Thursday, July 30, 2009

MKO Abiola and The National Assembly.

Can someone please explain to me, what is going on at the National Assembly? I’m not sure if those guys in Abuja really understand their role in the democratic structure. Perhaps, they were not given a copy of their “job description” when they were elected. I can bet that if those guys were working in the private sector, ninety percent of them would have been sacked by now. Not just for graft-related issues, but mainly for incompetence.

Last week, the House of Representatives rejected a motion proposing the immortalisation of Chief Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, the winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election. The proponents of the motion argued that Abiola fought and died for democracy and won the only presidential election widely acknowledged as the freest and fairest in Nigeria.

Following the rejection of the motion, another motion seeking to name the National Stadium, Surulere, Lagos after him sailed through yesterday with lawmakers affirming that the deceased politician deserved to be honoured.

Public opinion seems to be divided on whether Abiola should be honoured or not. It is also unfortunate that the June 12 struggle has somewhat become ethnicised. For me whether Abiola should be honoured is not the issue. Irrespective of the argument you put forward, there will always be an alternative opinion to counter such arguments, either from a tribalist or nationalist viewpoint. However, my issue is the timing of such a motion at a time when the nation is at crossroad. Yes, Abiola won the freest and fairest election. Yes, he fought assiduously for democratic governance. But with the ethnic and religious violence left, right and centre, perpetual darkness across the nation, university strike, economic meltdown, high unemployment and so on, is naming a national monument or immortalization of Abiola the most important issue facing the country?

I can’t seem to understand how any lawmaker would think that a motion name the National Stadium after MKO Abiola will provide a solution to our current problems. So now that they have wasted precious time passing such a motion, will that solve the problem in the Niger Delta? Will it provide uninterrupted power supply? Will it bring solution to the Islamic extremism in the North? Will it resolve the constitutional crisis between Lagos State and the Federal Govt? Will it resolve the current ASUU-FG crisis? Will it address the impact of the proposed deregulation of petroleum products on the masses?

It is on record that almost N1.3trillion is spent annually to maintain the National Assembly. This means taxpayers fork out N1.3trillion to maintain less than 1% of the entire population. And yet, the best these guys can deliver is a motion to re-name the National Stadium. What a joke!

The National Assembly has been mocking around with the proposed Constitution Review for almost a year. Instead of getting on with the job, all they engage in is constant bickering. The Electoral Reform Bill has been sitting on their desks for months. The Petroleum Industry Bill is yet to be debated. Haba! Are these bills not enough to keep any serious lawmaker busy? And to add insult to injury, they have started to talk about State creation.

Come on guys, someone needs to call these lawmakers to order. We cannot continue like this. It is bad enough that we have an Executive that is disillusioned, but it seems that both the Executive and Legislature are fingers of a leprous hand.

It is sad to say, but the reality is that our democracy has lost its focus. When the President can jet out of the country in the middle of a national crisis, then we can only expect the lawmakers to move such irrelevant motions at this critical time in the nation’s history.

May God have mercy!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Petroleum industry bill 2008 - combustible but curable

Written by Bamidele Aturu Esq
Tuesday, 28 July 2009 18:02
Introduction: The Petroleum Industry Bill pending before the National Assembly has been greeted with all sorts of controversies. There have been allegations and counter allegations by vested interests on the real motives for the Bill and whether or not some persons have been commissioned to kill the Bill. We are not concerned with these controversies but rather we aim at doing a broad examination of the Bill in order to raise policy issues that may help in improving the Bill as presented.

Structure of the Bill
The Bill is a massive, ponderous text of 495 sections divided into ten parts. The Bill deals with Fundamental Objectives, Institutions, Upstream Petroleum Joint Ventures, Downstream Licensing, Downstream Products, Indigenous Oil Companies and Nigerian Content, Health, Safety and Environment, Fiscal Provisions, Repeals and Transitional Provisions and Interpretation. It is proper for a modern legislation to state clearly the objectives underpinning it as the Bill has done. It is a practice that ought to be encouraged.The decision to bring together all the institutions in the petroleum industry might have been informed by the need to have all the laws relating to the industry in one single text for accessibility. Nevertheless, the size of the text could have been considerably reduced if the administrative provisions relating to the institutions such as pension, restriction on suits, funds, power to accept gifts/or to borrow, power to sue and be sued, disqualifications, secretary, other staff, service, indemnity et cetera which are similar if not identical are not repeated for each and every one of the institutions. For example the provision on disqualification could just be in one section for all the different institutions. It could read thus: ‘No one shall be appointed as a member or head of any of the Institutions created by this Act, if….’ instead of repeating a similar provision for each and every institution created by the Bill. The Bill can benefit from some technical surgery in this regard. The processes for the different kinds of licenses also need not be repeated since they are similar.The language of the Bill is refreshingly gender sensitive. One does not get the impression that the Bill is made only for the males as the drafters use the two pronouns, ‘he’ and ‘she’ generously, although in many of the sections gender neutrality is possible and would have been preferable.

Fundamental Objectives of the Bill
The objectives generally appear well reasoned. It includes freedom to apply for grant or award of leases and licences for the exploration and production of petroleum. The Bill also states that the management of petroleum resources shall be conducted in accordance with the principles of transparency, good governance, and sustainable development of Nigeria. It makes a commitment to ensuring community development, and participation of Nigerians in the industry fundamental objectives. The government shall also ensure compliance with international standards on the protection of the environment. These objectives are doubtless laudable. However, the restatement of the sovereignty of the Nigerian state over petroleum on behalf of Nigerians is bound to generate its own controversy. Agitation for resource control has always focused on attacking provisions of this nature. As recently as 2005, the National Political Reform Conference recommended that communities should be involved in the ‘management and control of the resources in their communities by having assured places in the Federal Government mechanisms for the management of the oil and gas exploration and marketing’. The absolute sovereignty of Nigeria over pertoleum is bound to be an explosive issue during the readings of the Bill.

