Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Time Is Now!

The Time Is Now!

On the 23rd of November 2009, rumours abound that the President of Nigeria Mr. Umaru Yar’adua had been flown to Saudi Arabia for the third time this year. Following strong rumours that he was in actual fact dead, the information minister Mrs Dora Akunyili and the special adviser on media affairs, Segun Adeniyi, informed Nigerians three days later that the President was suffering from acute pericaditis , a heart condition but assured us that he was recovering and would return to the country within a week. The duo also publicly stated that a letter had not been sent to the National Assembly informing them of the President’s absence and confirmed that an official handover would not be necessary as the president was expected to return within two weeks.

Since that date we have had various conflicting messages from the presidency which include; “the president has made a full recovery and will be back within a couple of weeks” , “the president can rule from anywhere for a whole year and even contest the 2011 election from wherever he is”, “all necessary documents are being sent to Saudi Arabia for approval and have been returned signed” etc.

These comments have been issued intermittently through the media by the Minister of Justice Mr. Michael Aondoakaa, Minister of Information Mrs Dora Akunyili, the Secretary General to the Federation Mr. Mahmud Yayale, the President’s sister, mother and brother. At one point the Minister of Justice even promised that a video conference would be arranged so that Nigerians can see that the President is recovering rapidly. None of these promises have materialized and the foreign media and online news blogs have repeatedly stated that the President will not be returning in the nearest future and that in fact he is in a vegetative state.

Various pressure groups including the G53 have called for the resignation of the President but the calls were condemned by the government and instead the Senate President and the Vice President continually called for prayers for the recovery of our ailing President. During this period the Vice President has chaired the weekly Federal Executive Council meetings and approved the award of contracts and other necessary documents.

Today Nigerians were informed that the principal secretary David Edevbhie travelled to Saudi Arabia and has obtained the President’s signature on the N353 billion supplementary appropriation bill. This news has come as a total shock to Nigerians who are incensed by the apparent fraudulent nature of this claim. The time has come to ask the Nigerian government to treat Nigerian citizens with respect and on that basis we demand a response to the following:

1.  Full disclosure on the true position of the President’s health which can be effectively communicated by televising a video conference with him in Saudi Arabia so that Nigerians can determine whether or not he is in a fit state to review and sign a 400 page document.

2.  Why has the President not signed a letter to the National Assembly informing them officially of the President’s absence and giving the Vice President the authority to act on his behalf as provided in the constitution under S.145.

3.  How does the Presidency intend to swear in the new Chief Justice on the 31st of December 2009 when the tenure of the current Chief Justice will expire since there is neither a president nor an acting president in office?

4.  What is the legal basis of all the approvals that the Vice President has signed in the past month considering that there has been no official handover? What section of the constitution permits this?

Nigerians are no longer prepared to sit back and accept unconstitutional acts perpetrated by government officials in whom we have placed our trust to represent our collective interests.


Sola Adeyeye

Kayode Ogundamisi Nigeria Liberty Forum

Roz Ben-Okagbue Good Leadership Nigeria

Emeka Aneke Kick Corruption out of Our Beloved Country

Nigerians Support Justice Uwais Electoral Reform Committee Report

Seyi Osiyemi Heal Nigeria

Meekam Mgbenwelu Debate and Review Group

Feyi Fawehinmi

Rosanwo Babatunde Global African Dialogue (GADO)

Kayode Ajulo Egalitarian Mission, Africa

Babatunde Ogala Esq.

Mohammed Salihu

Anthony Omokhdion

Kachi Eluigwe Heal Nigeria

Blessing Agada Heal Nigeria

Ehimofe Odewale

Ahmed Ogunlaja Good Leadership Nigeria

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Bleeding Nation - Need for Accountability

As the President lays gracefully on the sick bed in Saudi Arabia, Ministers and Permanent Secretaries have being busy defending their 2010 budget allocation at the National Assembly. This exercise is what we call ‘Budget Estimates’ hearing here in Australia. The Estimates process, whilst it exposes problems, it certainly serves to reassure the “average voter” that the Government and the bureaucracy are being held accountable.

Accountability is very important in any democratic governance. Public funds should be spent for public purposes by Governments and bureaucrats. It is not the private purse of the Government that bureaucrats or ministers can do what they like with. These are public funds for public purposes and should stand the test of public scrutiny. We should be able to hold the government responsible for its policies and the ministers/bureaucrats to be held responsible for the expenditure of public money.

The simple reasons for having an ‘Estimates’ hearing is to ensure that principles of probity, accountability and transparency are enshrined in the governance process. But in the case of Nigeria, some of the revelations coming of out 2010 budget allocation hearing are quite astonishing to say the least.

Some of these revelations are a sad reminder of how the nation is continuously been bled, by the ruling elites. Billions of naira is either been spent or allocated for frivolous expenses.

Let’s start with the Information and Communications Ministry. Mrs Dora Akunyili plans to spend N325 million on the Rebranding Project. This is more than half of the Ministry’s capital budget for 2010. This is in addition to the N129.2milion spent on the project in 2009. Is it not ludicrous that despite the criticism levelled at the rebranding project, this government is still hell bent on wasting almost N450milion on a silly ‘cosmetic’ exercise. And by the way, what happened to the N600million spent by the Obasanjo regime on the ‘Heart of Africa’ project? The long and short of this is, by the end of 2010, the Nigeria would have spent over N1billion on ‘cosmetic surgery’.

What about the budget of over N1.1billion submitted by the State House for the treatment of termites in the Presidential Villa (Aso Rock) and vehicle maintenance? How can the State House justify spending N250milion for termite treatment? What sort of termites are they? Also how many vehicles are been maintained at a yearly cost of N450million?

We also learnt during the week that, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Ojo Maduekwe engaged in incessant foreign trips throughout this year which cost the public till about N2.7 billion in 2009 alone. This was just shortly after the Speaker of the House Representative, Dimeji Bankole, confirmed that the House of Reps spent N24billion on foreign travel in 2009. Haba! So if the House of Rep and Ojo Maduekwe spent a combined N26.7billion, then what about the Senate, The President, State Governors and other Ministers. Only heaven knows how much former President Obasanjo spent during his eight rule on foreign travel, considering that he was overseas junketing from one country to the other for over 300 days during his first term in office.

The Ministry of Petroleum Resources was no exception. The Ministry’s budget proposal was noted to be full of ambiguities and repetitions. It was discovered that a provision of N600 million for the construction of gas master plan in the 2010 budget, was given for the same project last year. Ha! Ha!!

The recent revelations from the Senate hearing validate the widely held perception of politicians and bureaucrats as being lazy, wasteful and fat-cats. It makes the public become more cynical and mistrusting of the politics, politicians and the political process.

The simple fact remains that, the taxpayers deserve to how public money is being spent and the justification by the Government of their policies which led to the expenditure of that money.

For, if accountability and transparency should fail, then the very confidence that is necessary to sustain a democracy will be shattered and one cringes to think what the alternative system would look like.

The legislature does have a real and major role to play. Unless we continue to have a thorough and genuine scrutiny of the policies and expenditure of Government , then there is likely to be little faith or trust in the political system.

And just before I go, I wish you all a Merry Xmas and Happy New Year.

I will be back again in 2010.

Monday, December 21, 2009

G-53 Gives One Week Ultimatum Over President Umar Yar'Adua

The Group of 53 recently called the attention of Nigerians to the unheathy development of President Umaru Yaradua going on medical trip abroad without handing over to the Vice-President as stipulated by the constitution.While sympathising with the President and wishing him quick recovery,we did ask the president to consider it a patriotic duty to resign and allow his Vice to carry on the business of state.

In torrents,all manners of "patriots" of convenience descended on us calling us names.

Today,the same set of "prayer warriors" are reportedly in power play of succession while still prescribing hypocritical prayers for the people.

Quite a number of developments have taken place since our call which have vindicated our stand that Nigeria should not totter on without a head:

1)The 2009 Supplementary Appropriation Bill addressing critical issues in the Niger Delta among others and duely passed by the National Assembly cannot be signed into law because of the absence of the President;

2)The Amnesty Programme being personally coordinated by the President has run into a hitch and has led to protests by ex-militants and resumption of hostilities by MEND;

3)The 2009 National Honours list cannot be signed because the office of the president is not functioning;

4)The appointments of the new President of the Court of Appeal and the Chief Justice of Nigeria have been confirmed but they cannot assume office because their oath of office that should constitutonally be administered by the President cannot be carried out in his absence.Technically,two out of the three arms of government are presently headless;

5)Though we are aware that the Federal Executive Council has been meeting under Vice President Jonathan Goodluck but by virtue of Section 114 of the 1999 Contitution which says ony the President can preside over such meetings,contractions who are taking approvals from such meeting are running a risk as decisions taken at such meetings are void;

6)Critical meetings of ECOWAS of which our president is chairman have been cancelled.Of Particular note were the meetings on Niger and Guniea where the Constitutions of both countries have been suspended by dicators.

In the light of the foregoing,we call on President Yaradua to immediately comply with section 145 of the constitution which requires him to write to the Senate President and the speaker of the House of Representatives that he has proceeded on medical vacation so that the Vice President can assume Presidential powers and run the country while he is away.

We do not think this country should carry on this way beyond the next SEVEN DAYS

Signed for the Steering Committee of G-53

Yinka odumakin.(O8033004665)

Osita Okechukwu(080397388870)

Engr.Buba Galadima(08037000159)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Of Opposition Parties and Anti-Corruption

As we know, the EFCC recently arrested the former Sokoto state Governor Attahiru Bafarawa for allegedly misappropriating N15bn during his eight-year tenure as Governor. The former Governor, who is also one of the founding members of the ‘yet to be announced’ mega opposition party, was arrested shortly after emerging from the opposition party meeting.

