By Yemi Adebowale; email@example.com
Istifanus Bello, an employee of Dangote Industries is the latest victim of kidnappers, running riot across our country. Bello was killed by his abductors in Ogun State this week. Kidnappers have been holding our nation by the jugular for too long. Mrs Iyuadoo Tor-Agbidye, a radio journalist with Benue State Government was a bit lucky. She was abducted last week but miraculously escaped from the devils. Three residents of Ever Winning Avenue, in Isheri Osun area of Lagos State are still with their abductors. They were taken away on Tuesday. Margret Emefiele, the wife of our Central Bank’s governor; former ministers of Environment, Mrs. Felicia Mallam and her husband, and the former foreign affairs minister, Bagndu Hirse were also recently adducted. So many other Nigerians without “big names” are abducted daily across our country and forced to pay ransom. Some are even killed in the process.
Let’s switch to the menace of herdsmen. Some parts of Abia State were invaded by herdsmen last week, with yet to be certified number of people killed. Communities in Abia and Enugu have been repeatedly attacked by herdsmen in the last 18 months. Over 102 villagers in Godogodo and Gidan Waya communities in Jema’a Local Government Area of Kaduna State have been killed by Fulani herdsmen. Hundreds of people have been killed in Agatu, Benue State by the same herdsmen. Security agents are still struggling to unravel the mass killing in Zamfara State by mystery gunmen.
These are just a few of the gory tales of mass killings and abductions across our nation in the last 18 months. Our initial problem was Boko Haram. Now, kidnappers, armed robbers and Fulani herdsmen are ravaging our nation. There is hardly any state immune to one or more of these evils. Nigerians are living in fear. We are daily assaulted by well-coordinated gangs of kidnappers, armed robbers and herdsmen. Unfortunately, the response to these killings by the government and its security agents has been feeble. Just as the Human Rights Writers Associations of Nigeria noted recently, “the ever widening scope and sophistication of mass killings in Zamfara and other states by armed Fulani attackers and other armed freelance hoodlums engaged in serial kidnappings for ransoms are symptoms of a failed governance capacity in the polity.”
I am scandalised that kidnapping now carries death penalty in many states, yet, we have not seen a single kidnapper convicted and executed anywhere in this country. We have not seen any herdsman convicted for his atrocity. All we hear from governments at all levels is mere rhetoric.
Back to Kaduna, the situation in the southern part of this state is pathetic. Over 50,000 houses have been burnt in 25 communities, 102 killed and 215 injured in the last six months by the herdsmen. About 10,000 people have been displaced and over 30,000 hectares of land destroyed. No wonder the President of Christian Association of Nigeria, Dr. Samson Ayokunle said the situation in this area amounted to “ethnic and religious cleansing.” According to Ayokunle, Christians in Southern Kaduna are facing the dangers of annihilation, extinction and genocide. “Many of them can no longer live in their communities, 32 people were recently given mass burial. Whoever is killed, whether Christian or Muslim, deserve not to be killed in this country”, he lamented. The situation in Southern Kaduna may degenerate, with Christian youths threatening to resort to self-defence against future attacks. They premised their threat on the alleged complacency and complicity of the security agencies and politicians in the state.
Governor Nasir el-elrufai is yet to show genuine commitments to the plight of the residents of this troubled area. This talk about paying compensation to some foreign herdsmen by the Kaduna State Government to avert future attacks is all bosh. The Senator representing Southern Kaduna senatorial district, Dr. Danjuma La’ah was apt when he declared this week that “after governor El-Rufai’s term in office, it should be possible to prosecute him for being an accessory to mass murder, since he has refused to reveal his findings to the rightful authority for actions to stop the evil that is spreading to many states today.”
Whether it’s the menace of kidnapping, armed robbery or rampaging herdsmen, the truth is that our security agents can no longer protect lives and property, not only because they are ill-equipped, but also because of the high level of ineptitude in these organisations. Commitment to the protection of lives must be restored. The truth be told; the police and the Department of State Security require total overhaul, if we genuinely need appropriate response to these security challenges. These agencies are under the federal government and the Buhari administration must respond appropriately to save hapless Nigerians.
We all need to remind Buhari that one of the things he vowed to fight on assumption of office on May 29 last year was impunity in all aspects of our nation’s life, insecurity inclusive. Tackling insecurity goes beyond the menace of Boko Haram. These security agencies are under the Executive. Unfortunately, in the last 18 months of the Buhari administration, the laws of our land are being flouted with impunity. Clearly, kidnappers, armed robbers and herdsmen have been emboldened by the inaction of Buhari and our security agencies. This is the height of impunity. Our president should order the police and DSS to deal decisively with this menace. These agencies are under the Executive.
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. 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. Kidnappers, armed robbers and herdsmen are terrorising ill-fated Nigerians with impunity. I hope this will be brought to the attention of our dear President.
