Thursday, December 28, 2006

Nigerian Fuel Pipeline Explosions – Cost of Kleptocracy.

Fuel shortage in Nigeria is perennial, at least since the mid-1980s. With a runaway population growth, increased vehicular traffic and grossly inadequate electricity generation and supply, the demand for petroleum products far outstrips supply. Most of the petroleum products are regulated, refined and marketed by the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) owned facilities. These facilities, wholly owned by the Government, are managed by a band of mediocre and corrupt bureaucrats. They are run down and consistently operate far below capacity, leading to the perennial shortages suffered in the country.

It has been alleged that apart from acts of frank graft, the bureaucrats that run these facilities deliberately mismanage and neglect maintenance of these production and distribution facilities as a means of creating artificial scarcities so that their cronies, associates and front corporations would be awarded lucrative contracts to import the scarce products, a process initially instituted to bridge the supply gap that would ensue when these facilities are temporarily shut down for maintenance.

Then there are those criminal gangs, who break the pipes to steal petroleum products for sale in the black market. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) is alleged to have started off like this before graduating to crude oil bunkering, piracy and kidnapping. These illegal bunkerers, whose operations sometimes include highly placed government civil service and military officials are usually well organized with elaborate distribution systems and sophisticated arms to fight off law enforcement agents as they perpetrate the crime. These criminals leave in their wake busted pipes that leak fuel into the ecosystem constituting various environmental and safety hazards. Often, these abandoned busted pipes become pots of gold to the local community, when they easily accessible. Rather than report the hazard to the police and concerned authorities, these locals scurry to siphon as much fuel as they can to sell in the black market. Using Jerry cans and all sorts of improvised vessels, these locals besiege the hazardous breached pipes, often in frenzied fractious droves that break out in frequent bouts of fisticuffs and eventually ending in a catastrophe.















































What happened at Abule Egba/Awori, Lagos on December 26, 2006 is rather tragic. Some have said the victims brought it on themselves, since clearly, they were stealing from the ruptured pipes. But really it is not as simple as that. With an existing petroleum product shortage, a large army of largely unenlightened, unemployed, poor and desperate citizens, the ruptured pipe gushing precious fuel must have been very tempting, despite the dangers involved in "getting a piece of the action." It was reported that the pipe had been broken at least three days earlier by some illegal bunkerers, who had only abandoned the scene hours before the explosion.

It bugles the mind that all through out the three days the thieves were in control of the broken pipe, none of the locals reported the case to the police. Perhaps someone did, but as is characteristic of the police, they did not respond, perhaps for fear of being out-gunned by the bunkerers. Or, it may be that the police was even in complicity with the criminals, hence their non-show during the three-day operation. Also, is it possible that the NNPC, to which the pipes belong, did not detect the breached pipe on time? This is hard to believe, since all it will take to detect this is a vigilant human monitor to notice the discrepancy between the volumes pumped and received. Besides, the pipelines are purportedly rigged with electronic pressure monitoring systems that automatically trigger off when the pipelines are tampered with or have a break. This would have been set off as soon as the bunkerers struck were it working as it should.

The Nigerian citizenry needs to resolve to stanch this dangerous trend. More than 2000 have died as a result of this illegal activity alone within the past few years. Nigerians need to demand better policing and maintenance of petroleum facilities. They need to stop colluding with illegal fuel bunkerers and criminals, and report suspicious activities to law enforcement authorities. Of course, the government on its own part needs to address the issue of unemployment and poverty, and the issue of inadequate training and equipment of the law enforcement agencies. Perhaps the way to go with the perennial fuel shortages is complete privatization of the production and distribution facilities, with the government fully divesting its commercial interests in the industry, providing only regulatory and monitoring services through its agencies.















GLOSSARY OF NIGERIA PIPELINE DISASTERS
Dec 2006: At least 280 killed in Lagos

May 2006: At least 150 killed in Lagos

Dec 2004: At least 20 killed in Lagos
Sept 2004: At least 60 killed in Lagos

June 2003: At least 105 killed in Abia State
Jul 2000: At least 300 killed in Warri
Mar 2000: At least 50 killed in Abia State
Oct 1998: At least 1,000 killed in Jesse, Delta State

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Atiku’s Self-Inflicted Coup de Grace

The Atiku adoption by AC and at least ten other political parties as their presidential candidate in the April 2007 general elections and his eventual expulsion from the PDP and a declaration of the vacancy of the Vice Presidency by President Obasanjo has finally brought the Obasanjo/Atiku feud to a crescendo. Citing the 1999 constitution as its locus, the PDP National Executive Committee made the demand of Obasanjo yesterday to appoint a new VP to replace Atiku. Let’s examine Section 142 of the Nigerian constitution, on which the Atiku replacement is being hitched, as quoted below: -

“142. (1) In any election to which the foregoing provisions of this Part of this Chapter relate, a candidate for an election to the office of President shall not be deemed to be validly nominated unless he nominates another candidate as his associate from the same political party for his running for the office of President, who is to occupy the office of Vice-President and that candidate shall be deemed to have been duly elected to the office of Vice-President if the candidate for an election to the office of President who nominated him as such associate is duly elected as President in accordance with the provisions aforesaid.
(2) The provisions of this Part of this Chapter relating to qualification for election, tenure of office, disqualification, declaration of assets and liabilities and oaths of President shall apply in relation to the office of Vice-President as if references to President were references to Vice-President.”

The full text of the entire 1999 constitution may be downloaded at the following link: - http://www.nigeria.gov.ng/Nigerian%20Constitution.pdf for your thorough perusal. It appears that this section quoted above provides for the conditions for election to office and is silent on what would entail in the event that a serving Vice President cross carpets. Going further to read sections 143 and 144 of the 1999 constitution, which provide for the removal of the Vice president, there is also no reference to what happens in the event that a serving VP defects to another party, or the role of his political party in the removal of the VP. It however lays down a process where at least 1/3 of the members of the National Assembly would have to submit in writing to the President of the Senate, allegations of gross misconduct (with specific details) against the VP and the subsequent institution of a seven-man investigative panel by the Chief Justice of the Federation
to probe the allegation sequent upon a motion passed by at least 2/3 majority of both houses of the National Assembly. The findings of this seven-man investigative panel would form the basis of impeachment.

It should not be difficult for the Obasanjo controlled PDP, which controls majority of both houses of Assembly to achieve the impeachment of Atiku, should it degenerate into a long drawn out constitutional battle. Putting the antecedents in perspective, this is probably what will happen. Atiku is highly unlikely to resign, given that he is under investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and would lose the immunity protection conferred on him according to section 308 of the 1999 constitution by virtue of his position as VP. The New Year would probably find Atiku sojourning abroad to wait out his imminent impeachment. Should the PDP controlled house succeed in impeaching Atiku, we can be sure of him electing not to return to Nigeria, automatically abandoning his presidential ambition, in a bid to escape arraignment by the EFCC for the gross acts of fraud of which he is being accused. Atiku has finally dealt himself the coup de grace. As it stands now, the Atiku presidential candidacy is a lame duck, nothing more than wishful thinking and self-delusion by members of AC and the ten or so other parties that have nominated the embattled VP to bear their flag.

If Atiku does decide to return home, it would most likely be upon securing a court injunction against his putative removal by President Obasanjo. Again, the battle will be shifted to the floors of the House of Assembly and Senate, where both men will bring out the biggest guns yet in their respective arsenals. In the end, it is more likely that President Obasanjo will prevail, sequent upon which Atiku would most likely disappear in the manner of Dariye so as to escape prosecution by the EFCC. It is hoped that this business would pass swiftly and cleanly (even though I have strong doubts) so as not to distract from other salient issues in the Nigerian polity.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Atiku Bags AC's Presidential Ticket and Ten Others'

Democracy is a great thing. All that matters in a democracy is the will of the people, right or wrong. So long as the majority or their representatives vote on an issue, the principles of democracy dictate that the will of the people be done. Atiku’s nomination by Action Congress (AC) and ten other less influential parties as their presidential ticket bearer for the April, 2007 general elections is a testament to democracy, that is if the process of his nomination was democratic. From all indications, it appears to be, and is an expression of the parties’ protest to the ostracization of the Vice President from his original party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

AC’s nomination of the VP is a strategic ploy to win over a disgruntled, but considerably powerful political clique ostracized from the PDP as a fall out of in fighting within the ranks of the PDP echelon. Atiku leads this group, which includes people like former PDP chairman, Sunday Awoniyi amongst others. AC, which essentially has no political clout outside of the Nigerian southwest hopes to extend its clout to the constituencies in other regions of Nigeria from which these disgruntled ex-PDP bigwigs come. The adoption of Atiku by the other ten political parties of lesser influence should consolidate AC’s clout even more.