And as I write this piece, the former Governor is being detained by the EFCC pending his arraignment in Court.

So what’s the case against Attahiru Bafarawa? It is alleged that the former Sokoto state Governor awarded contracts to his wife and brother in-law, flouting due process. He’s also been accused of converting his personal account to a state government account while remaining the sole signatory and converted several millions for his personal use.

As we may know, the former governor's first encounter with EFCC was in May 2008 when he was arrested on allegations of corruption and money laundering. Following his arrest, his international passport was deposited in the custody of the Federal High Court in Abuja.

As expected, his recent arrest and detention by the EFCC has not been short of hullabaloo. Whilst the EFCC has strongly defended its action claiming it had substantial evidence against the former governor, opposition parties have claimed that the ‘arrest’ was carried out to intimidate and suppress political opposition. It is worth noting that part of the evidence against Bafarawa are from the White Paper, issued by a commission of inquiry that was set up by the present Sokoto state administration, which indicted the former Governor and his aides of fraud.

The anti-corruption crusade in Nigeria has somewhat become a poisoned chalice. Regardless of who is arrested or prosecuted, it seems there is always an excuse to discredit the action of the EFCC and the judiciary. Even when Chief Bode George, who is a member of the ruling party, was jailed for corruption, I heard people say it was because he had fallen out with the current PDP leadership. But does that really matter? Is it the fact that he was jailed that is important or his supposed falling out with the powers that be?

Don’t get me wrong, I hold no brief for the EFCC. In fact, I quite agree 100 percent with the Senator Hilary Clinton’s comments, when she said “the EFCC has fallen off over the last two years”. There is no doubt that the nation’s anti-corruption vehicle has been locked in reverse gear since President Umar Yar’Adua assumed office. I also need not to remind you of how the nation’s chief law officer has actively undermined the anti-corruption campaign.

However, it’s now become a trend for the opposition parties to see any attempt to arrest or prosecute their members as an act of intimidation and oppression. It’s quite convenient for the opposition to label the EFCC as a government tool, whenever they are under the hammer.

On the recent arrest of ex-governor Bafarawa. I agree that the arrest of the former governor shortly after a political meeting sends a wrong signal. And yes, the EFCC should have exercised caution in carrying out the arrest due to its political sensitivity. But at the same time, that should not distract us from asking the critical questions, “Is the former Governor actually guilty of the alleged charges”. Did he flout due process while awarding contracts? Did he convert his person accounts into state accounts?

It is high time; we address issues with sense of objectivity. Each case should be judged on its own merit. The ineptitude and perceived ‘selective prosecution’ by the EFCC is not an excuse for not doing the right thing. The same sorts of arguments where used to discredit Nuhu Ribadu’s efforts. Those arrested and prosecuted claimed that it was because of their stance against Obasanjo’s ‘Third Term Agenda’. The allegation then was that Obasanjo was using the EFCC to deal with his enemies. Others alleged that plots were being hatched to pursue an aggressive campaign of selective prosecution. However, one incontrovertible fact remains, everyone Nuhu Ribadu prosecuted had a ‘skeleton’ in their cupboards.

Let’s not be fooled by the diversionary tactics used by politicians whenever they run into troubled waters. Some are always quick to say that the EFCC will only be taken seriously until when the likes of James Ibori and Co have been successfully prosecuted. For me such a statement is hypocritical. Are we saying that prosecution of corrupt persons should be put on hold until James Ibori and Co. have been sent to prison?

Instead of getting bogged down with arguments about EFCC sincerity of purpose, let’s focus on the allegations levelled against these individuals. Let anyone indicted for corruption, regardless of their political affiliation; defend him or herself in the court of law. Membership of opposition parties should not be used as an excuse to escape justice.

But having said that, the EFCC should make sure that, the basic rights of all prosecuted persons are respect. Irrespective of their charges, such persons remain innocent until proven guilty.

And as for the corrupt politicians who are allies of President Umar Yar’Adua and the PDP leadership, let them continue to enjoy ‘immunity’ from prosecution. But as the Yorubas say, ‘there is no season that last forever’. It is only a matter of time before justice catches up with them. Who would have thought that Bode George would spend his 64th birthday in prison?

Friday, December 11, 2009

The House of Yar'Adua and Political Sycophancy

The pace of events since my last piece on the state of health of President Umar Yar’Adua has been extraordinary. If nothing, the events of the last few days have confirmed that President Umar Yar’Adua is not short of supporters and sympathisers in the political space. Most of whom can be aptly described as political sycophants. I have always found the continuous thoughtless praise of President Yar’Adua in the face of his ‘gross incompetence’ very sickening.

Sycophancy is not new phenomenon in our nation’s history. Even at the point of death, it will be stupid not to expect that some political jobbers and adulators will keep urging the President to carry on. These cheerleaders are neither acting in the interest of nation nor their ‘masters’. The motive behind this deceit is to use their master to perpetuate their own evil agenda. But as the Yorubas will say, “anyone who allows his/her head to be used to crack a coconut will never live eat it”

Despite acknowledging for the first time that it had no clue on the President’s return, the nation highest ruling body, Federal Executive Council (FEC), stuck to its guns not to yield to public clamour for the President resignation. And just when you think, the impoverished masses have not suffered enough from bout of hunger; the Minister for Information had the guts to tell Nigerians to embark on fasting. What a nonsense!

The comments of the FEC calling for ‘prayer and fasting’ on President Yar’Adua’s behalf is not only condescending but smacks of hypocrisy. Yes, people can fast and prayer for the President’s quick recovery. In fact some may choose to move to the mountain top in order to be closer to God, as that help hasten their prayer request. But truth be told, that has nothing to do with adhering to the provisions of the constitution.

Now it almost 19 days since the President went AWOL – albeit to receive medical treatment. But the questions remain, is it prayer and fasting that will help launch an investigation into the state of the President’s health? Is it prayer and fasting that will help determine if the President is incapacitated or not? Or is the FEC waiting for a ‘vision’ from heaven to inform their next course of action? As I write, it’s been reported by one of the local media that President Yar’Adua has lost his voice. For me, any call for prayer and fasting by the ruling elite is just a diversionary tactic.

We’ve also heard a member of President Umaru Yar’Adua, Hajia Binta Kuraje, rising to the defence of her brother. According to her, “The President has the ability and capacity to lead the country for another 16 years.” The lady was even bold enough to describe those calling for the President’s resignation as ‘corrupt’ because they are opposed the government anti-graft war.

Can someone please ask the Yar’Adua family what the govt anti-graft war got to do with this? I will be surprised if Binta Kuraje understands the meaning of ‘corruption’. Who is corrupt between a man (and his wife) that is intoxicated with power, and will do all it takes to hold on to it – despite his ill health, and a suffering masses calling for his resignation. And again, who says President Yar’Adua holds the monopoly on anti-corruption?

If Binta Kuraje does not know, “it is only when a man is alive that he can aspire to greater things”. Without fear of contradiction, I will say to the Yar’Adua family that the nation does not need 16 years of Umar’s presidency. Personally, I don’t care if Umar Yar’Adua is as agile as a monkey, because his first two years in office has demonstrated nothing but incompetence and lack of basic understanding of the requirements of his office. To put it in simple terms, President Umar Yar’Adua just does not get it. Period!

For how long will 150 million Nigerians be held to ransom by the ‘House of Yar’Adua’ and its political sycophants?

Let the House of Yar’Adua and all its political sycophants be told, Nigeria is bigger than any individual, household or ethnic group. This nation cannot afford a President that imposes a huge liability on its social and economic development. This nation cannot afford leadership through proxy. We do not want an absentee leader. We are not interested in a leader that will be ruling by proxy. We are not interested in a leader that will be passing instructions from a sick bed in far away Saudi Arabia.

Friday, December 4, 2009

President Umar Yar'Adua: Ill Health or Gross Misconduct?

It’s been 12 days since President Umar Yar’Adua’s abrupt departure from Nigeria, and public opinion remains divided over his sudden disappearance due to ill health.

Many believe the President should step down due to his ill health, which they perceive is having a huge impact on his performance. Such people are of the opinion that relevant provisions of the constitution should be invoked, and the Vice-President should take over the country leadership. This opinion is been championed by a group of 52 eminent personalities (G-52), who have recently signed a petition calling for the President’s resignation.

On the other hand, we have the Pro-Yar’Adua group. This group believe that the call for the President’s resignation is unconstitutional and short of ‘treason’. At this stage, it is reasonable to say the Federal Executive Council (FEC) is at the fore front of this campaign.

Whatever anyone’s opinion, the ongoing saga raises two important issues that should not be confused. The first issue is the failure of President to hand over to the V-P prior to his departure. The second issue is regarding his state of health and ability to discharge the functions of his office.

Interestingly, everyone calling for the President resignation seems to be quoting from S.144 of the 1999 Constitution. However, I do not think it is as ‘clear cut’ as these people make it. The procedure for removal of a President on health grounds is quite arduous.

Section 144 says (in summary) “the President shall cease to hold office, if (a) a resolution passed by two-thirds majority of all the members of the FEC declare that he/she is incapable of discharging the functions of his office”, and (b) the declaration is verified, through medical examination by a medical panel established by the Senate President”.

