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FBI arrest of Nigerian scammers—is it a disgrace?

Sourced from https://www.voanews.com/usa/how-dozens-nigerian-scammers-stole-millions-people-businesses

Many Nigerians are still seething from the seeming disgrace of the recent FBI arrest of 80 Nigerian internet scammers. Nigerians are hanging their heads in shame of this seeming “betrayal” of “our good name.” Amazing! Is it not? Moreover, this “shameful” situation bred an array of image fixers: multiple propaganda videos—presumably cooked up by the Nigerian officials—surfaced on the internet touting the great achievement of Nigerians and asking Nigerians to share the videos and to be proud of their heritage. Indeed!

There is no doubt that Nigerians are great people, great achievers, and given the chance or even half a chance are capable of great feats. Nigerians, spread out across the world, in situations where they indisputably are the underdogs as foreigners, have achieved great honor and leadership positions which is a credit to their hard work and dedication to duty, in countries where the opportunity to thrive is available to them. Within Nigeria, there are people who if given the opportunity will be great innovators. Nigerians are achievers!

The Nigerians arrested by the FBI for their infamous acts are only a symptom of a disease: They point to a diagnosis. As long as the disease is undiagnosed, the appropriate treatment will not be rendered. Treating the symptom and not the disease is a sure way to succumb to a disease.

The sudden race by the Nigerian government to produce a positive image among Nigerians in the face of this “bad news” is somewhat surprising. Better still, it is laughable. Can they not see the great shame brought on Nigeria by the ravaging corruption among Nigerian government officials? How do Nigerian leaders think they are perceived when they go to foreign hospitals for their healthcare? Does the British prime minister go to Germany for his healthcare, or the French president to the U.S? The underlying reason why Nigerian leaders continue to go outside the country for treatment is the underlying reason for the negative image of Nigeria: corrupt leaders.

Every day one hears Nigerian leaders talking of conquering one prevailing vice or the other in the country, be it hunger, poverty or insecurity, and yet they turn a blind eye to corruption or pay its extermination lip service. However, no sustainable progress can be made in Nigeria until corruption is arrested. All the programs in a country need money to achieve and to sustain. When funds continually disappear from the state coffers, these worthwhile aspirations can never be achieved.

So is it shameful for these Nigerians to be scammers and be arrested by the FBI? You bet! But, far greater is the shame from the perpetual stealing by Nigerian leaders that leaves Nigeria open to scorn and keeps her citizens living in abject poverty and deplorable conditions. In 2016, the erstwhile British Prime Minister called Nigeria “fantastically corrupt.” There is an Igbo adage that says that you do not want to resemble the insult you are given, but that is where Nigerian finds itself today. Because of the shameful corruption among the Nigerian leadership, the incessant looting of the country, Nigeria is indeed looking like the insult she has been given. Is it not shameful when such a richly endowed country has not a single hospital capable of treating its president? Is it not shameful when Nigerian leaders, leaving their country underdeveloped, go all over the developed countries buying mansions without considering that the leaders of those countries do not come to Nigeria to buy mansions? Is it not shameful when according to the U.N, Nigeria—the richest country in Africa by GDP—accounts for 19% of the world’s maternal deaths, and TIME magazine Feb. 18/ Feb.25, 2019 issue captions Nigeria “the world’s worst country to give birth?” 

Happy 59th Birthday Nigeria!

Happy 59th birthday Nigeria! Today Nigeria marks 59 years of independence from her colonial master, and freedom from colonization is without doubt worthy of celebration. As we celebrate this Independence Day, it is again a good time to reflect on our areas of achievement and failure. 

