“When beggars die, there are no comets seen; heaven themselves blaze forth the death of princes” – Williams Shakespeare, in Julius Caesar.
These days, a Nigerian life is worth very little; it has suffered a steep depreciation in value far worse than that experienced by the Naira under the Muhammadu Buhari administration. Hell is let loose when a citizen is lost to disasters in countries where premium is placed on life but here in Nigeria, multitudes perish and no eyebrows are raised.
It is both ironic and comical that the same government that feels unconcerned with the death of hordes of Nigerians is quick to issue statements commiserating with foreign countries that lose one or two persons to disasters!
Is it that the occurrence of disasters here is nowadays so commonplace that they have become habitual?
The agents of death stalking the land are too many to be numbered: Armed robbers; ritual killers; kidnappers; rapists; vehicular accidents; fire disasters; homicides; suicides; suicide bombers; ethnic clashes; Fulani herdsmen; Boko Haram insurgents; Police and other armed men’s brutality as well as accidental discharge of bullets; name them.
Innocent lives are lost at an alarming rate on a daily basis. It may be that government has become overwhelmed.
If they are to commiserate on every occasion, they will have to issue multiple condolence messages on a daily basis!
The number of deaths caused by Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen alone is mind-boggling. While government is fighting the former, it ap- pears to have given the latter a free rein.
They are not only sacred cows which must not be touched; the joke now is that a cow’s life has more value than a non-Hausa/Fulani human life! Mind you, a cow costs hundreds of thousands of Naira; what is the cost of a human being?
We have heard stories of parents selling their babies for a bag of rice or even less!
This could be the economic justification for the obvious partisanship of the Federal Government in favour of the herdsmen and their cows!
The Federal Government’s scanty regard for life has also been demonstrated in the way it has treated the “Fanta” and “Sprite” issue. Not only the two beverages mentioned here but also all beverages should be investigated to determine their level of harmfulness to the human body.
Our laws must be reviewed regularly to bring them abreast of new medical discoveries. Regulatory authorities should also note that life is involved and the cankerworm of corruption should be kept at bay. Officials who compromise should be severely dealt with.
Thanks to social media, we now have the list of malaria drugs which have been banned elsewhere as a result of new medical discoveries but which are still on the shelves here.
I was alarmed to see the name of a malaria drug I recently purchased off the counter on the list. We are now also aware that virtually all the so-called “soft” drinks contain substances injurious to health.
The sugar content in them is alarming; for a society with an increasing rate of diabetes, we should not ignore this danger. In other countries where control is rigorous and conscious effort is made to protect public health, “soft” drinks are not as sweetened as the ones we consume here.
Even the malt drinks are not spared; apart from the advertised presence of fake malt drinks, the chemical composition of these drinks should constantly be examined and they should be kept within safe limits. One expert after another has pooh-poohed the Federal Government’s “clearance” on the raging “soft” drinks issue.
Is it true that the “soft” drinks in question contain Vitamin C? Is this in itself harmful to health? How about the other chemicals that are said to be in higher proportions than those approved by authorities in the UK and even in neighbouring Ghana?
If the “soft” drinks produced in Nigeria are deemed unfit for human consumption in the UK and Ghana; if they are injurious to health in those countries, how come they are fit for human consumption here?
It is better to err on the side of caution and apply the most rigorous of health safety standards than take chances and ruin the health of our people.
The more health issues we have, the more budget we run on health as a nation and as individuals. The authorities must also act on the indiscriminate way Nigerians consume herbal mixtures and so-called energy drinks.
These drinks contain chemicals that cause gradual but certain damage to people’s health. Nigerians must note that the best drink available to man is water; not only is it cheaper than all those other drinks, it is also safer.
Two considerations that drive the “drinks” industry are profit and entertainment. The producers are driven by profit and what guarantees them higher profit, even if it damages people’s health, is to be preferred.
The consumers, on the other hand, have the erroneous impression that they are “enjoying” themselves and deriving benefits when they gulp those damaging and disastrous liquids.
Selfish motives are the same reason why people will insist on citing petrol stations in residential areas, not minding the hazards involved and the dangers that accidents can cause to inhabitants.
There is one such petrol station in my neighbourhood of Fagbola Street, Oke-Koto, Agege, Lagos State.
A few months’ ago, an accident at a petrol station in Ado-Ekiti, the capital of Ekiti State, nearly wiped out a whole street; had it not been that they were lucky that the tanker was loaded with diesel and not petrol, hundreds, if not thousands, would have lost their lives as well as means of livelihood.
Yet, when Governor Ayo Fayose moved last week to demolish such petrol stations, otherwise sensible people, who should have buried their heads in shame for their atrocious activities, rose to challenge him, declaring a strike to the bargain! It is time Nigerians began to place premium on human life.
No, Mr. President: Your critics not unpatriotic
ormer President Olusegun Obasanjo’s latest “Open Letter” to President Muhammadu Buhari has raised a lot of dust, with the president labelling him and other critics of his administration as “unpatriotic.”
The question to ask is: What did Dr. Obasanjo say that other Nigerians, individually and collectively, had not said since the heightened insecurity in the land?
He had written about issues in the polity, particularly concerning the governments after his military headship of Nigeria in 1979, and not a few Nigerians, though, found such commentaries as unsavouring and irritating.
From the late Presidents Shehu Shagari and Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, to President Goodluck Jonathan, and to Gens. Ibrahim Babangida, Sani Abacha and Abdulsalami Abubakar; Gen. Obasanjo had “meddled” in their governments, such that Abacha had to hang a “coup plot” on his neck, and detained him.
Friend or foe, Obasanjo never spared any administration and its leadership. To him, they either toe his line or be fed with the poisoned chalice of his pen and/or tongue.
Seeing and viewing himself as imbued with Solomonic wisdom and Messianic fervour, his approach to his successors in office is utter condescension. Hence, his messages, mostly in open letters, have been acidic in content and patronizing in delivery.
Obasanjo’s escape of possible death by execution for alleged “coup plotting” didn’t deter him from “riding on the tiger’s back.” And it’s the turn of Gen. Buhari to feel the drip of his pen in three consecutive “letters” within a few months of each other.
While previous “leaked” letters detailed alleged failure of Buhari to fulfil his campaign promises, last week’s “open letter” was essentially an invite to a “National Dialogue” on insecurity.
As he noted: “Since the issue (insecurity) is of momentous concern to all well-meaning and all right-thinking Nigerians, it must be of great concern to you (Buhari), and collective thinking and dialoguing is the best way of finding an appropriate and adequate solution to the problem.”
Even as he conduced his “deep worries” to about “four avoidable calamities,” Obasanjo recognized the president as one of the “well-meaning and right-thinking” Nigerians that should be concerned about the nation’s insecurity.
Frightening as his alarm bell was, not many would imagine an Obasanjo tempering his persona, and offering conciliatory counsel to President Buhari, whom he reckons as his subordinate in age, career, political standing, worldview and statesmanship.