But what we forget is that, the constitution does not define what is meant by been ‘incapable’. Does incapable mean being hospitalised? And if that’s the case, for how long does the President have to be in the hospital before he can be classified as ‘incapable’? Or does ‘incapable’ mean failure to attend FEC meetings? Also let’s not forget, the minimum health requirements for the post of President are not published anywhere.

Even if the President undergoes a medical examination as requested by the G-52, it will have to be assessed by a Panel. I’m not a medical expert, but I know from personal experience that interpretation of medical assessments can be subjective’. What Doctor X considers ‘serious’ might just be seen as ‘benign’ by Doctor Y. So for a panel to agree on such matters will be challenging. Also, let’s not forget that the Panel will be put together by the Senate President, who is also a member of the ruling party.

As for the President’s failure to hand to his V-P, I think there is a compelling case for the National Assembly to take necessary action. It is an abuse of office and irresponsible for a nation’s President to travel out of the country- without a definite return date – and not handover to his Vice-President.

But will the National Assembly rescue the nation from this political/leadership logjam? Your guess is as good as mine. We have heard the Deputy Senate President saying the President Yar’Adua can stay in Saudi Arabia for as long as he likes. In his words,
“The Constitution did not make provision for how long a President can stay out of the country and then he will would lose his job. There is no such provision in our constitution. So, if he spends one year abroad, of course, you have a Vice-President, who will be acting in his place…”
It is absolutely nonsensical for the Deputy Senate President to make such a statement. Yes the constitution does not stipulate the maximum length of time the President can be out of the country. But Section 145 states
“Whenever the President transmits to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he is proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office, until he transmits to them a written declaration to the contrary such functions shall be discharged by the Vice-President as Acting President”.

The failure of the President to formally notify the National Assembly and hand over to his V-P, means technically, we do not have an Acting President. The fact remains that a leadership vacuum has been created by President Yar’Adua’s indiscretion. If the National Assembly does not see this as an act of ‘gross misconduct’, then we may as well move the seat of power to King Faisal Hospital in Jeddah.

The country is now at a crossroad. We have a President who is laying helplessly on the sick bed in far away Saudi Arabia. Back at home, governance seems to have grounded to a halt.

The V-P has no official mandate to act as President. The Federal Executive Council has decided to bury its head in the sand. And the National Assembly has told us categorically that the President can decide to live in Saudi Arabia for the rest of his tenure.

So where does the hope lie in all these? Who will break this political stalemate?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A National Call on President Umar Yar'Adua to Step Down

December 1, 2009

Press Statement


It is clear to every discerning observer that President Umaru Yar'Adua's physical condition has had a negative impact on his ability to discharge the functions of the highest office in our nation. Within the last few months, he has been unable to attend to crucial affairs of the State at home and abroad and whenever he has found time to do so, his judgment appears impaired by his ill-health.

A few examples may suffice:

i. His health condition has necessitated several medical trips abroad but he has not transmitted to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives a written declaration that he was proceeding on vacation or that he is otherwise unable to discharge the functions of his office as required by Section 145 of the Constitution.

ii. President Yar'adua though invited was unable to attend the United nations General Assembly for which a private audience had been arranged between him and President Obama for high level discussions of issues mutually beneficial to Nigeria and the United States because he was in Saudi Arabia to 'open a university' which was a dummy sold to cover up his treatments.

iii. It is also common knowledge that the incapacity of the president has affected the implementation of the nation’s budget because he has been unable to coordinate the management of the national economy and to preside over the Federal Executive Council in a diligent manner.

iv In the circumstance, Ministers have routinely flouted the orders of the President and engaged in infighting as a direct result in the vacuum of leadership. This was recently embarrassingly exposed to the world with the series of conflicting public statements credited to the Attorney General and the Chair person of the EFCC. This was also exposed further when the president disavowed knowledge of a memo to all foreign missions purportedly on his instructions. Furthermore, till date, ministers continue to flout the public instruction of the president that ministers who presented memos at the FEC should stay behind to brief the media.

v You may also recall that a battery of doctors complete with their paraphernalia escorted the president to the National Assembly last year to stand by as he delivered the budget and you may also recall that some pundits have revealed that the crisis between the Senate and the house on who should host the budget delivery by the president was contrived to provide an escape for the president who was reportedly physically unable to perform this formal task.

vi Finally, the current condition of the president has created a dangerous situation whereby no one is in charge of the affairs of the State contrary to the letter and spirit of the Constitution.

As responsible and concerned individuals from every part of Nigeria, we call on President Umaru Yar'Adua to immediately choose the honorable option of either:

(a) resigning his office immediately, or

(b) if he is confident of his true physical condition, request the Federal Executive Council to pass a resolution pursuant to Section 144 (1) of the Constitution to the effect that the President appears incapable of discharging the functions of his office. This honorable step will enable the Senate President to appoint a Medical Panel to confirm the fitness or otherwise of the President to continue in office.

As President Yar'Adua's compatriots and part of his larger Nigerian family, we sympathize with him and believe that his health should be given priority attention. At the same time, the need to provide effective governance for this nation of over 150 million people cannot be compromised. Indeed, the Constitution has rightly envisaged the situation in which the country has found itself..

In any event, we are of the view that the President should immediately and unconditionally hand over to the Vice-President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan to complete the current term of office, and conduct the next general elections on the basis of the report of the electoral reform committee headed by Justice Mohammed Lawal Uwais.


(1) Alhaji Balarabe Musa (2) Chief Olu Falae (3) Senator Ken Nnamani (4) Alhaji Aminu Masari (5) Lt. Gen. Alani Akinrinade (Rtd) (6) Chief John Odigie Oyegun (7) Dr. Tunji Braithwaite (8) Col. Abubakar Umaru (Rtd) (9) Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN) (10) Alhaji Buba Galadima (11) Hon. Olawale Oshun (12) Dr. Usman Bugaje (13) Alhaji Adamu Maina Waziri (14) Mallam Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai (15) Mr. Femi Falana (16) Mr. Yinka Odumakin (17) Alhaji Sadiq Yar’Adua (18) Hon. Adamu Farouk Aliyu (19) Chief Jos Ayomike (20) Hajia Naja’atu Muhammeed (21) Dr (Mrs) Joe Okei-Odumakin (22) Ms. Annkio Briggs (23) Mrs. Jumoke Anifowose (24) Chief Supo Shonibare (25) Mr. Odia Ofeimun (26) Hon. Lawal Garuba (27) Mr. Biodun Sowunmi (28) Hon (Dr) Ishaq Kurufi  (29) Hon. Uche Onyeagocha (30) Hon. Bashir Idrs Nadabo (31) Mr. Kayode Ogundamisi  (32) Saint George Eke (33) Mr. Bamidele Aturu (34) Prof. Sola Adeyeye (35) Mr. Osita Okechukwu (36) Hon (Dr) Haruna Yerima (37) Ms Ayo Obe (38) Mr. Akintoye Branco-Rhodes (39) Hon. (Dr) Almajiri Gaidam (40) Alhaji Amitolu Shittu (41) Mallam Uba Sani (42) Barrister Supo Ojo (43) Barrister Sani Hussaini Garun-Gabbas (44) Mr. Festus Okoye (45) Mallam Salihu Lukman (46) Dr Pat Itomi (47) Mr. Adetokunbo Mumuni (48) Alhaji Kabir Yahaya (49) Hon. Awwal Tukur  (50) Mallam Tanko Yinusa (51) Mallam Nasir Kura (52) Achike Chude (53) Mr. Iboroma Akpana (54) Mr. Morakinyo Ogele

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Ailing Leader - A Suitable Case for Occupational Medicine

The ongoing health saga of Pres. Umar Yar’Adua begs the question of whether prospective political office holders should be made to undergo ‘occupational health assessment’. During the course of my reading, I came across an article on this subject.

So what are your views of this issue? Do you agree that our leaders should be made to undergo health assessment?

The article goes thus,

The public is, of course, interested in the details of the personal lives of heads of state, even if it is in a spirit of prurience and directed more towards stars and royals. Illness and its effects on heads of state have interested only a few serious medically qualified historians, notably Hugh L’Etang, who produced three extremely readable accounts of the pathology of leadership and also wrote about occupational health in Africa

There is no doubting the seriousness of the subject—Hugh L’Etang estimated that since 1908, 11 out of 13 British Premiers and 6 out of 10 American Presidents had illnesses whilst in office that incapacitated them to some degree. The issues are (i) Does this matter? (ii) What safeguards can be put in place to prevent adverse fallout?

No one denies that serious illness, mental or physical, or substance abuse can affect performance and decision making, but can one really predict the consequences for a nation, or even beyond that nation, other than with hindsight? Presumably, many leaders have been seriously ill and impaired but their illness had no impact whatsoever on events. This may be even truer these days, where absolute power is becoming rarer and checks and balances, especially in democratic societies, much stronger. Who is to say that the really important conditions that affected the big decisions of the past were not actually rather minor ones—a bad migraine or an attack of gout, a reaction to a gloomy horoscope, even a bad night’s sleep?

Openness about a disease such as cancer may be desirable, indeed admirable, but most leaders are unwilling to divulge such a diagnosis to the undiscerning press who, oddly enough, seem to regard the condition (along with mental illness) with much more alarm than, say, arterial disease.

The 25th amendment to the US Constitution (1967) allows for the Vice President to immediately assume the powers and duties of the President should the President be unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. There is no mention of appraisal of the situation by medical professionals. In Britain, the Mental Health Act 1983 has a clause which involves ‘any registered medical practitioner’ reporting any Member of Parliament detained for mental illness under the Act to the Speaker of the House of Commons. The Speaker, receiving such a notification (or credible information from two members of the House of Commons to that effect), is obliged to arrange a visit to the MP by two specialists appointed by the President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, who must report their findings to the Speaker. If, after 6 months, the MP is still mentally ill, the House of Commons is informed and the seat falls vacant (Mental Health Act 1983, section 141).

