty years later, only one aircraft was functional. He promised to revive the airline. I was in the team of journalists that flew to South Africa in 2000 for the signing of a “lucrative” code-sharing deal with South African Airways on the Johannesburg-Lagos-New York route. We were told the deal would breathe a new life into Nigeria Airways. It was only on paper. While SAA is still going strong, our own national airline finally collapsed under heavy debts in 2003 — unable to keep head above water despite subventions and subsidies.

The climax of the sad Nigeria Airways story, as narrated by a passenger, was in May 2002. A New York-Lagos flight was delayed for 24 hours because the airline couldn’t pay for fuel. Passengers had to contribute to fuel the aircraft. One passenger gave a loan of $5,000 to the airline. It turned out to be the last flight. Another sad story is that of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL), set up by government in 1959. It sank in 1995 under the weight of debts and mismanagement. All its 21 vessels were sold off. With these stories at the back of my mind, I was not excited when the Buhari administration started talking about setting up a “national carrier”.

But I am having a rethink with the unveiling of the Nigeria Air brand on Wednesday. Sirika said the federal government will own only 5% as well as raise the start-up capital for operations to commence in December. He said it is going to be a public private partnership (PPP) to be privately managed. Investors will own the remaining 95%. There is already an international drive to market the venture to partners and investors. The proposed carrier is expected to be a major player in the aviation sector, serving domestic, regional and international routes. The business projection is that in five years, it will be carrying four million passengers and boasting of a fleet of 30 aircraft.

For starters, “national carrier” is not the same as “national airline”. Many commentators are getting the two mixed up. A “national carrier” flies the country’s flag and gets preferential treatment in international operations while a “national airline” is owned by the government. A national carrier, sometimes called flag carrier, does not have to be government-owned. There are different models. For instance, British Airways is the UK flag carrier but it is not owned by the British government. It’s the same for Lufthansa (Germany) and Japan Airlines. But Ethiopian Airlines and EgyptAir are 100% state-owned. Kenya Airways was wholly state-owned until 1996. It is now public-private.

Actually, my interest in Nigeria Air is fuelled by many factors. One, government will not have a say in the management. With 5% stake, it will be a minority shareholder. If the airline runs well, therefore, Nigeria will be reaping dividends rather than burning subventions. We will now have to pray that Nigeria Air will not be managed by the mindless and clueless Nigerian big men and buccaneers who have not the foggiest idea about how the airline business is run. There are too many failed examples in our aviation industry. The success of Nigeria Air will depend on the quality of management. But, to start with, the government will not be involved. That sounds better.

Two, the benefit of solid start-up capital means we can be assured of good aircraft. When Arik launched operations in 2006, its selling point was the “tear rubber” (brand new) aircraft. Despite all its troubles, Arik’s safety record is still intact. That is a benefit of a well-invested capital and maintenance. I once argued that government should invest in businesses that require huge capital outlay in order to spark off investors’ interest. When no investor was interested in building hotels in Abuja, federal government built Hilton and Sheraton, which it later privatised. Can you count the number of hotels in Abuja today?

Three, Nigeria is not enjoying much benefit from its bilateral air service agreements (BASA). For instance, British Airways flies to Lagos and Abuja daily and Virgin Atlantic flies to Lagos also daily, but there is no Nigerian airline flying to the UK. Not even one flight! You are not likely to find this anomaly in many countries with a huge market like ours. According to Sirika, Nigeria Air will fly 41 international routes, in addition to 81 domestic and 40 regional. If anything, virtually every sector of the Nigerian economy should benefit from the business, not forgetting the little matter of job creation in a country direly trying to tackle unemployment.

Four, the fact that government is investing in a business does not mean it is doomed. A ready example is Nigeria LNG Limited, in which government owns 49% but which it does not run. It is one of the best NLGs in the world. If it was run by government, it would have become another NNPC — which is just a sleazy centre for the distribution of political patronage. We have not only recovered our investment in NLNG, we have continued to enjoy the fruits of our seed capital. Therefore, that government is investing in an idea does not necessarily doom it. What makes the difference is who manages it. The government must not have the power to play patronage politics with Nigeria Air.

Five, economists will say everything has an opportunity cost. I agree that the money government is going to invest in Nigeria Air can be used for other pressing needs in education, healthcare, water, roads, bridges, and so on. However, the fact that we need roads and schools does not mean we don’t need to improve options for Nigerian travellers and incentivise competition in the aviation space. We can do many things simultaneously. One does not stop the other. And given the expected multiplier effect, this looks like an investment worth making, all things being equal. It is more than national pride — it is sowing seed in an economic driver.