But does this make him, and others “unpatriotic” for criticizing Buhari and his handling of the affairs of Nigeria? Certainly not! What the former president did is what Buhari’s aides may not dare.
So, instructive here are the immortal words of the reggae maestro, Bob Nester Marley, who exhorts that, “Your worst enemy could be your best friend, and your best friend your worst enemy.”
Or as a local adage goes, “Only your enemy can tell you that you have mouth odour.” And they don’t mind telling you in public, whereas your friends, even in private, would tell you that your mouth smells like the roses.
Simply put, those that President Buhari termed “unpatriotic” (betrayer, collaborator, deserter, renegade, spy or traitor) may actually be the “loyalists” to save him from himself in these times of grave insecurity in the country.
No matter the criticisms, so long as they aren’t subversive, we shouldn’t pigeon-hole Nigerians into “patriotic” or “unpatriotic” elements. That would be a situation of “us versus them,” and therefore “enemies of the State.”
Our diversity – and our freedom and ability to speak truth to power – is our strength, and the way to harnessing this great asset is through programmes and actions that do not stereotype and stigmatize citizens as non-patriots.
In this wise, Obasanjo’s open letter to the president doesn’t belong in the realm of unpatriotic acts. Let his not be a matter of “calling a dog a bad name in order to hang it.”
Nonetheless, it’s time President Buhari realized his problem – perception – and how to overcome it. In politics and governance, perception matters. Ordinarily, reality should drive perception. But most times, perception leads, and muddies the reality.
For allowing perception, or “body language” to define him and his administration, the president has earned many critics, including from the corps of his followers and supporters.
Rather than looking at the concrete, and tangible things his government is doing to revamp Nigeria’s socio-political and economic morass, the people would rather focus on his body language, as the best barometer for his actions or inaction.
Take the issue of the herders-farmers clashes. When it was brewing in the early part of the administration, and the victims, mostly the farmers, cried out, the presidency accusingly never issued any condemnation.
But if the farmers retaliated, the authorities would reportedly give a stern warning against such reprisals. Curiously, security operatives could arrest the farmers for “defending” themselves.
Besides, what did the president say when a group, claiming to speak for the North, gave a 30-day ultimatum for Southern states to implement the controversial RUGA Settlement initiative, or it would take “action” against the 17 states of the South?
In any case, the presidency had said that RUGA was the brainchild of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture. So, why was it its business, and not that of the ministry, to suspend the programme?
Being silent or ambivalent on the issue created the impression that the Northern group had the presidency’s “backing” to issue its threats against the entire Southern Nigeria.
But unprecedentedly, the presidency expeditiously “revoked” the directive by the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) for Fulani herders to leave the South if their safety was no longer guaranteed.
This should be the stand of President Buhari and his government at all times: Quick and undiluted intervention on all matters. No room for conjectures, speculations and reading of his body language that could be exploited to undermine his intentions.
Importantly, the president needs to connect, personally, with Nigerians, by leaving the comfort zone of Aso Rock Villa, and pay regular visits to the states, to meet with his constituents – Nigerians – that voted for him twice, for the exalted office.
Buhari is president for all Nigerians, and not only for occupants of The Villa, his friends and political associates. He should speak to, and meet frequently with the masses, as no platitudes delivered from the seat of power could suffice for such intimacy that’s capable of engendering rapprochement that Nigeria desires sorely!
Asue Ighodalo: Exceptional boardroom guru at 60
We pass through life in stages and there is a rite of passage for each stage. We are born, reach puberty, get married, become old and eventually pass through transition. We also experience baptisms, confirmations, school graduation ceremonies and retirement parties. We pass through times which stand out as moments in which we become that little bit older, bolder and wiser. But as we grow older, we are tempted to think that our best life’s work and fun are behind us. Yet, a new report by Cigna Insurance Services (UK) has just established that life truly begins at 60 and not 40, as the American psychologist Walter Pitkin postulated in 1932.
As the Chairman of Sterling Bank Plc., Mr. Asue Ighodalo, celebrates the important milestone of a new beginning in life at the age of 60 on Friday, July 19, 2019 a significant part of this rite of passage would be messages of felicitations and congratulations from associates, family and friends across the country and beyond. If the meaning of life at any age can be defined by what is most important to most of us, for Mr. Ighodalo, it will surely be his towering achievements as a boardroom guru. While many of his contemporaries may be looking forward to retirement, it is certain that Ighodalo will continue to find meaning in his many commitments to corporate Nigeria at the boardroom level.
Obviously, the highly respected former teacher of corporate governance and legal aspects of a director’s duties at the Lagos Business School could not have started his career in the boardroom. Having learned the benefits of hard work, integrity, character, strength and the fear of God from his parents at an early age, Ighodalo set out to be a banker by studying Economics at the University of Ibadan but his father had other ideas for him as a choice of profession. The elder Ighodalo prevailed on him to study law because it is a more “focused profession” and as a dutiful son, the younger Ighodalo agreed and proceeded to the London School of Economics to study after his Economics degree.
But true to what Sir Richard Branson, the British inventor, author and businessman, said that “There is no greater thing you can do with your life and your work than follow your passions – in a way that serves the world and you.” Mr. Asue Ighodalo eventually returned to his first love and is today renowned for his exploits in the banking sector of the Nigerian economy. His core areas of practice are corporate and project finance, securities and capital markets, energy and natural resources, mergers and acquisitions and banking and securitisation. Ighodalo is also a founding partner of Banwo & Ighodalo, a multi-disciplinary firm which provides legal advice on aspects of corporate and commercial Nigerian law.
More than anything else, Ighodalo not only teaches the qualities which every director must possess to perform optimally in the boardroom, he has brought his considerable experience in corporate governance to bear on the fortunes of the companies where he serves as the chairman. The phenomenal growth of Sterling Bank in recent years and the company’s pioneering efforts in several areas of banking through the introduction of innovative products come to mind.
For instance, while many banks were unprepared for the latest directive from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on loan-to-deposit ratio (LDR) for banks, Sterling Bank is among the few ones that have surpassed the 60 per cent minimum LDR directive. The bank recorded an impressive 78.9 per cent LDR, overshooting the new threshold by N148.29 billion after lending N618 billion out of N783.26 billion deposits. The risks associated with the new regulation such as banks underwriting high-risk loans which could lead to further asset quality deterioration and destabilisation of the industry are non-existent for Sterling Bank.
It should surprise no one that Ighodalo is a boardroom colossus today having undergone extensive training at the hands of some of the best and most accomplished boardroom giants in the annals of corporate Nigeria. Starting his career under the tutelage of the cerebral and meticulous Chief Chris Ogunbanjo who exposed him to the practice of corporate and commercial law at the highest levels, Ighodalo continued his training with Dr. Christopher Kolade, a great Nigerian public servant, diplomat and boardroom guru who he described as his “father” and mentor.
