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Gbajabiamila’s peace mission to troubled states

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Gbajabiamila’s peace mission to troubled states

 

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nsurgency, banditry, killings and kidnappings, which spurred the decimation and displacement of the Nigerian population and the economy have always been of great concern to the Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila.

The Speaker, even as a first-term member in 2003, vowed not to rest until he contributes his modest quota towards lasting solutions to these inimical challenges. That was the reason behind his drive for people-centered legislation and policies, which he took on as a challenge, with a conviction to give it an added drive, if he ever found himself in the position to drive decisions making.

 

Few among the bills targeted at the generality of Nigerians irrespective of gender, ethnic or religious affiliation include: Bill to penalize airlines over cancellation of flights (2013), Constitution alteration bill to accommodate States and community policing (2018), Estimated Billing Bill (8th Assembly), Bill to criminalize late/non-payment of wages (2019), Electric Power Sector Reform Act (Amendment Bill 2019) and Physically Challenged (Empowerment) Bill (2019).

On assumption of office as the Speaker of the 9th House, Gbajabiamila found it imperative to make the plight of the common man a priority, and this, among other reasons, accounted for the fact-finding and on-the-spot assessment visits to areas affected by insurgency, banditry and other crimes that have displaced people from their homes, while dislocating their economy and that of their states.

 

 

He began the peace tour from Zamfara State on July 14, 2019, and followed it up with another one to Borno State on July 30, less than three days after bomb blasts that claimed more than 60 lives. Why take on this enormous task despite the physical security risk involved, coupled with the knowledge that the resolutions and recommendations emanating from the Legislature are advisory and not binding on the Executive?

In Gusau, the Zamfara State capital, the Speaker told the gathering, which had in attendance Governor Bello Matawalle, the state cabinet, traditional rulers, factions of insurgents groups and displaced persons that: “All the years that many of us have been in the House of Representatives, we bring up issues concerning security and insecurity in Nigeria and other parts of Nigeria, Zamfara inclusive.”

 

 

He said: “We argue these issues, we debate these issues, and we come up with resolutions that we feel might help in resolving the issues. But alas! Over the years, all these frantic efforts end on the rinky-dink. Our arguments, our debates are based on what we read on newspaper reports, what we see on television and what we hear. They are not based on actual assessment on the ground. They are not based on the interaction with the stakeholders that are here today. Since seeing is believing, we decided, for the first time in the history of this nation that the House of Representatives would be here with the presiding officers to get the real facts based on-ground assessment, not on hearsay, not on newspapers report, not on TV reports, but from interaction, interfacing with stakeholders and having a proper assessment of what is happening in Zamfara State. With the view of going back to the National Assembly, the seat of power, and getting government intervention and making recommendations based on that assessment to government.”

 

 

The trip was not a jamboree. With the determination to take the message back to Mr. President, Gbajabiamila was equally resolute to secure commitments from all the stakeholders that peace should be given a chance for the benefit of the people and the development of the State so ravaged by insurgency. “What we’re going to be talking about is solutions and where the government can intervene. How do we move forward? I believe it’s a question of doing the right thing, at the right time. First and foremost, resettlement, allowing everybody to live in peace,” the Speaker assured.

 

 

One of the solutions, the Speaker said, is to develop the three Senatorial Districts in the state alongside the state government, “So, here’s the deal, for me on my part and on the part of the House of Representatives, we shall give you and devote sizable amount of resources to the Senatorial District in Zamfara State for peace. We will ensure that we deploy security forces which are needed to cater for the citizens of Zamfara State. Without security forces, we’re not going to achieve much; the ratio of security men to citizens not just in Zamfara state, everywhere in Nigeria does not come close to international best practices.

 

“I speak on behalf of the House, having discussed with the leadership of the Senate, I took my time to inform the President about this trip. He’s aware that I’m coming here. So I stand here as a symbol of authority, not just for the House but for the government. The President is fully in support. He’s concerned. He is committed to peace for those of you who know him. He’s committed to peace, he is committed to finding lasting solutions to the problems of banditry or whatever we face and not just here in Zamfara State but in other parts of Nigeria. Maybe Zamfara State will be a case study or test run, but this is going to be extended to every other part in Nigeria,” the Speaker said.

 

The high point of the visit was the release of six hostage victims to the Speaker by repentant bandit leaders. He also made a contribution of trailer loads of food materials to the affected victims.

In less than three days after the last bomb blast in Maiduguri that claimed more than 60 lives, and despite the risk, the Speaker saw no reason to defer his peace reconciliation trip to Maiduguri. In the afternoon of Tuesday 30th of last month, Gbajabiamila and his colleagues were in Maiduguri, the state capital of Borno to assess the extent of the damages hauled on the once very peaceful State.

 

Accompanied by the Minority Leader Ndudi Elumelu, Chief Whip Muhammad Monguno and others, the Speaker expressed his concern over the plight of the future generations languishing in the various internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps across the Northeast region, saying, “It is our responsibility as a government to make sure that the almost 42,000 that inhabit this camp are gradually reduced and resettled back to their families and their homes in a no-too-distant future. We are here to give encouragement on the little succor we can as government and to see what we can do using the instrumentality of the law to make sure that issues that concern internally displaced persons.”

 

Besides speaking the mind of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Speaker assured that laws that would comprehensively address the security challenges facing the country would be put in place. “As a National Assembly, and as a government, it is important that we deal with that situation. That’s why we’re here today to make sure that all is well. All can never be well if anybody is living in a camp; to make sure that as best as possible, government plays its role in making sure the welfare of those who are in camps is taken care of. Constitutionally, the primary purpose of government is the security and welfare of its people. These are our people, and we must make sure that they’re well taken care of. If you see me, if you see the House, then you see the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I want you to take it away. I stand here as the Speaker of the House, but we’re one government. The president is aware that I’m here. We’re one government, and we speak with one voice. Whatever is comes under my voice, is coming from Mr. President.”

 

For Speaker Gbajabiamila, this is just the beginning of the several interventions that the 9th House under his leadership would come up with to better the lives of Nigerians.

 

 

Dele Anofi is an aide on Print Media to Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila

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Take a message to Bayelsa

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Take a message to Bayelsa

Moving the slogan from “Pride of the Nation” to “Glory of all Land”, not all Bayelsans understand that it is a confirmation that Bayelsa State has arrived in the harbour safe and sound, off the waves under Governor Seriake Dickson.

That’s why this message must get to them, so that the finger of God in Bayelsa will not be mistaken for the finger of Man, and also to know that the progressives have been floundering on the path of “Prosperity.”

Tell the people of Kolokuma/Opokuma in Bayelsa wherever you see them that the comforter, Senator Diri Douye, is set to reinvent their land where harmony and love shall exist in every city.

Having experienced good governance under Governor Dickson for the first time in history, it is a mission-divine to have Diri Douye to finish the ‘FORWARD TOGETHER’ mantra and no one will be ‘Left Behind’.

