Friday, April 29, 2016

The Rise Of Fulani Militants As World 4th Terror

By Law Mefor  
It is a story of the untouchables. They grew bolder and stronger right under our watch, while entrenched political and busi­ness interests force government af­ter government to feign ignorance and look the other way as they commit atrocities. They prance through the lengths and breadths of Nigeria with AK47 assault ri­fles, machine guns and sundry war weapons, killing, raping, maiming and sacking and razing communi­ties without consequences.

Call them ‘Fulani militants’ or ‘Fulani herdsmen’ or ‘cattle rustlers’. Whatever you choose to call them, it is the same gang of criminals who have grown and gained global record, since 2014, as the world’s 4th deadliest terror group, inferior only to ISIS, Al- Shabaab and of cause their kin called Boko Haram.

The latest in their trail of sor­row, tears and blood (as Fela would put it) is the ongoing Agatu mas­sacre, which prompted President Muhammadu Buhari, himself a Fulani, to order an investigation on February 28, 2016. Before the Agatu massacre, cattle herdsmen and cattle rustlers have caused similar mayhem in most parts of the Middle Belt, especially Plateau, Kogi and Benue. Other parts of the country are equally not spared by the rampaging brigands - Kaduna, Enugu, Imo, Zamfara, Kano, Kat­sina and many other States all have tales of woe about their gory visita­tions.

They come in the dead of the night when villagers are deep asleep and set their houses on fire. Those who manage to escape are shot. Their brazen killing of over 60 in Zamfara in 2014 was an opera­tion that lasted for hours with law enforcement agents doing nothing. From experience, therefore, noth­ing comes out of investigations launched into their evil activities and this has made them to grow wilder and stronger.

They are brazen and fearless and appear to enjoy consider­able political cover from the high and mighty. For example, rather than help find solutions to these increasing wars between Fulani militants and farmers, some peo­ple who are in a position to broker peace encourage their activities. Such persons like Mallam Nasir El- Rufai, former minister of the FCT and now Governor of Ka­duna State, who rather than find solutions to such threat to national security, could only tweet on July 15, 2012: “We will write this for all to read. Anyone, soldier or not, that kills the Fulani takes a loan repay­able one day no matter how long it takes”. Tacit approvals of such divi­sive and dangerous activities and unwitting protectiveness of those who perpetrate them, are no doubt contributing to their brazenness, arson and murder.

Their growth has been alarm­ingly steady and Government re­sponse only half-hearted. In 2013, the Fulani militants killed around 80 people in total. But by 2014, the group had killed 1,229. Operating mainly in the Middle Belt of Ni­geria and has also been known to stage attacks in the Central African Republic (CAR), according to the latest report from the Global Ter­rorism Index, the group has now gained reputation as a terror group.

Who Could Replace Robert Mugabe In Zimbabwe? [VIDEO]

*President Mugabe and wife, Grace
At 92 years of age, Robert Mugabe is the oldest-serving head of state on the African continent, and one of the oldest in the world.
But as time goes on and the president’s health comes under scrutiny, the national conversation in Zimbabwe is increasingly dominated by calls for Mugabe to step down and debates about who could replace him.
Earlier in April, thousands of supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, led by Morgan Tsvangirai, took to the streets in the capital Harare in the biggest opposition demonstration seen in Zimbabwe for years. Despite calls from the influential veterans of Zimbabwe’s independence war—in which the president himself fought—to step aside, Mugabe remains resolute as ever, saying he will stay in the post until he is 100 and will only hand over the presidency when “God says ‘come.’”
Newsweek considers who might replace the country’s only post-independence leader when—and if—he steps down.

Terror Nomads And Official Consent

By Louis Odion

I received an agitated call a fortnight ago from the most unexpected quarters. It was a response to the column written on the plague of trigger-happy herdsmen festering across the land.
The caller, a successful entrepreneur-cum-polemist and understandably a southerner, frowned at the writer's tone which he considered too conciliatory to the murderous nomads and, according to him, indulging official indifference with a reluctance to use harsh words. 
Honestly, I had thought the nation was already dragged into the perimeter of danger and the moral obligation of the columnist is to exercise utmost restraint in the circumstance; not inflaming passion any further.

