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Posts tagged ‘Lagos State’

Besieged by the Police By Okey Ndibe.


 

Okey Ndibe
Columnist:

Okey Ndibe

President Goodluck Jonathan is notorious for moving at slower than the speed of a snail when called upon to address issues that rather demand alacrity. Yet, Nigerians are besieged by a terrible plague that Mr. Jonathan can—and should—address immediately. It’s the plague of the “privatized,” lawless police.

Last week, a friend telephoned me from Lagos. Alarmed by his dispirited tone, I feared that something grave had happened. He acknowledged that he was downcast. “It’s about the way that the police are now used,” he explained. “Anybody with some money or political contact can buy himself a few police officers. They then use these officers to harass people everywhere, including in traffic.”

He described how commuters in Lagos trapped in the city’s hellish gridlock are constantly beset by the blare of police sirens. “These sirens go off so frequently, and you are expected to make way for the police-led convoy. Mobile police men hang out of the doors of the blaring vehicles, brandishing guns and koboko (horsewhips). If you don’t get out of their way fast enough, they can smash your car’s windshield or beat you up. Here’s the most annoying thing: more than 90 percent of the time, they’re not escorting any government official. They’re clearing the traffic for some private individual with money or connections.”

I was quite familiar with that nightmare scene. During my last visit to Nigeria, I spent time in Lagos, Calabar, Awka, and Enugu—and I saw that ugly scene play out numerous times in each city. I came away with the impression that police officers, whose orientation ought to be the combating of crime, had been deployed to serve as mai-guard (private security guards) for the country’s well-heeled—including those who had accumulated their huge nests in illicit ways.

Indeed, one saw two classes of police officers in Nigeria. One class—those on private deployment whose job is to harass the rest of us on behalf of their wealthy “owners”—struck me as clean and well dressed, their boots shiny, a sheen to their skins. The other class—who stood in the sun worrying motorists for bribes of N20 or more per car—appeared scruffy, their uniforms dirty or torn, their boots dusty or spattered with mud when they did not wear flip flops.

This misapplication of police power compounds the atmosphere of lawlessness in a country where might frequently usurps the place of what’s right. Each police officer in Nigeria is paid from the collective resources of all Nigerians. It is bad enough that the Nigerian police are scandal-prone, that they hardly know the first thing about solving serious crimes, that their training equips them to view Nigerians, not with any sense of civil regard, but as legitimate sport for all manner of violent impulses. To now “privatize” police officers, especially the dreaded ones called mopol (for mobile police), to lend these police officers to do the bidding of private citizens who happen to have mortgaged their senses for a haul of cash—to do this is to worsen Nigeria’s state of anarchy.

Mr. Jonathan ought to order the police to immediately stop the practice of deploying police officers on private duties. There’s a precedent for such a directive. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who was no great custodian of law and order, saw fit to instruct the police to pull officers who were seconded to non-government officials. President Jonathan should tread the same path.

Like the country’s National Electric Power Authority (NEPA)—re-baptized the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN)—the Nigerian police have an awful image. Billed as an electric power company, NEPA spent years earning a reputation for plunging Nigerians into darkness. Years before the government officially changed NEPA’s name, Nigerians had creatively refashioned the acronym, making linguistic games out of it. When in a generous mood, they rendered it as “Never Expect Power Always.” In moments of forlorn exasperation, they called NEPA “Never Expect Power At all.”

Nigerians’ most benign epithet for the police remains “Wetin you carry?” It grew out of the lazy question that police officers pose to hapless motorists they stop at ubiquitous police road blocks all over the country. These road blocks are ostensible crime-fighting devices, but any Nigerian kindergartner knows that they are, in reality, bribe-collection points.

In fact, Nigerians know that their police are allergic to fighting crime. Quite often, the police seem enamored of criminals. There are accounts of criminals who menaced their innocent victims with guns supplied by the police. Many Nigerians would say that, frequently, they can’t tell the police apart from criminals: both are so deeply, so inextricably embedded.

Nigerians know or tell some version of a joke that’s the product of despairing experiences. The kernel of the joke goes like this. A horde of armed robbers descends on a neighborhood, shooting sporadically into the air whilst going from apartment to apartment to haul away cash and valuables. A distressed victim makes a frantic telephone call to a nearby police station, breathlessly describes the harrowing event, and asks that police officers be sent to combat the robbers.

“Is that right?” says the police officer at the other end, his tone calm and manner unhurried. The officer sucks his teeth, as if he’d just worked through a heavy meal of spicy goat meat escorted by two large bottles of Guinness. “We fit come now now, only say vehicle no dey. If you can fit to bring car, we go follow you there quick quick!”

