Monday, January 29, 2007

Niger Delta Malignant Militancy

The spate of attacks and brazenness of the Niger Delta militant groups is escalating rapidly and getting out of hand. Like a malignancy, these militant groups are wreaking havoc on economic activity, safety and wellbeing in the Niger Delta. The situation in Rivers State is perhaps the most dire. Over the last few weeks, there have been the murder of about a dozen traditional chiefs and three expatriates, the kidnapping of Chinese, Korean and other expatriates of other nationalities - workers of telecommunication and other industries unrelated to the oil industry, a jailbreak and a few car bomb explosions. Port Harcourt may very well be Mogadishu or Baghdad.

While this utter breakdown of law and order is running wild, the governor of River State, the President of Nigeria and other officials whose business it is to secure the oil city are busy attending to political intrigues and scheming in a bid to entrench their protégés in power and protect their debauched interests after they leave office on May 29, 2007. Nigerian oil production in the second half of 2006 was reduced by as much as 600,000 barrels a day, resulting in a loss of over $4.4 billion in revenue (2.3% of the national GDP) due to disruption in oil production as a result of the activities of these militant groups.

If nothing is done to stem this wave of banditry and terrorism, and the phenomenon is allowed to take root, Nigeria toys with a situation where these militias would be in control of fractious enclaves in the Niger Delta. Anarchy will prevail; lawlessness, mayhem, gang wars and terrorism will be the order of the day, making the region ungovernable. There is no telling what debilitating effect this would have on economic activities in the region. The decay of other developmental indices that follow will be unfathomable. Without security, no one, expatriate or indigenous, would feel safe to conduct business in the Niger Delta; without economic activities, there will be poverty, illiteracy, diseases, socio-cultural decay and increased crime rate. The Niger Delta will find itself in a death spiral, and life in the region will be akin to what obtains in the lawless militia-controlled regions of the world of the likes of Kabul, Darfur, Baghdad and Gaza.

What needs to be done without delay is for the security forces, specifically the military, to be deployed to combat this unwholesome phenomenon. This means that the Nigerian government needs to allocate more than the measly $1.5 billion it budgeted to the military in 2006. Like cancer, the Niger Delta militancy needs to be attended with urgent radical treatment else it will metastasize and overwhelm the country, and Nigeria may soon find itself immersed in another civil war, only this time, several times more deadly than Biafra.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Adedibu’s Mobocracy

Over the past two decades most, if not all the political upheavals of the ancient town of Ibadan have been allegedly instigated or fomented by Adedibu. In a style reminiscent of Busari Adelakun (Eru obodo) the NPN mystical warlock strongman of Ibadan politics in the second republic, Adedibu's power comes from the grassroots through thuggery, coercion, bribery and organization of the many fractious sects of Oyo politics into an unwieldy but nevertheless awkwardly cohesive mobocracy. Lamidi Adedibu, the self-styled political strongman and linchpin of the "keg of gun powder" that is Ibadan politics has once again overreached his liberties by his comportment in recent weeks.

Last week, his associates were arrested in Ogbomosho South Local Government of Oyo State for the illegal diversion and possession of two Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines belonging to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The machines were being used for the illegal multiple registration of voters, a crime that appears to be rampant amongst desperate politicians in the ongoing voter registration across the country. Not only was Adedibu implicated in the illegal multiple voter registration scheme by his associates, last week, he was also involved in the assault of Senator Lekan Balogun and his State Security Service (SSS) details resulting in the mugging and robbery of a service pistol from one of the SSS officers.

It is bewildering that the state director of the SSS, Mr. Raymond Nkidirim has only issued an ultimatum to Adedibu to return the gun along with a written apology or face arrest if he failed to comply. The questions that arise are (a) were crimes committed in the two incidents? (b) is Adedibu in complicity? If the answer to both questions in either incident is yes then Adedibu should be arrested and prosecuted forthwith like any other perpetrator. It appears Mr. Nkidirim’s threat is half-hearted. The SSS has never been known to forewarn perpetrators before arrest. If it really seeks to uphold professional ethics and not double standard, the SSS should arrest Adedibu without delay and stop issuing empty threats.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Atiku Returns Next Sunday with “FBI” Guards? I Think Not.

