By Danlami Nmodu
At the moment little is being heard about the ordeal of Professor Chidi Odinkalu,chairman of National Human rights Commission,NHRC.The renowned lawyer, activist and scholar was reportedly on the wanted list of Nigerian Police Force which plotted to arrest him over his alleged comment about extra- judicial killings by the force.Giving a background to Odinkalu’s travails, his lawyer Bamidele Aturu said “On 5 March 2012, Dr. Odinkalu was keynote speaker at the annual conference of the National Association of Judiciary Correspondents (NAJUC) in Abuja, Nigeria on the theme “Plea Bargaining and the Administration of Justice in Nigeria”. A copy of his 16-page paper at that conference is distributed with this statement. Page 5 of the presentation contains the following statement:
“The response of law enforcement to the incapability of the legal system to ensure convictions is an epidemic of third-degree policing, torture and extra-judicial executions. By some estimates, the Police executes well over 2,500 detainees summarily every year.”
“By a letter to Dr. Odinkalu dated 16 March 2012, the Acting Inspector Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed D. Abubakar, complained that Dr. Odinkalu had said that the Police execute over 5,000 detainees summarily every year”, and complained that this “statement is viewed seriously by the Police High Command as vexatious especially against the backdrop of its grave and negative implications on our National and Corporate Image.”
However,investigations by Newsdiaryonline.com have revealed that the ‘police case’ may just be a smokescreen aimed at achieving a sinister motive .Or at best ,it is one the moves designed to ease Odinkalu out of office even before the inauguration of the board to after the senate approved his nomination. Odinkalu and his co travellers on the newly appointed board of NHRC are the target of a coordinated scheme by those in the presidency who are determined to take control of the commission.They seem worried and frustrated by two factors, namely the powers of the commission as enshrined in the 2011 Act and the pedigree of the new chairman which clearly shows he will assert his independence and that under his watch the commission will not be available for dirty deals.
Informed sources revealed to Newsdiaryonline.com that these forces in the presidency are led by Anyim Pius Anyim, the secretary to the Federal government and Mohammed Adoke, minister of justice and the attorney- general of the federation in this sinister plot against Odinkalu and his board.These two men (who an insider describe as two very good friends) are by no means the only ones,but they seem to be the ones known to be pulling the strings from behind the scenes.The crime of the new board members is the fear that they are independent minded and they may not be amenable to the transactions expected from them.In fact one source said if the cabal in the presidency had its way,Odinkalu would not even have been named as chairman.It was Oronto Douglas, an activist ,now a presidential aide who overpowered them.More on this later.
Somehow,even after the naming of the board , these forces have continued conspiring to ensure that the Goodluck Jonathan administration keeps the board in a limbo evidently to enable the schemers have their way now.That is why the regime is delaying the inauguration of the 16-man board it named for the National Human Rights commission with Odinkalu as the chairman.The board comprises representatives o foreign affairs ministry, internal affairs ministry and the ministry of justice.
So the infamous police case is said to be part of the orchestrated attempt to abort the inauguration of Odinkalu as chairman of the board.A very knowledgeable source told Newsdiaryonline.com that “if you know what has been happening you will know it is incorrect to believe the Mohammed D. Abubakar, the acting Inspector General of police or the entire police are on their own after Chidi (Odinkalu).The police acted merely on order from above”
“Don’t blame the Acting IG.The man’s appointment has not been confirmed,I hope you know that .He is just at the mercy of the people he needs to ensure his appointment is confirmed,” another source said, adding,”Let me tell you, if the IG’s appointment must be confirmed by the National Assembly, he needs the support of five key people in the presidency namely, the Vice President,the National Security Adviser ,Secretary to the Government of the Federation , the Chief of staff to the president and the Attorney General of the Federation.
“If you have this kind of challenge that the acting IG is facing ,and you are being asked to do something for any of these people listed above, you may jump at it.That is the plight of the acting IG”, the source told Newsdiaryonline.com.Also, the justice Niki Tobi report on the Jos Crisis which is said to have indicted the acting IG in the past makes him even more vulnerable to the whims and caprices of these powerful men.”We need to expose these people so that the entire world would see those spearheading the sabotage of the positive move Chidi Odinkalu’s appointment represents” a lawyer very sad about the unfolding events said.
A top official of government told Newsdiaryonline.com that the independence of the commission as enshrined under the 2011 Act is a source of worry for some presidency topguns.Under the 2011 Act ,the roles of the Commission are very significant .And for some officials of this regime ,an independent Human Rights Commission will impinge on the regime’s plans.
Newsdiaryonline.com was authoritatively told that several scenarios about how to scuttle whatever plans whoever brought Odinkalu have been built up by those who want to control the commission .Sadly most of these scenarios are not foolproof. That is why there is a resort to the latest move which is to ensure that the inauguration of the board is delayed.This delay is aimed at creating the conditions that will “constrain the elbow room of the commission .”
It was further learnt that as part of the plot to deal with Odinkalu, four key lines of action (read scenarios) have been considered by those in the thick of it all. First, it was thought that since it might be impossible to control him, it was better to suspend the entire board. The second option in the plot was to dissolve the new board outright.The third option was to urge the national assembly to terminate Odinkalu’s appointment .But the problem with all these options according to an insider is that questions are bound to be asked as to “why suspend, dissolve or even terminate the appointment of a board and its chairman when the board you appointed has not even been inaugurated? It is the questions that are likely to trail any of the actions above that left the schemers with the next option which is to plot the delay of the inauguration of the board.(It is called packing and delaying them).”
