Beyond politics in Nigeria

By NewsDesk,

Nigeria is at a crossroads. We have, in the last three years, witnessed a horrendous descent to the fringes of anarchy and a failed state.

Collectively, our hopes for a better life have given way to horror as hunger, poverty, joblessness, rising crime, economic doldrums, insecurity and indeed, hopelessness increasingly ravage millions of Nigerians like cancer.

Worse, still, is the persistent flow of blood and tears. Our cities and villages have turned into killing fields, with human life metamorphosing into an item of little value in today’s Nigeria. Ethnic agitations for freedom and equity have become bloody, and our religious divide, ominously wider. The judiciary, the last hope of the common man, has been intimidated and significantly emasculated, while the legislature, the symbol of democracy, has been rendered near-impotent and a toothless bulldog.

With the routing of the legislature and the judiciary, the rule of law has now been thrown to the dogs. The executive now usurps legislative and judicial powers. The executive spends without appropriation by the legislature. It also interprets the constitution and decides which court order to obey and which to throw into the trash bin. Never in the history of our nation has our unity been so thinly stretched to a breaking point,

Beyond politics, there is now an urgent need to rescue Nigerians from hunger, poverty, joblessness, economic doldrums, rising crime, blood-letting, clannishness, divisiveness and imminent anarchy.

What is needed now is a coalition of political parties and patriotic Nigerians to unite, rally round and elect a courageous, visionary and cosmopolitan democrat as the new President of Nigeria in 2019. This is a national service that is beyond politics.

One error Nigerians must not make in choosing our next president is to gloss over the track record of the aspirants. It is time to begin to assess the suitability of candidates for political office, based on certain clear-cut leadership qualities exhibited by them in their personal and public lives. For if lack of good leadership is our bane as a nation, no effort should be spared in ensuring that we get it right next time around.

Some of the leadership virtues we must demand from aspirants to the office of the president include a track-record of foresightedness, of being good democrats, having proven economic management skills, honesty, courage and acceptability to the religious and ethnic divides that make up Nigeria. Known ethnic and religious bigots must no longer be allowed to come to power to disunite us.

Among those we know to be interested in running for the presidency, former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, the Waziri Adamawa, possesses these critical leadership virtues in the largest measure.

In his decades-old involvement in politics, Atiku has always come out tops as the leader with the brightest ideas on governance and policy.

His views always resonate with the wishes of the people. His policy documents are the best articulated and that Nigeria continues to grapple with poor electric power supply is because the Atiku plan has not been implemented in Nigeria.

Atiku’s power strategy is the construction of smaller power generating plants all over Nigeria to serve clusters of people in the areas where these plants are located. Nigeria’s current power strategy has continued to invest and waste billions of dollars on white-elephant power infrastructure that have continued to produce darkness, decade after decades.

Atiku’s economic management dexterity has seen him founding and sitting atop some of the most successfully managed companies in Nigeria and overseas, which cut across several sectors including education, logistics, agriculture, oil and gas, media, hospitality, maritime, beverages, etc. He pioneered the call for ranching in Nigeria long before the farmers/herdsmen bloody clashes began.

His passion for, and understanding of qualitative education as the most important need of our youths to ensure a great future for our nation led him to found the American University in Nigeria (AUN), located in Yola, Adamawa State. One of Nigeria’s earliest private universities, AUN is listed among the best universities in Africa.

As a democrat, Atiku’s credentials are without parallel. Since his entry into politics in 1989 till he left office in 2007 after two successful terms as Nigeria’s Vice President, Nigerians have come to know Atiku as the politician who plays by the rule and is always on the side of truth and the constitution, hence the large followership he enjoys across all ethnic, religious and social divides in Nigeria.

In honouring Atiku with the prestigious Harris Wofford Global Citizen Award in 2011, at the 50th anniversary celebration of the U.S Peace Corps, the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) said of Atiku: “No private businessman in Africa has worked harder for democracy or contributed more to the progress of higher education than Atiku Abubakar.”

A famously detribalized man, the Waziri Adamawa has over the decades positively impacted on the lives of millions of Nigerians, regardless of their religion, tribe, gender or social status. He is adept at creating opportunities for others and genuinely wants to help people to succeed in life.

None of those angling to become the president of Nigeria has Atiku’s job creation and economic management credentials; attributes critically necessary to be possessed by any aspirant to that office, especially in the light of our present sorry pass.

Atiku’s consistent call for restructuring has now been accepted by a majority of Nigerians as the only condition for sustainable peace, unity and progress in Nigeria.

Atiku is the only presidential aspirant that has a verifiable track-record of canvassing the need to alter the status quo in order for Nigeria to achieve sustainable peace, unity and progress. All other presidential aspirants are committed to the sustenance of the failed status quo.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) delegates or any coalition of parties that want to present a joint presidential candidate must not be mistaken over the awesome electoral value of the Waziri Adamawa and his capacity to crush President Muhammadu Buhari and cause an upset in the 2019 general elections. If we are serious about sending Buhari packing from Aso Villa in 2019, we must rally round Atiku and hand him the mandate to confront Buhari in the 2019 presidential election.

If Atiku is denied the ticket, it will be very unfortunate for all Nigerians because besides Atiku, there is nobody from the North that can beat Buhari in the 2019 presidential election.

There is no northern politician that can divide the north and pull a large chunk of votes from Buhari’s stronghold more than Atiku. Also, there is no northern politician that can beat Atiku in garnering votes from South-south, South-east, and to some extent North-central.

Atiku has the capacity to massively crush Buhari in the South-east, South-south, North Central and share votes with him in the North-east, North-west and South-west. Even the South-west may yield to Atiku as the vast majority of the Yoruba will vote for a candidate that is known to be genuinely committed to restructuring Nigeria, one of Atiku’s major promises.

As PDP delegates weigh the options before them, and discussions grow among political parties for an alliance to present a joint presidential candidate against Buhari; party leaders, delegates and Nigerians will do well to appreciate that our best option to defeat Buhari and build the Nigeria of our dreams clearly remains Atiku Abubakar. Electing Atiku is a national service. It is beyond politics. Nigeria needs the Atiku touch now.

Orji, writer and political analyst and wrote from Abuja and can be reached via udennaorji@yahoo.com

The case for privatization of NNPC… Part 2

By Odilim Enwegbara

Let us agree that commercialisation is no better option. It is no better option here because, unlike most modern economies, including our peer economies such as South Africa’s, Mexico’s and Brazil’s, where commercialisation meant that the day-to-day operations of state owned enterprises have simply made these enterprises profitable to the extent that rather than government subsidy, these commercialised enterprises have become major source of government tax revenue, Nigeria’s commercialisation will hardly end the deep rooted patron-client system that promotes corruption, incompetence, waste and high operations costs.

What this means is that with the same incompetent people in charge, corruption and mismanagement will continue to persist in the refineries. Besides, as a result of the commercialisation arrangement, state monopoly that brings no form of innovation in the subsector will continue at the detriment of the end product cost reduction.

Not even commercialisation will bring to end the inherent sabotage of the refineries by the big boys involved in fuel importation who connive with the managers of the refineries to ensure that the refineries are not producing petroleum products so that they are always imported with huge subsidies given to these importers.

We should not forget that commercialisation would equally amount to these refineries easily transferring their artificially created high costs of operations to the consumers who have no option or else they will threaten to go back to demanding government subsidising their day-to-day operations.

The whole gist here is that there is no way we will continue to subsidise the running of state-owned enterprises like the refineries that are supposed to be the leading sources of tax revenue generation for the state. And there is no way we should allow them to transfer their high cost of operation to Nigerian consumers of their products as a result of state enterprise monopoly.

We also know that the only way to avert the impending transfer of state monopoly to Dangote monopoly of the country’s downstream subsector is to fully privatise these dilapidated refineries so that their new private owners will have no option but to fight it out with Dangote for their corporate survival. That explains why the only possible solution is this: saying enough is enough of these state owned enterprises lacking transparency, accountability, and operational and performance checks and balance.

We should thus praise this pre-eminent business man turn politician for being bold enough and clear enough by insisting that if elected president he will waste no time in handing the refineries to the best private hands. His decision to do the inevitable could not be unconnected with his vast business insight. Moreover, Atiku remains the only Nigerian politician who has the clear understanding of how best to resolve these problems inherent in state owned enterprise, which unless resolved will continue to undermine Nigeria’s long overdue industrialization.

