Each week, I go through my newsfeed to pick an issue that I will address in my column. I tried to do so this week and got overwhelmed by too many issues. I remembered the powerful story set in a Soviet labor camp in the 1950s that described a single day in the life of ordinary prisoner, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. One day, I will write a book about one day in the life of Nigerians. Meanwhile, I still have to submit my column so let’s go through a few of the juicy stories I could have picked one to write on this week.
On Saturday, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, issued a release stating that his boss is concerned about bandits killing, maiming and extorting innocent citizens. Shehu said the president was addressing officers and men of the 17th Army Brigade and Nigerian Air Force 213 Operational Base in Katsina, under the “Operation Hadarin Daji’’, at the Umaru Musa Yar’Adua Airport on his way back from Katsina. The statement quoted President Buhari as saying: This group was formed by the military to secure the geo-political zone from the activities of bandits. The President ordered them as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces as follows: “I don’t think you should spare any bandit. Identify and eliminate them. Pursue them anywhere you can find them and eliminate them.”
The statement raised two issues. The first was the habit of directing security agencies to act whenever something serious happens. Security agencies have the mandate to respond to security breaches whenever and wherever they occur so why do they have to be told repeatedly to do their job. The second concern is what does pursue them and eliminate them mean? Is it a directive to engage in extra-judicial killing of all persons suspected to be bandits? This issue would require some clarification as we must not jettison the rule of law.
At a more profound level, what is the value of calling on security agencies to save us when they are sometimes the problem. This week, the famous kidnapper of Taraba nick named Wadume was caught in Kano. It would be recalled that he had got an army captain to get four people killed, including three crack police investigators, to stop the police from prosecuting him. His first statement after he was arrested was that he had many officers with security agencies on his payroll and they work for him. What happens to citizens when security agents work for bandits and kidnappers for a fee? Reports from the investigation show that he has been in telephone contacts with police and army officers hundreds of times during the period that the police were trying to arrest him. We should all be concerned that the bandits and the terrorists have rogue officers in our security agencies that work for them and with them.
On Wednesday, thousands of Nigerian citizens were feared trapped after Boko Haram fighters attacked two local government areas in northern Borno – Gubio and Magumeri. They took control of the areas without resistance from the military. The two local government areas have a combined population of almost 300,000 inhabitants and the State Government has been urging people to return as safety is now guaranteed. Although Boko Haram has been defeated again and again, they continue to attack communities and security agencies maintaining the regime of terror they have instituted in the North East. We cannot continue to say they have been defeated when we see their actions regularly. Nigeria should avoid the risk of settling into a regular pattern of hit and run tactics by terrorists that are denying so many Nigerians the right to live in peace.
On Saturday, an “Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) group, which my good friend Jideofor Adibe calls the “lumpen traderiat”, attacked former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremmadu in Nuremberg, Germany. He had been invited as a keynote speaker at the occasion of the annual new yam festival and convention of Ndigbo in Germany. After the incident, the group leader, Nnamdi Kanu, in a broadcast on their pirate radio station, Radio Biafra, asserted that South-east governors and selected Igbo politicians “will receive the Ekweremadu treatment any time they are seen in public abroad.” In response, South-east governors also issued a threat of their own to Nnamdi Kanu – that they would ensure his repatriation back to Nigeria “to face the wrath of the people”, without defining who the people are. This is an indication that they regret their role in seeking his freedom from detention with the Federal Government. To re-assure top members of the Nigerian elite about their security abroad, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued an advisory that all dignitaries should inform them when they are travelling abroad so that measures can be taken to ensure that angry Nigerians abroad do not attack their leaders visiting with them.
Also, this week, Okoi Obono-Obla, head of the Special Presidential Panel Investigating Corrupt Practices has gone to court to challenge his investigation by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC). In a suit brought before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Mr. Obono-Obla argued that the Commission lacks powers to investigate him over the alleged certificate forgery he has been accused of. It an interesting statement about his understanding of the rule of law – he can investigate others but he is above investigation. It will be recalled that the Nigerian government suspended Mr. Obono-Obla from his office, pending the outcome of an investigation by the ICPC on his own alleged corrupt practices. His suspension letter signed by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha had clearly stated that: “this suspension shall subsist pending the conclusion of the on-going ICPC investigations into cases of alleged falsification of records and financial impropriety against your person.”
The other corruption in government story this week was that the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita who was unable to deliver her lecture at the ministerial retreat on the importance of ethics and professionalism in good governance. She had been placed under investigation over an alleged N3billion contract scam, money laundering and stealing of government funds. She was reported to have offered her resignation for that strange thing Nigerians call a soft landing but apparently, the decision is a hard landing where she will have her day in court to prove how she got her billions.
Let’s not forget the small hustlers in the corruption game. This week, the story was reported of a hustler who set up a website offering scholarships to indigent students. 140 students of the Federal University Oye-Ekiti we scammed 2,000 naira each and the fellow pocked the money and disappeared. As his total inflow was just 280,000 naira and he had to invest in developing a website, I wonder what he gained. Maybe that is not the issue as he might have been training for bigger hits next time.
Let’s move from corruption to criminality. This week, the case of rape against Pastor Biodun Fatoyimbo of COZA Church, Abuja was declared inconclusive. The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) explained that he refused to appear before the investigation panel they set up on the charges against him so they have no choice but to declare the matter inconclusive. Meanwhile, the pastor has fully resumed his professional duties in the Church. The question is that rape is a crime against the State so why are the police and prosecutorial agencies not investigating the matter?
Maybe the biggest story of the week was the statement by the Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brigadier General Shuaibu Ibrahim, that many of the corpers coming for their service are stark illiterates. He said some of them could not read while others do not even know the English alphabet. We are in real trouble when some of our young people who are supposed to have had i6-years of education are completely illiterate.
I almost forgot, this week, 43 new ministers were assigned their portfolios and sworn into office. As we are no longer concerned about the cost of governance, the President has created five new ministries and added more ministers. I wish them well and urge them to get on with the process of governance.