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OPINION

Jonathan, Buhari Cuckolding in War Time

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By Festus Adedayo

Last Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari and his newfound friend, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, locked each other inside the sacristy of the Nigerian presidential Villa, christened Aso Rock. When they came out afterwards, both wore the visage of 3-year old Syrian girl, Salwa and Cuckold, a 1997 book written by Indian, Kiran Nagarkar.

Cuckold, a historical novel patterned after the narrative of Maharaj Kumar, may in a way explain the recent hot and adulterous romance between Jonathan and Buhari.

In the book, Kumar had attempted to win his wife, Mira’s affections in the midst of a ravaging war in the land. Set in the Rajput kingdom of Mewar of the 16th century, a wife named Mirabai refuses to see Mewar prince, Bhoj Raj, as her husband but thinks instead of Lord Krishna as her hubby.

Originally derived from the bird called cuckoo which has the tendency of laying its eggs in other birds’ nests, right from the Middle Ages, cuckolding became an allusion to a man or woman who has sex with an already married partner, sometimes out of wedlock and at other times, as a fetish where some married partners derive voyeuristic joy in watching their spouse engage in sexual liaison with another.

In 2010, Salwa caught the headlines after a trending video recording of her playing a game and laughing rambunctiously as warplanes dropped bombs very close to her home in Idlib, Syria. Idlib was Syria’s final major rebel-held stronghold region where Turkish-backed rebels and Syrian government forces fought in an atrocious battle to destroy each other. The world was aghast at what was perceived as Salwa’s emotion-dead response to destruction and death. It was later that her father, Abdullah Mohammad, told the world that he taught Salwa wartime laughter; that, rather than being scared at the sight and sound of deafening, frightening and destructive air strikes, she should deaden her fright with laughter, as a counterpoise and coping mechanism. He purchased fireworks for her and got her immersed in its frightening noise. With this, Abdullah taught Salwa that both – bombs and fireworks – were synonymous and loud noises, rather than creating fright, could be funny. It helped Salwa stay calm as cannons and bombs wreaked their havocs.

Dressed resplendently in blue colour traditional Ijaw attire, with a black bowler hat to match as picture from the presidency depicts, Jonathan and Buhari both cut the image of two unequally yoked afflictions besieging a single household. Traditional Yoruba call such Ile njo, ole nja – a household on fire and at the same time invaded by burglars – which keep onlookers guessing as to the depth of the unwanted guests’ incestuous relationship. Buhari was also dressed in a cocaine-white babanriga and cap to match. They both saluted each other in the COVID-19 elbow-jamming manner. Barely disguised but hidden behind their visage was a cheerfulness that made them look like a girl who titivates her hair with sequins on her first date.

What is the relationship between laughter and war? Put differently, is laughter permissible at times of war, when there is so much death and destruction? In all histories of war, this unequally yoked binary has always maintained an uneasy relationship. Kaiser, the German imperial power in the First World War, would not hear of such incestuous relationship between war and laughter. In a telegram to the Mayor of Berlin during the war, he demanded seriousness and self-constraints. Indeed, the Kaiser and German military of WW1 pronounced urban laughter a taboo during the war. The bleakness of war should make impossible all joy, they said. What manner of amusement can there be when death and suffering are going on at the war front? How can humour be legitimate in the city in times of war? This was why Carl Braun, also known as Carl Hobner, ran into trouble with the Berlin police in October, 1914 when he humorously mimicked German generals and dignitaries while the war was going on. For the Kaiser, pubs, amusement parks, theatres and cinemas should all be closed in war time.

That was not for Jonathan and his ‘fiend,’ the president. Judging by the discourses on parade in the political arena, Buhari and Jonathan, two hitherto sworn political enemies, must have come together to discuss 2023. They have held a couple of such. On the superficial, however, Jonathan, ECOWAS’ special envoy, had struttled into his former abode at the presidential palace to discuss the crises-ridden West-African country of Mali, with Buhari. But pray, are Mali’s crises more than Nigeria’s and who is the Nigerian problem being reported to?