In some countries, the point is made that the police are the citizens’ best friends. Suggest that to Nigerians, and you’d provoke guffaws. The Nigerian police are nobody’s friends. Some Nigerians would say their police are friends only of criminals. The Nigerian police offer little or no help to law abiding citizens. Some Nigerians would contend that ruthless criminals receive plenty of help from the police.

There’s—to cite one example—the case of Lotachukwu (Lota) Ezeudu, a 19-year-old accountancy student at the University of Nigeria who has never been seen since he was kidnapped on September 26, 2009. The main suspects in his abduction include Sam Chukwu, a divisional police officer (DPO), and Desmond Chinwuba, a sacked police officer who was standing trial in an earlier armed robbery. Both men have been on the run for several years. Some believe that Mr. Chukwu was the mastermind, that he ran a criminal ring whose nefarious menu included assassinations, armed robbery, and kidnapping. Among those in custody are Ernest Okeke, fired alongside Mr. Chinwuba, and Nnaemeka Chukwu, the DPO’s son.

Rogue officers like the fugitive Sam Chukwu further taint the already unflattering image of Nigeria’s police. They are one reason some took to calling the country’s law enforcement agency the Nigerian Police Farce.

Nigeria’s police are trapped in a crisis that demands long-term remedies, addressing in a fundamental way how police officers are trained, equipped and paid. For now, however, President Jonathan has a duty to spare Nigerians from some of the excesses of the police. He should order that no police officer should be seen working “private” shifts for Nigeria’s deep pockets.

 

Please follow me on twitter @ okeyndibe

(okeyndibe@gmail.com)

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

APGA demands immediate reopening of Lagos market shut in bid to force traders to register for APC.


 

The All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has demanded the immediate reopening

of a major market in Nigeria’s economic capital, Lagos, shut a week ago in a bid to force the traders to register as members of the All Progressives Congress (APC) during the party’s nationwide membership drive.

Iponri market in mainland Lagos was shut by policemen mobilised by Mrs. Folashade Tinubu-Ojo, daughter of APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, whom he previously installed as the Iyaloja (President- General of Market Traders) of Lagos. She ruled that the market would be reopened only if the traders produced their APC membership cards.

Reacting to News Express’ second story on the issue in four days, Acting National Publicity Secretary of APGA, Mr. Stanley Chira, said this afternoon: “APGA condemns this act of impunity by Tinubu’s daughter in the strongest term. Iyaloja is not the governor of the state; she is not the commissioner in charge of markets; neither is she a security personnel. So there is no basis or empowerment that gave her such powers to become an empress to lord it over the affairs of Nigerians living in Lagos. She may be intimidating the governor of Lagos State but she should not extend it to places of interest to APGA and Umuigbo.”

Stressing that the market closure is adversely affecting the fortunes of innocent traders, many of whom are Igbos, Chira said: “APGA is calling on Governor Babatunde Fashola to call Mrs. Folashade Tinubu-Ojo to order. She should not rekindle the anger of Ndi Igbo experienced during the deportation saga of last year. Enough of this tendency to treat Ndi Igbo as second-class citizens.”

Chief of Staff: Jonathan considers Rtd General •South-South battles South-West.


 

THE ongoing reorganisation in the Federal Government may see a retired General being appointed as the Chief of Staff to the president, it was learnt on Friday.
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This came as certain forces around the president are also said to be advising President Goodluck Jonathan to scrap the office. They are said to be suggesting that the president’s Principal Secretary combine his duties with those of the Chief of Staff.

The position of these ‘advisers’, the source said, was informed by what was described as the perceived excesses of the last holder of that office.

A presidency source, however, told Saturday Tribune that two retired senior army officers – a Major-General and a Brigadier-General, both from the South-West – have been contacted to sound them out on their disposition to possible appointment to the position if the president eventually decides to do so.

One of the two Generals is from Oyo State while the other hails from Lagos State, Saturday Tribune learnt.

The decision to go for a retired General for the post, the source said, is one of the options being considered by the president who is under intense pressure from the South-West and the South-South to ‘give them’ the position.

It was gathered that the initial demand for the post by the North was defeated by the argument of the South that the North already had more than its fair share in the Federal Government line-up.

The North presently parades the Vice-President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives, National Security Adviser, the Chief of Defence Staff, among others.

The argument of the South-South in demanding for the position, it was gathered, is that the last occupier of the post hailed from the zone and as such, the post should remain there.

Apart from the cries of marginalisation in the Federal Government by the South-West, it was learnt that a key figure in the civil society organisations (names withheld) was with the president on Monday where discussions touched on the appointment of the president’s chief of staff and the need to pacify the South-West with the post.

The final decision on the appointment, the source said, is that of the president who is said to be weighing options and balancing the scales on the allocation of portfolios to the newly appointed ministers.

Source: Radio Biafra.NORTH

Fashola Funding APC Registration From State Treasury – Lagos PDP.