In the said piece, one had enjoined the president not to leave the nation in doubt where he stands at this grave moment. One wrote: "Now is the time for President Buhari, himself a cattle farmer, to go beyond the normal call of duty to stave the dangerously growing perception that seeming official lethargy - if not indifference - to the continued killings is dictated by the spirit of kinship he shares with the rampaging herdsman or that the nomad's renewed audacity, this genocidal reflex, feeds on the opium of expected solidarity from the top."
But with the latest pogrom in Enugu on Monday, one now feels compelled by a sense of shame to admit that the blood of the innocent is probably on those of us whose circumspection, ordinarily a respectable gesture of moderation, would have inadvertently stirred in the victims a will not to resort to self-help, naively hoping a bunch of unreconstructed savages could be overpowered with the show of civility. From what is now known, the aggressors seem emboldened all along to scale up their barbarism by every turn, aware the rest of the society are unwilling to lift a finger. The latest killing of 48 citizens in Enugu in cold blood was totally avoidable had the various security agencies under federal command been alive to their duties.
Sadly, the villagers of Ukpabi Nimbo saw their own assassins coming days ahead. But the authorities failed to take steps to shield them. Coming barely a month after the Agwu 76 were abducted by "unknown soldiers" from the same Enugu and held hostage in Abia for protesting the herdsmen's excesses, nothing could be more provocative. Among the latest casualties was of a fresh graduate, Eze Patrick Okechukwu, who just passed out from the NYSC few days ago, and an octogenarian who, at such fragile age, must have looked forward to a peaceful transition. 
Their spokesman, George Ajogu, put things in perspective Tuesday when the state officials joined them to count their dead: "Had the security agencies responded appropriately, this would not have happened. (The herdsmen) did not take us unawares, we knew they were coming. Because we lack security, the Fulani come here and tell us the land is theirs. They tell the farmers to kneel down and they rape the women in front of their husbands."
Elsewhere in Obiaruku in Delta State the following day, the ubiquitous armed herdsmen also went on rampage. No fewer than eight farmers were seized from their farms in apparent retaliation of alleged killing of four cows in the locality. The captives were only released later in the afternoon after the youths had mobilized. 
Given the brutality of the slaughter and the intensity of destruction of homes (including churches), it was clear the Enugu attack was carefully planned and clinically executed. Strangely, the president only broke his silence Wednesday after the deed had been done. It apparently took the outrage expressed from a section of the country over the latest killings before the Commander-in-Chief formally deemed it necessary to direct a crackdown on these killing gangs. The message was delivered by Information Minister Lai Mohammed. 
But considering the gravity of the issues now raised, the least expected is Buhari speaking directly to the nation. In the circumstance, timing is every thing. The message and the messenger arrived almost too late.
The burden of guilt over the blood already shed is therefore more on the president who seems unable to read or appreciate that the growing epidemic of murder, its geographical slant, the attendant ethnic eruptions and social disruptions do not just undermine his credibility as a unifying leader but also the stability of the nation at large. It is high time he realized there has to be a country first before he can be addressed as a president. 
The other day, the government did not consider it out of place to liken pipeline vandalization to terrorism, putting the saboteurs on notice they would henceforth receive the Boko Haram treatment. So, why was it so difficult for the president to come out openly and read the riot's act to the band of murderers who undoubtedly constitute much bigger threat, in fact seemingly hell-bent on putting a sharp knife on the last strand of the already threadbare gaiter tremulously latching the nation together? Really, the impression thus unwittingly created is that the oil flowing in the pipeline is more treasured than the blood flowing in the veins of the citizens.
On Tuesday, the Emir of Ilorin, Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, lent his weighty voice to the popular clamour for a decisive step before too late: "It behoves on the Federal Government to be more serious on the issue so that it doesn't become another Boko Haram on our hands." Though, he believes the AK-47 -wielding herders are not Fulani but "wandering and migrating tribe of people going everywhere." If indeed they are "foreigners", then the puzzle: why is it so difficult for the Nigerian state to frontally take the supposed "invaders" out?
What the latest Enugu massacre again underscores is the gross inadequacy of the nation's current security architecture and the imperative of one that is responsive and responsible to local need. Today, the security forces in every state are not answerable to the resident political authorities. Even in the hour of emergency, Abuja's order is still considered superior to that of the state governor. It explains why the state security meeting summoned by the Enugu governor Sunday following credible intelligence that something sinister was afoot ended up in vain. Various pledges of commitment made by the local heads of all the security agencies at the meeting (said to have dragged till early hours ofMonday) were of no consequence when the attackers struck at Ukpabi Nimbo few hours later.
Much more fundamental is the alienation of the security personnel themselves. In perpetuation of the unitarist credo of military rule, officers are deployed outside their ethnic origin. In the moment of temptation, most then naturally view conflicts from ethno-religious lens. It probably explains why when the villagers of Ukpabi Nimbo cried out for help for days, no one seemed to have understood their language. 
Sadder still, on Wednesday, I read an article in The Nation entitled "Ranches Or Prison For Herdsmen?" written by Sale Bayari, the Secretary-General of the cattle farmers known as Gan Allah Fulani Development Association (GAFDAN), and my heart sank. In case Bayari was speaking for all members, then more troubles still lie ahead. So far, the only silver lining in the dark clouds was the assurance that the stakeholders and the relevant authorities had narrowed down the options to either setting up ranches or grazing reserves to fix the perennial clashes between herdsmen and farm-owners. 
Given deep cultural complexities of the country on top of pervasive ethnic suspicion, the consensus is that the option of ranch will be more feasible for now. But Bayari argues passionately that the herders would settle for nothing other than grazing reserve. Curiously, this seems to be Buhari's own thinking, with the Agric minister announcing few weeks ago that arrangement had been concluded to import improved grass seeds to cultivate the proposed 50,000 hectares of grazing reserves within six months.
Plausible as he might sound, Bayari's argument hardly takes into account the sensibilities of other ethnic stakeholders, particularly people of the Middle Belt and the entire south who view the idea of setting up grazing reserves across the country today as a dangerous seed that will, in foreseeable future, germinate into a Fulani take-over of the Nigerian space in entirety, thereby fulfilling jihadist Othman Dan Fodio's expansionist vision more than two centuries ago. 
Much as Bayari is free to dream of grazing land without borders, fear of possible acculturation harbored by others can however not be wished away.
Perhaps, a taste of what to expect came from Oyo during the week. Without mincing words, Governor Abiola Ajimobi declared not an inch of his state territory will be ceded to Buhari's grazing reserves: "This is the time to call a spade a spade. Those clamouring for creation of grazing zones across the country should have a rethink. It is against the Land Use Act. It is against the law of natural justice to seize people's land to cater for someone's cattle."
Obviously, Buhari now faces the first real acid test that may potentially define his presidency. 

Mr. Odion is former Commissioner of Information, Edo State

Mr. President, Get Herdsmen Off Our Farms!

