‘Still Far from a Country’
In my piece of 4/9/2018 titled “Still Far from a Country”, I said: “Today, most of the signs that Nigeria may be on its way to being a failed State, are apparent. Even if we do not qualify to be called a failed State, Nigeria is certainly a dysfunctional, fragile/crisis State”. I gave some reasons for my assertion – weak and failing institutions, poor infrastructure, insecurity and internal violence (Boko Haram, Robbers and Herdsmen), poverty, hunger and suffering of majority of Nigerians, greedy elite, political shenanigans, high level of corruption and its siblings – tribalism, nepotism etc. The Financial Times of London (FT)’s 22/12/20 edition’s article titled “Nigeria is at risk of becoming a failed State”, is therefore, not stating anything novel nor is it a surprise – many Nigerians have said the same. Apart from restating many of the reasons that I gave for my assertion in its submission, the FT stated thus: “the definition of a failed State is one where the government is no longer in control. By this yardstick, Africa’s most populous country is teetering on the brink”.
Some of my suggestions as to how to make Nigeria a better place (because I concluded that all was certainly not lost), were a leadership that is prepared to make good choices on behalf of the whole country, and not just a part of it; redrawing our Constitution to make it more desirable for the majority of Nigerians; making our society more equitable – for instance, redrawing the salary structure of all workers in Nigeria – for example, Nigerian Judicial Officers who have one of the busiest dockets in the world, mostly sitting in less than conducive court rooms all over the country and going home with a pittance; or Medical Doctors who are life savers working almost ‘24-7’ under rather harsh and archaic conditions, and now risking their lives during this Covid-19 pandemic, going home with a paltry salary monthly, totally unappreciated by the system; or Teachers who play the most important role of imparting knowledge to us all, living in penury, while lawmakers – many without proper or adequate qualifications, doing little or nothing (at least in terms of actual lawmaking, with Bills like the PIB pending at NASS for about 20 years), sitting in extremely comfortable chambers, so much so that many of them are usually lulled to sleep during sessions, go home with millions every month!; building strong institutions that transcend tribalism and other useless sentiments which are a recipe for mediocrity, failure and disaster; and properly tackling President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC’s three major campaign promises – fighting insecurity and corruption, and revamping the economy.
The FT recommended that the Government of Mr Buhari “redouble efforts to get a grip on security”, restore trust in institutions like the Judiciary, Security Services and INEC, and most importantly, that Nigeria should have a generational shift, since it believes that the youths can do better, reduce the cost of governance; all this especially as our population which is growing in astronomical and geometrical proportions may become a problem in the future, if we don’t turn things around now.
Government’s 2020 WAEC Scorecard
Alas, as we come to the end of what can be described as a traumatic year (2020), the Government’s WAEC (West African Examination Council) Scorecard is not very encouraging. At the end of 2018, I had given the then Minister of Power an A3 for the consistent power supply in the estate where I reside, and a C6 generally for the rest of the country. Today, that A3 in my estate is now hovering between A3 and C4, while the C6 for rest of Nigeria is now a P7. Insecurity which was hovering between a P8 and F9, is now a definite F9 (or an F10, if such a grade exists). The fight against corruption which was bordering between a C6 and a P7, is a definite P7, education is still an F9, economy F9 (obviously worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic), while health has risen from an F9 to a P8, only because of Government’s efforts at fighting the Coronavirus. Of course, some, including medical personnel, argue that Government’s focus on the Covid-19 pandemic, has been at the expense of other killer diseases like Malaria, Lassa Fever and Tuberculosis, which kill more people annually in Nigeria, than Covid-19 has.
Education, health, economy, welfare and security are some of the components of the provisions of Chapter 2 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)(the Constitution), that is, the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy.
Assuming that Government’s non-fulfilment of the provisions of Chapter 2 the Constitution, many of which are the key elements of a strong State was a criminal offence, and charges were filed against the Government in court for committing this offence, the Prosecution opened its case, called witnesses who not only cited the aforementioned WAEC Scorecard, but gave numerous examples to support their allegations; then the Government who is the Defendant in this scenario, decides to file a No-Case Submission (NCS) in response to the charges – how do you think the court would rule?! Would the NCS on behalf of Government, be upheld? I think not!