For a country consisting of no less than 250 ethnic groups, who did not come together of their own free will, to remain together for 59 years is a laudable feat. Nigerians I salute you! From the north to the south and from the east to the west; the Hausa-Fulani, the Igbo, the Yoruba, the Ijaw, the Kanuri, the Annang, the Tiv, the Ibibio, the Etsako, the Efik  and on and on and on: Congratulations! It may not have been all fun and games but Nigeria has remained as one, seeking a future together, showing a great resilience and defying the reckless attitude of the colonial masters who contrived a union so heterogeneous as to have little hope of survival. But here we are, 59 years and counting: Hooray Nigerians!

Then again, lest we forget, the state of our beloved country calls for deep reflection. If after 59 years of independence and with diverse resources such as should have brought us to a good place, we still find ourselves the world capital of unfavorable statistics: world poverty capital, the sole contributor of almost a fifth of the world’s maternal mortality—we need a good dose of soul searching. A look around Nigeria today is depressing; it is almost as if the river is flowing backwards: eighty percent of Nigerians live on less than two dollars a day, insecurity is worse than it has ever been, roads are death traps, hospitals are poorly funded, poorly functional and patients have to buy their own supplies for treatment while the country’s leaders award themselves the benefit of treatment “abroad.”

Is this not therefore a good time for soul searching? Surely, much as we do not need to be “exactly like anyone else” we need to hold up a standard that is highly estimable. Perhaps, we should take a peek at countries with whom we started out around the same time in this journey of independence and democracy. Take note that Nigeria’s crude oil was discovered in 1956 and she gained independence from Great Britain in 1960. Now, let’s consider a couple of countries with similar backgrounds.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) gained independence from Great Britain in 1971; oil was discovered in it in the early 1960s. The UAE has so managed its oil wealth and diversified its revenue sources as to make it a wonder to the world. They have shunned corruption and turned a desert into a thriving tourist attraction, wiping out poverty for their people.

Again, consider Singapore. It gained independence from Great Britain in 1963 and was expelled from Malaysia in 1965. Singapore also had crude oil but developed the country in order to attract foreign investors. Today Singapore, a highly developed free-market economy, has lifted its people from abject poverty and created a thriving middle class. How has it been able to do this? Singapore is the 7th least corrupt country in the world! 

Sadly, it would seem, our country has not lived up to standard, not even close. Neither the leadership of the country nor the citizenry has come to maturity in terms of what makes for a viable economy. The leaders lack patriotism and the aspiration to better the lot of their citizens, and the citizens lack the impetus to demand leadership. Rather than laudable achievements, the leaders of Nigeria are recognized all over the world for corruption. Self-aggrandizement has become the sole purpose for politicians seeking public office and the masses have become acclimatized to this with incredible lassitude: corruption and lack of accountability have become the norm, and lack of development the outcome. 

And so, at a time when Nigeria should be setting the pace for Africa, lifting her people out of poverty, decreasing the gap between the rich and the poor, she finds herself shackled by corruption, a task master more vicious that any colonial master.

Fellow Nigerian, is it not time to demand answers from our leaders?

Too Big For Jail Time?

 The dust has all but settled on the re-election of President Buhari for his second term in office and the work before him and Nigerians in setting the country on the road to success is great indeed. A major point in his manifesto, both in the 2015 and again in 2019, was to fight the crippling corruption in the Nigerian government. Now that he has received the people’s mandate, it is the turn of Nigerians to see if he will provide the good governance he promised. This is his chance to leave a legacy. Will Nigerians remember him for establishing a precedent on how to robustly tackle corruption and win, for establishing a standard for the country on how to successfully conquer corruption moving forward, or will he be remembered for nepotism, herdsmen killing and maintaining the status quo of corruption?

It is unfortunate that corruption has become an accepted way of life in Nigeria—a trend which has turned a country with great potential into one that is becoming a failed state. Yet, Nigerians fail to see—it would seem— that no definite progress can be made by the country until corruption is conquered. Corruption, an enemy that has killed more Nigerians than any war, should not be handled lightly. 