How the PDP would react to the adoption of Atiku by the rival political parties is unclear. One thing however is certain. Having accepted his adoption by these rival parties, Atiku has effectively resigned his membership of the PDP. It is also not clear if this means he ceases to be Vice President, it is unlikely though, particularly since he is under investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), and as long as he is VP is protected from prosecution as a result of the immunity conferred on him by the office. As at the time of posting this blog, it was reported that President Obasanjo had ordered that the VP not be availed the use of any of the jets in the presidential fleet for his political campaigns.


The Obasanjo/Atiku duo is probably one of the worst relationships between a president and his vice in history. While the one does not want to fire the other because he does not want to appear too high-handed and vindictive, the other does not want to resign so as not to appear weak, and lose the immunity from prosecution that his office confers. The next few weeks should be interesting as we watch the battle between these two play out.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Obasanjo/Atiku PTDF Recriminations – Breakdown of the “Chop I Chop” Code

There is often a code of silence amongst criminals. With the Mafia, it is “Omerta”, with the Yakuza, it is the “Jingi.” Usually, these codes of conduct hold these criminal organizations together and are essential for the achievement of their nefarious objectives. When members of these organizations run afoul of these codes, the repercussions are often dire; in some cases, fatal. With the Mafioso, it could range from slap-on-the-wrist measures such as demotion to a lower rank, to the more severe like gruesome torture or execution, depending on the severity of the transgression. The Japanese Yakuza, which operates much like the Italian Mafia, also has in addition to gruesome torture and execution, a punitive measure called “Yubitsume,” where the transgressor cuts off the tip of his pinky finger as an act of contrition.

Amongst Nigerian politicians (essentially gangsters in flowing robes), such a code of conduct exists – the “chop I chop” code. Like in the Mafia and Yakuza, every once in a while, this code of conduct breaks down. Atiku it seems broke this code when he challenged the third term bid of Obasanjo. His “Yubitsume” for this transgression was expulsion from the PDP and public humiliation for embezzlement (albeit it seems, a founded allegation). The sensational pronouncements of the Vice President, Abubakar Atiku, regarding his role in the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), and how the fund was administered attests to this breakdown of the ‘chop I chop” code. In a fashion reminiscent of the testimony of Sammy “The Bull” Gravano, turncoat underboss of the notorious Gambino crime family of New York that saw the downfall of the Teflon Don, John Gotti, godfather of the Gambino crime family, Atiku sang like a bird to the ad-hoc senate committee.

His exposé revealed how the PTDF was used as a slush fund to reward party loyalists and fund various illicit business deals by the echelon of the PDP and their cronies. Particularly disturbing were his revelation of (a) payment of N250 million in spurious legal fees to the chambers of Afe Babalola for incorporation services of a company, Galaxy Backbone, allegedly floated by OBJ and cronies, (b) millions of naira in retainership fees still being paid to the chambers of the new National Security Adviser, Muktar, and (c) the quid pro quo transfer of funds, designated "loan" to the United Bank of Africa (UBA) in exchange for a personal loan of N200 million advanced to Obasanjo for the purchase of shares in Transcorp, on whose board the UBA Managing Director sits. Atiku however was conveniently silent on his complicity in the Globacom and IGate deals for which he is accused of embezzlement of PTDF monies to fund. If the VP's allegations are true, and chances are that a substantial part of it is true (Obasanjo himself has admitted to having held shares in Transcorp), then it is pertinent on the Senate Committee to set up an investigation to verify the claims of the VP and from there institute legal proceedings against Atiku, Obasanjo and anyone who is found to be involved, or is a beneficiary of the shameless illicit scheme, and that includes the Afe Babalola chambers, Galaxy Backbone, Globacom, UBA, ETB, TIB, IGate, Marine Float etc.

The chance that this will happen though is rather slim. Just as with the Yakuza, the Mafia and other criminal organizations, the downfall of an old cabal often presages the dawn of a new one. If however Nuhu Ribadu would borrow a leaf from Elliot Spitzer, the fearless New York state Attorney General (now Governor elect), who is credited with the downfall of the Gambino crime family, perhaps Nigeria would have a glimmer of hope.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Yar Adua Picks Jonathan to Pacify Niger Delta

The reason adduced to the surprise selection of the Bayelsa State Governor, Dr Goodluck Jonathan as running mate to the PDP presidential candidate is to pacify the Niger Delta folk, who have been contending issues ranging from resource control to environmental degradation. The echelon of the PDP figures that its chances of winning the 2007 presidential elections would only be improved with an Ijaw native on the presidential ticket as VP. The Ijaw, reputed to be the 4th largest ethnic group in Nigeria have been in the forefront of the contentious, often violent, issues of resource control and environmental degradation.

Only two weeks ago, leaders of the notorious Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) had lent their support to Buba Marwa, former military governor of Lagos state in his bid for the PDP presidential ticket. At the time, Jonathan was not on the radar for consideration in the presidential race and so was a non-issue. Now that he has been picked by Yar Adua, and Marwa has lost the PDP presidential ticket, it is unsure how MEND and indeed the entire Niger Delta will take it. Speculations had been rife of Cross River state governor, Donald Duke or his Rivers state counterpart, Peter Odili winning the VP slot after the PDP convention last Saturday, alas both contenders were disappointed.

It is understandable that Odili did not get the nomination, given the ongoing investigation into allegations of financial impropriety leveled against his government. Duke, on the other hand has been hailed severally as Mr. Clean and for various accomplishments of his government. This leads to the question of whether Jonathan is not being rewarded for the insurgencies playing out in the Niger Delta mainly by the Ijaw? (Never mind that his wife is under investigation by the EFCC for money laundering, a story for another forum) If this is the case, then it is a dangerous precedent that might encourage other aggrieved ethnic groups to take up arms to further their causes.

If one thinks about it, perhaps this precedent had already earlier been set long before the Obasanjo regime came into power. It was the Yorubas who were most vociferous about the lost mandate of June 12, 1993 denying Abiola, a Yoruba native from ascension to the presidency by the military juntas of Babangida and Abacha. With the auspicious demise of the evil Abacha and Abiola in 1998, pundits agree that the Obasanjo candidacy was a consensus to pacify the Yorubas for the lost mandate of Abiola. If this is the case then we might soon see a resurgence of the Biafra movement of the Igbos over the next few years should they not produce the president (an extremely high improbability) come 2007. Igbo jingoists like Ojukwu, Kalu, Uwazurike and Nzeribe should be watched.

The remaining 200-plus odd minority ethnic groups can only watch this ethnocentric regional politics play out as they decipher with which of the major ethnic groups to pitch their tents to maximize their benefits. The challenge for the new president after May 27, 2007 will be how to manage this rambunctious, party-pied, ethnocentric polity for order while maintaining a fair balance of justice and equity for the various interest groups that make up the complexity that is Nigeria.

Nigeria’s Own Enrons

It is time for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to cast its net on the Nigerian corporate world. The recent restatements and financial impropriety in Cadbury Nigeria Plc. is only but a tip of the iceberg of what entails in many publicly quoted Nigerian companies. In the late 1990s, the Nigerian economy witnessed a spate of failed banks and financial institutions as a result of gross mismanagement and frank acts of fraud by key management staff, including a sitting and past president of the Nigerian Institute of Bankers (NIB), the highest standard setting body of banking in Nigeria.

