Sunday, 19 May 2013
Path to Nigerians’ Freedom By Seyi Awofeso
Nigerians mire in the horrors of a rapidly un-liveable country now adrift without much enforced rules for correct conduct, griping and moaning – as though without a means of escape.
Today, Nigerians almost wholly feel terribly locked into this violent and cruel society in rapid slippage to utter apocalypse, yet, without clarity of thought on a solution, most Nigerians become vulnerable and easily corralled and coaxed to go on a fool’s errand to brace for the amendment of the country’s Constitution as the way out.
But amending the Nigerian Constitution is no answer to the country’s pestilential thefts.
Even if these thefts were all along abetted by the people who looked the other way; shrugged and uttered dire imprecations on the official thieves, but without much else besides, as half the federal budget was proved to have been stolen in the past year, the Constitution is still not the solution to such collective neurosis.
For openers, thefts have not been occurring due to any missing clause in the country’s Constitution.
Indeed, one of the country’s popular journalists, Tola Adeniyi, had pithily written in May 2009 to locate the Nigerian messiness outside psychiatry and very bluntly stated as follows:
“You see councillors who were mere truck pushers yesterday now donating brand new jeeps to their wives or girl-friends as birthday gifts and no questions are asked. Why? In a nation of idiots, everything goes. Idiots all over the world are known to be timid people. Nigerian brand of idiots are worse than timid. They are zombies made worse by collective spell heaped on them by the day-light robbers who have imposed themselves on them."
And year in year out, Nigerians fail this same reasoning test of mentally developed human beings by failing to think and execute a fitting solution to their life-threatening problem of thefts.
In effect, thefts continue without let. And now, nothing else is possible; since neither education nor transportation; nor law and order, can be maintained or funded; or for that matter, could anything else be reformed amid a pestilence of thefts which cuts against all attempts at financing national development, because stealing un-ravels everything.
As it is, a more sensible solution to the pandemic thefts in Nigeria is not to keep discussing or hand-wringing over it, but to physically seek a speedy solution as one would do if a rapacious thief entered and stayed put in one’s neighbourhood.
To sensibly resolve the pandemic thefts now sinking Nigeria and yet avoid the usual pitfalls of counter-accusation of tribalism or religion is to follow a 4-step procedure - outside the defensive and protective structure of the current constitutional dis-order: namely-
On a state by state basis, compile the names of everyone who’s held public office since May 29, 1999; either as appointed or elected official.
On a state by state basis, all the persons so listed become liable for individual acts and omissions – including theft.
On a state by state basis, publish the investigated assets of everyone who’s held public office since May 29, 1999; either as appointed or elected official.
Subject ALL those whom the facts prove have stolen to revolutionary justice.
For sure, after such revolutionary cleansing of Nigeria there will then be an ethically sensible country. Then on, the surviving honest citizens may freely organize the country as they consider best.
That is the first solution – not a sovereign national conference that’s plainly irrelevant to Nigeria’s number one problem of stealing.
Indeed, all else is idle talk; for pandemic theft warrants a practical reaction as expedient solution.
In comparison with all of Nigeria’s history, the years 1999-2012 are the years of thefts. Once those years are firstly resolved, it will be easier to reach and trace backwards as far as possible; since the same rogues in the years between 1983 and 1999 more or less re-invested portions of their loot into politics to regain power from 1999 by crooked means through false votes at the taking of polls.
Without a doubt, pandemic thefts signal constitutional disorder and prove that there’s no law in Nigeria.
As example, rules governing what an attorney-general can do, or must do or avoid, are all ethical and jurisprudential questions – almost wholly absent in Nigeria. In extent of that lax, no government official is in charge of public morality in Nigeria – hence thefts thrive at will.
But because elite Nigerians lack thinking depth and prefer impression to substance, they created a title of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), to mislead the public, since SAN has nothing to do with either anyone’s knowledge of the law or the good reasoning bearing one’s legal opinion.
In that spin of deceit, with the wool drawn over the public eyes, just about any person who’s wangled the S.A.N title is inflicted on Nigeria as attorney-general; with the S.A.N title being the sole justification, rather than any known good thinking in the past or now by the person selected. Quickly then, public morality goes to the dogs on the back of that reckless way of choosing its major enforcer.
Reflecting and taking due account of Nigeria’s moral wreckage, The Punch newspaper promptly excluded the office of the federal attorney-general in looking for a solution.