Tell the people of Brass that many human locusts must have afflicted their land in the past, and the jungles may have been under-achieving.

But that with the coming and support of Governor Dickson, down to Diri Douye, as successor, the Philistines shall be nowhere to be found around their land anymore.

Tell them there will be no more tears and no more sorrows in Brass. Their case shall be like the case of the Jews under King David down to King Solomon.

I pray that the people of Ekeremor can be properly messaged that the economic space shall be more liberalised, despite all the Egyptian hawks trying to clutch the economy on to the old order.

Let them know that the people’s comforter, Senator Douye shall use his charm and aura to overcome all the Pharaohs and Nebuchadnezzar of their land and Ekeremor will see Egypt no more and never witness Babylon again.

Tell the good people of Nembe that for the struggle for power over the years, there is agog with the filaments of festivities, as they all support Diri Douye on his all-round ‘Prosperity’ mission.

Tell them that Diri Douye will work with them to defeat their political buccaneers and lead the people in their Canaan land to checkmate all the political capons, who are under the impression that the husk of the game can never come alive on its own, even when the soul of the game has not vacated the contraption.

Please, don’t forget to tell the Ogbia people that Diri Douye shall be grounding the machinery of all anti-Ogbia merchants, so that the land will not see repose.

Take a message to Bayelsans in diaspora. Tell them that Governor Dickson is the Moses of our time that has led Bayelsans out of slavery, and written the Ten Commandments to the path of ‘Prosperity’.

And he has anointed Diri Douye to be the Joshua that will bring Bayelsa to ‘Forward Together’. Please, kindly tell them to come back home to invest and join in the ‘Prosperity’.

Please, take a message to Sagbama. When you get there, stand at every junction and look at the magnificent works God sent Governor Dickson to perform, and thank God for being God.

Then go inside and tell the people that Diri Douye is the comforter meant to turn the place to the city of David. Tell them to expect the tabernacle of David under Douye, as they shall be called the seeds of David.

It is a case of Glory to Glory in Bayelsa State, as Governor Dickson finds Diri Douye worthy to take Bayelsa to greater height, and the people must be told the truth so they could fly along.

Yenagoa, and the good people of Yenagoa, I can see you. I can see how your smile is bursting into loud laughter.

Tell Southern Ijaw and other parts of Bayelsa that what’s happening in the state is simply the voice of Jacob and the hand of Esau. Tell them to be strong for Diri Douye.

If you forgot every other message I have sent you, please, don’t forget this one. Don’t forget to tell all other minority tribes across the state that Diri Douye will bring out the strength in the diversity of Bayelsa and unify the land with love.

λAbanum writes from Abuja.

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The $9.6bn judgement debt burden

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The court judgement of $9.6 billion against Nigeria by a United Kingdom court for its inability to perform a subsisting contract between both parties continues to elicit reactions and controversy in the polity. In a judgement against the nation, the Irish company, Process and Industrial Developments Limited (P&ID) has been given the right to seize $9.6 billion in Nigerian assets. The sum, which is about 20 per cent of the country’s external reserves of $45 billion, makes the judgement a product of the inability of our government to keep faith with the contractual terms with the existing Gas Supply and Processing Agreement (GSPA), causing the nation an opportunity to add 2,000 megawatts of power to its generation capacity.

In 2010, both parties had signed the agreement that P&ID would build a state-of-the-art gas processing plant that would convert wet gas to dry gas and supply same to the national grid at no extra cost to the country while the Federal Government would lay pipelines and supply gas to the plant in line with the deal. The company was obliged to make its invested funds through the exportation of byproducts of the wet gas for over 20 years. Reports indicated that the government failed to lay required pipes, making it impossible for P&ID to build the plant, as agreed. This brought about the dispute that made the company accuse Nigeria of breach of contract and depriving it of opportunity to earn a profit, as building the plant was contingent on the government laying the pipes.

For emphasis, in keeping to the terms of the contract, the company had opted for arbitration and a settlement was reached in 2015 in which Nigeria agreed to pay $850 million. Unfortunately, Nigeria did not adhere to the terms of the arbitration, making P&ID resort to arbitration and in 2017 whereby the arbitration tribunal ruled in favour of the company and ordered Nigeria to pay for the value of the profits which P&ID would have earned from March 2013 with interest. Despite this, the government reneged by forcing the company to approach a commercial court to seek enforcement of the tribunal’s ruling, which culminated in making the court to rule that Nigeria had erred in the handling of the matter and should, therefore, pay $9.6 billion to the company. The non-presentation of proper documentation to the High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division (Commercial Court) has accounted for the legal action facing the nation.

The interim award judgement would give P&ID the right to seize Nigeria’s assets in any of the 160 countries that form part of the New York Convention, which is a global pact for the enforcement of such arbitral awards. Matters arising from the case suggest that there are many faults on the part of the government. For instance, representatives of the government were accused of not being in court when required or refused to follow up on negotiated out-of-court settlements. These amounted to costly legal mistakes as the judgement is capable of making the country to lose a huge amount of 20 per cent of its external reserves, which is about 2.5 per cent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Furthermore, rather than correcting the mistake, retrogressive actions were taken by the country and the suit, which lasted for more than four years, had a ruling against Nigeria that it was liable to the P&ID. This judgement was never contested.

The following knotty questions deserve answers: why did public officials offer to give up jurisdiction clause to overseas interests and by so doing, externalise the choice of law in contracts to be executed within local jurisdictions? Could this be deliberate to put the nation in a disadvantaged position? Was the deal meant to be a failed venture ab initio? What were the obligations and limitations of the parties? What is the actual amount that the firm invested in Nigeria on the contract? Where is the office of the firm located in the country? Who are the personnel and principal officers of the firm in Nigeria? These are questions that deserve concrete explanations in line with the statutory requirements for foreign participation of business in Nigeria.

As a way forward, the government should explore every legal means to resolve the dispute without further delay. This becomes crucial in view of insinuations by government that the judgement debt was a calculated attempt by international and local scammers to deplete the country’s rising foreign reserves, just as the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), had rejected claims by P&ID that he was culpable for causing a delay that culminated into the award of $9.6 billion against the nation.

It is hoped that the country’s economy would not be depleted going by the welcome decision to invite the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the police and relevant bodies to look into the saga. Those found guilty should be sanctioned no matter how highly placed they may be. The Federal Government should logically appeal against the ruling of the UK court by exploring the possible defences customarily afforded by sovereign states under the United Kingdom Sovereign Immunity Act to halt enforcing payment of the avoidable judgement debt.

This should be properly done through a well-coordinated strategy without foreclosing out-of-court settlement options, which is the hallmark of arbitration as opposed to litigation in terms of being parties-driven, privacy, time management, and cost-effectiveness. This possibility should be harnessed given the reported olive branch extended by the son of the owner of P&ID, Adams Quinn, in reaching out to the Federal Government for a possible amicable resolution of the issue in dispute. Quinn is said to be in contact with the government, having proposed meetings with government officials.