Gov-Fashola-04

The  Lagos State Chapter of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, has accused  the Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola, of sponsoring the  ongoing All Progressives Congress, APC membership registration from the  State Treasury, while at the same time crippling governance in order to  participate and monitor the said registration exercise.
In a statement signed by the Publicity Secretary of the PDP in Lagos  State, Mr. Taofik Gani, the party also berates what it termed  mismanagement of funds and maladministration by some of the 57 Council  Chairmen whom they alleged have replicated same act in their various  Council Areas.
“We can now confirm that the ongoing APC membership registration,  especially in Lagos State, is enjoying the sponsorship of Governor  Fashola. The Governor has also condoned the decision of the 57 Council  chairmen to divert their council funds into the clearly party exercise.
“They have spent at least 7billion Naira paying for the registration  materials, staff, massive promo adverts at all levels, and inducing  persons to register. This amount could have been better utilised to  improve the lives of Lagosians”, the statement read.
Consequently, the Lagos PDP has hinted that it may invite the  Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to probe the  allegations.
“This party, APC, has no membership yet and cannot claim any  financial membership as well. Who, then is bankrolling their ongoing  membership registration process? Governor Fashola must give us answer to  this question.
“Lagosians demand to know. We have stronger, direct and  circumstantial evidence for the EFCC to proof that the ongoing APC  membership registration is being sponsored from the Lagos State  treasury”, it concluded.           by: Channels Television.

Source: Radio Biafra.

Bola Tinubu- Yoruba leaders didn’t invite me to confab meeting.


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Former Governor of Lagos State and national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu,

has said he did not attend the Friday meeting of Yoruba leaders on the proposed national conference because he was not invited. A group, Yoruba Committee on National Conference, had met at the Isara-Remo, Ogun State-home of an elder statesman, Sir Olaniwun Ajayi, to strategise on the selection of delegates for the South-West geopolitical zone ahead of the conference. Some of the prominent Yoruba leaders at the meeting were Governor Olusegun Mimiko of Ondo State; Afenifere leader, Chief Reuben Fasoranti; former Minister of Finance, Chief Olu Falae; Gen. Alani Akinrinade (retd.); activist lawyer, Dr. Tunji Braithwaite; Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo; Bishop Bolanle Gbonigi (retd.); Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu; and the convener, Save Nigeria Group, Pastor Tunde Bakare. Speaking to our correspondent on Saturday, Tinubu’s media aide, Mr. Sunday Dare, said there were attempts by some leaders in the South-West to sideline other Yoruba leaders, especially those in the APC. He said, “Have you asked whether they (APC leaders) were intimated about the meeting? There was no communication whatsoever. There was an attempt by a group of self-appointed Yoruba leaders to isolate some other persons. And this has been going on for a long time. “There was no information out there, whether in the public or privately. And it is not possible for these leaders — the APC leaders or the Yoruba leaders in the APC — to go for a meeting they don’t know about; a meeting they were not invited to. It is not possible.” Also, the Publicity Secretary, APC, Lagos State chapter, Mr. Joe Igbokwe, said it was left to the people to judge whether they were the leaders of the Yoruba nation or not. He said such a meeting without Tinubu and the APC governors from Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Ekiti and “probably” Edo states was incomplete. Igbokwe said, “There are leaders, there are also leaders. We, as the followers can choose where we want to be. They are leaders in their own class. I can’t deny Chief Ayo Adebanjo; I know him in the days of the locust. I can’t deny others but there are leaders and there are also leaders. “Asiwaju and the governors of the APC states (in the South-West) were not there. If you’re doing something in the South-West and you cannot find the APC leaders who have about 90 per cent control of the leadership of the zone, then what are you talking about? It means that there is a lacuna.” But his Ogun APC counterpart, Mr. Sola Lawal, said the opposition party was still opposed to the conference and would not attend such meetings as a result. He stated the party had made it clear that the conference must be attended by ethnic nationalities only. He said the party’s opposition to the confab had been justified by the announcement that the memorandum from the exercise would be subjected to legislation by the National Assembly and that the recommendations by the Presidential Advisory Committee on National Conference had been widely criticised. Lawal said, “As progressives in the APC, we do not believe in that conference because we have not seen the sincerity of the President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration to put the conference together.” Contrary to the claim that he (Tinubu) was not invited, Ayo Adebanjo was quoted in a national daily newspaper on Saturday as saying that Tinubu and other APC chieftains rebuffed efforts made to invite them to the forum.

Source: Radio Biafra.

Lagos Magistrate Court Grants Injunction Against Police Land Take Over Of Atiporome Community.


Some of the protesting land owners at the Lagos secreatriat
By SaharaReporters, New York

A magistrate court judge in Badagry has granted an injunction against a police invasion, and demolition of over a thousand houses at Atiporome community in Badagry.