Many of those indicted were arrested by the Federal Investigation and Intelligence Bureau (FIIB) and were held at the Alagbon Close headquarters of the agency. But as is characteristic of Nigerian law enforcement, many of the indicted soon found themselves off the hook for a combination of reasons including muddled up investigation, bribery, intimidation, influence peddling and sheer incompetence of the prosecution teams. By May 1999, when the Obasanjo administration came into power there was hardly any indicted manager of the failed banks under investigation despite the fact that several tens of thousands of Nigerians had lost huge fortunes in the failed banks.

The manufacturing industry had its own spate of mismanagement too, which led to many of the multinational firms and foreign partners divesting their interests in Nigeria. The roster of the multinationals that divested their interests includes – Pfizer, Aventis, GlaxoWellcome and SmithKline Beecham (now merged as GlaxoSmithKline), Hoescht, P&G etc. Some companies did not divest their interests; instead they fired erring key officers. Lever Brothers for instance fired the late Rufus Giwa, then president of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) for fraudulent restatements and fiduciary impropriety. It was nauseating to see a man so indicted lead MAN for several more years while at the same time sitting on the board of the notoriously mismanaged Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) of the Abacha years.

Another case is that of one time acclaimed whiz-kid and CEO of the United Bank of Africa, Bello Giwa-Osagie, who is reputed to have gotten a golden handshake of about $100 million for his quiet withdrawal from the Bank after charges of fiduciary impropriety were leveled against him. Giwa-Osagie was succeeded by another pretender to the whiz-kid epithet, Tony Elumelu, who also sits on the board of the mega-company, Transcorp. Many have forgotten Mr. Elumelu’s role in the Umana E. Umana pyramid finance scheme of the early 1990s when thousands of Nigerians lost their life savings to the scam. Elumelu was the branch manager of All States Bank in Port Harcourt where the scammer, Umana banked his loot.

Elumelu from this unscathed and went on to found the now defunct Standard Trust Bank, which was the undisputed king of round-tripping, a fraudulent scheme where the bank formed thousands of fictitious corporations and used them to request for foreign exchange allocation from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and then turn round to sell these allocations in the black market for a premium. All Elumelu and his cohort got for this illegal activity was a slap on the wrist and a few months' suspension from participating in the foreign exchange bids, rather than the arrest, revocation of banking license and jail terms that they deserve, considering the grievous harm round-tripping did to the value of the Naira and the Nigerian economy. Now Tony Elumelu is rewarded with a sit on the Transcorp board and, in a perverse way, regarded as some sort of corporate hero.

Without repercussion for their actions corporate executives will continue to perpetrate acts of fraud with impunity. The EFCC should take a look at the Nigerian Securities and Exchange Commission, the CBN and other agencies that are supposed to police these publicly quoted companies and bring any erring agent or corporate manager to book to show they are not only after financial criminals in government and international scam artists but corporate criminals and all other types of financial criminals alike.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Babangida Finally Gets the Message

Over the past year, as soon as it became clear that President Obasanjo would not be getting a third term, the Nigerian media has been rife with speculations that former head of state, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) would be contesting in the 2007 presidential elections. Many professional political opportunists and hangers-on began jostling and honing their talons in anticipation of this. Unsolicited support for the former leader poured in from all corners of Nigeria in the bid of these political jobbers to secure positions of influence should the General declare his intentions. When a few weeks ago, he picked the nomination form, the fold of IBB opportunists was agog. Loudmouth boasts and claims of connectedness to the General was the order of the day.

IBB’s announcement over the weekend that he would not be contesting against his close associates, Yar Adua and Gusau, who have also indicated interest in the race is a blow to the scheming of these professional political opportunists. While all Nigerians are elated at the pull-out of IBB, acclaimed killer of the Nigerian 3rd attempt at democracy by his annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, widely believed to have been won by the late M.K.O. Abiola, these political opportunists are grossly unhappy.


For once, IBB has taken a widely popular decision. If we are to give him credit, he has lived up to his reputation as a master schemer. He must have analyzed the political climate and peculiarities of the times and realized the futility of his candidacy. It is believed that President Obasanjo might have been responsible for the IBB pullout, having denied the toothy General of his wholesale endorsement. The writer does not see why Obasanjo should single out any one of the aspirants for endorsement. If what we seek to install is a democracy Obasanjo should leave the endorsement to the individual parties to conduct. Whatever informed the IBB pullout, it is a welcome decision.

Friday, December 08, 2006

MEND’s Double Speak

One wonders what criteria MEND used to disqualify certain presidential aspirants and endorse former Military Administrator of Lagos state, Buba Marwa. They mentioned the antecedents of the politicians as the formula used to arrive at the endorsement of Marwa. If memory serves us correctly, only late last year Mohammed Buba Marwa was arrested for complicity in the Abacha loot, to which he admitted and remitted the money as condition for his release. Is this not enough ground to disqualify Marwa?

If it smells like a dead fish, chances are it is a dead fish. The endorsement of Marwa by MEND smells like a rotten fish and only goes to confirm what many have suspected of the nefarious organization. Perhaps what has happened is that forces behind the Marwa candidacy have bought ("settled" in local parlance) the leadership of MEND, who have thus sold their support in their characteristic venal manner, since as we all know, it is money that drives these folks.

Those faceless folks with the fake names who signed the so called communiqué of the dubious “political arm of the Consultative Assembly” of MEND do not speak for the right thinking people of the Niger-Delta who see their putative endorsement of the Marwa candidacy as an extension of the despicable and diabolical machinations that have characterized this anarchical and terrorist group. And if Marwa were to have a crack at the presidency, he would do himself a whole world of good to distance himself from this criminal and nihilist group, and condemn its tactics of mayhem and anarchy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Dariye, Hiding Behind Constitutionality

In Jos, Plateau state, Joshua Dariye, governor and fugitive of the British law has been under investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for a couple of years now. He has been engaged in a tussle to hang on to power (and therefore guaranteed immunity from prosecution) through all sorts of underhanded tactics including bribery and intimidation of all 24 members of the Plateau state legislative assembly. 16 of these legislators have been indicted in their own separate acts of graft (many in complicity with the governor) and are currently incarcerated for these by the EFCC, leaving the Plateau state house with only 8 sitting members.

Over the past few weeks, this 8 member house has been trying to constitute a panel to hear the allegations of graft leveled against Dariye, and institute impeachment proceedings as a fall out, if the governor is found wanton. 2 of the 8 legislators have declined participation in the proceedings, raising the question of the constitutionality of the panel since the Plateau state constitution requires that such a panel be constituted by at least one-third of the 24 legislative members, and not the one-fourth that the current 6 member panel constitutes. This segues into the issue of whether the 16 Plateau state legislative house members in EFCC net should not automatically lose their positions as legislators and therefore be replaced by newly elected ones in freshly held run-off elections.

Expensive as it may be, replacing these compromised 16 legislators by new ones will afford the constitution of a panel to hear the case against the governor from a full house of 24 members. That way, not only will the issue of constitutionality not arise, it will also mitigate any bias or malafide intentions that may exist between the governor and the 8 legislator who are not in complicity with the governor in his indictment. Also, it will remove any suspicion that those 6 legislators that make up the current controversial panel are a tool of the EFCC. In addition, it will restore the loss of representation at the state assembly for the constituencies from which the incarcerated legislators hail.

The case against Dariye appears very strong. It will be a shame to bungle it up and let the man go scot-free on the basis of unconstitutionality.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Kalu, Bakassi Boys or EFCC Justice?

The Nigerian media in the past week has been rife with the unfolding impeachment proceedings in Ekiti and Plateau states, as well as hostage takings in the Niger Delta and the Atiku battle against the EFCC report. One more brewing story which I found pretty interesting was the indictment of Mrs. Eunice Kalu, mother of the Abia state governor, Orji Uzor Kalu, along with eighteen others and the fracas that ensued in an attempt to take her into custody. Kalu was one of the youngest governors elected in the 1999 elections at the age of 39. He seemed to want to project an image of a new breed progressive, who was self assured and legitimate.