By MajiriOghene Etemiku  
As part of what I do in my spare time, and in line with my belief that the earth is the Lord’s with the fullness thereof, I tend a farm in my compound. On that little farm, I cultivate shallow rooted crops like maize, watermelons, tomato and pumpkins leaves and manage a mini poultry. Every morning after my family wakes up and finish with our prayers, we descend on our farm.  And on weekends I would gather the whole family together to weed the farm, tend and water our crops. While in the farm, the feeling is akin to obedience to a holy injunction that we should till the earth, subdue and take care of it.
Some of my friends and colleagues who have seen my farm are pleasantly surprised at the emerald effervescence of my maize, melon and pumpkin. They have no idea that I had taken the trouble to visit the ADP in Benin City for healthy seedlings which I understand can be harvested in three instead of six months it takes for crops to mature. I know that Nigerians are a laid-back lot, preferring to import food rather than grow it. My wife has happily taken to harvesting pumpkin and water leaves from this farm with which she prepares the family’s favourite – vegetable soup.

I don’t joke with my farm. I am my farm, my farm is me. Even though it is not as large and as capital-intensive as the Obasanjo Farms, I take great pride in it. I see myself as a metaphor for the thousands in my village Uzere who have invested time, money and their lives into eking a living from the land like our ancestors. Touch my farm, go near it and you would be looking for trouble. I remember growing up as a child in Uzere – that I ate so much fish and so much kpokpo gari to the extent that it seemed like paradise.
Over the years, however, as a result of the activities of the Nigerian government and its cohorts, the multinationals that prospect for oil to feed Nigeria, nearly every piece of land and river has been polluted. The pawpaw trees are dead, the cassava, the yams are not growing anymore and that is because the soil is soaked with crude oil. The rivers where we once took a haul of shrimps and baskets of eba and ero fishes, where we once took our bath and drinking water are all dried up. In their places are artificial lakes, aka burrow pits that have dislocated the aquatic balance of our community. When it rains, we dare not drink the water, and that is because gases that have been flared since 1957 in my village coagulate and return as gooey residue on the pots and pans which we put outside to collect the rain water. These were the issues that Ogoni leader, Kenule Saro-Wiwa, took head on, and which his predecessor Isaac Adaka Boro championed before they were killed.

Cattle Herdsmen As The New Boko Haram?

By Reuben Abati 
“No matter how far the town, there is another beyond it” – Fulani Proverb.
There has been so much emotionalism developing around the subject of the recent clashes between nomadic pastoralists and farmers, and the seeming emergence of the former as the new Boko Haram, forbidding not Western education this time, but the right of other Nigerians to live in peace and dignity, and to have control over their own geographical territory. From Benue, to the Plateau, Nasarawa, to the South West, the Delta, and the Eastern parts of the country, there have been very disturbing reports of nomadic pastoralists killing at will, raping women, and sacking communities, and escaping with their impunity, unchecked, as the security agencies either look the other way or prove incapable of enforcing the law.  The outrage South of the Sahel is understandable. It is argued, rightly or wrongly, that the nomadic pastoralist has been overtaken by a certain sense of unbridled arrogance arising from that notorious na-my-brother-dey-power mentality and the assumption that “the Fulani cattle” must drink water, by all means, from the Atlantic Ocean.
It is this emotional ethnicization of the crisis that should serve as a wake-up call for the authorities, and compel the relevant agencies to treat this as a national emergency deserving of pro-active measures and responses. It is not enough to issue a non-committal press statement or make righteous noises and assume that the problem will resolve itself. Farmer-pastoralist conflict poses a threat to national security. It is linked to a number of complex factors, including power, history, citizenship rights and access to land. Femi Fani-Kayode in a recent piece has warned about Nigeria being “on the road to Kigali”, thus referring to the genocide that hobbled Rwanda in the 90s as the Hutus and the Tutsis drew the sword against each other. Fani-Kayode needs not travel all the way to Rwanda. Ethnic hate has done so much damage in Nigeria already; all we need is to learn from history and avoid repeating the mistakes of the past.
Ethnic hate, serving as sub-text to the January 1966 and July 1966 coups, for example, set the stage for the civil war of 1967 -70. The root of Igbo-Hausa/Fulani acrimony can be traced back to that season when Igbos were slaughtered in the North, the Hausa/Fulani were slaughtered in the East and Nigeria found itself in the grip of a “To Thy Tents, O Israel chorus. Ethnic hate also led to the Tiv riots, crisis in the Middle Belt since then, and the perpetual pitching of one ethnic group against the other in Nigeria’s underdeveloped politics. We should be careful.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Rethinking The National Assembly

Lewis Obi
It took the distribution of exquisite luxury cars that cost N57 million apiece to members of the Senate to shock Nigerians from their slumber and resignation. To a great many Ni­gerians, the National Assembly has become like the malady without cure, which must be endured. Perhaps the nearly N3 billion spent on vehicles the senators did not need, at a time the nation could not afford it, might be the overreach that finally serves as the last straw.
It might not. But the “Occupy National As­sembly” protests which began earlier in the week was a signal that at last Nigerians are beginning to lose their cool and are starting to voice it out.
The demands of the protesters were modest: immediate resignation of the Senate President, Dr. Olusola Saraki; the return of the expensive vehicles by the senators; and the revision of the 2016 budget. In a real democracy, the stu­dents and others who staged the “Occupy Na­tional Assembly” would never have needed to protest. A senate president facing something akin to felony and perjury charges would not need a reminder to step aside. It’s expected to be automatic. The vehicle purchase by the senate was a clear case of abuse of power, a flagrant misuse of the constitutional power of the purse, and the senate cannot point to any country in the world where such a purchase would be contemplated much less executed.
Nigeria has never been a nation of pro­testers, a fact which tyrants have exploited to perpetrate all kinds of enormities in the military dictatorship era. Now the National Assembly has latched on the same theory to stand democracy on its head and to contin­ue to assume that Nigerians wouldn’t know the difference.
Senate Majority Leader Ali Ndume took on the protesters and was quoted in a newspaper as saying that no form of pro­test would force anyone to resign from the National Assembly because the protest­ers were not the people who elected them in the first place. The 107 vehicles would not be returned because they were meant for the senators to carry out their various committee assignments and the vehicles remain the property of the National As­sembly. On television Senator Ndume said that the National Assembly was the differ­ence between autocracy or dictatorship and democracy. In other words, take away the National Assembly and all you have is dic­tatorship.
Senator Ndume is never given to mod­esty and when he speaks Nigerians see a tyrant in democratic garb. The reason no form of protest would force anyone to re­sign from the National Assembly is because the National Assembly is not a democratic institution in the first place. With very few exceptions, the seats were bought and paid for in millions, sometimes, hundreds of mil­lions of Naira of dubiously acquired wealth which partly accounts for the desperation of members to claw at everything and use all kinds of machinations in their quest for wealth in order to retain their positions.