Multiplicity of Institutions
The long title of the Bill makes it explicit that the Bill sets out to create institutions and regulatory authorities for the Nigerian petroleum industry. The Bill proposes six or seven institutions, namely: National Petroleum Directorate (s. 12); Nigerian Petroleum Inspectorate (s.37); Petroleum Products Regulatory Authority; National Petroleum Assets Management Agency (s. 113); Nigerian Petroleum Research Centre (s.148); National Frontier Exploration Service (s.174); Petroleum Technology Development Fund (s. 223) and Petroleum Equalisation Fund (s.199).Many of these bodies are existing under various Acts. It is therefore tidier that they should all be included in just one statute for ease of reference. Here we are referring to Petroleum Equalisation Fund, Petroleum Technology Development Fund and to a limited extent the

Petroleum Products Regulatory Authority.
The question can nevertheless be asked whether some of the bodies are not a mere replica of one another or whether the functions of the institutions cannot be conveniently performed by just three institutions. With the National Petroleum Directorate (NPD) it is difficult to fathom what the Ministry of Petroleum will be doing. Indeed section 13(s) of the Bill is indicative of the overlapping functions of some of the institutions. The paragraph provides that the NPD shall ‘promote compliance with all legislation by all participants and stakeholders in the industry’. That exactly is the function of the Nigerian Petroleum Inspectorate unless one is interested in the needless hairsplitting exercise of distinguishing between enforcing and promoting compliance with the laws. The country can conveniently do without the National

Petroleum Directorate with its full complement of bureaucracy and Board.
At a time when the proposal to establish a Petroleum University is at an advanced stage, it is difficult to see the necessity for the Nigerian Petroleum Research Centre. The functions of the National Petroleum Assets Management Agency and the National Frontier Exploration Service can be undertaken, indeed should be undertaken by the Ministries of Finance and Petroleum Resources respectively. There is a need to spend some more quality time in streamlining these institutions. On a technical note the objects and functions of the institutions can also be harmonized and reduced in order to reduce the size of the Bill. Creating more bureaucracies has not proved an effective solution to our problems in this country if the truth must be told.

Funding of the Proposed Institutions
Section 28 of the Bill provides that a portion of fiscalised crude or gas shall be paid into an account of the Directorate to be shared by the proposed institutions for the purpose of their operations. This provision is likely to be misunderstood by many. In the first place, the fiscalised crude or gas proposed to be paid into the account of the Directorate is supposed to be part of the revenues accruing to the Federation which ought to be paid into the Federation Account. Thus, section 28 of the Bill may be declared unconstitutional if challenged in a court of law. Second, there is no justification for creating bodies or institutions that cannot be funded in the normal course of governance. The extra-governmental funding proposed reflects a tendency to spend money accruing from the upstream sector before any serious accounting or reflection on how to spend the money is done. It is as if these institutions are being created simply because we can get the oil companies to fund them. That is not right at all.

Restriction on Suits against the Proposed Institutions
The Bill follows in the Nigerian tradition of either creating special limitation in respect of the period within which suits can be filed against statutory bodies or of requiring that pre-action notice be given to such bodies before they can be sued. Although the Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed the constitutionality of such provisions and laws, there is little doubt that they restrict rather than grant access to the courts. On this score such provisions are objectionable. The National Assembly would be rendering an invaluable service to this country if it crosses out such provisions which dot the present Bill. Section 61 of the Bill contains the two types of restrictions.

Resolution of Disputes
Some of the new institutions notably the Inspectorate and the Petroleum Products Regulatory Authority are saddled with resolving disputes between persons coming under its operations (s. 68). The Bill stipulates that disputes cannot be referred to the Inspectorate unless parties have attempted to negotiate. One can understand the desire to ensure that matters are conciliated to prevent needless recourse to courts with the attendant acrimony and delay. But the point is that these bodies are not suited for settling disputes. It would have been preferable to have a provision which makes it mandatory for parties to attempt to resolve disputes by conciliation and arbitration before having recourse to the courts. In that case the arbitration would be governed by the relevant Arbitration and Conciliation Act. There is the tendency for the bodies to lose focus if this aspect of the Bill is not tinkered with. It is also needless to state as is done in section 72of the Bill that parties aggrieved by the determination of the bodies can seek judicial review. That is a right conferred by the Constitution that needs no restating in an inferior statute.

Transparency and Openness
The Bill makes serious and noteworthy attempts at granting public access to the activities of the proposed institutions. Sections 306 and 344 are typical in this regard. Section 306 makes it clear that registers of technical licences issued under sections 301 and 302 should be made to members of the public who can also receive certified true copies of the documents upon payment of the prescribed fee.Section 259 voids confidentiality clauses in respect of royalties, bonus, taxes and any other financial matters that directly affect the revenues derived by the State from exploration and production of petroleum. This provision should enhance accountability and openness. At the present time, most production sharing agreements and Joint Venture Agreements between the NNPC and the oil companies are shrouded in baffling secrecy. The provision in section 259(3) which states that the determination of the Directorate as to whether a piece of information is proprietary and so outside the openness clause in section 259 shall be final is however likely to detract from the benefits to be derived from the clause. The Bill should attempt to lay down objective criteria for determining such an important question.