He is alleged by his paid supporters to have achieved so much at such a young age, having succeeded exceedingly well in business, academia and politics, they boast. Indeed, he is referred to as one of the youngest Nigerian millionaires ever, industrialist, investor, holder of doctorate degrees etc. With such a sleek and coruscating profile, I became more curious. "All that glitters," my third grade teacher often retorted, "is not gold." I took some time to do some research on this fellow, Kalu. My first stop was his website: - http://www.orjikalu.com/biography.php . The immediate impression the discerning mind would have from viewing the website is that this is a fellow hungry for self-aggrandizement. The layout and verbiage reveal someone trying very hard to appear erudite and sophisticated. The unnecessary verbosity and grammatical inappropriateness and errors that leap out from the web pages give away the crass essence of the promoter.

It is alleged that Kalu was a student at the University of Maiduguri in the early 1980s but did not graduate because he could not meet the academic requirements. While a student at Maiduguri, it is rumoured, Kalu was a "dan dauda" (male prostitute) and pimp to a number of influential northern Nigerian alhajis and military men, and that this was his break into business, acting as a front for these influential northerners in the beginning, then later becoming a conduit through whom many were said to have laundered their ill-acquired monies. This preoccupation, it is alleged, had Kalu kicked out of the University of Maiduguri as he was unable to satisfy his academic requirements.

Kalu attempted to use his newly acquired wealth to buy some respectability. He procured for himself a BSc degree from the Abia state University, where no one can recall ever seeing him attending any classes. He also wheedled his way on the board, as chairman, of the badly run and now defunct Cooperative and Commerce Bank Plc. Hungry for limelight, and self promotion, Kalu continued to cavort around with these influential alhajis and military men, seizing all photo opportunities at their private and public functions, to which he was often self-invited. He flashed pictures of himself and these men to whosoever would care, and adorned his residence and office with same to give credence to his supposed close association with them. Having built this aura of "connectectedness" to the powers that be, Kalu wilily extracted favors and contracts from unsuspecting associates with the promise of connecting them to his influential friends. Sometimes, it is alleged, he would outrightly claim to be representing one or more of his powerful military friends as he demanded favors from government officials, who obliged him because they were scared out of their wits and careful not to offend these powers that be, and the pecking order that prevailed during the military dictatorships of the 1980s to 1990s.

With the advent of democracy in 1999, Kalu took advantage of all the chaos and flux that existed, used all sorts of underhanded tactics and thuggery to quell all legitimate opponents and hijacked the governorship of Abia state. Having at his disposal, the state's press machinery, Kalu continued his loud and arrogant self-promotion, bleating his half-baked rhetoric while at the same time helping himself to the state's coffers along with members of his immediate family, including his mother. Under the pretext of fighting crime, Kalu took advantage of the fact that the Nigerian Police found it difficult to meet the demands of crime fighting as a result of years of systematic emasculation by the successive military dictatorships of the 1980s and 1990s. With the Nigerian Police so depleted and demonized, Kalu introduced a vigilante group, "The Bakassi Boys," who were in essence, Kalu's personal army.

The Bakassi Boys, a rowdy band of misanthropic (often drugged) murderers, committed perhaps the worst human rights abuses ever in Nigeria. Under the pretext of routing out criminal elements, this vigilante group was involved in extortion, torture, extra judiciary killings and various other atrocities. They were the accusers, investigators, prosecutors, judge, jury and executioners. All crimes were punishable by death, delivered (literally) by way of a thousand cuts, amputations and decapitation. Sometimes, this pervertion of justice was extended to hapless family members of the criminal so fingered. The Bakassi Boys took no prisoners, hence there was no imprisonment, just gulags of the condemned awaiting execution. All that needed to happen was for one to be accused as a suspected criminal, and as swiftly as the accusation, the "criminal" was condemned and promptly executed, regardless of the veracity of the accusation, or the nature of the crime. It is alleged that the Bakassi Boys were also used by Kalu to settle personal scores, subjugate his opponents and strike fear into the indigenes of the state in the manner of his military dictator friends in the 1980s and 1990s.

To clean up Nigeria's image, as regards human rights abuses, in the international community, the Obasanjo government demanded that the vigilante group be disbanded, there began Kalu's loathing of Obasanjo. This became a full blown "front-page" smear attack when the Bakassi Boys were declared an illegal group and banned by the Federal Government of Nigeria. Kalu's vitriol increased, casting aspersions and making spurious accusations and loudmouth claims, touting his supposed influence and roiling in a characteristic classless, indecorous and self-righteous manner.

There has been an EFCC probe for a while now on how Kalu has been systematically looting the Abia state coffers, but he has been hiding behind the immunity provision in the constitution. It is alleged that members of his immediate family are involved in the systematic fraud and so they have also been under scrutiny. Last week's indictment of his mother and eighteen others is a fall out of this. Rather than respect the law, Kalu is shielding his mother from interrogation by the EFCC. This of course is typical and expected of the opportunistic conniver that is Kalu. It is alleged that plans are underway to smuggle his mother out of the country through Cameroun, while he has filed an injunction against the indictment in a court in Umuahia.

Here is a man who brought in a vigilante group to wreck mayhem on petty criminals and innocents alike, now seeking redress from the court denied the many souls, guilty and innocent alike, who were brutally murdered by the Bakassi Boys without a prayer. Kalu, would you rather the Bakassi Boys be let loose on you and your mother, or face the EFCC indictment? If you, your mother and cohort have your noses clean, the honorable thing to do (not that you are being accused of being honorable) is to let the law take its course.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Nigerian States' Government Houses - Cesspools of Corruption

It must be a tough job for the operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). In the past couple of years under the leadership of Nuhu Ribadu, the commission has built a reputation of efficacy and irreproachability. They have gone after big wig fraudsters including the notorious $245 million Brazilian bank scam, governors indicted in acts of embezzlement, an Inspector General of Police and now the Vice President. The stature of the perpetrators the commission has gone after tells of its sterling quality and professionalism.

In the dark ages of IBB and Abacha, the existence of such a commission would have been just to subjugate the common folk and perceived enemies of the dictatorships, especially since the dictators themselves were steeped in institutional corruption, systematically and deliberately looting the coffers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Indeed, these dark ages of Nigerian history saw entrenched a culture of corruption and blatant disregard of law and order such that it was expected of a government or private official in all institutions across the land to extort, embezzle and commit frank acts of fraud for self-enrichment at the detriment of the populace who they serve. In fact, one popular refrain during these dictatorships was - "use what you have to get what you want." This culture spilled over to the first term of the Obasanjo presidency, when we saw various government officials continuing to illicitly enrich themselves through acts of graft.

When the EFCC first came on the scene, many of these grafters thought it was going to be business as usual. They thought their stupendous illicitly acquired wealth would render them untouchable, and those who were governors, were banking on the immunity clause in the May 1999 constitution to protect them from prosecution. How wrong they were. The top echelon of the EFCC has proved to be irreproachable. Refusing to be sullied by bribery, blackmail or intimidation, they have gone after the biggest fish in the land. This has sent many of the governors running scared, particularly those who would be completing their maximum of two terms in May 2007 and who have been indicted in acts of graft.

Knowing that they have a date with the law, many are trying all sorts of blackmail tactics ranging from slander smears in the press to claims of selective indictments and other sorts of diabolical intrigues. The truth is if these governors are honorable, they would waive their immunity protection and subject themselves to the EFCC probes to prove their noses are clean. Clinton did this in the Monica Lewinski debacle when he was accused of perjury because he denied having sexual relations with the intern, enough to warrant impeachment proceedings against him.