All said and done, I still have my reservations. Virgin Nigeria was running fairly well until the Nigerian factor ruined it. Its successor, Air Nigeria, was a natural disaster. Arik was considerably successful until it was infected by the Nigerian disease of mismanagement. Our Nigerian “billionaires” are always guaranteed government bail-out whenever they ruin their businesses. The moral hazard encourages bad behaviour. If Nigeria Air ends up in the hands of these buccaneers, then its fall will be mightier than that of Nigeria Airways. Ironically, Nigeria Airways was profitable when it was managed by KLM. Nigerians took over in the 1980s and… (please help me complete the sentence).

Lest I forget, there is still a lot of housekeeping to be done by Sirika. From the comments I have read on twitter, ex-workers of Nigeria Airways are still being owed. In September 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari approved N45 billion for the settlement of their severance benefits. The national assembly did not pass it. This issue has to be resolved before we can start a new carrier. Also, investors are expected to inject between $150 million and $300million over a number of years. We need to know how much in total Nigeria will be committing to it and how the funds will be raised. We can use all the transparency at this stage. Already, the PDP has described it as a scam.

Finally, my understanding is that PPP has three stages — development, procurement and implementation. The idea has been developed. That is what we saw with the unveiling of the brand at the Farnborough Airshow in the UK last week where the biggest guys in the global industry usually gather. The next phase is procurement. Where will we get the funds to pay for the aircraft? Will it a recoverable loan from the federal government? Will we source funds from Exim Bank, AfDB or commercial banks? We need to know. Investors are expected to inject at least $150 million by 2019. Have investors started showing interest? We need answers, Senator Sirika.

AND FOUR OTHER THINGS

THE DASUKI DRAMA
Except there is a supernatural dimension to this issue, I still don’t know why the federal government will not release Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) from detention. The former national security adviser has been granted bail by the court countless times. Our great attorney-general, Mallam Abubakar Malami, says Dasuki was responsible for the death of 100,000 people and will not be released on bail. Does that mean Dasuki is already serving a prison sentence? Normally, it is a court of law that pronounces an accused guilty. The attorney-general would be better off arguing his case against bail in court. But he has now assumed the role of a judge. And he is even a SAN! Nigeria!!!

NYSC SAGA
While we await the final word on the controversial NYSC discharge certificate of Mrs Kemi Adeosun, the minister of finance, I must confess that I have learnt a lot from this saga. For one, I never knew you have to serve even if you are 60 — as long as you graduated before clocking 30. I just assumed if you return to Nigeria after 30, you will be exempted. I also never knew that even if you never set a foot on Nigerian soil, as long as one of your parents is a Nigerian, you are automatically a Nigerian. Meanwhile, now that a generation of Nigerians are schooling abroad, I hope their parents will remind them to come home and serve, even if they will still return to live abroad. Lessons.

EKITI TEST
The Ekiti governorship election was keenly fought. Dr. Kayode Fayemi won a battle that definitely took a bit of a bounce off the steps of PDP in their bid to oust APC from Aso Rock in 2019. There were reports of vote-buying by both parties (which supports my position that the PVC is highly overrated). There is also the technical bit of 18,857 voided ballots and Fayemi’s victory margin of 19,338. But even if you give all the voided votes to PDP, APC would still win. Nonetheless, I am in support of litigation by PDP. Whatever we need to do, legally, to strengthen our practice of democracy must be done. And yes, I’m so happy that nobody was killed on election day. Progress.

AND FINALLY…
It is called Freudian slip, right? Shortly after the announcement of the result of Ekiti governorship election, an excited Twitter handler at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) poetically tweeted: “The parri is over; The cloak of immunity torn apart, and the staff broken. #Ekiti Integrated Poultry Project/Biological Concepts Limited N1.3bn fraud case file dusted off the shelves. See you soon.” The tweet was eventually deleted. However, Mr. Ayo Fayose, the outgoing governor, would still be without immunity even if his candidate had won. Although it appeared as if Fayose himself was a candidate in the election, the EFCC guy was still overzealous. Pathetic.

Source: ThisDay

Africa is leaving Nigeria behind

Africa is leaving Nigeria behind

By Simon Kolawole

You should have seen me shaking my head in self-pity, as if somebody had just mercilessly slapped me. I had just landed at the “little” Kotoka International Airport, Accra, Ghana, and needed to use the rest room. What I saw startled me. There were about a dozen toilet cubicles. All the doors were standing tall — none was hanging loose. I also saw a row of urinals in sparkling conditions. The rest room was so clean, so odour-free you could comfortably have your lunch in there without endangering your health. Water flowed freely. There was tissue paper in abundance. The lights were bright. Not a single bulb was bad. I used the toilet and walked away impressed — and depressed.

