Happy New Year Everyone.
For me, the beginning of the year, is always the best time of the year. One is usually filled with renewed hope for a better year than the previous one. My hopes for 2016 (and that of many Nigerians) were however, dashed pretty early into the year. I can safely say that in the past 30 years, 2016 was one of the worst years that I have experienced.
Let us however, first examine some of government’s achievements so far, before we consider issues that require urgent resolution.
Where government may have recorded some measure of success in the fight against Boko Haram in the North-East, the same cannot be said for the economy, electricity supply, militancy in the Niger-Delta, industry, to mention a few. With regard to the war against corruption, this government has gone further than previous administrations. Though several high profile individuals have been arrested and indicted, we are yet to see any convictions.
While the results in the North-East and the release of the 21 Chibok girls may be laudable, it is crucial that similar positive results are recorded as soon as possible, in the Niger-Delta, where a key source of our revenue comes from, and of course, in other areas too. Boko Haram and Corruption are not the only problematic issues that the country is facing.
Issues to be Resolved
Niger-Delta Militants and the Economy
The issue of the economy is a complex one, though it is somewhat intertwined with militancy in the Niger-Delta, since presently, crude oil remains Nigeria’s major export product. It is high time government woke up to the fact that the militants must be engaged in some form of constructive and result-orientated dialogue and negotiation, as soon as possible. As it is, aside from the fact that oil prices are down, Nigeria is not meeting its production and export quota, because of the destructive activities of the militants.
It is obvious that the militants are not relenting in their activities, as either they do not seem to have much to lose or they are past caring. However, the country as a whole, not only has a lot to lose, we have lost plenty already, as can be seen from the drastic decline in the revenue from crude oil and how it has impacted so negatively on all our lives.
At this point, the average man is not interested in the reasons why the Naira is now about N500 to $1. What they see is that, pre-Buhari, the rate was less than N200 to $1. Now, our currency has weakened so badly under this government’s watch, and anything and everything has become so expensive. Life is very hard, harder than it ever was.
I recently saw a headline on television, where a financial measurement index adjudged Zambia and South Africa’s currencies, to be the best in Africa in 2016, while Nigeria and Egypt were adjudged to be among the worst in the world, in 2016!
Non-Confirmation of EFCC Chairman
It is also curious that the Judiciary and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), who have a key role to play in the ‘war against corruption’, a project that is probably the closest to the heart of this government, have no substantive heads! If the Acting EFCC Chairman has been rejected by the Senate, surely, someone else can be nominated. The EFCC requires steady leadership and direction, if it is expected to play an effective role in the war against corruption.
Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria
Likewise, the issue of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), why has Mr President not forwarded the name of the acting CJN, Honourable Justice Walter Onnoghen to the Senate for confirmation? Ascension in the Judiciary, has always been by hierarchy. Has anything changed? To the best of our knowledge, Onnoghen is next in line.
I recently watched a debate on television on this CJN impasse. One of the participants claimed that ethnicity was the reason for the non-confirmation of Onnoghen, and that this was the belief of many Nigerians down south. It is common knowledge that since the late Honourable Justice Ayo Irikefe served as CJN about 29 years ago, all subsequent CJNs have come from the Northern part of the country. Maybe Mr President should debunk this ethnicity card that is being played, by forwarding Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for confirmation and/or better still, give Nigerians the reason for the delay, in order to stop the rumours, innuendos and speculations.
I’m sure that government, in its appointments, will always bear in mind Section 14(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended)(1999 Constitution) which provides: “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.”
In accordance to Section 231(1) of the 1999 Constitution, the National Judicial Council (NJC) has played its part and made its recommendations. It was for Mr President to play his part and forward same to the Senate for confirmation. Instead of doing so, Mr President appointed Onnoghen, the most senior Justice of the Supreme Court, to perform the functions of the CJN (Section 231(4)), which appointment shall lapse come February 10th, 2017, three months from the date of appointment, except the NJC (interestingly headed by Onnoghen for now) re-recommends him (Section 231(5)).
In a recent interview, Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, said: “There was something on the internet. I don’t know whether or not it is true. Nobody has confirmed it, but it was credited to the Chief Press Officer to Mr President, that the acting CJN was on probation. To me the Constitution does not accommodate that, the Constitution does not contemplate it, the Constitution does not harbour it. The Constitution is so clear. It is not like Shakespare’s Hamlet “To be or not to be”. The Constitution has given us directives, and the Supreme Court itself has said it over and over again, that when a law is clear, you apply it”.
Chief Olanipekun also stated that if the EFCC Acting Chairman’s name has been forwarded to the Senate for confirmation, that of the CJN which is ‘more important, more paramount, more fundamental’, should also have been forwarded to the Senate for confirmation. I agree with the reasoning of the learned Senior Advocate.
Some Expectations for 2017
Nigerians expect that their hopes for a better and prosperous 2017 will not once again, be dashed, like 2016. What are some of our expectations for 2017?
1) That solving the problems in the Niger-Delta shall take precedence and be resolved by government as a matter of urgency, so that among other things, there will be peace in that region, Nigeria can meet its oil production quota and realise an increase in revenue;
2) That the Petroleum Industry Bill be passed also as a matter of urgency, so that Nigeria can begin to realise the huge amount of revenue that it has been losing from not passing it;
3) That government will concentrate on the manufacturing industry, and all the other revenue generating projects, like those mentioned in the Nigeria Export Promotion Council’s Zero-Oil Plan, also to increase revenue;
4) That government will not relent in its war against corruption and Nigerians will actually see cases prosecuted to a logical end, with convictions, as opposed to media frenzy arrests with no outcome;
5) That the issue of lack of electricity will be tackled more effectively this year;
6) That government will not relent in its fight against Boko Haram and fulfil its constitutional mandate to protect the lives and property of all Nigerians.
7) That government will secure the release of the rest of the Chibok girls;
8) That government will invest infrastructure;
9) That the Naira will regain its former strength, or some of it anyway, instead of this permanent free-fall it seems to be in;
10) Create many more jobs for Nigerians;
11) Forward Onnoghen’s name for Senate confirmation, and sort out the issue of the EFCC Chairman forthwith;
12) Overhaul the Nigerian Civil Service to make it run efficiently, and reduce the exorbitant cost of governance.