Wednesday, 12 March 2014
Four Questions on ... the ‘Amnesty’ for Niger Delta ‘Militants’
“By doubting we come to question, and by questioning, we perceive the truth. (Peter Abelard, 1079-1142)
Four Questions on ... the ‘Amnesty’ for Niger Delta ‘Militants’
Like all right-thinking Nigerians, Perceptor is full of hope at the idea that Nigeria will be able to escape from all its troubles in the Niger Delta with a single bound, especially now that the amnesty that this single bound consists of has moved out of committee and on into practice.
Still, with the Veep already playing the Blame Game (see below) and some apparent confusion about who is qualified and what they have to do to get it, and whether some people have already got their own amnesty, not to mention whether Mr. President has the powers that he thinks he has at all, you will not be surprised, gentle reader, to learn that Perceptor has a few questions ...
1. Where do the ex-Governors from the Niger Delta fit into all this?
Of course, we know that the Veep is an ex-governor, and one from the Niger Delta, but Perceptor is rather thinking of those who were facing charges before the EFCC until their files got missing or until they got court orders against the EFCC (which the EFCC promptly went to sleep over) restraining it from looking into any crimes they might have committed during the period that they were immune from prosecution. What Perceptor – seeing as how they have been walking free and roaming in and out of Aso Rock like honourable or distinguished men – what Perceptor wants to know is whether they have been given amnesty for any crimes that they might have committed, or whether the amnesty only applies to those who have used or instigated violence? Oh! Perhaps Perceptor should re-phrase that. Perceptor means, whether the amnesty applies to ordinary stealing or official corruption as well as to any other crimes that might have been committed by ex-governors? (Not of course, that they have committed such crimes, whatever anybody says about militants being originally armed to ‘fight’ elections.) And if the amnesty applies to all Niger Delta governors, does Mr. Lucky Igbenedion, who was unfairly convicted on one count out of millions of possible charges, does he get an official PARDON or what?
2. Since some of the offences being committed in the name of ‘militancy’ in the Niger Delta include state offences like kidnapping and murder, does Mr. President in fact have the power to grant amnesty for everything? Or are the State Governors on board?
Mr. President may well have the power to forgive people for things like treason, blowing up pipelines and so on, but since we all agree that a lot of ordinary criminals are hiding under the pretext of militant struggle for people’s rights to make a lot of money from kidnapping and the occasional murder, are we sure that Mr. President has any powers at all in these matters? OK, assuming that he has got some of the state governors in the Niger Delta to agree to the amnesty, Perceptor wonders whether he has GOT THAT IN WRITING from Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi? Perceptor only asks because when His Excellency did his own amnesty and one Mr. Chike Ibeku surrendered to the Rivers State Government, he vanished in a way that makes a lot of people think that he was ... extra-judicially executed (that’s murdered in plain language). So Perceptor wonders whether everybody is on board with this amnesty thing.
Also, Perceptor thinks it is all very well, Mr. President at last taking action on these matters, but does he in fact have the right to be so very generous with other people’s powers? It is one thing for a released kidnap victim to agree that in the interests of peace, nobody should be brought to book for kidnapping them, but suppose you are one of fourteen murdered soldiers? Yes, I know that you will be dead, but will your wife, children, parents, brothers and sisters feel quite so happy and sanguine about letting your killers off scot free?
3. How will Mr. President know that all arms have been surrendered?
Perceptor notices that ‘militants’ are supposed to go to ‘disarmament centres’ and hand in their weapons. Perceptor just wonders whether if ‘militants’ only bring in what they want to the centres, how will Mr. President and his Joint Task Force know what they’ve got at home? Or are they going to follow them home?
4. Where is the Honourable Attorney-General, Michael Aondoakaaa Esq. in all this?
Perceptor was a bit surprised to see Minister of the Interior Major-General Godwin Abbe, saying that he was ‘reaching out’ to Henry Okah over the Amnesty. Perceptor doesn’t know what ‘reaching out’ means (after all, they are the ones locking the man up in Jos aren’t they?), but Okah is only being tried. He hasn’t been convicted and even Asari Dokubo knows that you can’t be given a pardon if you haven’t been convicted! Perceptor is particularly surprised because Perceptor would have thought that the HA-G would be at the front of the ‘reaching out’, brandishing his nolle prosequi to put an end to all the charges against Mr. Okah. Perceptor was sure that he would have been as speedy and active as he seems to have been in the cases of the state governors. Perceptor hopes that the HA-G isn’t SULKING?