Fuel Scarcity And A Culture Of Scapegoat

By Ikeogu Oke   
Reading some of the public commentaries – and other forms of reactions –   on the current fuel crisis and associated issues, I was reminded of why I opposed the controversial call to kill the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) made last year by a prominent Nigerian politician. The politician reportedly summed up his justification for the call with the words: “If you don’t kill the NNPC, it will kill Nigeria.” Clearly, those words should incline all patriotic Nigerians to see the country’s survival and theirs as dependent on their killing NNPC at a time when, due to various factors, its popularity was arguably at its nadir.
Prominent among those factors were allegations of massive corruption and chronic mismanagement. And since we would naturally like to survive together with our country and be rid of things that pose a fatal threat to our joint existence (as the call implies about NNPC), I believe the politician in question expected us to accept the kill-or-be-killed scenario he created and act like people who understand that self-preservation is the first law of nature. An instance of the instigation or blackmail to kill for supposed self-preservation couldn’t have been more subtle or effective to the discerning mind.
Now, one of such public commentaries is Moses E. Ochonu’s “Dr. Kachikwu’s Blunders” – published recently in Sahara Reporters and Premium Times – which more or less sums up the predicament of the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources in managing the current fuel scarcity in the country thus: “Whatever he is doing is not working… The man thrives on deception and propaganda…. He deserves whatever opprobrium is heaped on him.” Let me say en passant that this sort of criticism is too harsh and demoralising. The function of the responsible social critic is to build hope while identifying problems, and not to demoralise. Ochonu’s criticism demoralises by its unjustified total condemnation of its target and his efforts, and by spreading despair.
And by other forms of reactions, I refer to such call made by the leaders of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) on the Network News of the Africa Independent Television (AIT) on April 11, 2016, asking for the minister’s resignation.

Insurgency By Other Means

By Amanze Obi
I have just been reading one of the most re­cently published books on the Biafran War in which Lt. Col. Yakubu Gowon was quoted as saying, through his August 3, 1966 broadcast to the nation, that the basis for Nigeria’s unity no longer existed. Gowon was then Nigeria’s Head of State. His broadcast was fallout of the ominous events of the period. A revenge coup had just taken place in which Igbo military of­ficers were systematically eliminated by their northern counterparts. 
*Gowon and Buhari 
Because Gowon, a lily-livered officer from the Middle Belt, could not but do the bidding of the northern oligarchs who controlled him, his government could not protect the defenceless Igbo officers. He could also not protect the Igbo civilian population in the north. An organised massacre otherwise known as pogrom carried out against the Igbo under the watch of Gowon saw to the elimina­tion of about one million Igbo in the North. The result was the Biafran War in which a Gowon, who had earlier told the world that the basis for Nigeria’s unity no longer existed, suddenly declared that keeping Nigeria united was a task that must be done.
Ordinarily, we should be saying that the rest is now history. But we cannot. The wound is as fresh as ever. Gowon says he is now praying for the country, which he brought to its knees. That is hypocrisy at play. His occasional inter­jections on Biafra usually betray his private convictions. Gowon is, therefore, deceiving no one but himself with his prayer project.
We cannot also say that the events of January 1966 to January 1970 are now history because there has always been a constant playback of the insanity of the era. Nigeria has, from time to time, been engulfed by ethnic flames. Our governments, as pretentious as ever, have al­ways papered over such developments. They have always made them appear as if they were isolated occurrences. But we know that such sectional strifes are a constant staple on Nige­ria’s table.
The present security situation in the country clearly betrays and exposes the institutionalised pretences that successive governments in Ni­geria have been taking us through. They have always told us that Nigeria is a great country of diverse peoples, who have great faith in the entity. We may not quarrel with this romantic and paradisal portrayal of Nigeria. After all, it is not a crime to engage in mental flights. But when we refuse to face reality, then we have ourselves to blame for the lack and loss that it may bring about.
We have seen Boko Haram insurgency for what it is – a murderous quest by Islamic fun­damentalists to extend the frontiers of Islam in Nigeria. The affront has cost Nigeria so much in human and material terms. Yet, the misguid­ed religious zealots have not come anywhere close to realising their objectives. The insur­gency has remained a northern phenomenon. Boko Haram has no foothold anywhere in southern Nigeria.
But it would appear that whatever Boko Ha­ram has failed to achieve in the South, the Fu­lani herdsmen have undertaken to accomplish. I did say in this column a fortnight ago that we should be imaginative a bit in this matter. We should stop to ask why herdsmen, who have been roaming the length and breath of Nigeria for years on end have suddenly become a prob­lem. Is cattle-rearing a new phenomenon in Nigeria? We know it is not. So, why has it sud­denly become a blight in the land? We should ponder this question.
I suspect, as I hinted earlier, that Fulani herdsmen have undertaken to accomplish a task, which Boko Haram, for logistical rea­sons, could not broach. The recent activities of Fulani herdsmen in southern Nigeria is sug­gestive of insurgency. It is Boko Haram in a different form and shape. And the target is to infiltrate the South of the country, which the conventional Boko Haram could not penetrate. That is the way it starts.