The magistrate, Judge Adesanya (Mrs.) ruled on Wednesday that the police invasion and demolition of the houses was in contempt of court, as a suit was pending regarding the  ownership and tussle on the land.

Magistrate Adesanya in her ruling also lambasted the police over its arbitrary demolition of more than 1,500 houses in the Atiporome community. She wrote the action by the police left residents there homeless.

Just a few weeks before their removal, Atiporome community residents had stormed the offices of the Lagos State Government in Ikeja. They aired their complaints and demanded government intervention on their behalf. But not much came with the airing of their plight before government officials. The Lagos State Government was also busy, ironically, at the time, wrestling with residents of the Okun-Idasho community, in Ibeju-Lekki, in a strikingly similar legal battle, to take over their land for its Lagos Free Trade Zone project.

In recent weeks before the new injunction, police had demolished well over a thousand houses in the community, claiming ownership to the land.

The magistrate ordered the police authority to be immediately served with the court order to avoid further excesses, as she ruled on the application for injunction. This latest legal step was filed collectively by members of the Atiporome community.

The matter was adjourned set for a March 20th hearing.

 

What Hope For Inclusive-Education In Lagos? By Augustina Armstrong-Ogbonna.


By Augustina Armstrong-Ogbonna

To all intent and purposes, Lagos state still ranks top when it comes to innovations and promotion of education. One of these innovations in the area of education is the running of several inclusive schools across the state. In Lagos state, thirty-two government owned schools run inclusive-education for the deaf, blind, dumb, mentally and physically challenged. The secondary schools operating inclusive-education for the deaf and hearing-impaired are located in Eric-Moore:Surulere, Badagry, Epe, Ikeja and Ikorodu.

Since the beginning of the 2013/2014 academic session, students of Ikeja Senior High School lacks teachers for the deaf class. The population of the deaf students, which was about seventy at the beginning of the academic year, has begun to reduce as some of the students in the senior class have withdrawn from the school.

Investigation reveals that only ten students are left in the senior high school and two have withdrawn, but they may become extinct by the end of the academic year if sign language teachers or interpreters are not employed to teach the students.

One of the teachers at Ikeja High School, who spoke under anonymity said everyday is depressing for the hearing impaired students in the senior class as the teachers who come to teach the students continue to speak to the deaf students. Also a recent visit by one of the officials from the Lagos State Ministry of Education to the school indicated that the state government is not ready to employ teachers for the hearing-impaired students.

Ikeja High School is the only government owned school under Ikeja District 6 operating inclusive education for the hearing impaired. Further investigation reveals that Ikeja High School is been directed to admit students with hearing impairment, but the school has only two sign language teachers for the whole hearing impaired student population.

Also at State Grammar Schoool Eric Moore Surulere that has an estimated population of over 400 hearing impaired students for both junior and senior school, teachers are also in short supply. The school has about ten teachers for the deaf students and only one mathematics teacher for the hearing impaired students.

One of the volunteer teacher who was part of the Lagos state “Eko Project” Mr. Olajide Adeniyi said if not for the Eko project, education in state would have suffered lots of set back. He explained that most of the teachers recruited for the project function as full time teachers but are paid only #15,000. “As at the moment, most schools have stopped paying the Eko Project teachers and this has resulted to lack of teachers in most schools across the state. Here in State Grammar School, I am no longer an Eko Project teacher but I volunteer to teach mathematics to the junior secondary school students in class 3 to assist them in preparing for the junior WAEC exam. If not for my passion for these children, I would have left but they will be ill prepared for the major examinations”, he added.

At Wesley School for the Deaf located in Surulere, one of the teachers who spoke under anonymity lamented that the introduction of inclusive education in 2007 by the Fashola administration was a good concept but it lack monitoring and is gradually becoming a burden. According to him, over ten teachers were recruited from Wesley School for the Deaf to assist other schools that started operating inclusive education but till date none of those teachers were replaced. “The government is not employing teachers for students with special need training. It takes a lot of patience and psychological development to transfer knowledge to hearing impaired students. Most times we rely on students from colleges of education who come for their basic teaching practice experience, if not for them it won’t have been easy for us the teachers to cope with the work load. Though things have changed compared to the past, as students enrollment has increased over the years. We have people enrolling there children from an early age, this is a good for the educational development of the child. Most deaf students don’t like going home after school because their family members don’t know how to communicate in sign language. I will recommend for there to be more schools for the hearing impaired especially boarding school facilities as this help the children to integrate with their fellow classmates and boost their academic performance”, he concluded.

Efforts by Our correspondent to get reaction from the Public Relations Officer PRO Mr. Jide of the Lagos State Ministry of Education proved abortive as he described the lack of teachers at Ikeja High School for the hearing impaired as an allegation that needs to be confirmed.