While not advocating the death penalty for kleptocracy as is the case in China, Nigeria needs to do more than recover the stolen money from corrupt officials. Long prison terms, if not life in jail, after the recovery of the stolen money, is the only thing that will be punishment enough to deter the deep-seated kleptocracy in Nigeria. 

The main perpetuating cause of kleptocracy in Nigeria is the impunity which thieves in government enjoy; there is also the ignorance among the larger proportion of Nigerians who believe that the mere fact that you held a high level political office for 5 or 10 years implies that you can parade tens of millions of dollars and the position you have held merits such wealth.  Add to these the vast amounts of money available to be stolen (public office is by far the most lucrative career in Nigeria) and it becomes clear why being elected into public office is a do or die venture.    

No nation can achieve its objective of infrastructure development, successful nation building or sustained advancement in the face of deep-seated corruption. There are few places on earth where corruption is more deep seated than in Nigeria—as evidenced not only by its ranking of 144 out of 188 in Transparency International latest worldwide corruption perception index but also by the evident insecurity, unemployment and decay of infrastructure.

President Buhari speaks a lot against corruption and his words kindle hope. But one wonders: Is it going to be all talk and no action? Moreover, in the fight against corruption in Nigeria there must be no friend or foe. There must be no respect of persons or personalities. The practice whereby some of the politicians when caught, return the stolen money and then go scot free, which is prevalent currently in Nigeria, only promotes impunity. Returning the stolen money is not punishment; jail time after returning the money is punishment. As long as corrupt officials are allowed to use their loot to defend themselves, as long as they can make a pretense of returning part of the money and continue to come and go as free men, as long as thieves in government are celebrated as wealthy people rather than censored as criminals, corruption will not cease in Nigeria, neither will Nigeria be able to develop or take a respectable position in the world.                          

Clearly, the only government that will propel the country forward is one that institutionalizes the fight against corruption and institutionalizes dire consequences for the corrupt. If by the end of his second term in office, Buhari has not only waged the war against corruption but also fully conquered it, he would have left his mark on Nigeria as a veritable statesman, perhaps the first Nigeria has known after the fathers of Nigerian independence. And he would have turned Nigeria from the path to a failed state to that of success.

The Vote Of Their Lives

The elections were postponed for a week, at the last minute, at the height of anticipation. And, the people waited. Amid warnings and threats, they waited to cast their votes and choose their future. 

Finally, Saturday, the 23rd of February 2019, dawned. Many were up before the sun, eager to exercise their rights. Armed with their PVCs (voter identification card), their fingers eager to thumbprint, they headed to their designated voting centers. They were however confronted by late arrival of voting materials, late arrival of election officials, incomplete numbers of ballots, non-availability of indelible ink and non-functioning card reader equipment.  With a little maneuvering and make-dos some of these set-backs were in some cases circumvented, and where it could not be, elections were extended—again.

How INEC could still have problems with timely arrival of officials, completeness of election materials and functionality of equipment after four years of preparedness and one week of postponement is incredible to anyone but those who are satisfied with mitigating mediocrity with excuses, which is where Nigeria perpetually finds itself. In more than ten years of conducting elections Nigeria has still not gotten to a stage when the process can be smooth, safe and fully credible. 

The number of polling units in the different local governments, one would assume, was known to the electoral commission, months, no, years in advance. The number of eligible and registered voters surely was also known for weeks if not months in advance. The traffic patterns in the roads leading to the different polling units were known, and if not should have been studied to ensure timely arrival of electoral officers and polling materials. 

In the weeks leading up to the elections there was a report in the news of how many people had collected their PVCs and hence were ready to vote. The number of individuals assigned to each polling center was known ahead of time. How is it then that in some centers the electoral officials arrived with fewer ballots than the number of voters assigned to the center? Are Nigeria and its electoral commission incapable of preparing for and conducting an election?