Cash and Carry
Perceptor’s eyes have finally stopped watering from the stings they got over the N400 million that was or was not stolen from Governor Gbenga Daniels of Ogun State, or from his cook or his cook’s bedroom or any combination of the above, and the N250 million that was being carried by contractor to the Anambra State Government, Mr. Ejike Onwusogbulu, who just happened to be riding in the ‘convoy’ of Governor Peter Obi of Anambra State. But what does all this signify? While OGD insists that nobody stole his own N400 million and that the N400 million with his cook is not his own N400 million, Perceptor is still confused. Meanwhile, Governor Peter Obi told Lagos police that the N250 million in his own convoy also wasn’t his own but that it was money paid to the contractor. He even rushed to Lagos to explain to the Lagos Police so that they would not hold on to the cash. Of course, Lagos State Commissioner of Police Mr. Marvel Akpoyibo is so nice that his people followed the governor to go and pay the cash into Spring Bank and handed the bank teller over to him. But Perceptor is very embarrassed that a governor who knows that people who are eager to roast him (See below – If At First You Don’t Succeed) should cover himself in oil and sit down so close to the fire that the police have been cheeky enough to leak their opinion that His Excellency had no satisfactory answer to the question why he was paying such a huge amount in cash instead of by bank draft. Imagine the impudence!
Anyway, Perceptor knows that at least the cook has faith in our Naija banks – abi wasn’t the N400 million found in his bank accounts? But what about our state governors? Don’t they have any confidence in our re-capitalised banks? Perceptor thinks we should be told ...
Rule of Law ... Update
Perceptor has never been one of those who claimed that the ‘Rule of Law’ is part of President Umaru Yar’Adua’s Seven Point ‘Agenda’, but still, since Mr. President said in his The Guardian interview that it was what he wanted to be remembered for, Perceptor is always alive to evidence of how his government is living up to his aspirations in this most important field. Or not.
At least, that is the only way Perceptor can look at the commitment of Mr. President and his appointees to upholding the Rule of Law as shown by the treatment of the Managing Director of Mobitel. He was detained by the EFCC, but has had to go to court to enforce his fundamental rights because the EFCC just kept him locked up without charging him with anything, even though the time limits for detaining people without charge had long passed.
Perceptor thought that upholding the Rule of Law means obeying the law, not that it means breaking it until someone has the guts, time and money to take you to court and get an order which you finally, reluctantly obey. Perceptor thought it meant upholding the law whether or not someone sues you to court! A point that Attorney-General Michael Aondoakaa seemed to be emphasising, when, in addressing a National Procurement Forum on “Fighting Corruption through Good Procurement Practices” (Please! Perceptor would ask that you don’t laugh), he said: “The desire is not to have Nigerians prosecuted but rather to make a just society where people will willingly obey law without being compelled.” Perceptor could hardly have put it better! Now, how to get the Yar’Adua/Aondoakaa administration to put those very words into practice. Any ideas? (Noooo! Not another committee!)
Seven Point Agenda ... Update
Perceptor thinks that it might have been a good idea for Mr. President and his mouthpiece to have kept quiet when his nominee for Central Bank Governor, Lamido Sanusi, suggested that the Seven Point ‘Agenda’ should be prioritised further. That way, it would have stopped nit-pickers like Perceptor from expecting him to achieve an improvement in the areas picked out for Presidential attention in the aforesaid SP‘A’. Like ... education. It’s true that there are differing interpretations about what is actually ON the SP‘A’, but ‘Education’ appears on nearly all of them.
A bit embarrassing then, that the Academic Staff of Universities Union has chosen to celebrate the two-year anniversary of Nigeria’s first graduate President by first of all a warning strike which achieved ... nothing (come ON ASUU! You didn’t really expect a graduate President to finally honour the agreement did you? You DID? Oh dear!) And now, having completed their two week warning strike with no result, ASUU is back on indefinite strike. As ever, the complaint is the government’s failure to live up to the agreement it signed with ASUU.
Of course, Mr. President’s SP‘A’ only lists ‘Education’. It doesn’t say what he wants to achieve in the field. So maybe what is on Mr. President’s as-yet-unrevealed actual Agenda is: Education – ruin same, drive 60% of existing university lecturers abroad, ensure that Nigerian universities don’t feature in the top 500 or even top 1,000 in any world table of excellence, reduce portion of budget devoted to education to 2.2% (ASUU is asking for 26%: non-graduate military dictator Abdulsalami Abubakar got as high as 11%, according to The Guardian). Now, if those are the goals under ‘Education’ in Mr. President’s Agenda, then Perceptor will have to concede that he is right on course! That’s probably why ASUU complained that Mr. President’s government had refused to meet with them, before, during or after the warning strike, and why, even now, it is only the Senate Committee on Education that seems to be doing anything to get the two sides talking in an effort to resolve the strike. Perceptor wonders whether Minister of Education, ex-Governor Sam Egwu, would have even bothered to do anything at all if not for the Senate Committee. And honestly, if it gets to a stage where Perceptor has to commend a Senate Committee for trying to do SOMETHING, well ...