The practice of NCS, is only applicable to criminal cases. These days, in high profile financial criminal cases, Defence Counsel automatically file applications that their clients have no case to answer, whether meritorious or not. A NCS is when the Defendant prays the court for an acquittal without presenting a defence, asserting that the Prosecution has failed to prove a prima facie case against the Defendant, or failed to prove an essential element of the offence, or failed to adduce legally admissible evidence against the Defendant linking him/her to the commission of the offence for which he/she has been charged. It doesn’t matter if the evidence adduced by the Prosecution is believed by the court – it must meet the legal thresholds. See the cases of R v Coker & Ors 20 N.L.R. 62 per Hubbard J; Ajiboye v The State 1995 8. N.W.L.R. Part 414 Page 408 at 414-415 per Kutigi JSC; Gafari Ajidagba & Ors v I.G.P. 1958 S.C.N.L.R. 60; Fagoriola v F.R.N. 2013 17 N.W.L.R.Part 1383 Page 322 at 347 per Ariwoola JSC.
In Ajiboye v The State (Supra) per Iguh JSC, it was stated that the governing considerations in upholding a NCS are: “(a) When there has been no evidence to prove an essential element in the alleged offence; (b) When the evidence adduced by the Prosecution has been so discredited as a result of cross-examination or is so manifestly unreliable, that no reasonable court or tribunal could safely convict on it”. Also see Sections 302-303 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 (ACJA) on NCS. Section 302 of ACJA inter alia, allows the court of its own volition without an application from the Defence, to record a finding of not guilty without calling on the Defendant to enter a defence, and accordingly, such Defendant will be discharged.
It is obvious from the foregoing, that the Government’s NCS would not be upheld. Where would we find the essential ingredients of the offences committed by the Government? In the Constitution, for starters. For example, the provisions of Sections 1(2), 14(3) & (4), and 42(1)(b) of the Constitution provide inter alia that Nigeria shall not be governed nor shall any person or group of persons take control of the Government of Nigeria; that Federal Character must be reflected in the composition of Government in order to command national loyalty; that there shall be freedom from discrimination – in this context, not according undue advantage to those from a particular part of the country over and above all others, when the Constitution clearly states in its preamble that one of its goals is to promote equality and equity amongst all Nigerians.
Reference to the Armed Forces (Army and Air Force), Police, other security and law enforcement agencies, and some other top government agencies which when combined control the country, their Heads and their States of Origin, would be enough to establish a prima facie case to dismiss the Government’s application for NCS. Ditto for that of security (the primary purpose of Government – Sections 14(2)(b) & 33(1) of the Constitution), as the different killings, kidnappings and violence against persons like that of the 43 Rice Farmers massacred in Zabarmari, Borno State recently, kidnapping of a Pastor and his wife (thankfully now released) and killing of a Village Head in Kaduna State last weekend, all establish a prima facie case against Government – of its failure to secure Nigerians. The fact that Nigeria has one of the highest numbers of out-of-school-children in the world and we have the incessant strikes by bodies like ASUU, is again, enough to establish yet another prima facie case against Government, that the educational objectives of this country have not been achieved. The fact that Nigeria has become the poverty capital of the world contrary to Section 16 of the Constitution, would also make the Government’s NCS fail.
Undoubtedly, the application would be dismissed – rightfully so too, as a prima facie case has definitely been established against the Government. Accordingly, Government would be called to open its defence, but can then decide to faint or feign sickness (which is also the latest trend), to try to delay the matter! (See the cases of Senator Dino Melaye, Olisa Metuh, Professor Pondei and Abdulrasheed Maina).
As this administration approaches the half way mark of its second and final term, I hope that it engages in serious self-analysis as most sensible people do at the end of every year, and musters up the strength and political will to start to do the right thing for the country, instead of still blaming PDP and who and whatever for its failures, like a bad workman who blames his tools (not that I’m absolving the PDP for their wrongs). This administration can still make a positive difference, if it so desires. President Buhari, even though he is not a ‘hands on’ President, seems to feel empathy for the less privileged in the country, and we see can see evidence of this in some of his programmes like the school feeding for the children, and the N5,000 monthly stipend for those adjudged to be the poorest Nigerians. Though these initiatives are far from adequate, they are part of a foundation that can be built upon.
As we prepare to enter into the new year, I wish you all a happy, better, safer and prosperous 2021 and beyond. May all of us have many reasons to shout Alleluia and Allah Akbar this coming year. Amen. Jazakallah Khair. See you next year!