Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Religious Intolerance in Adamawa

Recently the provost of the College of Legal Studies, Yola, Adamawa State, Mallam Musa Nuhu, dramatically expelled a total of thirteen Christian students of the institution within a short period of time. The irony of it all is that the students were not expelled for exam malpractices or cultism that has plagued the nation’s tertiary institutions. They were expelled for hugging one another and wearing a necklace that has the symbol of Christian cross in fragrant violation of their constitutional rights.
Ostensibly carried away by excitement after an examination one day, three male and female students of the institution hugged one another in public. The provost who alleged that he saw them from his office slammed a one-semester suspension on them. Earlier a female student of the institution had been suspended by the same provost for wearing a Fulani traditional dress with a necklace that has the design of a Christian cross. The provost did not stop there. Nine students of the same institution who protested against the suspension of their colleagues were also suspended by him, thus bringing the total number of suspended students to thirteen.
The provost, who is a lawyer, but a Moslem, said that it is wrong for a man and a woman to hug. He said that he took the drastic decision to expel the students to pacify the Moslem students in the College who would have done worse things to the expelled students. All pleas by the Christian community of the institution to grant the Christian students a reprieve proved unsuccessful. Even after the provost on the intervention of the Deputy Governor of Adamawa State and other big shots in the State had agreed to rescind his decision, he still proceeded to withhold the results of the expelled students.
This is clearly unacceptable. It is a gross violation of the students’ right to private life, and right to peaceful assembly, right to freedom from discrimination, right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion as enshrined in sections 37, 38, 40 and 42 of our Constitution. If the provost had expelled the students for committing a crime or indulging in immorality, that would have been understandable. But to expel thirteen students for hugging and wearing a necklace that has the symbol of Christian cross is to say the least, the height of religious intolerance.
Pursuant to section 10 of the Constitution, Nigeria is a secular State and a culturally pluralistic society that accommodates all shades of religious views, fashions, tastes and preferences. State religion is prohibited in Nigeria. Students of different religious callings have been living and studying together in different tertiary institutions in different parts of Nigeria. Before the provost expelled the Christian students, they were living peaceably with their Moslem counterparts in the College. It is a shame that in this age and time, a provost of a reputable public tertiary institution should fan the ember of religious bigotry and hatred among his students.
The most regrettable aspect of the whole saga is that Mallam Nuhu is showing no regret for his action even after the Deputy Governor of Adamawa State and other eminent people in the State had intervened in the matter. In view of his antecedents in expelling students and unforgiving attitude, he should be called to order promptly to save the institution, which incidentally is one for legal studies, from unnecessary religious conflagration and bickering. What an irony!
Life is live and let live. Religious intolerance poses a real threat to unity, social harmony and peaceful co-existence in the country. Our higher institutions ought to be places for seeking knowledge and acquiring character, not breeding grounds for religious intolerance and fanaticism.

Society is Sick!

In the last ten years we have been witnessing a steady and progressive deterioration of those cherished values which formed the superstructures for the building of our national ethos. Core family and cultural values, which in the past fostered law and order without the intervention of the law enforcement agencies, are fading away.
The old image of a country of peace and order, good neighbourliness, and mutual respect seems blurred. Now, there is tension, fear, suspicion, disorderliness, hatred and chaos everywhere. The worst hit is the Nigerian youth, the future leaders of tomorrow. Society is full of ill-bred and uncouth youths who hardly respect constitutional authority, talk less their elders.
In the press, pulpit, lecture rooms, market places, stadia and other fora, Nigerians soberly ask the following questions: What does the future hold for us and our children? What is the way forward? What is the country turning into?
Ironically no one can answer these questions with great assurance. With many years of failed dreams, shattered expectations and betrayed hope, the people have lost confidence in their political leaders. At the moment Nigeria is being challenged on all fronts-politically, socially, culturally, intellectually and morally. The estrangement from pristine values finds dramatic expression in crass materialism, inordinate ambition to get rich quick at all cost, cheating, lack of refinement, lack of respect for constituted authority and fragrant violation of human rights and dignity. Gradually we are building a country of people who may be materially- rich but lack character.
But while the country cries for good leadership, the people are not showing any better example. We now live in a country that is increasingly torn apart by deep hatred, primitive instincts to dominate others, profligacy, unbridled individualism, narcissism and other bundle of vices. Everywhere we see man’s inhumanity to man, in some cases savage, bestial behaviour.
Considering that there cannot be meaningful development in a country that has no values, we call for a moral renaissance or a new national re-birth in Nigeria. We must restore core family and cultural values as acceptable behaviour. We have to raise the standards of public behaviour by ensuring respect for one another and learning to forgive.
We are at a critical period in the history of our country. We may want to achieve greatness with material power alone, but that is suicidal. Empires built on greed, materialism and selfishness, sooner or later, are bound to crumble in crisis.
The country urgently needs moral re-birth. In the past, the family provided the bridge that allowed the youngsters to graduate from childhood to adulthood with a certain sense of security. Nowadays, many youngsters cannot rely on this support because many families have become dysfunctional. Many modern parents, driven by the desire to make money, have delegated their parental responsibilities to house maids.
Civic education should be re-introduced in schools, and government agencies in charge of national orientation should be resourced to reach out to all corners of the sick society to engage Nigerians on our key values. It is necessary to create lifestyles in which the promotion of common good, truth, justice, and fair-play are given priority in the scheme of things.
Leaders, parents and teachers should walk the talk to be acceptable role models to the rest of society.
We do not disagree with experts who have suggested that at the root of the indecent behaviour of some Nigerians is poverty. A hungry, unemployed man, who cannot afford food or roof over his head, is bound to be frustrated into doing everything to survive. As part of the moral renaissance, we call on all tiers of government to address poverty more seriously.
Nigeria can still be one of the world’s leading economies with our common cherished core values. That is what makes us Nigeria!

Time for Prudent Spending

Ahead of the eventual presentation of the 2009 Budget to the National Assembly has come the news that governors of the 36 states of the Federation have agreed with the Federal Government over the benchmark crude oil price for the 2009 budget.
From the demand of $50 per barrel, the governors finally accepted that the proposal for $45 per barrel is more realistic. With wide spreading recession and tumbling oil prices, it was surprising that the governors who have finance commissioners and economic advisors had to wait to be convinced at last week’s economic council meeting.
From a high $147 per barrel about three months ago, crude oil prices have been on a downward slide, reaching below $50 per barrel over fears of global recession. That was the lowest since 2005. Economic reports from around the world indicate a slowdown of economic activity and consumption. The Eurozone has slipped into recession and so has Japan, the world’s second largest economy. Although the United States has not formally declared that it is in recession, its economy has been hallmarked by biting economic crunch, falling consumer demand and historic unemployment figures. For example, new claims for unemployment benefits in the US surged to a 16-year high last week. Not even the bullish Chinese economy, in which high demand for oil had caused rising prices, has been the spared the growing decline. With falling demand for China-made goods overseas, experts say more than 65,000 Chinese factories have gone bankrupt this year.
As major economies decline, a fall in the demand for crude oil and gas is just a matter of course. It is even feared that the southward movement of crude oil prices may not stop at the budget benchmark.
Nigeria’s case is not helped by the unending crisis in the Niger Delta that has caused large production shut-ins. Additional pressure on the country’s economy are expected to come from reduced funds repatriation from Nigerians abroad and reduction of foreign direct investment as well as foreign aid.
This is already a matter of concern to African leaders. At the Sixth African Development Forum (ADF), one of the foremost conferences on Africa's development challenges meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, they pleaded that the global financial crisis should not affect financial aid and more assistance to combat poverty.
Government’s earlier decision to cut the benchmark oil price in its draft 2009 budget to $45 per barrel from $62.5 in the wake of sharp falls in world crude oil prices was therefore a realistic decision. But it also means reduced government spending and signals significant belt-tightening.
From a period of oil boom to a sudden burst, the sharp contrast may be painful and difficult to adjust to. One ready question Nigerians are bound to ask is how the Federal Government is going to use the excess crude oil earnings made during the year. Also likely to be asked is how living standards are likely to be improved in a lean season when there wasn’t much improvement in the quality of lives of many Nigerians during the just-ended oil boom.
While it is expected that a careful government like the current administration will be able to curb frivolous spending, it has to work harder to check endemic corruption which constitutes a major leakage in the economy.
Although we appreciate the high cost of running successful democracies, we are concerned over the high recurrent expenditure of government and suggest that it is reduced across all tiers and levels of government. On the other side of the coin, considering the current state of the economy, we caution against further cuts in capital expenditure.
But above all, leaders at the federal, state and local council levels should show good example of prudent spending at this lean time. It would be encouraging to have the National Assembly follow suit.

