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U.S. releases damning human rights report about Nigeria.


 

“The most serious human rights abuses during the year were those committed by Boko Haram.”
A new report by the United States has described Nigeria as a country where corruption, official impunity, and gross human rights violations occur at will.
The report described the human rights violations to include extra-judicial killings, rape, torture, mistreatment of detainees, destruction of property, violence against women, vigilante killings, child labour, forced and bonded labour, and discrimination based on sexual orientation.
This assessment of Nigeria is according to the 2013 Country Report on Human Rights. The report, which is now in its 38th year, is sanctioned by the U.S. Congress. It, amongst other things, helps inform the U.S. government policy and foreign assistance.
According to the report, the terrorist group, Boko Haram, and the Nigerian Government are the worst perpetrators of human rights abuses in the country.
“The most serious human rights abuses during the year were those committed by Boko Haram, which conducted killings, bombings, abduction and rape of women, and other attacks throughout the country, resulting in numerous deaths, injuries, and widespread destruction of property; those committed by security services, which perpetrated extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, beatings, arbitrary detention, mistreatment of detainees, and destruction of property; and widespread societal violence, including ethnic, regional, and religious violence,” the report said.
The report came hard on the Goodluck Jonathan administration for institutionalising impunity with the state pardon granted to serial money launderer and former governor of Bayelsa State, Dipreye Alamieyeseigha. It also said the Nigeria government has displayed no willingness to prosecute soldiers and police officers accused of gross human rights violations.
The report makes specific reference to the refusal of the government to prosecute members of the armed forces found to have perpetrated extrajudicial killing and torture in clear disregard of the recommendation of The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Committee against Torture.
“During the year joint task forces (JTFs), composed of elements of the military, police, and other security services, conducted raids on militant groups and criminal suspects in the states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Kano, Kaduna, Kogi, Plateau, Sokoto, Taraba, Katsina, Jigawa, and Yobe. These raids resulted in numerous deaths of and injuries to alleged criminals, militants, and civilians. Local NGOs, international human rights groups, and political and traditional leaders in the affected states accused the security services of indiscriminate and extrajudicial killings.
“The national police, army, and other security forces committed extrajudicial killings and used lethal and excessive force to apprehend criminals and suspects as well as to disperse protesters. Authorities generally did not hold police accountable for the use of excessive or deadly force or for the deaths of persons in custody. The reports of state or federal panels of inquiry investigating suspicious deaths remained unpublished.”
Inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment
The report frowned at the technique of “parading” of suspects commonly used by the police. It observed that most of those paraded are subjected to public ridicule or abuse.
“Police commonly used a technique called “parading” of arrestees. Parading involved literally walking arrestees through public spaces, subjecting them to public ridicule and abuse.
“Bystanders often hurled taunts, food, and other objects. Police defended this practice with the argument that public humiliation helped deter crime,” it said.
It further observed that police flagrantly extort money from civilians and in blatant violation of the law. They use torture to extract confessions from suspects, which are later used to secure convictions in court.
The report indicts the police of rape and other sexual offences of women in their custody. In one example in Abraka in Delta State, in March 2013, a woman said four men raped her while she was in police custody. She said the police had put her in the same cell as the men. She accused the police of failing to help her. According to her, the investigating police office told her to keep quiet about the incident.
Over-crowded and disease-infested prisons
The report described a horrid condition of the country’s prison. It said the prisons are mostly over-crowded and in such deplorable states that they provide fertile breeding grounds for communicable disease. It said prisoners are poorly fed and their health neglected.
For instance, it observed that inmates with mental illness are kept among the general population. Prison warders are also accused of widespread torture, extortions, and sexual abuses such as rape of female inmates.
“Prison and detention center conditions remained harsh and life threatening. Prisoners, a majority of whom had not been tried, were subject to extrajudicial execution, torture, gross overcrowding, food and water shortages, inadequate medical treatment, deliberate and incidental exposure to heat and sun, and infrastructure deficiencies that led to wholly inadequate sanitary conditions and could result in death.”
“Reports indicated guards and prison officials extorted inmates or levied fees on them to pay for food, prison maintenance, and prisoner release. In some cases female inmates faced the threat of rape. Female prisoners pregnant at the time of incarceration gave birth to and raised their babies in prison,” it added.
“Overcrowding was a significant problem in some prisons. Although national capacity stood at 47,284, an imbalance in the use of prisons resulted in underutilization at some facilities, while others were at more than 800 percent of their designed capacity. For example, the Owerri Federal Prison had the capacity to hold 548 prisoners but held more than 1,784. Ogwuashi-Uku prison in Delta State, with a capacity to house 64 prisoners, housed 541, while Port Harcourt prison, with a capacity to hold 804, held 2,955. Ijebu-Ode prison in Lagos, with a capacity to hold 49 prisoners, held 309,” it continued.
“Although the law prohibits the imprisonment of children, minors–many of whom were born there–lived in the prisons. A 2006 report on the rights and welfare of children from the Federal Ministry of Women’s Affairs to the African Union found an estimated 6,000 children lived in prisons and detention centers. The Nigerian Prison Service reported, however, that as of March, 69 infants resided in prison with their mothers while 847 juvenile inmates were detained in juvenile detention centers.”
Freedom of Speech
The report observed that though the freedom of speech and a free press are guaranteed by the constitution, high-handed security and government officials still occasionally harass journalists.
The report made a case in point of the December 2012 raid of the homes and offices of the editor Musa Muhammad Awwal and reporter Aliyu Saleh of the Hausa-language weekly newspaper Al-Mizan, confiscating their phones and laptops as well as detaining the journalists and their wives.
“Politicians and political parties harassed and attacked journalists perceived as reporting on them or their interests in a negative manner. For example, on April 8, authorities in Abuja detained two reporters for Leadership Newspaper, Tony Amokeodo and Chibuzor Ukaibe, following the publication on April 3 of an article alleging that President Jonathan had ordered the disruption of operations of his political opponents. Authorities charged the two men with “vexatious publication.” All charges were later dropped.
“Journalists also were at risk of abduction. For example, in March assailants in Ondo State abducted a Nigeria Television Authority journalist, Olubunmi Oke, as she arrived home from work with her infant child and maid. The child and maid were later released. Media reports stated that the assailants had demanded an eight million naira ($50,240) ransom. Oke was freed after three days, following the payment of an undisclosed ransom.
Nicholas Ibekwe
(From Biafra Galaxy)