Privatisation of NNPC
Section 136 of the Bill creates the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited to succeed the NNPC and inherit the latter’s assets and liabilities. At inception ownership of the Company shall be vested in the Federal Government, but after two years of its incorporation government may divest its interest in the company and sell same to members of the Nigerian public through the Nigerian Stock Exchange. It appears that the privatization of the Corporation is being done outside the existing system supervised by the National Council on Privatisation and under a different statute. The reason for using this procedure is unclear, but it may raise concern as to the genuineness of the ultimate privatization of the corporation, particularly as the petroleum industry is a major sector of the economy which privatisation section 16 of the Constitution forbids.

Redundant Provisions
Provisions relating to the incorporation of Joint Ventures as Limited liability companies are largely redundant as the issues are already covered by the Companies and Allied Matters Act. We have in mind such provisions to the effect that the Board of the companies shall be accountable to shareholders, act in good faith, treat shareholders equally et cetera (s. 252). The same consideration applies to the specified functions of the Board and the rights of shareholders in sections 253 and 254 respectively. Section 408 which deals with prohibition of forced labour and child labour and also the upholding of the right to collective bargaining are matters which have been adequately dealt with in our Labour Statutes. Repeating them in the Bill may lead to the unintended result that the operators may carry on as if the other provisions in the Labour laws which are not repeated are to be disobeyed or do not carry the same weight which is not the case.

Indefensible Environmental Remediation Levy
States and Local Governments are required to pay 1% and 0.5% of their annual derivation allocation into Remediation Fund under the custody of the Inspectorate to restore the environment in cases of dames caused to the environment as a result of sabotage (s. 286). This proposal is likely to be contested by the States and the Local Governments as making them vicariously liable for the crime of sabotage. This is a fundamental negation of our criminal jurisprudence. The Bill does not make any provision for refund in any year when there is no act of sabotage. No reason was also proffered for not making the Federal Government to pay any percentage of the royalties received by it for remediation in cases of sabotage. After all, the Federal Government controls the security agencies that ought to be responsible for preventing sabotage in the first place. There is no justificato for the levy. It should be deleted from the Bill. However, the financial provision required in section 285 of licensees for remediation is justifiablesince it is more or less like a caution fee that may be returned to the licensees if not used up. It is hoped that it would make the activities of operators more environment-friendly.

The Bill, the Environment and the Communities
The proposal in section 283 that every licensee shall within three months of the coming into effect of the Bill submit an environmental programme or an environmental quality management Plan dealing with such specific matters as its environmental objectives, commitment to comply with relevant laws and regulations and also remediation of environmental degradation is clearly well motivated. It is without doubt based on an awareness of the devastating effect of untrammeled exploitation of oil and gas on the environment. Nevertheless, the provisions inexplicably and inexcusably exclude the communities which bear the brunt of environmental degradation from its purview (see also 405(3). Indeed section 284 categorically states that the Inspectorate shall ‘consult with the Federal Ministry of the Environment and the State Ministries of Environment within which the licence or lease is situated and with any other relevant bodies within which the licence or lease is situated’. Communities are conspicuously omitted. Modern global thinking in environmental protection recognizes that without the communities environmental plans tend to be shallow and protective only of the interests of a few local collaborators of business concerns. This aspect of the Bill needs to be reworked to make it align with the interest of the oil-bearing communities.The processes of awarding licenses are by competitive and open bidding process. This speaks to years of abuse and cronyism when mining and prospecting licences are given to people who lack the technical knowhow or the means to drill boreholes near the lagoons (s. 270). It is heartwarming that the Bill specifically prohibits discretionary awards (s. 270(2)).

Some Positive Features of the Bill
The Bill has some useful or rather potentially (as all depends on enforcement) useful provisions. These include, among others, consumer protection (s.386), provision of service to customers (s. 387), competition and market regulation (s.391), encouraging indigenous participation in the petroleum sector (ss398-402), Nigerian Content (ss. 403-404). Indeed the Bill sets minimum limits for Nigerian board membership and managerial and professional cadre.

The Bill seeks to bring together the provisions of many laws regulating the petroleum industry. That may make the legal framework more accessible if the technical issues raised above are dealt with. It is also hoped that the substantive concerns raised here will inform a reconsideration of the relevant provisions. If this is done the Bill may help address certain aspects of the industry. As may be apparent, we have left out a detailed consideration of the fiscal provisions in sections 414-432 or so as they are essentially contained in existing laws that are now more or less codified in the Bill. Ditto the provisions on licences and leases.As we noted earlier implementation has always been a problem with us. One may craft the best law but if the will to enforce it is lacking it would not be worth more than the paper on which it is written. On a technical note, we are of the opinion that if some of the drafting suggestions we made in this presentation are taken into consideration the Bill can be pruned to about half its present prolix length.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The National Youth Service Corps Program

Does the NYSC program have any more relevance? Should graduates still be compelled to a one-year national service? Should the program be discontinued?

It was recently reported in the media that the Director-General of the NYSC, Brig. General Maharzu Tsiga raised the alarm that the number of graduating students would soon rise to half a million per year from the current 80,000, saying there is therefore the need to expand orientation camps and build NYSC lodges across the country.