We should always remember that the business of governance is a serious one that should be accorded great attention, expertise, and patriotism. What has been the experience of the nation over the years is that governmental affairs have not been given the utmost attention that could yield or transform into rapid development and good governance for the nation. Despite our modest achievements, unnecessary rivalry, poor accountability, red-tapism, nepotism, indiscipline, lack of continuity and sustainability of public policy had characterised public administration in Nigeria.

This lack-luster performance of public affairs has further weakened by the alleged government bloated workforce, which informed the setting up of the Steve Oronsaye Committee in 2011 and before it, the Ahmed Joda panel of 1999 that had recommended the reduction of statutory agencies from 263 to 161, out of which about 38 of them were set for outright scrapping. To date, not much had been done to implement the life-transforming initiative. We need to get it right as a nation by learning from past mistakes and taking decisive and critical decisions. The avoidable $9.6 billion debt judgement should be reversed. This is the expectation of the people.

  • Kupoluyi writes from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) via adewalekupoluyi@yahoo.co.uk.
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NEPA’s industrial line, a scam

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NEPA’s industrial line, a scam

hate to stop writing on NEPA until Nigeria will start to experience regular light supply. When I grew up to meet the emergence of the Electricity Corporation of Nigeria (ECN) as a corporate institution, my impression was that we shall enjoy the supply of light with the so-called National Electricity Power Authority (NEPA), when it replaced ECN, but as time progressed it became obvious that Nigeria will continue to be in total blackout.

During the period of the ECN, light was constant for the common good of Nigerians but NEPA came to destroy its legacy to the extent that nobody is sure of regular supply of light any longer.

Those who constitute the leadership of the country for some decades are fully aware of this teething problem. Although, they have consistently told us that they spent millions and billions of Naira and other hard currencies on the sector, light has simply refused to be constant in Nigeria or that the operators of the corporate institution have volunteered to toy with it. When these crop of leaders travel out to other countries, and especially the industrialised ones, they enjoy constant and regular light in operation. And, when I was opportune to stay in Europe for years, I witnessed uninterrupted electricity. I was in the Bundes Republic (Germany) for several years where I saw that light was not interrupted even for one second. So, what is actually wrong with the supply of electricity in Nigeria?

A school of thought strongly believe that the several billions of Naira deployed to ensure that there is light in Nigeria have been tempered with by those in authority which make it impossible for us to get constant electricity supply. Others are however of the opinion that those who import generators into the country do prevail on the operators of NEPA to jettison any attempt that will make the supply of light practicable. I doubt, however, that this second opinion cannot hold water because it is not strong enough to believe. This powerful cabal cannot hold NEPA to ransom because they too need the constant supply of light in their homes and other industrial endeavour.

Perhaps, it is my wish to add that those who are in charge are not knowledgeable enough and grossly incompetent to know exactly how to operate electricity supply to the administration of Nigerians and the interest of corporate institutions. In the immediate past, the Government of the Federation opted to privatise NEPA in order to be in line with what operates in the industrialised world. Yet, incompetence persists. For instance, the contractor in charge of the Edo-Delta states has been battling with the onerous task to supply electricity to the affected areas under her jurisdiction. Unfortunately, there is no difference between NEPA and the neo-contractor of electricity supply.

To the best of my knowledge and as a resident based in the Warri suburb, nothing has changed when compared with NEPA. It has even become worse. Hence, the Edo people have always protested against the woman handling Benin Electricity Distribution Company. Several protests have been staged in Benin City at one time or the other against the incompetence of the woman to supply electricity to consumers in the two states. The real issue at stake is the sudden emergence of the industrial line which to my understanding is expected to supply light directly to companies and other industrial layouts.

On whether it has succeeded in achieving this goal or not, only close watchers will be able to ascertain its success or failure. Even in our area, the marketers and other top officials of the lady’s corporate establishment had canvassed that the industrial line would be better than the conventional line of NEPA. Almost immediately, landlords and tenants in my area mobilised to collect a total sum of N10 million and gave it to them. The impression created was that we will be able to enjoy regular light without interruption except if there was the need to make repairs and other amendments to the line. After the installation, we enjoyed constant light supply for about three weeks before we started to appreciate the fact that it is not different from the conventional NEPA line.

Till date, they operate the industrial line just like the conventional NEPA line. Residents of the area are even clamouring the area should revert to its status quo which in my opinion is even better than the industrial line. When NEPA places areas in the dark, let all of us stay in it and suffer together. There should be no need for any preference. All of us should suffer the same faith of the supply of darkness by NEPA. From my own perspective, the whole arrangement of industrial line is fraudulent which bothers on clear design to defraud the innocent consumers of their hard earned money. I think that the Minister of Power must arrest the situation and the ugly trend. It is all based on deceit and a clear attempt to enrich the operators of the electricity body. There is nothing less than this.

Another dimension to this ugly scenario is that, when there is darkness usually occasioned by the interruption of electricity, the operators would have some manufactured reasons to give as regard why light could not be supplied. The management would give technical reasons and in the process proffer solutions. Of course, these solutions will run into between N500,000 to millions of Naira at a time. How often will the consumer cough out these kinds of amounts at regular interval? In fact, those who are beneficiaries of the industrial line are completely tired of the constant extortion of money from them by the electricity operators. Let the fraudulent practice stop to enable us progress and ensure that there is room for the supply of constant light.

On the whole, I wish to suggest that something must be done by the Federal Government so that the supply of light can be constant without interruption.

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Reps’ proposed trip to power sector

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Reps’ proposed trip to power sector

I

t’s only self-deceit, not ignorance, that could make a real Nigerian to assert that the country’s power sector isn’t the prime bane of her socio-economic quagmire.

Confusedly, or ironically, in spite of the several billions of naira spent thus far by successive governments on the power sector, the acclaimed Africa’s giant is yet to regularly boast of a mere 8,000MW let alone acquiring the above 80,000MW apparently required by the country.

 

 

Little wonder the House of Representatives has vowed to investigate all the expenditures that reportedly took place in the said sector, commencing from 1999 till date.

 

 

The 9th House led by Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, recently, announced its determination to commence investigations into the power sector, perhaps with a view to ascertaining why the huge spending so far was unable to address the country’s electricity conundrum.

 

 

It’s noteworthy that this move or proposed trip is coming amidst the era when the Green Chamber has strongly reiterated its readiness to probe into the recently awarded $470 million contracts as regards installation of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) in the country’s major cities, Abuja and Lagos in particular.      

 

 

Piqued by the epileptic power situation, Late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, on assumption of office in 2007, lamented that the government under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo squandered about $10 billion on the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) with little or no effect. He alleged that, on power sector alone, the administration of the former president spent a total of $16 billion.

 

 

However, it was gathered that the late president’s administration expended $5.375 billion on power, whilst his immediate successor Dr. Goodluck Jonathan spent $8.26 billion. In a nutshell, the country, between 1999 and 2015, reportedly spent about a whopping sum of $29.635 billion only on a quest for steady power supply.