Access to universal basic education is one of the seven Millennium Development Goals MDG, which member countries of the United Nations are meant to attain by 2015. But these goals of which provision of universal basic education is one have challenges bedeviling it which may hinder it attainment in many states of the country. It is still unfortunate that many top government officials do not see education beyond formal schooling for the able and privileged children. Whereas so many Al-majiri children are scattered across the Northern part of the country who with little exposure to education will make them better citizens. It is in this regard that planning and catering for these children with special needs as well as the Al-majiris should be part of annual state and federal budgeting.

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

Dollar-bribe Demanding Nigerian Policeman Arrested, Faces Disciplinary Action.


Police Corporal Aniyem Chiyem
By SaharaReporters, New York

The policeman earlier caught on camera demanding a “dollar bribe,” has been arrested and currently in Police custody according to the Nigerian police headquarters.

The police officer, Corporal Aniyem Chiyem with police number F/No 374171, is attached to the Isheri Division, Lagos State.

SaharaReporters has learned that the police authorities have commenced disciplinary action against him.

Mr. Chiyem was videotaped while demanding bribe in dollars from a US-based Nigerian traveling  in Lagos.

NPF Press Release :

POLICEMAN ON VIDEO ALLEGEDLY DEMANDING DOLLAR BRIBE ARRESTED, NOW IN POLICE CUSTODY

A hitherto unidentified policeman caught in a hidden camera allegedly demanding “dollar bribe” from a citizen has been identified and arrested. He is F/No. 374171 Cpl Aniyem Chiyem attached to Isheri Division, Lagos State Police Command. His arrest was sequel to a matching order issued by the Inspector-General of Police, IGP MD Abubakar, CFR, NPM, mni, psc to the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, CP Umar Abubakar Manko to ensure prompt arrest and investigation of the matter. Following his arrest, the suspect who is now in police custody, is undergoing Orderly Room trials and if found guilty will face appropriate disciplinary actions.

Meanwhile, the IGP has commended the unknown whistleblower in this case for his painstaking efforts in exposing what would have been a hidden crime.  He equally enjoins other members of the public to emulate this noble and patriotic action which will certainly go a long way in checkmating crime in our society.

 

CSP FRANK E. MBA
FORCE PUBLIC RELATIONS OFFICER,
FORCE HEADQUARTERS,

ABUJA.

Press Bulletin: Wonder Bank Operator Bags 14Yr Jail Term Over N9.8B Fraud.


A Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday sentenced a Wonder Bank operator, Godwin Nwaichie to 14 years imprisonment for defrauding several unsuspecting people at the Alaba International Market in Lagos to the tune of N9.8Billion.
The convict (Nwaichie) was charged before Justice Ibrahim Buba by the Special Fraud Unit (SFU) of the Nigerian Police alongside another accused, Fortune Etaba and their company, Establishment House Ltd, for fraudulently obtaining the said sum from several individuals. The judge sentenced Nwaichie, after he pleaded guilty to an amended three-count charge bordering on the offence.

“The convict, a 23-year-old man at the time of arrest, who ought to be vibrant and hardworking, decided to utilise his intelligence for fraud. “For such offence, the law provides a maximum of 20 years imprisonment and minimum of seven years.

“The convict is hereby sentenced to 14 years imprisonment beginning from January 9, 2010 when he was first arrested” Buba ruled.

The accused were first re-arraigned on January 21 on the amended charge.  Nwaichie had pleaded guilty to the charge, while the second accused (Etaba) pleaded not guilty.

Justice Buba had, however, refused to convict Nwaichie, after a review of the facts of the case, due to a conflict in his plea.

The accused had pleaded guilty to charge, but maintained that the amount of money he fraudulently obtained, was less than the sum reflected in the charge.

He said that the amount he obtained was N14,743,000.

The judge had therefore refused to convict him based on his plea.

At the resumed hearing of the case on Wednesday, the prosecutor Mr. Effiong Asuquo informed the court of an amended charge, having regularized it.  He therefore, prayed the court to re-arraign the accused. After re-arraignment, Nwaichie still maintained his guilty plea, and was thereafter sentenced by the judge.  Meanwhile, the judge admitted the other accused (Etaba) to bail in the sum of N500 million with two sureties in like sum. Buba also ordered the accused to submit his traveling documents to the courts, with an undertaking not to travel outside Lagos during the pendency of the case.

He adjourned the case to Feb. 21 for trial of Etaba. The accused were said to have committed the offence between June 2009 and December 2009. The prosecutor had told the court that the accused obtained various sums of money totaling N9.8 billion, from a number of people, especially businessmen at the Alaba International Market, Ojo, Lagos.

He said the accused misrepresented to the individuals that they will get back 50 per cent of their deposits after 21 days.

According to the prosecutor, the accused could not repay either the deposited sum, or the “multiplied sum” as represented.

He said the offence contravened the provisions of sections 1 (1) (a), 8, and 2 of the Advanced Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2004.