*Minimum Wage Negotiation Panel: The Committee was originally set up with eight from the Federal Government, eight from the employers and eight from the workers. Then the FGN decided that they should have sixteen members. Now as far as Perceptor is concerned, even a 24-man committee is a BIIIIIG Committee. Not to mention an unwieldy one. But a 32-man one? Well, the NLC has complained, but Perceptor is worried that this doesn’t really suggest that the FGN really wants to achieve anything. Of course, the classic way of doing nothing is to set up a committee, but it is surely an ingenious twist to slow things down even more by stirring up an argument over the composition of the committee! Well, Perceptor is waiting for results sha ... ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
If At First You Don’t Succeed ...
Then Try, Try, Try again. This is obviously the mantra of Mr. ‘Andy’ Uba, who has gone back to court AGAIN to try to get some order that he is the Anambra State Governor, and that therefore, the Independent National Electoral Commission can’t conduct any fresh elections for whoever is to take over when Governor Peter Obi’s term expires in March 2010. Of course, having tried three times at the Supreme Court (and it really is ‘Three Strikes and You’re OUT’ at the Supreme Court which condemned Uba’s lawyers for bringing a third application before it just a few weeks ago), Uba couldn’t go back there. So this time, Uba is trying his luck at the Court of Appeal. And he’s got a different Senior Advocate of Nigeria to present his case. He wants the court to hold that he is the person who should take over in March 2010. Perceptor is watching with interest to see how he and his lawyers are going to explain that the 60 days in that bit of the Constitution which says that elections should not be held more than 60 days before the expiration of the term of the office that the election is for really means 1,069 days and that his April 14th 2007 election is good for an office that expires on March 17th 2010 ...
Perceptor doesn’t pretend to wish him good luck since the April 14th 2007 election was even more of a sham in Anambra than it was in other parts of the country. But Perceptor is certainly intrigued. WHY does Mr. Uba keep on going back to court? Why not simply buy himself another election in 2010? Honestly, Perceptor could almost believe that Mr. Uba thinks he’s paid for something that hasn’t yet been delivered!
The Blame Game
*Vice President Goodluck Jonathan (or vice versa) is blaming, er, criminals for what he seems to be looking into the future and seeing is likely to be a failure (at least, if it is supposed to put an end to kidnappings, pipeline blowings-up and general unrest in the Niger Delta. According to him, some criminals are profiting from the situation, and therefore preventing youths from accepting the amnesty. Well, Perceptor is so happy that the Vice President has realised that ordinary criminals were profiting from the unrest in the Niger Delta, and Perceptor would probably have swiftly consigned his statement to the Dustbin of Duuuuuh! but it does leave Perceptor a bit worried that for the Veep to come out openly and say it, as though perhaps the fact that people were making money from crime was not taken into account when the amnesty plans were being drawn up is, er, well, Perceptor will just be content with calmly suggesting that it is a matter of concern.
Perceptor is happy to see that Comrade Governor, putting all the non-progressive behaviour behind him, is now concentrating on improving people’s lives. News reports say that he has given jobs to 400 graduates under Edo State’s Youth Employment Scheme. Well, it’s not exactly the ‘masses’, but Perceptor supposes that Comrade Governor is starting at the top, and that jobs for the masses will follow later. Only Perceptor is a bit worried that the employment that seems to be being created is jobs ... in government! Perceptor isn’t sure that stuffing people into government jobs is really the solution to mass unemployment. Perceptor is conscious of Murphy’s Law – that work expands to fit the time available. Or, you might say, the number of workers available. And in the case of government work, what that means for helpless citizens who come into contact with government ministries, departments and agencies, is that they face an even higher mountain of red tape and nightmare of bureaucratic to-ing and fro-ing as all these extra hands create logjams to justify their positions (as well as throwing up gates that a toll must be paid to pass), with the classic result that embodied in the tale about Messrs. Anybody, Everybody, Somebody and Nobody ... Perceptor isn’t a big fan of ‘McJobs’, but Perceptor is sure that there must be some other jobs apart from ‘I-am-directed’ jobs. If there aren’t, Perceptor just hopes Comrade Governor isn’t sowing the seeds of future paralysis in Edo State.
Re-Branding and Home-Grown Solutions
Perceptor is so happy to have something to report under the ‘In support of Aunty Dora’ section. Or, rather, Perceptor would have been happy. But Perceptor has noticed what can only be described as an embarrassed silence, shuffling and averted eyes! Perceptor refers of course, to the oath administered for or against the Ogun State Governor that was taken by Members of the Ogun State House of Assembly. Perceptor would have thought that this was a fine opportunity to demonstrate a home-grown solution to an widespread problem, as well as highlighting the fact that – contrary to a lot of whining and lamenting (especially by worried Nigerians who live outside their fatherland) – our culture is alive and well. Perceptor would have expected the adherents of traditional religion to come out proudly to defend their faith and their manner of practising it. But somehow Perceptor seems to have got it wrong. Our Royal Fathers, custodians of our traditions, are disappointingly silent in the face of this golden opportunity to fly the flag (as it were). Or could it be ... oh! Perceptor has just realised! It was a SECRET oath-taking ceremony. So it stands to reason that the operative word is bound to be sssshhhhhhhhhhhhh...