But why would Buhari and Jonathan be discussing 2023 when there is war in Nigeria? Make no mistake about it: Nigeria is in a time of war.  Shrouded official figures of Boko Haram killings of Nigerians and their soldiers number hundreds; bandits slaughter scores daily in the Northwest; farmers cannot go to till the land for fear of being strafed to death by bandits’ AK-47 bullets; in Niger State, Boko Haram has ceded Nigeria’s territory to itself, pegging girls’ marriageable age at 12. Nigeria is at war. Her economy, even at the thick of the Biafran war, possessed more verve than the economy under Buhari. The Nigerian Naira is periodically sighted at red light districts, in undisguised dalliance with the Zimbabwean dollar and Congolese Franc, the three barely clad and smiling seductively like coquettes of nil worth that they are. Hopelessness had never been this proximate to more than half of Nigerians in almost a century. Should Nigerian leaders then be exchanging mutual political conviviality, like imperial powers partitioning Africa at the 1884 scramble for the black continent, ceding out and receiving presidential power, in this time of war?

With the 2023 election in the neighbourhood of a little over 12 months ahead now, permutations, alignments and projections are being shuffled like stock traders do on the floor of the stock exchange. Grapevines are rife with claims that President Jonathan is being lured by the rank of his old political adversaries to run for the Nigerian presidency again. On the face value, this proposition sounds very stupid, illogical and otiose. Why would those who ganged up to make the Ijaw-born ex-president’s name worthless a few years ago, be the same people he is embroiled in playing  tombola with today?

Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, took the dalliance between Buhari and Jonathan beyond hearsay when he warned Jonathan recently not to yield to the pressure to contest the presidency under the APC, same party that nailed his coffin in 2015. Speaking to the BBC, he said, “If I see the former President, I will tell him what I heard. I will tell him, don’t go anywhere because these people want to destroy your reputation.”

The calculation is said to be one of the dirty power gimmicks of the North to swiftly return to power if it eventually gets supplanted by a southerner in 2023. Surveying the horizon with a clean but selfish toothcomb, Ahmadu Bello’s progenies were said to have discovered, to their chagrin, that unless someone constitutionally barred from a second term was sneaked into Aso Rock, their fated birthright of Nigeria’s presidency could suffer on the sidelines for another eight grueling years. The most fitting sucker who can act as stand-in and take the bullet for such infernal project was a man the same Northern elders had tar-brushed as clueless, feckless and a recklessly irredeemable drunk whose life was incomplete without  shots of liquor.

With the connivance of Ahmed Bola Tinubu’s octopodal media machine, by the time Jonathan was going into the 2015 presidential election, the Buhari/Tinubu machine had mortally damaged his brand, rendering the name Jonathan as worthless as a degree from Trump University. The theatrics of dollar-baiting Yoruba traditional rulers who pointed effete traditional insignia at Jonathan’s head, with him kneeling down in their midst, ostensibly for traditional invocation for his success at the polls, was by them a mere alupaida – fraudulent stunt. His wife, Patience, was visited the most visceral denigration in history, so much that she had less worth than a horoscope. Today, other than a recent unexplained taciturnity she recoiled into, there was no embarrassing infraction committed by Jonathan’s wife that Buhari’s voluble Captain of Zi Oza Room has not. But, is it cluelessness, lust for power or outright unintelligence that will make a man, as the Yoruba will say, return to bid a hostile host good evening, in the same unwelcoming home where he was booed out and forced to say good night awhile ago?

Aside the fact that the Nigerian politician’s heart is reputed to be painted in red colour like a mass of scarlet berries, these politicians are certified gang of brand conmen. We were living witnesses to how then General Buhari, who we all knew for his intolerance to voices of dissent, with an Antarctica-like frozen views on national development, suddenly became branded as a born-again democrat. They put on him borrowed robes, forced him to wear agbada and Igbo Ishiagu, apparels of two people he never disguised his disdain for, while forcing him to dance to the adulterous music of Wasiu Ayinde on the campaign rostrum. Here was a man Nasir el-Rufai, in 2010, referred to as “an almost-70 principal (who) should retire,” a man he said was “perpetually unelectable” and who suddenly got deodorized and presented to the people as Angel Gabriel. El-Rufai, in that same statement, warned Nigerians that “a Buhari, the new Democrat, tolerant of views different from his own, is yet to evolve.”

As we were wondering how APC, PDP will navigate us into this potentially doomed Jonathan mis-presidency, another artful dodger climbed up the rostrum. Serial presidential aspirant, Turakin Adamawa, Atiku Abubakar, last week dismissed the zoning of presidential ticket debate as response to the current Nigerian leadership crisis. He made this known at the 94th National Executive Committee (NEC) of the PDP held last Thursday. “Where the president comes from has never been the problem of Nigeria, neither will it be the solution. There is no such thing as the president from Southern Nigeria or president from Northern Nigeria. There is only one president from Nigeria, by Nigeria and for Nigeria,” he said.