Again, History Beckons on Obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo should take advantage of his recent appointment as a Special Envoy to the crisis-torn Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to re-launch himself as one of Africa’s Statesmen leading the pack in the resolution of the various ethnic and political crises and conflicts plaguing Africa.
Given the untold human misery and mayhem tearing the DRC apart at the moment, African Statesmen can no longer sit by while DRC and other African countries are engulfed in smouldering fire. One African Statesman suited to take up the responsibility of redeeming the war-torn DRC is Obasanjo. Although he has been vilified by many critics over his performance in government, he has a history of helping other countries to resolve their conflicts.
It is obviously for this reason that the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon appointed him as a Special Envoy to DRC. Obasanjo may have his human foibles and political failures that may have tainted his image, but his international image as an African Statesman committed to the cause of promoting peace in Africa is hardly forgotten in many African countries. As a military leader, Obasanjo gained international reputation through his ceaseless contributions in ending apartheid in South Africa. Through his support, the hostilities in Angola and Mozambique were checkmated.
Obasanjo’s international reputation soared in 1979 when he voluntarily handed over power to the democratically-elected civilian government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari in Nigeria.
After relinquishing power in 1979, he retired to his Ota Farm. From there he hosted many local and international fora aimed at promoting good governance and peace in Africa and the world over. To make this dream come true, he joined the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group. In 1988 he founded the African Leadership Forum at his Ota Farm. Through this initiative he built outstanding collaborative networks with key governments and international institutions for ending conflicts and promoting good governance and respect for the rule of law in the world. However, some people ask what use he put these to later in office.
After Obasanjo dramatically bounced back to power in 1999, he established many initiatives which led to many leadership declarations and reforms in Africa. Together with Libya and South Africa Obasanjo envisioned the imperative of the reform of African Union (AU).
Although his image in the minds of many Nigerians looks cracked and shady, Liberians and Sierra Leoneans will hardly forget the key role he played in the restoration of peace in both countries. Given his high foreign affairs credentials, Nigeria maintained a high-level of military presence in Liberia and Sierra Leone for the restoration of peace.
More recently, Obasanjo played a key role in the formation of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) to address the current challenges facing the African continent. NEPAD was formed when issues such as the escalating poverty levels, underdevelopment and the continued marginalisation of Africa needed a new radical intervention, spearheaded by African leaders, to develop a new vision that would guarantee Africa’s prosperity. NEPAD has lofty objectives like poverty eradication, placing African countries, both individually and collectively, on a path of sustainable growth and development, halting marginalisation of Africa in the globalisation process, enhancing its full and beneficial integration into the global economy, and accelerating women empowerment.
History, therefore, beckons on Obasanjo as he returns to his element. If there is one country that needs peace urgently, it is resource-rich Congo, whose current state of poverty is an irony. We acknowledge that the crisis in Congo is a difficult one but he cannot afford to disappoint the many Africans and the UN looking up to him at the moment to assist in stopping the DRC from self-destruction. The unspeakable human suffering in that country calls for a deep humanitarian service.
This is the challenge before Obasanjo presently.

The failed satellite

THE disappearance of Nigeria's satellite, NigComSat 1, in space is scandalous; it is a national embarrassment that calls for detailed investigation of the entire project. For the N40 billion satellite to malfunction barely 18 months after it was launched leaves much to be desired. What quality of satellite was launched into orbit that could pack up in so short a time?

Though this is a typical Nigerian story, it is irritating and characteristic of the country's chequered history of wastage. The Minister of State for Science and Technology, Dr. Alhassan Zaku had confirmed that NigComSat 1, as the satellite is known, actually developed technical problems that "resulted in the inability of the operational batteries to be charged by the solar panels".

According to him, the Nigerian and Chinese engineers stationed in Abuja and China detected the fault at about 4.00 a.m. on Tuesday, November 4. Efforts were made to effect repairs but apparently to no avail. A decision was therefore taken to park the satellite out of orbit "in order not to cause damage to other satellites".

NigComSAt is a super hybrid geo-stationary satellite reportedly designed to operate in Africa, parts of the Middle East and Southern Europe. It was expected to digitalise the Nigerian economy and promote technological advancement in Nigeria and Africa.

The contract to build and launch the satellite was signed in Abuja in 2004 between the National Space Research and Development Agency (NSRDA) and China Great Wall Industry Corporation at a cost of over N40 billion. The cost includes, among others, construction, insurance, as well as the building of one ground station in Abuja and a backup control station in Kashgar, China, with four gateways located in South Africa, China, Italy and Northern Nigeria.

When the satellite was blasted off from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in China's Sichuan Province on May 14, 2007, expectations were very high. It was thought that Nigeria would consolidate on the breakthrough to become the technological hub of Africa and an emerging player in the global terrain. Unfortunately, since its launch, the satellite has not worked. It has not justified the huge expenditure on it. Basic questions should be asked about the genuineness of the entire project.

How could a satellite that cost so much and with a lifespan of 15 years operate for only 18 months? What type of satellite is it? Is this not the same type of satellite that the United States and Russia, among others have been launching into space over the decades?

Nigerians need more detailed explanations than the Federal Government is currently offering. The public has been told that both the satellite and ground stations were insured and that the China Great Wall Corporation has been told to provide a replacement. Every step should be taken to ensure that the more than N40 billion expended on the project so far does not go up in smoke. NigComSat is the second DFH-4 satellite built by the Chinese that would fail in orbit. What are the details of the contract with the Chinese? Was there any warranty on the satellite's performance? What kind of contract did we sign?

There are reports that inferior materials were used in building the satellite and that the satellite was built to fail from the very beginning. A few months after its launch, the International Communications Union allegedly informed the Nigerian government that the satellite was wrongly positioned. Nothing was done about this. Besides, there were indications that the satellite was using a technological standard that was not meant for Africa but Asia. We demand full explanation on all of these. Except this is done, NigComSat would have turned out to be a white elephant project, and a pure gamble.

It is regrettable that Nigeria lacks the technical infrastructure to manage a satellite in space. We don't even have the local technological know-how to investigate the circumstances surrounding the failure of the satellite. We rely on turn-key projects executed by foreign concerns. And yet there are many educated Nigerians with the expertise, but who are in other countries abroad due to the absence of an enabling environment at home.

Ironically, there has been much talk about the likely launch of an alternative satellite, with NigComSat seeking approval for a concessionary loan of N59 billion for the construction of NigComSat 2. While we appreciate the need for government to be optimistic and venture into new areas that would enhance the country's developmental goals, we do not subscribe to the idea of wasting scarce national resources on spurious projects.

It is scandalous that the Nigerian Satellite is missing. What has been the function of the officials at NigComSat? Were they keeping track of the satellite at all? The National Space Research and Development Agency should take a critical look at the entire space programme before launching another satellite.

The Nigerian Observer and Exhibit 108

ON Tuesday, August 16, 1983, Dr. Samuel Ogbemudia addressed a press conference in Benin City. He was flanked on either side by Chiefs Tony Anenih, Ray Inije and Tayo Akpata. It was election time during the Second Republic, and Ogbemudia, running on the platform of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), had just defeated incumbent Governor of the then Bendel State, Prof. Ambrose Alli of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). Ogbemudia gave the equivalent of an acceptance speech at the press conference. So partisan and vitriolic were the state-owned media against Ogbemudia and the NPN, that there was palpable apprehension of severe repercussions that would surpass the mass purge of the Murtala/Obasanjo regime in 1975/76.

Ogbemudia calmed agitated nerves, reassuring civil servants of their security of tenure. Yet, while mocking the state-owned media, particularly The Nigerian Observer, for abandoning professionalism, Ogbemudia hinted that he would let bygones be bygones. In its lavish coverage of the press conference, an effort that was unthinkable and even considered heretical only a few days earlier, The Nigerian Observer reported thus: "Commenting on the three government-owned media, Radio Bendel, The Nigerian Observer and Bendel Television, he (Ogbemudia) said everything they did now belong (sic) to the past."

As Military Governor of the then Midwestern State, Lt. Col (later Brigadier) Ogbemudia had established The Observer newspapers in May 1968. The Observer blazed a trail and earned a well-deserved niche among the top-drawer publications of the era. But the after-shocks of the 1975 coup prefigured the paper's anaemia, while the advent of the Second Republic (1979-1983) accelerated the rapid decline of its fortunes. By then, The Nigerian Observer was being thrashed as omonot'oghe (a child that lies habitually). Faced with keener competition from better-run, better-planned and better-produced publications by the private sector, The Nigerian Observer became a virtual relic, provoking once in a while, nostalgia about its once glorious reign. Today, whatever few copies The Nigerian Observer churns out from its aged press are overshadowed by the products of far more prosperous print media organizations whose papers are glossy, attractive, and trustworthy.

Yet, this year, The Nigerian Observer has regained a most valuable component of its lost glory. One only need to read the judgment of the Election Petitions Tribunal as affirmed wholly by the Court of Appeal in the governorship election dispute between Comrade Adams Oshiomhole (Action Congress) and Prof. Oserheimen Osunbor (People's Democratic Party), to discover the endorsement of The Nigerian Observer as a newspaper of record. The kernel of that endorsement is to be found in Exhibit 108 and Exhibit 108(a) which were tendered in evidence during the hearing of the petition by the tribunal. In all, the tribunal admitted in evidence 117 exhibits, while Oshiomhole called 61 witnesses, Osunbor (32 witnesses), and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) called two witnesses. A copy of The Nigerian Observer of Tuesday, April 17, 2007 was tendered and admitted as Exhibit 108, while page 3 thereof was similarly tendered and admitted as Exhibit 108(a).