I returned to Lagos the day after and visited the toilets at the “massive” Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA). The first cubicle I opened nearly made me throw up. I covered my nose and retreated. I finally found one that was manageable; the door latch was gone, but since it was the minor business I wanted to do, I soldiered on. To my pleasant surprise, the toilet flushed, and I was grateful. Meanwhile, just in front of the toilets were five cleaners talking on top of their voices about the Belgium-Japan match at the World Cup in Russia. After using the toilet, I walked away depressed. We spend billions maintaining this airport every year.

This experience set me thinking again. I started my opinion-writing career by comparing Nigeria with Europe. I then began consoling myself by saying since the Europeans started their development trajectory centuries ahead of us, comparison was improper. It is like comparing the speed of a five-year-old with that of a teenager. I enjoyed the consolation while it lasted. I decided benchmark us against Asia, with focus on Dubai, Singapore and South Korea. At least, we had similar stories as at 1960 when we began life as an independent country. Comparison with Asia also left me distressed. Their pace of development is such that many Asian countries can now compete with Europe.

I decided to lower the bar further by saying that “after all, we are better than most sub-Saharan African countries”. It got that pathetic. But I have finally decided to stop living in denial. The rest of Africa is fast leaving Nigeria behind. Let me complete my airport stories before I delve into the evidence. It is only in Nigeria that you have two officials checking your passport — first by the DSS and then immigration. I have travelled to quiet a number of countries. Nigeria is just incredible. Only one official checks your passport in Accra, or any other country for that matter. What exactly is the reason for this sickening anomaly in Nigeria? Is this a cherished relic from the military regimes?

I acknowledge that some things changed after Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, as acting president, paid an unscheduled visit to the MMIA. We no longer unzip our bags for searches by officials of DSS, NDLEA and Customs at check-in counters. This primitive practice has stopped. Praise the Lord. However, I still see leaking roofs at the airport, with buckets placed at strategic points to harvest rain water. I will avoid talking about the air conditioning system which works only when it pleases. This is the airport for which passengers pay $60 as service charge to FAAN, the landlords, anytime they buy tickets. This sorry story is similar at other “international” airports. And Nigeria is the Giant of Africa.

I have written only about the Accra airport in comparison to our MMIA so as to contain my frustration. I will intentionally ignore the newly opened Blaise Diagne International Airport, Senegal, the adorable Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, Ethiopia, and the elegant Félix-Houphouët-Boigny International Airport, Côte d’Ivoire. I do not want to inflict myself with hypertension. But the point has to be made that although we like to talk big and act big and claim to have a massive population and humongous petrodollars, we are a disgrace to Africa. We cannot even build modern cubicles for immigration and customs checks!

The efficiency with which airports are run in these other African countries is not even the main reason for this article. While the airports are important as they are central to travel, tourism and trade — in addition to marketing the image of Nigeria — I am more worried about critical things that are happening in other African countries for which Nigeria is shamelessly lagging behind. Ethiopia has launched a metro rail line in Addis Ababa. The project was delivered within six years (despite delays) for less than $500 million. It is the first light rail project in sub-Saharan Africa. It handles 15,000 passengers per hour across 39 stations in the capital city. And Nigeria is the Giant of Africa.

God only knows the billions of dollars we have pumped into railways in the last 20 years with haphazard results, mostly buying toothpick for the price of toothpaste — to quote the immortal Dr Chuba Okadigbo. Only last year, Kenya inaugurated its standard gauge railway project covering about 470 kilometres. It took just three-and-a-half years to build. A presidential term is four years. The terminals look like international airports. Travel time between Nairobi and Mombasa has now been reduced from 15 hours by bus to only four hours and 30 minutes by rail. Imagine being able to travel from Abuja to Lagos by rail within five hours. And Nigeria is the Giant of Africa.

The amazing thing about such audacious and well-executed infrastructure projects is not just that they ease life and business — they also create jobs during and after construction. The direct and indirect benefits are limitless. And, ironically, we do not even have to spend one kobo of our money if we get the framework right. Many African countries are beginning to understand how it works. Asky Airlines has made Lomé-Tokoin International Airport, Togo, its West Africa hub. More than 90% of the passengers are just passing through the airport for onward connection not just to West African countries but also to places such as India, US and Brazil. And Nigeria is the Giant of Africa.

In 2005, Nigeria launched the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) with a promise of “universal coverage” by 2015. That means all Nigerians, with emphasis on the poor, will be enrolled on the scheme so that they do not have to pay cash for medical treatment. Rwanda came to study our NHIS some years later. Today, Rwanda has achieved nearly 100% coverage and statistics on maternal and infant health are among the best in the world. Nigeria? We are stuck at 3% — and we got that far because of the compulsory enrolment of civil servants. NHIS is now more about billions of naira to be manipulated by government officials and HMOs. And Nigeria is the Giant of Africa.