 

 

The bitter truth remains that Nigeria has expended funds amounting to trillions of naira on the power sector within the last 19 years. But rather than dwelling on our failure, or apportioning blames, it’s imperative for the country to henceforth concentrate on the way forward.

 

 

The Nigeria’s power sector is presently yearning for rescue that if drastic measure isn’t taken, soonest the country won’t only reckoned to be synonymous with blackout but a place invariably used as a case-study whenever non-electricity supply is being discussed.

 

 

It’s indeed worrisome to acknowledge that in spite of the intimidating size of the acclaimed giant of Africa, both in landmass and population, she’s currently struggling toward boasting of steady 7,000MW of electricity supply, whereas nations like Ghana, South-Africa, Iran, and South-Korea, among others alike, that aren’t up to 60 million people on the average, presently boast of over 50,000MW. Such a shocking phenomenon calls for thorough and candid examination in the power sector.

 

 

During the past administrations, Obasanjo’s particularly, the Power Reform Act was introduced, which was aimed at boosting electricity supply. In addition, the then existing National Electric Power Authority (NEPA) was changed to Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) owing to concession. In furtherance of the motive, the NIPP was equally initiated.

 

 

It would be recalled that during Dr. Jonathan’s reign, the distribution section/phase of the power sector was totally deregulated, thereby leading to Public-Private Partnership (PPP); a measure that Nigerians thought would salvage the power industry.

 

 

It’s worth noting that the power sector comprises three major sections (phases) namely: the generation, transmission, and distribution sections. These three phases collectively contribute to the production of the two hundred and twenty Alternating-Current Voltage (AC220V) required by electricity consumers in Nigeria.

Despite all these measures, rather than improving, the country’s power sector remains in a comatose state, or even deteriorates on a daily basis. The various distribution firms, instead of concentrating on how to serve the teeming consumers, end up compounding the already existing plight.

 

 

At the moment, an electricity consumer in Nigeria, regardless of locality, would be faced with a utility bill even though he never enjoyed any power supply in the past; one might wonder where such bill was fabricated.

The problem with the Nigerian power sector remains lack of technical know-how cum initiative as well as decay in maintenance culture. Most times, the personnel at the generation phase would inform Nigerians that the supply of gasoline has depreciated due to pipeline vandalism.

 

 

Suchlike report is ridiculous and laughable in a country like ours that can boast of so many sources of electricity generation in abundance. Frankly, over-dependence on mono-source is really telling on the Nigerian economy at large, not just in the power sector.

 

 

A few of the country’s mineral resources alone, such as coal and what have you can generate enormous electricity required by the overall Nigerians. Similarly, biomass and wind-power, which are renewable and reliable energy sources – if properly harnessed – can generate electricity that can serve the entire Nigerian population. Biomass can either be used directly via combustion to produce heat, or indirectly after converting it to various forms of biofuel. Its conversion to biofuel can be achieved by different methods broadly classified into chemical, thermal, and biochemical methods.

 

 

Besides, why is solar energy in abeyance? Most western countries that cannot boast of a steady 15 degree Celsius (15*C) depend mainly on solar energy as regards power supply let alone Nigeria that can steadily boast of over 30 degree Celsius (30*C). The country abounds with the four energy sources mentioned so far; but pathetically, the resources are lying fallow. The government needs to create an industry that would produce the required facilities; the proposed approach cannot be actualized without lifting embargo on PPP.

 

 

Above all, considering the ongoing power generation via turbine or hydro-plants, there’s compelling need for the government to decentralize the transmission grid. Rather than sustaining the national grid, since it’s obvious that such sustenance is cumbersome, each region or zone ought to be entitled to a transmission grid, thereby easing the maintenance cost.

 

The aforementioned approach won’t only reduce cost, but will equally boost adequate and uninterruptible power supply across the federation. The private sector must also be given a room to key in. The various established private transmission grids such as the Power Geometrics situated in Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State invented by Prof. Bart Nnaji and his team needs to be encouraged effectively.

 

 

As I urge the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to extend hand of fellowship to the cognoscenti towards doing the needful, we must without equivocations take into cognizance that there ought to be a holistic probe into the dwindling power sector.

Hence, the Reps’ proposed probe of the power sector should be candidly supported by anyone who means well for the country if we truly wish to experience a paradigm shift. Think about it!

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Our unflinching support for Kalu

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Our unflinching support for Kalu

T

o us in Abia North, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu is beyond the general natural person in politics. He is a political ideology and a doctrine. Let me start by thanking the good and industrious people of Abia North Senatorial District for their firm believe and unintimidated support for the All Progressives Congress (APC) and President Muhammadu Buhari sequel to the fact that a beloved son of Abia North with whom we are well pleased, Senator Kalu symbolizes the party (APC) and the president in Abia North. That shows the level of confidence we have in Senator Kalu which was conspicuously evidenced in the last general election.

 

 

Little wonder the sad, cold and moody atmosphere that engulfed the whole communities and local governments of Abia North District and the entire Abia State when the news of the judgement of the State and National Assembly Tribunal filtered into the ears of the people, the majority of Abia North people both at home and in diaspora stopped at nothing by words and conducts to register their rejection at the development, the people are not happy about the judgement, despite that nothing has gone wrong yet. This is not to exaggerate the scenario but the factual situation on ground, the reason is simple, anything tilting towards touching Dr. Kalu is concurrently touching the souls of our people. Anybody who can move round the senatorial district and the state will surely concur and corroborate with this glaring truth and we know that what informed this feeling is because the people are sure of quality representation with Kalu at the Senate which has already started in earnest in all ramifications.

 

 

It is not in our position to embark on the voyage of analysing the judgement of the tribunal on this platform, knowing full well that sometimes that is how legal positivism functions, and we know that whenever a competent court gives judgement, those concerned can only echo “as the court pleases” not minding any opinion to the contrary because it is binding at the moment; the position of Section 6 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria(As Amended) explains this. But the beautiful thing about our legal system is the inalienable right of appeal and we know Senator Kalu shall timeously and vigilantly do the needful. It is our firm believe that the appellate court shall restore the mandate given to Dr. Kalu by our people because in our opinion, one thing the court shall always seek not to do, is to replace the wisdom of the people with the wisdom of the court on electoral matters. So, it is good that the court shall always give judgement that reflects the will of the people to uphold democracy. Let me also establish without equivocations that majority of our people in Abia North align with the APC to reject the judgement.

 

 

However, the majority of Abia North constituents who are Kalu’s supporters are very confident at present, this is because in all fairness we know that Senator Kalu won the election ab initio and under a free and fair atmosphere nobody has the capacity and political goodwill to win him in elections in Abia State of today? OUK can never loose election to anybody for now, this is because nobody has equalled his records in imparting positively in the lives of our people.