In the ecology of Yoruba’s dismissive estimation of people who fail to dispense with old analogies and embrace recent discourses, such persons are seen as being busy engaged with culinary masturbation by eating an agbonrin esin – one-year old venison. With this thesis that is irrelevant to the reality of today, Abubakar is apparently devouring this old, uninspiring agbonrin esin. In an earlier piece, I prophesied that Buhari may be the last Nigerian president. I didn’t mean that Nigeria may not exist, post-2023 but that we can never have a president who will think Nigerian or a Nigerian thinking at the presidency any longer. Buhari has so mortally destroyed that thesis of “where the president comes from has never been the problem of Nigeria” with his unexampled nepotism in office, so much that where the president comes from matters greatly now. In any case, shouldn’t Nigeria have now moved out of this perennial Atiku Abubakar presidential hustling to something more ennobling?

If you add this to Jonathan and Buhari’s embarrassing cuckolding in this time of war, you will have the complete picture of a Nigerian circus that has just begun yet another season of our anomie.

Malami’s State of Emergency and Chiwetalu Agu’s arrest

Either out of acute ignorance of the law, diffidence towards it, naivety or a consuming passion to appear hyperactive in the eyes of Aso Rock, the Nigerian security establishment will not stop exuding sickening optics in its operations, to the shuddering embarrassment of the world. Last week, it was another time for the advertisement of this gross lack in mental capacity. Nollywood star, Chiwetalu Agu, was arrested by some officers of the Nigerian Army at the Upper Iweka, Onitsha, Anambra State. His sin and as could be seen in a viral video, was adorning flowing apparel that had Biafra insignia on it.

In the video, Agu stood in a moving traffic in the commercial city, beside a bus painted green, the Nigerian colour and which had written on it, Chiwetalu Films. Shortly after, a soldier appeared, clutching a gun, in a menacing mode, his hand clutched to the rifle’s butt. All of a sudden, other soldiers appeared, held Agu roughly, even as he almost fell, dragging the actor like a sack of tomatoes, ultimately pulling and heaving him into a truck. He must have fallen a couple of times in the process. Before zooming off in a commando style with their prized victim, the soldiers fired repeatedly in the sky which resulted in a melee as people scampered for dear lives. Agu was said to have come to Onitsha on a charitable mission of sharing food items to the less privileged.

Later on, the Nigerian Army issued the raison d’être for this sickening assault. Agu, it said, was inciting the public and soliciting support for the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, (IPOB). In a statement issued by the Director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier General Onyema Nwachukwu, the Nigerian Army denied this globally viewed scene of brutalisation by its men, claiming that Agu was gently taken into custody.

“Dressed in a very well known attire of the proscribed group, Chiwetalu Agu was picked up for questioning while inciting members of the public to join the proscribed group. Though he attempted putting up some resistance when troops made effort to take him into custody, he was not assaulted or subjected to brutalization,” Nwachukwu said. The Nigerian Army then urged that people’s expression of their rights “must be done within the confines of the law, bearing in mind the imperative for peace, and national security.”

Released after 24 hours in the Army’s custody, the Department of State Services (DSS) will not be left out of the binge to impress Aso Rock. It reportedly re-arrested Agu last Friday. This was confirmed in a statement by the DSS Spokesman, Peter Afunaya, who said on Friday that “Army brought him to us. Justice will take its course.”

The day before Agu’s arrest, specifically Wednesday last week, Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, riled the country with another of his celebrated badly-rehearsed statements that brim with sickening flavor of partisanship. Speaking to the press after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, Malami said that, in response to the upswing in cases of violent attacks on individuals and government facilities in Anambra, with the approaching governorship election in the state, “you cannot out rule possibilities, inclusive of the possibility of declaration or state of emergency.”

One nexus links Chiwetalu’s arrest and Malami’s unconscionable statement: they cannot be supported by logic and common sense. Oduduwa is an insignia that Sunday Igboho and his separatist crew use as mascot. If the FG descends into another of its jaundiced decision to outlaw it, Yoruba people shouldn’t use the insignia of Oduduwa? What part of the Nigerian constitution forbids anyone wearing clothes or the colour combination that they desire? What evidence did the Army have that Agu incited the public on the side of IPOB? Agu has been known to always go nostalgic in references to Biafra. Yes, the Federal Government claimed it had outlawed IPOB, but did it outlaw Biafra? Biafra is a phoenix that cannot die, as long as the people in that geographical area remember their grueling fate in the hands of Nigerian soldiers.