An article titled “Atiku Seeks FBI Aid to Return Home” by The Daily Sun Washington DC correspondent, Ike Nnamdi, dated Wednesday, January 17, 2007, reports that the Vice President, Abubakar Atiku, who is rumored to be returning to Nigeria next Sunday, January the 21st will be doing so in the accompaniment of FBI agents as body guards. The reporter cites the reason as the VP’s lack of confidence in the Nigerian security agencies to secure his safety upon his return in light of recent developments as regards his cross-carpeting from the PDP to AC and his subsequent expulsion from the ruling PDP and eventual withdrawal of his privileges by President Obasanjo, who deemed Atiku’s adoption of AC as tantamount to resignation from his post as the VP.

The veracity of this report is questionable, particularly since the law setting up the FBI limits its jurisdiction strictly to within the USA, except in extenuating circumstances when the agency is investigating an international crime that violates US criminal laws, and even then, only in collaboration with the Interpol and the law enforcement agencies of the host country. The FBI collaborated with the EFCC in the investigation into the iGate bribery scandal involving the Louisiana Democrat Congressman, William Jefferson and associates and the complicity of Atiku in this deal, which eventually opened up the floodgates of the Petroleum Development Trust Fund (PDTF) fraud that has embroiled the VP, Fasawe, Adenuga and associates since last year.

It is highly improbable that the Nigerian government would permit the FBI to operate in Nigeria solely in order to protect the VP who has been implicated in its own investigation of William Jefferson. In the USA, guarding public officials or witnesses under the witness protection program is a preserve of the Secret Service and not the FBI, whose primary brief is to investigate criminals that violate US laws.

The only plausible reason why the FBI may accompany Abubakar Atiku to Nigeria (and this they can do only with the permission of the Nigerian government) is if Atiku has made a deal to be a key witness in the iGate bribery case in exchange for some amnesty, and the FBI visit is to secure certain documentation or evidence that would assist in the prosecution of the primary suspects. Anything other than this is indicative that Mr. Ike Nnamdi is either concocting a tale to sell his paper or has been sold a mickey by his sources.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Nigerian Census – Gender Population Distribution Shift, a Red Flag

Many have commented on the figures of the March 2006 National census, which puts the Nigerian population at 140 million. Comparing this with the November, 1991 figure of 88.992 million, this is a growth rate of about 3.07% per annum, which approximates the estimates that have been put forward by various statistical models. What is however intriguing is the population distribution along gender lines. In 1991, males accounted for 50.04% and females 49.96% of the population (a male/female ratio of 1.001). The distribution in 2006 has males accounting for 51.21% and females, 48.79% (a male/female ratio of 1.050).

This shift in population distribution raises a red flag. Several questions come to mind as to what may be responsible for this gender distribution shift. Could it be cultural, social, biological, economic or man-made? Are more male children being born than are female ones, or are more females dying at a faster rate than are males? Or were there cultural issues that limited the accessibility of females to census enumerators 2006 more than in 1991? Could it be that the ravages of HIV/AIDS is taking a toll on the female population, especially since females have a higher susceptibility to the disease? Using the 1991 census figures from the Federal Office of Statistics (FOS) for statistical analysis to help answer these questions the following are the three most striking findings: -

  • The November 1991 census showed that 72.27% of the entire population was made up of 29 year-olds and younger
  • Of these, about 51.74% (or 36.67% of the entire Nigerian population) were females and 49.26% (or 35.6% of the entire Nigerian population) were males
  • The population growth rate for males in Nigeria between 1991 and 2006 was 3.23% versus 2.90% for females
While various political dissenters have raised allegations of fraud as regards the validity of the census figures, equally important, perhaps even more so, is an investigation into the cause of the gender distribution (sex ratio) shift. Although this shift appears not to be statistically significant at the international accepted 95% confidence interval, however, it is important to know if females have a higher death rate as a result of violence, diseases or some female-specific morbidity, or if there is a lower birthrate for females. If either of these two scenarios is not the case, then why were fewer females counted in the last census?

Monday, January 01, 2007

Open Letter to President Obasanjo (Part 2)

Dear OBJ,

Happy New Year! One year ago, I wrote you to thank you for your achievements in 2005, namely the Paris Club Debt forgiveness, EFCC successes amongst other issues. I also beseeched you to make a definitive statement that you would not be seeking a 3rd term in the wake of all the politicking and lobbying for a third term. Even though you had variously hinted that you were not interested in a third term, saying that you would be returning to Otta come May 29, 2007, your actions suggested otherwise, particularly as you were reported as having said that you would make your decision whether to run or not for a third term after the senate had decided on the bill. Last May, the senate threw out the bill and effectively made the decision for you.