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We Are The Government By Philip Amiola.


 

By Philip Amiola

When I wrote an article titled Failed Government or Failing Citizensin January 2013, I expected a reverberation of mixed comments. I was not disappointed. In that piece, I attempted to challenge the belief system that makes us channel our creative energies towards blaming the government rather than taking responsibility for effecting change and proffering solutions wherever we can. While I got some degree of positive feedback, a section of my audience seems to believe that I am either “part of the Nigerian Government that has failed us” or I am “not exposed to the realities of a responsible government.”

The backlash notwithstanding, I still believe that poor performance on the part of the government should not breed indifference in the way we live our lives and conduct our personal affairs. My position was further strengthened on a recent trip to Ibadan, the Oyo state capital. Entering through the Iwo Road-Ojoo axis, I was impressed with positive developments that have sprung up since my days as an undergraduate at the University of Ibadan. For a city which was listed by the Financial Times of London in 2012 as one of the “Big 5” cities in Africa, one shouldn’t have expected any less.

However, my excitement soon gave way to disappointment as I approached the University precincts. All the way from Barika to Agbowo, the median on the dual carriageway was adorned with bags of solid waste in place of the customary rows of ornamental plants or neatly kept lawn. It was an incredibly disgusting sight – so incredible that I had to stop and take some pictures.

Many questions began to flash through my mind. At first I wondered if Oyo State has any agency that is responsible for waste management. Upon realisation that it does, I wondered what kind of mindset would prompt supposedly enlightened Nigerians to dump household waste right in the middle of the road. Although I happened to have sighted this in Ibadan, similar situations exist across the country; and this has contributed in no small way to the outbreak of diseases and incidence of so-called natural disasters.

While we must hold our political office holders responsible for fulfilling our legitimate expectations, I believe that as responsible citizens of this great nation, we should also hold ourselves responsible to basic standards of propriety regardless of the effectiveness or otherwise of government agencies and public systems. Like I have often said, we must realise that the most important things are not the things that the government will do for us. To create the New Nigeria, each Nigerian must take personal responsibility, realising that we are the government. We will get it right someday.

God bless Nigeria.