He was also fortunate to know and associate with Mr. Felix Ohiwerei, formerly of the Nigerian Breweries and the late Chief Adeyemi Lawson, two boardroom giants. Besides, he interacted closely inside and outside the boardroom with Messrs. Fola Adeola and Aliko Dangote and learnt a lot from all of them. In his words, “Learning from the best and having excellent mentors is invaluable.”
Summarising his thoughts on the duties of company directors, Ighodalo believes that company directors need to pay attention to the risk aspects of board membership, saying they could get into trouble if they breach their duties, or are negligent in the performance of their duties or do something wrong. “Being a director is really serious business which requires diligence, dedication and continuing capacity enhancement,” he said.
• Okoya, former Editorial Chairman of Financial Standard Newspaper, writes from Lagos
Today, Ighodalo not only chairs the board of Sterling Bank Plc., he also sits on the boards of public and private companies and NGOs including the Christopher Kolade Foundation, University of Ibadan advancement board, Dangote Flour Mills Plc., FATE Foundation, Main Street Technologies Limited (sponsor of the Main One cable project), the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, Union Bank (UK) Plc., Okomu Oil Palm Plc. and Kakawa Discount House.
Ighodalo is a member of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and currently serves as the vice-chairman of the NBA’s section on business law. He is also a member of the International Bar Association (section on energy and natural resources law), Association of International Petroleum Negotiators, Nigerian Economic Summit Group, commercial law and taxation committee of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Chartered Institute of Taxation, the policy and monitoring committee of the National Council on Privatisation, and the Edo State Economic Strategy Team.
As Ighodalo turned 60 on Friday, he should have a greater sense of fulfilment for having touched the lives of so many people and for being a source of inspiration to thousands of others. He learned at the feet of the masters and has mentored many others in their journey towards greatness. No greater sacrifice is expected of a truly great man. Here is wishing Ighodalo a long and healthy life.
Udom: A brand not branded
y introspection one can assume that 53 years ago when a teacher called Gabriel Nkanang christened his second son Udom, he was inspired by two factors: the fact that that was the surname of his landlord and the meaning of the name.
The man under whose roof Nkanang and his family lived at the time Udom was born was called Etokawasi Udom. He was a prominent personality in Afaha community, which is in present day Ukanafun Local Government Area in Akwa Ibom. It is not known whether the accommodation was free or paid for. But from continuous servicing of the relationship by the succeeding generation of the two families, it could be deduced that harmony was freely flowing between them. The name of the young Udom must have been Nkanang’s reciprocal gesture and mark of lasting admiration of the older Udom.
Udom is masculine name in Akwa Ibom and some parts of Cross River State. It denotes right hand and connotatively implies best, right-hand-man, confidant, cornerstone, favourite, pillar, trust, reliability, and the likes. In polygamous families, where strife of envy poisons blood of members of the family, naming a child Udom may worsen fault lines, especially if given to a person other than first son of the family. But Udom Gabriel Emmanuel is not envied by his siblings. The credit goes more to his father for religiously disciplining himself on the path of monogamy.
The governor stands out in his family as he is the only one not using the family name. That launches him to unique club of few famous persons who are popular by their first name other than surnames. In contemporary time, prominent in the category of those with popular first name is the world most celebrated monarch, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor). In Nigeria few names readily come to mind: Gani (Ganiyu Fawehinmi, who, a decade after he passed on, remains Nigeria’s most dogged activist lawyer and social critic); Fela (Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Nigeria’s music legend); and Atiku (Atiku Abubakar, Nigeria’s former Vice President).
Given that surname holds sway in many cultures in today’s world, those whose first names are more popular than surnames are exceptional. First name makes one a common being, in that it reinforces bond of commonality, especially among mates in formative stages of life. It makes one hoi polloi. It is uncommon seeing a famous person or those in authority with striking first name.
A striking first name evokes personal image of the person while a surname flies the family flag. Those who have rich family names but unable to carve personal niche for themselves often go about dropping family names to get doors opened for them. Surname has imperialistic aura while first name presupposes a person with unimposing demeanour, one that does not put on air.
There is a middle-age man in Akwa Ibom that has risen from grass to grace through instinctive entrepreneurial acumen and passion for excellence. He implores his mates not call him his first name any longer because, though he still uses his first name, he reasons that with his relative prominence the name given to him by his parents name has vanished along with hitherto obscurity. Udom is not like that. Even before he got into macro politics everyone from his work place at Victoria Island to church in Surulere called him Udom and still call him so today. Unlike the common trend among topnotch politicians he has no title other than Mr. Though the uninformed and the sycophants would not stop calling him “Executive Governor”, Udom wants to be addressed by the real name of the office he occupies and not with the superfluity.
In the build up to 2015 general election when Udom launched his campaign to become the fourth elected governor of Akwa Ibom, “Udom is right” was the catchphrase. Moses Ekpo, his deputy, who by virtue of his rousing career in journalism, understands far better how branding could better the lot of products, was always distinguishing Udom at campaign rallies with admonition to the people that only fools would prefer left to right.
To Akwa Ibom audience, anywhere in the world, Udom is more catchy than Emmanuel. Reasons because of its nativity and meanings. Even outside Akwa Ibom community, Udom is more popular than Emmanuel because it is a one-syllable word and not tongue-twisted. It instantly connects the governor to his ancestral place, the Akwa Ibom society, which is currently the constituency of his core concentration.
Get it correct: there is nothing wrong with having a strong family name, as it is also not without its sterling significances. After all, in most cases those who are famous with first names do not deliberately create that niche. First names in most cases filter through the news media. It is therefore unfortunate that the news media has not taken cognisance of Udom in headlines relating to the governor.
Really, regarding his mentioning in the news media, Udom is a brand not branded. In brandings or headlines, keyword is of essence. In the name, Udom Emmanuel, and with regard to the target audience of the governor, the keyword is Udom and not Emmanuel. Also, since simplicity and space also factor into branding the one-syllable word of four characters is more fitting than “Governor Emmanuel”, Akwa Ibom governor” and “Emmanuel” often used in headlines in the news media.
However, this writer does not intend to argue with those who go about marketing the governor at every opening with the tag of “Udom is Right”. But it can asserted that the governor is not always right, just as it is also certain that certain wrongs in the state are yet to be got right. That is why Udom does not have to look at criticism of his government as abuse, as he mentioned while inaugurating his second term cabinet last Thursday, which was precisely the 53rd anniversary of his birth. Critics are contributors to good governance at the opposite end. When constructively done, criticism pays better than praise-singing.
While the branding of Udom, the governor, with emphasis on his name is of essence in the media, the brand himself must constantly work to the billings of his name and beneficial to all.
Ekanem sent this piece from Lagos through email@example.com
Gbajabiamila, the lover of Nigerian youths
he Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila is a man close to my heart, and I know he is also close to the hearts of many Nigerians at this moment, especially the youths.
Unarguably, the Nigerian youths never had it this good with any Speaker of the House in since the return of democracy in 1999.
Though he already approaches his advanced age, 57, the Speaker considers himself as a young man. In fact, he said to his newly appointed media team last Saturday that “I’m a young Speaker with a young media team.”