Again, Agu is an actor and the Upper Iweka show might jolly well be a rehearsal for another film, as indicated by the vehicle he brought to the alleged locus incuo. More fundamentally, why  has the Army never felt that Sheik Gumi, who even accused it of systemic decimation of Islamic faithful, had breached “the imperative for peace and national security” thus necessitating the arrest of that campaigner for bloodthirsty hounds?

It is same partisanship that juts out of Malami’s emotive outburst. In the Southeast of Nigeria today, Imo State is where anarchy and total breakdown of law and order are mostly pervasive. That is a state superintended over by one of Aso Rock’s provincial lickspittles. How come the federal government has not declared a state of emergency there? A sizeable part of Niger State is in the hands of Boko Haram, while the president’s home state of Katsina appears to be Thomas Hobbes’ projection in his state of nature thesis. How come these states haven’t fallen victim of the emergency rule?

While most of these theoretical postulations by government are not wrong in themselves, the absence of equity in their operationality is the bother. In 1999/2000 when Gani Adams’ OPC was constituting a nuisance, Olusegun Obasanjo wielded the big stick, slamming him and Fredrick Fasehun, his own kinsmen, in jail for months. Buhari cannot be hounding IPOB and ethnic separatists while mollycoddling his bandit brothers who he has stubbornly refused to label terrorists.

Festus Adedayo is an Ibadan-based journalist.

OPINION

Ending the Menace of Oil Theft in Niger Delta

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By Braeyi Ekiye

Standing up for justice and vocally too, is about standing up for each other. It is our duty to speak for the nation’s lingering ills to be corrected, particularly when others cannot speak up. That is the critical power of the voice for the reconstruction of the Nigerian State to attain the desired real nationhood.

Former governor and now a senator representing Bayelsa West, Seriake Dickson recently stood up to be counted on a serious national issue; oil theft and its debilitating consequences on Nigeria’s economy and security.

Answering questions on a programme at Channels Television recently, Dickson pointedly accused some very important personalities from Lagos and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja for being behind oil theft in the Niger Delta.

Hear the Senator:” The Official system and oil companies are beneficiaries of oil theft in the Niger Delta”. Dickson bemoaned the absence of national values which he said, makes people to use the nation’s resources for selfish gains.

“People from Abuja and Lagos are the masterminds and the official system is not ignorant and not innocent. The official security system, the official oil system, the official federal system, all of it in its entirety. It’s a powerful system,” he stated.

Dickson wondered why a country like Nigeria that has been producing oil, exporting oil for the past 70 years was unable to have scientific way of metering, recording what leaves, what is pumped, what is sold and what is not sold? He concluded that it was a deliberate attempt at bleeding the country of her financial and economic wealth through illegal bunkering, superintended by local, national and international oil theft collaborators.

It is instructive that the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), had in November 6, 2023, through its Executive Secretary, Ogbonnaya Orji, said that oil theft was an emergency that posed serious threat to oil exploration and exploitation with huge negative consequences on economic growth, business projects and profit earnings by oil companies.

Orji stated that as a result of NEITI being a member of the “Special Investigative Panel on Oil Theft and Losses”, the organisation was aware that: “Oil theft is perpetrated mainly through pipeline clamping, illegal connections and major pipeline exploitation of abandoned oil well heads, pipeline breakages and vandalism of key national assets to illegally siphon crude into waiting vessels stationed in strategic terminals”.

NEITI maintained that it was a matter of fact that many members of the pipeline’s association were directly and indirectly involved in providing the skills and knowledge required to carry out oil theft.

Orji therefore, condemned the association for failing to put in place stringent regulations and appropriate sanctions to check involvement of their members.

While being hopeful that President Bola Tinubu’s leadership would spring a surprise to douse the fears, the apprehensions of critical Nigerian minds, like Senator Dickson, Ogbonnaya and many others, there is the compelling need for this administration to seriously interrogate this malignant ulcer on the nation’s oil industry. There is also the need to critically examine NEITI’s unsolicited solutions to the problems of oil theft that have held Nigeria’s economy prostrate and her developmental framework for accelerated growth in all facets stunted.

