Friday, 19 January 2018
Headliners

Headliners (1836)

The Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), Imo State chapter, has protested Gov. Rochas Okorocha’s refusal to reinstate local government chairmen in the state.

The Secretary of the chapter, Mr Enyinnaya Onuegbu, said during a protest march in Owerri that the protest was to sensitise the public “on the destruction of the third tier government in the state.”

“Today’s protest march is a peaceful protest in defence of democracy at the local government level.

“We want to call the attention of the Imo people to the governors’ contempt of court rulings on the tenure of the 27 council chairmen and the 305 ward councilors in the state.

“The governor’s action has crippled local government administration in the state and Imo people are suffering because of this.

“No democracy dividend is available at the local government level because of the failure of this administration to recognise the importance of the local government,” he said.

Onuegbu also condemned the continued release of local government allocations without Joint account committee meetings.

He called on the Federal Government to intervene in the matter urgently.

Reacting to the protest, the Special Assistant to the governor on media, Mr Ebere Uzoukwu, said the administration of Okorocha was focused and committed to the ongoing transformation of the state.

According to him, the state government will not join issues with the former PDP council chairmen whose suit on tenure elongation has been dismissed by an Owerri High Court.

“They have no business in the local government areas as their two-year tenure expired last year. They are only exhibiting desperation, apparently believing that it is still business as usual,” he said.

 

Posted On Friday, 04 January 2013 14:57 Written by

Former Governor of Oyo State, and national leader of Accord Party (AP), Senator Rasidi Ladoja, has had his fair share of the Nigerian dirty politics with his illegal impeachment in 2006. In this interview with the trio of FEMI ADEOTI, RAZAQ BAMIDELE and AKEEB ALARAPE at his Apapa, Lagos residence, he said his former party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has lost its steam and turned to a “casino.”

He also reflected on the state of the nation, politics of the South-West and prospects of his new platform, Accord, which is fast-gaining ground in the country. Excerpts:

State of the nation

The most important thing in any country is security. A situation whereby one doesn’t feel comfortable in his country. A situation where the populace, even the rulers don’t seem to have confidence in one another is worrisome. Or how do you explain that people are asking President Goodluck Jonathan to publish the disaster report of the plane crash that killed General Andrew Azazi and ex-gpvernor Patrick Yakowa? The people that are actually making the calls are the serving state governors.

Are they saying that they don’t have confidence in the Federal Government? It is unfortunate that the accident took place. Accident can come up anytime but a situation that the people are thinking otherwise is not good for the nation. I think it was an accident. But the situation is becoming very worrisome.

In the matter of Boko Haram, we don’t know when next the group will strike. The situation is affecting a lot of things. It affects even the economy. The people that went to do their normal ram buying business in the North for sallah were slaughtered. People said it was Boko Haram that did it. Anything that happens now, any disaster whatever, is attributed to Boko Haram, even armed robbery.

We seem to be turning round and round and round. I thought that since we negotiated with the Niger Delta militants and able to secure peace, the government should find a way of negotiating with Boko Haram and let us have peace, because insecurity affects investment. We should look at it and find solution to the security problem. I only pray government is not overwhelmed with this security situation.

Already, we have problem of infrastructure, which is not making our economy to grow. The government, or is it the PHCN recently published that we are generating about 4000 megawatts, which was what we have been generating for the past 10 years. Ordinary Dubai is already planning for 2050. Yet, we sink a lot of money into the power project without result. Only God knows how many billions of dollars were sunk by Olusegun Obasanjo into the power project, yet, we don’t feel it.

Most of the times, we politicians don’t face realities. We talk politics rather than face realities. We talk politics when we say, “by so time, water will flow.” Most of us seem to be deceptive. We just want to talk and we pay a lot of money for propaganda and not what we are elected to do.

Restructuring along regional basis

I don’t think so. Are you sure Ondo State would want to go with the rest of South-West? The major problem is the haves and the have-nots. People in the Niger Delta are calling for pure federation because they want to be the owners and managers of their resources.

But are you saying that if we want to carve the western region out, is it western region with or without Midwest? Western region with Midwest means Edo and Delta states with the six states of South-West. Would they want to share their oil with us if we are in the same region? Again, is Ondo State ready to share its oil with Oyo State that hasn’t got oil?

Most of these things are not practicable. Then, are we not the one calling for more states? If we really want regional cohesion, should we be asking for Ibadan State, should we be calling for an Ijebu State?

What is important for a nation is the good of the populace. How do we feed the people? How do we give them comfort? How do we give them electricity? How do we give them good water? How do we give them good health? How do we secure them?

Whoever wants to do anything let him make the proposal and give it to the National Assembly. Members of the National Assembly were elected by us and we should allow them to work. We have facilities to amend the Constitution. To me, economy is the most things for us today so that we can feed our people, give them good health, good roads, make railways airlines work. So that our people will feel that we are in the 21st Century.

Most of our people don’t understand that the essence of politics is the people. It is not a matter of how many edifices one builds. It is about the welfare of the people.

Dialogue with Boko Haram

Did we not negotiate with the Niger Delta militants? Were they not criminals also?

But the Boko Haram people have not come out to identify themselves.

When they started the crisis in Niger Delta, did they come to identify themselves? Was it not later that we started hearing that there is one called Tompolo; there is one called Government?

Modus operandi for dialogue

The security people should know who they are. Part of the problem is that our people do not have confidence in the security system. They think if they give information to the security agencies, the security will leak it back to the people concerned. That is part of the problem. So, they should be able to identify them. Today, the government would say it wants to negotiate; another time it would say it is no longer negotiating. I don’t understand.

Technocrats in government are our problem

Yes, I do agree. I remember one state commissioner recently said that. I agree with him. Who is a technocrat? If one doesn’t want to dirty his hands, how can such person do agriculture or farming? If someone doesn’t want to get into the muddy terrain of politics, yet he wants to be a minister. I don’t think it can work. If a minister or a government appointee cannot go round the country campaigning, seeing what the people in each of the areas are facing, how can such person or appointee know how to solve the problem?

I am not in support of categorizing some people as technocrats and others non-technocrats. Maybe, that is part of the failure of government. The man who made promises to us was Ebele Goodluck Jonathan not Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, not Ashiru, not Sanusi, not Adesina. We didn’t see all these people during the campaigns. It was Jonathan who promised us and he had people who came with him. Are those people not qualified to be appointed?

By the way, who is a technocrat? I was a technocrat. If I decided that I was not going to go into politics, I would still be considered as a technocrat. We should be able to know that the job of a technocrat ends with that of the director-general or permanent secretary. After that, it is the job of the politicians.

That was the mistake we made when we were shouting that Okonjo-Iweala would become the President of the World Bank. I knew it would never happen. The job of a technocrat in the World Bank stops with the position of the Managing Director. It is the President that decides where to put World Bank money and where not to put it.

That is where we are making a big mistake. The countries that survive most of the time are the countries that defy World Bank and IMF rules. Majority of the people of Venezuela under Hugo Chavez are happier because of the policy he laid down. He said the oil is for all of them.

Leaders should look at what is good for their people and do it not what IMF says they should do. If IMF is successful, should we have economic crises all over Europe today? Yet, we are not having that in China. We do not even have it in India! India has gotten a population that is four times that of Europe, yet they are managing themselves. China is the biggest lender to the world today.

Pressures in government

When we were going on campaign trips, I told the people of Oyo State in specific terms what our government was going to achieve. I told them that we would bring education to level it was during our days. I specifically told them that in our days at Ibadan Boys High school, we were 30 students per class and there is no reason any school should have more than 30 students per class in primary and secondary schools. The students are not there for lecturing but for teaching. That was one of the fundamental things we made because it is only when the class is manageable that the teacher can teach and the children can learn. That is where we started.

One of the problems of Oyo State at that time was guinea worm. We said in the four years of our being there we would eradicate guinea worm. We did it. We said we would change agriculture from hoes and cutlasses to a mechanized one; we brought in a tractor manufacturing plant.

We said we were going to give them safe water. Where we could not easily give them public water; we sunk hundreds of boreholes, particularly at guinea worm endemic areas of Ibarapa and Oke-Ogun and by the grace of God we were able to achieve them. Those are what I would call practical, people-oriented projects not gigantic projects like building hotels, teaching hospitals and the likes.

We designed three overhead bridges in Ibadan to solve the problem of traffic congestion. We designed one for Sango, one for Mokola and the third one at Challenge.

But when it comes to building teaching hospital for the state, what purpose would that one serve? Already, there is a teaching hospital in Ibadan, which is UCH, a federal hospital; there is a teaching hospital in Ogbomoso being run by Bowen University, that is Baptist teaching hospital and there is one teaching hospital in Ilorin. It means that within 30 kilometres we have three teaching hospitals competing with themselves. And there are a lot of things to do with little money.

Resist pressures in office

I was lucky in the sense that the people of Oyo State knew I was competent for the job. The only but was whether I would be able to resist my godfather. I remember I told them that on my honour, I am a father; I am a grandfather and I have made my life before coming into politics and I promised them that the buck stops at my table. With that promise and with the fact that I would be responsible for anything that happened in government.

My commissioners had free hands though some of them were not supporters of our cause. But if you understand that the buck stops on your table and that you would be held accountable for anything that happens, then that is enough recipe for resisting undue pressure. Of course, we faced the consequences and part of the consequences was my illegal impeachment. But I had no regret on that. If I have the same opportunity, I will still do the same thing. But maybe they will not succeed in impeaching me again.

Bid to become national secretary of PDP

I did not set out to be National Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). What happened was that in the course of the negotiation, Dr. Dejo Raimi was actually harassing me. He was visiting me nearly everyday. One day, when it became public knowledge that Alhaji Bamanga Tukur might become the National Chairman of PDP, he said if Tukur at his age is set to become the national chairman and the national secretary has been zoned to South West, then the people in South-West must get somebody who has got his own clout to be national secretary so that he doesn’t just become a clerk to Tukur. With that there will be mutual respect between him and the chairman.

Raimi went out and told some journalists that Ladoja will be good as the national secretary of PDP. That was what happened. By that time, I was prevailed upon by Obasanjo, Jonathan, Tony Anenih and a lot of leaders of the PDP all over Nigeria to return to PDP. I was set out to go back to PDP if PDP was willing to do what we believe politics is supposed to be. That was what happened.

It was not that I set out to become the national secretary. My going back to PDP was virtually unconditional. We didn’t set out any condition. It was they (PDP leaders) that said that they had seen the results of the last election and that they were going to share the party’s structure in that proportion. That was all. But it didn’t work because of what PDP is.

They still don’t understand that politics is about service. They think politics is about self. Don’t get me wrong, there are still very good people in PDP who are ready for service but a lot of the people in the party still feel that they just want to occupy a position because there is power in it; there is money in it; there is connection there.

We negotiated together; we did the ward and local congresses together based on the agreement we reached. But what happened? What we agreed on in Ibadan, some people went to Abuja to change the names. When we asked them why, they said, “yes”, that we don’t know that in PDP they play games. Then, we said “ok, we don’t want to go to a party where they play games.” I said I want to stay in a party where the will of the people prevails.

After all those ones, some people of goodwill again intervened and advised us to negotiate more; we decided to but they shut the door. When they now opened the door and asked us to come, we then asked them to go undo and what they had done. We asked them to drop everything they had wrongly acquired, that is, party executives. That they should let us go back to the people to decide. They said “no”, they were not ready to negotiate what they had acquired and that instead they would go to court.

In PDP, Oyo State was not among the states that were said to have hitches in their congresses even though we knew that it got hitches. But the party executives that left before Tukur came in had already approved the congresses of Oyo State. We knew how it happened. But those people had gone. They had left the problem for the people behind.

It is only persuasion that Tukur can use in the case of Oyo State. He cannot use force if not it would degenerate to what is happening in Ogun State. In fact that of Ogun State is even better. During the congresses, the national headquarters of the party (PDP) put up an advertisement suspending all congresses in Ogun State. They didn’t do the same thing in Oyo State and the executives that left said everything was alright. If Tukur now said everything was not alright, they (Oyo PDP) would say he was not there. The people that had acquired privilege through the back door also feel that they have got it and they are going to keep it.

Nothing would change. If not, they said they would go to court and if they go to court, I don’t want to be in a party where people don’t realize their weaknesses. You are weak when you are not in government. What I mean by that is that the state government is not in their hands, yet they are fighting among themselves. How would confront the government in power? How would they, therefore, tell the people that they are the alternative government, when they are already fighting among themselves? They won’t have time for the main fight.

No negotiation with ACN

I did not negotiate with the ACN, but we negotiated with the PDP since 2007. After the impeachment and we came back to the same PDP, I escaped an assassination in Akure. Somehow, I managed to complete my term. But since PDP did not ask me to be a part of their campaign, I did not bother myself. When I went to Akure and I was nearly murdered, then I decided that I was going to face my work as governor rather than campaign for PDP.