Apart from this sensible course of action, limited as it is in scope, very little else seems to exist, in an official sense, to deal with the problems of an ailing leader who becomes incapacitated, although other countries may have mechanisms. Dr Owen gives his opinion on this issue and it also involves doctors. He asks ‘Is it reasonable for the personal physicians of a Head of State or Government to be charged with the dual responsibility—both to the good of their patient and to the best interest of their nation?’ He thinks it is not. ‘The primary purpose is to serve their individual patient. In that balancing act they should not lie in public statements about their patients but they have no mandate to disclose that which their patient refuses to sanction.’


This is not to say that there should be no involvement by independent doctors in a Head of State’s health— simply that it does not work at the pre-placement stage. I believe, however, that there may be a case for an activity well known to occupational physicians: namely, health surveillance.

Surveillance would have to be performed by an independent physician or physicians on a regular basis—say, once a year—and involve a discussion of health-related issues, including health education, a physical examination and some validated screening tests. Any occupational physician will be familiar with the approach. This activity would provide some quality assurance for the public but any results would be disclosed only to the Head of State and their personal medical attendants. Heads of State are often very lonely, may find it difficult to confide in their personal doctors and deserve to have objective advice fed back to them out with the treating doctor–patient relationship. The confidentiality of the arrangement would have to be watertight, although there might have to be some capacity for an independent doctor to disclose dementia or severe psychiatric disorder serious enough to render the leader incompetent or on the verge of committing illegal or immoral acts. This is the public interest argument and would only occur in an extreme situation.

A more likely scenario is, as Lord Owen says, that the press or public realize that a leader’s health is failing, and I agree with him that for personal or independent doctors to release their detailed findings to politicians or the public puts too much authority into the doctor’s hands. Removal of a leader under such circumstances is really more of a political than a medical judgement and in any case it is, or has been, frequently difficult for doctors to agree with one another in these circumstances. I suggest this might be because a person specification for a Head of State has yet to be written.

In his piece, Lord Owen has revived an important debate about how ill-health in leaders should be dealt with and why doctors, feeling responsibilities to the public as well as their patient, have often found themselves negotiating a minefield. Serving two masters—patient and employer—is a fact of everyday life for occupational physicians, who have devised a code of ethics that serves all parties very satisfactorily. Occupational physicians who are expected to predict fitness for work, even fitness to achieve pensionable age, know just how difficult this is to do in practice. Illness, incapacity and death come to us all. Leaders deserve the best of care in their own interests, not ours. Details of their ailments can be kept confidential whilst ensuring that robust and independent mechanisms are officially in place should functional impairment become dangerous.

D. Snashall

Occupational Health Department,St Thomas’Hospital,
Lambeth Palace Road, London SE1 7EH,UK

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Religion and the Numbers Game

The debate about Nigeria’s Christians and Muslims population is an issue that has been around for sometime. As we all know, the 2006 census purposely avoided both ethnic and religious affiliation. According to media reports, the census exercise avoided religious affiliation because former President Obasanjo prevailed on the Christian community in Nigeria to agree to the request of Muslims for exclusion of religious clause from the census questionnaire.

But despite the non-availability of local data, various international organisations have always tried to provide ‘guesstimates’ of the Christian and Muslim population in Nigeria. For example, the US State Dept on international Religious Freedom noted in its report that, “…..the proportions of citizens, who practice Islam and citizens who practice Christianity are roughly equal...". Also, the October 2009 research report by Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, noted that there are about 78 million Muslims in Nigeria (about 50 percent of Nigeria's total population).

Statistics on religious groups has always been ammunition for fanatics. As they say, ‘there is power in numbers’. It is therefore not surprising that these numbers give religious groups a sense of superiority – albeit false.

However, when these religious fanatics start their ‘numbers game’, arguing that one religious group is larger than another, I often wonder what they stand to gain from such argument. I query the logic behind arguments that does not affect everyday life of the members of these groups.

Let’s assume that government decides to publish official figures, and it indicates that Christians are more than Muslims or vice-versa, does that put food on the table of the congregation? Does that provide good quality education? Does that provide employment for the teeming unemployed youths?

It was exactly the same thought when I read the excerpts of Dr Mike Okonkwo’s interview in the Vanguard Newspaper. In the interview, Dr Mike Okonkwo, who is the presiding bishop of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission, TREM and former CAN National Vice President, was asked if he agrees with the Pew Foundation report, which states that Muslims form about 50 per cent of the nation’s population. In his reply, Dr Okonkwo was quoted as saying

“It is absolutely impossible! Any report that says anything like that is either spreading rumour or is simply dishonest. Christians are more than Muslims. If I want to immodest, I will say that Christians comprising all the denominations in the country are more than 60 per cent, and I am saying that without any fear of contradiction. I am just being economical with the statistics. It just cannot be”.

Many will agree that, it is irresponsible and politically incorrect of a respected ‘Man of God’ to make such a public statement, without any fact or figures? These rabble-rousing comments only promote religious prejudice. And by the way, what does Dr Okonkwo stand to gain from making such a statement? Who is he trying to impress? Is the ‘Church’ in competition with the Islamic faith on number of worshippers?

In fact, for Dr Okonkwo to assume that Christians represent 60 per cent of the Nigeria’s population, he probably needs to educate us on the meaning of ‘Christianity’. Is Dr Okonkwo referring to practising Christians or those whose only evidence of ‘Christianity’ is their birth certificate? It smacks of naiveté for someone to think that everyone that turns up in Church for Sunday service or Friday night vigil is a ‘Christian’. Or is he referring to ‘Church prostitutes’ who junket from one church to another looking for ’Ten steps to prosperity’.

If 60 per cent of Nigerians are truly Christians, the nation ought to be paradise on earth. If 60 per cent of Nigerians are truly Christians, we wouldn’t have ‘rogue’ Bank CEOs ordained as Church Pastors and Deacons? If 60 per cent of Nigerians are truly Christians, we wouldn’t have ordained Pastors looting the nation’s treasury? If 60 per cent of Nigerians are truly Christians, we wouldn’t have Church leaders abusing innocent children under the guise of deliverance from witchcraft.

The likes of Dr Okonkwo ought to understand the sensitivity around religious beliefs in Nigeria. In fact individual spirituality is personal and not a matter of public discourse. I’m convinced that God will be jumping up for joy in high heavens if he can find 60 per cent of Nigerians who are true Christians.

And if indeed 60 per cent of Nigerians are Christians, the question I will ask is, what has the Church done to impact positively on the lives of these people, in the face of growing poverty?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Rethinking the Lagos Residents' Identity Card

There is no doubt that Governor Fashola has been performing remarkably well since his assumption of office. In fact, his administration has provided some glimmer of hope for those who believed that nothing good can come out of our democratic governance.

Whilst the process from which he emerged as Governor remains questionable (a la Action Congress party primaries), he has no doubt grabbed the bull by the horn. He has taken advantage of the privilege he’s been granted, through effective leadership and vision.

Notwithstanding all the good work, I can still point to some key policy decisions taken by Fashola administration that are debatable. An example was the recent repatriation of destitute and beggars to Kaduna by officials of Lagos state government.

Some have argued that the street beggars need to be repatriated because they constitute a public nuisance and also, it is an offence under the state environmental laws to beg. Yes I agree, but what about the street urchins (area boys, the ‘omo isale eko’) terrorising innocent people to extort money? Will the Lagos state government deport them to their local governments? For me, the constitution is very clear. A Nigerian citizen is free to live wherever he or she chooses. And if anyone breaks the law, they should be charged to court under the applicable federal or state law.

Another example was the decision of the state government to introduce its own “driver’s re-certification cards”, which I will refer to de facto drivers’ licence. This again for me undermines the existence of the FRSC, an organisation that is legally charged with the responsibility of driver licensing.

The latest proposal which I find not only laughable but nonsensical - hence this article - is the plan to introduce an ‘identity card’ for Lagos residents.

According to Gov. Fashola,

"We have now reached a stage where it is no longer avoidable to ask: ‘How many people can Lagos State meaningfully employ and sustain?......The state is being faced with a daily influx of people from all over the country who want to take advantage of the opportunities of an economy that works…….But, the reality is that persistent uncontrolled population growth worsens the problem of poverty and negates the government's efforts to improve the quality of life for majority of the people."

Irrespective of Governor’s intent, I will state categorically that any plan to introduce an identity card by a state government is unconstitutional and thus illegal. One can only begin to wonder if Lagos is drifting towards becoming a ‘fascist’ state. Previously it was non-indigene street beggars that were repatriated, and now it is ID card.

There is no gainsaying that Lagos is under immense pressure as a result of continuous rural-urban migration. But the problem of urban migration is not just synonymous with Lagos. Major cities like New York, London and New Delhi also have to deal with same challenge. Whilst the influx of people also continues to put pressure on the local infrastructure of these major cities, I’m yet to read anywhere that the solution proffered by their administrators was introduction of ID cards. Instead of initiating policies that undermines the nation’s constitution, the Governor should rather agitate that Lagos be granted a ‘special’ status, in order to increase its federal revenue allocation.

So what exactly is Gov. Fashola trying to achieve? Who does he intend to issue with an ID card? Let’s assume the ID card will be only for Lagos residents. What about people who travel interstate to work in Lagos? Is Gov. Fashola thinking of rationing Lagos state infrastructure and services amongst Lagos residents only?