Maybe I should stop talking infrastructure and focus on governance. The prime minister of Ethiopia, Abiy Ahmed, during the week sacked five senior prisons bosses accused of human rights violations and other misconduct. The government said the needs of prisoners had not been adequately met and their human rights had not been respected. In Nigeria, thousands of people are languishing in police cells all over the country, routinely subjected to torture. We either deny or ignore it. Tens of thousands are in prison awaiting trial for years under the most inhuman conditions. They are transforming to living skeletons. No one ever gets punished. And Nigeria is the Giant of Africa.

Lest I forget, President Peter Mutharika of Malawi is currently being investigated by the country’s anti-graft body over allegations that he received kickback from a $3.9 million contract. The entire cost of the contract is not even up to the pocket money (also known as “security vote”) of many Nigerian governors. In Nigeria, we can’t probe a former president much less a sitting one. In Kenya, Busia county governor Sospeter Ojaamong has been charged to court for awarding a contract that was not included in the budget. Can you imagine that? Who cares about what is in the budget in Nigeria? Just take the money and spend like crazy. We are the Giant of Africa.

Still in Kenya, the public prosecutor last week ordered the arrest of two farm managers and government officials over a dam that collapsed and killed more than 47 persons two months ago. The nine government officials would be prosecuted for manslaughter and neglect of duty. Who holds anybody responsible for anything in Nigeria? In 2014, 16 young Nigerians died during a badly organised recruitment by the Nigeria Immigration Service. The minister of interior, Abba Moro, described them as “unruly”. Why not? He knew he would not have to resign, neither would anybody hold him responsible for the deaths. And Nigeria is the Giant of Africa.

In the year 2001, poorly stored bombs went off at the Ikeja Cantonment, spreading panic all over Lagos. Over 1,000 lay dead at the end of the unprecedented mishap. President Olusegun Obasanjo visited the scene a few days later and famously asked an agitated protester to “shut up”, boasting that he was not even supposed to be in Lagos in any case. The world leader that he was, he was scheduled to be outside the country looking for the legendary foreign investors. Ain’t we lucky he came down to earth to visit Lagos over the tragedy? In the end, nobody resigned and nobody was punished over the catastrophe. That is the way we roll.

President Muhammadu Buhari recently said he ordered the inspector-general of police, Mr. Ibrahim Idris, to relocate to Benue state following the internecine killings in January. The president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and commander-in-chief of the armed forces later said he did not know that the IG was not in Benue as ordered by him. In other news, Idris was photographed cutting a giant birthday cake and having fun elsewhere while Benue was burning. He would not resign and nobody would sack him. That is our culture. That is the way we do it here. We are the Giant of Africa. We have moved from being a role model in 1960 to becoming a laughing stock. What hit us?

AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…
‘REFORMED’ APC

Since last year, we have been hearing that some politicians will defect from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to form a formidable opposition to President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election bid in 2019. It has taken forever but it seems it will still happen with the launch of “reformed APC” on Wednesday. I don’t know how far the R-APC can go in the game, but suddenly there is a growing belief that Buhari will have to sweat for re-election. I won’t be surprised if Buhari’s camp dismisses R-APC with a wave of the hand, but that would be a mistake. I must at this stage confess that things are getting more intriguing than I expected. Interesting.

TEACHERS AND THIEVES

Think you have seen it all? Let me give you one more. The federal government launched the school feeding programme to improve enrolment across the country. From several accounts, the programme is not doing badly. But according to Connecting Gender for Development (COGEN), a non-governmental organisation, some teachers in Kaduna state are eating part of the ration meant for pupils. As a result, the ration does not usually go round. What a country. We steal from public treasury, we steal from the living, we steal from the dead, we steal from the elderly and now we are stealing from the children. Is there any country like Nigeria on Planet Earth? Mindboggling.

UNITY IN DIVERSITY

I was a guest of the Unity Schools Old Students Association (USOSA) in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, last weekend where Senator Ahmed Makarfi gave a keynote on “Peace and Unity: The Role of Unity Schools”. I was in the panel of discussants. One thing that I walked away with is the value of promoting national integration through the diversity that these schools offer. My wife attended a Unity School up north and has kept most of her diverse relationships till today. It is a sad commentary that Unity Schools are increasingly limiting admissions to locals, thereby defeating the original objective of promoting national integration. Counterproductive.

