with Yemi Adebowale; email@example.com; 07013940521 (text only)
One of the things President Muhammadu Buhari vowed to fight on assumption of office on May 29 last year was impunity in all aspects of our nation’s life. I spent a lot of time this week reflecting on the meaning of impunity. Exemption or freedom from punishment after breaching the laws of the land looks more like an appropriate definition of this word. In international law, it refers to the failure to bring perpetrators of human rights violations to justice and, as such, itself constitutes a denial of the victims’ right to justice and redress. Impunity is especially common in countries that lack a tradition of the rule of law, suffer from corruption or that have entrenched systems of patronage, or where the judiciary is weak or members of the security forces are protected by special jurisdictions or immunities. Virtually all these apply to Nigeria. In the last 11 months of the Buhari administration, the laws of our land are being flouted with impunity while our president looks the other way.
Let’s take a look at what Fulani herdsmen have been doing in the last 11 months across the nation. They enter other people’s communities, destroy their farmlands and kill innocent people. The heinous crime committed by these herdsmen in Agatu community in Benue State where over 100 people were killed is still fresh in our memory. Just this week, four villages were sacked by the rampaging herdsmen in Oyo State. As at yesterday, not even one of these herdsmen, who committed these massacres, has been apprehended by security agents. Which impunity is bigger than this? Security agents are even afraid of apprehending these herdsmen from hell. Our dear president has not been courageous enough to order a crackdown on these lawless herdsmen. Not even a word from Buhari. I have noticed that these herdsmen have been emboldened by Buhari’s inaction. This is the height of impunity. Go back to the definition of impunity and you will understand what I mean.
The amended set of principles for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights Through Action to Combat Impunity, submitted to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights on February 8, 2005, states: “Impunity arises from a failure by states to meet their obligations to investigate violations; to take appropriate measures in respect of the perpetrators, particularly in the area of justice, by ensuring that those suspected of criminal responsibility are prosecuted, tried and duly punished; to provide victims with effective remedies and to ensure that they receive reparation for the injuries suffered; to ensure the inalienable right to know the truth about violations; and to take other necessary steps to prevent a recurrence of violations.” I hope this will be brought to the attention of Buhari.
The mass killing of Shi’ites in Kaduna by the military is another case of impunity being encouraged by Buhari. Much as I disagree with the extremism of the Shi’ites, I will not support impunity on the part of the military. The Shi’ites were simply massacred and not a word from our president. As at press time, 247 Shi’ites are believed to have been killed in the melee.
The massacre of innocent Nigerians by Boko Haram terrorists has continued unabated under Buhari’s watch. In the last 11 months, over 3000 have been killed by the terrorists. It is very sad to note that not a single terrorist in the troubled North-east has been prosecuted. We are only told stories of the arrests. Nothing happens thereafter. This is another classic case of impunity under Buhari. In neighbouring Chad, many Boko Haram members have been arrested, tried and sentenced to death. Nothing is happening in this direction in our dear nation. Those involved in criminal activities must be duly punished. Buhari is not doing this with the Boko Haram terrorists.
Now, let’s go to the issue of petrol scarcity. You drive into a government-approved fuel station and petrol is dispensed to you at amount miles above the regulated price. It some states, it is as high as N400 per litre. This is the same petrol that should sell for the regulated price of N86.50 per litre. Because of the piercing scarcity, you are forced to buy at this crazy price. Officials of the Department of Petroleum Resources, who by law, are expected to ensure price compliance, drive into the lawless fuel stations, get “settled” and drive out. Owners of the fuel station continue their exploitation with impunity, with no one to arrest and punish them. The story in town is that the marketers also “settle” NNPC officials to get allocations because of the limited supply. Yet, we say we have a government in place. The impunity in our fuel stations in the last eight weeks is unprecedented in the history of this country. The laws of our land are being breached; yet, no action from Buhari.
Still on the NNPC. Our law says crude oil and gas proceeds should be paid into the Federation Account. Under Buhari’s watch, this corporation has not been doing so in the last 11 months. A report by the United States-based Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) has shown that the corporation under Buhari’s watch remitted only $2.1 billion out of the $6.3 billion it made from the sale of oil and gas during the second half of 2015. The analysis indicates that NNPC withheld $4.2 billion during the period. The international watchdog said that the NNPC continued to withhold revenues from sale of oil and gas worth billions of dollars from the treasury without effective rules or oversight. NRGI stated that NNPC retained 66 per cent of proceeds from three types of sales, which was 12 per cent higher than the withholdings under Goodluck Jonathan in 2013 and 2014. Nobody is taking steps to punish NNPC’s leadership responsible for this impunity.