This Could Lead To War

By Ochereome Nnanna
 ON Wednesday last week, I was at the Enugu State High Court to attend a session. Shortly before 10am, a large number of prisoners, accompanied by their wardens, arrived. 

President Buhari The prisoners’ warden who came to our own courtroom with his wards stood with us in the corridor as the court was packed with lawyers, plaintiffs, respondents, court staff and other interested persons. After a while, a discussion naturally came up about the menace of Fulani cattle herders all over the country.
The prison warden who obviously hailed from Enugu State opened up and said the situation in the state was “horrible”. “I went to my hometown last weekend. I was just resting in my room in the afternoon when, all of a sudden I started hearing ‘hm-hm-hm’. I looked out of my window into my garden. I was shocked at what I saw: cows everywhere! They were eating everything in the garden. I came out and saw three young Fulani men. They were armed with AK-47 assault rifles, the type that we in the Service never have the opportunity to touch. The boys just looked at me and continued to mind their cows. There was nothing I could do because I knew they were ready to shoot at any slightest opportunity”.

Barely five days later on Monday, 25th April, there was breaking news all over the Internet on an outbreak of fighting between Fulani herdsmen and indigenes in Nimbo, Uzo Uwani Local Government Area, a northern precinct of Enugu State. According to the news which was later confirmed, seven villages in Nimbo (Nimbo Ngwoko, Ugwuijoro, Ekwuru, Ebor, Enugu Nimbo, Umuome, and Ugwuachara) were attacked by the herdsmen, leaving between 40 and 48 people dead (many with their throats slit, Boko Haram style) and over 60 injured. 

Residential homes and a church were razed. Indigenes of the community fled to nearby Nsukka town. Can I hear you say: “Agatu Season 2”? Come to think of it: Agatu is not far from Uzo Uwani. Benue and Enugu share a common boundary. It would seem that, having “conquered” Agatu, the Fulani militia deployed to take over the South East. News had it that days to the attack, there were rumours that 500 heavily-armed Fulani militiamen were camped in the bushes ready to attack. The Directorate of State Service (DSS) under Director General, Alhaji Lawal Daura, did nothing about it. DSS could not re-enact the speed and expedition with which they allegedly discovered fifty corpses in shallow graves in Abia State, five of which they identified as being those of people of Fulani stock, though they did not tell us the ethnic background of the rest forty five dead men. 

It was not until these vandals had despatched innocent and defenceless villagers to their early graves that we got reports of police and military deployment to the area. Perhaps, they were there to shut the stable door after the horse had escaped. That is the type of “law enforcement” the security agencies of this country are very good at providing. Before now, people were asking who these “herdsmen” really were. For me, it is not just who they are that matters the most, as that is now obvious. What interests me more is: what really is their mission?

Rampaging Fulani Herdsmen: Time To Tame The Monster

Mike Ozekhome
When I was growing up in the sixties and seventies, we saw Fulani herdsmen, herding their cattle along the then desolate Agenebode-Auchi Road. The cattle defecated on the road, in a trail that stretched across kilometres. We would clap, dance and welcome them with songs of “malu, kova, daba daba kova, ikpisa yeghe the lakhia, edu nukpotha mho abo, ne the gbe la kpu kpu” (cows with hooves, being led by idle old men, who wield sticks with which they flogged them ceaselessly).
The herdsmen, sticks across their shoulders, large straw Panama hats on their heads, a pitcher of water, visible amulets on their necks and arms, would simply smile at our innocence, and pass by. The relationship between them and the natives was tranquil and cordial. These were those good old days. Not anymore. Times have since changed.
The modern herdsmen
The modern Fulani herdsmen constitute a bunch of rampaging, combatant armies, wielding modern day sophisticated weapons. They invade whole communities as they did Agatu, take them hostage, maim, kill, set their houses ablaze, rape their women and daughters and shoot down the youth, escaping the inferno of homes they set ablaze. In their orgy of violence, armed robbery, carnage and bloodbath, comparable only to the invidious and incidious Boko Haram insurgency, they kidnap and murder in cold blood, traditional rulers, women, men and even clerics. No one is safe. No farmer escapes their unprovoked wrath.
They leave their host communities dehumanised and traumatised in pains, pangs, sweat, tears, sorrow and blood. Indigenes become strangers on their land, sleeping in the forests, or where they still do, in their communities, with one eye open. Farmers are wholly displaced from their ancestral lands. From Agatu to Agenebode, Ubulu Uku to Okada, Lokoja to Ondo, Mbaise to Oyo, it is the same story of palpable neo-colonialism and recolonisation, by a new set of acolytes of powerful mechantilistic cattle czars. The traditional ruler of Ubulu Uku was killed in cold blood, in most horrendous and horrific circumstances. Sophisticated weapons are freely brandished and used, perhaps, the only set of Nigerians that can wield weapons openly and brazenly, without sanctions or repercussions. Elder statesman, Chief Olu Falae, was kidnapped, right in his own farm, by these terrorists. His family paid ransom for his release. The herdsmen have only recently just descended on the same farm and killed Falae’s security guard. The septuagenarian nationalist cried aloud that he did not know what they want with him.
These few examples are only known because of their high profile nature. Thousands of Nigerians undergo this new orgy of violence every day, without mention.
The incubation of national explosion by the  National Assembly