Many Nigerians who hold public positions, as we know, are not honorable and as such it will be unlikely that any of the indicted governors will submit to a probe. To make matters worse many of the state assemblies are in complicity with the governors in perpetrating the acts of graft, rendering it virtually impossible that they would institute impeachment proceedings against their governors. Plateau state is a perfect example of this, with many of the legislators themselves arrested for their own acts of graft separate from the governor's. It will be interesting to see how all this pans out come May 29, 2007, after which the immunity protection of these indicted governors would no longer hold.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Crude Oil, the Bane of Nigeria

Pundits have severally proclaimed that the bane of Nigeria's sociopolitical and economic malaise is crude oil. The tussle to control the vast wealth that spews from beneath the mangroves of the Niger Delta and surrounding territorial waters has been central to all the conflicts that have befallen the country. From the days of Isaac Boro to the Nigerian Civil war, the Babangida and Abacha illegal usurpation of power and the recent onslaught by MOSOP, MEND and the ilk all have been impelled in some form by the hydrocarbon deposits beneath the Niger-Delta.

Add this to the incompetent and avaricious leadership, and a helpless populace and the result is chaos, exactly what we have today in Nigeria. Past and present leaders in Nigeria have abused their positions to engage in blatant acts of fraud and embezzlement, helping themselves to billions of dollars of the proceeds from the sale of the Niger-Delta crude oil. The late Abacha is reputed to have looted $3 billion, and his predecessor, Babangida, about $5 billion as alleged in the popular press. And these are just two out of several hundreds, perhaps thousands, of embezzlers.

Contemporary events in the news indicate that this culture of nauseating corruption is ever more so rife. With the indictment of several high-ranking government officials including incumbent governors, directors, an Inspector General of Police, businessmen and recently, the Vice President, there cannot be a more apt testament to the degree of debasement that the Nigerian polity has fallen to. In this cesspool of corruption, it is not out of place to have the kind of chaos expressed in the form of piracy, kidnapping, extortion, arson and sabotage that we have in the Niger-Delta. Using the pretext of governmental neglect (which is a truism) these criminals in the Niger-Delta wreak mayhem as they maim, murder and kidnap innocent civilians in exchange for ransoms. They couch their criminality in spurious social activism and time and again oil operators and the government fall for this and seek to pacify them by paying their ransom demands.

The solution to all this is simple. First, the Federal government should hunt these criminals down with the utmost force at its disposal, treating the crises strictly as the criminal acts that they are. Then the federal government should divest its interests in the oil sector and squarely concentrate on its role as a regulatory and monitoring body. If the NNPC were dissolved and the Nigerian government seeks its revenues purely through taxation and excise fees and duties then it would be more likely that we have government officials who are more accountable to the populace. It would force the state governments to be more creative about revenue generation rather than be the bottomless pits that they are into which the FGN keeps throwing away monies that are wont to be embezzled by the various state government officials.

Since a very high percentage of Nigerian businesses and individuals avoid or evade taxes, the general attitude is one of apathy towards acts of embezzlement and fraud. Perhaps if all Nigerian individuals and businesses paid their appropriate tax dues they would be more intolerant of gross acts of corruption and criminality perpetrated by various government officials and private citizens across the country, including those miscreants in the Niger-Delta and other hot spots in Nigeria.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Nigerian Leaders Hark! What is the Value of a Man?

Airplane crashes are joltingly painful, especially to friends and relatives of the crash victims, yet, they are poignant reminders of the ephemeral nature of life. Without warning, in a fleeting moment all the substance and stature of the human being is brought to an abrupt and screeching eternal halt. We carp and squabble over money, power, politics, ideologies and things that are of meaningless consequence on the scale of the eternity of time and the infinity of space that makeup life and existence.

For those who died in the September 17, 2006 Army plane crash in Kwande, Benue State , it is the end of all these meaningless carping, squabbling and jostling. All their families and everyone with whom they interacted in the course of their lives have left are memories. The years and efforts put into their jobs and relationships reduced to mere electrical impulses transmitted across the tiny spaces (synapses) between the networks of connections (dendrites) and cells (neurons) that make up the brain and nervous system.

The worth of a man is often dictated by the type of memories we hold of him after he dies. We hold on to these memories cherishing the fond and good ones and trying to forget the not so good. Sometimes, there are those memories that are too grim to forget. Often, these are borne out of the actions or inactions of a man or woman in a given situation. In men who by fate find themselves in positions of authority and leadership, these actions or inactions often have far-reaching and compelling impacts on large sections of the society.

Good leaders often are remembered fondly with feelings of euphoric nostalgia and yearning. Bad leaders are remembered with loathsome bitterness and regret. Often, it is not that the good leader was pristine and perfect through and through, and did not falter or do any bad deeds, or that the bad leader is outrightly evil and did not do any good deed. It is the degree of these deeds and the level and type of impact (negative or positive) the deeds have on the society that determines a good or bad leader. On this scale, Hitler was most certainly an evil and bad leader. There is no question also that Abacha, Mobutu and Idi-Amin likewise were bad leaders who left indelible negative memories in societies which they led. In the same vein, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi are undoubtedly two of the greatest leaders of the 20th century.

Understandably, most leaders fall between the two extreme types of leaders given that one would expect a stochastic distribution of types of leaders. For some reason, Nigeria seems to have a more than disproportionate share of leaders of the Mobutu and Abacha ilk, perhaps because years of despotic and dehumanizing reign of military dictatorship has inured Nigerians to the anguish of bad leadership. Being on the left tail of the normal distribution for so long has warped the reasoning of the average Nigerian to the extent that he justifies acts that are flat out wrong and deplorable by flimsy self-serving strange, if not moronic logic.

Nigerian leaders would do well to strive to leave more positive impacting memories on the citizenry that they lead by doing good deeds and staying within the ambits of the law as they dispatch their responsibilities. Take the case of the late Finance director of INEC, who led a lie as a pastor while looting the government coffers to the tune of 7 billion Naira. Surely that individual has left an indelible negativity in the collective memories of Nigeria , likewise has Tafa Balogun, ex IG of Police and many other leaders in Nigeria . It would not be inaccurate to say that such Nigerians have led worthless and destructive lives. And for those who believe in life after death, the damnation is double barreled. Not only are the memories they leave behind forever seen as profane and despicable, these individuals are equally self-condemned to eternal damnation as defined by any of the major creeds in Nigeria that they are likely to belong. In the end, the true value of a man is measured by how many lives one has impacted positively and not how much wealth he amassed.

It is worthless to acquire wealth without impacting peoples’ lives positively with it, and even worse to acquire wealth illegally as many Nigerian leaders do. The world’s two richest people Bill Gates and Warren Buffet realize this and are giving back to the world almost all their wealth through philanthropy. These indeed are two great men and big men of the kind never seen in Nigeria.

The writer of this article pays his respect to the 13 people who lost their lives in the Military aircraft crash last Sunday and pray that their families find the strength to bear the loss. Were Nigeria a well run society perhaps this might not have happened. Perhaps the army would have had newer aircrafts with better trained pilots and air traffic control staff. Perhaps there would have been a well structured emergency response procedure in place and rescue teams to rendered adequate and prompt help immediately after the crash. But that is if only governors, presidents, directors, vice presidents, legislators, civil servants and private and corporate executives would stop looting millions of dollars and pounds to acquire homes in Europe and America and fund profligate life styles. Until all the brigandage stops, Nigerians unfortunately would be bereft of the true value of life.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Nigerian Presidency 2007 - “Kingibe, the Dark Horse?”

Ambassador Babagana Kingibe’s declaration to vie for the presidential ticket of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) last Thursday is yet another punt in the political game leading up to the 2007 Nigerian presidential election. Kingibe could not have come out at a more auspicious time. Had he made his intention known earlier than now, he probably would have been marked for cavil and calumny by other aspirants who had made theirs known (tacit or overt) long ago. Babangida and Atiku, two who had, are under the scrutiny of every Nigerian and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and deservedly so, given the huge wealth both individuals have purportedly amassed allegedly by virtue of their positions in government.

With both men stewing in the morass of the Petroleum Development Trust Fund (PDTF) and the Globacom deals, it is hard to see how either man will escape unscathed by the time the dust settles on these allegations. If the case of impropriety and frank fraud either man is accused of is proven, then disqualification from vying for the presidency will be the least of their problems. There appears to be some veracity in the allegations though, as the key conduit, Adenuga, through whom the illicitly acquired wealth is alleged to have been laundered is at large, having fled to Ghana over a fortnight ago to escape interrogation by the EFCC.