Exhibit 108(a) is a masterpiece of deadpan reporting. The newspaper simply blasted across half a page the results of the Edo State governorship elections of April 14, 2007, issued under the hand and authentic signature of Mohammed Abubakar Ahmadu, the State Resident Electoral Commissioner, who dated it April 15. That was the evidence of the collated fraud by which INEC declared Osunbor winner with "329740" votes, while Oshiomhole came second with "197472" votes. More importantly, the exhibit showed that the results in two local government areas (Etsako Central and Akoko-Edo) were cancelled, and thus no votes were recorded in those areas. Oshiomhole further subpoenaed Exhibit 110, a video playback of the press conference at which INEC announced the cancellation of the results in the two local governments. Both the tribunal and the Court of Appeal held that "Exhibit 108 (read: The Nigerian Observer) is a reliable document because the fact that it was published as a notice was not derogatory at all." Further, their Lordships said, "we hold that Exhibit 108 will stand on its own as proof that results in Etsako Central and Akoko-Edo local government areas were cancelled. Exhibit 108(a) also corroborates Exhibit 110 (that is, the video playback)."

But that is not the end of the intriguing story. On the basis of the results (Exhibit 108a) which the Resident Electoral Commissioner signed on April 15, the day after (April 16) Osunbor was issued with a certificate of return (Exhibit 71) as winner of the election. As a reflection of the counterproductive genius of the PDP master-riggers and their confederates in INEC, brand new results were collated by INEC on April 18. The new results now included the two local government areas which had earlier been cancelled. By the latter results, Osunbor was still the winner. By including purported results from the two local government areas, INEC in cahoots with the PDP, the latter secured three additional seats in the State House of Assembly. Thus, PDP was returned with 16 seats (two-thirds majority), while AC was given 8 seats. It did not occur to the electoral bandits that pertinent questions would arise as to why those two local governments (with three legislative seats) had results when the elections for the governorship, which took place at the same time, were cancelled.

I was not on Oshiomhole's legal team, and would therefore not know why they relied on The Nigerian Observer. Nor would I also know why Osunbor's team did not object to the paper's admission in evidence. The Nigerian Observer is not the only newspaper published or circulating in Edo State. The newsstand is brimful of a variety of publications, including one ragsheet edited by a squint-eyed scoundrel who revels in unbridled defamation of government officials. The choice of The Nigerian Observer can only mean that the parties considered it a paper of record, which is an invaluable asset for a newspaper. It is doubtful if the paper had anything near such an asset 25 years ago, when Ogbemudia addressed his press conference. In parentheses, there are, broadly, three important criteria which a piece of evidence must satisfy. Is it relevant? Even if it is relevant, is it admissible? And where admissible, what probative value (weight) will the court attach to it? The Nigerian Observer satisfied all three, with the tribunal and Court of Appeal attaching a lot of weight to it.

Without further assurance, then, those three Assembly seats purloined from the two local government areas, where the results were cancelled, are endangered. In particular, the bogus results as exhibited during the hearing of Oshiomhole's petition are ready material for the prosecution of persons who may have violated extant electoral laws.

I was a witness and contributory to the hour of redemption for The Nigerian Observer. Between March 2005 and May 2007, I was the Edo State Commissioner for Information and Orientation, having The Nigerian Observer and Edo Broadcasting Service as parastatals under my Ministry. The problems of the paper were - and still are - enormous: obsolete equipment, inadequate facilities, insufficient top-grade human capital, low staff morale - all of which amounted to miserable revenue. Sensing that we could hardly attract top-flight professionals with the indigent pay structure, and realizing that despite the best efforts, funding would be difficult to source for the total overhaul of the paper's operation to place it in the 21st Century, I resorted to organizing in my office workshops and brainstorming sessions with the paper's key editorial and management staff. I was joined at some of those sessions by my Permanent Secretary, Elder Joseph Obaseki, and the veteran Director of Information, Mr. Dennis Omoregie.

Our key pursuits at these sessions included professional integrity (showing sensitivity where the need arises), content development and renewal. We made some headway, but it was clear that down below, and even above, manpower challenges remained. Ultimately, the true test of the impact of our interactions came with the general elections of April 2007. As a professional with more than two decades of experience at The Guardian, I had never been under any partisan pressure. By late March, and more so early April 2007, the General Manager (GM) of The Observer, Mr. Isaac Igiebor, was reporting to me much more frequently intense pressure by party hirelings for the paper to publish or to suppress certain material. The editors too alerted me. At a point, they were receiving threatening phone calls. But none of the party operatives approached me. Always, when the General Manager or editors called me, I first sought their views, before giving my advice and directive. We were all agreed on the need for professionalism and integrity.

One day the GM brought to my attention a clearly libelous matter which some pugnacious party elements insisted must be published. I asked him who would bear the cost of damages if the person(s) defamed sued. That killed off the matter. Barely a week to the governorship election, the GM was becoming agitated, following threats of a sack by some party elements. I had received no formal complaint, and could not find any reasonable grounds for the contemplated action. However, in the afternoon of Tuesday, April 10, Igiebor came to my office, trembling. He said his suspension had just been broadcast on air. I was surprised but calm. I told him to give me some time, while I took the three-minute drive to Government House, where the suspension statement was issued. Satisfied that the suspension was symbolic, I returned to my office, and sent for Igiebor. I reassured him that his position was still tenable. But I advised him to see a doctor immediately to get a jab, if necessary.

I called the Chairman of the board of the paper. I informed him straight away that no acting GM would be appointed. None was appointed. I briefed the editors and top management. To the editors, I reminded them of the need for professionalism and integrity under very trying circumstances with the fear that the suspension of the GM was meant to inspire. Ten days later, on April 21, Igiebor, who was scapegoated, was recalled. By then, the governorship elections were over with the accompanying shenanigans. Above all, The Nigerian Observer had published what would become Exhibit 108 that, along with other exhibits, played a crucial role in the restoration of the people's mandate to Oshiomhole. I salute the paper and its team.

Going beyond Nuhu Ribadu

IT is not unusual for a man to go through trying times - once, twice or many times over in his life time. I have witnessed some, read about the heroics of certain men who are constantly faced with one problem or the other; the Bible is replete with many such examples. I have gone through some myself, as I believe, like any one of you out there. We have been told On many occasions it is part of human nature. How a man copes with the mountain high battles is another story. But as inspirational speaker Robert Schuller would say, "tough times never last, only tough people do". For Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, himself a tough cop whose name alone was almost synonymous with fear barely two years ago, as he went about his anti-graft fight, these are indeed trying times. He would only be deceiving himself if he claims he has not been humiliated by the faceless, powerful elements in our midst that he took on in his attempt to either serve the nation well, or to do his master's bidding to justify his rating.

The humiliation he suffered last Saturday in Kuru at the graduation ceremony of the Senior Executive Course 30 of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS) was one too many. Ribadu was reportedly forced out of the occasion where he was supposed to be a graduating student, right there before his colleagues, family and friends. It is left to conjecture whether he prepared for the ordeal he went through with security men whose action or inaction has also become a subject of investigation by the Presidency which claimed it never ordered anyone to stop Ribadu on his day of honour.

But it is clear that the man found himself in a tight corner on how he should be dressed for the ceremony. Ordinarily, a serving officer, they say, must be in ceremonial uniform for the occasion. But Mallam Nuhu knew if he appeared in the Assistant Inspector General rank to which former President Olusegun Obasanjo promoted him - two steps above his Deputy Commissioner status - he would be tried for insubordination and if otherwise, that is in a deputy commissioner, DCP outfit, he was done for. Here is a man who has legally challenged his demotion by his employers from AIG status which in the first instance, qualified him to attend the course.

Part of the humiliation strategies was to recall him from NIPSS on the grounds that he was not qualified to be there as a DCP, his removal as chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) during which time he stepped on powerful toes, allegedly on the instruction and with the backing of Obasanjo, his boss - the only man he reported to as EFCC chairman. Of course, Obasanjo allegedly found it convenient to hound his real and imagined enemies and the opposition with that terror machine Ribadu controlled - justifiably or otherwise.

But for his excesses, whether he used his powers for sinister purposes or not, it is to the credit of Ribadu that he remains, arguably, the best anti-corruption officer Nigeria desired considering the rot in the system. If not for Mallam Nuhu, would we, the people, have the audacity to tell some of those thieving governors we elected to serve us that they are nothing but pen robbers? They were confronted with huge cash of unimaginable proportions, and looted the treasury to their satisfaction. Let them prove their innocence in the law courts. If only Ribadu had not been selective in his anti-graft war, as he was variously accused even while he was running the show! Former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar (Obasanjo's sworn enemy) some days ago in an interview he granted The Guardian described Ribadu as reckless. May be he knew better, having tasted the bitter pill himself.

In his ordeal, I doubt if Ribadu should lay any claim to the rule of law that he did not promote in office as EFCC chairman. He seemed to have forgotten that tomorrow was yet to come. The tactics were high handed as many people say, and his traducers were waiting for him, daily plotting his downfall. To a certain extent, they have succeeded and are still in business of pull-him-down. He should not be surprised if they take him to the cleaners completely. His survival depends on how he plots his own battle strategies and how many arrows he has left in his quiver. In short, his ordeal is not over yet.

The hunter has become the hunted. Ribadu is facing a probe by an organisation he headed until about 18 months ago. What an irony? That is part of the lessons of history we are learning today. He should be able to take his medicine with a straight face, too; let every man see, at any point in life, what it means to be at the receiving end for life to take on more meaning to us all. If the man deserves to be investigated, let them do it, but within the limits of decency.

While Ribadu's travails lasted, the Presidency was embroiled in a comedy of errors, making one blunder or the other - from his redeployment to his demotion to the humiliation at Kuru last week. So much loophole was left in the handling of the matter that people were wondering if the directives to intimidate the man were actually coming out of Aso Rock, the Police Service Commission or the Inspector-General of Police,the overall boss of Ribadu. In trying to wriggle out of the mess, the presidency has ordered the NIPSS management to release Ribadu's certificate of course participation. That is commendable, because the man deserves the document as evidence of his labour, so long as he was not found wanting academically or morally by the institute.