Philip Amiola is a teacher, writer and campaigner of empowerment. He blogs atwww.philipamiola.org and tweets from @PhilipAmiola.

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

South East civil society delegates emerge for National Conference.


 

Emeka Umeagbalasi

Civil society organisations in Nigeria’s South East have emerged among the first to select delegates

for the forthcoming National Conference.

The delegates, who were selected during a meeting of the groups held Friday in Enugu, the political capital of Igboland, are as follows:

1. Comrade Zulu Ofoelue – General Secretary, United Action for Democracy (UAD) & Chairman, Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), Enugu State. [B. Sc Economics, M. Phil (Edu). (From Abia State).

2. Comrade Emeka Umeagbalasi – Chairman, International Society for Civil Liberties and Rule of Law; B.Sc., Criminology and Security Studies; An alumnus of the International Leadership Program of the United States Dept., Class of June 2013; Chairman, CLO Anambra State 2001 to 2007, Vice Chair CLO Southeast Zone and Board Chairman, International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law since 2008. (From Anambra State).

3. Dr. Jerry Chukwuokolo – Secretary South East Zone, Campaign for Democracy. BA (Hon) MA, PhD (UNN). Formerly Chairman, Campaign for Democracy, Enugu State. (From Enugu State).

4. Eze Eluchie, Esq. President, PADDI Foudnation; LLB, Nigeria; Cert. (Health & Human Rights), Harvard. (From Imo State).

The groups said in a letter to Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, dated February 7, 2014 that they nominated the four delegates “given that 24 slots were allotted to Civil Society Organizations in Nigeria, implying 4 delegates for each geo-political zone.”

However, in a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, the groups “observed the following and called on the Federal Government to act upon them:

“1. That the number of nominees allotted to the Federal and State governments were too high just as the space for delegate nomination to Civil Society Groups was too few. We therefore demand for a suitable adjustment of both.

“2. We insist that Civil Society nominees to the conference who are to represent the South East Zone of Nigeria must be activists resident in and carrying out their activities within the geographical location of South East Nigeria. Any nomination of South East indigenes operating outside the zone would be faulty since such persons mostly lack knowledge of social-development issues in the zone. We therefore believe that only delegates domiciled in the zone are fully conversant with the day-to-day situation of the South East and are therefore most qualified to represent it.

“3. We call on all Nigerians to begin to organize pre-conference deliberations at national, ethnic, state, local and organizational levels in order to articulate an agreed position of the Nigerian people.”
Source News Express

Source: Radio Biafra.

Nigeria Needs A Healthy Society To Progress – Pen Criminal Dangote.


dangote

Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, has identified a healthy society as key to moving Nigeria forward.Dangote, who spoke at the Summit of the Private Sector Health Alliance while inaugurating the Nigeria Health Innovation Market, NHIM, Steering Committee, yesterday called for viable partnerships between the Nigerian private sector and the Federal government to enable the country
attain its Millennium Development Goals, MDGs.“There is no way we can progress without a healthy society even when
you look at it from the business point of view. Having a very healthy society is very important and key for us to be able to move the country forward.“I can see no reason why we cannot meet the targets of the MDGs, so the private sector must team up and partner with government so that we
can deliver on our MDGs,” he remarked.The Nigerian business mogul admonished the private sector saying; “It is really very important for the private sector to continue collaborating with the Federal government. I see no reason why we sit down comfortably in our air-conditioned offices and aesthetic homes while we are losing about
800 lives annually. It is unacceptable.“The rule of justice will catch up with us if we fail to act. Let’s stop too much talking and begin to deliver. No matter what is the innovation, unless there is commitment, we will not be able to
deliver.Dangote also stated that government needed to show willingness and readiness to get support so as to achieve its set goals.“It is not that people are not trying but we need to be encouraged,” he said.

Source: Radio Biafra.

How NNPC Illegally Diverted $20 Billion From The Federation Account -CBN Governor Sanusi.


 

CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi
By Sanusi Lamido Sanusi

I am pleased to stand before you and present a summary of my latest submission on this subject. The submission itself is about 20 pages long with 30 Appendices, providing documentary backing for all material statements. The background to this session remains my letter to the President in which I indicated that there was a difference between the value of crude lifted by NNPC between January 2012 and July 2013 and the amount of foreign exchange repatriated into the Federation Account. This difference was placed at almost $50 billion and I respectfully advised the President to order an investigation into a number of areas I suspected were responsible for leakages in oil revenue.