There have been speculations of a dark horse in the PDP fold, one believed to have the blessing of Mr. Obasanjo and who enjoys some sort of local and international regard and acclaim, and not tainted with allegations of corrupt self-enrichment. Mr. Kingibe seems to fit this profile and may indeed be the dark horse if there ever was one. He is currently a special OAU envoy in Sudan and was a one time chairman of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the early 1990s. Kingibe was also the running mate to the late MKO Abiola, the widely acclaimed winner of the aborted June 12, 1993 presidential elections.

This may count for some political leverage with the western Nigerian electorate. Even though it should not matter, being from the same “geopolitical zone” as Atiku gives him some regional acceptability as well as deals a dilutory blow to the Atiku political machinery. Kingibe is a charismatic orator, with a good command of the English language and a keenly developed diplomatic mien evident in the way he responds to questions and comments. He has also cultivated a grassroots and populist following and so belongs to that rare breed of Nigerian political elites who enjoy the sincere patronage and trust of the common-folk.

The Kingibe candidacy is one that will be keenly watched particularly since majority of the other possible candidates come from the fold of the present PDP governors, most of whom according to the EFCC, are involved in some acts of gross abuse of power or graft. Added to this, none of these PDP governors enjoys as wide a followership as Kingibe. Which ever way this goes, Kingibe and his supporters would have to court the PDP echelon and party stalwarts from the South-south and south-east to get their backing since both regions have vowed to wrest power come 2007.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Atiku's Bundle

In developed societies where the rule of law, order and decorum prevail, the right thing for any public office holder indicted in acts of impropriety or abuse of office is to resign. Over and over again we have seen this happen in the USA and Britain. Only last week, the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair announced that he would be leaving office next May because his party has lost confidence in his leadership. The US defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, has tendered his resignation several times in the last couple of years because of popular criticism of his handling of the US invasion of Iraq, only to be turned down by President Bush. Even though the cases leveled against these two men are not gross acts of corruption, Blair and Rumsfeld understand the import of loss of confidence in a public officer by the populace.

Atiku has been accused not only of complicity in misuse of power but the outright abuse of power and perpetration of acts of gross corruption by the systematic manner in which the Petroleum Development Trust Fund (PDTF) under his control was used to fund various shady deals ranging from the iGate/NDTV deal to the Marine Float and Globacom deals. The fall out of these is still unraveling. Only on Friday, September 8, 2006 the head of iGate, Mr. Vernon Jackson a Kentucky, USA businessman, was sentenced to an 87 months jail term, plus 2 years probation upon completion of the jail term by U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis in Alexandria, Virginia. William Jefferson, the US congressman linked in the iGate bribery scheme with Atiku is under FBI investigation. Mr. Mike Adenuga, the conduit through whom Atiku is alleged to have purchased shares in Globacom with PDTF funds expropriated by Atiku for that purpose, has fled Nigeria for Ghana en-route to England to join his twenty-something year old sons, executive officers in Globacom and who also had earlier fled Nigeria to escape investigation by the EFCC.

These charges are serious and not to be taken lightly. In what appears to be a bold-faced attempt of self preservation, Atiku has gone to court to seek an injunction to stop the report of the findings of investigations of these allegations from being tabled before the National Assembly. In addition, he has gone further to claim that the monies paid into the accounts of his company, Marine Float Limited, was under the joint control of him and President Obasanjo as the monies were meant to be used for the Obasanjo/Atiku reelection campaign. If indeed this was the intended use of the monies how come they were not held in an appropriately named account? Why was the account not under the control of the PDP? What does the paper trail as regards the outflow of monies from the account reveal? Were expenses incurred for the Obasanjo/Atiku reelection campaign paid out from the account or was the account used to fund private projects of Atiku’s or Obasanjo’s? These are questions to which answers can be easily obtained through forensic accounting.

Atiku acknowledges that 100 million naira was paid by the Plateau state governor, Joshua Dariye to Marine Float towards the Obasanjo/Atiku reelection in August 2001, two years before the 2003 reelection. The question that arises here is: - Is there any legal grounds on which a state governor is permitted to make such a contribution from the coffers of his state to the presidential campaign? None exists the last time I checked. On this ground alone, the Vice President is liable, along with the governor of Plateau state, who as we know, is a fugitive of the British justice system, having jumped bail in 2004 in London to escape charges of money laundering. For all we know Dariye and Atiku may have been in cahoots in looting the coffers of the state and the 100 million naira was Atiku’s share. Or perhaps Atiku used the Marine Float account to fraudulently obtain monies from donors by intimidation using the Obasanjo/Atiku reelection as a cover. Either way, Atiku is clearly at abeyance with the law with the Marine Float Limited affair.

Undoubtedly, Atiku and Babangida played pivotal roles in the 1999 election of Obasanjo as president. It is unlikely that Obasanjo could have mustered the resources and support he enjoyed in the campaign leading up to his nomination as the PDP candidate and his eventual election as president without the roles played by these two individuals. That however does not render them untouchable or immune to investigation to the extent that there are questions about their conducts in business and as high level officers of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

The world over and throughout history, people in public leadership positions are expected to conduct their affairs beyond reproach. As William Shakespeare put it, “Ceaser’s wife must be above suspicion.” But you don’t automatically attain this just by virtue of your leadership position, it is something that is earned through personal conduct and actions, and which can be easily cross-referenced in its transparency. If indeed they are beyond reproach, Atiku, his supporters and business partners (Adenuga in particular) should be forthwith with the truth and allow for the proper proceedings to take its course rather than cry wolf and make accusatory statements and recriminations to garner undeserved ill-willed sentiments against the investigators, the Federal Executive Council and President Obasanjo.

It is hoped that when the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters finally comes out with its guidelines on procedures on the deliberation of the report which has been tabled before it with a letter from the president that the senators dispatch their duties without bias and partisanship.

Monday, September 11, 2006

“NUHU RIBADU: LET HE WHO IS WITHOUT GUILT CAST THE FIRST STONE.” - Rejoinder to Akinsanya Juliuson

It is unclear what Akinsanya Juliuson was trying to say in his special feature of September 11, 2006 on the nigeriannews.com website, titled: - “NUHU RIBADU: LET HE WHO IS WITHOUT GUILT CAST THE FIRST STONE.” The article, from my perspective, was a Hodgepodge of banal Nigerian sayings and incoherent ramblings and philosophizing of what appears to be Juliuson’s perception of life.

Was Juliuson trying to make allusions to the EFCC chairman’s conduct in his execution of his duties? Was he extolling or excoriating them? From the title, one may deduce that Juliuson was probably doing the latter, but like the typical Nigerian politician, Juliuson was cryptic in his pronouncements, which were interspersed with “biblical rhetoric” to suffuse some element of piety in the write up. He claims that he does not judge people, but Juliuson’s article seemes to be warning the EFCC chairman to tone down his activities or face some damnation. “Man is such a harsh judge. We so readily want our own indiscretions and mistakes to be over looked, but seldom are willing to overlook someone else's. Why does it sometimes seem as if we revel in the chance to find fault in others? Is it because we feel better about our own shortcomings when we compare them to those who are more obviously flawed?” Juliuson writes. Is he making reference to Ribadu’s knack for saying it as it is not caring the “status” of the person under investigation?

Juliuson also continues: - “Honesty is not the best policy in Nigeria of today. Sensitivity is. Some people are born insensitive, some achieve insensitivity and others have insensitivity thrust upon them. This is not the right quotation. But I am sure we all know why I make that remark now. We are dealing with several silly someones, several brood of vipers.” Obviously Juliuson condones dishonesty, acts of criminality and gross corruption that the EFCC is trying to excise from the Nigerian polity. Juliuson should know that the law is no respecter of social status. Criminals, regardless of their status are prosecuted if investigated and found wanton. One thing Juliuson must understand is that as a commission set up to combat corruption, the EFCC has the statutory obligation to prosecute all those found to be wanton in their investigations. All the commission does is argue the case before a judge, who, based on the evidence provided by the commission, and the argument of put forth by the defendant decides the case.