Probing his maltreatment by overzealous security details would at least tell who ordered the action and on what basis. The public would like to know and very soon for that matter. Demonising Ribadu and haunting him across the country only attracts more sympathy for him. He deserves some pity really as an officer who meant well for the nation in the anti-corruption crusade and did his job with so much passion that placed the EFCC in the lime light even on the international scene. The agency under him started attracting support funds from relevant international organisations for the fight against sleaze. It remains to be seen how far his successor Mrs. Farida Waziri can go under the present government which is only mouthing rule of law and seemingly paying little attention to the anti-graft war.

Next level. Mallam Nuhu, reports claim, is being sent to Edo State to resume work. That is the next stage of trouble for the tough cop. He's expected to continue his work there as a deputy commissioner. The man is clinging to the rank of assistant Inspector General which the police commission contends he was just a beneficiary of a largesse by Obasanjo. The case is in court. Will Ribadu resume as DCP in Edo or any other posting as normally should be directed by an employer or will he hold on to his AIG rank? Oh, what an interesting drama this is turning out to be?

Now, beyond Ribadu. The great lesson is that if a man is given a job to do, it is incumbent on him to do it within the limits of decency. Whatever is happening to him today is a fallout of his romance with Obasanjo's crude tactics of getting even with his opponents, although Ribadu has tried desperately to deny this many times. Those he hunted down unfairly then who are still in the system after Obasanjo's exit are the faceless powers creating nightmares for him now. We can make an analogy here. Where are the Bamaiyis, the Al-Mustaphas and the Jokolos and such crude tacticians today? There is a season for everything.

If this world is a stage in which we are all players, then let each man play his part well. We can only wish Ribadu well in his survival battles

Education in Cross River State

THE attention of the Cross River State Ministry of Education has been drawn to an article in The Guardian Newspaper of Wednesday, November 5, 2008 by one Banji Adisa. The article purports to accuse Cross River State Government of taking certain decisions in its education sector which in the mind of the author are inimical or unacceptable.

One of the issues orchestrated was that the State Government banned holders of NCE from teaching in Secondary Schools. While the intent of this rejoinder is not to join issues with the author of the article, it is pertinent to clarify matters for the benefit of the discerning public. The issue of making NCE a minimum qualification for teaching in the School System in Nigeria is a National Education Policy. The policy stipulates that the minimum graduation for teaching in the Primary School is National Certificate on Education (NCE). It is therefore surprising that there should be much ado about this.

This clarification notwithstanding, it would appear that what obtains in the Cross River State School System was not investigated before the uninformed writer scribbled his view. In Cross River State, there is a large number of NCE holders teaching in the Secondary Schools. The State Government has not relieved them of their appointment. Rather, they have been encouraged to improve on their qualification by taking advantage of various In-service Training Programmes available.

One other matter raised is the issue of Students Teaching Practice. The Ministry has, in consideration of the NCE being the minimum requirement, stated that the NCE holders, particularly those with bias in Primary Education should do their teaching practice in the Primary Schools. One begins to wonder what wrong is committed by the Ministry in NCE teachers in training being directed to the appropriate level of Schools. Would Mr. Banji Adisa prefer that the Students be given the illusion that they are being prepared for Secondary School appointment when in actual fact it is not so? Perhaps this is what the writer expects the Ministry to do. The Ministry is aware that there are some subject combinations in the course curriculum of the Colleges of Education that are geared towards teaching in Secondary Schools. Even at that, if the Ministry is not satisfied with the performance of student teachers on practice, it has an enormous task of averting the danger posed by wrong education in the State.

The second issue for which the State received bashing from Adisa is that of the issue of NECO Examination. It is unfortunate for the writer or any one at all to allude that Cross River State Government is rejecting NECO or has banned it. This is rather an unsubstantiated allegation which has no bearing with the fact on ground. The State Government is not unaware that NECO is a product of National Legislation.

It is also very clear that our 1999 Constitution places education on the concurrent list. In spite of this, we make bold to state that NECO is not outlawed in Cross River State. What obtains is that students in public Schools are directed to write NECO SSCE as private candidates. This decision was informed by the timing of WAEC and NECO Examinations which consumes more than two months of the third term, utilizing both human and material resources. This is actually part of a comprehensive strategic plan by the Ministry aimed at actualizing Quality Control and Quality Assurance in the School System. These measures, since their introduction have enabled us to keep track of our students' performance using West African Examinations Council (WAEC) Senior Schools Certificate Examination as yardsticks. In addition, we have also witnessed very impressive reduction in incident of examination mal-practices with a corresponding improvement in the performance of students.

It may be necessary to state here that contrary to the view expressed in the article under reference, the Cross River University of Technology was directed to accept NECO when combined with WAEC. Perhaps, investigative journalism was ignored by the writer. It may interest anybody who cares to know that in the recent recruitment of non-teaching staff by the State Secondary and Technical Education Boards respectively, no candidate was discriminated against on account of NECO qualification.

The fact that Universities now conduct aptitude tests after JAMB UME is a pointer to the loss of confidence by stakeholders in some of the examining bodies. However, the adage that he who pays the piper dictates the tune has not changed. The State Government has made a choice of which examination it would pay for its indigenes as part of its intervention in education and has directed parents to shoulder the responsibility of registering and paying for NECO Examination, if they so desired

What therefore has emanated from the Cross River State is a positive signal rather than "a dangerous signal". The Ministry is resolute in ensuring that the graduates of its education process are such that will compete favourably with others anywhere in the world. The choice is ours whether quantity or quality. The State has opted for the latter and it hopes to sustain it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Some advice for Obasanjo in the DRC

FORMER President Olusegun Obasanjo visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) this past weekend in his new role as the UN Secretary-General's special envoy. The DRC has been a quagmire for envoys. Mr Obasanjo and his team must be wondering how on earth to achieve or measure success. We at Human Rights Watch hope that Mr. Obasanjo will achieve more than his predecessors, so we would like to offer some suggestions.

Human Rights Watch has been active on the ground in the DRC for years, reporting on torture, extra-judicial killing, systematic rape, child labour, abuses of governance and many other assaults on human rights. Much of its reporting has focused on eastern Congo, the region bordering Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan and Uganda, which has been in a semi-permanent state of war for years, fuelled by local ethnic tensions, illicit resource extraction, continental political rivalry and the violent ambition of the region's small men. The current crisis centres on the eastern district of North Kivu.

Human Rights Watch has reported how civilians in North Kivu have been abused by all sides, including the Congolese army. We witnessed the peace deal in Goma, North Kivu, in January 2008. It is now in disarray. In recent weeks, hundreds of thousands of civilians have again been forced to flee their homes and hundreds have been killed in gruesome echoes of previous slaughters. A United Nations peacekeeping force called MONUC has been deployed in the area for several years to protect civilians and help disarm the competing militias. Unfortunately, it has lacked personnel, equipment, leadership and political support.

The festering sore in North and South Kivu is ethnic hostility. It goes back decades. Local militia leaders cynically use ethnicity as a cloak for their own political agendas. The CNDP militia, led by Laurent Nkunda, claims to defend the local Tutsi population. One of his aides has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes. His forces get at least tacit support from Rwanda.

Of the Hutu groups, some FDLR leaders are accused of genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Although no longer targeting Rwanda itself, they continue to commit horrific crimes against their Congolese Tutsi neighbours. They often cooperate with other local militias such as Mai Mai and PARECO.

The Congolese army has a history of terrorising civilians. Soldiers continue to shoot, rape or extort from the people they are supposed to protect. Soldiers go unpaid and unfed while their commanders and corrupt officials in Kinshasa steal their salaries and supplies.

So, Mr Obasanjo, here's what we would suggest:

Firstly, make civilian protection your only priority. When you hear about human rights abuses, come down heavily on each perpetrator without fear or favour. Insist that those responsible for abuses be held to account.

Apply the same rules to the region's leaders. All of them are a big part of the problem. If Congolese soldiers commit abuses, hold President Kabila responsible. If CNDP commit crimes, hold Nkunda accountable and demand that President Kagame rein in Nkunda's Rwandan supporters. The same goes for the other militia and their leaders.

Press the UN Security Council to fund the peacekeepers properly. Western countries like doing peacekeeping on the cheap. They cut budgets, underfund them in the first place, or play musical chairs with over-stretched peacekeepers. They will now try to move peacekeepers from other parts of DRC to reinforce those in North Kivu, leaving other parts of the country at increased risk. Thousands in Orientale province fled their homes recently after being attacked by Joseph Kony's LRA. Ethnic tensions in Ituri province are boiling. Relocating UN troops from South Kivu could precipitate a new crisis there. You will have your hands full in North Kivu. You don't need the rest of the Congo going up in flames, too.

Push the Europeans to send in a 'bridging' force until MONUC can be reinforced. Deploying UN reinforcements to Congo will take several months. The European Union (EU) could deploy a force quickly to cover the gap. They did this successfully in 2003. It just needs political will to happen. Don't take no for an answer.

Get on with disarming all the militias. This must be done once and for all, based on clear timelines. The Congolese army should end its links with militia forces. A strong international presence will be needed to make disarmament a reality.
If you make saving civilians your priority, non-governmental organisations will be your allies. Many are already active on the ground helping the hundreds of thousands who are at risk. They also know the terrain. Reaching out to these groups and to the concerned media will increase your influence and increase your access to independent information.