But rather than be bold enough to agree that the privatisation of our refineries will attract world’s best companies to participate in oil subsector of the economy, the ill-informed Buhari Media Organisation, decided to attack Atiku, wrongly insisting that his proposed privatisation of the refineries “would directly translate to increased price of petroleum products…with dire consequences on high transport cost aggregating in high inflation rates with massive decline in the standard of living of the people…”

While one can understand the grammar, there is nothing else to decipher from their grammar. Or are they ignorant not to understand that the privatisation of the refineries will boost the oil downstream economy of Nigeria not only by making petroleum products readily available but also having the current high pump prices drastically reduced, as competition drives down costs and as a result the price of the products?

It is quite unscientific for the BMO to believe the commercial pricing of petroleum products in Nigeria would amount to a great harm to citizens of Nigeria since keeping these petroleum products subsidised remains the only way to keep them “socially priced.” But for how long we continue to wrongly believe that the only way we could truly make petroleum products socially priced is for government after government to spend trillions of naira, including Buhari administration’s whopping N1.4tn spent within a year from the Excess Crude Account with due process?

The irony here is that while the Buhari media people continue to defend fuel subsidy, many powerful APC politicians are boldly speaking not just against fuel subsidy but, in fact, insisting that the Buhari administration’s fuel subsidy is synonymous with corruption, including opposition from such powerful APC members like Gov Abdulazeez Yari, who notwithstanding being both the Chairman of Nigeria’s Governors’ Forum and a leading APC Governor says this fierce opposition:

“When there was no cost recovery, the NNPC clearly gave us the number of 33 and 35 million litres per day as the consumption of Nigeria. But now that with the new regime of cost recovery, NNPC is claiming daily consumption of 60 and 65 million litres per day? So many of our international partners [have said] that even if we are feeding Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana and Niger, we cannot consume more than 35 million litres per day. So we are wondering where the 60 million litres is coming from!”

But why shouldn’t the beneficiaries of this mind-boggling debt incurring and deficit guzzling refineries be alarmed that their means of stealing from our commonwealth would soon be in private hands? This goes to explain that after all, it is all about protecting their narrow interests than the interests of other Nigerians, particularly poor Nigerian.

If Buhari is truly this lover of the masses he has always pretended to be, then, why has he not come up with such unheard-of economic plans to aggressively grow the economy in such a way that the masses of this country would have been exiting poverty since 2015? Or from where else are these Buhari people expecting the good paying jobs to come if not from the private sector driving the economy?

Today’s under Buhari Nigeria resembles the pre-Deng China, known for having spent between 1949 and 1980 major portion of its annual revenues subsidising non-profitable, non-transparent state owned enterprises, filled with incompetent cronies of those in government. But even though it was a taboo to ever think of stopping what became the best way to bribe Communist Party members Deng Xiaoping the political wizard did the unimaginable. He wasted no time in demanding that all state enterprises be commercialised and where commercialisation failed to make revenue generators, they should be immediately transferred to the private hands.

Atiku knows that rather than subsidising our non-profitable refineries along with paying trillions of naira annually in fuel subsidy, by privatising the oil subsector and freeing money from the subsector, that money would be better spent on building schools, hospitals, roads, waterways, railways, mass housing, etc. These are the kinds of investments government should pursue since they can directly enhance the lives of the poor masses, those whose predicaments this government seems to completely ignore.

Politics apart, we should all applaud Atiku for already insisting that as president he will make sure that government is lean, productive, efficient, dynamic, and above all business-like that promotes growth, real sector firm investments, and jobs in their millions for Nigerians, which are only possible if we hand most of our unproductive state enterprises to the private sector.

Are we not lucky to have someone with Atiku’s kind of business background who with our votes will from May 29, begin to preside over the affairs of this country? Being a private sector player like Donald Trump who within a year in office turned the US economy around and set it on such astonishing growth path, Atiku remains the right presidential material this time around.

Like how Franklin Roosevelt came to preside over the affairs of America from 1932 to 1945 at a time the US economy was completely messed up by his predecessor Herbert Hoover, and like Deng Xiaoping brought in from 1978 to 1989 to clean up the economic and social mess caused by his predecessor Chairman Mao Zedong, we too have no option to bring in Atiku in 2019 if we want to witness the cleanup of the present economic, social and security mess caused by Buhari.

Having learned our lessons in a hard way, I strongly believe that this time around we the electorate has become wise enough not to repeat the same mistake in 2019. We need the president with the gift of presiding over our economic affairs with an eye to fix it once and for all and get Nigeria working again.

Enwegbara, a development economist writes from Abuja  

The case for privatization of NNPC

By Odilim Enwegbara

Private ownership of businesses has been as old as the human civilisation. And there has never been any great economy without an army of private business owners. Why not so when private ownership of enterprises is always better than state ownership because unlike state ownership, they have optimal capital structure, high profitability, high efficiency, and above all, are set up with growth, investment and jobs in mind.

The US economy has remained the world’s best run and most efficient simply because it is always in the hands of the private sector firms. But that has happened also because the state has always provided the best level playing field ever; where all the competing businesses enjoy equal treatment, second-to-none enabling environment. For this reason, the US anti-trust law ensures that there is no place for monopoly to thrive.

Confirming this truth on page 824 of his famous book ‘The Wealth of Nation,’ Adam Smith the father of economics stated, “In every great monarchy in Europe the sale of the crown lands would produce a very large sum of money which, if applied to the payments of the public debts, would deliver from mortgage a much greater revenue than any which those lands have ever afforded to the crown…When the crown lands had become private property, they would, in the course of a few years, become well improved and well cultivated.”

This remained the case, until as a result of modern democracy made the state involvement inevitable in western economic activities, especially when it became obvious in the 19th century that private owners of business were abusing their business ownership through their inhumane exploitation of workers to the level of slavery and efforts to dodge paying taxes to the state.

Also their refusal to take some corporate social responsibilities in the promotion of the commonwealth made it inevitable for the state to begin to go into business ownership. This became more pronounced immediately after the Word War II, when capital as the most important means of production was scarce all over western societies.

Also during the Cold War fought between capitalism and socialism, to prove that capitalism too had a human face, western government made sure the state participated in the critical sectors of the economy in an effort to provide jobs and used state owned utility companies for example to provide these services far below their true market costs.

But as these state owned companies became synonymous with corruption and cronyism, exaggerated cost transfers to the public, forcing huge deficit spending on the state, privatising these state-owned enterprises became rampant throughout the 1970s and 1980s. And where privatisation could not happen to avoid product price skyrocketing, to stop the increasingly difficult to fill huge deficit holes, commercialisation became the next option.

During this same time, most western government created powerful regulatory institutions, set to ensure that private owners of businesses no longer engage in the race to the bottom, where they enjoy free ride, without having to take commensurate responsibility in the commonwealth. With these regulatory authorities, it became obvious that there was no more room for state run monopoly.

And as private owners of businesses were forced to provide better working environment and better pay for workers, it became obvious that these same roles once the main reason state had to also own businesses had become less important, hence state owned enterprises handed to the private sector for better management and for more taxes to government.

Not being purely created for profit making along with being created for political patronage-seekers, was why to save these quasi-bankrupt state enterprises, and stop continuing as subsidy guzzlers, they had to be either privatised or commercialised. Also with the problem of high unemployment resolved in most western economies through income transfer social programs along with high level of tax evasion and lack of corporate social responsibility fully addressed, the continued need for state ownership of businesses became finally defeated.

Today, as we speak there are few state owned businesses around development economies, and where they inevitably exist, they are highly commercialised with government having little or no say in their daily operations. And to ensure that they are never populated by top politicians’ cronies, hiring is conducted in the open where only the most qualified and best performers get the job. While in such cases where they still enjoy special government patronage, they are treated by government like any other corporate competitors in the economy.

Africa’s — particularly Nigeria’s — case remains different. Coming out of colonialism with capital mostly in the hands of colonial businesses, in such absence private capital accumulation, state ownership of businesses was the only way for the newly independent states to participate in growing and developing their economies, and above all create jobs and generate tax revenues for the state for the onward investment in critical social infrastructure.

But with politicians soon discovering how to use the state owned businesses as a payback for political allegiance, rather than these post-colonial state owned enterprises being focused on growth and profit-making, they became the easiest way politicians could channel the scarce resources of the state for personal gains. Hence the appointment of cronies to manage these state owned enterprises.

