Ring True

By Yemi Adebowale; yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521 (text only)

I have spent quality time reading the report released last week by Amnesty International Nigeria on the unending killings across our dear country. The aspect I found gripping was the conclusion that the failure of the Buhari government to hold murderers to account was encouraging impunity and also fueling the endless killings.

AI reports: “We are gravely concerned about the rising spate of killings across the country, especially the communal clashes between farmers and herders and attacks by bandits across at least 17 states. The authorities have a responsibility to protect lives and property, but they are clearly not doing enough going by what is happening. The latest incident in Plateau State, where armed gunmen attacked 11 villages on June 23 for at least seven hours and killed at least 200 villagers without intervention from security forces should be investigated.

“That the violence in Plateau started after an attack, which was followed by reprisals from Thursday, June 21, shows unacceptable security lapses. Despite the deployment of security forces, including the military, in over 30 states, the escalation of these attacks shows that whatever is being done by authorities is not working. There is an urgent need for people who are suspected of committing crimes to be held accountable. We hope that President Buhari’s commitment to bring those suspected to be criminally responsible for the killings in Plateau State to justice will break the impunity that has spread through the country.

“In addition, government must answer these questions: who are these attackers? Where do they come from? Where do they go after attacks? Who arms them? Why is security forces’ response time very slow?” Amnesty International’s investigations show worrying details of how frequently the security forces failed to protect villagers. In all cases Amnesty International investigated, the attackers, usually arriving in their hundreds, spend hours killing people and setting houses on fire and then disappeared without a trace.”
“The Federal Government must address security lapses that make it easier for the killers to carry out attacks and disappear. Making arrests and bringing to justice those suspected to be responsible for these attacks are crucial in ending the killings that are gradually turning into almost a daily occurrence. In many instances, these killings happen and no arrests take place.”

Amnesty’s independently verified figures indicated that under Buhari’s watch, since January 2018, “at least 1,813 people had been murdered in 17 states, which is double the 894 people killed in 2017”, adding “the death tolls reflect killings as a result of farmers-herders conflict, communal clashes, Boko Haram attacks and banditry.”

I expect a responsible government to dispassionately analyse this report and take pragmatic actions to address issues raised by Amnesty. Unfortunately, I am not sorry to say that we don’t have a responsible government in Nigeria right now. This is why this report has not been pragmatically engaged, 10 days after its release.

Killings will continue and killers will continue to go unpunished because those who should hold them accountable have sentimental attachment to them. This is why Mansur Dan-Ali, who happens to be Nigeria’s defence minister, has been going about his demand for grazing land for his kinsmen with so much impunity. Dan-Ali, without gauging the mood of the country, persistently makes volatile statements that embolden the killer herders. He has openly been demanding for the suspension of anti-open grazing laws in Benue, Taraba and Ekiti states, while also demanding for safe routes for herders, without attracting sanction from the President.

The likes of army chief, Tukur Brutai; Air chief, Sadique Abubakar and IGP Ibrahim Idris have also compromised. Killer herders, motivated by Dan-Ali and his likes, will continue wreaking havoc across the country. That was why no fewer than 10 persons were again killed last weekend in two attacks in Mangu and Barkin Ladi local government areas of Plateau State.
Besides, because our security agencies and heads are dominated by people from just one part of the country, killings will continue unabated. Our President’s clannishness is frightening and it’s hindering the war against killers. The most terrifying is about this skewed leadership of these security agencies. I often shed tears whenever it dawns on me that almost 100 per cent of the heads of our security agencies are from just one sub-section of this country.

I cringe each time I look at the list. Here is the provocative list: Director-General, Department of State Security Services, Lawal Daura; National Security Adviser, Babagana Monguno; Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Burutai; Chief of Air Staff, Sadique Abubakar; Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Retired Colonel Hameed Ali; Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of NDLEA, Mustapha Abdallah; Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, Mohammed Babandede; Chief of Defence Intelligence, AVM Mohammed Usman; Commandant, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Abdullahi Muhammadu; Inspector General of Police, Idris Abubakar; Director General, National Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Rufai Abubakar; Minister of Defence, Mansur Mohammed Dan Ali, Minister for Interior‎, Abdulrahman Dambazau; Controller General of the Nigeria Prison Service, Ja’afaru Ahmed.

So, who will arrest the killer herders? This is why Fulani militias persistently pummel the rest of the country despite our President’s avowal to stop the killings. We can all now understand why Amnesty reported that the federal government had been encouraging impunity. By now, we should all understand why the killings have been endless.

The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Alfred Adewale Martins, was apt when he remarked: “Our sorrows have been compounded by the fact that no one has been held responsible, no one convicted for the murder and destruction that has turned responsible people into internally displaced person.”

Buhari’s safety sluggishness is evidently legendary. Buratai, Idris, Abubakar and the rest have failed to curb rampaging Boko Haram and killer herders, without sanctions from the President. Our President must be courageous to sack all those leading this war against Boko Haram and killer herders and appoint fresh hands to take charge.