NEITI in a report titled: “Nigeria’s Battle With Crude Oil Theft: A Total of 4,145 Cases Since May 2023,” published by Arise News on November 23, 2023, revealed a staggering number of highlights of the severity of the issue at hand.

Also, in its weekly: “Energy & You” series aired on the NTA News Network, the NNPCL noted in Episode 7 that 344 crude oil theft incidents were recorded between January and April 2023. Meanwhile, by Episode 8 of the weekly NTA television series, NNPCL shared reports of crude oil theft incidents. A summation of crude oil theft incidents recorded between episode 8 (May 2023) and episode 30 (October 2023), revealed that a total of 4,145 crude oil theft incidents were recorded between May 2023 and the second week of October 2023.

According to NNPCL records, some of the more active hotspots for crude oil theft in the Niger Delta include; Ohaji-Egbema, Oguta (Imo), Ogbia, Imiringi (Bayelsa), Obodo-Omadino, Ughelli (Delta), and Egorobiri creek, Gokana, Iba community, Emuoha, Rumuji, Degema (Rivers).

Nuhu Ribadu, the National Security Adviser, had revealed in August 2023, that: “the country was losing 400,000 barrels of oil per day to crude oil thieves”. This led to commentators insisting that the persistence of crude oil theft in Nigeria lays bare the deep-rooted issues of corruption and severity of vulnerabilities in the country.

That, Nigeria lost more than ₦4.3 trillion naira to oil theft in five years, stolen in 7,143 pipeline vandalism cases is not news. NEITI had revealed this startling loss at the Nigeria Interventional Security Conference in Abuja, with the theme: “Bolstering Regulations, Technology and Security for Growth”, way back in November 2023. The conference was organised by the Pipeline Professionals Association of Nigeria. In a presentation at the conference, NEITI, the federal government agency, revealed that oil theft and losses in Nigeria have become a national emergency, and shall I say, a monumental embarrassment to the country.

Recently, Senator Munir Nwoko, representing Aniocha/Oshimili Senatorial Constituency shed more light on this disturbing matter. Nwoko said that certain security officials whose primary duty is to safeguard oil and gas assets, are actually complicit in this illegal trade. “They are driven by the financial gains associated with illegal activities”, the distinguished senator said.

The crude oil theft network encompasses a broad spectrum of individuals and groups as Senator Dickson rightly pointed out at the Channels TV interview and corroborated by NEITI. It involves foreign oil traders, shippers, bankers, refiners, top-ranking politicians and even military officials.

Providing data from the agency’s reports to back his claims, NEITI’s Orji, said: “NEITI in the last five years, 2017-2021, has found that Nigeria recorded 7,143 cases of pipeline breakages and deliberate pipeline vandalism resulting in crude theft and product losses of 208.639 million barrels valued at $12.74m or N4.325 trillion. NEITI reports also disclosed that during the same period, Nigeria spent ₦471.493 billion to either through repairs or maintenance of pipelines.

The criminal exploits, NEITI said, takes place, ‘most times in atmosphere of communities’ complicity and conspiracy of silence. This, therefore, calls for the Tinubu administration to swiftly swing into action to put an end to this dastardly act, or at least, reduce it to the barest minimum. After all, the state security agencies for effecting a quick resolution of this matter are at the president’s beck and call.

It would also be recalled that NEITI released empirical data of oil theft and losses way back 2009 and 2020 to the staggering figure of 619.7 million barrels of crude, valued at $46.16 billion or ₦16.25 trillion. In addition, Nigeria lost 4.2 billion litres of petroleum products from refineries, valued at $1.84 billion at the rate of 140, 000 barrels per day, from 2009 to 2018. Thus, the total value of crude losses between 2009 and 2020 is higher than the size of the country’s reserves and almost 10 times Nigeria’s oil savings in Excess Crude Account, NEITI said.

So, how long shall Nigeria continue to condone these criminal activities? The country’s inability to proffer answers to these questions will continue to keep Nigeria in a state of coma in her overall developmental strides, including her peace, unity and security.

 Ekiye writes from Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.

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OPINION

NIN-SIM Linkage and the Nigeria We Desire

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By Tunde Akanni

Rights and responsibilities are the twin words that best describe the inception and the increasing impact of digital technology, a major strand of which is the dynamic contemporary telecommunication services.  Even before the imminent(?) internet of things (IOT),  a lot is playing out  for human civilisational process throwing up existential challenges for citizens and duly requiring governmental interventions to cope with.