Thus, unlike developed economies where the inevitable changes occurred, the inevitable transfer of these state owned businesses to private ownership has never truly occurred in most African countries, including Nigeria. And where the transfer occurred, it was almost always done in the dark with politicians in power using their fronts to acquire these state owned enterprises for a pittance. Understandably, it is this obvious truth that has forced Nigerians to oppose privatisation of public assets, believing that at the end of such exercise, publicly owned assets are cheaply and illegally transferred to the politicians through their corporate friends.

But the fact that previous privatisation exercises were done in the dark does not remove the fact that to truly and genuinely grow the economy we too should transfer many of our public enterprises to the most financially and technically capable private hands, who by investing their hard earned money in them, by bringing in more competent hands and more technical know-how and innovations will drive these enterprises into the competitive edge as well as ensure with more profits mean more investment in plant and equipment and more jobs to Nigerians and more taxes to government. And above all, it would mean the permanent end of government providing subsidy to state owned enterprises.

One major reason this has remained unresolved is the very fact that state owned businesses, including the country’s refineries have since become sources of political, ethnic and religious patronage, where patron-client relationship is so strong to be easily done way with by the same politicians who have to appoint friends and well-wishers in both management and board positions.

And there is no place where this patron–client relationship is more pronounced than in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), especially in its four refineries populated by politicians’ inexperienced cronies, whose only qualification for getting the top jobs is because they are friends and family members of politicians. Synonymous with bloated cost of operations, over invoicing, sheer corruption through revenues diversion into private accounts, mostly accounts indirectly belonging to politicians in power.

It is ironic that the NNPC and its downstream oil subsector are kept alive thanks to government life support machines in the form of subsidies. But the question no government has ever boldly addressed is: for how long should what are arguably Nigeria’s flagship corporations, otherwise the economic engine-room, supposedly earning over 70% of government revenues and over 90% of its foreign exchange earnings continue to be run by incompetent cronies of every government in power, when handing them to private hands is the best way to make them more profitable, pay more taxes, innovate and compete locally and internationally so that petroleum products are made readily available to Nigerians at affordable prices?

Here we are talking about the country’s downstream oil subsector that rather than supposedly generating a lot of revenues for the country as it is the case in most countries, including our peer economies, we are talking about state owned refineries run in such absolute corruption that instead of refining petroleum products have their managers conniving with the big boys involved in fuel importation to always sabotage its refining operations. Quite understandably, the country’s refineries have always been the more you look the less you see.

It is not that we don’t know that this is true state of these refineries today. Of course, we all know that they have never worked and will never work. But the problem has always been who will have the gut to stop this by privatising these enterprises.

But speaking recently as part of his agenda to overhaul the whole economy and position it for growth if elected president in 2019, Atiku Abubakar announced his readiness to immediately privatise the country’s rundown refineries. Being a highly successful businessman, he understands that it is only by transferring these moribund and inefficiently run state-owned enterprises to private sector hands should we stop spending trillions of naira annually in fuel subsidy along with other trillions of naira lost in taxes. But for how long will government after government continue to bankroll the same refineries that should be the number one source of government tax revenue; he queried?

Reflecting over the reality of Nigeria’s economy, Atiku rightly argues that there is no way Nigeria should expect any serious economic growth with such moribund state owned enterprises. That is why to finally put Nigeria’s economy on the path of growth will require state-owned companies like the refineries be wholly in private hands.

Atiku was right to wonder how we intend to achieve the high economic growth we intended if we intend to continue keeping the moribund state owned corporations like the refineries on the same life support machines they have been for decades now. So, as far as he is concerned, privatising them remains the most plausible solution to maximise allocation efficiency. Of course, there is no way we should be desirous of big time foreign investors when in reality we continue ensuring that our state owned enterprises should still monopolise the critical sectors of the economy.

With the much needed culture of competition, operational transparency, and profitability replacing the present mind-boggling inefficiencies and imperiousness that have made it almost impossible for these state-owned companies to perform optimally, the refineries will begin to work since privatisation replaces cronyism with competent and professionally sophisticated managers.

That is bizarre to say the least. Or what is the reasoning behind wanting to grow the economy without wanting the private sector participants to lead it? Let us agree that increasing the private sector firms’ participation in the economy will generate millions of jobs along with trillions of naira in taxes, as well as lift millions of Nigerians out of poor. Without having our refineries privatised, big time investors’ money will unlikely come into the oil subsector.

Atiku’s refinery privatisation will come with two clauses. First clause will insist on a ten year review of the performance of the new owners of the refineries to ensure that they have been able to fully transform the refineries into high performing or else the refineries automatically return ownership to government. Second clause will insist on a spread-out local content within all the operation of the refineries, which means Nigerians will have contracts’ first offer of refusal.

Enwegbara, a development economist writes from Abuja  

Buhari and the JUNE 12 saga

By Reuben Abati

There are three aspects – the strategic, the political and the legal – to the Federal Government’s decision to replace May 29 with June 12 as Nigeria’s Democracy Day, and to confer on the late Chief MKO Abiola, the highest honour in the land.

Strategy: Long before now, the Buhari government had needed to review its strategy of engagement with the public, move from blame-passing, propaganda, in-fighting, enemy-seeking approach to a more legacy-driven, result-oriented mode.

It is like this: when a government is in decline, and it is losing popularity and goodwill, then it is time to change the narrative. That is precisely what the Buhari government has done with the masterstroke of a special focus on June 12 and Chief MKO Abiola at a time when virtually everyone from the Catholic Church, the opposition, prominent political figures, the media to estranged members of the APC are carrying placards against the government.

When you change the narrative, what you do is to divert attention from the prevailing negative discourse; you find something else for the people to talk about in the hope that this will give the government a breather, and allow it to get back on traction and restore some goodwill. Whoever suggested the June 12 and Abiola move to President Buhari is quite smart and I commend him and the government.

But the “changing the narrative” strategy is not a deus ex machina. Its fall-out has to be managed, and government must be in a position to manage the gains or the challenges. This strategy can also prove to be a test of a government’s status. An accident-prone government may even in the long run gain nothing from such a move.

For the Buhari government, however, the June 12 move should change the narrative for a few weeks, except there is another accident on the security or political scene. But whatever happens, President Muhammadu Buhari will be remembered as the Nigerian President who successfully placed the proper historical accent on June 12, and MKO Abiola’s contributions to the restoration of democracy in Nigeria.

The Jonathan government, which I served, had tried to do this in 2012 by renaming the University of Lagos after Chief MKO Abiola, but the UNILAG community – resident and alumni – reacted like cry-babies, they considered the name of their university too sacred, and too big for Abiola, and in the face of the overwhelming sentiment, the significance of the gesture was over-politicized.

The political: The politics of June 12 and Chief MKO Abiola has been a recurrent decimal in the debate about how best to remember the struggle that led to the exit of the military on May 29, 1999 and the role played by the pro-democracy coalition. Indeed, since 2000, the pro-democracy coalition and supporters of Chief MKO Abiola have lamented that the eventual beneficiaries of the struggle for democracy were the ones most determined to deny and erase Chief Abiola’s role in that significant moment in Nigerian history.

They wanted Federal Government recognition for MKO Abiola. When this did not happen, the states controlled by the then Alliance for Democracy in the South West declared June 12, Democracy Day and a public holiday.

In Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, and Ondo, monuments were named after Abiola, his statues were erected, other heroes of the struggle were honoured and every June 12, pro-democracy processions were held in these states.

The celebration of May 29 as Democracy Day has therefore been consistently opposed on the grounds that it is wrong to celebrate the exit of the military but better to commemorate June 12 – the day in 1993 when Nigeria held the freest and fairest election in its history – the Presidential election of that day united Nigerians across ethnic, religious and ideological lines.

But as it happened, some military leaders considered Abiola unfit for the office, for their own personal reasons and therefore annulled the election.

This brazen assault on the people’s sovereignty resulted in a prolonged protest for the restoration of the people’s mandate, and a nationwide rebellion against military rule. For six years, Nigeria stood at the edge of a precipice.

June 12 is indeed a watershed in Nigerian history. Its formal recognition is symbolic and instructive. This should assuage the pains of the pro-June 12 group, and help to restore the memory of that moment in history and the aftermath. I once wrote about how many young Nigerians born in 1993 or after do not even know who MKO Abiola is.