Forex is another area where so much impunity is being encouraged by our president. The forex policy of this administration encourages corruption with unparalleled impunity. Our limited USD is given out at interbank rate of about N197/$. Because of the huge gap between the official rate and parallel market rate, there is massive round-tripping. Naira is at present exchanging at N325/$ in the parallel market. Why won’t they round-trip when they can make a profit of about 60% for doing nothing? The bulk of the USD sold at official market finds its way back to the parallel market and nothing happens to the round-trippers.
The unending detention of erstwhile National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki is definitive impunity. He was granted bail by a court of law, perfected his bail and when it was time to go home, another agency of government arrested him and threw him into detention since last year. Nobody was punished for this impunity for obvious reasons. Our president was so proud to say, ‘why should he (Dasuki) be allowed out on bail. If you see the atrocities these people committed against this country, we can’t allow them to jump bail.’ This impunity must stop. Buhari has sworn to protect the laws of our land. This, he must do, unequivocally.
That Boko Haram Attack in Kareto
Anything built on falsehood will always crumble. This is exactly why we are getting this unimpressive result in the war against Boko Haram. These same terrorists whom this administration claimed to have defeated were strong enough to attack a military base in Kareto, Borno State on Monday. For over 10 hours, troops of the 113 battalion fought gallantly to repel the attackers. The terrorists’ who were said to have numbered almost a hundred, reportedly started the attack by launching IEDS on positions of the troops and followed with shooting from different angles. After the battle, the military claimed only 24 others were injured during the attack. On their part, they killed 30 Boko Haram members while the other ran away. So, the same defeated Boko Haram terrorists able to mobilise over 100 fighters to attack a military base? A military base can only be attacked by a terror group that is alive and kicking. By Tuesday, the “disable” terrorists also ambushed the convoy of the General Officer Commanding, 7 Division of the Nigerian Army who was on his way to Bama, Borno State to visit troops. One soldier lost his life while two others were injured in the attack. Also on Tuesday, the Internally Displaced Persons camp in Bama was attached by the terrorists, leaving nine people dead. All these attacks point to the fact that the war is far from over as being claimed. This is the fact this administration must face and plan for accordingly. Propaganda will get us nowhere.
Still on Our Atrocious Forex Policy
The need to adopt a flexible exchange rate regime to enable the country cope with changing demand and supply conditions in the forex market remained on the front burner for most of this week. Manufacturers who are going through hell due to the existing forex policy are sacking thousands of workers on a daily basis. They have never had it so bad in the 55 years history of this nation. The Nigerian Chamber of Commerce and Industry ( LCCI ) has been worried. As usual, it has again passed its position on the forex regime to the government. The chamber listed the benefits of a flexible forex policy to include enhancement of liquidity in the forex market; reduction of uncertainty in the market; enhancement of investors’ confidence; transparency in the allocation of forex; minimisation of discretion in the allocation of forex, as well as the reduction of opportunities for round tripping and other sharp practices. How I wish we have a listening government. The President of the LCCI, Dr. Nike Akande added: “In Nigeria’s case, we do not have the reserves to support the exchange rate at N197 to a dollar. The consequences of fixed rate adoption have started manifesting in the gap between the official and parallel market exchange rates to an unprecedented level of over 60 per cent, lack of liquidity in foreign exchange resulting in acute scarcity, mounting trade debts, increasing factory closures, as many manufacturers have not been able to access foreign exchange for raw materials and other inputs, unavailability of investors to meet offshore obligations, mounting inflationary pressures and sharp drop in capital inflows.” This is point well-made. The LCCI is not talking about devaluation here. It is talking about a flexible exchange rate regime.
This is the point I have been making for almost 11 months now. The truth is that most manufacturers are not getting their desired amount of forex at the official rate. PZ Cussons Plc recently confirmed that it was paying as much as 70 per cent more than the official rate for dollars in order to remain in business. It added: “Whilst the official naira exchange rate continues to be stable, a lack of availability at that rate is resulting in the majority of dollars being purchased at a premium of 50 per cent to 70 per cent. The resultant cost impact is being managed through changes to relative pricing in an environment where trading conditions remain challenging. The situation in Nigeria remains extremely fluid.” Recall that PZ Cussons said recently that it would be “very insane” for Nigeria to persist with its currency policies.
The refusal of the CBN to exempt foreign carriers from this horrendous forex policy claimed its first casualty in the aviation industry this week, with Iberia Airline pulling out of Nigeria. The Spanish national carrier took the decision, in view of the financial predicaments brought upon it by the policy, which prevented it from repatriating its profit in the last 11 months. Nigerians working for Iberia will join the unemployment market by May 1. Since the introduction of the policy, the foreign airlines have over $500 million trapped in the various banks. Other foreign carriers are threatening to withdraw for Nigeria.