If only to safeguard innocent citizens from the antics of criminals, government is often quick at fashioning laws and penalties for violations.

The most far reaching legal intervention in this context is the Cybercrimes Prohibitions Act of 2015 with its most significant component being the Cybercrime Advisory Council.
  Incidentally, this Council is considered rather exclusionary by media and allied rights advocates.

The said deficit of the Cybercrime Advisory Council is a pointer to the fact that in climes such as ours, not much attention is often given by government to social needs, specifically in this case, Media and Information Literacy, MIL, already over hyped by the informed stakeholders. Unfortunately, some undiscerning members of the society keep falling falling victim of related laws.

Please follow this pathetic story, the audio of which I keep till date: Muhammad is a private school principal at Nyanya, an Abuja, suburb. As a side hustle, he runs a Point of Service (POS) business for payment.  Then came a criminal one day who had just robbed and killed his victim. Using his victim’s card, he requested two transfers of N500,000 each.

The criminal made several other purchases and also went to some other operators of POS.  Eventually he was found out and law enforcers had to track all transactions he had carried out with the victim’s card. Muhammad of Nyanya thus became a suspect and was promptly arrested. Thus began endless investigations… Muhammed ended up being detained for months in a prison.

You can imagine the psychological torture not only for Muhammad but his immediate family, employers and others who love him. He learnt his lesson in the bitterest way yet his ordeals could have been averted by sufficient exposure to basics of MIL. But life goes on. Indeed, it must be business as usual

Otherwise how do we explain the cacophony playing out after the expiration of the deadline of 29 March for NIN-SIM linkage? The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has confirmed that it would not be reviewing its deadline to bar owners of more than four SIM cards whose SIM registration data failed to match their National Identity Number (NIN) data.

The Commission explained that its position was hinged on its objective to clean the country’s SIM ownership database, and ensure that criminals could not take advantage of having multiple unlinked SIMs to carry out their nefarious activities.  The Commission’s resolve is hinged on the need to close in on the chaos of untoward ownership of multiple SIM cards with unverified NIN details. According to the  Commission “we have instances where a single individual has over 10,000 lines linked to his NIN. In some cases, we have seen a single person with 1,000 lines, some 3,000 plus lines. What are they doing with these lines?

The NCC has also provided Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) an extension till 31 July within which they are expected to verify all NINs submitted by subscribers with four or less SIMs, as well as bar those whose NIN fail verification with NIMC.

The Chairman of Association of  Licensed Telecommunication Operators, Gbenga Adebayo, further confirmed that members of his association would comply.

However, just the next day or so after the deadline expired, yours sincerely sighted no fewer than three reports announcing the extension of the deadline, one of them stating specifically to 31 July, referring to some reliable inside source.

What’s all the fuss about really? This NIN-SIM linkage is a simple exercise that only requires a subscriber to submit his or her NIN to the service provider to enable the service provider match details of the subscriber taken at the time of initial SIM registration process. This could be done through assorted windows including physically by visiting designated points. For techno-literate persons, they are merely expected to use short, universal codes for both submission and retrieval for those who may want to verify their own compliance as the media kept repeating deadlines.

The reality today is that barely literate persons and even illiterates now use telephones given its increasing centrality to a lot of human activities.  This is the basis of this writer’s advocacy for an earlier generalist nomenclatural label suggestion of “Digital Culture” in place of “Digital Economy” preferred by Minister Ali Pantami when he chose to rename the ministry he was asked to superintend over (https://www.thecable.ng/digital-culture-or-digital-economy)

Telecommunication industry players have been unequivocal about the key benefit of NIN-SIM linkage being the protection of subscribers and prevention of crimes such as exemplified above. For instance, on account of the huge amount involved, the POS operators may have documented details of whatever identity provided by the criminal. As a matter of fact, the truth may have been readily revealed in the course of such documentation. But the information literacy knowledge could only have been deployed based on certain pre-existing conditions such as NIN-SIM linkage offers an example.

Still on crime, another major advantage that may derive from the NIN-SIM linkage is the  ease with which law enforcers may trace and tackle criminals through their registered lines. Afterall, no one may be allowed to own any line except you are ready to play by the set rules.