After all the delays, insufficiencies and inadequacies, the ever accommodating citizens got in line, standing under the hot sun, patiently, to eventually cast their ballots. In several centers however, no sooner did the citizens cast their ballots than did lawless individuals, purportedly political thugs, show up to snatch the ballot boxes, burn the votes or inflict mortal injuries on the voters.  Soon, an exercise in civic rights became a war zone and a killing ground. Across the country, on this Election Day alone, tens of people have fallen: killed in gunfire exchange with the police, shot by soldiers or stoned to death when they reportedly tried to disrupt the election in some way or the other. But not all who lost their lives were involved in any form of disorder, according to witnesses. The innocent died with the thugs.

Political thuggery has become a thing in Nigeria. Politicians equip these malefactors for their own use and empower them to massacre their fellow citizens. And are these politicians ever held responsible for this? Of course not, since they are answerable to no one, since the judicial system is hopelessly broken and justice is sold to the highest bidder. Hence election after election, regime after regime the scepter of lawless and rigged elections hang over Nigeria and we have need for elections observers from outside the country to come and observe our elections—to ensure they are credible. It would seem then that we are not capable yet of independently running our affairs—an unfortunate but true indictment, it would seem.

So, it is unfortunate that those who go to cast their votes in Nigeria cannot guarantee their safe return. And even now with elections not yet concluded, as we await the results, many will await the burial of loved ones.

Of Elections, Rigging and Body bags

The last week or two has seen, in Nigeria, a frenzy of activity and impressive feats worthy of a Nollywood script, what with campaign rallies accompanied by stage collapse, stampedes at political rallies and mounting loss of life.  The run-up to the presidential election of Africa’s most populous nation is beginning to look like a do or die venture. In a seeming display of disarray, the offices of the country’s electoral commission have suffered multiples break-ins, vandalism of vote collation equipment and torching. Illegal polling units have been discovered in parts of the country. There has been a boiling over of emotions and frenzy with confrontations between political party faithful and burning of opponent’s vehicles.

Amid these signs of escalating disorder the US ambassador to Nigeria, W Stuart Symington, gave the nation a piece of advice regarding the election and that unleashed a not so peaceful retort from el-Rufai, the governor of Kaduna State, as he threatened that any foreigners who dared to interfere will be sent back to their countries in body bags.  

But maybe Nigerian politicians need to take a step back and assess what will make an outsider caution them about how to run their affairs. What gives these countries the “audacity” to make apparently unwelcome comments about the affairs of the nation? Perhaps it is the obvious disarray, compounded by the poor history of credible elections in Nigeria. Or maybe it is the glaring and ever worsening poverty of the masses, and its effect on the rest of the world from economic migration? Or maybe it is because the country gives every appearance of deteriorating into a failed state with consequences for its citizens and the world at large? What is to be expected when Nigerian politicians show every sign of incompetence in running the affairs of the country? 

If one shows evidence that one cannot run one’s affairs, and make it apparent that they are breaking at the seams, then, one unintentionally gives other people the opportunity to speak into one’s situation. One thing that seems to elude Nigerian politicians is that the world is witness to their poor job performance which is evident in the deficiencies in the country under their watch. When your masses are getting more desperate by the day, when hunger becomes a cause of death for the poorest citizens, when there is ever worsening insecurity, when politicians have to leave their country to seek healthcare outside because the healthcare system is poorly functional, then you leave the door open for people to give you unsolicited advice on how to run your affairs. 

To be respected by outsiders, the leaders of Nigeria need to respect themselves and the citizens that they are leading, by building a country that is able to care for its people. If Nigeria is run the way it should be run, with respectable infrastructure, jobs and provision made even for its weakest citizens as is done in the developed countries, respect will automatically be accorded to our leaders as should be done for people admirably in charge of their affairs. Do Nigerian politicians ever wonder why while they run to the developed countries to buy mansions and utilize state of the art healthcare facilities, the politicians from those countries do not come to Nigeria to do the same? When the US and UK threaten to deny Nigerian politicians visas to their country, it is because they know that Nigerian politicians delight in coming to avail themselves of the amenities in these countries (which are the results of good governance).