It is true that the default in law is "innocent until proven guilty" and this is upheld by the prosecution process followed by the EFCC. But that aside, come on Juliuson, how much is the salary of these so called “persecuted” that they live the profligate lifestyles that they lead? Alamieyesiegha’s salary as governor was not denominated in pounds and dollars, and even if it was, it was hardly so much so that he could afford to keep one million pounds in the house he bought in London only a few years ago when he became governor. Besides, Alamieyeseigha was apprehended by the British police, an unbiased and autonomous organization.

If the Atiku/Adenuga case is what sparked Juliuson’s article, let it be known that the case is connected to the US congressman, Jefferson’s saga, which has been under the FBI investigation for a while now, and that the evidence provided in the report was collated through an international joint effort between the FBI and the EFCC. It is no secret that Adenuga (purported whiz kid) has been a conduit through whom a number of Nigerian present and past leadership have funneled funds looted from the coffers of Nigeria since the mid 1980s.

To use one of the banal Nigerian sayings that Juliuson omitted in his incoherent write-up, “let us call a spade a spade.” The EFCC has been doing an excellent job since the young man; Ribadu has been at the helm. The commission deserves, from all Nigerians, the highest praise and respect. The most tendered reservation people have of the commission is that it has gone after some highly placed members of the society, and that these folks do not deserve to be investigated and interrogated. Well, if there is some question about the source of wealth of these individuals, particularly if their gross remuneration while they held government positions are insufficient to afford them their level of wealth, investigating them is the only way to clear up the discrepancy.

The one thing that Juliuson seemed to get right is that the EFCC chairman, in his stoic and committed manner of delivery of his duties, is putting himself and family at great personal danger given the degree of influence and vindictive capabilities of the individuals he is going after. But this is the hallmark of a brave and valiant man in the battle against corruption. By being reticent and condoning depravity and corruption, and sweeping it under the carpet, as recommended by Juliuson, the EFCC or any other agency charged with the job of combating corruption would be tantamount to selling its soul, as Juliuson seems to have done in the name of his incoherent and grossly erroneous notion of what he thinks “decorum” should be.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Alamieyeseigha the Ignominious

The Alamieyeseigha case is such a sad one. Now the man claims to be ill and requires treatment abroad. On top of that he claims his dastardly escape was orchestrated by the Metropolitan Police of London. How morally bankrupt and shameless can one be? Rather than be contrite for his debased acts, this man stands bold-facedly and lies about the circumstances surrounding his escape. He was reported to have boasted about having supernatural powers and attributed his bail jump to this.

That Alamieyeseigha is ill is probably true. All you need do is look at the monstrosity of a man to arrive at the conclusion that there must be something physiologically amiss with the sorry sod. But it is anyone’s guess that the ailment that befalls him stems from years of self abuse and overindulgence. Folks of Alamieyeseigha’s crass ilk, commonly referred to as “bushmen” in Nigerian colloquialism are wont to overindulge, self abuse and break the law all in some ill-informed perception of “enjoying themselves” whereas all they are doing is exhibiting there classlessness and denigrating their personal health.

As for the accusation that the Metropolitan police aided his escape, Alamieyeseigha is only exhibiting his low intelligence and confirming what a pathological lair he is, and the extent of his depravity and moral bankruptcy. Having ascended to office and perpetuated himself in the Bayelsa government house through acts of cavil, intrigue and boldfaced criminality, Alamieyeseigha does not know better to appreciate that on the world stage, such dingy parochial machinations do not hold. He is better served to accept that he is nothing but a common criminal whose low mental capacity and egregious avarice have led him to his present situation.

Recently, he has claimed to be ill and require medical attention abroad. The medical attention he claims to currently need could easily be rendered in Nigeria if only he and his thieving ilk would use public funds at their control to provide good schools and hospitals, and other social amenities they are supposed to provide rather that steal the monies. At least as a detainee, Alamieyeseigha is availed of specialist medical attention in Nigeria. How many of his fellow detainees accused of lesser crimes have the same privilege? For a man who in no small way has contributed to the deplorable situation of Nigerian social amenities through his acts looting and gross corruption, Alamieyeseigha is asking for too much.

Many a petty thief, driven by hunger and abject and wanton poverty, lost their lives in Yenagoa through lynching and jungle justice for stealing as little as a few hundred naira’s worth of items while Alamieyeseigha was governor of the state stealing hundreds of millions of naira, pounds and dollars. His acts of graft and outright theft of government funds no doubt have caused untold hardship, hunger, suffering, degeneration of social values and even death because of the lack of social infrastructure and amenities that would have been provided by the funds he looted. Alamieyeseigha should stop being a big cry-baby coward and accept his fate like the common criminal that he is.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Brilliant, Bold & Visionary

As the curtains close on yet another adventure in the Nigerian quest for nationhood, the political arena is becoming more and more frenzied and perturbed. Many politicians are scheming, forging alliances and making nice with the powers-that-be and the electorate to position themselves in the right light for the 2007 elections. Already, there are reports of violence, assassinations, intimidation and back-stabbing.

What makes the 2007 elections critical is all the events that have played out since 1999 when Obasanjo was elected president. Successes include the completion and implementation of the wireless telecommunication licenses, formation of EFCC and last year’s $18 billion Paris club debt relief. Topical issues tabled in both houses of the legislature include furniture allowance, impeachment of a couple of senate presidents and the speaker of the house, impeachment threats made by both houses of the legislature to the president over issues including disputes over appropriation bills among others. We have had a couple of governors arrested both abroad and at home over corruption and murder allegations, assassination of the attorney general of the federation, trials of Abacha henchmen, a couple of plane crashes, dissolution of various federal government parastatals and the formation of equally ineffective ones. We have seen the escalation of violence, hostage taking and terrorism in the Niger-Delta. Also, we have witnessed the recently scuttled “third-term agenda” being fomented and dealt a death blow by the senate.

In addition to these, we have seen the price of crude oil, Nigeria’s primary foreign exchange earner soar to as high as $75 per barrel and more. More money now accrues to the federation account and by induction more resources are available to the state and local governments which all get their sustenance from the federal government allocations they periodically get. Hence there is more agitation by all the local and state governments across the land, especially those in the oil producing regions, for more money to be allocated to them.



Against this backdrop it is no wonder that many career politicians are jostling for power in order to control this windfall of resources that are accruing to the Nigerian government as a result of high oil prices. There is absolutely nothing wrong in vying for election since it is the right of every Nigerian. What is wrong is to do so with the intent to defraud the Nigerian populace through embezzlement and gross acts of abuse of authority as have been the case with many present and past elected and self-imposed leadership. What Nigeria does not need are the green-eyed monsters of the Abacha ilk with sticky fingers, dubious intent and vile hearts. What Nigeria needs in the coming years are men and women of substance who are brilliant enough to understand what makes good governance, bold enough to stand up to proponents of the status quo where graft, nepotism, tribalism and injustice prevail, and visionary enough to chart a new course for the Nigerian Nation.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Niger-Delta Crude Oil Source a la Sonny Odogwu

“Money miss road” is a popular pejorative in Nigeria used to describe those to whom wealth seems to have come undeservedly. In a society that measures the worth of a man by how much wealth he has amassed regardless of the means of acquisition, integrity or substance of his mind, this cliché it seems is out of place. A few days ago, one of these “money miss roads,” Sonny Odogwu, is credited to have made some arcane and ill-informed statements of the source of crude oil in the Niger-Delta. He is said to have proclaimed that the oil reservoirs in the Niger-Delta are fed by underground tributaries with sources in North Africa, and that if Northern Nigerians were greedy that they could stanch this flow since the tributaries run through the Northern part Nigeria as they course southward to fill the reservoirs in the Niger-Delta.

How bizarre, this theory! One wonders how Mr. Odogwu arrived at this convoluted and erroneous theory. It boggles the mind that a man of Mr. Odogwu’s stature can make such an out rightly wrong statement. He definitely has a very creative and vivid imagination and would be better served contriving fictional stories for “Nollywood” rather than making commentaries on issues he is grossly uninformed about. This only goes to show how shallow and unenlightened the so called Nigerian elites of Mr. Odogwu’s ilk are.