AND FINALLY…

This is serious. A native doctor has been shot dead — accidentally, you would add — after his customer tested “bullet-proof” charm on him. Mr. Chinaka Adoezuwe, 26, had asked his customer to test the efficacy of the charm by using himself as the guinea pig. He must have been so sure of his supernatural powers. Unfortunately, his charms failed him. I know he is dead, but if he could reverse the hand of time, he should test the bullet-proof on a goat next time. Fela once did it. When the native doctor asked to test the charms, Fela suggested using a goat. You guessed right: the goat died. You win either way: you can, after all, make goat meat pepper soup if it fails. Wisdom.

Culled from TheCable

Ekiti: Overtake dey overtake overtake?

Ekiti: Overtake dey overtake overtake?

Sonala Olumhense

In case you have missed it, there is another political thriller on the way in Ekiti State, which this Saturday votes for a new governor.

There are 35 candidates, including former governor Kayode Fayemi. His closest rival is Kolapo Olusola, the current deputy governor and adopted candidate of the lame-duck governor, Ayodele Fayose.

Mr. Fayose, who had previously ruled between 2003 and 2006, took the office for the second time in 2014 after defeating Mr. Fayemi, who was seeking a second term.

But Fayemi’s loss was really no loss at all. In a state he had governed for four years, it turned out he had been savagely rigged out by the Peoples Democratic Party, which was in control at the centre, the controversial Fayose taking 56.34 per cent of the spoils to the incumbent’s 33.41.

Nothing might have been known about how that was accomplished but for the heroic intervention of Captain Sagir Koli, a soldier who, at great risk to life, limb and family, had secretly audio-recorded a rigging meeting of officials of the PDP in Ado-Ekiti days before the contest.

Koli, who had accompanied his superior officer to the meeting, subsequently leaked the recording, and then fled the country.

But it was irrelevant. Fayose, a man whose first tour of the governorship had involved extra-judicial killings that were confirmed by the Inspector-General of Police in 2006 and were outstanding, was back in charge. Although he was impeached for political malpractice and other offences, it was a sign of the times that eight years later, he emerged not only the PDP’s candidate, but one behind whom the party was willing to throw a lot of money and bend all the rules.

The irony is that this week, the glove is on the other hand: it is Fayemi’s party which holds sway at the centre. To that end, it is no surprise Fayose has been alleging rigging scenarios against the APC, conscious of the impunity with which his party had operated.

The more important question is whether APC can resist the temptation to “make sure” its candidate wins. President Muhammadu Buhari has already pledged to attend Fayemi’s inauguration.

In similar circumstances in 2014, President Jonathan travelled to Ekiti to campaign for Fayose, following which he sent Musiliu Obanikoro, his Minister of State for Defence, to coordinate a “winning” strategy. On the Koli tape, Obanikoro repeatedly asserts he is on a “special mission” for Mr. Jonathan.

Naturally, none of the men gathered around the table Koli taped said anything about rigging. But the government and the security agencies were well-represented, although that was unknown to the public and but for Koli would have been presented only as rumours.

For those who have forgotten, present were Brigadier General Aliyu Momoh, former Minister for Police Affairs Jelili Adesiyan, former Osun State Senator Iyiola Omisore, Anambra politician Chris Uba, and Mr. Fayose. Flush with power, they are overhead plotting to intimidate members of the APC; Fayose bullies and bribes the hapless General Momoh.

Days before that election, the Inspector-General of Police, MD Abubakar, confirmed the arrest of several persons who were allegedly found stuffing ballot boxes in a hotel owned by a PDP chieftain in Are-Ekiti, but nothing ever came of it. And then Momoh’s men prevented top members and governors of the APC from attending Fayemi’s political rally. Transportation Minister (then Rivers’ Governor) Rotimi Amaechi was forbidden from travelling by road; and APC Chairman (then Edo Governor) Adams Oshiomhole, from leaving Benin City.

Today, these are among the nation’s most powerful men, with mountains of funds and the same security forces on speed dial. Given the fractious and nervous state of the APC today—in addition to its ethical dubiousness and how much respect it has lost since 2015— can APC resist the temptation to be today’s PDP?

Of greater interest is Oshiomhole, who took his new office only days ago, just as the party began to come apart at the seams.

In an article last July, little knowing that within one year the former Edo Governor would emerge APC chairman, I wondered if he could in fact become Nigeria’s wildcard. I was commenting on the overly-generous and widely-criticised severance package he was offered by the Edo government, concerning which I had reluctantly supported his acceptance.

I felt that, given his unique story, he could help solve through federal law the messy problem of outgoing governors determining outrageous departure largesse for themselves. I asked: “Can he rise above narrow interests and fight for his country, bringing his brand of scorched-earth justice on every false tree and every withering branch?”