Furthermore, this linkage thing will automatically ease economic  transactions  electronically since identities will be easily verifiable for concerned parties such as it pans out with regards to debit cards and similar devices.  NIN-SIM linkage is therefore the way to go and the exercise has to run with a good measure of discipline especially with existing spectacular anomalies of thousands SIMs connected to some individual.

At this stage, the campaigns executed so far need be audited to make for genuine inclusivity with regards to social, geographical and other possible lines. For instance, this task now requires a well designed stakeholder mapping. The mapping must ultimately reveal spots of irregularities and areas as well as interests deserving more attention.

Given that all media genres had been previously deployed perhaps for conventional announcements, how about aligning subsequent dissemination more enriched via regular media contents? How about being more scientific, relativizing media use depending on audience preference and possible perception? In reality this could translate to devolving dissemination more to the grassroots by enlisting the emerging broadcasters namely, community broadcasters and campus broadcasters.

Beyond liberalising the media to be used, campaigns must also be made to align with credible programmes with obvious trendy touch of management such as may ensure their global reach and enduring availability as may be made possible by platforms like Youtube and Spotify.

With affiliation to champions of multi-stakeholder philosophy like the UN’s annual Internet Governance Forum, IGF, for the management of telecommunication facilities, need NCC be reminded of the importance of democratised governance culture?

It is most certain that the involvement of the relatively cheaper (not necessarily technologically inferior) community and campus broadcasters will help to boost the NIN-SIM linkage campaigns and indeed others that may arise in future.

It will as not be out of place  for NCC to support the campaigns for the popularization of Media and Information Literacy. This certainly will help to resolve a lot of digital divide inspired issues

With the concern demonstrated on this exercise so far, NCC has demonstrated that it now has an improved corporate governance culture as advocated by IGF (https://punchng.com/nigerias-communication-governance-indifference/ ). It can however do better and even excel.

Akanni is an associate professor of media and development  at the Lagos State University. Follow him on X via @AkintundeAkanni

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OPINION

The Lessons of Okuama Tragedy

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By Michael Owhoko

Has Nigeria learnt any lessons from the Okuama massacre? Will the incident repeat itself or offer profound lessons against a future experience? In the journey of life, no individual or nation or country is immune from occurrences thrown up by circumstance, which may be pleasant or painful.

Lessons from such experiences are deployed to prevent possible future reoccurrence, failing which the same catastrophe would repeat itself.

In context, the gruesome murder of army officers at Okuama in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State, which transcends ethnic emotions and was accompanied by wide condemnations, is a confirmation that Nigeria has not, and does not learn from lessons, otherwise the calamity would have been avoided.

The incident was not the first of its type. It had happened previously at Odi, Bayelsa State; Zaki Biam, Benue State; and Gbaramatu, Delta State, yet it appeared that neither the Federal Government nor the Nigerian Army learnt any lessons from the earlier occurrences. This is evident from the Okuama saga, a proof of the country’s insensitivity to bloodshed and exposition of poverty in the policy making process.

This notwithstanding, the Okuama calamity has again thrown up another opportunity for lessons to be learnt. If Nigeria fails again, this time around, to learn from these happenings, then the country risks further carnage, which may possibly take a more complex form, with unmanageable and unpredictable consequences. It may be too costly for the country’s fledgling socio-economic balance and stability.

Therefore, the lessons are crucial and should be identified by government, to be harnessed as feedback for proactive purposes, to forestall future recurrence. It is a tragedy for any country with a relapsing experience, not to have a codified strategy encapsulated in a template to resolve related matters. In specific terms, what then are the lessons and takeaways from the Okuama disaster?

Lesson One: To have allowed a land dispute over fishing rights between Okuama and neighbouring Okoloba communities in Bomadi Local Government Area, Delta State, to escalate means there were no proactive measures and prompt concerted interventions by the Nigeria Police Force and Delta State Government, in response to petitions written by the Okuama community.

The community, through its lawyers, I. Ejedegba and Co., had written a petition to the Commissioner of Police in Asaba, Delta State, which was acknowledged on 31 January, while that written by the community’s leaders to the Delta State Governor was received on 2 February. This was over one month before the gruesome murder of the military officers on 14 March.

Since the Police is the first line of contact and statutorily responsible for civil security matters, they should have waded in upon receipt of the petition, to nip the crisis in the bud, aside the previous joint meetings held among the communities, the Police and the Delta State Government that yielded no solution. Under this development, the Delta State Governor should have been advised to wield the big stick by acquiring the land in contention for public interest, to end the crisis.