The year 2006 was a successful one for Nigeria under your leadership. Not only did Nigeria fully liquidate its Paris Club debt, but the record high crude oil prices saw her foreign reserve rise up in excess of $40billion, the highest ever in Nigeria’s history. Also, your fight against corruption ,spear-headed by the EFCC made far-reaching strides with the successful investigation, indictment and prosecution of several high ranking federal and state government officials. These activities culminated in the investigation and indictment of your Vice President, Abubakar Atiku, for financial impropriety with the Petroleum Development Trust Fund (PDTF), but who enjoys the protection of section 308 of the constitution, is yet to be arrested and charged. As a fall out of this, there are accusations and recriminations by the VP and his sympathizers that he is being targeted for opposing your third term ambition.

OBJ, as you know, this is expected of the typical Nigerian politician, who would do anything to hold on to power even after he has been caught with his pants down. Compounding Atiku’s problem is his defection to a rival party, his eventual expulsion from the Peoples Democratic Party and your declaration of his office as vacant just over a week ago. Were he an honorable man, Atiku would have resigned his position as VP before defecting to the Action Congress (AC) as its presidential ticket bearer. But it appears he is not. OBJ, my advice to you on this is to follow the dictates of the constitution. It is more likely than not that the Atiku issue would be visited by the senate and house of assembly after the holidays. Let the legislators decide if the code of conduct committee’s and the EFCC investigation reports, as well as the VPs defection to AC are enough grounds for impeachment. In the meantime, the mature thing to do is to reinstate the VPs privileges, that way you will be seen as being fair and without prejudice.

Another topical issue, which you should address seriously, is the militancy in the Niger Delta. There are definitely legitimate environmental degradation and economic disruption issues in the region that need to be addressed with the utmost urgency, but these do not justify the lawlessness, murder and anarchy perpetrated by militant groups. The wave and frequency of violence and abductions seem to be escalating with every passing day. OBJ, I know you have been treading softly here, not wanting to use the kind of force the Nigerian military is capable of for want of a repeat of Oddi. While this stance seeks to be politically correct, it places little value on the lives of the men and women of the Nigerian police and armed forces and innocent bystanders who have been murdered or maimed by the militants in their attacks. In addition, Nigeria looses untold tens of millions of dollars daily with the resulting disruption in crude oil production activities; up to 500,000 barrels a day in the last few attacks.

OBJ, your reticence and inaction embolden these militants, who construe your "pacifist" posture as weakness and a tacit acceptance of defeat. My advice, Mr. President is that you go at this issue with all the armament in your arsenal – Niger Delta development programs, youth enlightenment, negotiation, military incursion, intelligence gathering, arrests, prosecution and incarceration should all be used to address this problem. Since the militants have resorted to arms, it is only proper that you return the favor with a stronger and mightier force as a signal that you are in full control of the sovereignty of Nigeria and would not tolerate lawlessness. A well-trained, adequately-kited and properly equipped force of 7,500 to 10,000 troops should be able to secure the Niger Delta. With a strong and effective military presence, the militants would be forced to abandon their tactics of mayhem, murder and kidnapping and seek to negotiate peace, and then you will be negotiating from a position of strength, backed by your credible threat of military incursion. It is important that you achieve this with speed, precision and a well managed and transparent press coverage, exposing the nefarious activities of these militants for what they truly are, and not leave any room for a situation where they are seen as folk heroes by propaganda and misinformation.

Your remaining five months in office, OBJ, should be used to consolidate all the good that your administration has entrenched. You should be laying the grounds for improvement and development in other areas of the economy and social amenities, namely education, health care, security/crime-fighting, power generation, roads, housing and other social infrastructure. While economists argue that privatization and commercialization are the way to go, these are often accompanied by pristine and impeccably administered regulatory, policing and judiciary institutions in the advanced economies of the world where these work. OBJ, you have spent the second half of your administration trying to achieve this and would do well if you spend the remainder of your time in office mapping out a blue print from which your successor can continue the pursuit of these noble objectives.