But after I left office in 2007, PDP knew something was wrong. They knew there was a lot of crisis in PDP all over Nigeria, so they set up Alex Ekwueme Committee to reconcile everybody. The committee sat in Abeokuta and I appeared before it. We put our case across. When the committee wrote its report, they upheld almost everything we asked for. After that, the DP set up an implementation committee headed by Alhaji Shuaib Oyedokun to implement the report of the Ekwueme committee.

Oyedokun came to Ibadan and stayed for two or three weeks. As far as I am concerned, Shuaib Oyedokun is an Ibadan man. He lives in Ibadan. He was the secretary to the government of Dr. Omololu Olunloyo and all of us know ourselves. So, he knew everything that was happening. That was the first time me and Akala met after I left office.

He proposed to set a group of five people from our group and another five people from Akala/Adedibu group. But the other groups asked whether we were the only two groups in the PDP. He then put up another amorphous group of five which comprised a nominee each from Richard Akinjide, Yekini Adeojo, Elder Wole Oyelese, Senator Lekan Balogun and he added Raimi to make five. We said no problem. It then became a committee of 15.

They met and at the end of it there was no cooperation between Akala/Adedibu’s group and the others. They wrote reports where one was signed by nine people while another report was signed by five people. Raimi decided to write his own report. All these were sent to the national headquarters.

After sometime, the party set up Ike Nwachukwu Committee.  Nwachukwu came to a conclusion to inaugurate an elders committee and implementation committee. That committee was headed by Yunus Akintunde, the immediate past commissioner for works in Ajimobi’s government.

We thought that the work was going to start but up till now nothing has started. So, when INEC announced that it was going to conduct election, we were expecting and we knew what PDP was doing was to play for time until Attahiru Jega, INEC chairman, would lock the door.

We then started thinking that by the time Jega closes his doors, we would either be persuaded or begged by PDP to stay on or we would start looking for a party to hibernate in. We then decided what should be our fallback position since we were not able to enter PDP. PDP headquarters then was not able to take any decision.

When it dawned on us that if the situation continued, Jega would close his door and we would be left stranded, we then decided to look for alternative.  A committee was set up and the recommendations were; one, to consider going to ACN; two, to look at Labour Party and three, to look at Accord Party.  I held meetings with my Egbon of blessed memory, Alhaji Lam Adesina, three times on how we could work together. His recommendation was that I should ask my people to come and register with the pledge that everybody would be given a fair chance during elections. I know the letter of ACN, I wanted a concrete assurance. Later, I was not disappointed the way the party made its choices of candidates.

About Labour, we tried to look at it but we didn’t see any attraction there. On Accord, in fact that was about the first time I would be hearing about the name. But I saw one attraction there; it was the number one on the ballot paper. That was the main attraction we had.

We then sent for the leaders of Accord. I knew that Senator Osakwe contested on the platform of Accord in 2007 to beat Ahmadu Ali’s wife in the senatorial election. I had a chat with Osakwe. The leadership of Accord was willing to accommodate us. They did new convention, new congresses so that we were really integrated into the party. That was how we became members of Accord.

Fear of Accord Party being deregistered

I was looking at the reasons given by the INEC. It is either the party has no headquarters, or it has no elected officer in the House of Assembly or House of Representatives. By the grace of God, we will not be deregistered. We are working hard to expand Accord Party. Today, across all the states of the South-West, the party is waxing stronger.

Beginning from Ekiti State, people are yearning for Accord. By early 2013, we are going to hoist our flag in Ekiti. Our intention is to say, yes, we are here because people have seen us in Oyo State. They know that we are the party that is the most workers-friendly. They know that we are honest in our approach to issues. We don’t play politics with the life of our people. They know us very well and they are happy to work with us. I will not be surprised that the wild fire that caught Oyo State will catch Osun and Ekiti states. They have seen the honesty of purpose in Accord.

In Osun, we contested during the last election. We contested nearly all the seats. In Ogun, we are already there. Some powerful people in Lagos State have come to request that Accord be established in the state and we are working at it.

PDP decampees in Accord

Yoruba have a saying that fish rots from the head. If the head is not rotten, the body will not rot. You can find people who are followers and who are the PDP because they are just there. Now they find a possibility of another party that can satisfy their aspiration. Some people were in the PDP because I was there. And if they want to come back to me when I am no more there, what is wrong in that?

They were impressed that we started a party in September and we made an impressive show in a general election in April of the following year. They were marveled by the dramatic change on the political landscape.  It is not how long, it is how good. Party is not people. People make party. If they come, we will welcome them.

At a local government in Oyo State, members of the PDP just woke up one day and said PDP is not our party. They just repainted their secretariat to Accord secretariat. Such scenario would continue. It is not only those from the PDP in Oyo State that are coming, people from other parties, even from the ACN, are also coming into Accord. This is contrary to what has been happening in the past when people troop to join the party in power. But in this case, people are joining a party that is not in control of the state. May be they believe that this party is the government in waiting. As far as I am concerned, PDP is dead Oyo state.

Governorship ambition

The last time I was going to contest, it wasn’t until September 26, 2010, that I made up my mind that I was going to contest. I just knew that the government we had in Oyo State then was not that of my dream. We were trying to use the internal mechanism of the PDP. But when that failed, we decided that, okay, we had to do something. The governor then was behaving in a way that suggested he wanted to tie me down with the EFCC. You cannot tie Ladoja down with anything. There is nobody that can tie Ladoja down. It was on September 26, 2010 that I declared that, PDP or no PDP, I would contest. So, why can’t you wait until September 2014 before asking me that question about 2015 governorship ambition?

Relationship with Adebayo Alao-Akala and Governor Abiola Ajimobi

Both of them are my ‘aburos’ (younger brothers). And they give me my respect as their ‘egbon,’ (older brother). Our relationship is very good and cordial. Our working relationship with Ajimobi was at his own leisure. He was the one who came to me. We discussed the term but he has not fulfilled his own side totally. He has his challenges. But I think he is now in better control of the party. Maybe, he would be able to fulfill the agreement better. But Yoruba has a saying that rain can chase somebody to a particular shelter thrice. So, we wait and see.

My own policy however is that when elections are over, we should support whoever won the election so that the people of the state would not suffer. Our working with him is on the basis of that. He has won the election; he has appealed to us to work with him, and we told him we are not dissolving into ACN.

Our working relationship is in government and not on party basis. And that is because we want him to have rest of mind to serve the people of Oyo State. The people of Oyo State had chosen him in preference of me and Akala. And the period of election is for four years. So, while he is there, we should give him all the support so that the people of Oyo State can enjoy. The failure of government is a failure of the people of Oyo State. But if the government is able to deliver, then it is good for all of us. What is good for everybody is good for me.

Dictating to Ajimobi

I don’t believe in godfatherism. One thing that you have to understand is that governor has got more information than everybody. He has got so many aides to address him. I don’t push myself on anybody. I allow people to take their decisions. If he needs my advice and he seeks it, I give. I won’t go out of way to say this is how you should run your government because I won’t accept it too. So, if he needs my advice, I will give him. But for now, he has not asked for my advice and I didn’t give him anything. That explains my position. He has a lot of security apparatus that give him security reports twice a day. They should be able to tell him the feelings of the people. Maybe the feelings of the people are different from what they are seeing.

Aregbesola, Amosun, Mimiko close to me

We are not in negotiation with ACN. But the mistake some people are making is that they don’t know I don’t play politics of bitterness. Aregbesola is very close to me just as Amosun is. Amosun and I were in the same party before. Even, Mimiko is very close to me. Mimiko was SSG to Agagu when I was also in government. We are still close. We still call one another.

All of them call me ‘egbon.’ I am ‘egbon’ to all of them. Fayemi is also very close to me. And Fashola is close to me also. Fashola was the Chief of Staff to Tinubu when my case was going on and he was very supportive. You know he is a very brilliant lawyer. People wonder when they see us sitting together, wondering what is the magic that binds these people who don’t belong to the same party together? Even Bola Tinubu is close to me. We were in the Senate together; we are in the oil industry together. That is enough ground to be together.

Any time Aregbesola knows I am in Ibadan, he will pass through the house. When Mimiko came to greet the late Lam Adesina’s family, he called me to say he was sorry he could not pass through the house because he had to go back to Akure. So, that is me.

People even say why should I allow Obasanjo into my house and I asked them, why shouldn’t I? I knew Obasanjo before he became President. We are close. He is a farmer, I am a farmer. That is the common ground between the two of us. And I was even one of the people that persuaded him to contest. We thought he would repeat the wonders he performed as a Head of State.

Our difference is political and not personal. He saw my impeachment from another view; I saw it from another view. He was then powerful because he was president and I was a mere governor. You know, 36 governors is equal to one president. He controlled the police and all the security apparatus. He used them at that time for what he believed in. I am sure today, he doesn’t believe in that again. We are very close. Even, he gave me a very big turkey for Christmas.

COURTESY: The Sun

Posted On Thursday, 03 January 2013 14:06 Written by

And so it is now official. Contrary to the thinking of a majority of local and foreign observers, the principal problem of Nigeria is not corruption but attitude. According to our President, what Nigeria requires most urgently in order to make progress is not an end to corruption but a change of attitude.  We have this on the authority of a newspaper report captioned 'Attitudinal change not corruption bane of Nigeria’s progress –Jonathan.' The report goes on:-

‘Most of the problems that Nigerians blame on corruption are not caused by corruption, but a wrong attitude among Nigerians, President Goodluck Jonathan has said.  The president, who made the remark in Yenagoa on Saturday during the burial of the former National Security Adviser, Owoeye Azazi, said that corruption was not the only challenge to good governance.  He stressed the need for attitudinal change among Nigerians for the country to make progress.

Mr. Jonathan made the statement in reaction to a remark made by the Catholic Bishop of Bomadi, Hyacinth Egbebo. The clergyman had attributed the cause of most accidents on Nigerian roads to bad roads created by corruption in government. Mr. Jonathan refuted the clergyman’s claim. “If Nigerians would change their attitude, you will realize that most of these issues being attributed to corruption are not caused by corruption,” the president said.

“Recently, I met with officials of the Federal Road Safety Corps who told me that they had discovered that majority of the road accidents are recorded on good roads. So you can see it is not a matter of corruption, it is an issue of the people’s attitude,” the president added.’    

Just a couple of days before the President made this startling ‘attitude-declaration’, the Governor of Kogi State in Nigeria was involved in a ghastly motor accident which claimed the life of his aide – de – camp and left him with a broken leg. Perhaps if we investigate a little bit we may discover that the accident occurred on a good road but that the governor’s driver had a wrong attitude.

A couple of weeks ago, the former National Security Adviser, Owoeye Azazi who the President went to bury when he made this ‘attitude-declaration’, together with the Governor of Kaduna State Patrick Yakowa, perished in a naval helicopter crash on their way from the burial of the late father of a presidential aide. Investigations as to the cause of the helicopter crash are still going on but if the Presidential declaration is anything to go by, the odds are high that we may discover at the end of the day that the naval pilot who likewise perished in the helicopter crash had attitudinal challenges.

The pilot’s assistant and the aide of Governor Yakowa who lost their lives in the crash presumably also had attitudinal problems. This is why the President went personally to sympathize with the Yakowa family in Kaduna and the Azazi family in Lagos without extending the same gesture even if for only five minutes each to the families of the other deceased persons.

We now understand that the reason why Nigerians cannot enjoy uninterrupted power supply in spite of the billions of Naira pumped into the electricity generation, transmission and distribution industry is because of our attitudinal inhibitions.  Our President who knows best has probably been advised by officials of our electrical utility that if Nigerians enjoy uninterrupted power supply, out of sheer exuberance we may misuse the opportunity and one would no longer be able to tell the difference between day and night in Nigeria.

 Wives and children would no longer see their husbands and fathers at night since most men would be ‘working’ round the clock thereby endangering their health. Politicians and businessmen who secretly visit witch-doctors in the cover of darkness to make sacrifices and swear to oaths about securing government positions, winning elections or winning contracts would no longer be able to move about freely at night since there would be light everywhere and all their movements might be tracked by inquisitive journalists working on 24 hour shifts. Even our good roads would suffer as they would not have 6 hours of rest from the relentless traffic of one day before being subjected to the restless traffic of the next day.

We equally now understand that the reason why Nigerians cannot enjoy standard world class health facilities is that we would abuse the gesture due to our poor attitude. The officials of our health ministry have probably advised the President that if we have standard world class hospitals, Nigerians would over-indulge themselves confident that if their stomachs get too enlarged and distended they can easily check in to a local hospital for a tummy tuck operation. Worse still they may have convinced the President that with excellent medical facilities, Nigerians particularly the wretchedly honest ones would refuse to die thereby stretching our population to unsustainable levels and consuming the space meant for conformable people.