Crude oil, as any lay person who bothers to check would find, results from millions of years of marination under pressure of dead organic matter of plant and animal origin, and microscopic marine organisms that have been trapped under the earth's crust. It follows therefore that these reservoirs in the Niger-Delta were in place long before the existence of the entity called Nigeria and certainly long before the very first human settlers in the Niger-Delta. To posit that crude oil flows from North Africa to the Niger-Delta is not only grossly erroneous and misleading but shows the mental substance of Mr. Odogwu. He is well advised to in future do some research before giving interviews, or keep mum on subjects of which he is ignorant.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Warped Logic of Zoning the Presidency

I just read an article in the Nigerian Tribune of June the 24th 2006 by Jacob Segun Olatunji & Bankole Makinde titled “South South May Boycott the Elections.” It tries to surmise the reason why the so called leaders of the “south-south” geopolitical zone want all the 37 registered political parties to field a south-southern candidate. Their reason is that the north has produced the president or head of state for 34 of the 45 years of Nigerian independence and therefore it is the turn of the south-south geopolitical region to produce the next president. Anything less, they say, they will boycott the 2007 elections. Let’s try to decompose the reasoning behind this proposition.

If the current political dispensation is a democracy, is imposing such a demand not tantamount to blackmail and hijacking the democratic process? Subscribing to such a formula of zoning is only a perpetuation of regional, sectional and ethno-centric politics that has bedeviled the system and stunted development in Nigeria for decades now. Would it not be better for the president to be elected based on merit rather than zoning or ethno-centricism? That way, there is no sense of entitlement, and we know we truly have the people’s choice in office rather than a compromise president whose ascension to power is just because he is from a particular zone of Nigeria. All progressive peoples of the world would agree that this is a regressive and tribalistic approach to democracy.

Proponents of this formula subscribe to it because they assume that there are some benefits that would accrue to the region from which the president comes. This goes to suggest that the president who is supposed to be nationalistic and impartial would favour his ethnic or regional ilk over other Nigerians. Would such a president not be unfair, perhaps even criminal?

The only traits that should matter in the next president are integrity, vision and intellect. The region from which the president comes should not even arise. The Nigerian entity would only truly be democratic when the so called “leaders of thought” and old brigade ethnocentric tribalistic politicians and their protégées stop taking the Nigerian people for a ride by playing up ethnic and sectional sentiments whenever it suits their political ends.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Third Term Bid Dead, But not yet Uhuru for Nigerians

Kudos to the few members of the Nigerian Senate and National Assembly opposed to the third term bid for thwarting the attempt to impose on the good people of Nigeria the ill-intentioned will of a powerful minority of politicians in the fold of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in particular the PDP Chairman, Ahmadu Ali, Chief Aneni and other higher echelon party stalwarts. This goes to show that there might be some hope for democracy after all in Nigeria. Amidst threats of excommunication from the party, amongst other methods of intimidation, these members of the legislative arm of government have nevertheless been able to uphold the will of the common masses of Nigeria.

Obasanjo’s address yesterday morning asking that the Nigerian people accept the decision of the senate and national assembly not to amend the constitution to increase the two term limit of elected executive government officials to three strikes any discerning observer as an acceptance of defeat by the president and his cohort.
It confirms everyone’s suspicion that the bid for the third term, if not orchestrated by Obasanjo, at least had the consent of the president. To have remarked earlier that he would make his decision to run for a third term known only if there was a constitutional amendment indicates that Obasanjo had perhaps been nursing the idea of holding on to power after the completion of his second term in 2007. Well, the senate has spared him the trouble, and made the decision for Obasanjo. He will not be vying for election in 2007

Power indeed corrupts absolutely. Obasanjo practically had power handed over to him in 1999, having been released from prison in late June of 1998 clueless and disheveled; he was groomed and sold to the Nigerian people as a consensus candidate. Despite his gross unpopularity in Southern Nigeria (especially in Southwestern Nigeria), he was able to win the elections largely because of the support he got from the Northern politicians, in particular from what was then dubbed the Yar-Adua political machine headed up by Abubakar Atiku, hence the latter’s nomination as Obasanjo’s running mate. One wonders therefore why Obasanjo and Atiku seem to have fallen out despite the latter’s pivotal role in securing the presidency for the former. But of course politics in Nigeria, and indeed the world over, is a game of deceit, betrayal, intrigue and back-stabbing. Perhaps there was a pact that Atiku will take over from his boss after the second term. The third term bid was clearly an impediment to such a pact, if indeed it existed.

Now that it is clear that Obasanjo is not eligible to vie for the presidency in 2007, the road is clear for Atiku. Alas it is not yet Uhuru for Nigerians. Let’s allow conjecture to run wild a little here. If Atiku were to inherit the presidency from his boss should Nigerians expect any real difference in the quality of governance? Probably not. No doubt, all the ardent Obasanjo men and apologists would be relieved of their positions, shooed from the Rock and replaced with the new president’s men and apologists. There would be window dressing hither and thither, but the DNA of the Nigerian way of governance would remain intact. No one should expect any patent difference in the way business is conducted in Aso Rock and the two legislative chambers. Horse trading will still go on, calumny, cavil and intrigue will continue to prevail. Threats of impeachment and appeasement by monetary awards and bribery will continue. It will be business as usual so long as a large proportion of the class of 2007 legislators or their protégées transform to the class of 2011 legislators and worse if Atiku acts true to type and enfranchise corruption as have been variously alleged in the popular press media. Alas, it’s not yet Uhuru for Nigerians.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Constitutional Amendment Proceedings – The Senators’ Biggest Job Interview Yet.

The constitutional amendment finally tabled before the senate last week is sure to spark an interesting debate. Among the issues for deliberation are a proposal to create more states, derivation formula, rotational presidency and term limit change amongst others. Of the one hundred and sixteen proposals for deliberation, the matter of term limit amendment is anticipated to generate the most controversy and tension in the proceedings. Thus far, about twenty nine senators have lent their voices to deliberations on the matter and while some have made clear statements on their stand on the matter, others are tongue-in-check and equivocal.

It is no surprise that this is so since senators are politicians, whose stock in trade is double speak, and prevarication. Added to this is the allegation that some persons representing incumbent chiefs executive of the states and the powers that be in Aso Rock are lobbying these senators and making offers of gifts of millions of Naira, some of which have been purportedly paid into the bank accounts of these senators in Abuja. If this is true, then what we have is a situation where these tongue-in-cheek senators are either dancing to the tune of the piper, or signaling to the agents of the chiefs executive their availability for sale by dithering on the issue.

The proceeding is being televised live by the African Independent Television Network, giving the Nigerian populace instantaneous updates. Some people have requested that this be disallowed as it might hamper some senators from taking their true positions. How can this be? The amendment of the constitution is an epoch making event in the life of democracy in Nigeria, and as such, it is only proper to capture it live and on audio-visual record for posterity. It is suspected that those who advocate for a media-blackout want this for ulterior motives. Without live update and public scrutiny enabled by the live television coverage, proponents of the third term think they might be able to engineer the outcome of the proceedings in their favour.

As Abraham Lincoln remarked in his November 19, 1863 Gettysburg address, democracy is the “government of the people, by the people for the people.” The Nigerian people, for whom the Nigerian government is constituted, and whose representatives make up the Nigerian senate, have every right to be updated in real time what their representatives are deliberating on, and how properly they are being represented. In fact, there should be more television stations covering the proceedings to increase the reach and improve the openness and “transparency” of the process. It is the biggest job interview yet for the senators, so it would serve them well to be on their best behaviour.

How they comport themselves and vote will determine what path their political careers will take. The sellouts will most likely lose their seats in the next elections, if the electorate is discerning enough, having failed to do the bid of their constituencies and therefore botching the job interview that the constitutional amendment is. Let us hope that the senators keep this in perspective as they deliberate on the term limit and the one hundred and fifteen other proposals before them.