Of all the appointments the Speaker made, including his Chief of Staff (CoS) Alhaji Sanusi Garba Rikiji, majority of them are youths.
He first of all appointed 51-year old Rikiji, a former Speaker of the Zamfara State House of Assembly as his Chief of Staff on June 11.
The next set of appointments that the Speaker made was that of members of his media team. As part of his belief that Nigeria will sooner or later be led by young people, the Speaker appointed four very young people, out of the 6-member media team.
For the avoidance of doubt, the head of the media team and Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi is 46, while myself, the Chief Press Secretary, I am 33. The Special Assistant on Print Media, Dele Anofi, who is the oldest in the media team, is 52.
The Special Assistant on Broadcast/Electronic Media, Kunle Somoye is 26, while the man in charge of New Media, Bukola Ogunyemi, is 32, with the Special Assistant on Visual Communication/Official Photographer, Ayo Adeagbo, 25. This is the first in history of this country. The Speaker himself was excited by this team.
To show that he knows what he is doing all the time, the Speaker personally conducted searches on each of the members of the media team before appointing them all.
But as Nigerians were expressing excitement about the composition of the media team, a bigger excitement that endeared the Speaker more into the hearts of the citizens came on Tuesday, July 16 when the Speaker announced the appointment of additional aides that would assist him in his leadership.
From the latest appointments, the Special Adviser on Political Matters to the Speaker, Wasiu Olanrewaju-Smart is 33, while the Special Adviser on Special Duties Badmus Olufunmi is 37.
The Speaker’s Senior Legislative Aide, Adim Akpapunam, is 24, with 30-year old Hadiza Abubakar Talba as the Special Assistant on Employment and Job Creation, while the Special Assistant on Gender Equality, Fatima Kakuri, is 32.
Additionally, Tuesday’s appointments indicated that the Special Assistant on Inter-governmental Affairs, Adaku Apugo, is 33, even as the Special Assistant on Policy and Inter-Parliamentary, Princewill Tabia, is 30 years old.
The Speaker’s Special Assistant on IDPs, Hamza Baba Ibrahim, is 39 with Ibrahim Alli-Balogun, who is 40, as the Special Assistant on Youth Matters. The Special Assistant on Executive Relations, Hon Ibrahim Mohammed Baba, is 42 years old.
The appointments also showed that the Special Assistant on Budget and Finance, Lukman Oyewole Lawal, is 43, while the Special Assistant on Legal Matters, Osazee Melody Ogundijie, is 46.
That is not all. The Special Assistant on Members’ Affairs, Dunkwu Nnamdi Chamberlain, is 48. Similarly, the Special Adviser on Administration, Odofin David Seun is 50.
The new appointees’ list equally had 47-year old Hon. Ayodeji Joseph as the Special Assistant on Political Matters (South West), and 49-year old Abdulsalam Idowu Kamaldeen as the Special Assistant on Special Needs/Equal Opportunities.
With the above appointments, it is glaring that the Rt. Hon. Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila is a true lover of the Nigerian youths. He believes in the competence of the Nigerian youth to handle national issues, especially at the legislative level. Interestingly, all the appointed youths were carefully chosen by the Speaker himself because.
Though the appointees above 40 may not be categorised as real youths as such, they are still youth at heart.
The development undoubtedly confers on the Speaker the title of ‘The lover of the Nigerian youths.’
What now remains is for those appointed to justify the confidence reposed in them by the Speaker to deliver on their mandate and assist him in his ‘Nation Building: A Joint Task’ project, which the 9th House of Representatives seeks to pursue vigorously in the next four years.
Musa Abdullahi Krishi is the Chief Press Secretary to the Speaker, House of Representatives
Osun State, Supreme Court and stubborn facts
“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” John Adams, 2nd President of the United States.
-Lord Denning in Leonard MacFoy v. United Africa Company Limited 1962 AC 153.
“My lords, the issue of jurisdiction is over and above any legal manipulation. There is no doubt that a court of law is fundamentally competent when it is properly constituted. If a court is not properly constituted, when there is a defect in its membership then that court cannot be said to have been properly in place. It lacks jurisdiction to properly adjudicate. Whatever decision it reached is going to be a nullity:
-Chukwudifu Akunne Oputa, JSC. in Oniah v. Onyia (1989) 1 NWLR (pt. 99) 514.
hen political and ideological opponents articulate and voice their opposition to certain developments in the polity, it admirably serves the corporate good when such articulated opposition and criticisms are grounded and founded in the consequential facts backed by a full appreciation of the underlying principles. Otherwise, no public good is done, and the universe of the polity is further polluted, if not poisoned.
The anxious quest for such unfounded and ill-conceived criticisms and innuendoes not to pollute the polity informed the writing of this piece.
In the 7th July 2019 edition of the Nigerian Tribune newspaper (both print and digital), Mr. Yinka Odumakin, a vocal and well-known political opponent of the All Progressives Congress (APC), put his name to an article titled: “Osun Verdict: Technicality Defeats Justice.” The overarching point of the article is evident from its title, namely that the Supreme Court of Nigeria failed to do substantial justice in the appeal emanating from the Osun State Election Petition Tribunal and the Court of Appeal by allowing a ‘technical point’ raised by the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate, His Excellency, Alhaji Gboyega Oyetola, to defeat the petition of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate in the September 22 and September 27, 2018 Osun State gubernatorial election, Senator Ademola Adeleke.
Mr. Odumakin admittedly wrote beautifully, alluded to fascinating historical events and quoted respected jurists. However, he wrote under a mistaken appreciation of the legal principles involved and the fundamental principles of judicial adjudication. While the Supreme Court does not need a spokesperson to defend its judgements, the insinuation in Mr. Odumakin’s article that the bias of some of the justices made them elevate what he termed as ‘technicality’ above justice, is one that is indeed capable of poisoning the polity by diminishing the faith of political actors and citizens in the judiciary or by suggesting to other political actors that the APC is undeserving of its victory at the polls and at the Supreme Court. Hence, this rejoinder.
Of course, the right place to begin is exactly where Mr. Odumakin got it wrong: the supposition that the Supreme Court decided the appeal from the Osun State Election Petition Tribunal on a ‘technical’ ground while ignoring the substance of the case. This is far from correct.
Respectable lawyers know so well, and jurists in all commonwealth jurisdictions agree, without exception, that jurisdiction is of fundamental importance to any adjudication process and further that one of the salient ingredients that confer jurisdiction on a judicial body is that it must be properly constituted at all times. Otherwise, it is not a body with vires to conduct a judicial act.
In the case of Nwankwo v. Yar’Adua (2010) 12 NWLR (Pt. 1209) p. 518, at p. 560, the Supreme Court restated the time-honoured principle of jurisdiction laid down in the celebrated locus classicus, Madukolu v. Nkemdilim thus:
“The law is indeed trite that a court is only competent to exercise jurisdiction in respect of any matter where-
1. It is properly constituted as regards numbers and qualification of the members and no member is disqualified for one reason or the other.