Newsdiaryonline.com has learnt that there is a new practice within government which is called ‘capturing of public institutions for milking’.Another variant of it is that public offices or parastatals are allocated to specific people or political chieftains as part of the regime’s settlement package for its allies.
A knowledgeable source told Newsdiaryonline.com Odinkalu’s travails may have arisen from the ongoing practice where public institutions are to be ‘captured for milking’.When a board (like Odinkalu’s NHRC ) is capable of interfering with that pattern, there are issue;the schemers become combative.The commission enjoys a ‘first line charge’ of federal funding and this makes it attractive to those with their eyes on lucre.
Newsdiaryonline.com learnt was told that even as the delay in the board’s inauguration is going on , some of those who want to render the NHRC board comatose have already started showing signs ‘they really want to do their thing’.As a whole, the NHRC is said to have a staff strength of a little over 300.But in recent times ,it was learnt that about 130 people have been hired into the commission without recourse to the board.That is one clear evidence,said an observer that these guys just want to dispense with patronage the way they like.And that is why Odinkalu is facing this challenge.How can you explain the fact that new appointments are being made into the commission without the board’s knowledge ? an observer said.Sources have also revealed that these appointments are being coordinated from the office of the SGF.As a point of correction , a villa source said, “don’t think these moves are being made to ruin Chidi as person .These people(against his board ) just want to be given the opportunity to transact business.If they were traders , they would have done very well.”
Something happened away from the Odinkalu saga.But its is related to the propensity of officials and politicians to transact business with public institution.Newsdiaryonline.com learnt recently that yet another commission, the National Nuclear Energy Regulatory Authority,NNRA has no substantive DG.There is actually an acting DG whom sources said is illegal because he was not appointed by the president according to the laws.But that is not even the issue now.It was learnt that the job of appointing a substantive DG for the commission has been “allocated to one of the political godfathers from the south -south.”
At a point candidates for the job of DG at the Nuclear Regulatory Authority were asked to file in their CVs.One of those who gave his credentials was a lecturer at one of the universities in the North.He is said to possess the requisite qualifications and was invited to meet the godfather. A source however said that the candidate who is a lecturer got the shock of his life when the godfather pointedly asked him to “drop N100 million” as a precondition for getting the job.The lecturer declared pointblank that he had no such money.And that was how the story ended. Meanwhile the illegal acting DG continues to transact business after having changed the signatories to the account of the Authority.When a union leader recently asked the president to appoint a substantive DG , the leader it was learnt began to receive anonymous telephone calls threatening to deal with him.This is a typical case of how public institutions are used to transact business.There are equally more galling stories making the round about barefaced extortion of funds from topshots of government parastatals by agents who claim to be working for top politicians.
Back to Odinkalu’s travails: those in the know have told Newsdiaryonline.com that his troubles may have arisen from the battle for his appointment.According to this account, not everybody in the presidency is corrupt.In this regard, there are those who do not subscribe to the transactional agenda of traders in public office.At least two key appointments made by the Jonathan regime show that there are people who truly want good governance and change said such insiders.These appointments hailed by insiders include those of Dr Sam Amadi , head of National Energy Regulatory Commission,NERC and Professor Odinkalu.The appointment of these men were facilitated by yet another influential man in the presidential villa Mr Oronto Douglas.
Being an activist Oronto as he is fondly called was said to have ensured that these credible people came on board to transform these institutions.A third appointment Jonathan made was that of Attahiru Jega, national chairman of INEC.Newsdiaryonline.com could not confirm if Oronto played any prominent role in Jega’s emergence though.Speaking with regards to Sam and Odinkalu, a source said “sometimes, Oronto tries to bring in quality people into government.But the dynamics of (PDP) the party always poses a challenge.Oronto looks at things from the global perpective. Chidi(Odinkalu ) is an activist ,we remember his days at CLO and he has been into at the global level for close to 20 years now.Sam also has Harvard training.These men with impressive credentials.In a way Oronto and his men are trying to help the government.But these other forces are very provincial people ,they look at things from the point of party politics and money.”
Odinkalu’s problem is worsened,said the source by the fact that “Oronto is ill now and has gone abroad for medical treatment .So the men who possibly did not want Odinkalu there and want to oust him because he will not be available to do their bidding are the ones pilling pressure now.
“Even more” said an observer,Odinlalu’s woes are worsened by the fact that he is a pure activist who is not a PDP person.He clearly doesn’t know how to navigate his way within the party(or perhaps he is not likely to seek to navigate his way).That is unlike Sam Amadi who has worked with ex senate president Ken Nnamani and may possibly understand the workings of PDP.I know that even Sam is not having things easy with these people who keep piling pressure on him.Amadi’s luck is that he has been confirmed and inaugurated into office. But he may know how to navigate his way much easier since he is virtually now like a party man”.The forces against Odinkalu are said to be scared stiff that he is not a PDP member, he cannot be controlled,and so, they want him out…And you know Odinkalu is not the kind of person that will make returns to these people.That is their worry.”
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