So instead of threatening foreigners with a homebound journey in body bags, perhaps Governor el-Rufai needs to work with his fellow politicians to put their house, Nigeria, in order—so that no one needs to tell them how to run their affairs. If Nigeria is working only for the politicians and the politically-connected and is not working for the masses also, then it is not working.

2019 Nigerian Presidential Election: The Agony of Choice

Every four years the presidential election confronts Nigerians like a table set with unsavory dishes and citizens must hold their noses to partake. This year’s presidential election is no different. Most Nigerians are anguished at the choice before them: Should they choose a candidate under whom nepotism, corruption and herdsmen killings have blossomed over one whose candidacy is rife with seemingly tenacious accusations of stealing and who may steal with fresh vigor or should they take a chance on one of the several unknowns? Oh the agony of choice!

Looking at the different candidates—the anguish is real. 

On the one hand President Buhari received the people’s mandate four years ago because he promised to fight corruption and improve the lives of Nigerians, but his general attitude towards corruption among his close associates has been anything but encouraging. Many of his appointees have shown uncommon avarice. But even as Nigerians waited with bated breath to see the president wage a just war against this blatant corruption under his watch, he met their expectations with an odd tepidity and indolence. Add to that the unsettling fact that in a country with so many qualified candidates he has chosen most of his appointees from his hometown and friends, with some of them evidently lacking the requisite qualification. But the worst part of the last four years, in addition to worsening poverty and non-payment of salaries, is the massive loss of life from the herdsmen killing which has received a perturbing silence from the president.

And then there is the candidacy of Atiku. It is only in Nigeria, or at least the rest of Africa, that a government official will be found with riches beyond what they could have justly earned in their government post and they expect people to accept it as legitimate. Do the citizens not realize that such money was taken illicitly from the country, from them the citizens? In Nigeria, past presidents start multi-million dollar businesses after their tenure, without other obvious source of income, and no one seems to question where they got such massive wealth from. Does the cart go before the horse? Does the accumulation of wealth occur before enterprise or does wealth accumulate from enterprise? In the developed countries the former would be called money laundering which is actually a crime. That correct assessment of wealth and proper terminology in referring to it is why the developed countries are developed: They use the money that belongs to their country to develop their country. So, with this candidacy, unfortunately, it is unclear what the situation is. We Nigerians must use our brains!

And then, enter the numerous candidates most of whom do not have name recognition or a record to run on. Are they a safe haven? A nail biting decision indeed!

But above all, what we as Nigerians do not seem to realize is that the governance does not end with the election. Governance starts after the elections and—to be successful—consists of two parties: the governing and the governed—each with their responsibility. As long as Nigerians are still expecting a savior that will come in and do them good of his own accord, then they have not yet understood the insatiable greed of the typical Nigerian public office aspirant nor learned the necessary lesson from our 58 years of stunted growth.  

And so? What is the governed to do in the face of the governing who wields power as a lethal weapon?

Some of us are old enough to remember the struggle of the black South Africans against apartheid. It was not easy but today apartheid is no more. When it became obvious the black South Africans would not give up the right to be treated as the equal human beings they are, the world finally joined them. What is going on in Nigeria (and most African countries) today defies nomenclature: it is not apartheid neither is it slavery yet it has possibly cost more lives than either of those—through insecurity, non-payment of salaries, dangerous roads, curable disease. And when the presidents and other government officials can go to Europe, U.S, Saudi Arabia, or elsewhere for their healthcare but ask their fellow countrymen to die in poorly equipped hospitals—the situation cries out for a new name.