Well Mr. President is entitled to his opinion. But he who feels it knows it. We who feel the lash of corruption on a daily basis cannot mistake the hand wielding the whip. In this matter of corruption we do not need anyone to tell us otherwise for we are very certain that as our Lord Jesus Christ declared, what has been hidden from the wise and the learned has been revealed to mere babes and sucklings.

One of the ways the President seduced gullible Nigerians in the last Presidential elections was to reveal that out of poverty as a child, he was forced to go to school without shoes. Well Nigerians are now beginning to appreciate why God in his infinite wisdom permits certain things to happen. Perhaps God had all along seen something which the seduced Nigerians could not perceive. Nevertheless, we should be grateful to God for if people, who went about barefooted in their youth and who are now in a position to change things, can look on unconcerned or persist in outright denial while their nation is reduced to its knees by greedy, capricious elements, what would have happened to the nation if such people did not know suffering even for one day?

Speaking of being in denial, we have it on the good authority of the pre-eminent psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) and his daughter Anna Freud (1895 – 1982), that denial is a psychological defense mechanism in which a person faced with a fact that is too uncomfortable to be accepted, rejects it instead, insisting that it is not true despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Three forms of denial have been identified (Wikipedia). In simple denial, the individual denies the reality of the unpleasant fact altogether. In ‘denial by minimization’, the individual admits the fact but denies its seriousness. In ‘denial by projection’, the individual admits both the fact and its seriousness but denies responsibility of the fact by blaming somebody or something else.

It would appear that Mr. President is victim of one of the latter two forms of denial. It can be argued with merit that his ‘attitude-declaration’ admits the fact of corruption but denies its seriousness in causing the socio-economic turmoil in Nigeria (denial by minimization). It could also be argued with merit that the President’s attitude-declaration admits both the fact and seriousness of corruption but denies its responsibility for socio-economic turmoil in Nigeria transferring the blame on Nigerians’ attitude (denial by projection).

Whichever may the reality of the President’s condition of denial, what is irrefutable is that his utterance has injected a massive energizing boost to the franchise of corruption in Nigeria. There is a popular proverb among the Igbo (?) or Yoruba (?) people of Nigeria (I am curious to know its provenance) which aptly describes the situation. The proverb has it that a young urchin whose father has assured that there would be no consequences were he to burgle a particular house, does not bother with the usual niceties of inserting himself gingerly into the house via the roof or through a back window. In his zeal to impress his father, he marches confidently to the main entrance and tears it down with his bare feet.

That is the prevailing situation in Nigeria regarding the corruption franchise. And so courage, rejoice I say to all the looters in Nigeria. Courage, rejoice I say to all the extortionists in Nigeria. Courage, rejoice I say to all the kidnappers in Nigeria. Courage, rejoice I say to all the petty and grand thieves in Nigeria. Courage, rejoice I say to all the terrorists in Nigeria. Courage, rejoice I say to all the rapists in Nigeria. Courage, rejoice I say to all the blackmailers in Nigeria. Courage, rejoice I say to all the 419ers in Nigeria. Courage, you who persist in evil acts, take heart I say my brothers and sisters.

Take heart I repeat. For when the history of Nigeria is written by future generations; when the annals of the strange happenings in Nigeria are recounted by future historians, it would be said of the period 2010 AD to 2015 AD (?) about you looters, about you extortionists, about you kidnappers, about you petty thieves, about you grand thieves, about you terrorists, about you rapists, about you blackmailers and about you 419ers, about all who persist in evil acts – it would be said that this was their finest hour.

Happy New Year 2013 and as always May God bless Nigeria – in – distress.

Engr. A. C. Konwea, P.E.

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Posted On Tuesday, 01 January 2013 16:21 Written by

The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has accused the Jonathan Administration of engaging in
governance by deceit, saying the administration has been overstating its achievements and making fake promises to Nigerians.

In a statement issued in Lagos on Sunday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party also slammed the President’s Special Adviser on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, for making himself a purveyor of blatant lies and for having the temerity to denigrate the country’s opposition for daring to criticize a non-performing government.

It said only a government that swims in corruption and lacks self-respect and decency can pick as its spokesperson a man who has been shown to be an epitome of corruption by collecting funds for contracts that were not executed.

ACN said the government’s claim, through Dr. Okupe, that it will generate 780,000 jobs in 2013 through the ‘Young Graduate Employment Scheme’ and 5,000 jobs in each of the 36 states through SURE-P is the latest example of the Administration’s lies.

”Our advice to the teeming young graduates who have no jobs is that they should not allow themselves to be hoodwinked by this promise. They should remember that this same Administration promised to create 10,000 jobs in each of the 36 states through SURE-P in 2012. The year is over, and all we have now are phantom jobs and more fake promises,” the party said.

It also urged Nigerians to ensure that their generators are in good working condition, as the government’s promise of stable electricity in 2013 is as unrealistic as it is deceitful.

”The Administration said it has generated an all-time high 4,500 mega watts and will increase the number to 7,000MW in 2013. What a celebration of tokenism! In the first instance, the government should be ashamed to tell Nigerians it has been able to generate only 4,500MW from a huge expenditure of 16 billion dollars!

”Also, no one needs a rocket scientist to know that 4,500MW cannot ensure stable electricity supply in a country of 160 million people, when South Africa, with less than a third of Nigeria’s population, generates over 40,000MW.

The ACN advised Nigerians not to throw away their generators yet just because of an imaginary power stabilitypromised by a government spokesman who has nothing but disdain for the truth,” ACN said.

The party also faulted the Administration’s claim that the bombings and killings in the north have decreased from January to December, calling it fabricated cold comfort and a disservice to millions of our citizens who are daily being subjected to terror attacks, while President Jonathan, now a professional mourner, resorts to endless lamentation instead of decisive action.

”Well, we are not surprised at the claim of reduced terror attacks by the Jonathan Administration. After all, the same Administration claimed that global anti-corruption body Transparency International acknowledged Nigeria’s progress in fighting corruption, when nothing like that ever happened.

”To set the record straight, 750 people have been killed in terror attacks in the north this year, a figure higher than about 570 who were killed in 2011, and not counting the latest killings in Borno and Adamawa states,” it said.

ACN advised the Jonathan Administration to level up with Nigerians by admitting its failings and rolling up its sleeves, so to say, to reverse the ‘transmogrification’ which the President’s Transformation Agenda has become, instead of relying on a hypocritical spokesman to peddle lies to citizens who are already reeling under the failure of an impotent government.

 

Posted On Monday, 31 December 2012 03:56 Written by

*’I am Biafran leader’s son'

It was an interview that had to be conducted. After the declaration that  the late Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, Ezigbo Gburugburu’s Will had been announced and a lion share had gone to Bianca Odinaka Olivia Ojukwu, the deceased’s wife, Sunday Vanguard set out to get all sides of the story, especially after the statements by Emeka Ojukwu, one of the children.

Today, we bring you an extensive interview with Chief Debe Ojukwu, the disinherited first child of the late Biafran warlord.  He spoke about the Ojukwu Nigerians and Igbos never knew, just as he spoke about Bianca, his father’s wife, and her role as a small mother in the house.  This is a first part.
Excerpts:

By Charles Kumolu &  Gbenga Oke

How was it like growing up with you father,  Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, at the time when he was the leader of Biafra, particularly given that he had multitude of challenges to contend with as the leader of the Biafran nation?

My name is Chief Debe Ojukwu, I am the eldest child of the late Chief Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu. I am a lawyer. I am a community leader.
I did not stay with him during the war just like every other person.

Where were you at that time?  Because it was  reported that you had to change from the school you were attending in Lagos to Government College Afikpo?
That was not what happened. I schooled in Lagos.

I had gained admission into some elite school in Lagos at a very young age of nine. Then the war interrupted that progress and we all had to relocate to the East.

I am telling you about 1965. I was born on August 3, 1956. By 1965, I was nine years old and had taken the common entrance examination. Because of the crisis that broke in 1965, I could not carry on with that, we had to relocate to the East.

You would have lost some years
Yes.  Most of us lost three years because of the war.
Most of us did not go to school between 1968, 1969 and 1970.
Where were you all these while?
I was all the time with my mum in Enugu.

Why your mum?
Yes because it was safer to be with her. Being with her shielded me from my father’s personality, because it would be easy to attack the son of my father during the war.

 After the war?
When the war ended in 1970, I got into Saint Mary’s Uwani. After that, I entered Government Secondary School Afikpo. Then the school was temporarily quartered in Enugu at the Institute of Administration, which is now Enugu State University of Science and Technology, because  soldiers were living at the premises of Government Secondary School Afikpo. We were there until 1973  when the soldiers left there. I left and traveled to see my father, who was in exile in Ivory Coast. I visited him  a couple of times. He asked me what I wanted to do; I told him I wanted to go to Harvard. I applied and they said I met their criteria. I took my London GCE in class three because I had lost three years because of the war and I wanted to regain those three years. I was always the first in my class. When I took it (London GCE) in class three, I entered for only five papers, which were English, Physics, Maths, Chemistry and Biology. Then in Afikpo, our pride was reading the sciences. My father okayed my going to Afikpo, after spending some time with him in Ivory Coast, I came back to Nigeria and discovered that I made four papers out of five. That was what hindered my going to Harvard. Since I couldn’t proceed along the line I’d wished for, I decided to join the Nigeria Police Force.

Police Force?  How were your days  in the police?
The aim of joining the police was to make money and pay for my private tuition because I felt that one could make it by dint of hardwork, instead of the stereotyped way. It was an adventure. I trained at Police College, Ikeja, after which I was posted to Aba. From there, I was posted to Afikpo. After that, I was called back by the Force to do the Inspector course because my four credits qualified me to join as a cadet Inspector rather than constable. I went to the college and had people like Hafiz Ringim, Saleh Abubakar, Audu Abubakar, Abinu Shawa and others as course mates. I could have stayed back with the four credits, but I went to the University of Nigeria, Nsukka,UNN, to study law in 1981. I got my LLB after four years as the first known name to do that without troubles. I finished my studies at the appropriate time. I went back to the police after graduation and at the expiration of my study leave.
How did the Force treat you?  Were there prejudices?
The Force was very cagey, I lost promotions on certain occasions because certain interests felt I was there to finish what my father could not accomplish. Because of that I was drafted to go for cadet training, which I should not have gone for  because I was already an officer. However, I proceeded and graduated as the best student.  I was the first police officer that got a presidential commission because of my performance. We were the first set of the Police Academy.

I was in police until I was now invited to come and manage my grandfather’s properties. Actually it is the management of the properties that is the cause of the whole hoopla.

Before we get to the issue of the hoopla, you just told us that you visited your dad in Ivory Coast on many occasions. Can we know how your father’s family operated while he was in exile in that country?
When he went on exile, he had a woman who was with him.
That was Emeka’s mum and people took her as the First Lady of Biafra. Her name is Njideka.
But while they were in exile, they fell apart and she came back to Nigeria.
She did not come back with her children. Emeka and his siblings remained with my father in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast.
It was when she left that Stella Onyedor stepped in.

He came back from exile with Stella.
He stayed with Stella and, after her, Bianca came in.
I had always stayed with my mum. And we occasionally visited dad.
Ideally, when a child is small, the custody is granted to the mother until the child becomes an adult. I always visited and stayed with my father in Ivory Coast, he stayed in Cocoordi and Benjaville. Then my grandmother was staying in Gwake. The family had always been there. It was like a war situation, the family was scattered like that until he came back in 1982 and started bringing the family together in Nigeria.

Coming back, can you recollect how it was for him in the early days of his return?
When he returned, he found out that most of his family things and issues were not well organised. You know what it means for a man to be away from home for thirteen years under those circumstances. That was why his children lived at variance – scattered.

 What was the relationship between you, your siblings and your father before Bianca came into the family?
It was a very cordial relationship. I did not suffer because my mother shielded me  and that is why I am very level headed. For the other children, my father started playing mother and father’s role until Stella stepped in.
Stella will pretend to play mother but it could not be like their own mother.
There could  always be friction under such circumstance. But my father has always been overtly protective of his children. So, I can figure that when Bianca came in, I was too old to start expecting maternal care, because I was like a big brother to her. When she came in there was this war of attrition.

Please give an instance of this?
The first one happened with Emeka’s younger sister.
I understood there was a day she and Bianca fought in the kitchen.

Fight! How?
Yes they fought in the kitchen, so I was made to understand.

Was your father not in?  How could that have happened?
He was in.
He came into the kitchen and took sides with Bianca and that was what made that girl to leave the house till date.
She was expecting her father to protect her, but the father turned and protected his wife. She could not understand that till date. That is the kind of attrition then, because all of them were age mates. Chukwuemeka was born in 1965, the sister Mimi, was born 1966 and Bianca was born in 1967, so it was easier for me to put in authority because I was much older than them.