I was asked on one occasion by a young Nigerian: “This MKO Abiola, what about him?” In a country where history is not taught, that is what you get: an emerging generation that does not know Nigeria. With June 12 now part of the country’s calendar, the story will be told, and that turning point in Nigerian history will be recorded permanently for posterity.

The decision to honour Chief MKO Abiola and Chief Gani Fawehinmi post-humously, and Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe with GCFR and GCON is a good move, but the question of legality with regard to Abiola and Fawehinmi has been raised and here we confront the dilemma of a conflict between what is reasonable and what is legal.

The legal aspect: Are the post-humous awards really illegal? I recall that in 2014, the Jonathan administration had tried to honour Chief MKO Abiola and Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh by having their names on the National Honours List. Justice Alfa Belgore, former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) who has now spoken up to declare the post-humous award to Abiola and Fawehinmi, “illegal” was the Chairman of the National Honours Committee at the time.

The advice given at the time was that the awards could not be given post-humously, and that the law should not be bent to accommodate political interests. The Jonathan government, with the uproar over the re-naming of the University of Lagos still fresh in the minds of its officials, chose to tread with caution.

It is noteworthy that this same issue of legality has again cropped up. By giving post-humous national awards, the Buhari government has now provided us an opportunity to interrogate the law.

The relevant law is the National Honours Act No 5 of 1964 – Section 3(2) thereof reads: “Subject to the next following paragraph of this article, a person shall be appointed to a particular rank of an Order when he receives from the President in person at an investiture held for the purpose –

(a) the insignia appropriate for that rank; and

(b) an instrument under the hand of the President and the public seal of the Federation

declaring him to be appointed to that rank.”

The operative phrase here is “in person.” Can a dead person be honoured in person? I think not. But it would appear that upon a careful and calm reading of Section 3(3), the President is actually given the power of discretion to vary Section 3(2).

Section 3(3) states: “If in the case of any person it appears to the President expedient to dispense with the requirements of paragraph (2) of this article, he may direct that that person shall be appointed to the rank in question in such a manner as may be specified in the direction.”

With due respect, at issue is this: assuming that post-humous awards do not meet the conditions set out in Section 3(2), can the problem be cured by Section 3(3)? And is there any manifest ambiguity in the provisions or are the words in their ordinary meaning clear enough? Or could the action taken result in any absurdity? Or are there issues of procedure that may have been breached? Do we even have a National Honours Committee in place and if so, what recommendations did that committee make to President Buhari in pursuit of its functions as a clearing house? Any public-spirited person can go to court to test the National Honours Act and raise these issues. It is the duty of the courts to interpret the law, and with our progressive judiciary, I believe they can and should guide us on the true intent of the Honours Act. Ordinarily, a national honour does not harm anyone nor is it likely to injure the country itself.

However, the National Honours Act is overdue for review, and the process of appointing persons to the National Orders needs to be reformed. Should it become necessary to amend the Act, the National Assembly can do so in a week at most. In terms of process, the area of concern is the manner in which successive governments have tended to give out these honours as if they were mere chieftaincy titles or civil service allocations.

Section 1(3) of the Act lists the number of awards that may be given every year, but the prescribed total minimum number is so large that every National Honours investiture ceremony ends up looking like a carnival where all kinds of undeserving persons are decorated.

Still on the legal aspect, some persons have drawn attention to Section 2(1) of the Public Holidays Act CAP 40 LFN – while that section of the law gives the President power to appoint any day as public holiday, it does not grant him the powers to unilaterally substitute a day with another as he has done with May 29 and June 12.

The Schedule to this Act as it is, recognizes May 29 as Democracy Day, not June 12. The Public Holidays Act would still have to be amended appropriately but since there is no plan to declare June 12, 2018 a public holiday, and the President’s statement in its last paragraph specifically uses the phrase “in future years”, the Federal Government has more than enough time to seek a proper amendment of the Public Holidays Act by the legislature. So, I don’t see a problem here.

All told, the plan to honour the Abiola-Kingibe 1993 Presidential joint ticket and Gani Fawehinmi, the legendary human rights crusader, is imbued with much meaning and significance even if this does not automatically settle the matter about the results of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election. The Federal Government should take some additional steps.

First, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should be directed to release the results of that election officially and for Chief MKO Abiola and Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe to be recognized strictly as a matter of record as President-elect and Vice-President-elect respectively.

The results of that election need to be validly declared to put a closure to the injustice that was committed. This is the more important matter. The major legal issue here, however is that both men can not be accorded recognition as former Heads of State – they never took oath of office, and the Constitution under which they were elected – the 1989 Constitution is no longer in existence. It stands abolished. Since equity does not act in vain, what has been done is at best symbolic.

To further heal the pains of the affected, the Abiola family should be recognized and compensated for his arrest and detention that ultimately led to his demise. On Gani Fawehinmi: I had expressed fears about the likelihood that his family may reject the honour, Chief Fawehinmi having rejected a similar honour while alive. The Federal Government must be relieved that they have accepted the honour.

Chief Gani Fawehinmi is of course most deserving of the highest honours in the land. For more than 40 years, he was in the forefront of the struggle for a better Nigeria. He was committed to the progress and well-being of the ordinary man, the rule of law and human rights as the main pillars of good governance. He pursued this objective through the instrumentality of the law. Of him, President Buhari writes: “…the tireless fighter for human rights and the actualization of the June 12th elections and indeed for Democracy in general, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi SAN is to be awarded posthumously a GCON.”

I can only add that there are others who were also part of that struggle for the “actualization of June 12” whose contributions were no less important, and pain and suffering no less, who should also be considered for national honour.

They even did more for the struggle than Chief Abiola’s running mate, Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe who is now being honoured, not for his contributions, I assume, but merely for being part of the ticket! They include Chief Alfred Rewane, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Chief Abraham Adesanya, Professor Wole Soyinka, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Frank Kokori, Col. Abubakar Umar, Beko Ransome-Kuti, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite, Alao Aka-Bashorun, Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu, Ayo Opadokun, Kudirat Abiola, Chima Ubani, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe, US Ambassador Walter Carrignton and all the journalists and media owners who were lied against, harassed, shot, assassinated, or jailed. This list is by no means exhaustive but it is representative enough for the benefit of those who insist on ethnicizing June 12.

It was a pan-Nigerian struggle: between good and evil, between heroes and villains, and by the way, I agree that Professor Humphrey Nwosu – the man who presided over the election as National Electoral Commission Chairman – also deserves recognition.

The reading of motives – all that talk about timing, the South-West and 2019 – is beside the point. In the South-West, there were many Yoruba anti-June 12 elements who refused to acknowledge Abiola as the symbol and focal point of the restoration of democracy in Nigeria, and who may still be indifferent today. Timing – it is better late than never. 2019 – there is no strong indication that this would have any significant effect on the voting numbers in 2019. The Nigerian voter may not be as stupid as we often think he or she is.

25yrs after June 12- Hafsa Abiola’s poem

By Hafsat Abiola-Costello

Twenty five years after June 12: Our Long Wait for Justice is Ending

I had expected that the handover from military rule to democracy would be held on the 12th of June.

That would have signalled the completion of a circle that began with a dream deferred.

That became one fulfilled.

But I waited in vain.

The handover was set for May 29, a date pulled out of thin air, signifying nothing.

Then I thought that the chief beneficiary would ask the country to observe a minute of silence,

In memory of MKO, Kudirat, Alfred Rewane, Umaru Yar’Adua, Bagauda Kaltho, the thousands of students, the tens of journalists, traders and politicians who lost their lives fighting to actualise an unjustly annulled election.

Again, I waited in vain for he started his  inauguration speech…

And nothing was said.

The first four years passed and it became clear that the goal was to erase the name of the man whose sacrifice paved the way for our democracy.

Those four years set the tone.

And I got tired of waiting

As it slowly became clear that to wait was to wait in vain.

I stopped expecting my country to do the right thing by my father and instead began to understand why Nigeria struggles to find patriots among its leaders.

Until today.

Today when President Muhammadu Buhari gave an executive order to declare that June 12 was Nigeria’s Democracy Day;

To confer on MKO the title of GCFR, an honour reserved for presidents of the Federal Republic of Nigeria;

To confer on Gani Fawehinmi, the dogged fighter for justice, and my father’s running mate, Babagana Kingibe, the title of GCON, the second highest in the land;

And in one day, demonstrated to my bruised heart that integrity, fairness, honour were alive and well in a country for which both my parents had sacrificed their lives.