I sometimes don’t get it when people see Lagos as an ‘entity’ unto itself. Just because the state has been experiencing massive infrastructure development, when compared to other states – thanks to Gov. Fashola – does not give it any right to preclude non-indigenes from accessing state-funded services.

Already, we have a nation is divided along ethnic lines. This attitude of “if you are not a Lagos taxpayer, don’t come to Lagos” cannot be right for our democracy. Such attitude only entrench ethnic divisions, in country that has been blighted by years of ethnic violence.

We have situations where non-indigenes are not allowed access to some state-funded services. I know some state universities that an open policy of making it extremely hard for non-indigenes. There are some schools that charge students additional fees if there are non-indigene. And to think that a state government will go a step further, contemplating the introduction an ID card, is just preposterous.

Truth be told, no matter how inconsistent the nation’s constitution may be, Lagos is not a ‘sovereign’ state. Therefore, the Governor has no right to implement policies that will preclude non-indigenes. No state administrator has any right to control the number of people who choose to live in a state. Let the Governor be reminded that state government does not confer citizenship status. You can only be a Nigerian citizen.

There is no doubt that, for effective planning and service delivery, the state government needs to know the population of its local residents. I recall the controversies that ensued between the federal government and Lagos state following the last national population census. Which meant, depending on who you ask, the ‘official’ population of Lagos varies by as much as five million!

But instead of thinking about how to regulate influx of people into Lagos through a ‘not fit for purpose’ ID card scheme, there are other ways through which the state government can manage its rapid population growth. As with major cities of the world, population growth is managed through implementation of sound strategic planning policies.

Strategic land use planning provides an opportunity for the government to channel population growth towards specific areas. It also helps to regulate any proposed changes to land use by prohibiting certain development in specific areas.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Who is who amongst the "corrupt" in Nigeria - EFCC List

Few months ago I tried undertaking an audit trail of corruption in Nigeria since the current political dispensation. However, luckily for me I came across this list on a friend' page on the social networking site.

It comes as no surprise that some of the people on this list are currently sitting in the Parliament legislating national laws. Some of them are the best friends of the President. Many of them are the Elders of the nation's ruling party. As I write, some of them have commenced their 2011 election political campaign.

A Gubernatorial aspirant whose name feature prominently on the list was recently described as an 'honest and God-fearing' politician. His deluded sychophants even likened him to Governor Fashola. Whatever that means I don't know!

As I write, a report recently released by Transparency International ranked Nigeria 130th out of 180 on the Corruption Perception Index. After making some improvement during the Nuhu Ribadu-led EFCC, we are now back in the dungeon of corruption.

In the face of growing poverty, starvation, infrastructure decay, unemployment, the political elites continue to loot the nation's treasury indiscriminately. But why? For how long shall we continue like this?

Whither Nigeria!

And the list goes thus......

1. Ayo Fayose (Former Governor of Ekiti State) Fed. High Court, Lagos Arraigned on 51 state counts. Plea already taken but defence lawyer keeps filing frivolous applicationsfor long adjournments to frustrate and prolong trial. N1.2 Billion granted bail by court since 2007 - Inherited Case filed since 17th Dec.2007 .

2. Adenike Grange(Former Minister of Health) FCT. High CourtMaitama Arraigned on 56 state counts. Plea already taken. Defence lawyer often seeks long adjournments to prolong trial. Matter adjourned to Oct 27 N300 million granted bail by court since 2008 - InheritedCase filed since 2nd April.2008 .

3. Joshua Dariye(Former Governor Plateau State) FCT High CourtGudu Arraigned on 14 state counts. Plea already taken but defence lawyer challenged court jurisdiction. Case stalled at HC while on appeal for stay of trial.This is part of calculated attempt to prolong trial N700 Million granted bail by court since 2007 - InheritedCase filed since13th July 2007 .

4. Saminu Turaki(Former Governor, Jigagwa State) FCT High CourtMaitama Arraigned on 32 state counts. Plea already taken but defence lawyer challenged court jurisdiction. Case stalled at HC while seeking stay of trial at appeal court.It is part of usual attempt to frustrate and prolong trial N36 Billion granted bail by court since 2007 - InheritedCase filed since13th July 2007 .

5. Orji Uzor Kalu(Former Governor, Abia State) Fed. High CourtMaitama Arraigned on 107 state counts. Plea already taken but defence lawyer raised preliminary objection against charges. Lost at trial court but has gone on appeal to stay trial.It is part of usual attempt to prolong trial. Further hearing for Nov 3 N5 Billion granted bail by court since 2008 - InheritedCase filed since11th June 2007 .

6. James Ibori(Former Governor, Delta State) Federal High Court Asaba Arraigned on 170 state counts.Defence lawyer challenged Kaduna Fed. court jurisdiction, lost at trial court but won at appeal court.Case re-assigned by CJ to Asaba FHC. Without taking plea,suspect applied to quash charges, prosecution opposed application and ruling for Nov.6 N9.2 Billion granted bail by court since 2008 - InheritedFresh charges filedIn August 2009 .

7. Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello( Serving Senator) FCT High Court, Maitama Arraigned on 56 state counts.Plea already taken but case stalled as defence lawyer filed to challenge charges.Application pending for determination. This is part of frivolous applications to delay trial N10 Million granted bail by court since 2008 - InheritedCase filed since April 2 2008 .

8. Lucky Igbinedion(Former Governor of Edo State) Fed. High Court, Enugu Arraigned on 191 state counts. Applied for plea bargain &Convicted but EFCC has appealed the judgment to seek for stiffer sanctions N4.3 Billion Case determined 2008 - InheritedCase filed on23rd Jan.2008 .

9. Gabriel Aduku(Former Minister of Health) FCT. High Court, Maitama Arraigned on 56 state counts.Court judgment on no case against suspect under review by EFCC N300 Million Case determined in 2008 - InheritedCase filed onApril 2nd 2008.

10. Jolly Nyame(Former Governor of Taraba State) Fed. High Court, Abuja Arraigned on 21 state counts.Plea already taken but case is stalled as defence lawyer challenged court jurisdiction. Lost at HC,Appeal court, now before supreme court.This is a typical example of frivolous appeals to buy time and prolong trial. N180 Million granted bail by court since 2008 - InheritedCase filed since13th July 2007 .

11. Chimaroke Nnamani (Former Governor of Enugu State) Fed. High Court, Lagos Arraigned on 105 state counts. Plea already taken but case is stalled as defence lawyer filed to transfer case to another judge on allegation bias against trial judge even as counsel has again filed to challenge court jurisdiction. This is equally an attempt to prolong trial.Case comes up Oct.22 N5.3 Billion granted bail by court since 2007 - InheritedCase filed since11th Dec.2007 .

12 Michael Botmang(Former Governor of Plateau State) Fed. High Court,Maitama Arraigned on 31 state counts. Plea already taken but trial stalled due to suspect’s ailment, on dialysis.Trial billed to resume October 16 N1.5 Billion granted bail by court since 2008 - Commenced by Waziri on 18th July 2008 .

13. Roland Iyayi (Former Managing Director of FAAN) FCT High Court, Maitama Arraigned on 11 state counts. Plea already taken.Trial on-going Court taking prosecution witnesses testimony N5.6 Billion granted bail by court since 2008 - Commenced by Waziri in June 2008.

14. Nyeson Wike (Serving Chief of Staff to Governor of Rivers State) FCT High CourtMaitama Arraigned on state counts. Court quashed charges.EFCC already appealed judgement. Appeal pending at appeal court. N4.670 Billion granted bail by court since 2008 - Commenced by Waziri on Oct.9 2008 .

15. Eider George (Austrian Business man) FCT High Court, Maitama Arraigned on 11 state counts. Plea already taken and trial on-going. Prosecution witnesses undergoing cross examination. Continuation of trial fixed for Nov.17 granted bail by court since 2008 - Commenced by Waziri in June2008 .

16. Kenny Martins (Police Equipment Fund) FCT High Court,Maitama Arraigned on 28 amended state counts. Plea already taken and trial on-going. Witnesses under cross-examination. Continuation of trial fixed for Nov.9 N7,740 Billion granted bail by court since 2008 - Commenced by Waziri in June 2008 .

17. 13 Filipinos (Charged for Oil Bunkering) Fed. High Court, Benin Arraigned on state counts, convicted at the close of trial and sentenced to 65 Years altogether N300 Million EFCC returns to court to seek forfeiture of vessel used for oil theft Oct 23 slated for adoption of written addresses on that - Commenced by Waziri in 2009 .

18. 6 Ghanaians (Charged for Oil Bunkering) Fed. High Court, Benin Arraigned on state counts and trial Commenced. Prosecution closed case, matter adjourned to Nov.4&5 for defence to close. N250 Million granted bail by court in 2009. - Commenced by Waziri in 2009 .

19 Patrick Fernadez (Indian Buisnessman) Fed. High Court, Lagos Arraigned on 56 state counts. Plea already taken and trial commences Nov. N32 Billion granted bail by court in 2009 - Commenced by Waziri in June 2009 .

20. Prof. Babalola Borishade (Former Minister of Aviation) FCT High Court,Maitama Arraigned on 11 state counts. Plea already taken and trial on-going (N5.6 billion) Prosecution witnesses under cross-examination. Nov.17 fixed for continuation N5.6 Billion granted bail by court since 2008 - Commenced by Waziri in June 2008.

