NIGERIA DISCUSSION SERIES: PORT HARCOURT & NIGERIA UNDER SIEGE

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I initially wanted to discuss what I see as a growing intolerance in Nigerian society. However, a couple posts I read by some bloggers changed my mind and the direction of today's post.

If you have paid attention to Nigerian news, then you know that Port Harcourt is under siege. Rival gangs turned the city into a war zone last week, leaving many innocents dead in their wake. This compelled the government to send in the military. The soldiers were meant to bring peace to a chaotic situation, but it seems that they have simply compounded the situation. They are ordered to seek and kill insurgents and militants and have seemingly gone on a killing spree. And, despite a dusk till dawn curfew, people are still losing their lives.

I find it interesting that the international media is paying little attention to the plight of Delta residents. But, then again, the world price of oil is low and the people in the developed world are paying less to power their automobiles, so there is no reason for them to fret. That is a shame, because people are dropping like flies for no reason other than oil, and the curse that comes with it.

Nigerians, however, need to be very concerned about the increased violence and upfront attack on the people of Port Harcourt and other parts of the Delta. This problem was a small one that has gotten out of control. We can no longer disassociate ourselves from the problems of the Delta because if we do not get these problems under control, the violence there will spill to other parts of an already turbulent country. Don't believe it is possible? Consider the fact that the various gangs in the Delta region have acquired 'kidnapping' skills. Are you aware that they no longer just kidnap foreign oil workers? The mother of the Speaker of Bayelsa State's House of Assembly was kidnapped and held for 2 weeks. She is in her late 60s, an old, defenseless woman. Some might think that because her child is rich, the kidnapping is okay, but realize that it could be you or a family member that gets caught in the cross hairs next. These violent gangsters will soon simply sell their 'skills' to the highest bidder. I once discussed the possibility of Nigeria being a breeding ground for terrorists. I am saddened to think that my 'prediction' may have come true and that Port Harcourt is the illustration of the point made in that post.

Also, these gangsters (not talking about MEND which is seeking improvement for the Delta's people), are making it harder for Nigerians to buy oil. For instance, a contractor supposed to correct a couple problems with some pipelines, has been informed by a gang that he must pay $69 million to do his work. Understandably, the contractor is limited in his ability to fix the problem pipelines. Thus, the nation waits with bated breath for oil to flow but it doesn't.

When Yar'Adua came to office, he waved a white flag at the Delta and sought cooperation to improve the lot of its people. He sent Goodluck to meet with leaders. MEND gave the nation a reprieve and suspended its activities. I understand that the UN is in talks with Yardy's administration to find ways that the organization can lend it mediation skills to finding a solution to the chaos. But, despite all that, things are now worse than they were and Nigerians are losing their lives because they are caught in a game of egotism and greed.

We can talk about solutions to the Delta's problems, but that has been done before. I am curious as to what people think it is like for someone living in that chaos. I want to know what YOU think that we, Nigerians (not the government) can do, if anything, to stop the madness. How can we restore calm and order to Port Harcourt and the Delta in general? Do we need to get international attention? I wonder, if more people read Jaja's description of his life in the 'Garden City' or Porter deHarqourt's lyrical narrative of his existence and recent experiences, would they think twice and take the time to put pressure on the government and interested parties to to improve the situation. Or, would they just ignore the plight of the Delta's residents, as long as the price of oil is stable and the global economy is intact? What are your thoughts on life in Port? As a member of the Nigerian Lighthouse team, I want to know how bloggers can make an impact? I believe it is possible. Anyway, let us all know...

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LAGOSIAN LADIES, DRESS AS YOU PLEASE...; ALTNIGERIA.COM; NIGERIAN DISCUSSION SERIES

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

On Monday, Lagos deputy Police Public Relation Officer, Mr. Frank Mba, implored fashion crazy ladies in Lagos to

"dress anyway they wish, even if it means flaunting their nakedness and walking on the streets of the metropolis".
Speaking on behalf of the Commissioner of Police, (CoP), and the Police department, he informed the public that there was NO constitutional provision sanctioning the arrest and detention of any women for indecent dressing. He also alleged that previous reports of women being arrested for 'indecent' dressing were due to a mix-up. He clarified that the women arrested had ties to prostitution. He stated that there was evidence in the past that prostitutes rings were ferrying "arm [sic] and ammunition from one part of Lagos to another on behalf of armed robbery suspects and hired assassins. They also serve ... the criminals by providing facilities for the safe keeping of their arms".

