Archive for February 9th, 2018

Victims of our own credibility and unrestrained goodwill that blocked all sober criticality! Now, we suddenly wake up and begin to recognise signs and to see things that were always there, staring us in the face whilst we deliberately chose to ignore them.

YUSUF’S RECALL: FAREWELL TO ANTI CORRUPTION POLICY?
AYO OLUKOTUN.
“How can a government official, being investigated for a whopping sum of 919 million naira fraud by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission be reinstated by the Government that came to power promising to sanitize the system. This is very unfortunate.”. Comrade Alade Bashir Lawal, Secretary General, Association of Senior Civil Servants Of Nigeria. The Punch, 8th of February, 2018.
The opening quote sourced from organized labour spokesman, Comrade Bashir Lawal, typifies the growing consternation and dismay across civil society over the reinstatement on Tuesday, of Prof. Usman Yusuf, the suspended Executive Secretary of National Health Insurance Scheme. Usman, it will be recalled was suspended from his post in July last year by the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, following his indictment by a panel set up to investigate serious allegations of corruption, misdemeanor and chronic nepotism against him. Many will remember the controversy surrounding Yusuf’s suspension partly because of his widely quoted remark that, “only the President, to whom I report directly can suspend me from office”.
As the panel of inquiry noted, Yusuf engaged frequently in name dropping, leaving no one in doubt that, not only does he come from President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state Katsina, but he is close to him. Beyond that however, is the fact that the inquiry found him guilty of corruption and the siphonning of public funds through skills trainning, some real, many phantom. Among other disturbing issues, is the fact that he purchased an SUV car for 58million naira without due process. It was also alleged, that out of fifteen appointments, eleven, which included his niece, came from the North West, the zone from where he originates and four others from the northern part of the country, in violation of the Federal Character Principle.
The case went through several twists and turns, one of them, being the attempt of Yusuf, to nail the Minister, by claiming that he was being persecuted because he refused to acede to Adewole’s demand, that the scheme cough out funds to support the ministry. In the same connection, the House of Representatives in what appeared to be a hasty intervention and contradiction of a probe ordered by the Senate, ordered the recall of Yusuf, although nothing of the sort happened.
It is interesting to note, that at the time the presidency recalled Yusuf earlier this week, he was being investigated by the EFCC, to which the matter has been referred. It will remain a mystery therefore why government, without making public the result of the ongoing investigation, decided to re-instate the discredited official. Coming in the wake of the smuggling into the civil service of the Dr. Abdul rasheed Maina, a fugitive accused of serial embezzlement of pension funds, the Yusuf saga puts the anti corruption policy or what remains of it, very much in the cooler.
To be sure, it would have been proper if apart from the investigating Yusuf, government took interest in knowing whether his allegations against the minister were an after thought, calculated to divert attention from his feral conduct, or whether there is any substance in them. However that goes, it is improper, unethical and shocking that the presidency decided to re-instate Yusuf inspite of the cloud of doubtful dealings and graft hanging over him. Even if Yusuf were a favoured son, as appears to be the case, the decision to bring him back to office should have been weighed against the moral injury and the public uproar that will attend such a decision.
Besides, this writer is not convinced that there are no alternative ways of rewarding loyalty outside of public service. As matters stand, the decision to re-instate him, traced by commentators to a cabal in the presidency has given rise to several speculations such as the uncharitable one that the scheme will be a source of funding for the 2019 elections, should Buhari be a Presidential candidate. Talking about the cabal, Dr. Junaid Muhammed, a lawmaker in the second republic, suggested recently that Yusuf was appointed by the cabal in the Presidency and that he was not surprised that it insisted on re-instating him despite the heavy albatross of wrong doing around his neck.
Of note, is the fact that the cabal came under attack recently by no less a person than the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption, Prof Itse Sagay. Sagay was quoted as saying ” The cabal in his government has no business been in the presidency. As such, it should be fished out and flushed out”, (The Guardian, Wednesday, 7th of February, 2018). Whatever weight and influence one ascribes to the cabal, whose existence is a misnomer in a supposedly reformist government, the point remains that the buck stops at Buhari’s table. Buhari, it is, whom Nigerians overwhelmingly voted for in 2015 and look up to, for redeeming the campaign promises, including sanitizing the polity which he made to them. So, it is he that we must call upon to reverse the recent decision to re-instate a highly placed official of his government , who is facing trial for anti corruption charges.
Remarkably, there is a recent globalization of Buhari’s anti corruption policies, for instance by the African Union and a mark up therefore in Nigeria’ s soft power overseas. This suggests that we cannot afford to lose the moral high ground at a time when the world has begun to take notice. The other reason why Buhari should step in to reverse the reinstatement of Yusuf, is that the official is too closely linked to him suggesting that the anti corruption struggle is wittingly or unwittingly being corrupted by double standards, one, for the masses of Nigerians, especially the opposition, and another for cronies and kinsmen of the President.
To be sure, the nitty-gritty of politics, is such that rewards and opportunities must be extended to one’s political base in order to continue to enjoy their support. That said, nepotism and blatant ethnicity cannot be erected into a directive principle of state policy, without violating the inclusive pre-requisites of Nigerian federalism as spelt out in the 1999 Constitution. It does no credit to Buhari’s image if he is perceived as suspending the requirements of his administration’s flagship policy just to please his kinsmen.
To that extent, the matter at hand should be regarded as a test case for the anti corruption programme, which is in clear danger of being swept into ineffectuality. In the same vein, and deriving from a playbook of prudent and even handed conduct, Buhari should cultivate the image of being hard, if not harder on people close to him than those outside his immediate circle. For, it violently contradicts his reformist credentials if corruption flourishes unchecked and turned a blind eye to around him,while he is shouting himself hoarse himself about the need to kill corruption before corruption kills Nigeria.
Nigeria can draw a leaf from goings on in Israel, where the police has just concluded a probe of allegations of corruption about a sitting President, Benjamin Netanyahu which might well lead to his resignation. We should aim at this kind of presidential non interference and impartiality in law enforcement and judicial institutions.
Prof. Olukotun is the Oba(Dr.) Kayode Sikiru Adetona Professorial Chair of Governmance,Department of Political Science, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye.
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The Catholic Bishop’s Conference of Nigeria – Amoses recovering their vision and voices