Finally, your experience in dealing with armed regional conflict in West Africa and the related problems of porous borders, illicit mining, civilian protection, war crimes and justice give you a special insight. Nigeria and ECOMOG made mistakes in Liberia and Sierra Leone but also paid a heavy price in the lives of their soldiers.

You also know how, since the 1980s, West African governments have used proxy rebel groups to destabilise their neighbours. Like West Africa, the Great Lakes region is susceptible to waves of insurgency because of the complex web of military, political, economic, and ethnic factors, which shift and evolve over time.

Never forget that some five million Congolese have lost their lives from war-related causes in the past decade. These figures speak shamefully of the world's failure. A number of African governments - DRC itself, Angola, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Uganda - share the prime responsibility. There are worrying signs of an escalating conflict that will put many thousands of civilians at further risk. The success of your mission is more important, and urgent, than ever.

You push-i me, I push-i you

NOT since my primary school days have I seen anything as interesting as the ' push me- I push you' story coming from the hallowed ground of Okelerin Baptist Church, Ogbomoso the other day. You know what I am talking about, don't you?. It is about the reported feud between Senator Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello and Governor Gbenga Daniel, two chieftains of the greatest party in Black Africa, which allegedly spilt across the border to the neighbouring Oyo State, at the wedding of Governor Alao-Akala's daughter. And what is ' my own' there? I will tell you my own - I was born and raised as a Baptist and if things untoward are happening in the Baptist Church, I have a religious , if not a human right , to speak up.

It is true that in the motor park, everyone has a fundamental right to slap each other and an equally fundamental human right to reply in kind . However, when it happens right in the presence of our Lord-in the Church, it becomes an abomination. Dotun Oyelade, Governor Akala's spokesman, was right when he described the whole incident as a skirmish or a storm in the tea-cup. As I listen to the explanations on both sides of the aisle, it just reminds me of my primary school days when we report to our headmistress 'excuse'(pronounced esikisi) ma, he pushed me and I also pushed him'.

Now, now, this feud must not be allowed to degenerate to such a state when the PDP would be forced to recall the UN ambassador for peace and Chairman of BOT, General Obasanjo from the DR Congo, back to his command in Ogun State. Since I am also aligned to the two parties concerned by way of familiarity, I especially wish to sue for peace in Ogun state lest people like Prof. Tam David West (of the Niger Delta ) get on the bandwagon and resort to name calling , reminding us of our ' Wild, Wild West' days which ironically also started from the Ogbomoso end of the South-West..

For Senator Iyabo-Obasanjo Bello in particular, I plead that even without the chieftaincy title, she must stick to the Iyaniwura credo as that was the platform on which we voted her in as Senator. I also request her to remember that this is a particularly sensitive and bitter-sweet time for the family - what with mummy's book being serialised, daddy's involvement in delicate talks with rebel leader, Laurent Kunda. Dakun (please) Ashabi, this is not the time for any more fighting. I am not even concerned about the deliberate insinuations which may come from untutored minds about a Senator fighting a governor. Afterall, every parliament and every political institution has its own character. There is the Italian parliament (with its clowning Prime Minister Berlusconi) - famous for its fisticuffs and regular dissolution at the drop of a hat. And there is the Turkish parliament which resolves difficult debates on the floor of the parliament in their own robust way, sometimes with tie-pulling, wrestling, boxing, takweando or all of the above with turbans flying in the air.

Even some MPs of our mother state - the British parliament, in spite of their veneer of decorum, have their own ways of tendering to urgent affairs of the heart whenever the parliament is in recess. The American Senate has its own scandals of the occasional Senator hawking his stuff in public toilets or supplementing his income with a fistful of dollars. And there is our own house of representatives (don't even go there !- with their car scandals and furniture allowance ) since dubbed a house of 'representa-thieves' by enemies who do not wish our nascent democracy well.

No one is pretending that politicians are saints since some of them reached their present position with a little help from miscreants, area boys and god-fathers. So what is wrong with a few pushing and shoving in parliament? What seems to be wrong and offensive to us within our Baptist circles, is the desecration or attempted desecration of our church and all it stands for. This incident, like many others, has discouraged many of us from attending the Church on Sunday even as we look for more potent excuses not to attend. As I recall in my young days, even when I laugh in the church, one look from my aunt is enough to tell me to comport myself and if my aunt so much as says 'Delani , ninu sosi' ? (in the church ?) one would immediately freeze and stop all the hanky-panky.

There are some things you just cannot do in the church as the church is a hallowed ground. Fighting is not allowed and ringing cell-phones (we did not have cell phones in my time) is definitely a no-no but look at what we have now. Young and old, the choir and the ministers who ought to comport themselves with decorum, are doing the Michael Jackson break dance in the Church and the thanksgiving has simply turned into a carnival party with every body waving in the air as if the Messiah is here already. Even if Senator Iyabo Obasanjo did not touch Governor Daniel's person on the date in question, one may wont to believe she did, with the finger-pointing, hand waving and excited dance which represents today's offertory at thanksgiving services in churches.

I even recall with much anxiety (for the health of the fourth republic) when one of our famous female technocrats (now a Minister elect) was captured on BBC dancing to the altar, struggling fowl in hand , at a thanksgiving service. Such is the stuff of thanksgiving in churches these days! Whatever be the case, one would like to keep a deliberate balance on the matter at hand so as not to preempt the PDP party elders on party disciplinary matters. For Baptists like me, the important question is why take political differences to the Church?. Whatever happened to the Christian spirit and the credo of loving one's neighbour as oneself and forgiving our enemies as we forgive those that trespass against us? What if Ralph Osakwe, the hapless SSS man in Governor Daniel's train, had not taken the Christian line of turning the other cheek, when Senator Iyabo gave him a dirty slap on the chest or was it the face?. What if Senator Iyabo had not struck back when her hand was allegedly being twisted by Osakwe? Imagine the pain suffered by the distinguished Senator in the presence of our Lord !

If both of them did not promptly act in self-defence , the tendency would have been that the perpetrator would be tempted to do it at least 70 times 70 times more hoping to earn forgiveness on the 4900th occasion. Although our Lord admonished us to be patient, Osakwe would have been beaten to a pulp if he was thumped on the chest 4900 times by the ebullient Senator while Senator Iyabo Obasanjo would have been a hand-free Senator on account of the arm-twisting allegedly meted on her by Osakwe. We are all human beings and we do not often have the patience to suffer in silence. My own declared judgement on the case is tempered by the recognition of my own human frailty. I will therefore surmise that both combatants were perfectly entitled to exercise their human right but not in Church. My aunt's admonition comes to mind again ninu sosi ? (in the Church ?) Definitely not!

Even outside the Okelerin Baptist Church, the act of gross disrespect to the lord, if not insubordination, nearly became infectious, I am told. Matters were allegedly compounded by the bride and groom refusing to dance to King Sunny Ade, who was hired at great expense by a serving governor and the father of the groom, preferring the hip-hop music of 9Nice. What is this country becoming - a bride rejecting her father's favourite musician ? No wonder many of us in the Diaspora find it hard to come back or adjust to home conditions. Had all these happened in the Oyo State House of Assembly, it would have been perfectly in character, which is probably why Dotun Oyelade regarded the incident as a minor skirmish.

But for these to happen in the presence of the good Lord in a Baptist Church, calls for strong ecumenical intervention. Meanwhile, I suggest that the PDP allows matters to rest and it should not intervene or interfere in this disagreement which many believe is an internal affair of the Ogun State branch of the PDP. The PDP should take it in its stride and let sleeping dogs lie. Afterall, it could well be that this is a silent contest for a replacement godfather for the party at a time the Afenifere is equally shopping for a replacement leader for the Yorubas. On the other hand, when the late Orlando Owoh sang his song on ogogoro or tombo (you push me, I push you, tombo), he never knew how close he was to describing the intoxication of power and its many guises.

Theft of Nigerian oil

EVER since the first shipment of crude oil from Oloibiri, Bayelsa State, in 1958, the quantity of Nigerian oil shipped abroad has remained an object of approximations and conjecture. Dimeji Bankole, the Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives recently lamented about a situation where for 40 years, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) does not have the exact record of what the country has earned from crude oil sales since 1968. The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) that is charged with the responsibility of ascertaining the actual volumes of crude oil shipped to foreign customers has never operated with the independence envisaged by the law creating it.

The DPR has always been under the thumb of the NNPC, an obtuse body that many suspect to be inefficient and corrupt. The stubborn refusal of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to appoint a substantive Minister of Petroleum throughout his eight-year tenure further exacerbated the lack of transparency and accountability for which the NNPC has become known. Quite predictably, whilst Obasanjo was the captain of NNPC, there was hardly a conclusive audit of the giant firm in eight years.

It has been estimated that 20 per cent of Nigeria's crude oil is stolen annually by big and small time operators. No responsible government can allow this amount of economic hemorrhage to go unchecked. The amount of money we are losing to oil thieves can easily fix our decayed infrastructure, build roads and power plants and promote qualitative education.