I am glad that the Police department has figured out a way to get their story straight. It is sad that it took this long for Lagosians, and the world, to find out what exactly was going on. For those who are unfamiliar with the story, I did a post on July 29th that 90 women and 3 men were arrested on charges of 'indecent' dressing. I also noted at that time that there was no legal basis upon which such arrests could be lawfully made.

A week later, Mohammed Abubakar, Lagos' CoP, announced to the press that
he never gave any directive to arrest women based on their clothing. According to the Daily Champion newspaper, he also stated that any victims of harassment should report the incident for further investigation. Although I was excited about his announcement, I was disappointed by the fact that Lagosian lawyers (all male) publicly declared that indecently dressed women violate "public morality" and could be arrested and charged on that basis alone. In fact, lawyers Festus Keyamo and Bamidele Aturu asserted that women dressing indecently is offensive and that the police can arrest them but must not molest and/or assault them. Niyi Idowu, the Ikeja branch chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) stated, "[w]hereas it is a crime to expose your body indecently, it is also a crime to detain an offender for more than the prescribed period of detention." I am still waiting to see what legal provision they based these informed decisions on and am relieved that the Police have announced for the entire world, that the way a woman dresses is not up for discussion, at least in Lagos.

Newspaper reports noted that some victims of the 'indecency' initiative alleged that police officers raped and extorted money from them on the pretext of getting them bail. I was informed of the possibility of sexual assault after receiving comments to my initial post on the subject. I was shocked and perturbed at the notion that women were being blamed for the high incidence of crime in Lagos and was ashamed that I was yet to hear any Nigerian officials, male or female, speak out on this issue. Clearly, pressure was put on the 'powers that be' to clarify the situation and seemingly restore the rights of women to dress as they wish without fear of retribution.

ALTNIGERIA.COM

Just wanted to let any interested parties know that I wrote a post for Altnigeria.com and it is up. Entitled, Kano: The Free Trade Zone, it is the first in a series of installments on Kano's economic future. Check it out and feel free to leave a comment or two.

NIGERIAN DISCUSSION SERIES

It's that time again, I will be hosting another discussion for the Nigerian Discussion Series this Friday, the 24th of August. If you are unfamiliar with the series, please visit the NDS blog and take the time to read my last 2 forays into the venture - CORRUPTION: THE COMMON DENOMINATOR TO ALL OUR PROBLEMS and A NIGERIAN RECIPE FOR DEMOCRACY. Also make sure you read the comments. they always provide for some interesting reading. Make sure you come back at the end of the week to participate in the conversation.


UPDATE: Jeremy has a good illustration of women in Nigeria taking a stand on this 'indecency' issue. Read here.

RELATED POSTS:
LADIES BEWARE MOHAMMED ABUBAKAR IS HERE

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MUSIC: NIGERIA VS. THE AFRICAN CONTINENT PT. V

Friday, August 17, 2007

The last time I did one of these was in April and the song was 'Olori Oko'.

Since then I have discovered many Nigerian songs that were very good, but none of them inspired me to highlight them on the blog. For those who know, I spend a lot of time on political and social issues and find that there sometimes is never enough time, or space, to blog about everything that comes to mind. Thankfully, the beauty of this song and its video, forced me to do a Music post and ass to the series.

The following clip is from Ty Bello. A couple bloggers, like Nyemoni and Afolabi, have already talked about this song but I only just watched the video at What A Colorful World, Jola Naibi's excellent blog (Please stop by. It really is good!).

I will share my comments left at her blog. They illustrate my immediate emotional response to Ty Bello's beautiful song.


I was supposed to go for a run and decided to stop by. Best decision of the day. This video and song brought tears of joy and happiness to my eyes.

The song is positive and the images are beautiful. An absolute delight especially in a world laden with sadness, violence and misfortune. "The Land is Green...and it is all mine" The lyrics are filled with absolute hope.

I loved it, loved it, loved it!

Thanks for sharing!


Ty's voice is unique, it is solid and it is lush. Her tone is extremely rich. It's authenticity gives me great satisfaction, especially since most musicians, including Nigerians, tend to sound the same. Now, if that does not convince you that this artist is phenomenal, then please, watch the video. Her video is not high tech. It does not have lots of flashing images. It is simple and pure and complements her positive message. Here is a partial review from Nigeria's Weekly Trust newspaper,

"TY Bello’s first single to be released (also called ‘Greenland’) is simply put – brilliant. Its inspiring lyrics and catchy rhythm will get you tapping your feet and nodding your head and before you realize it, you’ll be dancing!"