Saying it as it is……

AN ADDRESS PRESENTED BY THE CATHOLIC BISHOPS’ CONFERENCE OF NIGERIA (CBCN) ON THE OCCASION OF A COURTESY CALL ON HIS EXCELLENCY MOHAMMADU BUHARI, PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, THURSDAY, 8 FEBRUARY 2018

Your Excellency,

Preamble

We, the representatives of the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria, bring you our cordial greetings and blessings. We desired this meeting, in order to continue the dialogue we initiated with you even before your election as President. We therefore thank you for granting us this audience, which affords us the opportunity to share with you, once again, our thoughts and concerns on some issues affecting our dear country, Nigeria.

First, we thank God for bringing you back to us healthier and stronger after a period of ill health. We hope and pray that you continue to make progress on the way to full recovery, in order to be able to face the enormous challenges emanating from your exalted office.

Your Excellency, needless to say that, as President, you are the Father of our dear country Nigeria. It is therefore pertinent that as loyal citizens as well as informed members of the society we come to you from time to time to express not only our willing cooperation with the government in working for the progress of our country, but also to share with you the feelings of the multitude of Nigerians at this moment. We work with the people at the grassroots and, therefore, have first-hand information about what they are going through.

There is no doubt that when you came into office, you had an enormous amount of the goodwill of Nigerians, since many saw you as a person of integrity who would be able to bring sanity into a system that was nearly crippled by endemic corruption. Nearly three years later, however, one has the feeling that this good will is being fast depleted by some glaring failures of government which we have the moral duty to bring to your notice, else we would be failing in our duty as spiritual fathers and leaders.

Our Concerns

Your Excellency, there is too much suffering in the country: poverty, hunger, joblessness, insecurity, violence, fear… the list is endless. Our beloved country appears to be under siege. Many negative forces seem to be keeping a stranglehold on the population, especially the weaker and defenseless ones. There is a feeling of hopelessness across the country. Our youths are restive and many of them have taken to hard drugs, cultism and other forms of violent crime, while many have become victims of human trafficking. The Nation is nervous.

Just as we seem to be gradually emerging from the dark tunnel of an economic recession that caused untold hardship to families and individuals, violent attacks by unscrupulous persons, among whom are terrorists masquerading as herdsmen, have led to a near civil war situation in many parts of the country. We are saddened that repeatedly innocent citizens in different communities across the nation are brutally attacked and their sources of livelihood mindlessly destroyed. Property, worth billions of Naira, including places of worship, schools, hospitals and business enterprises are torched and turned to ashes. We are still more saddened by the recent massacre of unarmed citizens by these terrorists in some communities in Benue, Adamawa, Kaduna and Taraba States which has caused national shock, grief and outcry. What is even more distressful is that the government, whose responsibility it is to protect the life and property of every citizen seems either incapable or unwilling to do this. The silence of the federal government in the wake of these horrifying attacks is, to say the least, shocking. There is a feeling of helplessness among the people and the danger that some people may begin to take laws into their hands.

We therefore earnestly urge the government to take very seriously its primary responsibility of protecting the lives and property of its citizens and ensure that such mindless killings do not reoccur. Herdsmen may be under pressure to save their livestock and economy but this is never to be done at the expense of other people’s lives and means of livelihood. We would like to add our voice to those of other well-meaning Nigerians who insist that a better alternative to open grazing should be sought rather than introducing “cattle colonies” in the country. While thinking of how best to help cattle owners establish ranches, government should equally have plans to help the other farmers whose produce is essential for our survival as a nation.

In a similar vein, daredevil kidnappers, who at present are having a field day, with a feeling of invincibility, must be made to understand that there is a government in this country. Government should invest more in equipping our Police Force with modern high-tech devices that will help them track down and arrest these criminals and make them face the wrath of the law.

The Federal Character Principle is enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria: “The government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few states or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies” (Section 14, Sub-section 3-4). Disregard for this Principle in some federal government appointments as well as perceptible imbalance in the distribution of federal amenities has created the loss of a sense of belonging in many parts of the country, hence the constant cries of marginalization, agitation for secession and calls for restructuring.

Conclusion and Assurance of Prayers

Our Church has always complemented the efforts of government in such areas as providing quality education and primary health care services to our people. We shall continue to support the effort of the government in nation-building. As the voice of the voiceless, we shall therfore continue to highlight the plight of our people and play our prophetic role of sensitizing the government, thus promoting national unity and cohesion. As we encourage you to spare no effort to build a new Nigeria, we reassure you of our support and prayers for your success. On the long run,Government under your watch must do all in its power through good policies to restore confidence that government is for all and sundry. Our collective efforts must be seen in the desire to return to the fine principles of democracy such as true federalism, negotiation and consensus building as means of achieving a more equitable distribution of the resources of our country.

Thank you, Your Excellency, for the audience and may God bless you.

Most Rev. Dr. Ignatius Ayau Kaigama
Archbishop of Jos President, CBCN

Most Rev. Dr. William Avenya
Bishop of Gboko
Secretary, CBCN


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