Now, Oshiomhole can. But does he see the trap ahead of him, or does he merely feel the power of the moment?

Oshiomhole arrives at a time of great decline and division for APC. It is a disease that has arisen from the same genes and weaknesses which ruined the PDP, helped on by lack of vision and willingness to pay the price of democracy.

For three years, APC forgot the mission. Worse still, it was too powerful to hear what Nigerians were saying. APC spoke to and listened to its ego.

Now that the party has glanced at the calender and discovered it is an election year, it is showing signs of stress and distress.

I don’t know if Nigerians will buy APC’s new snake oil, given all the lives and opportunities already squandered on the altar of convenience, planlessness and insincerity.

Three years later, APC’s sense of history has dwindled considerably. While other leaders in Buhari’s position speak about millions they have liberated and are liberating from poverty, the party Oshiomhole now leads brags about feeding a few thousand schoolchildren.

While some African leaders speak about building Germany-style autobahns and Switzerland-style rail, Buhari talks about dualisation of roads. While ministers and top security officials are thrown out of office elsewhere over a minor breach of civil rights, Buhari thinks he should not be blamed when he hypocritically superintends the loss of hundreds of lives.

This is the APC that Oshiomhole now leads, and it is the APC which will attempt to land big victories in next year’s federal elections. But that test, and of whether APC can see beyond its nose, begins in Ekiti this Saturday.

Given its ineptitude so far, can APC conduct free and fair elections? Fayose has lambasted Buhari’s government for three years; can the army and police, the heads of whom owe Buhari deep personal loyalty, protect the electoral process for Nigeria rather than for Buhari or against Fayose?

Culled from The Punch

Restructuring: Time for reason

Time for Reason

The Horizon By KAYODE KOMOLAFE

When politicians and social commentators say that this country has never been so divided, they are actually being euphemistic. The reality is indeed grave. For some forces appear hell- bent on setting this country on the path of destruction. Nigeria seems to be en route to Mogadishu with a stopover in Kigali.

Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, became a metaphor for genocide when in 1994 estimates of between 500, 000 and 1 million persons (mostly Tutsis) were killed within 100 days in the violence of the Hutus against the Tutsi. Hate speech was the fuel for that conflagration that drew universal horror. The good news, however, is that the dark chapter of Rwandan history is closed and the country is today a model of reform under a visionary leadership of President Paul Kagame. Unlike Rwanda, Somalia has hardly recovered from the civil war, which broke out in the country in 1988 and the subsequent overthrow of the dictator, Siad Barre, in 1991. By the way, there is no multiplicity of ethnicity in Somalia. The country is often cited as an example of a failed state under the rule of clannish warlords. The world is still waiting for the good news from Mogadishu, the troubled capital of Somalia.

Rwanda and Somalia are both instructive and sobering African stories.

Historically, there is probably no immunity against the failure of the state and the consequent national disintegration. That is why nation building is always a work in progress. Those cosy places to which members of the ruling class escape in moments of crisis are still being built by the leaders and people of the respective nations. Since the days of Plato and Aristotle, competent governance has always been a requirement for the state to maintain its integrity. A crisis-ridden country should, therefore, watch out for the signs of a failed state so that it would not unconsciously be on the road to Mogadishu, as they say.

The objective climate of insecurity in Nigeria is being subjectively worsened by the purveyors of hate in the public sphere. Lies, prejudice and hate are the effective weapons of mass manipulation. For some persons, Nigeria has simply ceased to exist subjectively even though they still operate within it objectively. Some of these elements still make billions from the poverty-stricken political economy. Yet, they speak of the country only in negative terms. These desperate forces perceive the forces of integration as naïve; whereas the real naivety is in assuming that there can ever be a bloodless disintegration of Nigeria. It’s not clear if some of the gladiators sometimes pause to do a proper scenario – building of what they wish for this country. Unfortunately, these forces of disintegration appear to be having the edge over the forces of integration. The voices of the prophets of doom are becoming more resonant.

Here lies the real danger of the moment.

Now, there is hardly any dispute about the imperative of making the Nigerian federalism work better by restructuring. Over centralization of items is simply not working. No rational person can question the elements of equity, fairness, efficiency and effectiveness as the condition for the union to last for generations. But the debacle seems to set in when you ponder the politics of restructuring. In other words, the real question is this: how exactly do you bring about restructuring? This question inexorably cropped up last Thursday in a quality colloquium in Lagos. It was organised by a highly reputable segment of the Yoruba elite, the Voice of Reason (VOR), whose motto is Agba kii wa l’oja k’ori omo tuntun wo (wise men do not stand by when things go wrong in the land). The VOR’s roll of honour is unquestionably inspiring for the young men and women seeking role models. The tone and tenor of the discussion were elevated even if sometimes provocative and reckless. Significantly, these members of the Yoruba elite invited the perspectives of the elites of other ethnic groups.