DSP NGOZI ISINTUME-AGU
Police Public Relations Officer
For: Commissioner of Police
Special Fraud Unit
Ikoyi – Lagos.

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

Jonathan, Igbos, And The Second Niger Bridge By Frank Onia.


 

By Frank Onia, PhD

The standard criteria for decisions on infrastructural deployment include need, available resources, competing demands for finite resources, alignment with related infrastructure, incubatory foundation for progressive deployment, social benefits, political patronage, economic benefits, minimization of stress and hardship for the citizens, potentials for stimulating overall economic development, balancing considerations, replacement of obsolete infrastructure, need to embrace emerging and efficient technology, etc, etc. When viewed from an objective prism and against the backdrop of the itemized criteria above, it is long overdue to replace the Niger Bridge at Onitsha, which has verifiably and universally been identified as a deathtrap. This bridge was constructed in 1963, and is the ONLY link between the South-East of Nigeria and the rest of the country (towards the West). This bridge serves as the ONLY access point to Anambra, Imo, Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Benue, and Plateau States, when you approach from Lagos, and, indeed, all the states that formerly constituted the Western and mid-Western Regions, as well as from Abuja and segments of the North.

It is trite to mention that this bridge handles the highest concentration of vehicular traffic in the country, and has served this purpose progressively and exhaustively for fifty years! The exponential growth in population and number of vehicles in the country in the past five decades have added to the pressure on the bridge, with the result that it is nearly collapsing, with the attendant risks for human lives, economic activities, mass psychology, and national development. Citizens from the Eastern parts of the country are the most itinerant in the country, with the evident implication that tens of millions of individuals make frequent trips to their homeland, relying on a safe passage through this same bridge. This assumption of basic safety has been denied them perennially for several years, and is currently being toyed with even further. The significance of this bridge is emphasized during the festive period at the end of each year, when millions of people are trapped and delayed at the bridge for several hours in what should, otherwise, be pleasurable commutes back home. As a country, we have witnessed this for several decades and have failed to do anything about it. When any attention has been paid to the need to replace and expand this bridge, it has been suffused with empty promises, vacuous platitudes, cheap politics, and exploration of the underlying potentials for corruption. The Obasanjo civilian administration played games with the need to replace this bridge for eight years, ensuring that new promises were recycled as elections approached. And, yet, nothing was done.

While the South East, as a Region, contributes very significantly to the development of Nigeria, especially outside Igboland, there is NO single Federal Government institution or semblance of infrastructure in the entire Region. Even though Igbos and their brothers from the South-South are among the most widely-traveled people in the world, there is NO worthy international airport in the larger Region, thereby forcing residents of the Region/s to travel to Lagos or Abuja, before they can travel overseas. Professor Chinua Achebe was involved in a ghastly motor accident near Awka, Anambra State, because he had to travel overseas from Lagos, even though he then resided at Nsukka in Enugu State. This accident cost him his limbs, paralyzed him for life, and hastened his relocation to the United States, where he died many years later.

There are thousands of others who have lost their lives in a similar manner; the additional cost and inconvenience involved in these unnecessary local travels are best imagined, as such travelers must stay in hotels, eat, utilize local transportation, and incur sundry expenses in (mostly) Lagos and Abuja, purely on account of a deliberate State policy to punish Igbo people for whatever reason, While Igbos easily dominate the trading and commercial sectors of Nigeria and West Africa, there is no discernible effort to dredge the River Niger at Onitsha, to enable port activities. The only federal “investment” on River Niger has been the deliberate channeling of the water to the Northern parts of the country, for irrigation activities, while the Onitsha end of the River has been drying up in the  past 20 years, thereby impeding fishing, subsistence farming, and overall economic growth. While Abuja, the North, and other Regions of the country, continue to attract comparatively-significant infrastructural investments and upgrades (for example, the hundreds of billions of Naira being spent to expand the access road from the Abuja airport into the City, as well as the scandalous budget of over N55 billion for the erection of a mere City Gate in Abuja), it is clear that holding the South East down is a Directive Principle of State Policy in Nigeria. No other conclusion is possible from the continued neglect of the Niger Bridge, and the criminal disrespect with which the belated redemptive measures are being packaged. It is noteworthy that the Federal Government funds projects in Abuja and elsewhere directly and does not charge tolls on those roads.

In a society like ours, ethnic agitation for legitimate attention is entirely understandable, hence the tone and tenor of this submission. When our statecraft develops to the stage of objectivity, justice, and fairness, then, possibly our micro-national identities may become muted. The Jonathan Administration has failed both the South-South and South-East by its singular failure to provide basic infrastructure in the two pivotal Regions. The fact that the so-called East-West Road remains uncompleted after all these years, while humongous budgetary allocations have officially been designated to its conclusion, should remain a source of embarrassment for Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, well after his stay in office. Pray, how did a treasonous impostor like Mr. Ibrahim Babangida manage to utilize both federal funds (from oil sales!) and oil futures to build a new federal capital city in Abuja, when the man who literally owns the oil cannot construct the road leading to his hometown, even with a democratic mandate? Shame has only one definition.