This is a follow up to that question. Did Bianca’s coming create any frosty relationship between your father and the larger Ojukwu family?
It did not. The larger family was not united then for certain reasons.
My own father was the first natural child of my grandfather. That was the bone of contention. They were not of full blood. Based on that, there had always been petty jealousy among them. My father had always argued that they were not his brothers, but he went on to make a name for himself outside my grandfather’s name. That fame definitely attracted envy from some members of the larger family. So, during the war they could not talk to him.
But after the war, they started gaining their voices.
During the war, some of them were working with the Red Cross in Biafra.
He never betrayed his brothers because he was the Head of State. And that was the benevolent attitude he had.
But after the war, some felt that the giant had fallen and it was time they have their own pound of flesh. After the war, they did not make attempts to recover my grandfather’s assets in most parts of the country. They were only concerned with the ones in the East which they were using for their immediate needs. My father was writing letters from Ivory Coast to them, telling them to go and recover the seized properties. Maybe some thought he would die in exile, but God,in His infinite mercies, made it possible for the Federal Government to grant him pardon and he came back to Nigeria.

If you check, you will discover that most people that fought civil wars in history died in exile. Robert Lee of the United States of America and others died. But if you check, you will discover that my father led with justice, equity and kindness. And that contributed to making the pardon he received from the Federal Government possible.
For instance, history has it that sometimes he would  come to share relief materials to the populace because he felt that the officials were not doing enough.

When he came back, the issue at stake was the properties, but the properties were abandoned properties. And nobody did anything about  them in his absence until 1993 when then President Babangida released the properties to him.
It was after the release that the litigation started. And they started laying claim to them. After the war they started arguing about who was going to be the executor. They had running battle for the properties. The same people, who are with me in court today, were the same people fighting him in  court then.

So, the larger Ojukwu family had always had friction about properties.
And when the properties were released to him, he refused to administer them with the family. It was based on that refusal that they approached me, and said they trusted me.
They said they were going to surrender the ones they were holding and begged that I manage all the properties.
That was how I started administering it to preserve my grandfather’s legacy.
When I was doing it successfully, my dad was happy. They will come behind my father to instigate me against him, saying that he maltreated me and he did not pay my school fees, but I was not interested in that.
They will also go back to him to tell him that a child trained by a poor teacher could not be successful. Bianca was not instrumental to the quarrel in the larger Ojukwu family.
But when she now saw the problem brewing, she bought into it.

Could you expatiate on this issue of your father being a natural son of the late Sir Louis Odumegwu Ojukwu?
There is a way natural issue comes up. Natural one is when you meet a woman and copulate with her in order to produce a child. That is a natural child. There are children you adopt from the motherless babies home. There are children your wife may have had before marrying you and you automatically become their step dad. The one you adopted is your adopted son; the one from your wife is your step son. There is also another one called foster child. There is even the one they call professional son. So the natural son is the one you had through the natural means of coitus. Even if you have a child through artificial insemination, people might say he is not your natural son. So when I say natural, I know what I am saying and DNA can confirm that. But no matter any means you get a son, once he calls you father, you should treat him as a son. That was why in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Okonkwo was told not to have a hand in the killing of Ikemefuna because the boy called him father.
What would you say Bianca brought to the family, having known your father as a  man who fought hard and survived and needed comfort?
She brought comfort, youth and vitality. But then it drove my dad, because I had always been of the opinion that if my father had a woman of my mother’s age living with him, things would have been different and stablised.
But then when you marry  a woman of a certain age which is at variance with your age, the drive would be fast but it leads to accident.

 Accident, how?
For instance, the younger girl might want to go to a party and you will not have any option than putting on jeans and attending the party with her at the age of 60.
There was a day we went to Eko le Meridian Hotel. The hotel had a restaurant at the sixteenth floor. It was for  Valentine and other expensive dinners. I went with my wife, then she was my girlfriend and my father came in with Bianca. I hope you understand how I would feel in that situation. You know, ideally, I should not be running into my father with a young lady in a restaurant at that age.

On the issue of the Will, you will agree that since it was read in Enugu it has been generating a lot of controversies. Your younger brother, Emeka, does not also seem to reckon with the Will. Can we know if you have reservations on the contents of this Will?
I do not know why she conspired against me. The first reservation is that it is no Will.
That thing is a forged document.  I have already filed a caveat, so there is no Will.
It is when the caveat will go to trial and I give my voice alongside whomever that is championing it, then it would be tried.
On the surface, you will find out that it is a forged document.
In law, there is what we call Nemo dat quod non habet. It means that you don’t give what you don’t have.

But if Ojukwu shared his properties the way he wished, why should that be anybody’s problem?
It is your right as an individual to acquire and dispose property. If that is how he has chosen to dispose his properties, there is no problem.
My only reservation is some of my properties were among those shared. There was the one my grandmother gave me when she was alive.

 Are these properties located in Enugu or where?
I am talking about the one at Nnewi.
She told the whole family that she had given the land to me. She took about eight of us to her village and introduced us to her family.
Emeka was also there. I am her eldest grandchild from Nnewi, but I am not her eldest grandchild. She had three children.  One daughter and two sons!
The daughter had one son and three daughters. And Tom Biggard, who died during the civil war, had one daughter and three sons. Then my father is in the middle. So being the eldest of the grandchildren in Nnewi, she gave me the land she bought at Nnewi and she told everybody.

You have dismissed the Will as a forged document. Can you really tell us your position on how the properties were distributed in the document viz a viz who got what?
It is a forgery.

In law, Will is called Volonte in French. It means wish.
This question would have been okay if I was satisfied that what is contained in that document was the wish of my late father. It is someone’s Will, so it is left for that person to come and tell us how he acquired the property.
That is not my father’s Will because he could not have devised my property. That was my first reaction before I discovered that it is a fraud, which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Police should investigate because anybody that does that is a petty criminal. And there are pre-conditions for occupying public office.
If someone has been proved to have contravened any of the pre-conditions, that person should be stripped of whatever has been given to the person.

Courtesy: Vanguard

Posted On Sunday, 30 December 2012 14:29 Written by

But to counteract a phenomenon, we must first of all study and characterize that phenomenon. So far we have qualitatively identified the 80% base and 20% tip of corruption in Nigeria by applying Pareto’s Principle. Yet how do these two groupings inter-relate and interact?

Well once a while, when a promising or upwardly mobile suspected member of the 80% base catches the fancy of the knighted 20% tip of corruption, he or she, if found worthy, becomes “their man or woman”. He or she is appointed into a position of influence or secures a mind-boggling contract or is allowed to ‘win’ an election.  By so doing, this base practitioner of corruption is thrown a life line to climb into the inner sanctum or upper chamber of the infrastructure of corruption. This appointment then heralds one of the few public occasions of ‘extended corrupt family reunion’ when the knighted 20% tip meet and mingle with the base 80% in a uniquely Nigerian celebration of corruption.

One such mythical occasion held a couple of years ago. On that day the setting could not have been more auspicious. The venue at the Banquet Hall of the State House complex was filled to capacity with significant overflow into the adjoining streets of those deemed unworthy to gain entrance into the complex.

Outside in the streets, there was drumming. There was traditional music. There was dancing. There were trumpet blasts and clashing cymbals. There were men and women. There were otherwise busy people and there were jobless people. Inside the complex there were the gentry and there were also a few suave political urchins.  They were all gathered to witness the occasion of the swearing in of their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, kinsmen, kinswomen,   old class mates, ex-work mates as Ministers of the Federation.

Every- one wanted to be a part of the joyous occasion. Many from the hinterland had crossed mighty rivers and traversed tiny brooks to grace the occasion. Others had climbed over the hills and gone down the valleys to be there. Many came with presents and congratulatory cards, some as high as pubescent children, others as wide as security gates.  While there was agitated commotion outside, most inside the banquet hall were seated and conversing animatedly while awaiting the arrival of His Excellency, to kick-off the occasion. The hot topic of discussion of course was the as yet undisclosed portfolios of the new appointees to His Excellency’s cabinet.

At the front row of seats to one side of the aisle sat the new appointees, behind them their immediate families and invited guests. On the other side of the aisle sat the movers and shakers of society a good percentage of who were acclaimed knights of the corruption industry and leading lights of the elite 20% cadre of corrupt activity in Nigeria.

All the ministerial appointees seated that day had scaled through screenings held at the senate a couple of weeks earlier but in a typical Nigerian sop to corruption, they were all screened without any body in the senate knowing their designated cabinet portfolios. Their actual postings were closely held state secrets known only to one man, His Excellency and maybe his wife, the first lady. Deciphering these soon to be revealed secrets was the subject of the heated conversations in the ceremony hall alluded to earlier.

Since the conclusion of the senate screenings and prior to this D-day, leaked cabinet portfolio assignment lists were being circulated and discounted by His Excellency’s office with the same regularity as the ticking of London’s Big Ben. Intensive horse trading was going on as competing captains in the corruption industry tried to out-maneuver and out-flank their rivals in order to secure more favorable cabinet postings for themselves or their wards. Now was the moment of decision, to see who was going to get what.

While the seated nominees tried in vain to contain their excitement, their sponsors on the other side of the aisle were furiously working their phones trying to make last minute contacts with staff and family of His Excellency and even His Excellency himself in order to establish the character of the final cabinet posting.

Finally His Excellency walked in. Everyone rose to their feet. The national anthem was played. A top official presumably the Chief of Staff or Chief of Protocol gave an introductory speech reminding everyone why they were gathered.   He briefly introduced the nominees who stood up and remained standing once they were called. Having completed his speech which those in the hall paid scant attention to, he asked His Excellency for permission to invite the nominees for the swearing in. And so they were called up one after the other. They stood before His Excellency and took their oaths of office still oblivious of their eventual postings.

Now the moment had arrived. The time for His Excellency’s much awaited speech. His Excellency did not disappoint his detractors. His speech outlined the giant strides his rogue regime had made over the years. He listed so many projects that had been started without mentioning any that had been completed.  His speech was mainly futuristic and as always, short on specifics but long on propaganda. We will do this, we will do that he vowed repeatedly. He could not mention one thing he had actually done in his many years in power.

He then made the normal noises about having zero tolerance for corruption and warning that any among the nominees found to be corrupt would be sacked and prosecuted. It would no longer be business as usual he vowed and I mean it he said as if trying to convince even himself of his seriousness this time. A few knights of corruption present in the hall yawned and muttered under their breadths “Get on with it man, we have heard all of this before. Announce the postings.” On and on His Excellency’s speech went without any mention of the cabinet postings.

Meanwhile even as he spoke, his Chief of Staff quietly issued out a press statement to the media outlets present, listing the much awaited cabinet postings. This was immediately flashed on live TV as a breaking news item even while His Excellency was still talking. As soon as His Excellency finished giving his speech, he received a warm though disappointed applause from the audience oblivious of the cabinet postings announced on live TV. The national anthem was played and His Excellency rose and left the hall as noisily as he came with his embarrassing retinue of fawning aides.

And there was bedlam. The media rushed to one re-appointee, a veritable and venerable knight of corruption who it had been strongly rumored would secure the lucrative Public Works Ministry. “Congratulations Sir”, they chorused. “It has just been announced on air that you have been appointed as the Minister of Internal Peace and Harmony”.  “Myself”? This was the shocked response of the reappointed Minister. “There must be a mix up somewhere, but I was assured that …..” he cut-off his speech as he recollected himself. “Em, eh,  no comments… I will speak to you later” he spurted as he stormed out of the venue in search of His Excellency for an explanation.

Immediately the countenance of his kinsmen and friends changed as they digested the implications of the tragedy of their man being assigned to the dry Ministry of Internal Peace and Harmony. The drumming by their accompanying musicians ceased abruptly and all without exception wore long faces as if in a funeral.

Meanwhile another appointee, a first time Minister, was beside himself with joy. All the political and media gurus present were unanimous that his was the shock appointment of the day. Against all personal and media expectations, he had just learnt that he had been appointed as the Minister of Exploratory Works. His mentor who had assured him of a wonderful surprise had not failed him.

His mind did a mental recollection of how far and how quickly he had risen in the industry (of corruption).  He remembered how he had kept very little to himself and channeled all the proceeds of his brazen corrupt practices to his mentor and other backers in his last very minor posting as a mere board member in a dry government parastatal.

His wife had called him a very foolish man who fails to make hay while the sun shines but he had assured her that he was a strategic thinker, a very patient man.  Apparently his lavish returns had not gone unnoticed in high places.

Today was his vindication. At such a young age, for he was barely above 40 years, he had become a full Minister of Exploratory Works in an oil rich nation.

He quietly vowed to himself, that going forward he had only three constituencies to satisfy. The first beneficiary would definitely be His Excellency, the man who appointed him against all odds and expectations. Yes he would get the lion share of future dividends of corruption.