If this is the future of Nigerian music, then I am very excited and will be spending money on albums, something I don't do regularly.

Enjoy!

Further Reading:

-Nigeria vs. The African Continent II - P-Square "Say your Love"
-Nigeria vs. The African Continent III - Infinity's "Olori Oko"
-Nigeria vs. The African Continent IV - Tuface
-Nigeria vs. The African Continent V - Ty Bello's "Greenland"

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MASSOB UPDATE

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Clashes between police and MASSOB fighters in Onitsha have resulted in the death of over 20 people. The police descended on Enenchele Island on Wednesday, which is populated by MASSOB members. This is an increase in the body count as last week Tuesday, 10 people were killed in clashes between police officers and MASSOB members. It seems that the government is stepping up their initiative to find MASSOB's leader and put a stop to the organization.

However, MASSOB's leadership denies the allegations of kidnapping and its regional administrator for Onitsha declared that anyone involved in such activity should be and would be punished. He claimed that MASSOB is committed to non-violent achievement of its goals.

Femme reacted to my last MASSOB post with shock at the allegations that the organization was kidnapping. Her shock might just be warranted. She also noted "secessionists being tried is a bit extremist. its only another opinion as long as its peaceful.sounds like a contradiction but its been known to happen."

Her comment raises a good issue - should secessionists be tried and sent to prison? I understand that calls for a separate homeland can be peaceful, as she clearly states. But, unfortunately, I cannot help but think about the Biafran war and the fact that, at this moment, Nigeria is a complex pressure cooker - possibly ready to pop if the lid is opened too quickly. All measures MUST be taken to keep violence to a minimum and anyone that could possibly encourage such violence will probably get muffled. That raises concern about freedom of expression and civil rights. which I cannot get into at this point in time but ask you, nonetheless, to consider them.

Anyway, I hope that MASSOB, and others like it, will strive for the peaceful discussion of their issues. I also hope that Nigerians will join in the discourse without resorting to violence. But, in a country like Nigeria where people (i.e. MEND) have already shunned non-violent means of communication, I can only hold my breath.

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WANTED: MASSOB LEADER, DEAD OR ALIVE

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

MASSOB's Innocent Orji now has a hefty price on his head - N1 million to be exact. Last week Tuesday, the Nigerian government announced that it was willing to pay any individual who can provide information that will lead to his arrest and capture.

The self styled 'General' of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) is alleged to have been responsible for the kidnapping of two Chinese nationals, Mr. Niu Quiquiang and Shenyi Feng as well as an Nnewi businessman, Chief Pius Ogbuawa, in Nnewi.

Something tells me he will be turning up he will turn up healthy and hearty if ever found. That bounty will be far too hard to resist.

I am of the opinion that secessionists should be arrested, tried and if found guilty, sent to prison. I therefore do not need to expound upon my thoughts on this issue. If, however, you are wondering how I feel, please feel free to peruse my thoughts in BIAFRA and BIAFRA CONTINUED.

Chxta wrote an interesting post that touched on the subject of secession. Although long, it makes for a good read, and the comments are charged and interesting.

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YARDY SCRAPS AN ILLEGAL CONTRACT GRANTED BY OBJ

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Apparently, OBJ granted a contract to build a host of clinics around the country shortly before he left office. Now, although this seems like a good thing, the contract was given by OBJ to a former aide of his. Smells fishy, doesn't it? Anyway, Yardy continues to cut the ties from the OBJ by ordering the suspension of the N18 billion contract.

In July, Yardy also reversed OBJ's sale of two refineries to another of his cronies. But in the case of this contract, Yardy claims that the contract was unlawful. The contract required compulsory deductions from each of the local councils' share of monthly oil revenue. It would have built a primary healthcare centre in each of Nigeria's 774 local council areas.

Although some would argue that the means justify the end, I am a stickler for following the letter of the law. I must commend Yardy for taking a closer look at this arrangement and declaring it "illegal". To force all local council's to give up some of their oil money in a scheme that probably does not pass the 'smell test' is unconscionable. Especially, in light of the fact that Nigeria has witnessed so many such schemes never come to fruition even though the contractors receive their monies upfront. That simply leaves the people suffering and waiting for infrastructure and amenities that have been paid for but never arrive.

I am impressed.

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YAR'ADUA HAS SEEMINGLY LIMITED THE EFCC...