My letter was, sadly, leaked and published in a highly politically-charged atmosphere. The Central Bank was practically accused of involvement in politics and in December it was clear to me that no tempered and positive discussion would take place. In order to calm nerves and avert major crisis I agreed to a joint press conference with Finance Ministry, the Petroleum Ministry and also to present a common front at the National Assembly.

Since December, however, there has been an orchestrated campaign aimed at undermining our credibility and misleading Nigerians into believing that all monies due to the Federation Account have been either remitted or accounted for. I am, therefore, compelled to present to this committee detailed evidence that NNPC has in violation of the law and constitution been diverting money from the Federation Account, and involving itself in activities that warrant full investigation for more serious violations of the law.

I have established, in my presentation, the following:

1. That NNPC, in paying what it calls kerosene subsidy, is confessing to a number of serious infractions. First, I have shown, based on NBS data, that kerosene is not a subsidised product, and, therefore, the so-called subsidy is rent generated for the benefit of those in the kerosene business. Second, I have produced evidence that President Yar’Adua had issued a presidential directive eliminating this subsidy payment as from July, 2009. Third, these huge losses inflicted on the Federation Account have not been appropriated.

The burden of proof on NNPC is to show where they obtained authorization to purchase kerosene at N150/litre from Federation Funds and sell at about N40/litre, knowing fully well that this product sells in the market at N170-N220/litre. At what point was the presidential directive revered? NPA records would suggest that NNPC imports about 4-6 vessels of kerosene a month. Industry sources place the value of each vessel at $30m and the amount of “subsidy” per vessel at $20m. This means, at an average of 5 vessels a month, the Federation Account loses $100m every month to this racket.

2. I have also shown, in my submission, that claims by NNPC of spending the money on PMS subsidy are not credible. I have submitted proof that as from April, 2012, NNPC has consistently rendered returns to FAC indicating that it made no deduction for subsidy. This is after rendering returns on amount deducted monthly for 20 consecutive months to March, 2012. NNPC had previously explained that it had stopped deductions from 2011 and that the N180b taken in Q1:2012 related to fuel imports for Q4:2011. As from 2012, the directive was for NNPC to submit its papers to PPPRA, the relevant government agency set up and given the responsibility for verifying and paying subsidy claims. Having officially reported that it was not making deduction for fuel in 2012 and 2013, it is surprising that the GMD and GED of NNPC would now claim that $8.49b was used to pay for subsidy.

I am convinced that a major source of revenue leakage from the system is NNPC’s unverified claims for subsidy and unilateral deduction from the Federation Account. If we take the PPPRA template, subsidy/litre of PMS is about 1,136litre/MT, the subsidy is around N1.5b. This means that for every $1b claimed by NNPC as subsidy deduction, the corporation is claiming to have imported at least 100 vessels of PMS. In addition to the N180b reported in Q1:2011, NNPC had deducted N845 billion in 2011. According to the Farouk Lawan report, NNPC deduction for PMS subsidy in 2011 alone amounted to N1.7 trillion, if we add claims on Excess crude naira account. Any serious investigation into these matters will require an audit of NNPC’s database which it is statutorily required to keep based on subsidy guidelines. Only verification of the legitimacy of these claims can form the basis for a true reconciliation.

3. Based on NNPC’s disclosure to the effect that it shipped $6b worth of crude oil on behalf of NPDC, I have argued here that at least a part of this amount is due to the Federation Account. This part relates to oil produced from blocks operated under “Strategic Alliance Agreement”. I have given you three legal opinions that unanimously argue that these agreements merely serve to transfer revenue due to the Federation to private hands. I have also shown how, based on these arguments, NNPC has effectively given tax relief and concessions to its business partners.

Also customs duties and levies are treated as “development costs” and recouped from “cost oil” and “cost gas”. These companies recover OPEX and COPEX from production, take 20-70 per cent of the profit and pay no tax, on JVs in which the Federation was previously entitled to 55 per cent of the entire profit oil when Shell was the operator. I have given details of these transactions and my concerns in the paper.

4. Although the above 3 areas exhaust the areas covered in NNPC’s explanations, I have also taken time to submit my analysis of the crude-for-refined-product swap contracts entered into by PPMC. This is because a significant part of the domestic crude taken by NNPC is in these transactions. I have indicated where i believe we are losing money in these transactions.