As it pertains to the need to construct the second Niger Bridge, a categorical imperative, the same Jonathan Administration is being clever by half, by concessioning the bridge to that veritable purveyor impunity and corruption in Nigeria, Julius Berger Construction. This initiator and exemplar of corruption in Nigeria has since announced that the 1.8 kilometer bridge will cost them N100 billion to construct, as a justification for the sweetheart deal extended to them by Jonathan and his Administration, whereby Julius Berger will install three toll gates on that bridge in perpetuity, ostensibly to recover their “investment”. Knowing Julius Berger and Nigeria, this project will eventually cost N200 billion on paper, when completed. Julius Berger did not bring any foreign investment whatsoever when it left its decrepit office in Wiesbaden, Germany, to emerge on Nigeria’s shores 40 years ago, on the private invitation of the late Major General Shehu Musa Yar Adua, number two man in the erstwhile dictatorship of the perennial fumbler and dissembler, Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo, which lapsed in 1979.

Let it be made clear that a bridge is a road with its foundation in water. Nigerians need to be aware that the same Julius Berger has just paid penalties to the United States Government totaling tens of millions of dollars for specific cases of corruption it perpetrated in Nigeria. The United States Government, which was not victimized, benefited by way of this penalty payment by Julius Berger, while this construction company that has been at the forefront of corrupting public officials in Nigeria for the past 40 years, neither paid any penalty or compensation to the real victim, Nigeria, nor is it being blacklisted or censured in any way.

Rather, successive Nigerian Governments continue to reward Julius Berger with heavily-inflated contracts, responsibility for maintaining strategic locations like the Aso Rock Presidential Complex and the National Assembly. The same company is constructing the new residences for the Vice-President, Senate President, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, projects that have already gulped close to N60 billion on paper even before completion. To deepen the culture of impunity and complete the psychological humiliation of the illustrious Igbos of Nigeria, the Jonathan Administration, which owes the South-East a second Niger Bridge as well as tangible federal presence, has mortgaged the entire East to Julius Berger by criminally acquiescing in the perpetual exploitation of the teeming people under a most suspicious and fraudulent Concession Arrangement. Where else in the country is a whole Region held prostate and captive in this manner? Where else is the ONLY bridge leading into a Region casually assigned to a criminal enterprise for the exploitation of citizens who have no alternatives?

In this, it must be stated that Jonathan and his Administration are playing a script already tested and fine-tuned by Mr. Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Governor Fashola of Lagos State, wherein residents of the Lekki axis have effectively been hemmed in and subjected to unnecessary and usurious toll charges each time they either access or exit their homes, despite the very significant contribution these residents make to the much-vaunted Internally-Generated Revenue of Lagos State. It is significant that the same Julius Berger is the partner to Messrs Tinubu and Fashola on the bridge toll exploitation project linking Ikoyi and Lekki Phase One. Yet another toll gate ensures that you also cannot get to Lekki from Victoria Island without feeding Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his crony, Fashola’s, insatiable greed and appetite.

It is very clear from this single example that both the PDP and the APC (seeking leprous and blind navigators) are the same in philosophy, orientation, and content; both are fraudulent and self-serving devices.

If our dealers must feel entitled to collecting both public revenue and IGR, and yet charge the citizens for token infrastructure provided in their areas of jurisdiction, all in an environment of opaqueness, arrogance, impunity, and absence of citizen input, it might well be better to sack all governments and share the revenue of the country among the citizens, who are perpetually burdened with the direct provision of basic services, for which Governments exist in the first place. In all of this, these dealers feel perfectly justified in magisterially cornering significant chunks of State resources under various guises, notably the poorly-christened Security Votes.

Regarding the second Niger Bridge, there is NO WAY that a 1.8 km bridge of the best quality, together with immediate access roads, will cost up to N10 billion, yet, we are told that the initial assessment for the bridge is N100 billion. Why must Julius Berger be the only company handling all these projects? What process leads to these awards and appointments? Why are competent and established construction companies all over the world being frustrated from accessing the Nigerian market by Government Officials protecting this small German company, with a small office in their home country? Are they not aware that the unrivaled access given Julius Berger’s engineers and staff is a grave national security risk? What is the role of the National Security Adviser and the DG-SSS, in guiding the government appropriately? Are people now so incompetent or corrupt that they neither know nor care that sophisticated Intelligence Collection devices are installed in all these sensitive locations, with the downloading and processing taking place at the Julius Berger Operational Headquarters at Life Camp, Abuja, under the able supervision of German Intelligence Officials – all of this intrusive and aggressive collection against Nigeria paid for Nigeria. What a country!