2. The subject matter of the case is within its jurisdiction and there is no feature in the case which prevents the court from exercising its jurisdiction.
3. The case comes by due process of the law and upon fulfillment of any condition precedent to the exercise of jurisdiction. See Madukolu & Ors. v. Nkemdilim &Ors.(1962) 2 SCNLR 341.”[Emphasis ours]
It is that first ingredient of jurisdiction listed by the Supreme Court that Mr. Odumakin and other ill-informed commentators or opportunistic opponents of the APC fail to appreciate. For the sake of genuinely intrigued members of the public, one should adumbrate on it.
It is not only a legal principle of procedural law or a mere ‘technical’ requirement but a foundational principle of justice that a judge or tribunal member is not qualified to write and deliver judgement when he was absent at any of the sessions during which the trial of the matter held. Absence at trial is tantamount to not hearing the case in person. This principle is simply giving life to the commonsense position that, without being at all sessions of the trial of a matter, a judge cannot be regarded as having heard the matter so as to be qualified to write and deliver the judgement in the matter.
Indeed, this cardinal principle is codified in almost all the laws setting up trial courts in Nigeria, including, for example, section 23 of the Federal High Court Act which provides that: “every proceeding in the Court and all business arising therein shall, so far as is practicable and convenient and subject to the provisions of any enactment or law, be heard and disposed of by a single judge, and all proceedings in an action subsequent to the hearing or trial, down to, and including the final judgment or order, shall so far as is practicable and convenient, be taken before the judge before whom the trial or hearing took place.”
This is because the trial judge in Nigeria as well as the members of the election petition tribunals are both judges of facts and law. Hence, the requirement for them to be present at the trial in order to be competent to write and deliver judgement. For, how can a judge properly apply the law to the testimonies of witnesses he did not personally see or hear?
As earlier mentioned, this is not some principle of law invented out of thin air but a principle of justice recognised in all mature legal jurisdictions. In the United States case of the Matter of Whisnant, 71 N.C. App. 439, 441 (1984), Judge Tate presided over a termination of parental rights hearing. At the close of the hearing he announced his intended order and asked one of the attorneys to “prepare an order with the appropriate findings…reflecting the broad findings that I announced.” A couple of months later, however, Judge Crotty—not Judge Tate—signed the relevant order, which included detailed findings of fact and conclusions of law. The Court of Appeals reversed, citing Rule 52 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires a court in a non-jury trial to make written findings of fact and conclusions of law. Because these findings and conclusions reflect the role of that judge as “both judge and juror,” they cannot be performed by a judge who did not hear the matter. (Emphasis mine).
Again, the second point that Mr. Odumakin failed to appreciate is the salient difference between the role of an appellate court and that of a trial court. The Osun State Election Petition Tribunal is, to all intents and purposes, a trial court which has the duty to sift through the evidence, listen to witnesses, listen to the oral and written arguments of lawyers and then deliver its judgement based on the evidence evaluated, the witnesses heard and observed and the legal arguments canvassed.
On the other hand, the role of the appellate court is, generally speaking, to review the proceedings and decisions of the trial court and the role of a higher appellate court is to review the proceeding and decision of the lower appellate court. In other words, an appellate court merely reviews what the trial court has done. It cannot substitute its own views for that of the trial court because it did not evaluate the evidence nor listen to the witnesses. With respect to the instant matter, the question submitted to the Court if Appeal was whether Justice Peter Obiora was competent to deliver the judgement of the tribunal notwithstanding his absence at one of the tribunal sittings.
Of course, the Court of Appeal could not deliver a judgement beyond the question submitted for its consideration. Similarly, the Supreme Court could not but answer the main question or issue placed before it, namely, whether the Court of Appeal was right in its decision that Justice Peter Obiora was not qualified to deliver the judgement of the tribunal having been absent on one of the days that witnesses appeared before the tribunal.
I am certain that a better appreciation of the issues would have restrained Mr. Odumakin from penning the July 7, 2019 article published in the Nigerian Tribune. The only competent body that can conduct gubernatorial elections in Nigeria is the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). INEC is also the only competent authority that may declare results. It is therefore pedestrian to argue that the courts ought to have assumed the powers of INEC, extrapolate figures and arrive at what Mr. Odumakin considers the ‘correct’ result of the Osun State gubernatorial election.A court of law must act within the ambits of the law.
So, we may end this discourse exactly where we began it: John Adams was right in his observation that facts are stubborn things that cannot be altered by our wishes, inclinations and passions. And yes, the fact that Justice Peter Obiora, who wrote and delivered the judgement of the Osun State Election Tribunal was absent on a day when witnesses appeared before the tribunal, is so stubborn that it cannot be wished away by anyone. It is fact. A fact that goes to the competence of Justice Obiora to carry out the judicial act of writing and delivering the judgement of the tribunal. A fact that essentially denies him of jurisdiction and vires to deliver the judgement. As the erudite Justice Oputa rightly observed: “An act done without jurisdiction is a nullity” and, as the immortal Lord Denning espoused, one“cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stay there. It will collapse.”
Let the Yinka Odumakins of our country know that that is not a mere ‘technical’ point of law. It is a universal and foundational principle of justice.
Akinyede is a legal practitioner based in Osun State
The power of storytelling
’ve always been fascinated with stories. It’s one of the reasons why in high school I jettisoned physics, chemistry, and math in favour of literature and history. The decision has served me well in my media and communication career.
I realized early on – to quote the poet Muriel Rukeyser – that “the universe is made up of stories, not atoms.”
The truth is, stories are not loaded with hard data but rather with something more powerful: emotional data. That’s why we remember good stories long after we first hear them.
Jesus was a master storyteller. At the age of 12, he theologically confounded the teachers in the Temple. But it was his capacity to tell stories that deeply stirred the souls of those who followed him. He wove familiar elements that his audience could relate to into his stories – pastures, hills, farmers, sheep, oil and lamps, coins, bandits and highway robbers, etc.
In workshops, seminars, or conferences on public speaking or communication, my advice is always simple. “Don’t complicate your presentation. Tell stories. Your audience will thank and remember you for it.”
Whether in journalism, public speaking, or business presentations, the most effective speakers tell stories. What sets them apart is an innate understanding of the needs of their audiences. They know how to connect on an emotional and sensory level, rather than a cerebral one. How do they do it? Stories.
Sports legend and entrepreneur, Magic Johnson, the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, Virgin Atlantic Founder, Richard Branson, and Kenyan Pan-Africanist lawyer, Patrick Lumumba, distinguish themselves by their amazing storytelling abilities. They connect on a powerful and emotional level when they speak.
Why are stories important and so powerful?
Simply because oral tradition has been a part of our DNA for millenia. We are addicted to stories, especially in a digital world of social media dominated by Instagram, twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook. And because stories help bring issues into sharp focus.