The second beneficiary would be his mentor who had put his name forward, yes that old lion of corruption, of whom it was rumored that he once mentored even His Excellency himself many years ago and who had delivered on his promise today. The third beneficiary would be his very self.  Others would make do with scraps.

Yes he had arrived he thought to himself. He had become a full-fledged capo régime in the corruption industry. His strategic bent seized him as he allowed himself to think of the emerging possibilities. His zone of the country had never produced the President. Yes who knows, if he plays his cards well, he could even make a go for the Presidency after the Incumbent’s tenure. What an achievement this would be for you old boy he flattered himself only to be shocked into reality by the Reporter’s nagging question. “We are on live T.V. Sir; I was asking you about your reaction to your appointment as the Minister of Exploratory Works and your agenda for your Ministry”.

The young Minister’s response was immediate. “Oh I am sorry. I did not quite get you. I want to first of all thank His Excellency for deeming me worthy of this appointment” He switched swiftly into the coded language of the corruption industry with a message within a message. “And please quote me precisely here. I wish to assure His Excellency publicly that I would never disappoint him. Those who know me know my track record that I never fail in any assignment given to me. I will take some time to study my Ministry and establish what is on the ground; get clearance from His Excellency before I begin to implement my vision for moving my Ministry and the nation forward. Thank you. “

The young minister moved on pumping the hands and pressing the flesh of the adoring crowd that had gathered around him. His accompanying drummers and dancers raised the decibel of their performance to even higher levels as they set out for a huge reception party.

Watch out for Part 3.

Engr. A. C. Konwea, P.E.; Email - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 Managing Consultant,

 Strategic Research Consortium Limited, Asaba, Nigeria.

 

 

 


Posted On Thursday, 27 December 2012 19:27 Written by

US President Barack Obama has cut short his holidays in Hawaii and is flying to Washington to try to reach a deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff.

Unless a compromise is found, tax increases and huge spending cuts come into force on 1 January, threatening to tip the US back into recession.

However, Democrats and Republicans are still at loggerheads over the issue.

Meanwhile, the US Treasury has announced measures to prevent it hitting a legal limit on its borrowing.

Default warning

In an open letter to the Democrat US Senate majority leader Harry Reid, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said the Treasury would enact a series of extraordinary accounting measures to free up about $200bn from the government's official borrowing figure.

He said that the measures should prevent the government from reaching the $16.4tn "debt ceiling" - the legal limit set by Congress on how much the US government can borrow - for about another two months beyond 31 December.

The measures include:

  • halting certain financial assistance provided by the Federal government to state and local governments
  • suspending government contributions to retirement funds for civil servants and postal workers
  • suspending contributions to an emergency fund that the government can draw on to defend the value of the dollar

He warned that without them, the government would run out of cash on Monday and "the United States would otherwise default on its legal obligations".

Legislation passed by Congress sets out how much the US government spends on the likes of social security and defence, whilst also legally defining how much the government can raise in taxes.

By imposing a third legal limit - the debt ceiling - the government faces a potentially impossible situation in which it must either disregard the debt ceiling, raise taxes without legal authority, or else default on some of its spending obligations.

The last time that the US government ran up against the debt ceiling, in the summer of 2011, President Obama negotiated a last-minute increase with the Republican-controlled Congress, from $14.3tn to the current $16.4tn limit.

That deal effectively created the phenomenon known as the fiscal cliff - $600bn in automatic tax rises and spending cuts due to come into force on 1 January 2013.

Republicans and Democrats agreed to these draconian measures to slash the government's rate of overspending - its deficit - as a fall-back position, on the assumption that a more sensible agreement on how to cut the deficit would be reached in the meantime.

'Silent corridors'

What is the fiscal cliff?

  • On 1 January 2013, tax increases and huge spending cuts are due to come into force - the so-called fiscal cliff
  • Deadline was put in place in 2011 to force president and Congress to agree ways to save money over the next 10 years
  • Fear is that raising taxes while massively cutting spending will have huge impact on households and businesses
  • Experts believe it could push the US into recession, and have a global impact on growth

Mr Obama is expected to meet Republican leaders again to try to negotiate a solution, although no new date has been announced.

Republicans oppose cuts to defence spending as well as the expiration of income tax cuts on the highest earners, which date from George W Bush's presidency.

Democrats want to maintain financial support for lower-income families - including a payroll tax cut and extended unemployment benefits - and oppose cuts to entitlements such as Medicare and social security.

Both sides are keen to avoid taking the blame for the sudden contraction in the government's rate of overspending that would result if no deal is reached.

Failure to do so could damage the US and global markets, and threatens to send the US economy into recession.

Brinkmanship over the 2011 debt ceiling negotiations prompted the rating agency Standard & Poor's to strip the US of its top-ranking AAA credit rating.

The two sides remain far apart, but analysts say a short-term deal may be agreed that will postpone the cuts until spring.

On Wednesday, the Republican House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner called on the Democrat-led Senate to come up with legislation on how it would avoid the cliff, and pass it to the House for consideration.

However, a senior administration official said it was up to Republican leaders not to stand in the way of an agreement.

Despite this, there is little sense of urgency in the capital - the corridors of Congress are silent, the BBC's Zoe Conway in Washington reports.

 

 

Posted On Thursday, 27 December 2012 11:27 Written by

•I won’t forget what IBB did to me, although I’ve forgiven him
•I’ve not forgiven Obasanjo
•My civil war experiences
•No regret shooting cocaine pushers

From ERIC OSAGIE and PAULINUS AIDOGHIE, Abuja

Ever since the Supreme Court ruled on the 2011 presidential election, former Head of State and candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), General Muhammadu Buhari, has always refused to grant an elaborate interview on his experiences and feelings.

However, on the auspicious occasion of his 70th birthday, Buhari has finally spoken. In an exclusive interview with Saturday Sun, he talked about his growing up days, experiences in the Army, his emergence as head of state when he never participated in any coup, the 1966 coup and the counter-coup, the General Ibrahim Babangida coup that swept him out of office, the execution of cocaine traffickers, Decree 4 and the controversial ‘53 suitcases’ that allegedly came into the country during his government.

He also spoke about his relationship with General Babangida, who he said he had forgiven, although he would not forget what he did to him and his plan for the 2015 elections, among others.

Excerpts:

What kind of childhood did you have?

Well, from my father’s side, we are Fulanis. You know the Fulanis are really divided into two. There are nomads, the ones that if you drive from Maiduguri and many parts of the North you will find. They are even in parts of Delta now. And there are those who settled. They are cousins and the same people actually. From my mother’s side and on her father’s side, we are Kanuris from Kukawa.

Where’s Kukawa?

Kukawa is in Borno State. We are Kanuris. On her mother’s side, we are Hausas. So, you can see I am Hausa, Fulani, Kanuri combined (he laughs).  I am the 23rd child of my father.  Twenty-third  and the 13th on my mother side. There are only two of us remaining now; my sister and I. I went to school, primary school, in Daura and Kaduna, also a primary school, in Kachia. I also attended Kaduna Provincial  Secondary School, now Government College. I didn’t work for a day. I joined the military in 1962.

You mean as a boy soldier?

No, after school certificate. There was an officer cadet school from here in Kaduna, called Nigeria Military Training College then. In April 1962, I went to the United Kingdom (UK), Mons Officers Cadet School.

You mean the famous Mons Officers…?

Yes. And when I was commissioned, I came back and I was posted to 2nd Infantry Battalion in Abeokuta. That was my first posting. The battalion was in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I went there. When I came back from there, I was first in Lagos, as Transport Officer. That was where I was till the January coup. I was posted back to my battalion and we were posted to Kaduna here. And then, there was a counter coup, civil war, coup and counter-coup. We participated. I too was overthrown and detained for more than three years. And having had that major political setback when I was made a head of state and then, ended up in detention, I went out and eventually, I decided to join party politics, participated three times and lost as presidential candidate and I am still in and fighting.

You have never given up?

Even though I said at some stage that I wouldn’t present myself for candidature again, I said I remain in party politics as long as I have breath in me.

Your Excellency, why did you join the Army?

The interest was built while I was in secondary school. The emirs of Katsina, from Dikko, were known to be interested in the military. They always have members of the military or police in their family right from World War 11. One of the emirs of Kaduna-Dikko died in Burma. And of course, everybody in the country knows General Hassan, the son of the Emir of Katsina. He was grandson of Emir Dukko. So, when General Hassan was in Sandhurst, we were in secondary school in Kaduna. His father, the Emir of Katsina, Usman Nagogo, used to ask him to go and talk to the senior students who were in form four to six, to get them interested in the military. And we were told that he deliberately wanted a military cadet unit in Kaduna Secondary School. Then, it was limited to Federal Government Colleges or Government Colleges and we had a military cadet unit, which I joined.

That was the transition?

That was where the interest started.

Did your parents object to it?

No. Well, I didn’t know my father really.

Oh! How old were you when he died?

I think I was about three, four years? I couldn’t remember his face. The only thing I could recall about my father was the horse because it threw me down. We were on the horse with one of my half brothers going to water it and then, it tripped and I fell. It stepped on me. So, that is the only  impression I have of him.  That is the only thing I could recall.

What of your mother?

Oh! my mother died in 1988 when I was in detention.

Ok, I remember then the controversy of allowing you to go and see her buried. Did they eventually allow you?

No.

Then it was quite an issue …

Yeah, it became an issue; so I was immediately released after she was buried.

You didn’t see her buried?

No.

It was after you were released you then went to her grave and all that?

Exactly!

What kind of childhood did you then have?

Well, you know communities then were living communal life. Clearly, I could recall I reared cattle. We had cattle; we had sheep and then, there was good neighbourhood. Not many children had the opportunity to go to school, but I went to school. I left home at the age of 10 or 11 and went to school, like I said. And I was in the boarding school for nine years. In primary school and secondary school, I was in the boarding house and from there, I went straight into the Army.

So, you have always been on your own?

In those days,  there were not many schools and the teachers then were professionals. They were working teachers and were committed. And teachers then treated the children as if they were their own students. You were made to work and if you don’t, they never spared the cane really. So, I was lucky to be in the boarding school for my impressionable years, nine years. I was very lucky.

Did you play any pranks as a young person?

Oh, certainly!

What where the things you did?

(Laughs) I wouldn’t like to mention them.

Tell us some of them…

We used to raid the emir’s orchard for mangoes mainly. Of course, unfortunately we were caught and punished.

When people talk of Buhari today, they are looking at a disciplined man. Was it the boarding house that put you through that or the military?  Was the boarding house part of where you got your Spartan, disciplined life?

Both did. As I told you, the teachers then treated their students as if they were their own children. So, we got the best of attention from teachers. And as I told you, they never spared the cane. You were meant to do your homework; you were meant to do the sports and clean up the environment, the compound and the area of the school and so on. And from that type of life, I moved into the military, the military of that time.

Would you say going into the military was the best thing that ever happened to you?

I think so, because from primary to secondary school and in the military, it will continue, both the academic and the physical one. I think it was so tough, but then, once it was inbuilt, it has to be sustained because you don’t contemplate failure.

You just succeed? Does it mean failure was not an option?

No. It was not.

Was it also the Fulani training of perseverance? Because when you have reared cattle, for those who have been doing it, they said it toughens you…

It did.

The sun is there, the rain and you are there with your cattle…

The period was remarkable, in the sense that those who are brought up in the city have limited space. If you are in a confined school, you learn from the school and what you see immediately. But the nomad life exposes you to nature. You will never learn enough of plants, of trees, of insects and of animals. Everyday you are learning something.

You have seen them and everyday you are learning. You will never know all of them. So, it is so vast that it takes a lot of whatever you can think of. And then, the difference again in the environment. In the Savannah, in the Sahel, after harvest, you can always see as high as your eyes can go. And then, at night when there is moon, it is fantastic. So, I enjoyed those days and they made a lasting impression in me.

 

What are the remarkable things you can think of during your military trainings?

Initially, from here in Kaduna, at the end of your training, the height of the field exercise was then conducted in two places. Here in southern Kaduna and somewhere in Kachia area. There was a thick belt in that forest. You go for field firing and so on. And then you go to Jos for map reading and endurance. That was why mathematics at that level, the secondary school level, geometry and algebra, were absolutely necessary. It had always been,  because to be a competent officer, you may be deployed to be in charge of artillery;  physics, where you help find your position. Wherever you are from, you work it on the ground in degrees and so on. You have to do some mathematics.

We were in Jos. Again, I was made a leader of a small unit. We were given a map, a compass and you dare not cheat. If you are found out, you are taken 10 miles back. So, you have to go across the country. You find your way from the map; you go to certain points and on those points, mostly hills, you climb them and you will get a box. The weather there is cold. You put your own coat and you cover it over the hills and at the end of the exercise, part of your scorecards, are those marks you won or you lost. We arrived with one compass, which led us to a certain bushy hill.