21. Boni Haruna (Former Governor, Adamawa State) Fed. High CourtMaitama Arraigned on amended 28 state counts. Plea taken. Adoption of motion slated for Nov N254 Million granted bail by court since 2008 - Commenced by Waziri in 2008 .

22. Femi Fani-Kayode (Former Minster of Aviation) Fed. High Court,Lagos Arraigned on 47 state counts . Plea taken but case stalled as a result of trial court’s refusal to admit e-print of suspect’s statement of account as evidence. EFCC on appeal against the decision.Matter pending at appeal court N250 Million granted bail by court in 2008 - Commenced by Waziri in 2008 .

23. Prince Ibrahim Dumuje (Police Equipment Fund) FCT High Court, Abuja Arraigned on 28 amended state counts. Plea taken and trial on-going.Prosecutio n witnesses under cross-examination. Continuation fixed for Nov.9 N7,740 Billion granted bail by court since 2008 . Commenced by Waziri in June 2008 .

24. Bode George (Chieftain of the ruling party, PDP) Fed. High Court.Lagos Arraigned on 68 state counts. Plea taken and trial concluded. Judgement being awaited N100 Billion granted bail by court since 2008 - Commenced by Waziri in Dec.08 .

25. Rasheed Ladoja (Former Governor of Oyo State) Fed. High Court,Lagos Arraigned on 33 state counts. Plea taken and trial on-going Prosecution witnesses slated for cross-examination in Nov. N6 Billion granted bail by court since 2008 - Commenced by Waziri .

26. Four Snr Zenith Bank Managers Fed. High Court, Port Harcourt Arraigned on 56 state counts. Plea taken but case stalled over an injunction by Rivers State Govt, which is a party in the case to stop EFCC. Injunction being challenged at appeal court N3.6 Billion Granted bail by court in 2009 - Commenced by Waziri .

27. Mallam Nasir El-Rufai (Former Minister of Federal Capital Territory) Fed. High Court,Abuja Arraigned on 8 state counts.Suspect charged for corruption and abuse of office.Plea not taken because suspect has refused to put in appearance and papers for extradition filed. Suspect at large - Commenced by Waziri .

28. Sen. Nicholas Ugbade,(Serving Senator)Hon. Ndudi ElumeluHon. Mohammed Jibo,Hon. Paulinus Igwe,(Serving Members of House of Representatives) Dr Aliyu Abdullahi(Serving Fed.Perm.Sec) Mr. Samuel Ibi.Mr. Simon Nanle,Mr. Lawrence Orekoya,Mr Kayode Oyedeji,Mr. A. Garba Jahun,(This is the Rural Electrification Agency Case involving a serving Senator, 3 serving members of the House of Representatives, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Power and other high profile public officers) FCT High Court Abuja Arraigned on 158 state counts. Plea taken while prosecution has filed more charges against suspects. Matter stalled due to medical treatment of Hon.Igwe who was shot by robbers.Oct. 29 slated for taking of plea on fresh charges N5.2 Billion Remanded in Prison Custody and later granted bail Court in 2009 - Commenced by Waziri in May2009 .

29. Prof B. Sokan,Molkat Mutfwang,Michael Aule ,Andrew Ekpanobi,(All Directors) Alexander Cozman(MD,Intermark et Ltd).(This is the UBEC case where high profile public servants connived with an American, Alexander Cozman) to defraud the Government. Federal High Court, Abuja Arraigned on 64 state counts. Plea taken while more charges were filed against suspects due to appearance of Prof Sokan.Matter adjourned to Nov 9 for suspects to take plea on amended charges N636 Million Suspects remanded in prison custody and later granted bail by court in 2009. Commenced by Waziri on May 19 2009 .

30. Dr Ransome OwanMr. Abdulrahman Ado, Mr. Adulrasak Alimi,Mr. Onwuamaeze Iloeje, Mrs Grace Eyoma,Mr. Mohammed Bunu,Mr. Abimbola Odubiyi (This is the Nigeria Electricty Regulatory Commission case where the Chairman and his 6 Commissioners corruptly enriched themselves) Federal High Court, Abuja Arraigned on 196 state counts. Plea taken. Trial billed to commence while more charges were filed against suspects. Further hearing slated for Oct 29 N1.5 Billion granted bail by court in 2009 - Commenced by Waziri on April22 2009 .

31. Tom Iseghohi, Muhammed Buba, Mike Okoli,(GM&Managers of Transcorp Group PLC) Fed. High Court,Abuja Arraigned on 32 state counts. Plea taken. Matter adjourned for commencement of trial Nov 9. N15 Billion Suspects Remanded in Kuje Prison and later granted bail by court in 2009 - Commenced by Waziri in May 2009 .

32. Dr Albert Ikomi, rtd perm sec, his firm, satelite town dev co Ltd Fed. High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos Arraigned on 4 state counts. Plea taken and Matter adjourned for hearing N43 Million Suspects Remanded in Ikoyi Prison and later granted bail by court in 2009 - Commenced by Waziri in 2009 .

33 Dr Yuguda Manu Kaigama, Chairman, Taraba State Civil Service Commission TarabaStateHigh Court 5, Jalingo Arraigned on 37 state counts . Plea taken and Matter adjourned for trial N17 Million Suspect remanded in prison custody. Co-accused, Yakubu Danjuma Takun, at large. Commenced by Waziri on Oct.10 2009 .

34 ChiefJoe Musa, DG Natioanl Gallery of Art, Olusegun Ogumba, Chinedu Obi, Oparagu Elizabeth, Kweku Tandoh,(All Directors of NGA). FCT High Court, Lugbe(Justice Olukayode Adeniyi) Arraigned on 12 state counts . Plea taken and defence lawyer filed applications to stall trial but lost the bid.Matter adjourned for trial Nov 19/20 N1.012 Billion Suspects Remanded in Kuje Prison and later granted bail by court in 2009 . Commenced by Waziri in July 20 2009 .

35 Dr Dayo Olagunju, Ex.Sec.National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult &Non-Formal Education. Joshua Alao, Alice Abang, Jibrin Waguna, Ahmed Abubakar, Shehu Abdullahi, Dr Victoria King-Nwachukwu, Adamu Khalid, Moses Oseni, Francis Awelewa &Bashir Suleiman Fed. High Court, Abuja.Justice Anuli Chikere Arraigned on 17 state counts.Plea taken and Matter adjourned for commencement of trial Oct 22 N479 Million Suspects Remanded in Kuje Prison and later granted bail by court in 2009. Commenced by Waziri 24 July 2009 .

36 Hamman Bello Hammed, Ex-CG Customs, Hannatu Sulaiman, Tajudeen Olalere, Lukman Hussain, Popular Foods Ltd &Silver Maritime shipping coy ltd Fed. High Court , Lagos. Justice Ramat Mohammed Arraigned on 46 state counts. Plea taken Matter adjouned to Nov for trial N2.5 Billion Suspects Remanded in Kirikiri&Ikoyi Prisons and later granted bail by court in 2009. Commenced by Waziri on 14thAug. 2009 .

37 Professor Innocent Chuka Okonkwo, fmr VC Imo state Univ, Uchechi Nwugo &Wilfred Uwakwe Fed.High Court, Abuja.Justice Mohammed Garba Umar Arraigned on 14 state counts. Plea taken Adjourned to Nov for trial. N145 Million Suspects Remanded in Kuje Prison and later granted bail by court in 2009 - Commenced by Waziri on July30,2009 .

38 Dr (Mrs) Cecilia Ibru(Fmr CEO,Oceanic Bank PLC) FHC, Ikoyi, Lagos. Justice Dan Abutu Arraigned on 25 state counts. Plea taken and case adjourned to Nov for trial N160.2 Billion Suspect remanded in EFCC custody, but granted bail on 14/9/09 - Commenced by Waziri on Aug31 2009.

39 Dr Bartholomew( Fmr CEO,Union Bank PLC) Bassey Ebong, Henry Onyemem &Niyi Albert Opeodu(Ex-Directors , UBN) FHC, Ikoyi, Lagos.Justice Dan Abutu Arraigned on 28 state counts. Plea taken and case adjourned to Nov for trial N187.1 Billion Suspects remanded in EFCC custody,But granted bail on 14/9/09 - Commenced by Waziri on Aug31 2009 .

40 Raymond Obieri,(Fmr Chairman,Interconti nental Bank PLC Hyacinth Enuha, Ikechi Kalu, C.A Alabi, Samuel Adegbite, Isyaku Umar, Sanni Adams. FHC, Ikoyi, Lagos.Justice Dan Abutu Arraigned on 18 state counts. Plea taken and case adjourned to Nov for trial N131.8 Billion Suspects remanded in EFCC custody,But granted bail on 14/9/09 .Commenced by Waziri on Aug31 2009 .

41 Sebastian Adigwe, Peter Ololo, Falcon Securities Ltd FHC, Ikoyi, Lagos.Justice Dan Abutu Arraigned on 36 state counts. Plea taken and case adjourned to Nov for trial N277.3 Billion Suspects remanded in Prison custody,But granted bail on 15/9/09 - Commenced by Waziri on Aug31 2009 .

42 Okey Nwosu FHC, Ikoyi, Lagos.Justice Dan Abutu Arraigned on 11 state counts. Plea taken and case adjourned to Nov for trial N95.1 Billion Suspects remanded in Prison custody,But granted bail on 15/9/09 - Commenced by Waziri on Aug 31 2009 .