 

 

It is also correct to say there is no known name in Abia politics in whatever political party the person may belong today that did not receive a boost from Kalu and he remains the best. Every person, politician and non-politician, even a toddler knows that he won the election in an earth shaking manner, without any form of rigging and malpractice and has been winning even in the previous elections without being declared due to the vendetta of few despotic, imperious and lordly interlopers from other senatorial districts who also rose to the top through Kalu’s political machinery and later turned against where they were coming from, everybody in Abia if not Nigeria knows this.

 

 

It is our firm believe that Senator Kalu shall still defeat all opposing forces, even if the election is conducted 100 times more he shall win 100 times, that is the impulse of our people and nothing can change it for now, anybody can move round and obtain their opinions little wonder too why Senator Kalu is unruffled and undisturbed rather he is the one urging our people to remain calm and law abiding as a modest and civilized gentleman.

 

 

The status quo is that Dr. Kalu is the Chief Whip of the Nigerian Senate and the Senator representing Abia North, this position has not been vacated legally, the court gave him 30 days to appeal this judgement and it is not possible that he shall not do the needful. We believe a notice of appeal and a stay order shall be served upon parties soonest and that shall make for a preclusion from any further action regarding the judgement.

 

 

Ex nihilo nihil fit, nothing comes from nothing and no one can build a castle in the air. Former Senator Mao Ohabunwa remains former, there is no base anymore for him to win, he cannot win anything so long as it is between him and Senator Kalu. From the political perspective nothing can remove our ebullient Senator Kalu from that seat, so long as the enthronement power is resting on our people, those of us who participate in the political field, our opinions are not on hearsay premise, therefore we can confidently say OUK is the man engraved in the heart of our people. It is not in doubt that the people are standing by him

 

 

The PDP candidate is not popular with due respect to him, we don’t know if he is popular in diaspora but not in Abia North. Bearing in mind that the court ordered for a supplemental election in few wards in two local governments out of five and our amiable Senator is already leading with over 10,000 votes, how many are the registered voters in those units? How many of those registered voters are active voters? Shall all the electorate vote only for one candidate? How can another person win except Senator Kalu? Abia North is APC. In the five local governments that make up the Abia North, three are being represented by APC at the House of Representatives, PDP has been swept away with our brooms.

 

 

Without equivocations we shall invoke our common conscience and socio-political reinforcement to lawfully resist any external force that is out to truncate the will of our people.

 

 

In Abia North, we are consistent believers in the ideology known as Orji Uzor Kalu. We are devoted members of the APC and we are unrepentant supporters of President Buhari.

 

 

  • Uche Agbaeze, an Abia North constituent, was a member of APC Presidential Campaign Council/Presidential Support Committee.
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I am now Dr Clem by affidavit

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I am now Dr Clem by affidavit

Hello people, Good Tuesday morning to everyone and To Whom It May Concern. Having resolved all contractions I now wish to be known and addressed as Dr. Clem Aguiyi by affidavit.

Last week, I successfully procured a doctorate degree certificate through an affidavit which I swore to in a Magistrate Court.

To further support my claim, I also have a recommendation letter from the former Dean of my faculty who died some 50 years ago. In the said letter he testified that I am very creative mind, a stable genius capable of writing a PHD desertion with distinction in any subject.

If you wish to see any of my previous qualifications, kindly be informed that termites attacked my country home and ate them up while a snake swallowed the records kept with the school.

However, if you still feel aggrieved and want to waste your time in further pursuit of this matter you can take your petition to the Court of Appeal or any court in Nigeria where the judges will explain to you that an artisan can take out an affidavit and overnight becomes an engineer, and a cleaner in the hospital can become a nurse if only he/she can procure an affidavit.

The above in a nutshell is the new rule as held by the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal and it will be judiciously cited from hence that qualification is needless once an affidavit can be procured. So abolish the schools.

Nevertheless, the issue before the tribunal was not if President Buhari was constitutionally qualified to run for president but whether he possessed the qualification he claimed to have. Why did the tribunal abdicate this responsibility?

The issue of qualification is a constitutional requirement and the grounds for qualification are many. A person desirous of standing for election must identify the best constitutional provision that makes him qualified and use as his qualification.

He should also attach proof of his qualification to the INEC form CF001.

A person is not allowed to simply say that he/she is qualified after the election, by relying on any of the Constitutional provisions. You must choose your qualifications and swim or sink with it. Buhari did not say that his qualification was being educated up to secondary school certificate level; he said that he obtained the secondary school certificate. He did not rely on his ability to speak, understand and write English language, he said that he had the Secondary School Certificate, not the equivalent. Therefore, he is to swim or sink with a Secondary School Certificate.

I align myself with the written opinion of Jibrin Okutepa where he submitted that the Court of Appeal is manifestly wrong to have enlarged Buhari’s grounds of qualification by ascribing to him, qualifications that he never claimed to rely on in his form CF001.

The burden of proof is on the party who alleges. However, the burden shifts to the respondent the moment the petitioner showed that the 2nd Respondent did not meet the requirement of qualification as required in form CF001 (which is a form made pursuant to the Electoral Act and therefore part of the Act) to attach all evidence of educational qualifications.

The petitioners showed the court that the 2nd Respondent did not attach the certificates he relied on for his qualification as a mandatory requirement of the Electoral Act vide the Form CF001. It then becomes the duty of Buhari to show why he did not attach evidence of his qualification to the said form.

In his bid to justify his failure to comply with the law as required in form CF001, to attach evidence of his educational qualifications, Buhari deposed to a separate affidavit (not the verifying affidavit that forms part of the form CF001) at the FCT High Court in 2014, wherein he claimed that his certificates as listed in the form CF001 are currently with the Secretary of Army Board.

The petitioners show to the court that that Army denied the claims in that affidavit. At this point, it became the duty of Buhari to produce the certificate from the Army and he failed to do so. In fact, Buhari never testified in court. Instead, his own witness testified against his interest upon their own questions. The petitioners discharged their burden of proof even beyond the threshold of the criminal law standard.

It is mindboggling that the court chose to descend into the arena and even went to shop for a defense for Buhari and thereby fabricated an explanation for the lies. One of the judges even called this ground an allegation of perjury.

The Court totally decided to be ignorant of the decision of the Supreme Court in *ABDULRAUF ABDULKADIR MODIBBO VS. MUSTAPHA USMAN & 2 ORS.* delivered on 30th July, 2019 wherein the meaning of FALSE DECLARATION was defined and the consequences/standard of proving same were established. They went on a voyage of inferences and imagined that Buhari truly submitted his certificates to the Army in 1961 even when his course mate clearly stated in open court that none of them gave any certificate to the Army. The judges chose to disregard these testimonies by saying that the witness was not in the position of making that determination. Remember, Buhari brought him in order to make the point that they submitted their certificate to the Army. So, this is the court, making overt efforts to defend Buhari.