In Jos?

Yes, in Jos. And it was night, dark and it was raining lightly and definitely, our compass led us to that hill, which means there was a point there. And there were five of us: myself, one Sierra Leonean or Ghanaian, one from Sokoto, and one other. I think the other person is Katsina Alu, the former Chief Justice.

You mean he was in the military?

He was. He did the training but he was never commissioned.  He went to university and did Law. I went up to the hill. I picked the box. I copied the code, and I said if I were forced to join the Army, I would have left the following day because that place, a viper or a snake or something or hyena or lion could have finished me. But I said if I run away the following day, people would say well we knew you couldn’t make it, we knew you would be lazy. But because I voluntarily joined the Army, I said I have to be there. That is one point. The second one was when I was in training in the UK. I came there and we were drilled so much and at night again, we were on an exercise. We were putting our formation. In anyway position was created, and they fired at us. We went down automatically that day and by the time the commander asked us to move, I fell asleep. It must be few seconds, not up to a minute. That was how exhausted I was.

Was it really the cold or what?

It was cold. It was 1962. It was cold and it was rainy again just like in Plateau. Just between the time we went down and to move and climb the mountain, I fell asleep. So, those two moments, I would never forget them.

Who were your classmates in the military and in the officers’ training in the UK?

Well, the late Gen. Yar’Adua. I was together with him throughout the nine years primary, secondary school and in the military.

So, you have always been colleagues…?

We were together from childhood.

Ok, that is interesting. Who else?

Well, not the ones that are here. In the military, most of them did not reach the position I reached; myself, and Yar’Adua. They couldn’t make it.

Why did you choose the infantry and not the other arms? What was the attraction?

Maybe it was the training of the cadet unit in secondary school. I found the infantry much more challenging and when we were doing the training, the Federal Government decided that we were going to have the Air Force. So, I was invited. A team came from the Ministry of Defence to interview cadets that wanted to be  fighter pilots in the Air Force. I was the first to be called in our group. I appeared before them and they told me that those who could pass the interview would be recommended to go to the Air Force training either in the UK, some went to Ethiopia or United States or Germany. So, they asked me whether I wanted to be a fighter pilot and I said no. They asked why, and I said I wasn’t interested. We were given three choices. Number one, maybe you went to infantry; number two, you went to reconnaissance then before they became armour and later, maybe artillery. So, all my three choices, I could recall vividly, I put infantry, infantry. So, they said why? I said because I liked infantry. And they asked if I wouldn’t like to be a fighter pilot. I said no, I didn’t want to join them. They said why. I said I hadn’t done physics. Normally, I did some mathematics but to be a fighter pilot, you must do some physics. They said no, that it was no problem, that I could have an additional one academic year. So, since I had some  mathematics background, it was just one year purely to do physics and I would reach the grade required to be a pilot. I said no, I didn’t want it. They again asked why. I told them I chose infantry. The reason is: when I am fighting and I was shot at, if I was not hit, I can go down, turn back and take off by foot. They laughed and sent me out. So, I remained infantry officer.

Where were you during the coups and counter-coups? And what rank were you in the military then?

I was in Lagos, in the barracks, as transport officer. I was only a second lieutenant.

That was during the January 15, 1966 coup?

Yes, January 15, 1966.

The coup met you in Lagos?

Yes. I think that was my saddest day in the military because I happened to know some of the senior officers that were killed. In the transport company, after the 2nd Battalion and we came back, I was posted to Lagos to be a transport officer and in my platoon, we had staff cars and Landrovers. So, I knew the Army officers, from Ironsi, Maimalari, because I detailed vehicles for them every working day. So, I knew senior officers.

So, you were in contact with them?

I was in contact with them somehow because I was in charge of transportation.

Where were you that night of January 15 coup?

I was in Lagos.

Can you recall the circumstance, how you got to know?

The way I got to know was, my routine then was as early as about six in the morning, I used to drive to the garage to make sure that all vehicles for officers,  from the General Officer Commanding (GOC), who was then General Ironsi, were roadworthy and the drivers would drive off. And then, I would go back to the Officers Mess in Yaba, where I would wash, have my breakfast and come back to the office. And around the railway crossing in Yaba, coming out from the barracks, we saw a wounded soldier. I stopped because I was in a Landrover. I picked him and asked what happened. He said he was in the late Maimalari’s house and they were having a party the previous night and the place was attacked. So, I took the soldier to the military hospital in Yaba and I asked after the commander. Maimalari, I think, was commander of 2 Brigade in Apapa. He was the 2 Brigade Commander. They said he was shot and killed.

Then, you didn’t know it was a coup?

Well, that became a coup. That was the time I really learnt it was a coup.

And then there was a counter-coup of July?

Yes, July.

Where were you at this time also?

I was in Lagos again. I was still in Lagos then at Apapa at 2 Brigade Transport Company.

And then, there was ethnic colouration and all that. And at a point, they asked some of you to go back to the North. Am I correct?

Yes, because I was posted back then to the battalion. That was in Abeokuta. It was first to Ikeja Cantonment, but after the counter-coup, we were taken to Lagos by train, the whole battalion.

Did you play any role in the counter-coup?

No! Not that I will tell you.

You know at 70, you are reminiscing. You are saying it the way it is, you don’t give a damn anymore…

Well, there was a coup. That is all I can tell you. I was a unit commander and certainly, there was a breakdown of law and order. So, I was posted to a combatant unit, although 2 Brigade Transport Company was a combatant unit. You know there were administrative and combatant units and the service unit, like health, education. Even transport, there are administrative ones, but there are combatant ones also.

The question I asked was, did you play any specific role?

No. I was too junior to play any specific role. I was just a lieutenant then. In 1966, January, I was a Second Lieutenant, but I was promoted, I think, around April, May, or June to Lieutenant.

And what were your impressions of that period?

You see, senior military officers had been killed and politicians, like Sardauna, Akintola, Okotie Eboh. They were killed. And then in the military, Maimalari, Yakubu Pam, Legima, Shodeinde, and Ademolegun; so really, it had a tribal tinge.

The first one?

Yes. And then, there was a counter.

One mistake gave birth to another one?

Certainly, certainly.

And then long years of military came?

Oh yes.

From 1967-75, it was Gowon. At that point in time, where were you?

When Gowon came into power, I wonder whether I would recall where I was. It was July 1967 that Gowon came in. That was when I was in Lagos. I was again in Lagos, then in the transport company.

Then he took over?

Yeah, Gowon took over or Gowon was installed.

Well, more like you…

(Laughs) Yes.

And then in 1967?

Civil war.

So, you have to give me that part because there are some books I have read, that featured your name. So, what were your experiences during the civil war?

Well, I told you that we were parked into the rail to Kaduna from Ikeja, 2nd Infantry Battalion and when states were created by General Gowon, police action was ordered; we were moved to the border in the East. We were not in Nsukka, but in Ogoja. We started from Ogoja.

And you took active part?

Yeah. Well, I was a junior officer.

Who was your GOC then?

My GOC was the late General Shuwa.

How did you feel during that period of the civil war? Did you think that when the first coup started,  that civil war would just come?

No. I never felt so and I never hoped for it. Literally, you are trained to fight a war but you are not trained to fight a war within your own country. We would rather have enemies from outside your country to defend your country, but not to fight among yourselves.

Some of those officers you were fighting were your comrades…

They were.

You knew some of them.

Some of them were even my course mates. We were facing each other, like when we were in Awka sector. The person facing me was called Bob Akonobi. We were mates here.

Robert Akonobi?

Robert Akonobi.

Who later became a governor?

Yes. He was my course mate here in Kaduna.

And there you were…

Facing each other.

It was really crazy.

It was. It was unfortunate, but it is part of our national development.

And the way we are going, you think it is a possibility again?

I don’t think so. No, I don’t think so.

After Gowon, Murtala came.

Yes.

By the time you were no longer a small officer…

No. I was just, I think, a colonel? Was it a lieutenant colonel or major? I think I was a lieutenant colonel.

But during the Obasanjo administration, you had become a minister, as it were.

No. I first became a governor when Murtala came, in North-East.

This same North East that is giving problem now.

Yes. I was there and there were six states then: Yobe, Borno, Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa and Taraba.

And they were all under your control or command?

North East went up to Chad; anyway, they are on the same latitude with Lagos. The bottom before you start going on the Plateau, Mambilla Plateau, if you look here on the map, the same latitude was in Lagos and then, up to Chad. That was the extent of the whole North East.

Now, some of them can’t govern even one state…

They are now six states.

I know, but you governed six states and now, some of them have problems with one state…

Yes.

What were the challenges you faced governing the North East as a military governor?

Actually, at that time, because of competent civil service… I was a military man but once you get to the rank of a lieutenant-colonel, after major, you are being taught some management courses. It needs a few weeks for somebody who has gone through the military management training, you have junior staff college, senior staff college; by that time, you will have enough experience for most administrative jobs because you must have had enough of the combat ones. I think I didn’t have much problem. And then, the competent civil servants. Civil servants then were very professional.

And not political as we have them now?

No. They were really professionals and they can disagree with you on record, on issues.

They were not afraid to make recommendations to the military governor or administrator?

No, they were never. People like the late Liman Ciroma, Waziri Fika, who was eventually Secretary to the Government of Babangida. And the late Abubakar Umar, who was Secretary to the Government of Bauchi State; and the late Moguno. They were real professionals, committed technocrats.

So, you didn’t really have much challenges?

No, not much challenges.

There was no insecurity then, like we have in the North East today?

No, the police then, with their Criminal Investigation Department (CID), were very, very competent. They interacted closely with the people. So, criminals in the locality were easily identified and put under severe surveillance. And really, there was relative peace in the country.

What were your major achievements in the North East as governor?

I think the way the state was divided into three; if you remember, it became Borno, Bauchi and Gongola. So, the way we divided the assets, including the civil service and so on, I think it was one of our achievements because it was so peaceful then. We had a committee on civil service.

And eventually you became minister of petroleum under Obasanjo?

Yes.

That was the only ministry you held under Obasanjo?

Yes.

During your time as petroleum minister, what were you doing differently that they are not doing now that has made the  sector totally rotten?

Well, I was lucky again. When I was made a minister, I met an experienced man, a person of great personal integrity,  the late Sunday Awoniyi.  He was the permanent secretary then before the Supreme Military Council approved the merger of the Nigerian National Oil Corporation (NNOC) and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and  made Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Sunday Awoniyi was then the permanent secretary of the ministry. That was when I was sworn in eventually, I think in 1977, it became NNPC when the ministry and the NNOC were merged. He retired from the civil service. Another competent technocrat, Morinho, he became the Director of Petroleum Resources and he had a very competent team of Nigerian engineers, petroleum engineers and chemical engineers. And as minister of petroleum, I signed the contract for Warri Refinery, for Kaduna Refinery, for more than 20 depots all over the country, for laying of pipelines, more than 3200 kilometers and I couldn’t recall Nigeria borrowing a kobo for those projects. And then, by the time I became head of state, because I went to War College in the United States before the military handed over to the Second Republic and came back in 1980 and then, there was coup at the end of 1983. And that time, you can verify from Professor Tam David-West who was Minister of Petroleum Resources. We were exporting 100,000 barrels per day of refined products.

Exporting from the country?

Yes, refined one.

Refined one, not the raw one they are taking to import to…?

No.

100, 000 barrels?

Yes. Because we had four refineries then.

They have all collapsed…

Well, that is the efficiency of the subsequent governments!

You achieved so much success and all that. But there was an issue that became quite contentious: N2.8billion. They said N2.8billion oil money was missing.

It couldn’t have been missing. The governor of the Central Bank then, the late Clement Isong, said it was ridiculous, that N2.8billion couldn’t be missing because he said even the king of Saudi Arabia, couldn’t issue a cheque of N2.8billion. When you have paid your money for petroleum, they are normally put in the country’s external account and no bank will release that amount of money at a go because it was deposited. And then, at that time, Nigeria was exporting about 1.82 million barrels a day. And the cost of barrel a day was about $18. You work out N2.8billion. How could N2.8billion be missing and we still have money to run the country? So, it was just a political…

How did that issue come about? What happened and how did you feel during that period?

No, no. Shagari did the only honourable thing. He ordered a judicial enquiry and put a serving Justice of the Supreme Court, the late Justice Irikefe, to carry out investigation.  And their terms of reference were put there. They said anybody who had an idea of missing N2.8billion, let him come and tell Justice Irikefe. Nobody had any evidence. It was just rubbish. Well, later, Tai Solarin and Professor Awojobi were confronted and Fela, the late Fela, to go and prove their case.  They had no evidence,  most of them took the newspaper  cuttings of their allegations to the tribunal.

As evidence?

As their evidence…Cuttings of newspapers publications where they said N2.8billion was missing. That was their evidence. That was what they took to the Irikefe panel.