43 Alex Nkenchor, Ex-Bank Manager, Ebi Odeigah &GMT Securities &Assets Nig Ltd LagosHigh Court, Ikeja. Justice M.O Obadina Arraigned on 10 state counts. Plea taken and suspects still remanded in prison custody pending consideration of bail application. N860 Million Suspects remanded in ikoyi prison. Bail application for consideration Oct 20 - Commenced by Waziri on Oct13 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thoughts on Nigeria Federalism - By Kayode Ogundamisi

Federalism is described as the system of government built under the understanding and foundation that those who make up the federating unit will share power and also recognise, accommodate, preserve and promote the distinct identities of the ethnic nationalities that make up the larger political union, their rights to resource control, freedom, justice and equity amongst many other, heated debate on the issue of federalism is ounce again coming up amongst Nigerian political elites, discussion forums and the media.

The orchestrated misunderstanding of “federalism” in Nigeria is in the propagation of corrupt practices in the ranks of the ruling elite. Thus mechanisms such as “rotational presidency” “quota system” and others are put in place to guide their tendency to plunder, enrich and entrench their caprices.

The symbolic gesture of a “Yoruba presidency” for instance did produce General Olusegun Obasanjo who in practical terms represented the interest of the core of first the “Hausa-Fulani political elite” and then the “Yoruba political and economic elite” and Obasonjo delivered his promise not to the suffering oppressed class of the “Hausa-Fulani nor the suffering oppressed class of the Yoruba or any other ethnic group in Nigeria. He created billionaire friends leaving the vast majority of all the ethnic nationalities be it Yoruba, Fulani, Husa, Nupe, Igbo, Ijaw, Ibibio and other Nigerians in worst situation as they were under a Hausa-Fulani presidency. In the same vein former Hausa-Fulani Presidents General Sanni Abacha, General Ibrahim Babangida and others - did not make life any better for the average people in all parts of Nigeria and Northern Nigeria is worst off in socio, economic and infrastructural development. Thus Federalism should be viewed from a class perspective.

Whilst the average Nigerian discusses federalism vis-à-vis the competitiveness of the geo political zones, the promotion of development in all regions of the Nigerian federation and what can enhance good governance, the Nigerian political elites are thinking of federalism in terms of how to enhance their greed, ambition and lust for power.

The first step in our quest for true federalism is for politicians, policy makers and opinion molders to first understand the importance of federalism as it relates to good governance rather than how it facilitates equitable access to the infamous opportunity to plunder the national resources amongst the elites of the ethnic nationalities that make up Nigeria . Thus there must be an alignment of understanding between the rulers and the ruled

Nigerians can not shy away from the obvious need to renegotiate the bases for our nationhood. Running away from the issue keeps our country roaming around the orbit of a treacherous infamous vicious cycle of political infamy and economic profligacy. The “we the people “inscribed in the Nigerian constitution should be expunged forthwith.

A renegotiation of Nigeria is the first step towards a truly Nigerian Revolution. We should be courageous about the reality that all the various constitutions operated from the moment the British packaged us together till date are nothing more than reinventions of the conquest document imposed on the people before Nigeria was created. Before then, it did not matter if you were from the North, South, West or East; pre colonial Nation-States had sovereign relationships, fought wars, resolved crisis and related as equal partners.

The Kingdoms in the North, South, West, East are what in modern days could be referred to as States with sovereign rights, distinct borders and constitutional governments either in a parliamentary form as in the Old Oyo Kingdom, or the Oligarchy in the North or the collegiate system in the east. The fact that the British Colonial masters characterized our system as “crude” and “native” does not make an amalgamation without consultation with the people right. We must renegotiate our nationhood but with the resolve that Nigeria must not disintegrate.

If the Soviet Union can renegotiate with her federating units, South Africa dealt with her post apartheid era, we can tackle our problem head long. I do not see any reason why we cannot honestly seat down as a people and re-negotiate Nigeria on the bases of equal partnership; a partnership that must be in the overall interest of the poor people of our Country. Our constitution is a unitary document disguised with misrepresentations of federalism and it should not come as a surprise because even as students of history we know that the people who make Nigeria were never and have never been genuinely consulted when those documents are drafted and imposed by the rogue minority in power on the hapless majority.

And yes it’s been a chequered history of constitutional experiments first from the colonial masters, to the post colonial civilian government and then series of military regimes through to post military civilian governments. All that’s been done at each point in time has characteristically been to service the machinations of the various ruling elites. Indeed the four constitutions written by the colonial masters reflected the intentions of those in power, thus, we refer to the Clifford, Richards, McPherson and Lyttleton constitutions’ as travesties that were all crafted to subjugate the ethnic nationalities that make up Nigeria; none reflected the needs, aspiration and unique diversity of our people.

A hurriedly drafted independence constitution failed under three years, You are all familiar with how the different military regimes, danced from unitary to federal and so on and so forth but none with the honest mission of resolving the National Question. Over the years, as we continue to shy away from reality, Nigeria predictably heats up to the boiling point. We’ve had the Biafra/Nigeria Civil war, series of religious and cultural riots and mass killings in the north, the OPC crisis in the west and its attendant deaths, the emergence of groups such as MASSOB, the introduction of Sharia Law in the North and the militancy in the Niger Delta amongst every other conflict flash points nationwide.

Sadly, our inability to re negotiate the way forward is as a result of the bankruptcy amongst our political leaders, thus we label anyone who raises the issue of True Federalism as wanting to break up Nigeria . It is clearly not a crime to call for the restructuring of Nigeria along the geo political divide. In as much as I personally feel that we may not be able to compromise our indivisibility, we have come a long way as a Country. Our long enforced marriage does not preclude the need to look at long term progressive revolutionary options that will weaken the centre, turn off opportunists and bring governance close to the people.

Acknowledging that we have a flawed Nation-State is the flag off point for the Nigerian revolution. Issues such as corruption, lack of transparent credible elections, poverty, mistrust, bad governance and others vices are bye-products of a people who care less about the character of the Nigerian state but more about their selfish interests.

The campaign for the convocation of a truly Sovereign National Conference that will resolve issues of, Resource Control, creation of Local Governments, State Police, ceding of overbearing federal government control of state Resources to the States and federating Units, a confederation that will work and strengthen the diverse nature of our Country is must continue.

We need a federal system that works for all Nigerians irrespective of tribe, religion, race or creed. Thus the energies of groups/alliances in opposition should be channeled not just to capture political power and perpetuate more of the same failed tendency of ignoring the core of our problem but adopting the PRONACO document with a view to expanding it and involving the Nigerian electorate.

Rejection of all the negative aspects of the constitution that first of all reflect the thinking of our colonial masters, the military and also the greed of the ruling elite that does not have the interest of the people of Nigeria is an emergency.

The federating state governments should continue to challenge the overbearing power of the federal government; the introduction of Sharia legal system by the states of Northern Nigeria was one of such steps. The creation of local governments by the Lagos State government and its continued challenge in court is a welcome development at enriching our federal system even as we look for that constitution that will truly reflect our unity in diversity.

Meanwhile, resolving the issues surrounding true federalism will not suddenly resolve the issues of corruption, bad leadership, electoral fraud, crime, marginalization just to mention a few. No it won’t, but at least we can localize the issues and resolve them side-by-side our nation building efforts. We cannot let our moment pass us by. It will only take a brave leader with vision to tackle the founding root of this macabre dance we call living.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

On David Mark, Maurice Iwu and Electoral Reform

The continuous utterance of thoughtless remarks by the Senate President, David Mark is becoming quite worrisome.

As Communications Minister, David Mark told 88 million Nigerians that “telephone is not for the poor”. When the US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said on her last visit to Nigeria that the nation leaders should put their house in order and provide good leadership, Senator Mark replied
How can somebody be sitting in the United States and be telling us how to solve serious crisis in this country? Have they got the solution to their problems? How did they find themselves in Iraq? Mrs Clinton seems to have taken her briefs from individuals or groups and other failed politicians who have an axe to grind with the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
How can you describe such a response from a Senate President? Exaggerated patriotism or symptoms of delusion?

On the recent 49th Independence anniversary, Senator Mark again exhibited his delusional tendencies by telling us that “Nigeria has achieved its full potential”. How can anyone in the face of growing poverty say that Nigeria has achieved its potential? Maybe the N1.3 trillion shared annually in salaries and allowances amongst the legislators, or the personal wealth he acquired during the Military regime are his indices for measuring a nation’s potential.

As the nation’s number three citizen, one would expect that Senator Mark would at least exhibit some level of decorum when making public statements. But based on his recent comments on the INEC Chairman and electoral reform, it seems the Senate President has become an ‘obsessive-compulsive’.

Speaking on the theme: “Legislating for an enduring electoral system in Nigeria” at the 2009 Senate Retreat, the Senate president was quoted as saying:
“Our electoral process is certainly not the worst in the world as some self-styled analysts would want us to believe and let me say further and more emphatically this time that the removal of Prof. Maurice Iwu is not the review or the reform of our electoral process. “Removal of Iwu is not synonymous with electoral reform or review. Those calling for the removal of Iwu as the first step are trivialising a very serious national issue”
It is not surprising to hear a self-styled patriot cum Senate President, say that our electoral system is not the worst in the world. How can you expect a man to criticise a system from which he has been a huge beneficiary. We need not to remind Senator Mark that it is the rot and institutionalised fraud in our electoral system that has provided him a ticket to the National Assembly. It is therefore right to say that any criticism levelled against the electoral commission will be an indictment of his (s)election as a Senator.

It has become quite common for our leaders and those purporting to be ‘patriotic’ citizens to utter such statements whenever the government is criticised for not doing the right thing. Government apologists are always quick to remind us we are not the worst after all. Meaning we should happy with what we have (!) Whether that’s meant to be a consolation I do not understand. But the question is why can’t we ever compare ourselves with the best? Why do we console ourselves by comparing ourselves with failures?