In the past few weeks we have seen the French citizens demand their right, demand livable conditions—the yellow jacket protest is now in its 11th consecutive week (even after their initial demands have been met). Good governance must be demanded to be obtained! Nigerians both at home and abroad, let’s stop letting the political elite loot the land. In whatever foreign country you are, when your president visits that country for medical care, organize, and carry placards to the front of the hospital to demand he build hospitals back home that both he and others can use. When they buy mansions in the foreign land where you are, organize and march to the city hall of that town with placard and demand that the source of the money be ascertained. And also on Nigerian soil, protest peacefully until your voice is heard! Let us demand accountability and hold thieves in government accountable. Let us demand that incoming officials declare their assets before and after their tenure as stipulated in the constitution. And that includes the judiciary! When they refuse to listen, let us continue to raise our voices until we achieve a government that works for the benefit of one and all.

The Elusive Minimum Wage

Image credit

President Buhari of Nigeria is grossly mistaken when he says that Nigeria cannot afford to pay its workers the minimum wage of 18,000Naira (equivalent to USD 50) a month. During his interview with Arise news (recorded for them by ThisDay Newspapers), the Nigerian president compared the demands of the Nigerian labor union for an increase in the minimum wage to the behavior of a mad woman. In response to the issue he said that he had to “relapse into his culture.” The Hausa culture, he said, has a story about a mad woman who went to make firewood; she gathered and tied it up. When she couldn’t take the firewood because it was too heavy for her: “she increased instead of reducing it.” He then said that when the states in Nigeria can’t pay the basic salary of 18,000Naira, the labor union is requesting for the minimum wage to go to 30,000Naira. He asked, “Where do we get the money from? Do we print more money?”

And this he said after he had previously agreed to their demand only to renege on his promise. In the same interview with Arise news he admitted that some states in the federation currently owe their workers six months of salary. For a worker to be owed six months of salary boggles the mind. The president, himself, admitted to this non-payment of salary that plagues the country. Now when you talk to fellow Nigerians you will find that some are actually owed up to even a year of unpaid salary! How are people expected to live, to survive? People work to make a living and take care of their families. They need a place to live, school resources for their children, food and healthcare for their families and transportation to get to work. How are the masses to survive?

In this same Nigeria, much as the President says that there is no money to pay the minimum wage, some politicians are receiving double salaries without so much as a skip of one month. Nigerian senators, who were former governors or deputy governors while receiving their salaries as senators now, are also receiving pension payment to the tune of the full salary for that former position they held. The same holds for former state governors now serving as ministers. And yet, the president says that there is no money to pay the minimum wage to desperate Nigerians. There is no money to pay those who receive the barest minimum, but those who are paid grossly exaggerated incomes do not skip a month in their salaries. And some of them are receiving double: salary and inflated pensions!

Nigerian politicians are paid higher than their counterparts in most of the developed countries. The publication of their budget through the advocacy of #OpenNASS confirmed what has been common knowledge. Our legislators are paid US$170,000 annually (wardrobe allowance included) before all other additional benefits are fully counted. Meanwhile, the minimum wage in Nigeria is under US$650 per annum, meaning our legislators earn almost three hundred times the minimum wage. Compare that to the U.S. where the average legislator is paid US$174,080 annually and the minimum wage is US$15,080 and so a legislator in the U.S. earns less than twelve times the minimum wage. Three hundred times to only twelve times! Add to that the fact that many Nigerian workers have not been paid their salary in months while the legislators do not skip a month of their own pay.

So, the response from the government, from President Buhari, to the strike and demonstrations of the Nigerian Labor Congress for a just cause is regrettable. That some states have not complied with the current minimum wage of 18,000Naira without consequence is an abysmal failure of leadership. The insensitivity of the ruling class to the plight of the masses of Nigeria is disturbing. The abject poverty in which the masses live is a distressful sight to behold. Is it not a lack of basic human decency for Nigerian politicians to keep themselves in opulence while denying those under them their basic earned sustenance?