And Fela sang about it! Fela was your friend.

He couldn’t have been, because of what Obasanjo regime did to him. Because we were part of Obasanjo regime.

 

There is one other incident that has also been in the public domain: that Shagari gave you an order and you disobeyed your commander-in-chief. What happened then?

Which order was that?

That he gave you an instruction not to go to war against Chad or something like that?

Well, that was when I became GOC. When I came back from War College, I was in Lagos. Then, 4 Infantry Division was in Lagos, in Ikeja. I was in War College when I was posted there before General Obasanjo’s government handed over to Shagari. So, when I came, after about four months or so, I was posted to Ibadan, to command 2 Infantry Division. And after that, I was posted to Jos to command 3rd Armoured Division. It was when I was there as the GOC that the Chadians attacked some of our troops in some of the islands and killed five of them, took some military hardware and some of our soldiers. Then, I went into Army headquarters and told them then, the Chief of Army Staff then, General Wushishi, why they shouldn’t just allow a country, our neighbour to move into our territory, where we had stationed, to kill our people. So, I moved into Maiduguri, former Tactical Headquarters, and I got them out of the country. Something dramatic happened: I didn’t know I had gone beyond Chad and somehow, Shagari, in the United States, was sent pictures that I was with my troops and had gone beyond Chad, beyond Lake Chad. So, I was given direct order by the president to pull out and I did.

Oh, you did?

I did. I couldn’t have disobeyed the president. So, I handed over the division to Colonel Ogukwe, who was my course mate but was my…

He was in National Population Commission (NPC)?

I think so. Colonel Ogukwe. Yeah, he must have been. I handed over the tactical headquarters to him.

So, you never went against presidential directive?

I couldn’t have. He was the Commander-in-Chief. But maybe it was too slow for them,  for me to withdraw, but you don’t disengage so quickly.

But after that, Shagari was overthrown?

Yes.

Now, they said you were invited to head the government after the coup?

Yes.

As the most senior officer?

Yes.

What really happened because it was not a Buhari coup?

No.

Could we say you never plotted a coup throughout your military career?

No. I didn’t plot a coup.

You were not a coup plotter?

No.

You were invited?

Yes.

Where were you when you were invited?

I was in Jos. They sent a jet to me flown by one of General Gowon’s younger brothers. He was a pilot. He told me that those who conducted the coup had invited me for discussion.

You went to Lagos?

I went to Lagos. I was flown to Lagos. Yes. And they said ok, those who were in charge of the coup had said that I would be the head of state. And I was.

When you made that statement that ‘this generation of Nigerians has no country other than Nigeria,’ for me it was like a JFK statement asking Americans to think of what they  could do for America. Twenty months after, your same colleagues who invited you sacked you. What happened?

They changed their minds.

They changed their minds? So, what happened in between that, because part of what they said when they took over power was that you had become “too rigid, too uncompromising and arrogated knowledge of problems and solutions to yourself and your late deputy, Idiagbon. What really happened?

Well, I think you better identify those who did that and interview them so that they can tell you what happened. From my own point of view, I was the chairman of the three councils, which, by change of the constitution, were in charge of the country. They were the Supreme Military Council, the Executive Council and the National Council of State. I was the chairman of all. Maybe when you interview those who were part of the coup, they will tell you my rigidity and whether I worked outside those organs: the Supreme Military Council, the Council of State and the Council of Ministers.

Before I come to that, there was also this issue of Decree 4, alleged drug peddlers who your regime ordered shot.  Looking back now, do you think you made mistake in those areas?

You see, maybe my rigidity could be traced to our insistence on the laws we made. But we decided that the laws must be obeyed.

But they said it was retroactive.

Yes, they said so. But I think it should be in the archive; we said  that whoever brought in drugs and made Nigeria a transit point committed an offence. These drugs, We We (Indian hemp), is planted here, but the hard drug, cocaine, most Nigerians don’t know what cocaine is. They just made Nigeria a transit point and these people did it just to make money. You can have a certain people who grow Ashisha or We We and so on because it is indigenous. Maybe some people are even alleging that those who want to come for operation, brought the seed and started to grow it in Nigeria. But cocaine, it is alien to our people. So, those who used Nigeria as a transit, they just did it to make money. And this drug is so potent that it destroys people, especially intelligent people. So, the Supreme Military Council did a memo. Of course, I took the memo to the Supreme Military Council and made recommendation and the Supreme Military Council agreed.

There was no dissenting voice?

There was no dissenting in the sense that majority agreed that this thing, this cocaine, this hard drug was earning Nigeria so much bad name in the international community because Nigeria was not producing it, but Nigerians that wanted to make money didn’t mind destroying Nigerians and other youths in other countries just to make money. So, we didn’t need them. We didn’t need them.

But there were pleas by eminent Nigerians not to kill the three men involved in the trafficking?

Pleas, pleas; those that they destroyed did they listen to their pleas for them not to make hard drug available to destroy their children and their communities?

So, it is not something you look back now at 70 and say it was an error?

No, it was not an error. It was deliberate. I didn’t do it as an head of state by fiat. We followed our proper system and took it. If I was sure that the Supreme Military Council then, the majority of them decided that we shouldn’t have done so, we could have reduced it to long sentencing. But people who did that, they wanted money to build fantastic houses, maybe to have houses in Europe and invest. Now, when they found out that if they do it, they will get shot, then they will not live to enjoy at the expense of a lot of people that became mental and became harmful and detrimental to the society and so on, then they will think twice.

Decree 4 was what you used to gag the press?

Decree 4. You people (press), you brought in Nigeria factor into it. When people try to get job or contract and they couldn’t get it, they make a quick research and created a problem for people who refuse to do them the favour. What we did was that you must not embarrass those civil servants.  If you have got evidence that somebody was corrupt, the courts were there. Take the evidence to court; the court will not spare whoever it was. But you don’t just go and write articles that were embarrassing.

But don’t you think you went too far?

What do you mean by going too far?

But you went to the extreme that public officers could do no wrong, as if they were saints. You called the decree ‘Protection of Public Officers Against False Accusation,’ and clamped down on the media.  

Those who did it, the editors, the reporters, we jailed them. But we never closed a whole institution, as others did. We investigated and prosecuted according to the laws, because shutting a newspaper, it is an institution and we lose thousands of jobs. But we found out who made that false report, who was the editor, who okayed it and then, we jailed them.

No regret?

No regret, because we did it according to the laws we made.  We neither closed a whole institution and caused job losses.

Then, you left power, 20 months after…

No. I was sent packing from power.

Ok, you didn’t leave on your own volition?

No.

That is a good one. For Nigerians, they remember War Against Indiscipline you brought. What was the philosophy behind it?

Well, I think we realised that the main problem of Nigeria, then and now, was indiscipline and corruption. When I say we, I mean the Supreme Military Council. Those two, are Nigeria’s Achilles heels. And I believe the Nigeria elite knew it then and they know it now.  So, we started to discipline them. People must realise their level in the society and accept it. If you go and read hard and get a PhD, certainly you will get the best of life than somebody who hasn’t been to school at all or who has been a drop-out. And then, in the public, people must behave responsibly. If you go to bus stops, it is step-by-step or turn-by-turn,  and not to force your way. If you go to bank, you find out if people were there before you. Why can’t you go behind them?

Or you come early and be number one.

Exactly! I think that was accepted. And up till now, I think it is the only thing that survived out of our administration, the queue culture. People accepted it with calmness. And in Lagos, they wouldn’t like to associate themselves with the military, so they call it KAI. That is right. Kick Against Indiscipline. But it is still the same thing. It is the same. The only difference is that one was brought by the military and this one is through democratic system.

When you were eased out of power and you had time to reflect for three years, what did you then see that was wrong?

We gave them the opportunity in the three councils I told you. Those rules are supposed to be in the Nigerian archives, except somebody destroyed them, destroyed the evidence. Otherwise, what did we do wrong to warrant being sacked? For example, when we overthrew the Second Republic, we had what we called the SIP, the Special Investigation Panel that comprised the police, the National Security Organisation (NSO) then and the intelligence community of the military. We did nothing by impulse or ad hoc. We went through the system.

And then, you handed down long jail terms, some 100 years. That was something else.  Why did you do that?

They would never see the daylight again to commit another crime against humanity.

Would you say your detention period made you a new person?

I think I have always been the same person. When I came out, I was amazed, amazed in the sense that people in my immediate constituency didn’t seem to bother about the major setback I had. They were still coming to me, expecting me to help them in a way. Not in terms of material help, because they knew that I didn’t operate any money house or any petroleum bloc or any filling station…

How can you say a whole oil minister like you didn’t have any oil licence?

No. Not one, and not any for any blood relation or anybody close to me. Really, somehow, people in my community felt that I can still help them. But with that setback, I was wondering how. So, the only way for me, I think, was to join  partisan politics so that I can have a platform to speak about the opinion of my constituency, immediate constituency. But the thing that convinced me more than the pressure from immediate locality was the change in 1991, the collapse of the Soviet Union. I have said this so often that an empire in the 20th century, collapsed and a lot of people ran back home, leaving strategic installations behind, like missile sites, nuclear formation and so on. And now, there are about 18 to 19 or 20 republics. It was then that I believed,  personally, in my own assessment, that multi-party democratic system was and is still superior to despotism.

That was your turning point?

That was the turning point. But there is a big caveat: elections must be free and fair! And that is what we need. Elections must be free and fair, otherwise, the whole thing will be something else.

During your tenure, one case kept coming up: the 53 suitcases. You had ordered the border shut and your Aide de Camp (ADC), Major Jokolo, was alleged to have escorted 53 suitcases into the country. What happened? Why were you selective?

There was nothing like 53 suitcases. What happened was that there was my chief of protocol; he is now late. He had three wives, and I think about 12 children. He was in Saudi Arabia as Nigeria Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. He was in Libya before, as ambassador and later, he was posted to Saudi Arabia. And then, I appointed him as my chief of protocol and he was coming back. Three wives, about 12 children. And then, by some coincidence, the late Emir of Gwandu, the father of Jokolo, who was my ADC then, was coming back with the same flight. And somehow, some mischievous fellows, everything, including the handbag of maybe, their small daughters, were counted as suitcases. Atiku then was the Commandant of Murtala Muhammed Airport as customs officer. And that day, we were playing squash. Jokolo my ADC and I. At some point, I said to him, ‘Mustapha, is your father not coming back today again?’ He said, ‘yes, sir, he is coming.’  I said, ‘what are you doing here? Why can’t you go and meet your father?’ He said yes, sir. He went to wash and meet his father. I am telling you there was no 53 bags of suitcases. It was a bloody lie. It was a bloody mischief.

So, not that he was detailed?

No, he was not detailed. He was not even about to go. I was the one who made him to go and meet his father. He was a respected emir, in fact, if not the most respected emir in the North then. He was learned, he had fantastic credibility and personal integrity. And this man was just coming on posting with his wives and children and they counted every imaginable thing, they said 53 suitcases.

Was that why Atiku was retired?

I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t think I retired Atiku. I can’t recall because I had nothing against anybody.

But the argument was that the border was ordered shut. So, how did those people then come in?

They came by air. We didn’t stop aircraft coming in. They came by air, from Jedda to Lagos. They didn’t drive through Chad to Maiduguri and… People just say 53 suitcases when all borders had been ordered shut because that is how you can sell your papers.

Then you came into politics and every election you are there. Would you still do politics at 70 years, elective politics, offering yourself for election?

This is what I told the audience that came to listen to my address before we started the campaign for the 2011 elections. But my party and supporters were sending representatives. Up till today, they haven’t stopped. But what I told them was that we are in the process now of reorganising the party and perhaps, come into an alignment with other parties. Whatever the parties decide, whether my party or the new party that align and we are hoping to develop; if they give me the ticket or recommend me, I will consider it. That is the position we are now.

Until you get to that stage you can give a definite answer?

Until we get to that stage, there is no clear answer now. Let’s wait and see.

Is it that you don’t like money? Anytime somebody sees you, they say General Buhari is so austere. What gave you that kind of lifestyle? Nobody is associating you with millions. My reporter here was pointing to one mansion of a former governor who just ruled for eight years. So, how did you develop this frugal lifestyle? Is it that you don’t like good life? How do you unwind? Well, some of us have heard that you used to smoke. Do you still smoke? What are those things you have given up?

I used to smoke, but of course, I abandoned it I think in 1977.

Oh really? Before you became head of state?

Yes, I stopped smoking.

Have you ever taken alcohol?

No.

Never?

Never.

Even as a young man and all that?

No, no. Even in the military tradition, how they break you in, I said well, the military did not stop anybody practising his religion. My religion said no alcohol and no alcohol. So, that was respected. I was never forced to take alcohol and I have never voluntarily taken it because I want to remain alert all the time. There is a tendency that when you drink, you would want to have a bottle more, or a glass more and do something stupid.