As we may know, the NYSC scheme was created in May 1973 in a bid to reconstruct, reconcile and rebuild the country after the Nigerian Civil war. It was established with a view of proper encouragement and development of common ties and promotion of national unity among youths. And one of the expectations of the program is that "Corps" members should be posted to cities and states far from home and states of origin, where they are expected to mix with people of other tribes, social and family backgrounds, to learn the culture of the indigenes in the place they are posted to.

There is also no doubt that the program has provided immense benefits to few people and local communities. For example, there are university graduates who landed their “dream” jobs, thanks to the NYSC program. Also, there are communities who have benefitted from the services offered by Corp members, some of which may not have been provided by the government. It also worth adding that, the program has encouraged inter-tribal marriages among university graduates.

However, the current state NYSC program is another demonstration of government failure. The program has lost its value due to failure of successive governments to provide adequate funding. Some of the orientation camps lack basic facilities such as water, functional sewage system, electricity, etc. The living conditions in some of these camps are not any different from that of a “refugee camp”.

The same can also be said about the inadequate job posting for Corp members. Following 3-week orientation program, Corp members run around the streets - sometimes like headless chickens - looking for job placements. Some are even exploited by prospective employers, who sometimes see them as a source of “cheap labour”.

From the comments of the D-G, it is clear that the Federal Government has no vision for the NYSC program. Considering the rapid population growth and ever increasing desire of the average Nigerian to acquire University/Polytechnic degree, we do not a brain surgeon to tell us that number of graduating students will increase. I’m therefore not sure why such an obvious situation can be described as” alarming” by the media.

Why will any Government subject young graduates to a compulsory national service without adequate provision for their welfare? Why will any Government expect a graduate to travel 400km away from home without providing him or her with basic amenities?

Unfortunately, the program has become a “cash cow” for corrupt civil servants and government cronies. Every year, inflated contracts worth Nbillions are awarded to government cronies for supply of clothing, food etc. While the value of contract has been increasing at an exponential rate, the quality and quantity of products supplied have been decreasing steadily. And this is one of the major reason why certain elements within and out of the bureaucracy will not support scrapping the program.

For me, the NYSC program needs a total overhaul. The overhaul needs to start with the agency itself. The endemic corruption in the agency has contributed immensely to the decay of the program. Also, the Government needs to come out with a vision for the program. There is no point telling us that Corp member will increase to half a million, without a commensurate action plan. Now that we know, what planning is the NYSC undertaking in this regard. How do they intend to deal with this challenge? Do they intend to undertake a review of the program?

The need to make the program compulsory needs be re-evaluated. It should be evaluated within the context of funding availability and affordability. If the Government cannot afford to fund the program adequately, then it should say so. If the government cannot afford to fund the program, then I see no point why it should continue to be compulsory.

Going forward I will suggest three options to the government. The first option is for government to provide adequate funding for Corp members’ welfare and basic amenities. The second option is to make the program voluntary. This still provides an opportunity for graduates who are keen to undertake a “national service” and explore other parts of Nigeria. The program should also be more flexible to allow Corp members to move between states within the service year in order to broaden their exposure. The third option is total cancellation of the program - which I don’t think is a good idea because of its wider benefits.

A program that was created thirty-six years ago for sure needs a review. The current decay in the program should not be allowed to perpetuate. Some of the reasons for starting the program are likely to be irrelevant in modern day thinking.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

How Many States Do We Need?

Following a meeting of National Assembly members under the umbrella ‘Forum of the National Assembly for the Actualisation of State Creation’, Senator Ayogu Eze was quoted in the media saying, "…….. And all of us agree on one thing; that there can be no constitutional amendment in Nigeria without state creation”. The Senator was even confident that these states could be created before the next general in 2011, which means people can contest elections in the new states. What an ambitious statement to make!

The Speaker of the House of Representatives Hon. Dimeji Bankole, has also played his own part in the recent call for state creation. Firstly, we were told that the Hon Speaker broke down in tears as agitators for the creation of Ijebu state from the present Ogun State stormed the House to press home their demand. Secondly, the Speaker was reported to have told the delegation agitating for the Edu State that ”If it was up to me right now, this moment, this minute and this second, I would call for the creation of this state. This is the most enthusiastic, largest ever contingent that will come and ask for a state”.

Most Nigerians get very emotive when the issue of state creation is discussed, and I understand the reason for this. This is mostly common among minority ethnic groups who feel marginalized because they see state creation as a way of addressing the inequality and injustice in the system. Whilst this may be true, I do not think it will provide a lasting solution to the inherent problems in our federal structure. I consider the “pseudo-federalism” to be the major cause of the marginalization of ethnic minorities. But as the agitation for state creation continues to gather pace, there are important questions which remain unanswered.

First it was General Yakubu Gowon who on May 30, 1967 announced the creation of 12 states from the then four regions in a bid to frustrate Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu's efforts to reap the benefits of his declaration of the Republic of Biafra three days earlier (May 27, 1967). General Murtala Mohammed who succeeded Gowon in 1976 created additional seven states, bringing the number of states in Nigeria to 19. General Ibrahim Babangida (1985-1993) created additional 11 states in 1991 while General Sani Abacha added six more state, bringing the total number of states in Nigeria to its present 36. We will however note that no additional state was during the civilian regime between 1979 and 1983.

History has shown that the rationale for state creation by the military was to appease certain ethnic groups. Unfortunately, the same thinking exists today among our politicians. But in a country of 140 ethnic groups how many states will we need to appease everyone? The situation is bad enough with 36 states. How can the reason for dividing state into two be because the state has not been divided into two since 1976.