A State Of Insecurity

Image credit: https://www.vanguardngr.com/2018/09/30-nigerian-soldiers-killed-in-boko-haram-raid/

When criminals and terrorists can outgun an army or any law enforcement agency, attack and overpower an army base: there is no security. Over the past six weeks on multiple and with an ever increasing frequency, Boko Haram operatives have attacked, subdued and massacred Nigerian soldiers. Last month, the soldiers while mourning the needless demise of 100 of their comrades lamented that the military tanks on their bases were non-functional. They were left defenseless by the country’s leaders, only to be massacred by attackers. Again within the last twenty-four hours a naval base close to Doro-Baga near Borno State was attacked and sacked by suspected Boko Haram insurgents with officer fatality, forcing the overpowered Nigerian troops to withdraw from their own base.

It is a tragedy when the defenders of the security of the country are left defenseless and insecure. All over the world, the quality, training and performance of law enforcement officials reflects on the quality of their government. The recent and ongoing aggression and attacks against the Nigerian army by the Boko haram insurgents should be great cause for concern and cause for immediate action by the Nigerian government. But, it would seem that to the leaders, the current dire state of insecurity is business as usual. If the soldiers whose job it is to protect the citizens are themselves vulnerable, what about the citizens?

But, where is the equipment for the army to perform their job? What has been happening to the funds budgeted for the military/defense? Is there no budget for the country’s defense? Is our military equipment supposed to continue to deteriorate? Is Nigeria too poor to equip its security forces?

At a time when Nigeria should be a beacon of hope to the rest of Africa, it finds itself wallowing in the mud of corruption and its horrible consequences, on the verge of being a failed state. And yet the politicians, who should run the affairs of the country to the benefit of all, regime after regime, seem blissfully ignorant of their abysmal failure. No country can make progress when corruption blossoms. President Buhari’s attitude to corruption since taking office has been disappointing. The tepid attempts at fighting corruption seems directed only towards his opponents. For anti-corruption efforts to succeed there must be no friend or foe attitude.

We as Nigerians need to wake up to the truth about corrupt politicians. Corrupt politicians are the greatest threat to the peace and security of a nation. We need to use every avenue open to us to hold our leaders accountable. As long as tens of millions of US dollars in cash keep showing up in people’s wardrobes, fireproof safes and behind-the-house-shipping-containers, there will no progress or security. Corruption has consequences. If money is stolen it will not do what it is supposed to do and the citizens suffer. So, fellow Nigerians, when next you see a politician known to be wealthy from his political office, look at him as you would at any armed robber: no R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

Is the army for us or against us?

What is the worth of a Nigerian life? How much value do the country’s leaders place on it? This question was not far from my mind when as a university student I travelled between Ibadan and Ife in the 1980s and sometimes saw a corpse lying on the roadside just like the remains of any dog or cat. That same question comes to mind when we see security forces in Nigeria interact with protesting citizens. It is troubling to see the highhandedness with which protesting citizens are squashed.

The recent attack by the army on a crowd of protesting Shiite Muslims was a distressing sight.  I do not support disorder, nor applaud anarchy. But, when law enforcement officials open fire with live bullets into a crowd, we must ask the question, “What is the worth of a Nigerian life to our leaders?” When is it acceptable for the army to unleash lethal force on unarmed individuals? What happened to safer methods of crowd dissipation like tear gas, rubber bullets or even Tasers? Is the country unable to provide these to our law enforcement officials or are live ammunition just the method of choice?

Such actions as displayed by the soldiers suggest that there is no culpability when law enforcement uses lethal force on unarmed protesters or worse still, that such actions are condoned by higher authorities. Much as we must support our law enforcement officials who are often called upon to put their lives at risk in the line of duty, reckless disregard for human life must not be tolerated. Perhaps these officials lack training in handling a disorderly crowd, perhaps they lack the necessary equipment to handle the situation appropriately, or maybe they feel at liberty to act with impunity because of the lack of accountability.