Stories are also important because every single one of us is looking for answers. We connect with appropriate and authentic stories that help us build bonds and bridges. Stories help us recognize that our own experiences are not necessarily unique. Stories help us understand that we are not alone as we navigate this journey called life.
Good stories should always have three key elements:
*Honesty, authenticity, and vulnerability:* Audiences can tell a fake from a mile away. Your unique life experiences have prepared you well. Tell your stories.
*Inspiration:* Life is tough. Your speech or presentation should be a lift and not a burden. Give your audience something to believe in. Inspire them to want to change their world one life at a time.
*Clear Lesson:* Before you deliver your speech or presentation, ask yourself, “what is the key takeaway? What’s the lesson I want my audience to leave with? Is it clear and easily understood? Is my logic sequential? Does the story fit the circumstance and needs of the audience? Does it resonate?
As Plato once said, “those who tell stories rule society.”
Stories make us laugh. They make us cry. They help change the way we think, perceive and act. They enlighten and provide new insights. They teach values and pass on ancient wisdom. Revolutions have changed nations on account of the narrative-changing power of stories.
Most importantly, stories transcend the mind and speak deeply to the heart.
Your authentic story is your power.
Dr. Victor Oladokun is the Director of Communication and External Relations at the African Development Bank
Insecurity: Will we ever get it right in Nigeria?
Last week the nation was taken aback when reports filtered in of the murder of Mrs Funke Olakunrin, the 58-year-old daughter of Afenifere leader, Reuben Fasoranti. Mrs Olakunrin had just visited her 93-year-old father and was heading back home when suspected herdsmen attacked her car along the Akure-Ore road.
And what is becoming a very worrying trend (as if was not already) the assailants rather than blocking the road and giving their victims the chance of ‘cooperating’ or being dispossessed of their valuables by force, opted to shoot first and in the process the woman who resides in the US was struck and later died in hospital due to massive loss of blood.
Incidentally before last Friday’s incident a number of videos had been circulating on social media showing people recounting their brushes with death after having their vehicles shot at by the bandits. In one such case for instance, nine suspected armed herdsmen were said to have launched an attack on a Nigerian naval officer who was on his way to Lagos while returning from an official assignment.
The attack on Lt. M. Dahiru took place on July 7 at about 1:30 pm along the Benin by-pass by Ahor community, Edo State. Dahiru was returning from an official assignment on the NNS Burutu, a Nigerian navy vessel, when the attack occurred.
Just like in the case of Mrs Olakunrin, the attackers never gave him the opportunity of stopping but rather reportedly fired several rounds at Dahiru’s vehicle hitting him in the shoulder. While trying to escape from his assailants, the soldier crashed into another vehicle.
Pictures of the incident showed his white Peugeot 307 saloon car full of bullet holes on the bonnet with his boot crumpled from the crash. Sadly in the case of Pa Fasoranti daughter’s death politics crept in with the police insisting that it was a case of armed robbery and kidnapping since their investigation showed that another vehicle and a luxurious bus were also attacked and about eight people abducted.
However, this was hotly disputed by Mrs Olakunrin’s brother, Mr. Kehinde Fasoranti, who told journalists that he visited the police station in Ore town shortly after the incident and was told by officers on duty that those who operated and shot his sister were Fulani herdsmen!
“We need to get the story straight. The way they operated, according to what the police said in Ore, is the way Fulani herdsmen operate…The story that these are just bandits is a lie. If you want records, request the report I made at the Ore police station. They categorically said the attackers were Fulani herdsmen,” he told the media.
But whatever is the true situation, Friday’s incident only further drives home the fact that the security situation in the country is only getting worse by the day and no amount of propaganda by government and her officials can mask this fact!
From Sokoto to Zamfara, Borno to Yobe, Benue to Plateau state, we are constantly bombarded with chilling reports of killings, murders and attacks by herdsmen, bandits or ‘unknown gunmen’ slaughtering fellow Nigerians with reckless abandon. In fact, just a few months ago, the nation’s top police office, Mohammed Adamu, who is the Inspector General, reeled out very chilling statistics of the rising lawlessness in the country.
Speaking during the quarterly Northern Traditional Rulers’ Council meeting which took place in Kaduna State on Tuesday, April 30, 2019, Adamu said that 1,071 people were killed in crime-related cases in the first quarter of 2019. Of course the figures would have drastically shot up considering all the killings, murders and abductions that have taken place after his presentation. It is very clear that the nation did not get to this precarious situation overnight – it is obvious that failure by governments at all levels to face the situation with all the seriousness it required played a big part.
For instance, it still beats the imagination that the same set of people saddled with the responsibility of protecting lives and properties, and who have clearly failed to do so from the daily reports we get, are still keeping their jobs. Like I have noted in previous write ups, the famous German theoretical physicist, Albert Einstein said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results!” And yet we are still going down the same path. But why security chiefs are on their own not trying anything differently is also a source for concern.
Four years ago, a former Secretary to the Government, Chief Olu Falaye was attacked and abducted on his Ilado farm in Akure. Chief Falaye, who was also a one-time Finance Minister, insisted that it was six Fulani herdsmen who had carried out the abduction. And yet here we are years later still talking about the same set of people who rather than being degraded have become more daring, brutal and more widespread in carrying out their dastardly actions. This is clearly a sign that we have not learnt any lessons from previous incidences and evolved correspondingly to tackle them.
When Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda successfully breached the defences of the US intelligence agencies and carried out their multiple attacks on mainland America in 2001, the agencies did soul searching checked what they did wrong and have ensured that no such large scale attack has taken place since then.
The same thing in the UK, where security and intelligence services working in synch have been able to foil a repeat of the 7/7 (July 7) attacks of 2005, which killed 52 people of 18 different nationalities and injured more than 700 in Britain’s deadliest terrorist incident since the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 near Lockerbie, Scotland, and England’s deadliest since the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings, as well as the country’s first Islamist suicide attack.
While it is good for our leaders to show empathy with the victims when such sad incidents happen, what we will want more than anything else is for them not to have to do so because they would not have to console bereaved families having ensured enhanced security across the land. Intelligence gathering should be stepped up by all those concerned with our security, while they should also be equipped with the latest gadgets in order to successfully carry out the very important task of protecting the lives and properties of the citizens.
Government should also not shy away from seeking assistance from wherever so long as it will improve the performances of our security services and allow citizens go about their daily chores without fearing for their lives. It is a given that an economy can only thrive in a safe and secure environment – of which, unfortunately, Nigeria is far from.
A Yoruba nollywood actress fondly referred to as ‘’no network’’ elicits a spinning laughter when she is immersed in her thespian role. It is essentially that of someone that is hard of hearing, someone that echoes and acts ‘’go’’ when ‘’come’’ was the actual instruction………….always hearing and carrying out the contrary.
As funny as her role seems, it’s actually a portrayal of a very disturbing condition. What it is This is a reduced ability to hear sounds in the same way as other people.
• Mild hearing loss: One-on-one conversations are fine, but it’s hard to catch every word when there’s background noise.