Also, on what basis is a state considered viable? Is the economic viability of the state based on projected revenue allocation from the Federal Government or ability to generate sufficient “internal revenue” through taxes etc.? According to figures contained in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) annual report for 2008, the state with the highest internal generated revenue is Lagos with N139.2 billion, followed in distant second by Sokoto with N34.8billion in 2008. According to the report, the IGR by 36 states and FCTA was N441.1 billion representing 1.8 per cent of national gross domestic product (GDP).

Let’s take the situation for the proposal to create Edu State from the current Niger State as an example. The proposed Edu state is considered long overdue because of its population of 2.1 million and the landmass of 76,000 square kilometres. However, the CBN report noted Niger State as one of the states heavily reliant on federal allocation. Now tell me how can the creation of Edu state from a state that his heavily dependent on federal allocation be economically viable? We may in fact acsk ourselves, if Nigeria as a country itself is economically viable. Of what benefit is a state of 2.1 million people? We all know the so-called federal allocation is intrinsically linked to proceeds from “volatile” crude oil sales.

Creation of states just to appease ethnicity without regards to its long term economic viability should not be encouraged. It is time we start looking beyond tribal lines on issues that affects us as nation. Section 8 of the 1999 Constitution is very clear on matters of state creation. As easy as it may look, the process is very laborious and I will be really surprised if state creation can be achieved by any civilian administration. Even if federal lawmakers are successful in their quest for state creation, the decision will still need to be subject to a referendum. How anyone thinks this can be done before the 2011 elections beats me imagination.

There are fundamental problems with our Constitution that needs to be addressed as matter of urgency. The only way to address ethnic marginalisation is through establishment of sound democratic principles, and promotion of true federalism. Honourable members of the national assembly should focus on issues that will help build democratic institutions that will outlast political generations. These issues are more important than state creation at this present time.

The nation is in dire need of legislations to support a reformed electoral system. Nigeria needs a change in constitution that will entrench “true federalism”. We need legislation that will support and encourage good governance. We need a constitution that will support and encourage genuine separation of power. We need legislation that will promote accountability and transparency at all levels.

We are not interested in a constitution review that is wholly dependent on state creation! We are not interested in manipulation of our constitution to suit individual political aspirations!! We are not interested in a constitution review that will allow perpetuation of kleptomaniacs in power!!!

Monday, July 20, 2009

MEND, Lagos State and Atlas Cove Jetty Attack

Like most people, I have been following the public reaction to the recent bombing of Lagos Atlas Cove jetty. As we all know, this recent action is totally different from what we have experienced in the past. Since the start of the militancy, actions of groups such as MEND, NDVF have been limited to the Niger Delta region. However, the recent bombing of the Atlas Cove jetty signals a massive change in momentum. It is the strongest indication so far of the threat we are facing as a nation, if the Niger Delta crisis is allowed to escalate. Public reactions to the bombing have been very interesting, particularly from the State Governor, Mr Babatunde Fashola and the so-called “Lagos Elders”.

Following the attack, Governor Fashola was quoted in the media saying “If this (Atlas Cove Jetty bombing) was a mistake, we expect that it must never repeat itself as we will respond to this new security threat appropriately”. Also, a group of traditional rulers, politicians and community leaders in Lagos state, “warned” the Niger Delta militants against further attacks in the state. According to the Elders, “……the incident must never again be repeated as any attempt to do so would be met with serious consequences which attackers will live to regret”(!).

The impact of any form of attack on the Atlas Cove jetty cannot be over-emphasized. Especially in a country that is largely dependent on imported fuel products. Being the largest fuel import terminal, any attack will have a huge impact on fuel distribution and supply. Such attack is also threat to the security of Lagos State and it status as the nation’s business capital. However, I am still at a loss with the meaning of the statements credited to Governor Fashola and the Lagos Elders.

As the Chief Security Officer of Lagos State, I appreciate that the onus is on Gov. Fashola to ensure peace and security in the state. But the question is, does he really have the power ensure peace and security in the state? Let’s even assume the Niger Delta issue escalates and more bombing is carried out in Lagos, how does Gov. Fashola intend to responds to such threat “appropriately”? The fact remains that he neither controls the police nor the military? The Commissioner of Police receives his orders from Abuja and not from any state governor. The Commandants of the military formations in the state are only answerable to their khaki masters.

The same can also be said about the comments of the Lagos Elders. Are would they deal with the threat from MEND? Are they intending on using the OPC or what? Or perform some traditional rites on the militants? Or will they start killing all Niger Delta citizens living in Lagos?

I’m sorry to say, but comments like these encapsulate the problem of this nation. We are sometimes myopic in our thinking. People don’t really care what happens to their neighbour as long as they are not affected. The state Governors are happy to travel to Abuja at the end of every month to collect their share from proceeds of Niger Delta oil, but are not interested in the problems of Niger Delta. As the Yorubas say, “owo epo ni aye ba ni la, wo nki ba ni la owo eje”.

So what am I saying? The Niger Delta crisis should not be politicised. Although, attacks have been limited to the Niger Delta region, it is not just about Niger Delta. This is a national issue. I’m sure the militants are not interested in destroying innocent lives in Lagos or bringing Lagos to its knees.

It is okay for the Elders to say Lagos is not Niger Delta. It is okay for Lagos residents to be considered as innocent civilians in the Niger Delta crisis. However, what about innocent lives that has been lost in Niger Delta as a result of the militancy? Are we now saying that they deserve to be bombed because they live in the Niger Delta? God forbid but if the Niger Delta crisis turns into a “civil law”, will Lagos state be immune?