In fact, the VOR has demonstrated the seriousness of the group about its purpose by coming up with an attempt at a draft constitution to articulate its position on restructuring. The document, which VOR modestly describes as a “work in progress,” is entitled A Constitutional Framework for a Multi-Cultural Society.

However, the drawback of the occasion was that the severe limitation of the politics of restructuring was patently on display. Some of the suggestions were utterly tactless and, disappointingly, these views came from those who should know better by the virtue of their experience. A lot of historical distortions and misinterpretations were freely peddled. The emotion shown by a few was indeed frightening. Perhaps, this was what prompted the wise intervention of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Olisa Agbakoba, who challenged the gathering to the fact that the objectives of the advocates of restructuring might be impaired by the “harsh” tone of some of the southern participants in the debate when referring to their compatriots in the north. Agbakoba suggested in the alternative a robust engagement among elements from the various parts of the country. In this respect, reason, and not hate speech, would serve the purpose.

After all, what is federalism if not a continuous negotiation among the federating units and between the units on the one hand and the centre on the other?

Even if restructuring is accomplished today as defined by the contemporary, future generations of Nigerians might still have cause to restructure the federation to serve their own purpose. Maybe, no one could envisage the future purpose now. That is why decent advocates of restructuring such as the VOR should be wary of the merchants of hate and practitioners of anarchy. You cannot go far on the road to restructuring with a penchant for insulting people of other ethnic groups. That is not the way of decent negotiation. And you simply cannot restructure without being imbued with the spirit of negotiation in a complex setting such as Nigeria. It is only reasonable to learn how to play the politics of restructuring right.

So those who play with the fire of the fault-lines of ethnicity and religion are doing a great disservice to the cause of restructuring. A peaceful restructuring cannot be achieved by the cynical manipulation of religion and ethnicity.

In this respect, President Muhammadu Buhari should seize the moment by giving a coherent and illuminating response to the groundswell of opinions on restructuring. Buhari should simply go back to the manifesto of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), to be properly equipped on how to engage the nation amidst the seemingly unstoppable momentum of restructuring. That is what good leadership demands of the President.

The reflections should also focus on the factor of governance. The present and real danger of insecurity enveloping the nation is an issue of proper governance. No matter the structure of the federation that is eventually agreed upon, governance will still be a factor on its own. To derive the benefits from the proposed devolution of power to the federating units, state police and fiscal federalism, the country will still need to be properly governed at all levels. It would be illusory to imagine otherwise.

More fundamentally, it is important to explode the myth that the primary contradiction in Nigeria today is the distortion in the structure of the federation. Federalism, true or false, is not the primary issue. The primary contradiction in Nigeria is class-based. The primary contradiction is neither ethnic nor religious in nature. It is manifested in mass poverty and misery as recent findings by think tanks and international agencies have only confirmed. The primary contradiction is between the poor and the rich exploiters. The point at issue is that the vertical restructuring of the federation without the horizontal transformation of the social structure of inequality will not solve the problem fundamentally. The social structure of inequality traverses all ethnic groups, regions, zones and religions. And restructuring the federation will not automatically eradicate poverty in the land.

So, it is important that the restructuring advocates should also raise their voices against the worsening social inequality plaguing the land in the interest of social justice and peace.

Culled From ThisDay

Dirty money in circulation

Dirty money in circulation

Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun

By Oshineye Victor Oshisada

Money is the medium of exchange and store of value. People describe it variously as bank notes, currency notes or simply “money”. But for the purpose of this piece, the description as “money” is chosen for prompt and lucid understanding of man and woman in the street. Bank note is the paper money that is issued by a Bank. The issue of notes in most countries is either entirely confined to or subject to strict control by the Central Bank. Currency is another name for money. A country’s own currency is that for internal transactions. Foreign currency is the money of other countries. In this country, the currency that is in circulation is “Naira”.

The poor appearance of our “naira” is the focus of this writer. For a long time now, our naira has been badly mutilated, smelling nauseatingly and in shreds, to the extent of using sellotape to stick together the pieces. In these appalling appearances, people whose lot it is to spend the money have their re-actions. Why not? To every action, there is a re-action. “Nigerian currencies are Legal tender.” By legal tender, it is meant, the forms of money which a creditor is legally obliged to accept in the settlement of a debt. For the reason of “inflation” coins have vanished from circulation for many years. If anybody holds coins in possession, it merely serves as a family heirloom for future generations. Therefore, by the expression, “legal tender”, it is the argument by concerned citizens. The currency is paid for services and purchases of all sorts. Prospective buyers are right to argue: “This money though tattered, it is the legal tender today.” The producers of the services or commodities on their parts, shall contend with a note of finality. “It may be a legal tender. But nobody shall collect sellotaped naira notes in this market or area. Give me better money.”