• Moderate hearing loss: You often need to ask people to repeat themselves during conversations in person and on the phone. • Severe hearing loss: Following a conversation is almost impossible unless you have a hearing aid.
• Profound hearing loss: You can’t hear when other people speaking, unless they are extremely loud. You can’t understand what they’re saying without a hearing aid.
Deafness: This occurs when a person cannot understand speech through hearing, even when sound is amplified.
Profound deafness: This refers to a total lack of hearing.
An individual with profound deafness is unable to detect sound at all. Types of hearing loss Hearing loss is defined as one of three types:
• Conductive (involves outer or middle ear)
• Sensorineural (involves inner ear)
• Mixed (combination of the two) The act of hearing Sound waves enter the ear, move down the ear or auditory canal, and hit the eardrum, which vibrates. The vibrations from the eardrum pass to three bones known as the ossicles in the middle ear.
These ossicles amplify the vibrations, which are then picked up by small hair-like cells in the cochlea. These move as the vibrations hit them, and the movement data is sent through the auditory nerve to the brain.
The brain processes the data, which a person with functional hearing will interpret as sound. Causes of hearing impairment
• Damage to the inner ear. Aging and exposure to loud noise may cause wear and tear on the hairs or nerve cells in the cochlea (the sense organ that translates sound into nerve impulses to be sent to the brain). When these hairs or nerve cells are damaged or missing, electrical signals aren’t transmitted as efficiently, and hearing loss occurs. Higher pitched tones may become muffled to you. It may become difficult for you to pick out words against background noise.
• Gradual buildup of earwax. Earwax can block the ear canal and prevent conduction of sound waves. Earwax removal can help restore your hearing.
• Ear infection and abnormal bone growths or tumors. In the outer or middle ear, any of these can cause hearing loss.
• Ruptured eardrum (tympanic membrane perforation). Loud blasts of noise, sudden changes in pressure, poking your eardrum with an object and infection can cause your eardrum to rupture and affect your hearing. Risk factors
• Aging. Degeneration of inner ear structures occurs over time. • Loud noise. Exposure to loud sounds can damage the cells of your inner ear. Damage can occur with long-term exposure to loud noises, or from a short blast of noise, such as from a gunshot. • Heredity. Genetic makeup may make one more susceptible to ear damage from sound or deterioration from aging.
• Occupational noises. Jobs where loud noise is a regular part of the working environment, such as farming, construction or factory work, can lead to damage inside your ear.
• Recreational noises. Exposure to explosive noises, such as from firearms and jet engines, can cause immediate, permanent hearing loss. Other recreational activities with dangerously high noise levels include power biking, carpentry or listening to loud music.
• Some medications. Drugs such as the antibiotic gentamicin, sildenafil (Viagra) and certain chemotherapy drugs, can damage the inner ear.
Temporary effects on your hearing — ringing in the ear (tinnitus) or hearing loss — can occur if you take very high doses of aspirin, other pain relievers, antimalarial drugs (chloroquine and quinine) or loop diuretics (drugs that rid the body of water)
• Some illnesses. Diseases or illnesses that result in high fever, such as meningitis, may damage the cochlea. Symptoms In adults
• Have trouble following a conversation when more than one person speaks at once
• Think other people are mumbling or not speaking clearly • Often misunderstand what others say and respond inappropriately
• Get complaints that the TV is too loud
• Hear ringing, roaring, or hissing sounds in your ears, known as tinnitus • High-pitched sounds, such as children’s and female voices,
• The sounds “S” and “F” become harder to make out. In infants
• Before the age of 4 months, the baby does not turn their head toward a noise. • By the age of 12 months, the baby still has not uttered a single word.
• The infant does not appear to be startled by a loud noise.
• The infant responds to you when they can see you, but respond far less or do not respond at all when you are out of sight and call out their name.
• The infant only seems to be aware of certain sounds. In toddlers and children
• The child is behind others the same age in oral communication.
• The child keeps saying “What?” or “Pardon?”
• The child talks in a very loud voice, and tends to produce louder-than-normal noises.
• When the child speaks, their utterances are not clear. What to do Please visit or take your ward to visit the hospital as soon as possible when any abnormality is noted.
The general practitioner will surely make a referral to the ear, nose and throat doctor.
The marriage of these days (Part 2)
One of the vital information required before engaging in marital relationship for instance, has to do with difference in variables in behavioural patterns, even in areas of economics. No two individuals in this whole wide world are the same in everything.
Let us look at family economics for instance. If a man grew up in a home where his father did nothing but left his mother to shoulder all financial responsibilities of the family, the man is likely not to contribute a penny to the financial upkeep of his family when he gets married. You cannot accuse him of not loving his wife and family based on that character because he sees that lifestyle as a norm. If it was his father that shouldered all financial responsibilities when he was growing up, he is not likely to expect any financial contributions from his wife when he marries.
If it was a girl that grew up seeing her father shoulder every single financial responsibility, she is not likely to contribute anything financially to her family when she marries, even when her husband’s income is a peanut when compared to hers.
Don’t accuse her of not loving her husband because she is doing what she believes is right. On the other hand, if it was her mother that shouldered financial responsibilities when she was growing up, she is likely to aspire and actually do the same thing. It is only education, positive social interactions, informal exposure to learning or change of orientation along the path of growing up that can make things happen differently.
These are some of the background checks that ought to be made during courtship. This is why I wonder whether those who get mar- ried without courtship actually understand the meaning and implications of marriage. Wrong orientation about marital relationship is a huge challenge. As a guy or lady, you have a friend of same gender.
You are so close, love each other so well, and you have been able to successfully maintain this relationship for years, even as wretched people. In fact, people have even forgotten that you are mere friends rather than blood brothers or sisters.
The relationship has remained sweet with or without affluence. Now, you have married someone of the opposite sex that you supposedly love.
Because of a minor offence, probably related to money, you are already contemplating separation or divorce. Would you say you are serious with life? For decades, you loved and lived with your parents and blood relatives who frequently offended you and you forgave them.
In fact, as you read this write-up, you know they will still offend you tomorrow. Are you contemplating divorcing them? Is it possible to do away with them? No, of course! So, why are you so embittered that your spouse of a few years relationship offended you? You are already contemplating divorce, forgetting that you made a covenant before your creator as marriage vow.
Development of warped values has also become a huge challenge. As I said in previous editions for instance, the notion that once there is plenty of money, success in marriage is guaranteed, is a wrong notion. I am still waiting for someone to prove me wrong on this stand by explaining to me why divorce rate among popular billionaire couples has continued to increase.
In the midst of growing number of divorce cases today, there are couples in our environments whose level of sweetness and love in marriage have continued to grow, with or without affluence. The truth is that marrying someone is a journey into discovering who the person is. Before you discover someone else however, have you discovered yourself?
There are many people that were ‘very good’ and happy as singles. Their problems started when they got married to someone. In many of such cases, issues of compatibility were not addressed by the couple before choosing to get married to each other. So, the problem cannot be the relationship itself. Relationship is a good thing. In fact, relationship is everything.