Whilst I’m not in support of the recent action on the Atlas Cove jetty or destruction of lives and properties in general, I don’t think it is right for anyone to trivialise the Niger Delta issue. Instead of making inflammatory comments, the whole nation should be united in condemning the ineptitude and insincerity of the Federal Government in dealing with the Niger Delta issue.

We need not to x-ray the Niger Delta crisis through a tribal microscope. It is a national issue that deserves a national solution.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Jobs! Jobs!! Jobs!!!

Jobs! Jobs!! Jobs!!!

Salary – N65, 000 ($500) per month



All applicants
· must be a registered member of Movement for Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) or Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF)
· must have lived in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, within the last 10 years
· must have previously engaged in militancy or guerilla warfare
· must have proven track record of human kidnapping, especially expatriates.
· must have proven track record in destruction of oil pipelines and other major oil installations
· must have proven track record in the use of AK-47 and “rocket propelled grenades”
· must have track record of driving speedboats, dingy, and canoes.

· must understand the operation of onshore and offshore oil exploration facilities
· must understand oil bunkering techniques
· must be willing to engage in election rigging.
· must be willing to be a member of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP)

All applications must be submitted in person to

Mallam Umar Yar’Adua
The Presidency,
Aso Villa
Tel: +234 9 6500000 E-mail

Please note that only the first 10,000 applications will be accepted. Submission of multiple applications will result in automatic disqualification.

Closing date – 60 days from the date of this advertisement

Notes for all applicants
· The government reserves the right to extend the deadline for submission of applications.
· The government reserves the right to refuse application from specified persons.
· There is no right of appeal for applications that are refused.


Head of Human Resouces
Ministry of Niger Delta

Friday, July 17, 2009

President Obama Is Coming Soon!

We have heard the good news from the Foreign Affairs Minister. Dr Ojo Maduekwe noted that President Obama will be visiting Nigeria very soon. The Minister was quoted in the media saying President Obama told him at the G8 meeting (shortly before he departed for Ghana) that he wants to visit Nigeria soon. In fact he went on further to say that the US President said to him that “whichever way Nigeria goes, Africa goes”.

Following President Obama visit to Ghana last week, I have been waiting anxiously for one of President Yar’Adua’s political jobber to come of in defence of his administration. The well-deserved media criticisms were so bad that I expected his Media Adviser to come out and save the face of his boss.

I was therefore not surprised to read the comments of Dr Maduekwe that Pres. Obama is coming soon to Nigeria. It is clear that the Yar’Adua administration is very desperate to be acknowledged by the western world. No wonder the Pres. Yar’Adua lobbied the German Chancellor to be invited to the G-8 meeting. We probably need to ask ourselves, how can a country that was not fit to be part of G-20 meeting about six months ago was now been invited to the G-8 meeting?

However, I don’t think Dr Maduekwe understood Pres. Obama statement. If Pres. Obama’s statement is taken within the context of his speech in Ghana, then Dr Maduekwe will understand that there is really nothing to be excited about. For me, I find Pres. Obama’s statement as sarcastic. Meaning he was insulting the Nigerian government indirectly. What Pres. Obama was indirectly saying to Dr Maduekwe was, I will visit Nigeria, soon after you have been able to restore good governance.

Also, the question needs to be ask about the Nigerian government and the PDP obsession with Pres. Obama. Is it not the ruling party that was accusing the US govt for wanting to meet with the opposition during Pres. Obama’s visit to Ghana? I want to believe that it’s Pres. Obama prerogative to visit countries and meet people that he feels are worthwhile of his time? Instead of this government to get on with its job, they are busy lobbying and trying to grab the attention of the US President. We don’t need attention-seekers as leaders. If you do what is right, you will be noticed. As small as Botswana is, it received a well deserved recognition from the US President. I also can’t remember reading anywhere that Ghanaian diplomats were seen at the White House lobbying the US President to visit Ghana. The reason why he chose Ghana is clear, “do the right thing, and the US will do business with you”.

Again come to think of it, was President Yar’Adua not at the G-8 meeting? If Pres. Obama was really serious about visiting Nigeria, he probably would have spoken directly with the Nigerian President and not the Minister! Dr Maduekwe said “I did what a Foreign Minister of my status can do; I walked up to the President of United States and I said Mr. President, nice to meet you; I’m the Foreign Minister of Nigeria. Mr. Obama was very warm when I introduced myself. Mr. Obama held me by the shoulder. He told me, ‘thank you Mr. Minister I want to visit your country very soon”. My take on this is, Pres. Obama probably knew why Ojo Maduekwe came to introduce himself, and thought, “let me just tell this guy what he wants to hear”.

Let Pres. Yar’Adua and his cohorts not be deceived, Pres. Obama has made it clear that the US will not endorse any government that promotes tyranny and oppression. It will not support any nation that does not promote the rule of law. It is not ready to do business with regime that actively or passively encourage corruption. It will do business with a country whose Attorney-General uses international bilateral agreements to frustrate corruption cases. It will support a regime that was sponsored into government by corrupt individuals. It will not support a government, whose President’s closest friends are politicians with corruption cases hanging over their heads. The US will not support a government that cannot hold credible elections in 46 electoral wards. The US will not support a government that embarks on military actions against its citizens.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The State and Religious Pilgrimage

Hopefully as we begin to move forward as a nation, we can start to challenge the rationale of certain actions and policies carried out by the government – both at the state and federal level. Whilst some of these policies are totally at odds with our constitution, taxpayers’ money is still being wasted implementing such policies.