Lesson Two: Inviting the Army for a mediatory and peace mission to Okuama for the resolution of a land dispute between two communities that were not at war, was an error in judgement. The dispute was civil in nature, and it was only when the efforts by the Police and the Delta State Governor had failed, and there was evidence of likely escalation into a dangerous dimension beyond the capacity of the Police, that would have warranted the intervention of the Nigerian Army. It is not the responsibility of the Army to broker peace in a civil matter.

Lesson Three: Central to the killing of the military personnel in Okuama is presumably oil. Oil appeared to be the underpinning motive behind the horrendous and senseless killings. Mere land dispute between two communities could not have led to such a mindless massacre. Soldiers are deployed to the Niger Delta region to protect oil facilities, and in the course of this duty, they might have been marked as “enemy” by those profiteering from illegal oil deals.

Those involved in crude oil theft and other illegal activities, including the processing of locally refined products, might see the Army as an obstacle to their business interests. The military high command should have known this, and prepared the soldiers for any possible eventuality and collision with entrenched oil thieves.

The circumstances of their deaths showed that the military men were taken unawares. It was likely that crude oil thieves and other vested interests might have planned and taken advantage of the soldiers’ peaceful disposition to unleash mayhem on them in such a horrific and despicable manner.

Lesson Four: The mass destruction of Okuama by the Army in response to the death of the soldiers, without singling out the culprits, was unhelpful, as innocent children, mothers, the elderly, the sick and even pregnant women, were either killed, rendered homeless or died while trying to escape.

To bring pain on an entire community over the action of a few criminals, is indefensible. Reprisal attacks and collective punishments are incompatible with international law.

It should be recalled that after the destruction of Odi by the Army, the community resorted to litigation and got a favourable judgement, leading to the payment of a N15 billion out-of-court settlement as compensation. Justice Lambi Akanbi of the Federal High Court had condemned the government for a “brazen violation of the fundamental human rights of the victims to movement, life and to own property and live peacefully in their ancestral home.”

Since the Okuama experience is reminiscent of the destruction in Odi, it is likely Okuama may seek redress in the law court for compensation over the reprisal destruction of lives and properties.

Lesson Five: As the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, Bola Tinubu’s order to the Army was too hasty and reactionary, without taking into consideration innocent lives in Okuama that were caught up in the web. Granting “full authority” to the military to bring anybody found to have been responsible for the attack to justice was an obvious blanket licence for the military to invade Okuama.

Instead, the President should have ordered the security agencies and the Police to specifically intervene, identify and arrest the criminal elements in the community, while instituting an independent high-powered panel of enquiry to unravel the causes of the mayhem. A future restraint on the part of the President is imperative to douse tension and minimise further collateral damage.

Lesson Six: The Army’s decision to lock down and lay siege to Okuama without granting access to the Delta State Governor, the Police, humanitarian agencies, and even the press to assess the situation on ground, has given rise to speculations about the plight of the members of the community, particularly the innocent, helpless and indigent persons. This is unhelpful to the image of the Army.

By not allowing access, the Army has unwittingly opened its operations to speculations. For example, it was alleged that the Army killed over 5O persons in Okuama, with other survivors hiding in the bush, including old women, children, the elderly ones and even the sick, with no food to eat or water to drink. This is a gross violation of their fundamental human rights.

To avoid being put on the spotlight, it is imperative for the military to grant access into the community to enable humanitarian agencies and volunteer groups extend help and assistance to the innocent ones, to prevent further fatalities. This will also serve the interest of the Army’s reputation.

Lesson Seven: After the destruction of Odi, initial public sympathy for the military waned. The same is replicating itself in Okuama over the conduct of the Army. The Army, like other Federal Government agencies, is not a supreme institution that is above the Constitution and the Nigerian State, neither is civilian population subject to military laws.

Indeed, the Army is subject to civil authority under a democracy. Therefore, it must change its current tactics at Okuama, where it has refused access to the community, assumed being the sole information provider on goings-on, and subjected civilians to investigation, arrest and detention.

It is hoped that these lessons will serve as reference and guide for the state governments, the Police, the Army and the federal government in the handling of related crises to avert future disasters.

Owhoko, a Lagos-based public policy analyst, author, and journalist, can be reached at www.mikeowhoko.com, and followed on X (formerly Twitter) @michaelowhoko.

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