There are no words that can capture the depth of my gratitude nor the breadth of my joy.

I thank God that I am alive to witness this day.

May we live to witness many more days when justice triumphs over injustice, when sacrifice and service win over arrogance and fraud, and when the blood of our heroes reach from across time to boldly claim the reward that their actions wrought.

May the sacrifices of our past heroes and heroines never be in vain.

: Our Long Wait for Justice is Ending

I had expected that the handover from military rule to democracy would be held on the 12th of June.

That would have signalled the completion of a circle that began with a dream deferred.

That became one fulfilled.

But I waited in vain.

The handover was set for May 29, a date pulled out of thin air, signifying nothing.

Then I thought that the chief beneficiary would ask the country to observe a minute of silence,

In memory of MKO, Kudirat, Alfred Rewane, Umaru Yar’Adua, Bagauda Kaltho, the thousands of students, the tens of journalists, traders and politicians who lost their lives fighting to actualise an unjustly annulled election.

Again, I waited in vain for he started his inauguration speech…

And nothing was said.

The first four years passed and it became clear that the goal was to erase the name of the man whose sacrifice paved the way for our democracy.

Those four years set the tone.

And I got tired of waiting

As it slowly became clear that to wait was to wait in vain.

I stopped expecting my country to do the right thing by my father and instead began to understand why Nigeria struggles to find patriots among its leaders.

Until today.

Today when President Muhammadu Buhari gave an executive order to declare that June 12 was Nigeria’s Democracy Day;

To confer on MKO the title of GCFR, an honour reserved for presidents of the Federal Republic of Nigeria;

To confer on Gani Fawehinmi, the dogged fighter for justice, and my father’s running mate, Babagana Kingibe, the title of GCON, the second highest in the land;

And in one day, demonstrated to my bruised heart that integrity, fairness, honour were alive and well in a country for which both my parents had sacrificed their lives.

There are no words that can capture the depth of my gratitude nor the breadth of my joy.

I thank God that I am alive to witness this day.

May we live to witness many more days when justice triumphs over injustice, when sacrifice and service win over arrogance and fraud, and when the blood of our heroes reach from across time to boldly claim the reward that their actions wrought.

May the sacrifices of our past heroes and heroines never be in vain.

In Search of a Champion for Nigerian Youths

By Musa Mohammed Zango

The issue of the place and role of youths in Nigeria and how they have fared as well as their future in the prevailing climate of growing poverty, unemployment and uncertainty is definitely going to be a campaign issue as Nigerians prepare for the crucial 2019 national elections.

The fact that the matter of youths and women would be on the front burner is predicated on the fact that in times of national uncertainty and crisis as we have today in the face of economic problems affecting the citizenry, and wanton killings across the land, the youths and women bear the brunt of these problems. When life is adversely affected, when war breaks out or when as we have today, thousands of Nigerians now find themselves in internal displaced persons camps, the bulk of those affected turn out to be youths and women.

The lives of youths and women, mostly their mothers are affected negatively when there is a failure of leadership or when the leadership in place in a country, as we have today, is failing to live up to the dictates of good governance.

It was for these reasons that when incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari described Nigerian youths as lazy and wanting the good life without hard work, it caused quite a stir. The social media, the conventional media as well as public discussions across the country was inundated and dominated by the angry retorts and analysis of youths who were livid at what they considered to be an unfair commentary on the long-suffering youths of Nigeria and their mothers who have been oppressed and exploited by most governments in the country’s history.

At the same time, it is on record that the youths in Nigeria have been victims of several failed promises in the past and even the present to the point where those who manage to get an education through the toiling of their parents cannot hope to get an employment for up to ten years after graduation from a university.

That the situation of youths in Nigeria has become so bad today is not because resources are lacking in their country, it is due largely to the fact that since the 1970s till date, the country has lacked committed and honest leadership who care about development and progress and the welfare of the people. The issue of poor governance and maladministration is so bad that most of the financial resources of the nation were stolen and shamelessly appropriated by public officials entrusted with the good governance of the country and who are under oath to protect the nation and its citizens.

The situation was so bad that corruption today has become the greatest threat to the well- being of the country as attested to by the billions of naira and dollars found to have been looted by public officials, elected, and appointed and those in the top echelon of the civil service.

Today, there is a list of accused corrupt persons or looters, prepared by the administration of Muhammadu Buhari and which is the subject of litigation in the courts. While some Nigerians and the political opposition accuse the Buhari government of not fighting corruption but witch-hunting the opposition, the Buhari administration deserves commendation for sensitizing Nigerians on the extent and deep-seated nature of corruption in contemporary Nigeria thus making all and sundry aware of the damage it has done and the class of Nigerians behind the virus.

Back to the issue of the youths whose life has been made more miserable by pervasive corruption in the country, Buhari when he alluded to them as lazy and having a sense of entitlement, touched a chord that rankles. Many Nigerians were of the view that he would not have gone as far as doing such a disservice to the suffering Nigerian youths no matter the amount of investment he was seeking from the Commonwealth Business Council delegates.

In his own comment on the matter, a leading aspirant for the 2019 Presidency on the ticket of the leading opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar said that Nigerian youths are not lazy. Atiku said that on the contrary, the youths of Nigeria are hard-working, creative and innovative and that being an entrepreneur and businessman, he has interacted with them at different levels of business associates and employees and that their hard work and sense of duty and responsibility has contributed immensely to the success of his businesses and the wealth of the nation.

Atiku’s position on Nigerian youths tallied with that of several prominent Nigerians and those of Yoweri Museveni, the President of Uganda who criticized President Buhari and drew attention to the creativity, resilience and exemplary role of the youths in Nigeria whose singular effort in creating the film industry, Nollywood has enriched and ushered in a new era of African culture and pride among the Black people of the World.

Atiku Abubakar, an aspirant to the Presidency has now dedicated his political ambitions to the youth of Nigeria, their social and political emancipation as well as their economic and political empowerment and recognition. He said at a recent forum of a pro-Atiku Youth support group and restated it in several interviews, that if he emerged victorious at the 2019 polls and became President, he would set aside forty percent of positions in his administration to the youth.

The above means that Atiku Abubakar has become the champion of Nigerian Youths at a time when the majority of them are facing uncertainty and despondency at the hands of a grossly corrupt ruling elite who care only for themselves, their families and cronies leaving the mass of the people in poverty and want. Atiku has pledged to do everything in his power as an entrepreneur and businessman to create millions of jobs during the period he would be President, if elected.

Atiku and other notable Nigerians have confidence and faith in the ability and resourcefulness of the youths of our country. Several commentators and analysts even say that in the case of the youths in Northern Nigeria where President Buhari comes from and who are usually perceived to be lazy, one only needs to engage with some of these youths of Northern origin to know the extent of their confidence and longing for opportunity to make a difference.

A number of personnel of Non-governmental organisations who have worked in the Northern part of Nigeria with youths and women attest to their resilience and quick mastery of tasks when confronted with one. These observers, many of them foreign nationals argue that the youths and women in the North appear to be lazy because of the menial jobs and vocations which they engage in but which are all they have or are given by their rather lazy and greedy leaders.

These development workers asked the question, where are the factories in the North and skill acquisition centers which could have given the youths a different and more elevating orientation? These are non-existent, yet states in the North and the South have people entrusted with their good governance and the welfare of the people.

With the many businesses and educational institutions that he has set up that employs and imparts knowledge and skills to thousands of youths in the Northern part of the country and the programmes to get the forlorn almajiri group of youths off the streets of his native Adamawa State and the North east region in general, there is little doubt that Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President and aspirant to the Presidency in 2019, is the champion that Nigerian youths and their mothers have been looking for.

Musa Mohammed Zango writes from Bauchi

Future of Nigerian youth, now in their hands

By Edris Odewunmi

The #NotTooYoungToRun bill, recently signed into law by President Muhammed Buhari, is an alteration of sections 65, 106, 131 and 177 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria. The bill seeks to reduce age requirements of citizens seeking political offices in the country, and as well the issue of independent candidacy, championed by Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement(YIAGA), sponsored by Hon. Tony Nwulu and Sen. Abdul-Aziz Nyako.