Getting Paid For Blunders

By Paul Onomuakpokpo  
At the height of the recession in 2008, those on the sidelines of the corporate world were scandalised by the blithe ease with which chief executive officers (CEOS) of companies, especially those in the United States were giving themselves hefty compensation. This came in the form of robust salaries, bonuses, stock option, severance pay and  other  benefits. Even those CEOs whose remorseless mismanagement of their companies triggered financial catastrophes that led to the collapse of their institutions and the loss of jobs by thousands of workers gave themselves robust reward packages. Of course, nobody would have protested if the compensation the CEOs were giving themselves were a reward for making their companies to meet their organisational goals, even surpass them and bring prosperity to their shareholders and workers.
Even in Nigeria, in the midst of the crisis, some CEOs, especially those of banks were busy buying private jets and fancy vehicles for themselves and acquiring properties all over the world. But after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) took over some of these banks, there were several allegations of how these CEOs who were living big were actually deploying their organisations’ finances including those of shareholders and depositors to cater to their lavish lifestyles. While some of these CEOs were deprived of their banks, others managed to return to those institutions in higher capacities as chairmen. But before the crisis eased, some shareholders of these banks who sold their houses and used all their life savings to invest in them had taken their own lives.
Recent developments at MTN, a telecommunications giant, evoke the sad memories of the global recession. The MTN forced its CEO in South Africa and his counterpart in Nigeria to resign when they bungled a directive by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to register the telephone numbers of its subscribers in Nigeria. Outraged, the Nigerian government through the NCC asked the company to pay a N1.4 trillion fine. The matter has dragged on, and despite the MTN’s hiring of a U.S. attorney to negotiate with the Nigerian government, no truce has been brokered. The crisis has inflicted a heavy toll: the prices of the company’s shares have crashed on the South African stock exchange, jobs have been lost and some subscribers of the company have switched patronage. It was amid these developments that the news broke this week that MTN has paid the two former CEOs a severance package worth N560 million.
All these developments tend to reinforce the notion that in the world of business there is neither justice nor morality. Or else why should the CEOs who created problems for the company be the ones to be rewarded while the other stakeholders in the company, including  employees and shareholders are made to either suffer job loss or a cut in salary if at all they are still employed while  investors have the value of their shares whittled down? In justifying the payment of CEOs after taking their organisations through paths that are paved with calamitous consequences, there is often the argument that they are experts who take risks on behalf of their companies. But such an argument is invalidated in so far as whatever risk the CEOs may have taken that does not redound to the bottom line of their companies should elicit censure and not seeming approbation. Indeed, it is not because the CEOs are right that they succeed in paying themselves heavy compensation after making their companies to suffer huge losses. It is rather that through a certain canny dispensation of favour to those who could have challenged them, they rather get their support.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Buhari: Phase Two

By Chuks Iloegbunam
Everyone must keep their eyes on the ball. Muham­madu Buhari has, with little drama, slipped into Phase Two of his presidency. Giv­en the texture of Phase One, this new phase could deliver somber­ness and dissemblance. For those who didn’t get it, or who pretend after the fact not to have gotten it, Buhari’s Phase One stressed one point: All that glitters is not gold. It wasn’t that people were una­ware of the possibility of stuff like clay, rubber and wood glinting on account of some polish. It was that the hoopla that attended the shimmer of the recycled “gem­stone” was unprecedented.
But, as Nigerians would say it, after the race, the calculation of the distance covered! There were scores of experts in calculus at the starting point. Strangely, what had been hyped as one joy­ous calculators’ adventure quick­ly came to grief, reason being that there was precious little to mark on the achievements’ mar­gin. Good promises, like candy bars, had of course, been made to be broken.

There had been (or hadn’t there been?) a number of warn­ing voices in those heady days of the change mantra’s eruption, Sputnik-like, raring to tear into and through outer space. One of such voices – that of Chuk­wuma Charles Soludo – wasn’t even oppositional to the touted humankind’s final hope. This was Professor Soludo a month to the presidential ballot: “The APC promises to create 20,000 jobs per state in the first year, totaling a mere 720,000 jobs. This sounds like a quota system and for a country where the new entrants into the labour market per an­num exceed two million. If it was intended as a joke, APC must please get serious…”

“Did I hear that APC prom­ises a welfare system that will pay between N5,000 and N10,000 per month to the poorest 25 million Nigerians? Just this programme alone will cost between N1.5 and N3 trillion per annum. Add to this the cost of free primary education plus free meal (to be funded by the federal budget or would it force non-APC state governments to implement the same?), plus some millions of public housing, etc. I have tried to cost some of the promises by both the APC and the PDP, given alternative scenarios for public finance and the numbers don’t add up. Nigerians would be glad to know how both parties would fund their programmes. Do they intend to accentuate the huge public debt, or raise taxes on the soon to-be-beleaguered private businesses, or massively devalue the naira to rake in bas­kets of naira from the dwindling oil revenue, or embark on huge fiscal retrenchment with the sack of labour and abandonment of projects…

“The presidential election will be won by either Buhari or Jona­than. For either, it is likely to be a pyrrhic victory. None of them will be able to deliver on the fan­tastic promises being made on the economy, and if oil prices re­main below $60, I see very diffi­cult months ahead, with possible heady collisions with labour, civil society, and indeed the citizenry.”

Monday, April 25, 2016

Is WAEC In A Comatose State?