Reconciliation
 :

Having thus explained my major opinions on NNPC‘s explanations, I will come to the reconciliation.

NNPC itself has submitted that it lifted $67b worth of Crude between January 2012 and July 2013. Of this, we have been able to agree that the following amounts have been remitted to the Federation Account:

1. $14 billion as equity crude

2. $15 billion as payment to FIRS by IOCs. They paid in crude which was lifted by NNPC on behalf of FIRS. There was nothing in our records linking the two transactions.

3. $2 billion Royalty payment to DPR by IOCs under similar arrangements as in (2) above.

4. $16 billion out of the 428b taken as Domestic Crude Paid in Naira, not dollar.

The following items are outstanding and need to be proven by NNPC:

1. $12 billion out of domestic crude sales yet to be remitted. NNPC has already disclosed N180 billion as subsidy payment in Q1.2012. If PPPRA confirms this number, we will adjust the balance accordingly. As for the balance of $10.8 billion, NNPC has publicly disclosed that 80 per cent applied to petrol and kerosene subsidy. We have already explained why this explanation is untenable and NNPC needs to provide the relevant proofs.

2. $6 billion shipped on behalf of NNPC. We have explained why some this belongs to the Federation and the need to investigate and audit the SAAS to recover amounts unconstitutionally diverted.

3. $2 billion “third-party” financing” we have not been given any documents explaining or proving this along with other claims around pipeline repairs, maintenance, strategic reserves etc.

There was no appropriation for these expenses and NNPC also needs to substantiate them.

In summary, it is established that of the $67 billion crude shipped by NNPC between January 2012 and July 2013, $47 billion was remitted to the Federation Account. It is now up to NNPC, given all the issues raised, to produce the proof that the $20billion unremitted either did not belong to the Federation or was legally and constitutionally spent. There is no dispute that $20 billion out of $67 billion has not been paid into any account with the CBN.

Our recommendation remains that this matter requires thorough independent investigation, as simple explanation will not suffice.

I concluded my submission with recommendation for the future, to protect the economy from these unsustainable losses.

I would like to make the following recommendations going forward:

Recommendations :

NNPC should stop collecting 440,000bbl daily as “Domestic Crude”. The amount of crude should be reduced to the refining capacity of its refineries based on a signed refining contract that clearly states what products are to be delivered for each barrel. Sale proceeds net of recognised processing costs are to go to the Federation Account;

All Crude for Product Swaps should be terminated and crude should be exported and sold at market price.

Where NNPC needs to generate cash flow to fund PMS imports, it can “borrow” crude, on the approval of the Finance Minister, for 90 – 120 days. This crude is to be valued at the ruling market price. NNPC may sell the crude, import PMS and sell through its outlets. It should claim subsidy from PPPRA like every other marketer and present all required documents. Thereafter, NNPC should pay back the full value of crude lifted to the Federation Account and retain the profit. Where NNPC delays payment, the amount outstanding should attract interest at commercial rates until payment.

All the SAAs entered into by NPDC should be investigated for constitutionality. The production numbers, Opex and Capex, and profit shares should be audited. The tax arrangements entered into with these parties should be reviewed and all revenues due to the Federation collected. If possible the SAAs should be terminated. Certainly, NNPC should be prohibited from entering into any SAAs in the future.

NNPC to account for subsidies claimed in 2010-13 by producing documentary proof of legitimacy.

As for what action needs to be taken on what has happened in the past, we express no opinion. The decision on what to do in this case rests entirely with the Government. My task is limited to raising an alarm over what I think is a development that is harmful to the economy, and establishing that the alarm was neither spurious nor baseless. I still insist that an investigation is needed to establish the extent of the losses and the nature of offence committed.

I believe I have placed enough information before this committee to make the point. The amount in 19 months may be $12 billion or $19 billion or $21 billion, we do not know at this point but if we extend the period the amount will increase anyway, since this has been going on for a long time. The first priority is to stop it. It is unsustainable, and it will ultimately, if not stopped, bring the entire economy to its knees.

Source: SAHARA REPORTERS.

Northern leaders sponsor Boko Haram.