The signed bill had reduction in age criteria for presidential aspirant from 40 years to 30 years, house of representatives from 30 years to 20 years, and same for state house of assemblies, but failed to alter the age criteria for the senatorial seats and governorship aspirant which still remains at 35 years.

Unto that development, I would like to say an half-heart congratulations to the Nigerian youths, or better still “congra”, because this is a job well done halfway by the mantle of leadership in the country.

critically looking at the new development which is a necessary and well applauded development, but why can’t we have an age bracket as a criteria for vying for public offices, in order word,what I tagged “too old to rule “.

For example let say an age bracket of 25 to 65 years as at the time of election, so as to flush out the old reoccurring faces in the political system of Nigeria. This will be a lengthy discussion for another day.

Quoting the Senate President, Sen. Bukola Saraki: “this is the beginning of youth inclusion”, while reacting to the bill signed into law by President Buhari.

This led to the thought of the pros and cons of this new development as well as a reminder of the Nigerian colonial political system, where our foremost political leaders like Awolowo, Azikwe, Enahoro, Ahmadu Bello and a host of others, who were just limited to participatory roles by the colonial masters in the affairs of their own country until the, movement of self government by chief Anthony Enahoro, all of these leaders were in their early twenties or mid twenties. The buggy questions remains, youth inclusion! how?

Is this the beginning of the change that we clamour for? or a sincere approach to make youths actively involve in politics? In all honesty, the new law is not encompassing for youth active involvement, judging by scene will be filled with young vibrant Nigerians who will be eager to prove a point that they are indeed the best option available to us, accompanied with a positive environment, unlike what we have now.

 

 

 

This positive energy will produce good economic policies that will revamp the poor economic status of Nigeria, produce a diversified economy, a world class education sector, stable power supply among hosts of other development accruable if youths are actively involved in politics.

The issue of brain drain in the country will be a thing of the past, where vibrant youth will remain in the country to add their own quota to the economic growth and development of the country, instead of seeking greener pastures abroad at the expense of the country’s development.

Going by the statement of the president that the nation’s greatest resource lies not in our oil, mineral resources nor our agriculture but in the youths of the country who are more than half of the country’s population.

A country with focus attracts foreign direct investments due to its political stability, which will help to boost the nation’s economy, make it self reliant and sustainable development for the foreseeable future.

Science and technology rules the world in the current global politics. This is a product of new ideas from no other than the youths. Nigerians are proofing themselves all around the globe, but the advantages of these vibrant Nigerians are to the host countries.

With youths in power, these intellects will come back home to contribute their quotas to the development of the country; And such a case study for Nigerians is that of Ghana that had her citizens trooping back to the country en mass once it start to get her footsteps right. The new law is indeed a step into the right direction.

There is always two sides to a coin, head or tail. Let us all reason like a pessimist, who sees a cup half filled as half empty. The Nigerian moral social structure is a pain in the ass. An individual is a product of his or her society, likewise our current crop of leaders are products of the society that is morally bankrupt.

From the grassroots to the very top in the society lacks moral justice. If this should come to play in the political socialisation of the youth en route to the mantle of political leadership, then doom is what is in sight which no one prays for. Anarchy will be the order in the nation, nepotism, ethnicity, favouratism, etc. will come to full force if the immorality of the society plays out in the political structures we all hope to see.

The old faces we are tired of seeing will seize this opportunity at the peril of the society, then youths who are meant to be active will become passive and at best become political bag carriers, dance to the tune of their god fathers, albeit godfatherism. By this time we would have taken a thousand steps backwards. Brain drain will increase and only at the mercy of God that another civil war won’t break out.

While signing the bill into law, President Buhari jokingly told us to defer our ambitions till after 2019 general elections. Joke we might think it is, but that happens to be the best for us, so we can make use of the years in between to strategize for a ground breaking entry into the political fray.

In addition let us all shun religionism and ethnicism, which are tools in the hands of the present day elites to divide and rule us and aid their selfish interests. Let channel our energies positively, so as to produce our very own Emmanuel Le Macron.

The future you want to see begins with you!

 Odewumi is student of University of Lagos’ Economics department.

Why strong currency is Atiku Abubakar’s agenda

By Odilim Enwegbara

Whenever I listen to some of our economists proposing a stronger naira I wonder on what economic development theory they are basing their argument.

First, any proposal of a strong currency is never done with pro-real sector investment, pro-growth, pro-jobs or pro-poverty alleviation fully considered. That explains why I’m not only strongly opposed to this kind of economics. I always try to do so with enough convincing evidence to prove my case.

I say so because to believe that the strength of any economy is dependent on the strength of its currency and as a result promotes its competitiveness only amounts to poor knowledge of the workings of modern international trade and why downward currency manipulation is the surest way to play to win in the economic competitiveness game.

So, the truth of the matter is that for any industrial economy to be continuously competitive or for any non-industrial economy to begin to industrialize, the first and the most important currency policy of such a country should focus on how best to make sure that imported consumer goods are priced out of its domestic market and later taken the price war overseas by also making sure that at international markets, locally made goods are made cheaper than such goods made elsewhere. This is only made possible by making sure that the country’s domestic currency is constantly manipulated downward by those in charge of the country’s currency policy.

That’s exactly what China has been doing and it is exactly what has degenerated to the ongoing currency war between the US and the People’s Republic of China.

It is why if we too want to truly industrialise, we too should make sure that not only do we cheaply produce most of the goods we consume, but also cheaply produce what many other countries too have to consume. In other words, Made in Nigeria goods should be continuously cheaper than those same goods made elsewhere.

But for this to happen, we all know that the value of the naira should be kept artificially lower than its real market value, but above all lower than the value of most other major currencies, especially currencies of those economies which we intend to compete with.

This way, goods from these countries with strong currencies would be priced more expensively both in their own consumer markets and in Nigeria; while at the same time, Nigerian made goods get priced cheaper around the world. This will make Nigerian made goods gain more consumer patronage than their competitors. As a result, millions of manufacturing jobs will be created in Nigeria while displacing competing firms wherever they may be found in the world.

That’s why naira at N500 per dollar isn’t as bad as most Nigerians are made to believe by most of our economists. As long as we make access to official forex to only those importers of industrial inputs, mostly importers of essential raw materials and plant and equipment, imported inflation resulting from import dependency will never arise.

Carrying out this new forex policy is the single policy needed to lessen the pressure on our foreign reserve accounts because it discourages importation of goods that can be cheaply and easily made locally.

So that with most importers of finished consumer goods denied access to official forex and also required to prove beyond doubt the legitimate source of their forex, certainly that will amount to making it difficult for those importers of cheap foreign made goods to access forex which will put a stop to the pressure such imported goods have on our foreign reserve accounts

This not only discourages the import of finished consumer products that tend to displace our infant industries and jobs. But by cheaply producing these goods locally the same goods being imported will be priced out in Nigeria.

This is the only way import substitution industrialization will be made possible in Nigeria especially with the goal to quicken the country’s industrialization to the extent that within a short period of time we too can begin to become one of the leading industrial economies in the world with millions of industrial jobs created along with millions of poor Nigerians lifted out of poverty and government revenue growing in such geometric progression.

This what really happened in China where with such smart policy China created more than 600 million jobs and close to 900 million of its 1.4 billion people lifted out of poverty during the past 39 years of its economic revolution driven by import substitution.

This is the kind of currency policy that we should be expecting Odilimandfriends monetary reform committee to be represented to our forthcoming book, “The Big Bang: Planning Nigeria’s Economic Revolution.”

Since China adopted this policy of manipulating its currency, Yuan, downward while making sure its competitors’ currencies are kept artificially high, Chinese goods have continued to be far cheaper than goods from these competitors. In this currency war, China has always been beating the US for more than two decades now.

But also to ensure that the US does not devalue the dollar which would amount to double jeopardy for China, rather than going to demand from the US to pay it its over $4trillion in dollar foreign reserves, knowing fully well that that would amount to the US printing more dollars (possibly exactly that amount), which would, in fact, amount to the very devaluation of the dollar, it is only logical why acquiring strategic US Brownfield companies, important corporate buildings and resorts, farmlands, etc. remains the smartest thing China is doing without having to force the US to devalue the dollar.

That is the same reason why in the meantime, making sure that going forward China’s exposure to the dollar is drastically reduced, China has since engaged in currency swaps with most of its major trading partners around the world.