The Punch rather pointedly editorialized on 9th December, 2012, as follows:
“If death sentence is alright for violent crimes in Nigeria, then it is now necessary for cases of major fraud involving high profile public officials, as deterrent. If murderers and other heinous crime convicts deserve to die in Nigeria, obscenely corrupt government officials do not deserve less. The human cost of corruption has been staggering in Nigeria, with UNESCO naming Nigeria in 2010 as one of the nine (9) most illiterate countries in the world. According to the United States Consul-General in Nigeria who spoke last month, “it will be up to you as Nigerians to decide if corruption and stealing by government officials will continue to leach away Nigeria’s blood and not only your own futures too, but those of your children”. Agreed that official thefts and corruption may not be violent crimes; it infact kills and destroys the citizens of Nigeria more than terrorism. We now have a drastic situation in our hands; with corruption, and so we need a drastic solution. By comparison, in the aftermath of Jerry Rawlings’ successful coup in 1979, three (3) former heads of state and four other top army generals (amongst several others) were executed at the Teshie Military Range for Corruption. Today, Ghana is better for it.”
Almost in corroboration of The Punch editorial opinion, the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Terrence McCulley, also said in an interview published on the same date (December 9th) that “Corrupt Nigerian officials; elected or appointed, who have stolen government funds or who demand bribes to award government contracts cannot be allowed to enjoy the proceeds of their corruption.”
At pace then, a more enlightened consensus emerges that stealing is the problem with Nigeria.
By now, it is understood and agreed that 5 billion dollars was stolen in Nigeria last year through theft of crude oil and its subsequent sale on the high seas. It is also known that close to ₦1.2 trillion Naira was stolen as Fuel Subsidy subvention in the period between 2010-2011 alone – without a single government official arraigned in court yet for misfeasance.
It is also known that newly printed currency notes of between ₦900m -₦2.1 trillion were stolen right inside the Nigerian Minting Company, before the cash could be wrapped, packed and transferred to the Central Bank.
It is also known and agreed that as a result of these thefts, and much else besides, close to 50 million Nigerians are now un-employed with 70% of Nigerians themselves having no access to toilets, according to the findings of the International Toilets Association based in South Africa.
Over against this infamy, what is not yet known may make all what is known only half-true.
For instance, Nigeria’s Finance Minister (Mrs Ngozi-Okonjo-Iweala) un-abashedly admitted last year August that she does not know the overseas bank accounts kept by the country’s petroleum company- NNPC.
By inference, Okonjo-Iweala implied she neither knows the accruals nor withdrawals in those bank accounts, whilst claiming to be performing the (impossible) function of co-ordinator of Nigeria’s economy, with such yawning gaps in her knowledge.
Second of all, the whereabouts of the ₦191 billion forfeited as stolen by Cecilia Ibru are not known. Nigeria’s Central Bank has so far refused a court order to be compelled to disclose it because the Central bank says a disclosure would entail disclosing the fees paid to its retained lawyers.
Again, the government of Switzerland said last month that it has long repatriated $700 million to the Nigerian government under General Obasanjo, but General Obasanjo throughout had no official account indicating entry of any amount received from the Swiss. Obasanjo instead gripes that an additional $1.7 billion dollars still remain with Swiss banks as part of General Sani Abacha’s loot.
The long and the short of it is that there’s no government in Nigeria for nowhere is stealing included in a definition of government or is accurate financial account ever excluded from the meaning of government, as now happening in Nigeria.
On December 8, last year, one issue facing the House of Representatives at its committee probe session was quite precise. It was to determine how Sani Abacha; as the head of State, became a simultaneous private shareholder of Malabu Oil and Gas Company Limited with his Petroleum Minister (Dan Etete), as co-shareholder, and how the duo self-awarded oil block OPL 245 as private owners, in violation of all laws in Nigeria.
The House of Representatives indeed asked numerous questions at the probe session, but never asked this first important question.
The second decisive question, if only it were asked, was to cross-examine Attorney-General Mohammed Adoke on what he meant that “….conditions have been met” which enabled him advise the Minister of Finance (Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala) to release $1.092 billion in an escrow account to Malabu Oil in exchange for 100% ownership of OPL 245 by both ENI Italian Group and Shell Oil of Netherlands, contrary to law.
In plain truth, there’s simply nothing setting down any condition to be met before violating the law that no international oil company shall own more than 40% - and certainly not 100% - of an oil field discretionally awarded to Nigerians under a crude oil indigenization policy.
It is for intentional trespasses like these that Nigeria is now in the grips of revolutionary pressures; because the country's laws; besides being meaningless as a continuum of words, are routinely violated by those elected or appointed to enforce the laws.
Seyi Olu Awofeso, a legal practitioner, writes from Abuja