 
Lt-General-Azubuike-Ihejirika-002

Chairman of the Niger Delta Nationalities Forum, Seigha Manager has said that the threat by members of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF)

to drag the former chief of army staff, Lt-Gen Azubuike Ihejirika to the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague, clearly shows that they are the real sponsors of the Boko Haram Islamist sect.

Manager, who said President Goodluck Jonathan has done well to deserve a second term in office, also warned that any attempt by any person or group of persons to deny Jonathan the right to contest in 2015 will cause chaos in the polity.

In this interview, he speaks on a number of issues.

Excerpts.

Do you think President Goodluck Jonathan has done well to deserve a second term in office?

I think he has done well and when you measure the performance of a person, you have to do that side-by-side with the performances of that nature within the same period. Everybody knows that former President Obasanjo spent his first four years in office from 1999 to 2003, traversing the whole world. Of course, you cannot blame him because Nigeria was a pariah country at the time. The CommonWealth of Nations had banned Nigeria when the former Head of State, late Gen Abacha killed Ken Saro-Wiwa. So, Obasanjo spent between 1999 and 2003 trying to get the rest of the international community to begin to now believe in Nigeria. If you look at the personnel that worked with Obasanjo at that time, you can remember people like Anenih, Ciroma, Danjuma and others.

These were people who are supposed to be fathers of minsters but they were the ministers then, so not much was achieved. In his second term, Obasanjo was able to sit down and that was when people like Ribadu, Okonjo-Iweala, Ezekwesili, El-Rufai and the rest of them came on board. They gave some light to his government and that was about two years to the end of his tenure. Of course, that was why he tried to come back through the failed third term project. When Yar’Adua took over from him in 2007, he also spent the first two years trying to sort out his personal health and at the same time trying to correct some of the wrong things he met.

So, Yar’Adua’s portfolio too was a very good one but when you look at Jonathan, you see the difference between a properly educated person and a politician. Jonathan is an academic. He started by ensuring that the right personnel work with him. So, you can see that a lot of technocrats are in his government. It takes quite a long time for serious planning. Somebody who wants to achieve must ensure he has good planning. Recall too that over $16 billion was spent for upgrading our electricity during the Obasanjo administration and all went down the drain. But, Jonathan has taken his time within the first two years to ensure that the first and most important thing was to repackage the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). He has successfully done that; PHCN is now in the hands of private owners. So, Nigerians can, within the next six months, be sure of between 12 to 18 hours of uninterrupted power supply. And those are the things that will truly show that he has succeeded. Now, if you want to truly measure Jonathan, you must not do that by his person because he is an introverted person.

He is not the extroverted type that talks a lot about his achievements. He is a man who works through sectors. He is not a man who goes from house to house giving money to people, non-governmental organisations or groups making noise but a man who works through sectors. That is why his performance in the aviation sector is now visible. Nigerians can also see what is happening in the agricultural sector and people can criticise it. Nigerians can see that electricity is epileptic but it has shown progress. If you look at the transport sector, you now see clearly that a lot of gigantic work is being put in place. So, Jonathan is putting structures all over Nigeria and you must move from point A to B to know that he is actually doing something. But, those who sit where they are to say that nothing is happening are actually those who are just relying on secondary information. We also know another category of people who are saying that he has not done well. These are people who have been benefiting from the system in one way or the other but because some of the loopholes and leakages from where they benefited in the past have all been blocked, such people are now ploughing back the little money left with them into the press and making a lot of noise that he is not doing well. I can categorically tell you that one of the problems that Jonathan has is his information management machinery. Without prejudice to the minister of information, I think there is more that the minister can do because selling the president and his activities is a big job; far bigger than what any of the ministers is doing in his or her own personal ministry. It takes the minister of information to tell Nigerians what aviation, agriculture, defence, power, health, education and other ministries are doing.

Can you say that Jonathan’s government has really addressed the three basic needs of man –food, clothing and shelter for the average Nigerian?

This is one of the misconceptions that we have. Food, clothing and shelter are the primary needs of man and these needs ought to be provided at the third tier of government. The Federal Government is not supposed to be held responsible for the survival of Nigerians at the family level. What is the local government chairman doing? What is the state governor doing? Of course housing, yes, the Federal Government should have been directly involved in that but you also know the politics that come with housing in Nigeria. What Jonathan government is doing is to provide the atmosphere and not necessarily getting the Federal Government involved in providing housing because the Nigeria factor is always there.