As a young man, very handsome because I saw some of your old pictures, did you have women flocking around you? And women like soldiers, people who have power…

I also thought women ought to have taken more interest in me but I don’t know why they didn’t. I must have something they didn’t like. I assure you of that. I didn’t drink, I smoked, I had girlfriends; it was true.

How many did you have?

I hope you won’t publish this because my wife will read the interview. So, you will be very kind to me if you don’t publish that (general laughter).

You joined the army and there was coup and counter-coup and civil war. You still had time to unwind?

You can create it but we had too much eventful time, professional career. It was too eventful. There were too many things happening almost at the same time. If I could recall, the 30 months civil war that we had, I was just having two weeks after every six months to come back home just to see my old mother and some of my relatives because I refused to get married till after the war.

Was it deliberate?

It was deliberate.

Why? I thought that would have been the reason to get married.

No, no. Some of our colleagues, like late Vatsa, like Babangida, they were more adventurous than myself. They took a weekend and had a quick marriage and went back to the front. I thought I would be putting the poor girl or the poor woman under a lot of stress. So, I said if I survived the war, I would get married, but if I didn’t survive, no woman should cry for me other than my relatives.

Some of your General-colleagues became stupendously rich. Today, they have means. I am not a lawyer taking inventory of your assets or preparing your will, but tell me what property do you have now at 70? I am sure you have a house in Abuja, you have one in Lagos.  You have one in Daura and you have one here (Kaduna). So, if I count your property, maybe five. Am I right or wrong?

You are right but am not going to read or declare with you. My assets were on record, I told some of your colleagues when they came. When Murtala/Obasanjo regime came, they made sure that certain grades of public officers must declare their assets when they assumed that office and they must declare when they were leaving. So, when I was sworn in as governor of North East, I declared my assets.

What did you declare?

I declared surprisingly, even the number of  my cows then. Even if they were supposed to be producing every year, but I declared them the time I was there. And when I was leaving governorship, I became petroleum minister. When I was leaving to go to War College, I declared my assets. I could recall General Jemibewon then, was the Adjutant-General of the Army. He rang me and said he was sending me asset declaration form, that I must fill it, sign it before I left for the United States. And I did. General Jemibewon is still alive. And when I became head of state eventually, I declared my assets again. So, all of us; when I say that, I mean Obasanjo downwards, those who are alive who were governors, ministers, head of states, they had declared assets. So, if you people are serious and interested about political officers becoming multi-billionaires, you can find out from Murtala downwards. And those of us who were not very good in making money you should pity us.

Is it that you don’t like money?

Everybody likes money but I am not very good at making money. Let me put it that way. I borrowed from the banks to build the house in Daura and the one in Abuja that you mentioned and the one in Kano. The bank then was Barclays, now Union Bank. Kaduna State or North Central then housing scheme and the Federal Mortgage Bank for the house I am in and AIB, which was, I think, terminated by Central Bank. So, when you go through the records, you find out that the houses I built, I borrowed from there.

You are a respected former head of state. What is your relationship with others, Obasanjo, your former boss and at a point, your political opponent, General Babangida, the man who took over from you and then, Shagari…

You are very nice. He took over from me and I took over from Shagari. You are very nice.

I want to be polite.

You are very nice. Ok, carry on.

What is your relationship with them. I see some parts of patching up here and there, but when a man is 70, you say it the way it is. What is your relationship with all these people I have mentioned now, deep down?

I think the worst thing anybody can do to oneself is to have either hatred or grudge on daily basis. One thing will happen and you better forget.

Have you forgiven Babangida now? You once said you felt betrayed over the coup against your government?

I did. Publicly, I did.

You have?

I have and some of your papers published it. I said as a Muslim, I have forgiven him.

But during that period it happened, you must have been really angry?

Of course, I was angry because I can’t recall what I had done for him to mobilise the military to overthrow me and detain me for more than three years. Yeah, it is natural for me to be upset.

Were you going to retire him before your overthrow, as has been alleged? This is an opportunity to lay it  because we have heard those speculations that you were going to retire him and he moved against you quickly.

Something like that happened but not him. I moved to retire his Director of Military Intelligence.

Akilu?

General Aliyu, not Akilu.

Aliyu?

Aliyu Gusau.

You were going to retire him?

Yes. I took a paper to Army Council. Babangida was there…

As the Chief of Army Staff.

Yes. Idiagbon was there, Bali was there as Minister of Defence, and I was there as the head of state and commander-in-chief. And reasons for him to be removed was in that memo. Go and find out from him or from Babangida. They are both alive.

Not against Babangida per se?

No.

But if you touched Gusau, his intelligence chief, invariably, you were going to inch towards the Chief of Army Staff, Babangida. Eventually, he might have been touched.

I didn’t know but at that point, it was Aliyu Gusau.

You were inching closer?

Yes, we were inching closer. You could say that.

But you have forgiven him for all that happened.

I have forgiven him. I said it and it was printed by some of your colleagues. But I didn’t say it will be forgotten. It cannot be forgotten. If I say I forget about it, I will be lying. But I have forgiven him,  just as I expect Shagari to forgive me as the one who succeeded him.

But Shagari said you detained him and then…

I too, was detained (general laughter).

Ok, what of Obasanjo? What kind of relationship do you have?

Obasanjo; he mobilized Nigerian voters against me.

But you have forgiven him?

No, I haven’t forgiven him (laughter).

Finally now, finally, finally, finally…

I don’t know when your final will come to a real final.

No, this is the end now. If the end comes,  how do you want Nigerians to remember you,  if you have the chance to write your epitaph?

I want Nigerians to be fair to me. Like this case of 53, 55 suitcases, like the case of N2.8billion. I want Nigerians to be fair and to be fair, all these documents are in the Nigerian archives. As I said, I didn’t do anything important outside the three organs of government: the Supreme Military Council, Council of States and Council of Ministers. On serious issues, Nigerians should do some research. That is why I always make emphasis on investigative journalism. If you want to be fair and impartial, I am sure you can have the capacity, both intellectual and resource to make an in-depth investigation.

Nigerians should be fair to you?

They should be fair to me.

 Your daughter just passed on?

She would have been 40 before she died.

Oh, when life was just beginning.

Yes.

What was the circumstance? Some said she was a sickler; she had sickle cell anemia.

She was a sickler and she had complication when she was delivered by Caesarian.

And that remains a very sad incident for you.

Yes.

Thank you, General.

You are always welcome.

Posted On Tuesday, 25 December 2012 16:58 Written by

After weeks of intrigues between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the embattled Chairman of Bi-Courtney Limited, Dr. Wale Babalakin, the agency finally arrested him yesterday in Lagos, ending attempts by Babalakin to evade prosecution.

According to the EFCC’s spokesman, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, Babalakin was arrested by EFCC men at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). He was accosted by the operatives a few minutes after he was discharged by the hospital and was immediately whisked away to the Ikoyi office of the commission.

“I can authoritatively confirm to you that we have arrested Wale Babalakin. He was arrested immediately after his discharge from LUTH”, he said. However, Babalakin, hours later, fulfilled the stringent administrative bail conditions of the anti-graft agency. Asked if stringent measures had been taken by the EFCC to prevent the embattled businessman from leaving the country before the next date of his arraignment in January, the commission’s spokesman revealed that the administrative bail conditions had done that. “The administrative bail conditions set by the commission have taken care of that.

The case of Babalakin running away from the country to avoid prosecution by the EFCC might not arise,” With his arrest, the coast is now clear for the EFCC to finally arraign the Bi-Courtney boss in a Federal High Court, Lagos on January 17, 2013. Recall that the EFCC had filed a 27-count charge against Babalakin over alleged money laundering on behalf of former governor of Delta State James Ibori in 2006. Ibori was convicted this year by a British court.

Babalakin also lost his bid last week Friday to prevent the EFCC from prosecuting him after several court injunctions, when a Federal High Court headed by Justice Ibrahim Buba told him to answer to the corruption charges.

Babalakin and the EFCC had been engaged in the cat and mouse game when his planned arraignment was stalled on account of ill –health which forced him to seek cure at LUTH. On two occasions, he had sought unsuccessful judicial support to stop his prosecution. He first approached the Federal High Court presided over by Justice Mohammed Idris and later Justice Ibrahim Buba seeking to enforce his fundamental human rights against the commission.

Last Friday, Justice Buba in what appears like a final seal on Babalakin’s fate ruled that the Federal High Court is not the proper place to plead his ill-health and that the Lagos High Court where the charge is preffered against him should be. The judge urged him not to be afraid to appear before the Lagos High Court. He dismissed the application.

Posted On Tuesday, 25 December 2012 16:18 Written by

The arbitrary port charges emanating from  bureaucracy, terminal operators and the multinational shipping companies have been a source of concern to shippers (importers and exporters), investigations have showed.

As a result of the arbitrary port charges, Nigerian ports were tagged the most expensive in the world.
Available records show that Nigerian shippers are losing N65.4 billion annually to arbitrary port charges, thereby causing Nigeria to lose the bulk of its shipping businesses to neighbouring countries.
It would be recalled that in 2010, the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) took up the fight to stem the tide of arbitrary charges by publishing a list of 40 unapproved port charges.
These include terminal handling charges, container deposit, container clearing, shipping company charges, demurrage charges, and cost-on-turnover.
Others are: transfer documentation charges, transfer charges, rent charges, equipment charges, manifest amendment charges and tally clerk charges.
The discovery prompted the former Minister of Transport, Alhaji Yusuf Suleiman to issue an order for the cancellation of about 12 of the unofficial charges. The Senate Committee on Marine Transport recently visited the headquarters of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) in Lagos on an oversight function and it also made the same complaint.
Mrs Zainab Kure, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Marine Transport said during the visit that the committee had been inundated with complaints of arbitrary charges in Nigerian ports.
She said that the reports the committee got were disturbing, adding that ``there is no doubt that a commercial regulator is needed in the Maritime industry’’.
However, Mr Zebulon Ikokide, the President, Institute of Freight Forwarders of Nigeria (IFFN) said the private terminal operators were not imposing arbitrary charges. He told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that allegations of arbitrary charges being made by some port operators were not true.``There is nothing like arbitrary port charges as the terminal operators are not charging beyond what has been approved by government,” he said.
Ikokide said that the NPA had reduced all port charges by over 30 per cent at the start of the concession agenda. The maritime expert said that concessionaires were, however, allowed to increase the charges after two years with the permission of the Federal government.
``The concessionaires wrote to the Federal Government which approved 20 per cent increase in port charges. ``This is not arbitrary or exorbitant, but within the provisions of the concession agreement with the government,’’ the IFFN president said. Ikokide said that there was need for a commercial regulator in the industry to handle complaints in respect of the port charges.
Mr John Ofobike, Chairman, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agent (ANLCA), Apapa Chapter, however, insisted that the concessionaires were imposing arbitrary charges.
Ofobike alleged that the operators were not offering quality services, but wanted to recoup their investments in two to three years without waiting for the 15 to 20 years given them by government.
``The concession agreement says that on no account should you unilaterally jerk up your rates without due process and notifying all stakeholders. ``I have been the Chairman of ANLCA since 2003, long before the private operators came and I am talking authoritatively, we need a commercial regulator,’’ Ofobike said. ``Before the concessionaires came, the Nigerian Ports Authority was charging N750 for a 20 ft. container to stay at the ports and N1, 500 for a 40 ft. container.
``The concessionaires started by charging the same rate as the NPA for the initial period, but later started charging N2,500 per 20 ft. container in a day and N6,000 for a 40 ft. container.
``They came again and charged N6, 000 for a 20 ft. container and N10, 000 for a 40 ft. container per day, now they have jerked it up again. ``As we speak, a 20 ft. container attracts a charge of N8,000 and a 40 ft. container attracts N12,000 per day as demurrage with other port charges inclusive. ``Is that not exorbitant port charges? ‘’Ofobike asked.
At a one-day forum organised by Emeka Akabogu and Associates, in collaboration with the NSC in Lagos during the year, maritime stakeholders expressed their anger over the arbitrary charges levied by port concessionaires and shipping companies.
The stakeholders explained that port concession had not reduced the cost of doing business in Nigerian ports.
A maritime lawyer, Emeka Akabogu, said that due to the high charges incurred by importer and exporters, most of them preferred taking their cargoes through the neighbouring ports to reduce cost.
Mr Olayiwola Shittu, the President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) suggested that the e-payment mode should be adopted as another way of eradicating illegal and duplicated charges.
Industry experts explained that the situation was aggravated by the absence of a commercial regulator; the failure to pass the Port and Harbour bill; and the inability to pass the National Transport Commission Bill.
Industry observers suggested that there should be a legal backing for the port reform programme and the appointment of a commercial regulator to regulate port charges.

 

Posted On Tuesday, 25 December 2012 01:47 Written by

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