Note that Buhari never claimed that his certificates were missing or that he is unaware of its whereabouts. He made a clear declaration in an affidavit that his certificates were with the Army. The Petitioners demonstrated that the Army have denied being in possession of the certificates. At this point, it becomes the duty of Buhari to make sure that the Army produces his certificates. He is making a positive assertion that a certificate exists, while the Petitioners asserted that it doesn’t. So, a negative assertion cannot be proved, it only needs to be stated. It is the duty of the person who asserts the positive to proof its existence. Buhari failed to do this and the Court applauded him for it for failing to produce his certificates from the Army for the inspection of the Court.

I will encourage Atiku to approach the Supreme Court not because he will get justice there but to prove to the world that Nigeria’s case is now totally hopeless whereby judges who ought to be the last hope of the common man now constitute themselves as businessmen ready to hand judgement to the most powerful.

The tribunal never made any reference to the defense of any of the respondents in his judgement. It went on to obtain evidence that were never before the court and relied on same to dismiss the petition. They erroneously inferred that Buhari must have got a certificate before the Army recruited him in 1961, in spite of conflicting evidence of when exactly Buhari even joined the Army.

One of the judges told Nigeria that an old witness cannot lie, but forgot that the same witness had said Buhari was recruited into the Army in 1962. So, were the judges actually the 4th Respondents? Yes, they were and that was the reason for their unanimity of decision. They gave a judgement that is disconnect from the facts and laws placed before them.

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How Nigeria got hit with a $9.6bn judgement debt

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How Nigeria got hit with a $9.6bn judgement debt

Nigeria has received a legal hiding after a UK court awarded a private company a $9.6 billion judgement debt against the West African nation. The ruling has generated significant attention in both domestic and international media. This is understandable given that the sum amounts to 20% of the country’s foreign reserves. This means it poses a significant threat to its economy.

 

The big question is: What went wrong? How did Nigeria end up in this costly situation? For the answer, we must look back to January 2010 and a gas supply contract that went horribly wrong.

 

 

On 11 January 2010 Process and Industrial Development (P&ID), a company based in the British Virgin Islands, signed a contract with the Federal Government of Nigeria. This contract is called a gas supply and processing agreement. Nigeria’s government agreed that, over a 20-year period, it would supply natural gas (wet gas) to P&ID’s production facility.

 

 

In return, P&ID would process the wet gas by removing natural gas liquids and return approximately 85% of it to the government in the form of lean gas. This lean gas was to be returned at no cost to the Nigerian government.

 

 

Based on this agreement, Nigeria was supposed to arrange for the supply of wet gas to P&ID’s gas processing facility which it intended to build in the country’s Cross Rivers State. This required the government to construct pipelines and arrange facilities for transporting the wet gas. The government failed to do this for three years.

 

 

P&ID viewed this failure as a repudiation of the contract. In simpler terms, this means that the government renounced their obligation under the contract. Consequently, in March 2013, P&ID began an arbitration action against the government before a London tribunal.

 

 

Clause 20 of the agreement, which both parties signed, provided that any disputes were to be resolved by arbitration with the seat of arbitration being London, England or any other place agreed by the parties. Nigeria tried to contest this, but its appeal to have the tribunal sit in Nigeria failed.

 

 

At the tribunal, P&ID claimed that it had invested $40 million in the project even though it had not acquired the land or built any facilities for gas processing. It claimed damages of about $6.6 billion: the amount of the net income it would have earned over the 20-year period of the agreement.

 

 

In response, the government argued that the damages claimed were not a fair and reasonable consequence of the government’s breach of the agreement. This is because P&ID never commenced building the gas processing facility. It also argued that P&ID should be awarded only three years’ worth of income as by that time, the company should have found some other profitable investment which would reduce its losses from the breach.

 

 

Similarly, the government objected to the measure of estimated expenses and income stream which P&ID used to calculate its damages claim.

 

 

In July 2015 the tribunal decided that by failing to fulfil its obligations, the government had repudiated the agreement. P&ID was therefore entitled to damages.

 

 

In January 2017, the tribunal by a majority of 2 to 1 made a final award of $6.597 billion together with interest at the rate of 7% starting from 20th March 2013 until payment is made. The 7% interest reflects what P&ID would have paid to borrow the money or earned by investing the money in Nigeria.

 

 

Following the tribunal’s award of damages, in March 2018, P&ID brought an action before the Queen’s Bench Division of the English Commercial Court. It wanted permission to enforce the damages awarded by the tribunal. Despite delays by the Nigerian government, on 16th August 2019, the court made an order enforcing the tribunal’s final award which now stands at about $9.6 billion.

 

 

In making this award, the court noted that the damages awarded were purely compensatory and not intended to punish the Nigerian government. The court also confirmed that there were no public policy grounds on which the award should not be enforced. This decision converts the arbitration award to a legal judgement.

 

 

This case perhaps highlights issues with Nigeria’s ability to effectively manage its oil and gas resources as well as its facilities. Between January and June 2019 alone, it is reported that Nigeria lost 22 million barrels of crude oil.

 

 

These losses have been largely attributed to pipeline vandalism and aged pipelines. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation recently spent billions on oil pipelines maintenance. But other problems, such as corruption and fraud in awarding security surveillance contracts for pipelines, persist.

 

 

Next steps

 

 

The $9.6 billion appears to be the largest amount of damages awarded against Nigeria to date. Evidence however suggests this is not the first time that Nigeria has failed to meet its contractual obligations. In 2016 it was reported that investors in Nigeria’s power sector threatened to pull out due to the government’s failure to meet its contractual obligations.

 

 

This case also demonstrates an ongoing issue with the government’s attitude to critical infrastructural projects. The Mambilla hydroelectric power project is a case in point. In spite of the huge potential offered by the project, it has been plagued by several controversies ranging from corruption and embezzlement of funds to the “irregular” awarding of contracts, and a general lack of political will.

 

 

The Nigerian government is yet to pay the judgement debt. Allegations of domestic and international conspiracy surrounding the agreement continue to abound. For now, the government has said that it intends to appeal the amount awarded.

 

 

• Akanmidu is a Lecturer in Law at the De Montfort University, England. This article was first published in The Conversation

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Atiku-Buhari verdict and false narrative

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Atiku-Buhari verdict and false narrative

T

Prelude to the 2023 general election, one of several lessons stands out from the judgement of the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal (PEPT) in Abuja on Wednesday, September 11, 2019.

It’s the urgent need for the government – the executive and legislature – to work together, to “further” amend and pass the reviewed 2010 Electoral Act, to which President Muhammadu Buhari withheld his assent in late 2018.

 

The reason being that, whether deliberately or by sheer ignorance, many Nigerians are running with a false narrative reportedly emanating from the verdict of the PEPT, as regards certification for qualification for placement in any endeavour.

To the propagators, the five-man panel of Justices of the Appeal Court has pronounced that Nigerians need no certificates to back up their qualifications for elective offices, or any other positions for that matter.

 

That the mere filing of your qualifications, with no certificates attached for authentication, is enough evidence that you’re qualified for the desired position or office.

 

Conventional and social media have been buzzing with this narrative, with one poster on Facebook screaming on his wall: “What a plot! Nigeria does not need certificates anymore. Just list schools and you are done.”