The problem is with the operators of the relationship. The ‘relators’ as it were, have a problem.
Today, you can have a happy marriage and family if you want. If your marriage has a challenge, you need to approach the right source for solution. Seeking counsel or a solution from a wrong source can be likened to seeking the services of a carpenter to mend your faulty dress or car.
“For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1st Corinthians 3:11).
If your marriage is approved of God, the solution to any challenge in that marriage is not in any other way, than the way and method of God as reflected in his word. Marriage is so important to God that the very first miracle that Jesus performed in Cana was at a wedding ceremony in John chapter 2.
If you have a marital challenge and someone is counselling you, that counsel must be weighed with the word of God.
“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2).
The day you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and personal saviour, there is no longer a YOU. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 5:20).
I hope you know that your prayers may never be answered when you mistreat your spouse? (1st Peter 3:7). Your personal relationship with your owner and maker is priority.
Imo TSA: Matters arising
Less than three weeks after His Excellency, Governor Emeka Ihedioha, assumed office, a columnist in an Owerri-based newspaper queried why he was yet to flag off a “major project”! A few days later, another commentator in a rejoinder argued that while “projects” are important, they must be distinguished from “edifice mentality” which, according to him, was the bane of governance in the state for eight years; and wherein the people were made to see halls and squares as the hallmark of development.
Today, if we are talking of edifices, Imo would likely rank the first among the 36 states. But unknown to the hapless citizens of the state, the buildings and squares are standing on top of a massive financial and procedural filth. Of course, the administration of Hon.
Ihedioha is inevitably forward-looking but it also owes it a duty to explain to the good people of Imo State where they were before now, since that is the only way they can consciously pursue a collective aspiration for a greater future.
In other words, we cannot be tired of telling the people the state of affairs before now. How would, for example, Ihedioha, no matter how “nice” anybody would like him to be, fail to disclose to the people that in the last eight years, over 250 bank accounts existed in the state through which revenue accruing to government was supposedly managed; or that monies deducted from the salaries of civil servants under the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system never got into the coffers of government; or that such monies indeed “disappeared between the Accountant-General’s office and the MDAs”.
Would the governor be “playing politics” to let Imolites know that even with that incredible number of bank accounts, payments for government services were “being made in cash as against directly to bank accounts” and that “these payments in cash are not duly transmitted to government treasury…”, resulting in “massive fraud and heavy loss of funds to the government”.
Or take another situation whereby “MDAs… maintained and operated revenue accounts… in pseudo names instead of directing payments to the central electric platform of the Board of Internal Revenue”, leading to a situation where “these funds are spent … and not properly accounted for…”
I have just pointed at a few of the findings of the eight-man Financial Advisory Committee (FAC) set up by His Excellency on assumption of office to look into how the state’s finances, especially from internally generated revenue, were being managed.
The committee, led by Dr. Abraham Nwankwo, an egghead who, for a decade, headed Nigeria’s Debt Management Office (DMO), turned in an interim report last week. Would Governor Ihedioha be playing politics or wanting to do his predecessor in, by letting fellow citizens know of this parlous state of affairs? In any case, it is not as if the people did not know the situation. Otherwise, why do we think that calls have been made by several well-meaning indigenes/ stakeholders and concerned friends of the state, agitating for an immediate probe of the past administration.
However, for those who want the new administration to “look forward” and not “look backwards”, the governor has just done that with the findings and recommendations of the FAC. It is no longer news that, in line with his promise as contained in his inaugural address to adopt the Treasury Single Account, His Excellency on Wednesday July 10, 2019, upon receiving the committee’s report, signed Executive Order 005 signalling the takeoff of Treasury Single Account (TSA) system in the state. By this, Imo is the second state, to take to the TSA system, following its adoption by the Federal Government in 2015. Among others, what TSA in Imo State means is that henceforth, there ceases to exist the multiplicity of revenue accounts operated by MDAs. Instead, all revenues payable to government shall be to BIR accounts.
The TSA also means that henceforth, there shall be no cash payments for services rendered by government and its agencies as all such payments shall now be made to designated bank accounts on the BIR platform.
Then, of course, PAYE reductions from the salaries of civil servants shall be remitted simultaneously with the payment of salaries to the TSA maintained by the BIR. While every well-meaning and knowledgeable citizen of the state is looking forward to its implementation, it is important to point out that TSA is not an end unto itself. It is a step that is taken preparatory to achieving something more robust and transcendental, in this case a positive transformation of the state economy. One of the major objectives of TSA in Imo is to reposition the state to make it more competitive, that is, make business easier in the state.
Perhaps unknown to many, Imo, according to the latest World Bank report, is number 34 on the Ease of Doing Business ranking among the 36 states of the federation. So, what has that got to do with TSA? A lot. Imagine a first time visitor to the state who wanted to obtain some government services which he had to pay for.
Under the previous arrangement wherein MDAs received cash for such payments, the visitor, perhaps a potential investor, would have to go to his bank, withdraw the cash and then go back to the concerned MDA to make the payment. Cumbersome? Exposure to danger? Discouraging? Your answers are as good as mine.
Now, this. A comparative review of the state’s Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) between 2013 and 2018 shows that at N14.8 billion in 2018, Imo occupied the fourth position (it tied with Abia) among the five South-East states.
In other words, Imo ranked below Anambra and Enugu states whose figures stood respectively at N19.3 billion and N23.1 billion. Imo was only atop Ebonyi State whose figure was N6.1 billion. Now, Anambra and Enugu are non-oil producing states but Imo has 163 oil wells.
Needless to say, the current assignment of the Imo FAC is not the first time experts are expressing concern over the financial morass of the state. So, if the state is to “improve its infrastructure and enhance its financial viability”, it goes without saying that measures like the TSA have become absolutely necessary. But even so, it is important to further point out that the Imo FAC did not stumble at TSA.
As already noted, TSA is in itself not an end but a means to an end, which is the overall economic prosperity of the state. Considering the collapse of infrastructure in the state, what project can be better than cleansing the Augean stable of a cacophony of financial procedures, irregularities and massive theft of public funds; as a necessary condition for a sustainable action plan? As experts say, 70 per cent of good governance is from intangibles, not edifices or “projects”, the type Imolites were used to in the immediate past.
Good governance, according to those who know, strives at excellence which is defined by equality, meritocracy, integrity, incorruptibility, diligence and compliance; which is where our dear state is now headed.
There is no gainsaying Ihedioha is passionate about the rebuilding process, for which, he has already hit the ground, despite the fact that the past administration never considered it traditional to hand him a status report.
Not distracted by the deliberate abuses by the remnants of the disgraced past administration, he has gone further to deliberately restore confidence again in the governance of the state. He has taken bold steps to institutionalize believability in his administration which a large section of informed citizens, say, is a total departure from old. Truth is, there is calm, hope and expectation, which resonates among the people. lOnyeukwu is Chief Press Secretary to Governor of Imo State
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