Who will Tame NNPC?
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation is always in the news for all the wrong reasons. Corruption allegations against the current leadership of this corporation pour daily. The NNPC under Maikanti Baru has become an outlaw and bigger than virtually everybody in Nigeria. It persistently refuses to make correct remittances to the Federation Account for crude oil sold, yet, nobody queries this monster. Its recalcitrance stalled the last FAAC meeting for the distribution of May revenue because its remittance was less N20 billion, without any plausible explanation.

It was also observed at the FAAC meeting that “NNPC claimed it spent N3.5 billion on product leakages and pipeline vandalism, but the Department of Petroleum Resources, an agency that is supposed to keep such record, claimed ignorance of the amount”. Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun remarked: “We operate the NNPC as a business. We have invested public capital in that business; and we have expectations of return. And when that return falls lower than our expectations, then the owners of this business, which in this case are the Federal Government and states, need to act…We felt that some of the costs couldn’t be justified.”

Sleaze allegations against the NNPC under this “change” government are unending. What about  Governor Abdulaziz Yari’s yet to be addressed allegation of subsidy fraud by the corporation? The methodology of Baru’s subsidy payment is impervious. The Zamfara State governor also rejected the corporation’s bizarre claim of 60-65 million litres national daily consumption of petrol. Till date, those who should query NNPC have refused to do so.

The memo written by the junior Minister for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, on sleaze in the NNPC remains fresh in our memory. Contracts running into billions of USD were allegedly awarded exclusively by Baru, without due process. Some of them included the crude term contracts valued at over $10 billion; DSDP contracts valued at over $5 billion; the AKK pipeline contract valued at approximately $3 billion; various financing allocation-funding contracts with the NOCs valued at over $3 billion and various NPDC production service contracts valued at over $3 billion.

Kachikwu further alleged that during the first one year of Baru’s tenure, no contract was cleared by the NNPC board, despite legal and procedural requirements that all contracts above $20 million would need to be reviewed and approved by the board.
Who will curb this monster called NNPC in the interest of Nigerians? We may have to wait for another leader.

The Implosion of APC 
The emergence of Reformed APC did not come as a surprise to me. In fact, I was expecting it to happen much earlier. APC was a marriage of strange bed fellows. Besides, there is nobody to provide leadership in the party. The members are like lambs without shepherd. The failings of the APC leadership at the national level have compounded the woes of this lethargic party. This gave birth to Reformed APC on Wednesday.

My take away from the press briefing by Buba Galadima and his gang in the R-APC are: “Nigeria faces an existential threat arising from three years of near destruction of this country and the exacerbation of our ethnic, religious and divisive cleavages. We will in concert with others offer real change to Nigeria. Not fake change. It is clear that our party needs a leadership that will live by its founding ideals.
“We have, therefore, decided to legitimately lead those members to work to rebuild our nation more firmly on genuine democratic principles, to enshrine good governance and restore the faith of Nigerians in the possibility of the existence of a prosperous, secure and peaceful nation. The APC government has been a monumental disaster, even worse than the government it replaced. A vehicle for enthroning the Buhari government was rendered powerless by manipulations and complete lack of due process by its operators.

“The Nigerian people entrusted power to the APC based on its promises and potential. We are sad to report that after more than three years of governance, our hopes have been betrayed, our expectations completely dashed. The APC has run a rudderless, inept and incompetent government that has failed to deliver good governance to the Nigerian people. The APC-led federal government had failed to ensure the security and welfare of the people and had elevated nepotism to unacceptable height.”
Galadima has bluntly spoken the truth. Nigerians know what to do in 2019.

Why is Buhari Retaining Bala at Energy Commission?
Eleven days after the workers of the Energy Commission of Nigeria staged a protest against the Director-General of the commission, Prof. Jidere Bala and publicly petitioned the EFCC over alleged misappropriation of funds by Bala, the ECN DG is still sitting comfortably in his office. Prior to this protest, Bala had his tenure renewed for another five years despite alleged monumental corruption in the agency.

The ECN staff, who took the action under the aegis of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, delivered a written petition to the EFCC in Abuja. Promise Chukwu, who led the workers, alleged that Bala mismanaged international-donor-funded projects under the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and another $1 million Lake Chad Basin project funded by Africa Development Bank. “Similarly, millions of Naira have been budgeted and squandered under the National Energy Data Project,” alleged the workers.

Stories of monumental corruption under a government that claims to be fighting corruption often leave me depressed. The allegations against the ECN boss are frightening. More so, they are coming from insiders i.e. the staff of the commission. Bala, as a public servant, ought to have been directed to step aside in the spirit of the anti-corruption posture of this government. Unfortunately, Buhari has rewarded him with fresh five-year tenure, while refusing to look at the petition against him. Even the EFCC has not deemed it proper to invite Bala. The petition must be resting in the trash can. What a country!