The post attracted frenetic comments lampooning not only the judges, but President Buhari, accusing him of “inducing” the PEPT members to align with his alleged “no qualification” for the presidency.

 

 

The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), like its diehard members, “never expected anything different from the Buhari judges,” one respondent said on Wednesday.

One respondent added: “But we had hoped the judges would be bold enough to rule otherwise, as Buhari lied on oath about his educational qualification.”

 

The PDP gave a similar liner when the PEPT dismissed the petitions filed by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and the PDP, against the declaration of Buhari as winner of the February 23, 2019 presidential election.

 

 

It’s clear that besides the petitioners’ claim that they won the election based on the results reportedly posted on a “Server” of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), they had hoped to upturn the poll on alleged Buhari perjury in Form CF001.

Hence, the PDP spokesperson, Kola Ologbondiyan, in response to the judgement, made no bones about the issue in a statement he pushed out barely minutes of the verdict.

 

He said: “The PDP finds it as bewildering that a court of law could validate a clear case of perjury and declaration of false information in a sworn affidavit, as firmly established against President Muhammadu Buhari, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence.

 

 

“Nigerians and the international community watched in utter disbelief when the tribunal ruled that one need not provide a copy or certified true copy of educational certificate such individual claimed to possess, contrary to established proof of claims of certification.”

Sadly, this distorts the aspect of the landmark judgement given by the lead judge, Justice Mohammed Garba, citing a Supreme Court judgement that “submission of educational certificate is not a requirement to contest election.”

 

 

According to Justice Garba, “It is established that a candidate is not required under the Electoral Act to attach his certificate to Form CF001 before the candidate is adjudged to have the requisite qualification to contest the election.”

Among issues the petitioners canvassed is whether Buhari was qualified to stand for the election having failed to attach a copy of his WASCE, as pleaded in the relevant INEC form.

 

The petitioners said by this anomaly, inconsistencies in his name and age, and denial by the Army that his certificates weren’t in their custody, Buhari had lied on oath, and ought to be disqualified from the election.

 

 

However, the tribunal held that Buhari wasn’t only qualified, but also “eminently qualified” to contest, as he had satisfied the requirements in the 1999 Constitution (as amended), and the Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).

Specifically, the panel relied on sections 131(d) and 137(1)(j) of the Constitution, to determine the qualification of Buhari for the presidency.

 

Section 131 prescribes that a person shall be qualified for election to the office of President if “(d) he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.”

 

And subsection (1) of section 137 states that a person shall not be qualified for election to the office of President if “(j) he has presented a forged certificate to the Independent National Electoral Commission.”

 

 

In resolving the issue of qualification, the PEPT judges also had recourse to Section 318 of the 1999 Constitution, as it relates to “Interpretation” – to determine if Buhari was suitable to contest, as per education up to “School Certificate level or its equivalent.”

The express and unambiguous provisions of Section 318 of the Constitution give no wiggle room for the PEPT judges to embark on a “voyage of discovery” that undermines the meaning of “School Certificate or its equivalent.”

In any case, the Constitution vests the INEC with the power to determine what’s “acceptable” to it as qualifying for the conditions precedent to contesting the presidency.

 

 

In the instant matter, the electoral body considered the “equivalent” to School Certificate, and found President Buhari suitable to stand for a second term in office.

Judgements are based on laws, concrete facts and evidence advanced “within the four walls” of the courts, and not rooted in emotions, sentiments, hearsay, and media commentaries.

 

 

To arrive at its decision, the tribunal members filtered thousands of documents; weighed all pieces of evidence adduced by the petitioners, respondents and their witnesses; compared and contrasted case laws; and made references to legal books, journals and dictionaries.

 

 

And it carefully, and painstakingly analysed and delivered its findings in a nine-hour judgement that unbiased minds should firstly praise, and if unsatisfied, proceed on appeal to the Supreme Court, as the final arbiter on legal matters in Nigeria.

Therefore, it amounts to calling a dog a bad name in order to hang it, for the PDP and allied critics to castigate the PEPT judges for perhaps declining to set aside the laws governing electoral processes, and give the petitioners judgement.

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How did we get here?

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How did we get here?

I am writing this in a hotel room in St. Louis, Missouri at 3:00 am, deeply saddened by recent developments in South Africa, a country that still holds a very special place in my heart. There are South African friends and colleagues that I have known for years, decades in some cases, and they know that I have nothing in my heart but love and respect for them and their beautiful country.

 

 

 

That country has always been shrouded in an aura of mystery in my imagination dating back to my higher school days at one of Nigeria’s elite boarding schools. Nigerians of my generation will remember that our then military government brought hundreds, maybe thousands, of young South African boys and girls through the ANC to attend school in Nigeria.

 

 

I do not remember the names or even the faces of the ones that joined us at Federal Government College, Ilorin, where I did my A Levels, but I remember that our government supplied them everything they needed, including full-ride scholarships.

 

 

Those young boys and girls went on to pursue higher education opportunities within and outside Nigeria while in exile from their own country. Many of them will now be leaders in South Africa occupying positions of influence both within the ANC and in the wider society.

 

 

They cannot remain silent in the face of the atrocities and xenophobic attacks against Nigerians and other African immigrants that we continue to witness on the streets of South Africa. Let’s remember Edmund Burke’s admonition: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

 

 

Fast forward three decades, that shroud of mystery about South Africa that I referred to above was lifted when I had the opportunity to live and work in that country. By this time and through God’s providence, I already had a very solid reputation as one of the continent’s foremost climate scientists and serving as Department Chair at the University of Missouri Kansas City, U.S.A. When South Africa came calling, I did not hesitate. I took a leave of absence from the University of Missouri to lead the environment and natural resources division of what was, and still is, Africa’s foremost contract research and development organisation in Pretoria. It was, as I saw it then, my opportunity to make a personal contribution to the growth of the New South Africa, Mandela’s homeland – our homeland; Africa’s homeland.

 

 

I lived in Pretoria and as the division’s Executive Director, I had offices in Stellenbosch and Durban, overseeing and providing leadership to over 200 scientists, engineers and researchers. I travelled across the country often and engaged intensely with a broad spectrum of folks during those two years from the State House in Pretoria to the slums of Flamingo Crescent and Santini in Cape Town.

 

I touched the land, felt the people, took in the sights and sounds of that wonderful country. It did not take long to see why descendants of the Dutch settlers and colonialists held so tightly to that precious land for so long, shed as much blood as they did, and only gave up political power after ensuring that they will continue to control the levers of South Africa’s economy in perpetuity.