By Issah Sulemana
Everybody’s attention has been drawn to the current leaked WASSCE examination papers and the connotative damage it has inflicted on the national psyche in terms of the calibre of students and for that matter the labour force in the country. One would have expected WAEC to as it were, act swiftly and decisively to extinguish the flame that has been kindled by ‘who knows who’ did what, when and how? that has left the nation in a bottomless abyss of confusion. Needless to say, immorally triumphanting in the hopeless light of fraud cannot be accepted in any part of the world not even within the inhabitants of utopia.

My heart weeps for the country when I see students voraciously devouring the so called leaked questions on whatsapp, neglecting their books in the process while they browse the stuff on smart phones. With a display of open glee the numbskulls are seen scampering around as late as two a.m to either receive a whatsapp message or copy the stuff on pieces of paper.

Leaking examination papers seems to be a norm in the West African sub-region and students now think it is their inalienable right to receive such information and go a step further to wonder why authorities are bent on thwarting their brazen importunity. Talking about the calibre of students churned out by this system is akin to kicking against the pricks since there is nothing good to write home about the current crop of students.

In essence, I am one of those who anathematize the use of pidgin english to cover up for the deficiencies of our own iniquities kindred to the British High Commissioner his Excellency Jon Benjamen, who had to lash out on the news caster, Nana Aba Anamoah for a tweet the latter made in pidgin english.

Of course she ought to have known that her carrier as a journalist projected her in a light that attracted people of all walks of life to emulate her way of speaking and writing and therefore she must show a pesdesstrian example and not to wallow in antiquated, incongrous enlish language. Those who think that the high commissioner’s response to the news caster’s epic fallibility was condescending badinage are making an egregious mistake.

Nigeria: Blackmail As An Act Of Corruption

By Ikechukwu Amaechi
Nigeria is an interesting country. All you need do to have fun is sit back and watch the unbelievable drama in this theatre of the absurd.
Despite the very difficult times, you cannot but be amused. It is one day, one drama. The dramatis personae, the cast, are as interesting as their art.
Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu
So, when the news broke on Tuesday, April 19 that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) named Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, its Anti Corruption Ambassador and went to his lair, the National Assembly (NASS), to do the investiture, I knew that a new drama was in the offing and it would be a long running series.
Ekwere who? was the first question on my mind.
I was nonplussed, not because I adjudged him unworthy of the award, but knowing the character of this administration and the belief of President Muhammadu Buhari that all Nigerian politicians are corrupt, particularly those in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the overt endorsement of his sentiment by the EFCC, my first reaction was that some smart Alecs had conned Ekweremadu.
That was even before the drama unfolded fully and the facts became clearer.
Now we know that Ekweremadu was not fleeced by con artists. The visit and investiture were carried out by the EFCC’s NASS Liaison Officer, Suleiman Bakari, who led a team of officials of the anti-graft agency.
The EFCC team officially applied to visit Ekweremadu for the sole purpose of giving him the award.
On the appointed date, Bakari and his team went to his office clutching a plaque with a picture of Buhari bearing the inscription: “If we don’t kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.”
Conferring the award, Bakari said to Ekweremadu: “It is, therefore, my honour, your excellency, to, on behalf of my acting Chairman, Ibrahim Mustafa Magu, and the entire management and staff of the EFCC, decorate you as an Anti Corruption Ambassador and formally present this frame as a token of our appreciation to your person and office, and as a symbol of institutional partnership between the EFCC and the National Assembly.”
The EFCC, thereafter, solicited the support of the NASS in the anti-corruption crusade of the Buhari administration.
An elated Ekweremadu responded in kind, calling for the establishment of Special Anti Corruption Courts to reduce the burden on regular courts and fast-track trial of corruption cases.
He thanked the EFCC for the honour and promised that the bills before the NASS aimed at strengthening the fight against corruption would get speedy attention.
But 24 hours later, all hell was let loose at the EFCC. It issued a statement rejecting Ekweremadu as its ambassador and disowned Bakari.
A statement issued on Wednesday, April 20 by EFCC Head of Media and Publicity, Wilson Uwujaren, said: “The EFCC totally dissociates itself from the purported action of Bakari as he acted entirely on his own and clearly outside his liaison officer brief as he was never instructed by [Magu] nor mandated by the management and staff of the Commission to decorate Ekweremadu or any officer of the National Assembly as ‘Anti Corruption Ambassador.”
The investiture and the disclaimer are interesting scenes in the EFCC-Ekweremadu drama series.

Budget Stalemate And National Woes

By Dan Amor
For all you may care to know, the 2016 Appro­priation Bill, like its pre­decessors, has continued to generate heat between the Ex­ecutive and the Legislature one month into the second quarter of the year. Some analysts have ascribed the feud between the Presidency and the National As­sembly over the 2016 Budget to the trial of the Senate President Dr. Bukola Saraki by the Code of Conduct Tribunal over the al­leged false declaration of assets by Saraki.
They believe that the Na­tional Assembly is trying to use the budget as a bargaining chip to cut a deal with the Presidency in order to give the Senate Presi­dent a soft-landing. And, as they say, when two elephants fight, the grass suffers, Nigerians are facing untold hardship as a result of the protracted delay in the passage of the budget. Yet, unnecessary Executive/Legislative conflicts have come to characterise the annual budget making process in the country and, to a large ex­tent, undermine the effectiveness of budgets in delivering to Nige­rians the so-called dividends of democracy. These conflicts have arisen in spite of the actual deline­ation of roles and responsibilities of the Executive vis-a-vis the Leg­islature particularly the extent of authority regarding variations to key assumptions incorporated in the Appropriation Bill by the Ex­ecutive that should be allowed the Legislature. In the particular case of the 2016 Appropriation Bill, the National Assembly went too far.