And with the currency swaps adoption, China is increasingly lessening its economy’s exposure to already badly battered Dollar which is fast losing its global de facto reserve currency power, which its collapse is only a matter of time. China rightly believes that when that happens, its Yuan will eventually replace dollar as the world’s reserve currency.

For Nigeria to get its economic development right this time around, Atiku Abubakar should emulate President Franklin Roosevelt’s and Chairman Deng Xiaoping’s kind of nationalist economic activism. At least, he should follow the recent foot-steps of Donald Trump who not only campaigned for “America First,” but who has been practicing his American First economic diplomacy. Personally, I don’t see anything wrong in a president prioritising the interests of those who gave him his mandate.

That is why even as envisaged President-elect, Atiku’s Economic Revival Team should be mandated to come up with all the clear steps his administration should be taking in order to trigger the unprecedented economic revolution through Nigeria’s economic diversification. All these to be steps will ensure that for the first time in Nigeria the country’s economy is given a firm pathway toward industrialization.

Among the quick steps his government should take in an effort to quick economic turnaround and the creation of millions of manufacturing jobs for Nigerians during his first tenure will include a series of Executive Bills (EB) to be forwarded to the 9th Assembly once it is inaugurated.

The EB will include the 2018 Foreign Exchange Bill, the CBN 2007 Act Repeal Bill, the Nigerian Banking Regulatory Commission Bill, the Nigerian Industrialization Commission Bill, the Fiscal Sunshine Bill, the Fiscal Expansionary Bill, the Infant Industry Protection Bill, the Informal Sector Formalisation Bill, the Foreign Investment Regulatory Bill, the Nigerian Trade Diplomacy Bill, and the Local Content Amendment Bill. Others are the Interstate Highway Privatization Bill, the Refineries Privatization Bill, the EFCC and ICPC Merger Bill, and the Construction Bank of Nigeria Bill.

Odilim Enwegbara, a development economist wrote from Abuja

Lagos State Small Claims Court: A Milestone in Dispute Resolution (2)

By Rahman Oshodi,

A Defendant duly served with a Summons from a Small Claims Court Registry is required to file his Defence/Admission or Counterclaim, in the prescribed form, within seven (7) days. Where a Defendant fails to file an Answer to the Claim, he may be held to have admitted the Claim. A Claimant who wishes to respond to a Defendant’s Counter-claim has within five (5) days to file a Reply to same. The filing of the Claimant’s Reply marks the close of pleadings.

At the proceedings before the Small Claims Court, parties are at liberty to represent themselves. Partnerships and Registered Companies can be represented by either a Partner, the Company Secretary or any other Principal Officer of the Partnership or Company. While parties may testify on their own behalf and tender all necessary documents, they may also call other witnesses to give evidence at the hearing.

The Magistrate is obliged to promote, encourage and facilitate amicable settlement of a dispute among the parties by providing settlement options to the parties as he deems fit, at the first appearance of the parties before the Court.

This process of facilitating amicable settlement shall not exceed seven (7) days. Where parties are able to resolve their dispute, the terms of settlement shall be entered as consent judgment by the Court accordingly.

However, in a situation where parties are unable to amicably settle their dispute, the Magistrate shall hold a preliminary hearing for the purpose of giving directions for hearing of the Claim or Counter-claim within the timelines stipulated in the Practice Directions.

It should be noted that the Magistrate’s role in facilitating amicable settlement between parties is limited to “c”. In order words, the Magistrate is neither a Mediator nor an Arbitrator. He should therefore not see himself as someone conducting either mediation or arbitration or Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) or any other form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”). While Facilitated Negotiation takes place only between the parties and is only guided by the Magistrate, ADR mechanisms involve the inputs of third parties who are experts in the technicality and formality of legal and/or arbitral rules.

Judgement, Enforcement and Appeal

A Magistrate of the Small Claims Court is required to deliver judgment in a dispute before it within fourteen (14) days of the completion of hearing. This is required to include the Court’s determination of issues raised in any interlocutory application(s) filed by any of the parties.

Notably, the Practice Directions provide that the entire period of proceedings from filing till judgment shall not exceed sixty (60) days).

However, a judgment of the Small Claims Court shall not be invalid by reason of the entire proceedings of the court having exceeded sixty (60) days. The Magistrate is equally required to issue authenticated copies of the judgment immediately after its delivery but in any event not exceeding seven (7) days from the date of the delivery of the judgment.

A judgement debtor in a small claims dispute is obliged to comply with the judgment of the Court and pay the judgment sum within fourteen (14) days of delivery of judgment and where there is default in compliance, the relevant judgment shall be enforced in like manner as a judgement of the Magistrate’s Court for the payment of money.

A party who is aggrieved with the judgement of the Court shall file an Appeal by filling the prescribed form within 14 (fourteen days) of the delivery of the Judgment, stating the reasons for the Appeal. The records of appeal are required to be compiled, within fourteen (14) days of the submission of the Appeal Form, by the Small Claims Registry and thereafter forwarded to the Fast Track Registry of the High Court, where it is then assigned to a Judge of the Fast Track Court designated to hear appeals from the Small Claims Court.

The Judge so designated shall cause Hearing Notices to issue to the parties and the Appeal shall be heard at the earliest convenience of the Court, based on the oral hearing of the parties and the records of the appeal. The Practice Directions state that the whole appellate process, from the assignment of the Appeal to judgment, shall not exceed thirty (30) days.

COMPARISON WITH OTHER JURISDICTIONS

The concept of the Small Claims Court has over the years developed into a standard global practice. Whilst there are manifest similarities in the practices and procedures applicable in many jurisdictions across the globe, there exist also differences caused by the local peculiarities and national aspirations.

In England and Wales, cases placed on the small claims track at the County Court include Claims in which the financial value is less than £10,000 (equivalent of N5,000,000) and cases involving personal injuries or disputes between landlords and tenants where the amount involved does not exceed £1,000 (equivalent of N500,000).

In the United States of America, the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court varies from one State to another. Whilst it is US$ 5,000 (N1,800,000) exclusive of interest and costs in New York, it is US$ 10,000 (N3,600,000) in Texas. Notably, in the New York Small Claims Courts, for a counterclaim to be competent and maintainable, such must be for money only and which must not exceed the monetary jurisdiction of the court.

In Kenya, the court’s pecuniary jurisdiction is limited to KES 200,000 (equivalent to N720,000) and the court deals only with cases arising from contracts for sale and supply of goods or services; liability in tort arising from loss or damage to any property or for delivery or recovery of movable property; compensation for personal injuries; set-off or counterclaims under any contract; and any other civil matters as prescribed by law.

In Brazil, the jurisdiction of Small Claims Court involves low-value damage (up to BRL 35 200 equivalent to N3,699,421.86).  In a very similar fashion to the procedure under the Practice Directions applicable in Lagos State, the proceeding in Brazil is also preceded by Facilitated Negotiation and ended in litigation only where amicable settlement of disputes cannot be reached.

The Small Claims Court in South Africa entertains actions for repayment of monies lent, which originally, at inception in October 1985, should not exceed R12, 000. This figure has since April 2014 been increased to R15, 000 (approximately N424,000). Other cases that are also entertained are actions for the delivery of movable or immovable property, claims arising from liquid documents such as bonds, promissory notes, acknowledgement of debts and cheques etc., as well as actions against occupiers of properties; where the value of the claims do not exceed R15, 000.

Also in in Zimbabwe, the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court is exercisable in respect of proceedings for the delivery of movable property, recovery of arrear rentals and ejectment, as well as proceedings based on acknowledgments of debt or cheques; where the claim does not exceed US$1 000 (N360,000).

At the LCA, the forerunner to the Small Claims Court of Lagos State, the small claims initiative introduced was developed to resolve disputes for claims involving amounts not exceeding N5, 000,000 and is applicable where both parties agree to settle their dispute in accordance with the Scheme, either before or after the dispute has arisen. This threshold is same with that prescribed under the 2018 Lagos State Small Claims Court Practice Directions.

Notably, the jurisdictional limit of the Small Claims Court in Lagos is higher than the limits set in the other African countries and only lower than the thresholds in the more developed emerging economies and the advanced nations of the world. This is understandable, given Nigeria’s position as Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy.