The most infuriating thing about Senator Mark’s recent statement were his comments that, “…..removal Prof Maurice Iwu is not the review or reform of our electoral process”. Yes, the review of our electoral process is more than just Maurice Iwu. After all, Maurice Iwu is only an appointee. It is also right to say that that it will be difficult to have an umpire who will be unbiased under the current electoral laws – when the President can just handpick whoever he wants as the INEC Chairman.

However, it is ludicrous for anyone to think that the imperfection of our electoral system exonerates Maurice Iwu from the electoral fraud he has directly or indirectly condoned. The legacies of Maurice Iwu are there for all to see, From Ekiti to Anambra,, Ondo to Kogi, Sokoto to Bayelsa, Cross River to Adamawa, Maurice Iwu made it a point of duty to subjugate the principles of free and fair elections. There is not gainsaying that Maurice Iwu actively colluded with the ruling party, through ‘elimination by substitution’ to deprive some candidates of their constitutional rights to participate in the elections.

For anyone then to think that Maurice Iwu himself is not a problem, that person must either be deranged or suffering from mental amnesia. The question we need to ask is, based on the resources at his disposal, as the Prof. Iwu discharged the functions of his office to the best of his ability? Let’s forget about the electoral flaws, Prof Iwu has demonstrated over and over again that he his not only incompetent but also lacking moral integrity.

When I was growing up, I used to remember a man called Justice Victor Ovie-Whiskey, Chairman of the Federal Electoral Commission (FEDECO). For me and people of my generation, the name Ovie-Whiskey was synonymous with ‘fraud’. This was because of the role Ovie-Whiskey played during the 1983 democratic elections – blatantly supporting the ruling party. But fast forward to 2009, Maurice Iwu has made Ovie-Whiskey look like an angel.

The removal of Maurice Iwu alone will not provide solution to the challenges in our electoral system. But let’s make no mistake; his ‘immediate’ sack will be a great step towards achieving a sustainable electoral reform.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Latest Nigerian Scam TV Advert in Australia


First it was Sony PS3, then District 9. This is a new advert on Australian TV (Sky News to be precise) depicting Nigeria as a nation of scam artistes. This not is just a subtle reference to Nigeria, the advert has Nigeria inscription!

But where is it going to stop? It seems Mrs Dora Akunyili has a lot of work to do if she is really serious about her 're-branding' project.

Or what do you think? Hmmm....

Friday, November 6, 2009

Corruption: Between Anthony Anenih and Bode George

As part of its usual ‘probe cum wild goose chase’, the Senate ad-hoc committee on Transportation indicted the former chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Board of Trustees, Chief Tony Anenih. The Senate ad-hoc committee investigated alleged corruption in the transport sector since 1999. And according to media reports, ad-hoc committee report is filled with revelations of alleged serial malpractices, through multiple contract fraud, unhelpful connivance between contractors and government officials over the last ten years. In fact it was noted that N633 billion was spent on only 4,752 kilometres of road; short-changing the government of N47 million per kilometre of road.

It was also reported that between 1999 and 2009, the Ministry of Transportation, gave contracts for the construction and rehabilitation of 11, 591km roads at a cost of N1.7 trillion – about N87 million per km – and with only 24 per cent of the roads achieved, 64 per cent of the contract value has already been paid; about N133 million per km(!). The Senate ad-hoc committee alleged that, during Mr. Anenih’s tenure as minister, and three others that later headed the ministry in the last 10 years, multi-billion dollar contracts were awarded to contractors based on estimates and without preliminary design.

The Senate ad-hoc committee report on this brazen corruption was meant to be debated on the floor of the Senate last Thursday. However for some inexplicable reasons, discussion on the ad-hoc committee panel report was shelved indefinitely! So the question is why the sudden change in gear? Why has the Senate decided to dump the ad-hoc committee report? If the Senate was not interested in pursuing the allegations of corruption to a logical end, then why waste taxpayers money on silly probes?

This sudden ‘u-turn’ begs the question about the sincerity of this government and perhaps the PDP in the fight against corruption. The decision of the Senate not to debate the panel report forecloses the opportunity to prosecute Anthony Anenih. However, if Bode George, who is also a chieftain of the PDP, could be sentenced to two years imprisonment for abuse of office, why can’t Anthony Anenih be prosecuted for blatant corruption? Or is it that the powers that be, in the PDP are beginning to develop cold-feet because of the recent judgement delivered by Justice Oyewole?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not naïve of the power and influence Anthony Anenih exerts in Nigerian politics. Mr ‘Fix It’, as he is often called, is arguably one of the strongest political godfather in Nigeria. Many have even described his recent appointment, as the Chairman of Nigeria Ports Authority as an indirect appointment of President Yar’Adua second term ‘campaign manager’.

The Senate decision reinforces the public belief that some individuals are above the law. Just as someone said, “the anti-corruption law in Nigeria is like a cobweb. It is too strong to catch the weak but very weak to catch the strong”. The action vindicates the widely held opinion that the prosecution of Bode George was a smokescreen, and that Bode George was only a victim of high level political machinations. It is becoming obvious by the day, that enemies of Ex-President Obasanjo are President Yar’Adua’s best friends.

But the six-four thousand dollar question is, who will deliver us from this cancer called ‘corruption’ that has eaten deep into the bone marrow of our nation? Every morning we wake up to allegations and counter-allegations of corruption on front pages of newspaper. We have an Attorney-General whose key performance indicator is the number of government cronies he can shield from corruption charges. The A-G performance is assessed on how many corruption charges against government cronies he can subvert under the guise of ‘rule of law’.

As citizens, it is imperative that we demand for justice on issues relating to allegations of corruption. There should not be one rule for goose and another for the gander. The likes of Bode George cannot be convicted , while bigger thieves continue to loiter along the corridor of power.

In mean time, as Bode goes to jail, Anthony Anenih continues to relax in his country home.....

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Democracy, Anti-terrorism Bill and Freedom of Information

Barely few days after President Umar Yar’Adua presented the government “Anti-terrorism Bill” to the National Assembly, the US President, Barack Obama publicly released the list of visitors to the White House since his assumption of office.

Whist I will not dwell on the bolts and nuts of the proposed Anti-terrorism Bill, there is a clause within the Bill that I find very disturbing to say the least. Section 1(2) of the Bill defines an act of terrorism as “that which may seriously damage a country or an international organisation, ……and dissemination of information or information materials in any form or mode whether true or false calculated to cause panic, evoke violence or intimidate a government, person or group of persons”. In the absence of any legislation that guarantees a citizen’s free access or right to information, what can be defined as ‘true or false’ information?

Is it therefore not intriguing that when government of civilised nations are working towards ensuring greater transparency in the way they conduct their business, the Nigerian government is more interested in silencing dissenting views through a proxy Anti-terrorism Bill.

According the US media reports, the White House put some 480 visitor records online on Friday 30 October in response to specific requests for information. The newly-released data covers a period from 20 January to 31 July and includes about meetings with Mr Obama and his aides. As expected the list included celebrities, party donors and political lobbyists. For me, the name on the list is not even the issue. It is the fact that, for the first time in history, an American President publicly released the list of his visitors. I find it quite remarkable and a major step forward in ensuring probity, accountability and transparency.

On reading the news, the question I asked myself was, will any Nigerian President ever do such a thing? And if they did, what names can we expect to feature prominently on the visitors list? Who are the President’s visitors? Who’s been travelling in and out of the Aso Rock to meet the President’s aides? In a corrupt-ridden and lawless society such as ours, we can expect corrupt Ex-Governors and Niger Delta militants to feature prominently. But to put it rightly, the answer to these questions lies in the proposed Freedom of Information Bill.

Unfortunately the passage of this FOI Bill has remained protracted since the Obasanjo administration. The Bill has been travelling back and forth between the National Assembly and the Executive since 1999, and there seems to be no end in sight for the current impasse.

The Freedom of Information Act ensures the public's right to access government records and it is an important component of ensuring the government's accountability to the people it serves. If the government is knows that the public will find out about its ill-conceived ideas, it will prevents those ideas from being put forward.

There is no doubt that secrecy that shrouds government activities has done nothing but encourage corruption and maladministration. The lack of transparency in the way government conducts its business makes it very difficult for the masses to hold it accountable. More often than not, the masses have to rely on a handful of investigative journalists for revelations on dubious government activities. And when such news are reported, the government is always quick to classify them as ‘threat to nation’s security’.

A typical example was President Yar’Adua medical trip (oh! Umrah) to Saudi Arabia in 2008. With passage of FOI Bill, it will become harder for government officials to ‘sell a dummy’ to the masses. Whilst the President state of health can be considered to be personal, I wouldn’t see any reason why the masses cannot demand to know how many times he has travelled overseas for medical check-ups and how much of tax payers’ is spent on such trips.

We wake up to read about award of major contracts and sale of state-owned assets to government cronies on the front pages of newspaper. We read everyday about oil blocks been auctioned to anonymous persons. The Federal Executive Council feeds us monthly with news of multi-billion dollar contracts. However, we are never told anything about the contract procurement process. Neither are we told about the number of companies that have bided for such contract. We don’t know what criteria are been adopted in the award of oil blocks. The FEC also never bothers to advise the public on the progress of these multi-billion dollar contracts.

The hallmarks of good democratic governance are probity, accountability and transparency. And it is right to say that free access and right to information are an important ingredients for achieving and sustaining a viable democratic structure.