Section 4 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nige­ria 1999 (as amended) is unam­biguously clear about the role of the National Assembly and its responsibilities as the Podium of the elected representatives of the people. Also, Sections 80-83 publish the role of the Legislature with specific respect to the man­agement of the nation’s finances. Whereas, in exercising its over­sight functions, the Legislature is empowered by the Constitution to either add to or subtract from the allocation forwarded to it by the Executive, it can always do that in consultation with the lat­ter. The Constitution does not empower the National Assembly to create new clauses or remove in its entirety an item already budg­eted for by the Executive without the consent of the latter. The cur­rent unbridled legislative rascality being displayed by our lawmak­ers is nothing but the hangover of irascible corruption which was the stock-in-trade of previous leg­islatures since 1999.

No doubt, the received wisdom and the practice of the presidential system of de­mocracy indubitably accords the Legislature unfettered authority to vary any aspect of the budget proposal preferably in consulta­tion with the Executive, as noted above, as an integral part of the approval process. To ensure that the decision to alter the content of the Appropriation Bill prior to approval is not whimsical or driven by selfish considerations, it is recommended that exclusive and far-reaching consultations and collaboration between the Executive and Legislature should characterise the budget prepara­tion process.

But in the context of the pre­vailing situation, the Legislature is yet to establish a full-fledged, appropriately staffed Legislative Research and Budget Office and, to that extent, is handicapped by the lack of a robust basis upon which to perform its approval and oversight functions. In the United States of America from where we borrowed our Executive Presidential system, internation­ally celebrated economists and reputable experts such as Profes­sor John Kenneth Galbraith, are constantly hired by the Legislature to think for them and give them direction in the budgetary proce­dure.

It is therefore suggested that this power to vary budgetary pro­posals from the Executive should be exercised with a great deal of circumspection as the Execu­tive could be operating from the standpoint of a relatively superior understanding of the workings of the economy given the institu­tional capacity of its proposal. For instance, in 2004, while Nigerians were expecting words regarding the approval of the budget which President Olusegun Obasanjo presented to the joint sitting of the National Assembly on October 12, 2004, it filtered out that there was move to increase the bench­mark price of crude of 27 dollars used for the preparation of the budget and that the Executive had sent in a letter cautioning against such a move.

For Effective Change To Evolve In Nigeria

By Dan Amor
There is a lamentable and disturbing magnitude of violence in Nigeria. So is crime. The country is constantly on the boil. The at­mosphere in the country has been nothing but a tawny volcano. The situation conveys at once the chief features of the Nigerian spirit: it is vertical, spontaneous, immaterial, upward. It is ardent. And even as tongues of fire do, it turns into fire everything it touches. What we are experiencing today is induced by poverty, hunger, frustration, apa­thy and desperation. There is no more thermometer to measure the degree of frustration and des­peration in the land than the spate of student unrest in our tertiary institutions. As we write, not less than five universities have been shut down by their authorities as a result of protests by students. These protests are precipitated by absence of amenities and utilities that would make life comfortable for learning on our campuses. In some of the campuses, water is now a very scarce commodity. In the midst of the misery and lack that is the lot of our youth and other Nigerians, a few Nigerians are still swimming in affluence and under the best security system and protection one can think of. It hardly seems a time for timidity and restraint.
In fact, unbridled activities of fraudsters, narcotics couriers, swindlers and the emergence of a class of billionaire idle politicians, have diminished our international stature to an embarrassing level. The net effect of this has been the sorry spectacle we have cut for Ni­geria and Nigerians in the international arena. The reality is that the corporate image of the country is almost irretrievably steeped in cri­ses. It is therefore no more news that the high rate of criminality in the country is traceable to the endemic corruption which has enveloped the land. Nigeria’s name is synonymous with corruption and crime all over the world. It is agreed that with the emergence of General Muhammadu Buhari as President since May 29, 2015, given his much vaunted integrity and principled stance against cor­ruption, the international image of the country would be redeemed. But it seems, from the reality on ground, that the change mantra of the APC-led Federal Govern­ment is fraught with contradic­tions and ironies. Ten months into the regime, Nigerians are gasping for relief. There is discontent in the country as hunger and lack rule the land. And one can sense the fear of the unknown. The signs are not difficult to see. They are the signs of internal decay; the dry rot of apathy and indifference within the ruling party. Nigerians have mistaken a baboon for a monkey.

The whole scenario is unwhole­some: the decadent social institu­tions, the comatose and despond­ent state of the once vibrant economy, the decaying infra­structure, and the unnerving bout of fuel scarcity in the six largest producer of crude in the world. All this could not have been mere speculation by whatever standards. Indeed, it was speculated recently that more than 80 per cent of Ni­gerians are living below the pov­erty line. Economically, there can never be anything more humiliat­ing and even frustrating than the current exchange rate of the Naira. Anyone who had witnessed the strength of the Nigerian currency against the dollar in the late 1970’s would realise that the slightest tinkering with the economy spins off a frantic palpitation which may lead to a cardiac arrest. This is why wiser nations often fix their gaze on the enigmatic ups and downs in the stock market. They are wise and experienced enough to know that an ostensibly inconsequential drop in the currency rate of a na­tion may precipitate a phenomenal fall of any government. How does President Buhari feel when he sees the Naira exchanging for 350 to the US Dollar? Does he ever remem­ber his campaign promise to Nige­rians when even the Dollar was ex­changing for N165, that he would make the Naira at par with the Dollar within his first six months in office? This is not all. Hundreds of thousands of our graduates and school leavers still trudge the streets of our cities in search of jobs that are not in sight, and the com­munal bonds that once held our various nationalities together have been rendered taut by the forces of annihilating and devastating pov­erty and inter-tribal wars.

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