Given the identified urgency of the need to construct the second Niger Bridge, you would think that, in the absence of common sense in high places, senior government officials of Igbo origin would be easy and strident advocates of the Federal Government swiftly constructing the bridge as its duty to the people, with an apology to the citizens for the delayed implementation. Some of the referenced officials are the Coordinating, Supervising, and Overseeing Secretary to the Federal Government, His Massive Excellency Mr. Anyim Pius Anyim; the so-called Coordinating Minister of the Economy (in hubris-free English, the Minister of Finance), Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mrs. Viola Onwuliri; the Deputy Senate President, Mr. Ike Ekweremadu; the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Emeka Ihedioha; the Chairmen of the Works Committees in both the Senate and the House of Representatives; the crisis-ridden and inflated Supervising and Coordinating Minister of Aviation and its Parastatals, Ms Stella Oduah; the immediate past Army Chief, Lt. General Azubuike Ihejirika; the recently-relieved Chief of Naval Staff; Vice-Admiral Dele Ezeoba; the Director-General of the so-called Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), Mr. Emeka Eze – whose village roads have all been tarred by contractors executing Federal Government contracts; 15 undistinguished Senators from the South East; several dishonorable Members of the House of Representatives; the five state governors of the South-East; ex-this and ex-that, etc, etc.

Even if the objective case fails to penetrate thick skulls, surely the selfish and symbolic motive of garnering solid Igbo votes should impel the urgent construction of that overdue bridge. I say this because expectations have been grossly lowered in Nigeria, to the extent that a 1.8 km bridge could guarantee you bloc Regional votes. Mr. Jonathan could even extend the tokenism by naming the new bridge after Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, in a symbolic gesture of connecting the erstwhile Biafran heartland with the rest of the country. The identified officials are rather satisfied with having Julius Berger construct private homes for them in Abuja and their remote villages, in a well-oiled program of corruption, collusion, and compromise. The definition of shame has still not changed.

If all of this fails, what stops the Governors of the South-East from reducing their greed quotient by utilizing their so-called Security Votes (since kidnappers have taken over the Region anyway!) to construct this vital bridge for their people, and then heap the necessary propaganda guilt on the Federal Government that has been permanently negligent and wicked towards Igbos? The failure to do the right thing, and at the right time, is the bane of the Nigerian society. The complacency of the Nigerian society is yet a latent contributing factor to the charade that is called governance in Nigeria.

Let it be clear, though, that Julius Berger, or any other company so-called, should not be allowed to exploit the people under whatever Concession Arrangement involving a critical piece of infrastructure like the second Niger Bridge. Their so-called investment should and will come to nothing. A bridge built on a fraudulent foundation MUST fall. Citizens must begin to demand their due dessert from pretenders to the throne. A life of surrender, conditioned by endless prayers and exploitation by clerical purveyors of hope, will not suffice in this case.

Mr. Jonathan, his handlers, and cronies from the South-East and South-South still have very limited time to reverse themselves, as well as their deeply-offensive and odious ineptitude and policies, by directly and quickly completing the East-West Road and the second Niger Bridge, without further ado and delay. They could, as always, collect multiples of the real contract value as bribe; someday, the United States Government will extract penalties from the complicit Construction Company. In other countries where non-strategic infrastructure have been concessioned out, the Government acts as the protector of the citizens, setting standards, aggregating public interest, achieving optimal costs, minimizing waste, setting the tariff, and defining the time-frame for toll collection. In Nigeria’s case, both the Government and the so-called Concessionaires are a united usurious entity, exposing the citizens unduly to endemic exploitation. In any case, competing and several alternatives are provided before roads are tolled. Not in Nigeria. Our dealers will do well to study the Latin American model, to understand how this program works.

I have discussed with a wide range of Igbo professionals in Nigeria and overseas, and they are in unison regarding the egregious insult involved in the structure being proposed by Mr. Jonathan, his Minister of Works, and their Administration. They affirm that, rather than accept the so-called concessioning of the Niger Bridge, Igbos should be allowed to float a Municipal Bond or contribute among themselves, to construct the bridge. The implication of this would be a final severance of whatever psychological link Igbos have with Nigeria. It is common knowledge that Igbo people have typically taxed themselves to provide electricity, water, roads, schools, etc., in their communities, through a well-honed self-effort system. They can also construct this short bridge that will save their lives, without the involvement of their politicians and their mentors in Abuja. In the case of the second Niger Bridge, let it be made very clear that the Igbos will not forget or forgive the perpetuation of marginalization, exploitation, and insult under any arrangement that involves the erection of toll gates on that bridge. Indeed, that bridge shall not stand, under the Jonathan paradigm, and Mr. Jonathan will do well not to delude himself that he is guaranteed of Igbo votes in 2015.

 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

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