Has government provided the enabling environment?

Yes, it has. Remember that when the former Housing minister, Miss Amah Pepple was there. What they spent all their time doing was to galvanise the mortgage industry and the banks to ensure that the ordinary Nigerian had access to mortgage loan, so that you can build for yourself rather than the Federal Government giving money to certain people and they would build houses that are not habitable.

But has that produced any result?

Successfully, what it has produced is a $300 billion loan from China. That is the result of what that has done. It started from Amah Pepple’s time and when the president went to China and the Chinese government saw the potentials in what the Federal Government was doing to provide housing, they became interested because that is what happens in China. In China, it is not the government that is building houses; it only provides mortgage and that is why a new mortgage re-financing was recently launched in Nigeria. The aim is to reach ordinary Nigerians. So, no Federal Government official will be holding any money and asking the whole of his town or village people to come and benefit. People will be benefiting through where they work, at the primary or secondary levels; through the local or state governments or as a federal worker. Providing that platform is the most important thing that we have always lost. In the past, a head of state or president will personally give it to his cronies and they will mess it up. Before you know what is happening, billions of money have gone to people without the structure succeeding. You recall that during the Abacha time, Lateef Jakande, who is renowned for providing shelter for his people in Lagos was the minister for Works and Housing. I was a civil servant then and we all contributed money towards the housing scheme but because the Federal Government was directly involved, the money never came and Jakande never built a single house. Those are the type of things that Jonathan is trying to avoid; that’s why I said he is working with experts in their various areas.

The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) has just threatened to drag the immediate past chief of army staff, Lt-Gen Azubuike Ihejirika to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes during the military onslaught on the Boko Haram insurgents in the North East. What is your take on that?

The Niger Delta Nationalities Forum as a group wants to say that Lt-Gen Ihejirika is not from the Niger Delta but he brought a lot of positive developments to the Armed forces and that is why Jonathan’s government has succeeded in curtailing the activities of Boko Haram to a small section of the North. We want to urge those who are masquerading as members of NEF to take Ihejirika to ICC at The Hague. We will be happy if they do so and we’ll also urge them to make their names known. They shouldn’t send their organisational name alone; they should also be bold to list all the members of that organisation to the ICC, so that we, in turn, will use that opportunity to know them and submit their names before the United Nations and the United States of America. Recall that America had already classified Boko Haram as a terrorist group . And Jonathan’s government has been battling the Boko Haram insurgents. From a N4.9 trillion budget, one trillion goes to security just to battle Boko Haram alone and Nigerians are the worst for it. Today, instead of praising Ihejirika who had successfully resticted the group to a very tiny area in the North, NEF is saying he committed crimes against humanity. If that is what they truly mean, we are prepared to submit their names before the UN as the sponsors of Boko Haram. We know very well that former President Babangida, former heads of state; Gowon and Abdulsalami Abubakar as well as Maitama Sule are not members of that group. So, if these renowned northern leaders are not part of such group, who then are those people who call themselves leaders of that group? We believe that they are the sponsors of Boko Haram and we want them to carry out that threat.

Former governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife recently added his voice to those who warned that Nigeria would boil if Jonathan is not allowed to contest the 2015 presidential election. How does your group see those threats or warnings?

As a group from the Niger Delta, we are appealing to Nigerians that as Niger Deltans, we have paid our dues. We have supported every government led by the northerners or westerners from independence to date. It is either by coincidence or accident that a Niger Delta person became the president of Nigeria and we thank all Nigerians for the opportunity. We also think that giving Jonathan another four years will not cause Nigeria any harm; it will only unite Nigeria further and give us a sense of belonging that we are also part of Nigeria.

However, if any group, in the name of NEF or whatever insists on denying Jonathan his fundamental human rights of contesting for a second term, we can assure them that the Niger Delta will not be part of that Nigeria which they think they will use our resources to project. In simple terms, if they do that, everybody is going to answer his own name. If Jonathan is allowed to contest the election like any other Nigerian and Nigerians as a people decide not to choose Jonathan in the polls, there is nothing anybody can do about that because Nigerians have spoken. It is who Nigerians want that will be the president of Nigeria. So, if Jonathan contests election and Nigerians refuse to elect him as the president, so be it.

By SUNDAY ANI

Source: Radio Biafra.

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