 

 

I made lifelong friends, both white and black, and continue to cherish the memories we made together. These friends of mine cannot afford to be silent today. I need to hear your voices loud and clear. Africa needs to hear your voices condemning these senseless acts of violence and reassuring every African that calls South Africa home that they are, in fact, part of the Rainbow Nation envisioned by Desmond Tutu and Mandela. Again, let’s remember Edmund Burke’s admonition: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

 

 

 

Let me end this heart wrenching piece by addressing the Global African Diaspora. We cannot remain silent. A blot on South Africa is a blot on us all. This is not the South Africa that we collectively fought for and sacrificed to make happen. We need to make sure that President Cyril Ramaphosa hears us loud and clear. The buck stops at his desk. Period! If we have to take to the streets of Paris, London, New York, Chicago, Kansas City, Norway, Moscow, Beijing or Tokyo in peaceful protest to make make our voices heard, let’s do so!

 

 

This cancer called xenophobia must be excised. Immigrant Africans seeking opportunities to make a living in South Africa are not the enemy. They are not responsible for the pervasive poverty and suffering that continues to be the every day experience of millions of South Africans – 25 years after Apartheid was brought to its knees. The absence of bold, selfless and transformational leadership is the culprit. Corruption at the highest levels of government is the culprit.

 

 

We, the Global African Diaspora, need to link our voices to those of our brothers and sisters in South Africa and amplify the urgent call to bring these xenophobic attacks to an immediate and permanent end. We need to call for reason and calm where we are seeing reprisal attacks against South African citizens and interests across Africa. Two wrongs, we’ve been told, don’t make a right.

 

Prof Jimi Adegoke writes from Kansas City, USA

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Xenophobia: Why Nigeria cannot afford a stand-off with S’Africa

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Xenophobia: Why Nigeria cannot afford a stand-off with S’Africa

 

Since the images and videos of the maiming and killing of black foreigners in South Africa began to emerge on various social media platforms last week, Nigeria has been an emotionally frayed place. Tens of thousands of Nigerians live in South African cities and in recent years, they have become frequent targets of xenophobic attacks.

 

 

This time, anger in Nigeria boiled over and young Nigerians took to the streets protesting South African aggression and unleashing some of their own on South African-owned businesses.

 

 

The Nigerian government felt pressured to act and subsequently recalled its ambassador from Pretoria and announced it was pulling out of the World Economic Forum meeting on Africa which was held in Cape Town. While some Nigerians welcomed the move, others thought it was not enough and called on their government to intervene and rescue its citizens.

 

 

Examples abound of powerful countries going to great lengths to protect and repatriate their citizens who have faced danger abroad.

 

 

But Nigeria is not one of them. Indeed, in the past, the country has stood its ground on a number of occasions when defending its national interests. In the 1960s, for example, Nigeria had a face-off with France over the latter’s continuous tests of nuclear weapons in the Sahara desert. The government of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa acted decisively, breaking diplomatic relations with Paris, expelling the French ambassador and imposing a full embargo on French goods.

 

 

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Nigeria led the international effort to isolate and pressure the apartheid regime in South Africa. It threatened economic action against Western powers for refusing to sanction the regime and supported the national liberation movements in Southern Africa, including the African Nation Congress (ANC), with millions of dollars annually.

 

 

In the 1990s, the country, under the leadership of military ruler Sani Abacha, defied international sanctions and welcomed a visit by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. It also directly intervened in the Liberian civil war, dispatching Nigerian troops to fight.

 

 

Most of the reactions to the violent attacks on Nigerians and other Africans in South Africa reflect a yearning for Abacha-style diplomacy. But as recent developments in its relations with the United States demonstrated, Nigeria can no longer wield such diplomatic power. Last month, the Nigerian government was spectacularly quick to react to the US’s reciprocal rise in visa fees by reducing the charge for Americans applying for a visa to enter the country. And last year President Muhammadu Buhari decided to “keep quiet” on President Donald Trump’s alleged “s***hole” remark about African nations.

 

 

At present, it is clear Nigeria does not have the military, the intelligence capability or the diplomatic clout to pursue a serious escalation against even a regional power, such as South Africa.

 

 

This diplomatic “standoff” with Pretoria has exposed the weakness Abuja has masked in parading itself as a self-styled “Giant of Africa”. South Africa used to be a bully that Nigeria could restrain through its support for proxies inside the country and its neighbourhood. But since the end apartheid, this relationship has evolved into a regional competition, which Pretoria is winning.

 

 

After the sanctions and international isolation were lifted, South Africa quickly became the continent’s more favoured ally of developed economies and foreign investors. Pretoria emerged as the recipient of the largest share of foreign direct investment in sub-Saharan Africa and in 2011 joined the BRIC countries in an economic pact formed to challenge the domination of Western economic policy.

 

 

It is also an important trading partner that Nigeria cannot afford to lose. South African businesses have major investments in the country, including the DSTV cable service, MTN telecom, the Shoprite supermarket chain and others. Nigeria exports $3.83bn worth of goods, mostly oil and oil products, to South Africa. By contrast, it imports just $514.3m of South African products, which accounts for less than one percent of total South African exports.

 

 

The more contrasting feature of the two economies, and which again highlights Nigeria’s weakness is that while Abuja levers around a commodity-dependent economy, Pretoria has built a highly-diversified economy with a superior industrial structure. In other words, Nigeria needs South Africa economically, much more than South Africa needs Nigeria.

 

 

Nigeria’s geopolitical power has also waned in recent years, while South Africa has remained a major regional power. Abuja has been battling with a rebellion in the north for years and has struggled to put a stop to flares of tribal violence regularly killing dozens of people. In its neighbourhood, Nigeria continues to feel largely insecure, surrounded by Francophone countries whose allegiances to France threaten the commitment of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to stability and non-aggression in the region.

 

 

The Nigerian government has also been unable to muster enough influence in the West to become a trusted partner. In 2014, the Obama administration, for example, blocked the sale of arms to the Nigerian military. The Trump administration decided to proceed with it but under heavy conditions which Nigerian officials have deemed “unacceptable”. Western reluctance to sell weapons to Abuja has pressed it to seek arms on the black market. South Africa has embarrassed it twice in recent years by intercepting large arms shipment bound for Nigeria.

 

 

In this sense, the Nigerian government cannot do anything about the violence against its citizens in South Africa beyond making a few symbolic diplomatic moves and bringing up once again the Nigerian role in liberating South Africans from its white oppressors. It is clear that in doing so it is addressing Pretoria from the position of weakness.

 

 

Indeed, using persistent references to sub-Saharan African commonality and solidarity as a result of shared history, race and geography is not an effective foreign policy tool.

 

 

The idea of One Africa is a farce taken too far, and successive Nigerian elites have pandered to this fantasy to the detriment of national interests. The legacy of this pan-African misadventure is a geopolitically weak Nigeria which cannot stand up to for itself and for its citizens

 

 

This very much has to do with mismanagement of the economy. The redemption Nigeria needs is one that moves the country away from dependence on oil exports, foreign imports and interventions and towards diversification and industrialisation. We cannot afford to glorify the idea of producing pencils in the age of artificial intelligence any more.

 

 

Only if the country becomes materially secure and industrially productive will it be able to regain its soft power and international clout and stand up to the old bullies in its neighbourhood.

 

Gimba Kakanda is a postgraduate student of International Relations at the London School of Economics.

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