One of such policies is state sponsorship of religious pilgrimage. For me, we do not operate a theocratic government and therefore it is important that there is a clear delineation between religion and state. It is common knowledge that Nigeria has a long history of sponsoring pilgrims to Israel and Saudi Arabia every year on “holy pilgrimage”. Every year, colossal amount of money is budgeted for this exercise. The business of airlifting pilgrims to the holy land has also become big business. It is so lucrative that the contracts are only awarded to government cronies, who are feeding fat on taxpayers money. Section 10 of 1999 Constitution states “The Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion”. However, the federal and state government spend billions of naira every year sponsoring people on “holy pilgrimage”. We may probably need to remind ourselves how we got into this mess in the first place.

Former the Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, in 1975 established a Pilgrims Board funded by the State for the exclusive use of Muslims. In 1979, President Shehu Shagari, being unable to restrain himself from active participation in the promotion of religion, adopted a "balancing act strategy". Thus, in 1980, he established a Christian Pilgrims Board to make up for the existing Muslim Pilgrims Board.

As a Christian, I appreciate what it could mean for a Christian to travel on pilgrimage to the holy land in Jerusalem. I do also appreciate the fact that one of the fundamental tenets of Islam is the holy pilgrimage to Mecca. However, I do not agree that it is right for any government in a secular nation like Nigeria to get involved sponsoring such an activity. The way and manner anyone chooses to practice their religious beliefs should be independent of the state. The cost of engaging in a religious activity should not be foisted on the nation. The money spent annually on sponsoring a few pilgrims to the holy land can be used for the providing services for the benefit of the wider populace.

Some will argue that some Christians or Muslims would never have had the opportunity to visit the holy land if they had not been sponsored by the federal or state government. Yes I agree with such argument. And in fact, I will be quick to point out the writer’s parents were beneficiaries of state sponsorship to Jerusalem. But that doesn’t mean if the opportunity never existed, they wouldn’t have looked for alternative means of funding their trips. The most disappointing thing about the state sponsorship is the fact that most of the pilgrims are people who are very well off and are capable of sponsoring themselves.

Unfortunately, sponsoring religious pilgrimage is another hole the nation has dug itself into. Just like the issue of “Federal Character”, we need to ask ourselves where it is going to stop. Very soon we will see traditional worshippers asking to be sponsored for Ogun festival. But can they be blamed? The constitution does not recognise any religion, and no religion can be seen to be superior to the other. If I’m a Sango worshipper, I will not be happy for my tax to be used to sponsor a Christian or Muslim to the holy land.

For me the way forward is this. It is either the access to funds for religious pilgrimage is opened to all and not just Christians or Muslims. This might mean establishment of a pilgrims board for all religions. The second option, which is preference, is for the government to do away with the policy of sponsoring pilgrims in its entirety.

But, if the government feels an obligation to be involved in religious activities – which I don’t think is right - it can instead offer interest-free loans to prospective pilgrims. Such loans should be “means-tested”, i.e. made available only to people who cannot afford the cost of travel, accommodation etc. And being a secular nation, such loans will have to be made available to everyone irrespective of their religious beliefs.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mrs Farida Waziri - Excuses! Excuses!! Excuses!!!

Let us ask why the cases are still pending. I say often that the process of judiciary is slow. If a corrupt person pays you half of what he has stolen, what should you do? They take it and look for a way to keep on prolonging the case. ” (EFCC Chairman, Mrs Farida Waziri)

Anytime I read the comments of the EFCC Chairman, Mrs Farida Waziri my head pounds! Perhaps Madam Waziri should keep shut up if she has nothing encouraging to say about anti-corruption. As Nigerians, we are sick and tired of an anti-corruption czar who looks for every excuse not to perform her role diligently. She needs not to just her actions because we now know that, her mandate is not to rock the “corruption boat”.

Mrs Waziri’s excuse for failure is now because corrupt official bribe lawyers to help frustrate their prosecution. So the legal profession is to blame for the government ineptitude and apathy towards anti-corruption – come on! I find Mrs Waziri’s comments very insulting to the law profession. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there are no bad eggs within the law profession, but for the head of anti-corruption agency to make such a generalised derogatory remark is not acceptable. In fact I’m waiting for the Nigerian Bar Association to pick her up on this statement.

Mrs Waziri need not to be reminded that she is also a lawyer, or maybe she has forgotten. However, she needs to be reminded that, she is guilty of the same offence, for which she is accusing lawyers. Is it not on record that prior to being EFCC Chairman, her law firm stood as surety for accused former governors? Do we not know that Mrs Waziri was retained by some former governors to help fight their corruption cases? If that is the case, perhaps Mrs Waziri needs to tell us, how much was she paid by these corrupt ex-governors for giving them “consultancy” advice? Also, based on her recent comments, we can assume that she cooperated with the court really well in making sure their cases were treated expediently. Which meant she did not help frustrate her client’s cases? I guess she was appointed EFCC Chairman because of how she diligently handled her briefs (!)

Mrs Waziri should recognise that the EFCC operates in a democratic society, where “rule of law” is paramount. Is Mrs Waziri suggesting that anyone charged with corruption should not be defended in court? Or we should start operating military-style tribunals in a democratic society? Even, Section 35(5) and (6) of the 1999 states that “every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty” and also “every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be entitled to defend himself in person or by legal practitioners of his own”. She needs to recognise that lawyers are out to do a job, which they have to be paid for.