Looting by the Presidential Initiative on the N’East
Officials of the Presidential Initiative on the North-East have further embarrassed the Buhari administration and its so-called war against corruption, with the slipshod financial report it presented to the Senate on Tuesday. Officers of PINE could not convincingly account for the N2.5 billion released to them to tackle the crisis in the camps of internally Displaced Persons. During the public hearing held in Abuja on Tuesday, the Secretary of PINE, Umar Gulani, claimed that the body spent N203 million to clear grass somewhere in Yobe State, but Yobe State Commissioner for Information, Mohammed Lamin, disputed Gulani’s claim. “No taipa grass was cleared in the state by any Federal Government agency,” declared Lamin.
Gulani’s claim that PINE cleared invasive plants species around river banks in the state at the cost of N253 million was also disputed by Yobe State officials. They also disputed the N422 million PINE claimed was spent on the provision of tents for displaced families in the state. Claims of renovating 18 schools destroyed by the Boko Haram in Yobe also turned out to be dubious. According to Yobe State Government’s record, only three schools were renovated by PINE. It is also sad to note that PINE confirmed donating N50 million to a questionable organisation while our star-crossed IDPs wallow in poverty. Clearly, PINE has mismanaged its mandate of reconstructing and rehabilitating communities destroyed by the Boko Haram in the North-East, with the diversion and mismanagement of funds for the humanitarian crisis in the region. All those behind this mess must be punished.
Buhari’s Square Pegs in Round Holes
Central Bank of Nigeria’s Director of Policy, Moses Tule made my day last week with his remark that Nigeria’s financial downturn had persisted due to the application of wrong prescription by non-professionals. He spoke in Abuja at the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria’s roundtable organised to discuss the economic challenges facing our nation. “Some came in as doctors into the macro-economic management and are giving the tools of medical doctors to advise on how to solve the problem of recession. Some came in as carpenters and they are using carpentry tools to advise on the problems of economic recession; some came in as engineers and they are using their tools to advise on how to address economic recession. They have not allowed the professionals to do their jobs. They have not allowed the professional to provide the direction,” remarked Tule.
For me, the quality of Buhari’s ministers shows that he has simply been struggling to fit mainly square pegs into round holes in the last 13 months. I still can’t understand how square pegs will enter round holes. The case of Udoma Udo Udoma, a lawyer and Minister of Budget and Planning is a good example here. This brilliant lawyer has no business with our Budget and Planning Ministry because he is supervising a “strange” terrain. This is why Buhari has been having a lot of upheavals with his budgets. He should look for another job for Udoma. Another square peg is our Eaglet Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, who lacks the clout and global reach for this vital office. Other square pegs in Buhari’s cabinet include Chris Ngige, Kayode Fayemi, Hadi Sirika, Ogbonaya Onu, Adebayo Shittu, Suleiman Adama, Usani Uguru, Solomon Dalung, Audu Ogbe, Khadija Bukar-Ibrahim, Cladius Daramola, Mustapha Baba Shehuri and Heineken Lokpobiri. I hope the President is listening.
Ambode’s Arts and Culture Theatres
An aspect of the Lagos State 2017 budget that I find absurd is the provision for the construction of five cultural theatres in parts of the state. The budget also makes provision for the construction of five mini stadia. I can’t understand why Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, whose 2017 budget comes with a heavy N170 billion deficit, will include trifling things like theatres and stadia. This governor knows pretty well that these should be left to the private sector. Most residents can’t even drive smoothly to their homes; many don’t have access to public water supply and Ambode is planning to use state resources to build theatres and stadia. This must not happen in the centre of excellence. It is even more painful that there are plans for theatres and stadia in spite of the fact that the state plans to fund the huge N170 billion deficit in the 2017 budget with loans. The Lagos State House of Assembly should do the needful by redirecting the funds set aside for theatres and stadia to the rehabilitation of some of the tattered inner roads across the state, particularly those in Ikorodu North and Ikorodu West. Lagos State Government should be thinking more about giving more people access to quality health and education facilities, good inner roads and public water supply. This is not the time to spend money on theatres and stadia.
Lai Mohammed and Our Super Falcons
I watched Information Minister, Lai Mohammed on television on Wednesday reacting to the non-payment of winning bonuses and other allowance to our conquering Super Falcons. He said that the federal government was financially incapacitated and the current economic recession would not allow government to settle the allowances of the African champions. The minister said that the female footballers would be paid as soon as resources were sorted out. I hope my friend, Lai and his co-ministers are joking. I know that many of them have been making numerous foreign trips since this recession started; and yet collect their estacode in full. These ministers also fly Business Class amid recession. Our Flacons must be paid swiftly. Any further delay is injustice.
On the flipside, Sports minister Solomon Dalung has no business remaining in office a day longer, for saying that the entitlements of the Falcons are delayed because he was not expecting them to win the African title. Dalung is an embarrassment to this country.