President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, evidently exasperated by this unsatisfactory state of affairs has decided to take the bull by the horns. He has for the first time in history appointed a foreign company, Messrs. Cobalt International Services Limited, as pre-shipment inspectors of crude oil exports with effect from November 1, 2008. In this role, Cobalt International will carry out crude oil inspections in addition to the non-oil pre-shipment inspections which it currently undertakes. The president's move appears to have taken top officials of NNPC by surprise and they have voiced their opposition to it. Given the antecedents of the NNPC, an objection from top NNPC officials may well be a justifiable reason to support the president as he tries something new.

We suspect that the horde of inspectors crowding out the various export terminals may join hands with their friends in the NNPC/DPR to thwart the performance of Cobalt International as it tries to master novel equipment and calibrations in all 21 export terminals. The contractor must face up to possible uncooperative DPR officials in addition to the army, the police, the navy, the customs services, the security organisations all of which have been known to exert influence at the export terminals. For the new initiative to succeed Cobalt International should be given a free hand in carrying out its tasks which must be reviewed periodically.

We commend the initiative of President Yar'Adua in helping to stem an odious situation. Nigeria currently produces between 2.2 and 2.6 million barrels of crude oil per day but has the capacity for three million barrels. About 20 per cent of this production is stolen annually. Anything that can remedy this ugly situation is welcome. Cobalt International should look out for known methods of cheating at the terminals including but not limited to doctored calibrations, and top-ups to compensate for volatility and ballast.

We believe that given seriousness of purpose and adequate professionalism, Cobalt International should be in a position to ascertain the actual quantity of crude produced daily and the ports of disembarkation of the cargo. However, government should not delude itself into believing that it has solved the problems of oil theft merely by the appointment of Cobalt International. The so-called bunkering going on in the Niger Delta is likely to continue.

Most oil bunkerers do not load their cargo at the export terminals. They rupture pipelines deep in the creeks and siphon crude oil into barges. The barges then steam up the waterways to the high seas where they discharge their illicit cargo to waiting vessels in international waters. These barges are easily visible from the air and have been operating openly in the coastal waters of the Niger Delta with hardly any law enforcement agencies going after them. Once in a while a ship is caught with stolen crude oil. The prosecution is often half-hearted and eventually the culprits are allowed to escape justice.

Nigerians will recall the curious case of MT African Pride a few years ago which was involved in a clandestine trade in Nigerian crude oil. On board ship were Russians, Romanians, Poles, and some Nigerians. The ship was apprehended as it tried to speed off with 150,000 barrels of crude oil. Expectations were high that at last Nigerian security agents have managed to apprehend one maritime offender.

The ship's owners and crew were arraigned before a Lagos High Court whilst their ship was detained as exhibit. One night, the ship vanished. When an alarm was raised, the hot pursuit by Navy speed boats and helicopters surprisingly failed to locate the ship. In the end after a lot of commotion two senior Navy officers were dismissed for their part in the disappearance of MT African Pride. But the ship still got away with 150,000 barrels of stolen Nigerian crude oil.

The government of President Yar'Adua must follow a two-pronged approach to the problems of the Niger Delta. It must ruthlessly go after the criminals behind bunkering. Patrol boats and helicopters should force thieving barges to return to base for prosecution and the severest penalties should be awarded to convicted economic saboteurs. At another level, it must continue to pursue a policy of enlightened self-interest in the Niger Delta by remaining constantly engaged in a manner that enables the people to see tangible and measurable benefits derivable from oil exploration in their various communities.

Tackling the creeping global depression

IT is true that the present global financial crisis 'has its roots in the biggest housing and credit bubble in history', or the so-called 'junk' credits; the overshooting of credit facility limits and granting of loans or mortgage facilities without adequate collateral securities by many American banks and other loan agencies, and of course similar abuses and cover-ups by some of their investment and auditing firms.

But the obvious large number of persons who did not actually merit these facilities in the first place and the eventual large percentage of loan and mortgage defaults point to a deeper reason for the rupture. They underscore the existing level of poverty and widening income inequality in the system, and the consequent enervating impact of these on the financial system. They also indicate that without the junk credits, the level of consumption in the United States would have dropped so drastically as to induce a recession anyway.

The plausibility of rising income inequality in the United States, the epicentre of the current global financial crisis, is backed by quantitative analysis. The Gini Coefficients (GC) of income distribution in the United States have shown growing concentration or inequality over the years. (Gini Coefficient measures the degree of concentration of a distribution. It ranges from 0 per cent when incomes are equal to 100 per cent at the other extreme when incomes are absolutely concentrated hence the higher the GC, the higher the level of concentration or inequality). American researchers show that the lowest level of inequality was achieved in the United States in 1947 with the Gini Coefficient of income distribution at 59 per cent. The Gini Coefficient or level of concentration of incomes in the United States however rose to 70 per cent in 1951, and 86 per cent in 2001, showing increasing inequality. You can well imagine how much the Coefficient may have risen and the poverty level worsened since 2007 when the United States mortgage crisis began with the attendant job losses, bankruptcies and closures.

So, junk credits have actually delayed the coming of a recession. They are not the primary cause of the present rupture and are in fact only symptomatic of the deeper mess in the system; the growing concentration of wealth and incomes, or mass impoverishment (in the US). This is a throwback to the crisis of the twenties when this same problem of mass poverty and concentration of wealth lowered the purchasing power of the masses and the public's capacity to consume or buy goods, leading to the stockpiling of unsold inventory in factory warehouses that precipitated the Stock Market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed.

It is now history that the Great Depression was combated through a combination of welfarism and the credit economy that have been used to greatly increase consumption and therefore to sustain a commensurate level of productivity and employment - to say nothing about the contribution of the Second World War in the achievement of recovery from the Depression.

But it now appears that the capacity of these changes to arrest the tendency towards concentration of incomes and wealth has been impaired from the fifties causing a great percentage of the citizenry to depend on credit for even their most basic needs, thereby putting undue pressure on the financial system. Emoluments of corporate managers/CEOs are, for instance, being bloated to as much as US$ 20M-70M per annum, while those of the rank and file stagnate, with business organisations exploiting the persistent glut in the labour market in every conceivable manner that cannot be cushioned by mere moral preachment and appeals to conscience. The main problem really is that there is little openness in the modern corporate culture and management or corporate managers wield far-reaching power over shareholders and employees, and constantly make decisions that affect the public interest without any clearly defined responsibility to the public. This encourages all forms of duplicity that distort the markets and pollute government and society at large, with their bogus pretences at egalitarianism. This had brought us back to square one; the cache 1928/9 situation, which could degenerate into a global depression by 2009 and beyond.

Of course, it is imperative that new junk credits will be curtailed. But cutting back on the issuance of junk credits will drastically curtail purchasing power and consumption, to produce a recession. Therefore, even as nations scramble to bailout or recapitalise sick banks and stabilise complex financial systems, adroit measures to reduce the widening income inequality and boost purchasing power especially for the needy, must be provided as an antidote to the impending global depression. The measures must also be able to moderate the overbearing power of corporate managers and infuse openness in the running of corporate organisations. To achieve this, government must:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Nigeria Police and Record Keeping

When recently the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Mike Okiro admitted that he did not know the actual number of policemen in the country, not a few people felt embarrassed. However, given the nation’s notoriety for poor record keeping, we are hardly surprised. What is true of the police is, unfortunately, also true of many government agencies and ministries.
What is also interesting about Okiro’s confession is that it makes it easy to understand why the police seem to be overwhelmed by criminals who increasingly terrorise the society. All the argument about Nigeria being under-policed would then seem to be based on mere speculation. While it may seem obvious, there is no data to prove it. It is also only when the strength of the police is known that it is possible to make a case for more men or otherwise.
For an organization that is charged with the maintenance of law and order, the question of its numerical strength is of critical importance. Apart from the sheer number of its men, there is also the need for proper and specific identification of these men. We are aware that policemen are usually assigned service numbers and that those who are deceased are de-registered. Why then is it difficult to keep track of the number of men in the organization?
It is hard to imagine how the police authorities can do any meaningful planning without accurate information on its population. It is only when we know the current strength of the police that we can say if it needs more men or not. Besides, it is hard to determine the other demographic facts—age, gender and distribution—about the police without an accurate database that is regularly updated.
From the inspector-general of police’s admission, it is only fair to assume that even the Police Service Commission which claims that there are 377,000 policemen in the country, is just speculating. If such information is to be relied on, the I-G ought to be the right person to authenticate it. But by his own admission, whatever figure is being bandied about on the number of policemen in the country, is at best, an estimate.
This is not good for crime fighting at a time when criminals are becoming more desperate and more sophisticated. It is indeed scandalous that all these years, the police authorities have no reliable records on its personnel. Little wonder that policemen are sometimes involved in criminal acts without being easily identified.
With Okiro’s admission, we cannot even begin to imagine if the police have records of criminals, especially hardened criminals. In an era when crime fighting has become scientific, how computerised are the operations of the police in Nigeria?
It is fair on Okiro’s part for him to have confessed. But he should follow it up with immediate action of updating police personnel records and indeed those of criminals. It is an issue that needs not be treated lightly. How can we be certain that the nation is under-policed if we do not know the current strength of the organisation? Indeed how can we plan for arming the police without accurate information on the number of men to be provided for?
The IG and the Police Service Commission need to tackle this challenge immediately so that the nation can reasonably provide for the organization. Computerising the activities and records of the police is the best way to go about it. It is not something to be paid mere lip service. Concrete steps should be taken to actualize it. What we say to the police also goes for other government agencies where record keeping is equally in shambles. A nation that toys with record keeping is a nation that is not ready for real development and where projections are like a leap in the dark.