So what am I saying? If this government and EFCC are really serious about fighting corruption, they should stop looking for excuses. Instead the judicial system should be purged of greedy, incompetent and lazy judges. If the judiciary is properly constituted with people of integrity, then tell me the lawyer that will succeed in frustrating the courts. We all know that there are problems with our judicial system. These problems do not only affect corruption-related cases. The Nigerian judiciary is one of the most pathetic in the world in terms of adjudication. Cases brought before a judge can take years before it is heard talk less of being decided. It is the loopholes that exist within our judicial system that are being exploited by lawyers. But really which lawyer wouldn’t exploit a legal system that is riddled with loop-holes?

For me, the call for a special court or tribunal for corruption cases by Mrs Waziri is nonsense! What will be achieved by these special courts and can’t be achieved by the existing courts if they are strengthened? As an example, has the creation of election tribunals helped in anyway facilitate swift legal proceedings? At the end of the day, it is this same corrupt and apathetic government that will appoint people into these special courts. So tell me what will be different?

So Mrs Waziri, you can keep making noise from now until kingdom come. But the bottom line remains that you and your paymasters are only paying lip service to the anti-corruption struggle and nothing more!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Cross River State "Hungry" Lawmakers

The decision by 11 National Assembly lawmakers representing Cross River State to embark on a 2-week “hunger strike” is regrettable to say the least. The lawmakers decided on this line of action following the delisting of Cross River State by the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) as an oil bearing state.

The judgment by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at the Hague, The Netherlands, on October 10, 2002 that the oil-rich Bakassi peninsula belongs to Cameroun, and subsequent resolution by the National Boundary Commission (NBC) that the disputed 67 oil wells which were between Cross River and Akwa Ibom state actually belongs to the latter, meant Cross River State is now considered a non-oil bearing state.

As a result of RMAFC and NBC decisions, the state ceases to benefit from the 13 percent derivation fund set aside for oil producing states, and it will lose its status as a major beneficiary Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) sponsored projects and programmes.

Despite not been a major oil producer in the Niger Delta, there is no doubt that loss of oil revenue will impact greatly on the state ability to finance major projects. In fact, the Gov. Liyel Imoke was quoted to have said that State will lose between N300 –N500 million monthly as a result.

To show their seriousness on this matter, the lawmakers were quoted as saying “anyone who wanted to monitor the hunger strike to move into their homes”. But the question still remains, if the proposed hunger strike action by the 11 lawmakers was the right thing to do. Also, what is the benefit of embarking on hunger strike? And more importantly, in whose interest?

For me, I consider the action as an “act of desperation”, which can only be attributed to hungry men. Such actions only highlight the delusion that exists within our political class. It is also a reflection of the handicap that has crippled the intellectual capacity our leaders over the years, which has turned us into a nation of rent collectors. Our leaders cannot seem to think of other ways of generating revenue apart from proceeds of crude oil. The questions I will like to ask the lawmakers are, what is the correlation between oil revenue and human/infrastructure development in Nigeria over last five decades? Is there any oil-producing state that is “better off” in terms of development? In fact, the so-called oil-producing states have had the most corrupt leadership in the current political dispensation. What if Nigeria does not have crude oil? And perhaps we should also ask, what Cross River State did with the oil allocation it has received in previous years?

Some will argue that the process through which Cross River State was delisted was unfair. However, for me, this is not the issue. The discovery of Oil in Nigeria has been more of a curse than blessing to us as a nation. Rather than providing revenue for development of major infrastructure for public benefit, it has continuously lined the greedy pockets of very few. Even if the government decides to return the 67 oil wells to Cross River State, I’m yet to see how its proceeds will serve any benefit to citizens of Cross River State.

Sometimes, I pray to God that the oil wells in Nigeria should dry up! While this may sound harsh, I believe it will create an opportunity to for our leaders to start thinking creatively. Let’s not be deceived, most of the world’s biggest economies are not an Oil producing states. A good example is the United Kingdom. What mineral resources exist in the UK? Yet, it is the second biggest economy in Europe. Maybe our leaders have forgotten that Chief Obafemi Awolowo developed in the western region with proceeds from the sale of Cocoa.

To the eleven lawmakers, I will note that there are lots of injustices and issues going on in the nation that deserves more urgent attention. Firstly, the President is yet to declare his much publicised “emergency” in the power sector. Why can’t the lawmakers go on hunger strike and put pressure on Pres.Yar’Adua to declare the state of emergency. Secondly, the government embarked on a genocide in the Niger Delta, killing innocent civilians all because “crude oil”. Some of these innocent civilians don’t even know what crude oil looks like, yet they were killed and maimed under the guise of military action against militancy! However, when this genocide was been perpetuated, no lawmaker from the Delta region went on “hunger strike” to demand a stop to the military action. Can you imagine such hypocrisy? Thirdly, if the lawmakers are really out to serve public interest, why are they not on hunger strike in order to put pressure on government to honour its agreement with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), who are currently on indefinite strike? Within this debate, it is also important to ask these lawmakers what they have done with the funds appropriated for constituency projects. Because as they say, charity begins at home.

Let’s not be deceived, these lawmakers are just bunch of self-serving, over-paid kleptomaniacs. Their past records speak volumes. They have been a continuous drain on our economy. They live on fat salaries and allowances while doing nothing at all or barest minimum at the least. They are so detached from the constituency they claim to represent, and the reality of the society.

These are the same set of lawmakers that only managed to pass four bills in the last 18 months at cost of almost N76 billion per year in salary. If they are really serious about fighting the course, perhaps they can start by donating some of their fat salaries for charitable purposes.