The buyers shall insist that the bad Naira notes must be accepted by the sellers on the premise: “It was given to me by a Nigerian. Besides, I carry no other notes with me.” In the course of these continual and fruitless arguments, three possibilities may emerge-the seller may not part with the commodity. This does not enhance good trade and economic growth. Both the sellers and the buyers are at losses. The products may remain unsold. The buyers may lose the desired utility that is derivable from the commodity. A scuffle may eventuate between the buyer and the seller. These are not beneficial to the society.

Therefore, the Federal Government, through its Central Bank, must opt for the plausibility of regularly printing fresh currency notes for people’s commercial transactions. This writer considers clean money to be one of the economic mirrors of a country. If the notes are clean, it shows that the economy is good; if it is dirty as it is now, it demonstrates that our economy is seriously sick, requiring surgical operation. By the way, if I may inquire: “Are our Federal Ministers not in receipts of these dirty notes? Are the members of the National Assembly blind to the abysmal conditions of these dirty notes? Is it not a shame to the Federal Finance Minister to find in circulation absolutely wretched Naira notes?” These dirty Naira notes are a disgrace to the nation. Some years ago, Nigerians were condemning tattered national flags flying in public places. Today, we are criticizing mutilated Naira Notes. It seems that our leaders are in love with things that are in tatterdemalions. It is a pity!

Why are the conditions of our Naira so revolting? This writer can ascribe some reasons for these. People are in the habit of rejecting these notes. But quite often, I point it out to them: “When it was in mint form, the same people made it dirty as it is now, because of the wrong style that it is handled. Invariably, rough handling contributes to the filthy appearance of our money”. For example, the market women and the bus conductors are guilty of this. It is typical of the market mummies to stock decent notes inside their brassieres, corsets and corse-lettes for keeps in the course of their trades. In that process, body perspiration moistens the naira notes. Likewise, some young men tuck naira notes inside their pairs of socks, and even their pants ostensibly for security, but in reality they are vandalized. To worsen it, some write their names and address on the notes, thinking that in course of time, the money shall return to them after a certain period of circulation. Also, some superstitious folks nip the edges of the notes believing that no spirit shall steal them from their possessions. Further, the quality of the materials used to produce our naira notes are inferior. In 2015, many of these notes that were printed and sent into circulations have today peeled off as the inscriptions are deleted and illegible. The N50, N100 and N200 denominations are the victims of this vandalisation sparing N500 and N1000 the blushes. Moreover, the Federal Government’s habitual tardiness in re-printing the notes renders them defaced and lose their original artistic beauty. That is the aesthetics. It costs money to mint and print money. Therefore very significantly, the perennial delay in passing the Annual Budget by the National Assembly may possibly contribute to the Federal Finance Ministry’s prevailing predicament. Lastly, in this country, there is too much pressure on cash, with less emphases on bank cheques for transactions. In my considered opinion, I believe that it is because of the predominantly illiteracy level which results to lack of confidence in cheque transactions. In other words, people more often than not, rely on the uses of cash and less on cheques. This creates the mutilation and filthiness on the lower denominations of naira notes.

With a pang of nostalgia, this writer remembers the colonial Nigeria era, to Tafawa Balewa administration when Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh was the Finance Minister, Nigerians were enjoying clean bank notes, compared with the present. At the introduction of new notes, a song was composed: “Okotie-Eboh ko owo tuntun de; aiye ndara bowa o e”, meaning, “Festus Okotie-Eboh has issued fresh and new currency notes; the country is assuming better economic era” Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh was a colourful politician in his days. He had the peculiarity of buoyancy in appearance and equally demonstrative in his gait that at any social milieu, the wrapper round his waist would be flowing behind him with the trailing tail held on by two youngsters. In the like manner, the currency notes, produced for circulation by his Ministry, were typically spick-and-span and undefaced. Today the exercise has detracted from what obtained in the days of yore. This writer is authoritatively informed that some banks are rejecting the mutilated money. The Finance Minister, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, must prove equal to the task of furnishing Nigerians with clean Naira notes, about which the quantities in different denominations cause inadequate balances (that is, change) for buyers and sellers.

From the foregoing submissions, what is clear writer is advocating is that Nigerians deserve clean Naira notes, instead of the present sellotaped “rags” that pass for money.
Oshisada, a veteran journalist, wrote from Ikorodu, Lagos.