Four Years of Pension Reforms

Some four years ago, exactly on June 24, 2004 the National Assembly enacted a law for the establishment of a contributory pension scheme for employees in the public and private sectors.
Set objectives of the scheme included: Ensuring that every person who worked in either the Public Service of the Federation, Federal Capital Territory or Private Sector receives his retirement benefits as and when due; assisting improvident individuals by ensuring that they save in order to cater for their livelihood during old age; and establishing a uniform set of rules, regulations and standards for the administration and payments of retirement benefits for the Public Service of the Federation, Federal Capital Territory and the Private Sector.
The law led to the establishment of the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) at a time when protesting retirees streamed along major highways especially in Abuja and when some other people, tired of tracking contributions they had made over the years gave up on it.
We believe dysfunctional pension administration has been a contributory factor to endemic corruption, particularly in the public service. In old age when body and spirit are worn-out, is the time people should fall back on all they have worked for. The fear of that scenario, we also believe, has been a reason for people to ask even in their official duties ‘what is in it for me?’ -- self-interest mentality that depletes productivity. As the Pension Act says, people should be facilitated to ‘save in order to cater for their livelihood during old age.’
Four years on, there are now 25 Pension Fund Administrators and four pension fund custodians, who collect contributions on behalf of the Administrators and take instruction from them on investing the fund. Over 31.4 people have accounts with the administrators and total pension funds is more than N970 billion.
While PENCOM is playing a key role in streamlining pension administration in Federal Government parastatals through a unified pension scheme, it is promoting the participation of states and local governments. So far, 10 states have passed their bills into law and started implementing the Contributory Pension Scheme in their States, 21 State Governments are at various levels of passing the bills into laws and 5 States are yet to commence action.
These are remarkable achievements for a commission that operates from only one office in Abuja. We are aware that in Nigeria, most people do not think about pension until they are close to retirement, but this should be one of the major tasks of PENCOM. It should embark on an enlightenment campaign to encourage people to embrace the new schemes. PENCOM should give this as much attention as it is currently giving the reconciliation of the accounts of people who have made various contributions in the past.
Considering the population of Nigeria and the fact that advertisements run by the fund administrators contribute to public enlightenment, we are persuaded to believe that there is need for more administrators. For the Commission to do this, it has to expand rapidly by establishing offices in all state capitals. This will help them monitor the administrators, and also ease the logistics problem caused by doing business with only one office.
We are also persuaded in joining call for an upward review of the 25 percent limit on the pension assets pension fund administrators can invest in the stock market in Nigeria. Growing the stock market is in the best interest of all Nigerians, including the contributors to the fund. Pension assets are suitable for this kind of long-term investment, which takes care of short-term volatility.
All said, we commend PENCOM and indeed the Federal Government for sanitizing the chaotic pension administration we have witnessed in the past. We are, however, appalled by the small number of state governments which have embraced the scheme and only wish that PENCOM will continue to encourage some of these leaders who think very little about the governed.

Adamawa College provost and fascist rule

IT is rather curious that the Adamawa State Government is still keeping Mallam Musa Yahaya Nuhu, Provost of the College of Legal Studies, Yola, in his position, more than two weeks after his ignoble suspension or expulsion of some students in the college recently on purely frivolous grounds. Mallam Nuhu's behaviour is typical of a religious fundamentalist or a zealot who is not deserving of such a respected position in a college of legal studies.

The Provost had suspended three students for one semester each for openly expressing their excitement by hugging one another as soon as they stepped out of the school examination hall. He also summarily expelled nine other Christian students who protested the suspension before the State House of Assembly.

Another lady was suspended for a semester on the grounds that she adored her neck with a cross pendant - a symbol of the Christian faith - while wearing a Fulani traditional dress.

According to the report, the suspended students - male and female - were excited about the outcome of a particular examination paper. The Provost who claimed to have spotted them from his office invited them and unilaterally slammed the punishment on them, without following due process, despite pleas by the students. The students' protest and petition to the state House of Assembly and various law enforcement agencies piqued Mallam Nuhu, but he was adamant.

Some key personalities in the state including the Speaker of the Assembly, James Barka, Deputy Governor James Bala Ngilari, the Chief of Staff to the governor and the Secretary to the State Government intervened in the matter, and advised the College Provost to reconsider his decision but that was the beginning of further trouble for the students: the Provost withheld their results.

The College of Legal Studies, Yola, as far as we know, is a public institution, owned by the Adamawa State government. The senior officials of the state who intervened based on the students' petition must have foreseen the great danger that Mallam Nuhu's zero tolerance for other faiths portends; his refusal to listen to the voice of reason is condemnable.

Ordinarily, the college is expected to have a disciplinary committee. It is therefore surprising that the Provost would constitute himself into the accuser, the judge and the jury against the 13 students. And how if we may ask, does the spectacle of a few students hugging each other pose a threat to an institution of learning? Mallam Nuhu as the head of a public institution should not be seen to be promoting religious bigotry. Definitely, hugging cannot be against the ethics of the institution.

On the suspension of a female student based on her use of a cross pendant, it will be logical to ask the provost if the school has any dress code known to the community, which can be violated by students who wear cross pendants. If not, then the suspended lady's action has not translated to and cannot amount to disrespect for college rules, neither has it offended any human sensibilities.

No doubt, Mallam Yahaya Nuhu has presented himself as an idle hand. A busier, more serious provost of a college would not have preoccupied himself with watching students who embrace each other in broad daylight, for a fleeting moment on campus, adults who were instinctively excited about their performance in an examination.

The nation has witnessed a lot of religious violence ignited for flimsy reasons and by the kind of intolerance demonstrated by Mallam Musa Yahaya Nuhu. The Provost himself cannot claim to be unaware of this and the attendant loss of innocent lives and property. The persecution of students on religious grounds is a potential catalyst for conflict and destruction. Heads of public institutions generally should learn to be cautious where religious matters are concerned and resist the temptation to violate the rights of persons of other faiths. The Constitution guarantees the freedoms of thought, conscience and religion, and association, and protects every citizen from discrimination. It is strange that the Provost of a College of Legal Studies would seem not to be aware of this.

This particular Provost has not shown either leadership or discretion in handling the case of the 13 students in question. His arrogance, in the face of wiser counsel is deplorable. The Adamawa State Government, his employers, should consider relieving him of his duties as Provost and probably re-deploy him to a less sensitive department in the state civil service. The expelled and suspended students should be recalled forthwith by the Governing Council of the College.

The flip side of Obama

THE euphoria surrounding the election of Barack Hussein Obama has not quite died down in my heart. I followed every twist and turn of this fascinating election between Barack, the Democratic nominee for President of the United States, and John McCain, the candidate of the Republican Party, otherwise known as the Grand Old Party (GOP). That name, 'Grand Old', perhaps encapsulated the problems that most people in the world had with the Republicans.

The party had drifted so far to the right, and had sold itself to the Hawks, people like Mr. Rumsfeld, the uncanny and unsmiling, erstwhile secretary of defence who, together with Vice President Dick Cheney, trundled America off into the Iraqi war over the objections of all decent nations in the United Nations. With the notable exception of Britain, under Tony Blair, irreverently described by Mandela as George Bush's foreign secretary, all other nations knew that it was an illegal war.

But what a fascinating election! The initial traction that the upstart Senator from Illinois had over other Democratic pretenders, including poor old Hillary Clinton, was attributable to the fact that he had voted against the Iraqi war! To be honest, I did not give him half a chance when he set off on what I regarded as a quixotic quest for the White house. I fully expected that, like Jesse Jackson before him, he would have made a statement that 'we blacks are also here', and been quietly shooed off into a corner, basking in the glory of having once been a contender (an 'also ran') for the most powerful office in the world.

But Barack refused to 'go away' even after the Clintons reminded us to 'get real' in the heat of the primaries. All the pundits had predicted confidently that this would be Hillary's year, and I think she deserved it too. I have a personal connection with the Clintons, and so I may be biased. A couple of years ago, when Bill came calling at the First Baptist Church in Garki, I was the choir master then. After the service, Bill came up to the choir podium and shook my hand, saying 'you have a great choir'. I did not wash my hand for the next one week, even though I thought our performance on the day was not particularly stellar!

And so I had to take my time to get to know Barack. Who was this upstart? Well to start with, I am bemused that they keep calling him 'black' when clearly he is also half white, his mother being a white woman from Kansas. I had to ask my niece, Funmi, holidaying with us from Texas, and an 'all American girl', why they kept calling him black. In Nigeria, we would have had the 'decency' at least to call him a half caste, or more irreverently, a mullato. In all probability, we would have called him an 'oyinbo' even if his skin was not exactly lily white. One of my neighbours, a Jamaican lady, blacker than the darkest Ghanaian, is still called 'mama oyinbo' in the compound just because she speaks English with an affected Jamaican accent!

Funmi was bemused and said that in the peculiar racial lingo of America, if you as much as had a tenth of your blood being 'black' that was enough to 'taint' you! I don't expect that Obama did himself any favours by marrying a clearly black Michelle when he could perhaps have gone for a whitie, ala Kofi Anan. In the early days of the election, I had thought that would have made him more 'acceptable' to the largely white electorate!

Incidentally the fact that he was born of a white woman did not seem to have swayed the Kansas electorate as they still ended up giving it to the GOP! However the fact that he was raised by his grandparents in Hawaii seemed to have turned that 'paradise' solidly blue, with its four electoral votes. I remember I spent a couple of weeks in Maui during my training in the Haggai Institute Christian leadership training seminar.