REMARKS

The establishment of the Small Claims Court in Lagos State, the first of its kind in the Nigerian judicial system, is without doubt a watershed. Notably, “enforcement of contracts” through introduction of specialized small claims commercial courts, was part of the reform initiatives recommended by the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (“PEBEC”), through its organ, the Enabling Business Environment Secretariat (EBES), in the National Action Plans on the Ease of Doing Business in Nigeria (NAPs). Lagos State and Kano State are the two pilot States in the country, selected by PEBES/EBES in association with the World Bank, for the purpose of implementing the reform initiatives of the NAPs. It is therefore expected that the speedy, cheap, and seamless system of adjudicating on the avalanche of small commercial disputes in Lagos State, the nation’s center of commerce and investment, would improve on the sanctity of contracts in the country, and consequently further boost the confidence of foreign investors in the Nigerian economy.

Whilst the Small Claims Court has its pros and cons, it has indeed worked in many jurisdictions the world over and there is no doubt that with hard work, commitment and determination, it will equally work successfully in Lagos State.

We note that while parties are encouraged to represent themselves before the Small Claims Court, businesses and corporations are still likely to engage the services of lawyers in establishing their claims before the Court. The same goes for illiterate litigants, who in spite of the aid of an interpreter and court registrars, may find it extremely difficult to properly gather and file their documentary evidence as well as present their oral submission before the Court. This can put an unrepresented Claimant at a disadvantage.

Finally, we submit that adequate and periodic training in the practice and procedure of the Small Claims Court for Magistrates, Registrars, Clerks, Sheriffs and other relevant judiciary staff, would be critical to the successful working of small claims commercial disputes resolution in Lagos State, and by extension, Nigeria.

Lagos State Small Claims Court: A Milestone in Dispute Resolution (1)

By Rahman Oshodi,

On Monday, April 23, 2018, the Lagos State Judiciary took a significant step towards further enhancement of the process for settlement of commercial disputes, involving small claims not exceeding Five Million Naira (N5,000,000 Naira) in the State.

This was done by the establishment of the Small Claims Court with the objective of providing easy access to an informal, inexpensive and speedy resolution of simple debt recovery disputes in the Magistrates’ Courts.

A Small Claims Court is a specialized court or local tribunal created by statute with specific duties and powers. Generally, the court is designed to provide judicial determination of disputes involving small amounts of money quickly and cheaply, with or without legal representation.

Following the creation of the court, the Magistrates’ Court Law (Practice Directions on Small Claims) 2018 (“Practice Directions”) were issued by the Hon. Justice Opeyemi Oke, Chief Judge of Lagos State, as the regulatory framework for the take-off and smooth operation of the new regime.

As Nigeria’s financial nerve center and economic capital, the myriad of disputes arising from business transactions, investments and all sorts of contractual relationships on a daily basis in Lagos State is generally expected.

Parties to these disputes also expectedly seek settlement daily either by instituting legal actions in the court of law or by submitting to an arbitration panel, in accordance with the terms of their agreements.

Notably, in many instances, not only are the amounts of claim not in contest (liquidated demands), they are also relatively small to have warranted the kind of rigour, technicality and expenses in terms of finance and time; usually associated with proceedings in the regular courts.

In essence, the importance of the role of the Small Claims Court in decongesting the regular Magistrates’ Courts in Lagos State of cases which could easily be resolved without much technicality, cannot be overemphasized.

This piece evaluates the impact of the establishment and operation of the Small Claims Court on the resolution of commercial disputes in Lagos State. A background is also provided on the global evolution of the Small Claims Court with comparative insight into the practice and procedures applicable in different jurisdictions.

GLOBAL EVOLUTION OF THE SMALL CLAIMS COURT

The evolution of the Small Claims Court can be traced to the small county or magistrate’ courts in medieval England, which were popularly referred to as the “Court of Pie-powders”. These small courts were established to judicially resolve disputes among small merchants, artisans, itinerant traders and the like, who moved from place to place, usually on foot.

Historically, pie-powder referred to the dusty feet of travelers and vagabonds, and was only later applied to the tribunal who might have dealings with such people.

In addition, since the members of the tribunal were not sitting on a bench but walking around in fairs, they would often get their feet dusty. The term pie-powder therefore applied to the tribunal because the court was frequented by merchants with dusty feet, who wandered from mart to mart.

In 12th Century England and Scotland, a decision had to be made within a day and a half (before the third tide) of any accusation. If the court ruled against the defendant and the defendant could not pay the decided amount, his property could be seized, appraised, and sold to cover the costs.

When the time came for the trial, both parties (plaintiff and defendant) would be summoned. Typically, the defendant would be summoned an hour earlier. The burden of proof was on the plaintiff with documents and witnesses often being provided as evidence.

After the plaintiff had made his case, the defendant then had the right to respond to the accusation and counter with evidence of his own. Trials at courts of pie-powders were short, quick and informal. For speed, judgments were oral, written affidavits and cross-examinations were not used.

By the 17th Century, when the standard district courts had well been established, most of the powers of the Courts of Pie-powders had effectively been transferred to the regular court system, for practical reasons rather than as a result of legislation.

The last “active” Court of Pie-powders, at the Stag and Hounds Public House in Bristol, was reportedly abolished by the English Courts Act 1971. Consequently, the pie-powder courts and other similar agencies became transformed into Small Claims Courts and spread into other parts of the world as a distinct segment of the system of civil courts. In the United States of America, the Small Claims Court system was reportedly established in the 1930s in response to the growing need for a ‘People’s Court’ to settle small disputes of individuals, sole proprietorships, partnerships, associations and corporations.

The system was created in South Africa in 1984. In Zimbabwe, 1993. In Brazil, 1995 and in Kenya, 2016. In Nigeria, the small claims initiatives started with the Lagos Court of Arbitration (“LCA”) Small Claims Scheme in 2012 and now, in 2018, the properly designated Small Claims Courts.

PRACTICE DIRECTIONS OF THE SMALL CLAIMS COURT IN LAGOS STATE

In Lagos State, the Small Claims Court/Track was created out of the existing Magistrates’ Courts, as a division of the Court.

The applicable law is the Magistrates’ Court Law of Lagos State 2009, which gives the Lagos State Judicial Service Commission the mandate to establish Magistrates’ Court Houses, as it considers appropriate, necessary and expedient to accommodate the needs of the State.

The law also empowers the Chief Judge of the State to, in addition to the Magistrates’ Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, make rules regulating the practice and procedure of the Magistrate Court so established. This sets the legal framework under which some Magistrates’ Courts were in April 2018, designated as Small Claims Courts and the Practice Directions issued.

Instituting a Case

Accordingly, an action for the determination of a dispute between litigants could henceforth be commenced in a designated Small Claims Court in Lagos State where:

  • The Claimant or one of the Claimants resides or carries on business in the State;
  • The Defendant or one of the Defendants resides or carries on business in the State;
  • The cause of action arose wholly or in part in the State;
  • The claim is for a liquidated monetary demand in a sum not exceeding N5,000,000 (Five Million Naira), excluding interest and costs; and
  • The claimant has served on the Defendant, a Letter of Demand, in the prescribed form.

Given the objective of the Small Claims Court and the target-class of claims and litigants, the procedure has essentially been simplified by reducing same into standard forms, which the Claimant or Defendant/Counter-claimant, as the case may be, can simply fill out and file at the Registry of a Magistrate Court having jurisdiction to hear small claims suits. These include Form SCA 1 for Letter of Demand; Form SCA 2 for Complaint Form; Form SCA 3 for Summons; Form SCA 5 for Defence/Counterclaim; Form SCA 7 for Order of Substituted Service; and Form SCA 8 for Appeal Form, among others.

Where a case satisfies the stipulated criteria for Commencement of Action (stated under Article 2) as enumerated above, the Claim thereof shall be marked “Qualified for Small Claims” by the person in charge of the Small Claims Registry and the Applicant shall thereafter be directed to pay appropriate filing fees.

The case files in respect of a duly marked Claim is required to be forwarded, within 24 hours, from the Registry to the Administrative Magistrate, who in turn shall also within 24 hours of the receipt of the forwarded case files, assign the case to a Magistrate of the Small Claims Court.

Such case assignments are required, by the Practice Directions, to be undertaken on a random basis. More so, the Registry is mandated to effect the service of the Summons on the named Defendant(s) through the Sheriff of the Small Claims Court, within seven (7) days of filing. Where personal service of the Summons is proven to be impracticable, the Claimant shall apply for an Order of substituted service.