According to the ThisDay Newspaper online, on Monday, Yardy instructed all agencies directly involved in the investigation of present and former Nigerian officials that they cannot prosecute without the consent and permission of Michael Kaase Aondoakaa, the nation's attorney general and Minister of Justice.

Yardy reminded the nation that the prosecutory powers were granted to the Minister of Justice in Section 43 of the EFCC Act of 2004. Through his spokesperson and Special Adviser on Communications, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, he clarified that this action was in response to the Minister of Justice's request to encourage better coordination among all law enforcement agencies in order to limit multiple criminal prosecutions. Mr. Adeniyi stated, "In fighting corruption, nobody and no institution, and this includes the Presidency and himself as President, should be seen to be above the law and the Constitution." (The Guardian, online).

Yardy's declaration is apparently in direct contrast to a Supreme Court decision and his spurred allegations that he is attempting to protect former governors who financed his campaign. Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana, referred to Osahon v. FGN where the Supreme Court determined that the Police and other investigation agencies do not require permission from the Attorney-General to initiate criminal prosecution. In response to the announcement, Gani Fawehinmi said, "I think this is a tactic by the President to prevent the prosecution of some governors and this is dangerous for the anti-corruption war in Nigeria... It cannot be accepted by Nigerians who believe in the anti-corruption war."

The affected agencies are the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) and the Code of Conduct Tribunal.

My Thoughts:
I have been following closely the cases of certain governors and have been appalled at the evidence against them. For instance, Alhaji Turaki is accused of stealing N17 billion from the Jigawa state treasury IN ONE DAY! According to the Weekly Trust newspaper, the amounts embezzled by Turaki comes to at least N602.36 million in 2006. That is just one governor and one state. As a result, I have been very pleased to see that EFCC has not only attempted prosecute such scoundrels but I was pleased that the law allowed for such action.

The previous administration constantly proclaimed the independent nature of the EFCC and swore that it was not interfering with its prosecutorial abilities. Nigerians did not believe. However, once Nuhu Ribadu started throwing former governor's into Abuja's Kuje prison, Nigerians began to hope that some parts of the governmental structure were actually independent and not corrupt.

To now limit the EFCC by referring to the EFCC Act of 2004, which apparently allows the Justice Minister to make rules or regulations with respect to the exercise of any of the duties, functions or powers of the EFCC, will only return Nigerians to the mindset that some powerful former officials will escape the chokehold of the law.

Now, I firmly believe in coordination and agree that all parts of the anti-corruption campaign work in sync. However, I cannot help but worry that by subjecting the EFCC to the Attorney General's decisions could limit the number of prosecutions and thus hamper justice. I hope that Michael Aondoakaa, who has achieved the status of SAN, will relieve the fears of Nigerians by giving us a clear picture of the IMPARTIAL guidelines by which the EFCC, ICPC and Code of Conduct Tribunal may move towards prosecutions. Mr. Aondoakaa, please quickly provide the public with the necessary information to restore and improve confidence in the nation's anti-graft efforts and even encourage cooperation from those with evidence of wrongdoing by former officials. That, I believe, is the most effective way to do 'damage control' and keep the country on the right track in its quest to stamp out corruption.

UPDATE: Nigeria's The Nation newspaper stated that Yardy reversed himself on his earlier declaration. Therefore, the EFCC is now allowed to prosecute. According to the newspaper, Yardy apparently called a meeting of Government Secretary Babagana Kingibe, ICPC chairman Justice Emmanuel Ayoola, EFCC Chief Nuhu Ribadu, Dr Wale Babalakin, a lawyer and the Attorney-General, who was opposed the new decision.

Mr. Aondoakaa said today, "I do not intend to create any impediment on the work of any of the agencies that had inherent powers to their statutes to initiate prosecution. For the avoidance of doubt, I have said that they can proceed as if, except I have good reason to intervene."

He further stated that any intervention on his behalf will be "as a last resort. I will continue to exercise my supervisory powers to see that all agencies involved in the prosecution of criminal cases under the statutes created by the Act of the National Assembly are done in conformity with the constitution."

Well, I for one am still waiting on those impartial guidelines, Sir. I especially want to know what exactly "the last resort" would be. Nevertheless, it is good to see that public discontent and pressure were able to have an impact on Yardy and his 'crew'. A president that listens to the people? Hmmm, wonders will never cease...

Or, was the reversal a response to the fallout that may have come from the international community? I guess we will never know.

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