Therein perhaps lies my problem with Obama. Make no mistake, once he had trounced Hillary, and perhaps even before he had accomplished the feat, I was already sold on him. His soaring rhetoric was so captivating that I always strained to hear every word that he pronounced whenever he was addressing a rally or speaking on TV. My heart skipped a beat when, briefly after the GOP convention McCain appeared to have taken a four point lead!

I never really stopped to ask myself quite why I was so subconsciously rooting for Obama. Was it for the mere fact that he was black? With hindsight, I would be deceiving myself if I said that never counted. Was it his magnetic personality or his 'star quality', relative youth, or daring do, superlative gift of the garb or 'audacity to hope'? (incidentally I pointedly refused to buy his book, 'The Audacity of hope' now a standard fixture of all airport lounges in Nigeria until, I thought, he became president, or at least his life was more, shall we say, challenged, on the bigger stage!).

A closer look at his policies and life philosophy gave me, however, some cause for pause. I have no problems with his taxation policies, his inclusive foreign policy bent, and his relatively dovish military outlook. My issues are with his 'pro choice' stance, essentially a sanctioning of abortion when the woman so desires. In my early days as a medical practitioner, I confess I saw not much wrong with that, particularly if the woman was willing to part with some dough. May God forgive the sins of my youth!

Now, I see abortion as nothing but murder of the innocent. I am firmly convinced that life begins at conception, possibly even before. Remember what is said in Jeremiah, "before you were formed in your mother's womb, I knew you, I have called you by your name, I have appointed you a prophet unto the nations'. Also, the man Cyrus, the Persian, who eventually freed the Israeli captives after 70 years, had been named a hundred years before he was born by the prophet Isaiah! Women who carelessly get pregnant, or who are unfortunate victims of rape, should not presume to decide on life or death of the unborn fetus.

I am also disturbed by Obama's liberal stance on the issue of Gay relationships. This was forcefully brought home to me when during his acceptance speech he said that 'there is no red or blue America, whether you are straight or gay, there is only the United States of America.' , or words to that effect. I thought, keep it to yourself Obama, it rankles when you say that! I am glad that proposition eight was rejected by the state of California. Proposition eight asked of the electorate whether the state should officially recognise gay marriages. A footing on CNN showed two men 'tying the knot' and sealing it with a kiss! Ughhh!! Disgusting!

There are some other issues to do with his views on stem cell research (he supports embryonic stem cell research) and his nagging difficulties with giving up his smoking habits, in spite of protestations to the contrary! I am however happy that there is so far no whiff of a scandal concerning his marital relationships and I do hope, given his superstar status, he keeps this up.

Senator Obama, I wish you well, but please concerning these outlandish liberal views of the world, totally out of consonance with the teaching of the Scriptures, I pray that you see the light and move a little more to the right! I now understand why Obama could not switch many of the Bible-belt Southern red states Blue: States like Georgia and Alabama. His views on these moral issues just do not sit right with me.

The DPR conference on HSE challenges

THE 13th biennial International Conference on Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) in the oil and gas sector organized by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) was held from November 3-5, 2008 at the Nicon Luxury Hotel Abuja. The gathering, which attracted the major players in the oil and gas sector, had the theme, "Promoting HSE Best Practices in a Challenging Environment". It is pertinent to ask why Nigeria is a challenging environment for the application of HSE best practices? Why is it easy, so to say, to apply HSE requirements in other environments and not in Nigeria? What is the way forward?

The three-day event provided opportunity for oil industry professionals, engineers, policy makers, and academics to examine the issue of HSE practices in Nigeria. Besides, indigenous people whose livelihood system and environment have been devastated by the oil industry were there to present their case on the nagging issue of giving them a new lease of life by restoring their environment and providing basic social amenities. The militancy in the Niger Delta featured prominently as a critical factor affecting the oil industry at the moment. How to assuage these aggrieved groups to cooperate with the federal government and the oil companies in their quest to address the needs of the area is a major concern. Nothing can be done in a state of insecurity of life and property.

On this note, the issue of security of oil and gas operations set the ball rolling. Security was recognized as fundamental for progress to be made in terms of infrastructural development. It was appreciated that the rise of militancy has put the oil industry in jeopardy. For instance, attacks on oil facilities by militants have created more troubles for the industry. The result is that the number of oil spills has increased in recent times. It is no longer easy to say who is responsible for what and that compounds the pollution problem in the region.

The neglect of the oil region has been there for over 50 years since oil was first struck at Oloibiri. While the demand for justice and equity may be justified, there is need for the people to cooperate with the government in its resolve to tackle the problems in the area. The impression should not be created that the area has not received any patronage from government. While the area is asking for more control of the oil resources, experience shows that funds given through individuals and groups hardly get to the people. Developing the oil region therefore may not be possible through a piecemeal approach. As a way forward, the federal government should move in the same way it handled Abuja FCT and give the region a facelift. I have not heard that the militants blew up a bridge or any road in the area. Their target has been on oil infrastructure facilities probably because that is what is visible.

Certainly, like in other parts of the country, there is governance failure in the oil region. The state governments are in a position to effect meaningful and visible infrastrucral change but they have failed to do this and the aggression is directed on the federal government, which is seen as the main culprit.

Apart from the extraneous issue of militancy that in a way hampers HSE application, there is also the issue of management commitment. The application of HSE flourishes in environments where management of companies and organizations are committed to the issue. The failure of HSE practice in Nigeria is not due to lack of enabling laws. It was clear from the conference that the oil industry has a whole gamut of 20 different laws that require operating companies in one way or the other to adhere to best practices in the oil industry. The Petroleum Act of 1969 No. 51 is one of them and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Act of 1977 is another. The effectiveness of the laws depends on compliance to their stipulations.

HSE has to be cultural for it to work. This is how the issue is taken in environments where it works. Except the management of companies sees the application of HSE best practices as a necessity, they will hardly apply it in their operations. And by extension, except government and its enforcement agencies take a firm stand on the issue, the companies in the field will not comply. The question to ask at this stage is to what extent are the operating companies in Nigeria required to apply HSE in their activities? How many companies have been penalized for failure to adhere to HSE requirements? Why are the defaulting companies not sanctioned or dragged to court for failure to apply HSE? As long as company managements are not penalized whenever they default on this matter, implementing HSE best practices would remain a Herculean task.

For example, one area where the issue of health is largely ignored is in hyperbaric medical practice. Deep offshore oil prospecting normally requires the services of divers for under water activities. The divers carry out a host of underwater functions in challenging environments. Experience shows that the health condition of the divers is hardly considered both before and after their services because of lack of proper facilities. Whereas, oil exploration has been going on in Nigeria for decades, this area of medical practice that takes care of divers and associated offshore ailments remains undeveloped.

Medical practitioners in this area are lacking. There is at present only one Dr. Emmanuel Ekugo in the whole country that practices hyperbaric medicine. This is scandalous. The extent to which this lone practitioner based in Port Harcourt is able to handle all the diverse offshore ailments of divers and oil workers is not known. How is this lone physician able to cope with cases from the entire oil region? One thing is certain, there can be no good health or safety for oil industry workers who have ailments that only one physician could handle in the whole country. The implication of this is that many people die or are incapacitated due to inadequate medical services.

This brings the issue of emergency into focus. Medical emergency response is critical in the oil industry. This is because oil workers are exposed to different kinds of accidents in the field. But we live in an environment that lacks basic infrastructural facilities. Our roads are in bad shape. In places like Lagos and Port Harcourt, severe traffic hold-up hinder free movement of emergency vehicles. Ambulance services conveying accident victims are held up in traffic and the victims suffer untold pain and anguish. Emergency airlift is undeveloped. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) could hardly respond to emergency. Their helicopters are not versatile to attend to critical emergencies any time and anywhere.

In cases where service companies or oil companies themselves have helicopters for emergency; there ought to be helipads and a smooth connection with the road network. Besides, the abuse of siren on our roads has compounded medical emergency services. Motorists hardly give way to siren blaring vehicles because of blatant abuse by unauthorized persons. These constraints make the application of HSE practices difficult in the Nigerian environment.

It is ironic that the situation in the Nigerian oil industry is different from what obtains in other countries. Worldwide, the same multinational oil companies operate the oil industry. These companies apparently adhere to the stipulated rules and regulations in other climes but fail to do the same in Nigeria. While compromise and endemic corruption in the country may account for the ugly state of affairs, the low percentage of Nigerians in critical management positions is a major factor.

In an attempt to redress this gross imbalance, the federal government issued the Nigeria Content Directive (NCD) in 2005 to empower local communities in the oil industry. To date the directive requires oil companies to have 24 per cent of their staff made up of the locals. NCD is critical in HSE implementation. It is erroneous for anyone to believe that foreigners with vested interest in their turnover would be the ones to clean our backyard. The owner of the yard better clears the refuse dump behind his backyard.

The DPR conference has come at a time when the world is lamenting environmental degradation around the globe and its impact on climate change. Nigeria's oil industry is a culprit especially with regards to gas flaring. As a matter of fact, the oil companies and government know what to do to stop gas flaring but they don't want to do it. Postponing the deadline for gas flaring is not in the national interest. Government should honour its commitments with its joint venture partners and deal with this problem once and for all. The DPR should not stop to act as an active watchdog over the oil industry in the country. Its duty is to ensure that all stakeholders follow at all times the rules and regulations.