The army has of course denied confronting the protesters, stating instead that it was the protesters that took them on by throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, but these are not comparable to live ammunition.  And to whom much power has been given, much restraint is expected. When we watched the wounded carried by their friends and saw the bodies on the ground, we could only wonder: how could those who have been given the power to protect the citizens use that power instead to end their lives?

Human life is valuable and irreplaceable. Our law enforcement officials deserve to be protected by being well-equipped and well-trained to safely carry out their duty. But respect for human life is one of the fundamental qualities of a civilized society. Those whose duty it is to protect the citizens must not turn around to attack the citizens. The quality of law enforcement and security in Nigeria remains rudimentary at best and casts the country in a bad light. We continue to look forward to the day when adequate resources will be committed to law enforcement and security in our country. We look forward to when our men and women in uniform will be equipped in every necessary way such that they capably carry out their duty for the safety of all.  

Forever Captive?

When will Nigeria stop groaning under the thumb of her colonial master? Yes, yes, Nigeria got her independence from Britain in 1960. Or so we thought. One aspect of colonialism was difficult for the masters to give up. Why? Consider the reasons for colonialism. The primary motivation for colonization was economic, although there were also political and social benefits. So when Nigeria was given her independence, her wealth was not something the colonial master could easily turn their back on. All that cocoa and rubber and palm oil, and best of all, the newly discovered crude oil tugged at the heart of the colonial masters. But then their regret turned to joy. Slowly but surely they will get the money after all. For, it became obvious with time, the Nigeria heads of state and politicians were like cats left in charge of mice. It turned out for the British much better than they could have expected. The boundless greed of Nigerian politicians became Britain’s windfall.

This week we welcome the Prince of Wales and his wife Princess Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. They will be in Nigeria from November 6th to the 8th as part of their tour of Africa. Mr. Arkwright, the British high commissioner to Nigeria, talking to the News Agency of Nigeria in preparation for the visit, laid out an agenda that includes finding workable solutions to the problem of the herdsmen who have been slaughtering Nigerian farmers and others. According to Mr. Arkwright, “Some of the issues like the farmers/herders crises are deep-rooted and are about the economy, land resource, climate change and cultural issues.” He also said that addressing the root of the problems would lead to a peaceful and more prosperous Nigeria.  But what Mr. Arkwright, and likely, the visiting royals hesitate to acknowledge is the prominent part Britain is playing in the corruption that keeps that “economy” backwards and prevents a “more prosperous Nigeria.”

We have watched Nigerian heads of state and then politicians over the years drain the country of its wealth leaving their fellow countrymen in abject poverty. And who is the recipient and guardian of their loot? Look no further than Britain and Switzerland, and lately the U.S. A good part of the multi-million dollar homes in London are owned by Nigerian officials whose sole source of wealth is the loot from their positions as public servants. Britain knows it, the U.S. knows it and the world knows it. Yet, all we hear about is the aid they give us. According to Global Financial Integrity (GFI), financial outflows from developing economies through trade misinvoicing and other corrupt practices perpetrated through shell companies, tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions far exceed the aid and other assistance from developed countries. The illicit financial outflow from developing countries in 2013 alone was $1.1 trillion (with sub-Saharan Africa suffering the biggest loss—about 6.1% of GDP) while the combined total of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and net Official Development Assistance (ODA) from the developed countries to the developing economies for that year was $957.3 billion: a net loss of $42.7billion by the developing economies.

So when David Cameron said that Nigeria was fantastically corrupt he had firsthand knowledge of the evidence of that corruption. Nigerian money has been flowing boundlessly into the U.K and its overseas territories without restraint. True, they see the dilapidation of Nigeria. They hear the groans of her people. But, they know the benefit to their own economy. And greed, that eternal enemy of all good intentions, has not allowed them to truly free the captive. Corruption, the bane of Nigeria, is a boom to its former colonial master. Hence, they hesitate to do what is in their power to stop it.