Three weeks or so ago today after my two-part piece on the onshore/offshore dichotomy on allocation of the country’s oil revenue, the issue seems to have returned to the front pages of our newspapers.
First it was President Goodluck Jonathan himself who, through his spokesperson, Dr. Reuben Abati, pronounced the 2004 Act abrogating the dichotomy a closed issue. Shortly thereafter, his attorney-general and minister of justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, followed suit. Then six days ago, the new president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Okey Wali, announced that the NBA “fully endorses” the position of the attorney-general. Wali, it may be recalled, was a onetime attorney-general of River’s State, a leading oil producing state.
“We,” he said, “agree with the AGF that this matter has been settled by the highest court of the land, the Supreme Court in AG Adamawa State and twenty two others versus the AG Federation and eight others…We condemn any attempt by some politicians and their sympathisers to deliberately over-heat the polity by resurrecting the matter.”
With due respect, Wali, Adoke and his principal are guilty of, at best, playing politics with the law, and, at worse, downright lying with it, akin to the subterfuge of lying with statistics.
To begin with, as the three gentlemen know all too well, Supreme Court judgments are not cast in stone; all over the world apex courts have been known to reverse themselves when the need arises. Second, if the word of supreme courts is final and irreversible why did many of the most vociferous objectors of the re-opening of the 2004 Act even more vociferously reject our own apex court’s April 2002 judgement upholding the onshore/offshore dichotomy as untenable, to the extent that they even threatened to secede from the country? Why did they insist that beyond the court’s judgement there has to be a political solution?
However, the issue here is not only that Supreme Courts can reverse themselves. It is also not only that these latter-day the-word-of-supreme-courts-is-final advocates are being inconsistent. More importantly, the issue is also that the Supreme Court never dismissed the case of AG Adamawa State and twenty two others versus the AG Federation and eight others on its own merit, as Wali would want the world to believe.
True the court unanimously dismissed the case of the 22 states that sought the nullification of the 2004 Act which abrogated the onshore/offshore dichotomy for the purposes of revenue allocation among states. But the judges also differed among themselves on the merit of the case. For example, whereas Justice Oguntade said he did not see “anything intrinsic or extrinsic” in the law which was contrary to “the letter and spirit of the 1999 Constitution”, Justice Kutigi dismissed it only on the ground that the plaintiffs went about their case the wrong way.
“It is,” he said, “doubtless that this action seeks to challenge the validity and effect of the 2004 Act. But the plaintiffs had chosen to go about it the wrong way…Unfortunately the plaintiffs have not asked this court for any interpretation of the relevant provisions of the Constitution or of the 2004 Act itself. They therefore committed a blunder!”
Justice Oguntade might as well have been right. But then he was talking merely about the abstract principle of the letter and spirit of our supreme law of the land. The story might have been different if the principle were tested against some specific issues.
In any case, the fact that not all the Supreme Court judges agreed that the case lacked merit left enough room for a re-examination of the case.
So for our president to say the case should not be re-opened because it has been pronounced upon by the Supreme Court is simply untenable. Worse, it betrays an attitude that he is the president, not of all Nigerians, but of a section of it – specifically the section he comes from which seems implacably opposed to the re-opening of the issue.
Newswatch: sad end to a great news magazine
My piece last on the sad putative demise of Newswatch elicited 41 texts and a couple of emails. Nearly a dozen of the reactions corrected the date I said Dele Giwa, one of its four founders, died on; October 19, 1986, not in 1985 as I said. The majority of them were angrier with the top management, led by Ray Ekpu, for apparently allowing themselves to be suckered by Chief Jimoh Ibrahim than with the chief for killing the magazine in effect.
One of the reactions also corrected the date I said Newbreed made its debut. This correction is published below along with some of the more interesting ones.
I enjoy your column every week for the quality of efforts evident in it but do not always agree with your conclusions. Just a minor information: Newbreed came on stream in 1972 not 1976. I remember this clearly because myself and Chris Okolie were charged for seditious publication over my article “Rivers State as I see it” published in its April 1974 edition.
Joe Agbro. +2348051821777
It is surprising that the founding editors of Newswatch will sell 1% to Jimoh Ibrahim without checking his antecedents. This man is Nigeria’s Mitt Romney. He buys troubled companies not to revive them but to sell off the assets and make profits. I have no tears for them.
As usual your piece on Newswatch was a master piece. However, you should have mentioned the fat millions collected by the squad. They sold their rights of ownership of the magazine to a Smart Alec. Please advise them to use the millions to run for seats in the National Assembly where there is free money. No crocodile tears from them. Dele (RIP), whom I knew very well at Brooklyn College, (New York), would have done the same or worse.
Rest in Peace Newswatch.
D.M. Badamosi fmngs +2348037044586
One is not surprised of your remembering Obasanjo’s ban on d Newbreed in the seventies but can’t remember that it was your Nupe brother, Ibrahim Babangida, who was responsible for the ban Newswatch suffered. By now your articles should reflect the views of a nationalist not a tribalist. It is too early to forget the deeds of Obasanjo and Babangida.
I agree with your commentary today on the rise and fall of Newswatch magazine. As a student, there was no week I did not buy Newswatch magazine at N1.50. Similar magazines now sell for N500 and this is a good measure of how much the Naira has crashed over the years.
It is very sad indeed because the magazine as an idea and now a brand should have been sustained, no matter the circumstance. Nigeria is also failing today because we do not know how to build institutions.
I have read and followed your writings since my school days. I am in my late 40s now. So I have read you a long time.
What some people do and we call it business turnaround in Nigeria is simply hostile take-over and asset stripping. Your catalogue of our dear Chief’s escapades bears me witness.
Only a fool with means and connections will not have gone for those companies he went for. NICON with all those houses and what not was a sitting duck. Nigeria Airways had more landed property than planes. So if a Corporate Undertaker shows up? Hide the assets list.
Sir, I write today, not because I have qualifications in Literature, Entrepreneurship and Business turnaround but because Newswatch’s murder could have been prevented. We have this knack of taking our own counsel in this country. The tendency is to rate size, intelligence or connections over diligence.
I am saddened because these were men I respect so much, and who back then, wanted me to work with them before life took me on a different route. Their error of judgement and lack of care in signing the papers is at best infantile.
Who was their financial adviser? I am sure they had none.
1) Otherwise there would be no need for these shares nonsense.
2) How come they signed off the company without receiving the promised capital injection. At least they should have followed BPE’s Nitel saga.
3) How did Chief succeed in opening an account in the name of a company he is yet to acquire and also be the sole signatory?
Sir, I am sure you see the point now? NEWSWATCH WAS ACQUIRED FOR NOTHING.
He opened the account, transferred money into it and is spending the money himself.
Let them go talk to a good business lawyer who is versed in mergers and acquisitions. This is not a journalistic battle, it is a business war. You don’t carry a gun to fight a man in a tank; you stay far and shell him with anti-tank missiles.