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EDITORIAL

NASS Security Breach by Shiite Sect

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Protests by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), better known as Shiites, demanding the enforcement of a court ruling that ordered the release of their leader, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and his wife, Zeenat, assumed a dangerous dimension last Tuesday, when a clash between the police and the protesters at the National Assembly, turned bloody, leaving two policemen with gunshot wounds.

Members of the Islamic sect who had staged a protest to the parliament, the second time in one week, having earlier led a similar protest on July 4, allegedly overpowered one of the policemen providing security at the gate, snatched his gun, shot two officers, broke down the gate to forcefully gain entrance and also vandalised and burnt some vehicles. The protesters returned on Thursday, this time to the Federal Secretariat, Abuja, where they engaged the police in another confrontation, throwing rocks, water sachets and other objects at the police who fired tear gas canisters and gunshots at them.
There was pandemonium in the area as workers scampered for fear of being caught in the crossfire. 

Security breaches by the Shiite sect have become one too many, since the arrest and detention of El-Zakzaky. In April 2018, there were violent clashes between the sect members and the police on the streets of Wuse 11 and Maitama Districts of Abuja, following attempts by armed policemen to disperse them with tear gas canisters and water canons. Similarly, in October 2018, a clash between the Shiite members and an Army convoy led to the destruction of vehicles, including an attempt to overrun the escorts to cart away the ammunition and missiles the troops were escorting, according to the army. 

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Trouble between the Nigerian state and the IMN began in December 2015, when members of the sect, in a routine religious trek, which the group had come to be associated with, blockedthe Kaduna-Zaria Road. The convoy of the Chief of Army Staff, Gen Tukur Buratai, who was travelling on the road at the time was held  hostage and pleas by the army for the sect members to leave the road fell on deaf ears, leading to a violent clash in which a soldier reportedly lost his life. The irked soldiers consequently invaded the residence of El-Zakzaky, where they killed over 300 people including three sons of the sect leader and arrested several others, including himself and his wife, Zeenat. The army however denied the mass killings. One year after his incarceration, Justice Gabriel Kolawole had in a December 2016 ruling ordered the release of El-Zakzaky on the grounds that the government’s justification of “holding him for his own protection” was insufficient.

This newspaper condemns in no uncertain terms, the refusal of the federal government to release El-Zakzaky, a move in total defiance of the provisions of the rule of law. The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has gained notoriety for disobeying court orders and detaining citizens unlawfully. This is alien to the democratic system of governance which Nigeria subscribes to and must not be encouraged by all right thinking citizens. The defence of the government that El-Zakzaky and his wife are being held in protective custody defies logic as already held by the court. 

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The state needs to learn from not too distant history. The handling of the Boko Haram sect and consequent extrajudicial killing of the sect leader, Mohammed Yusuf in 2010, by the police, is what has snowballed into a hydra headed monster the country has been battling with, which has come at great human, material and financial cost. The poor handling of the current situation by the government, in our view, has potential for worsening the precarious security situation the country is already challenged by, hence the need for an urgent resolution of the impasse, the first step which would be respecting the order of the court to release El-Zakzaky.

Be that as it may, the resort to self help by members of the sect is highly condemnable and must be treated by security agencies as the security breach that it is. While we note that every Nigerian has a right to lawful assembly and protest, as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution (as amended), members of IMN have, through their actions, abused this right and such actions must not be condoned.

It is in the light of this that we call for diligent prosecution of all those arrested in connection with the security breaches at the National Assembly and the Federal Secretariat, last week, to serve as a deterrent to others. The police has already charged 38 suspects before Magistrates Courts in Abuja for criminal conspiracy, mischief, unlawful assembly, obstructing a public official, disturbing public peace, rioting armed with deadly weapons and causing grievous hurt, under sections 97, 326,180, 149,107, 243, 113 and 267 of the Penal Code. This is a welcome development. 

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EDITORIAL

In Support Of The Ban On Open Grazing 

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After years of indecision, procrastination and dilly dallying, the Federal Government last week took a firm decision to ban open grazing of cattle across the country. The implementation of the ban will however take-off on a pilot basis in five states of the Federation-Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Nasarawa and Zamfara.

The decision was taken by the National Economic Council (NEC) after its meeting in Abuja on Wednesday.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who made the decision public on behalf NEC also said the Council equally banned the free movement of cattle and other animals across the Nigerian border from other West African countries, regardless of the relevant protocol of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) which guarantees free movement of people and goods within the sub-region.

We welcome the decision of NEC even though it is coming late in the day when the country has witnessed unnecessary spilling of blood from incessant clashes between Herdsmen and farmers nationwide.

The clashes which have become a national security concern, it is hoped will abate since the Herdsmen will by the new decision adopt to ranching which is the global best practice in animal husbandry.

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We are even the more happier that the decision was not based on political or  religious sentiments but a product of the report of the  technical committee earlier set up by Council under the chairmanship of Ebonyi State Governor, David Umahi.

Umahi’s Committee traversed the states where the farmers-Herders clashes have been most prevalent, i.e Benue, Taraba, Nasarawa, Plateau and Zamfara states. During the fact-finding visits, the Committee met with all stakeholders including farmers, security agencies, state governors, leaders of Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) and Miyetti Allah Kautal Horel, among others.

In all the meetings, ranching was canvassed as the most enduring solution to the bloodletting occasioned by the farmers-Herders clashes. The Committee was therefore, left with no better option than recommend the ban on open grazing of cows.

The NEC decision has at long last vindicated the Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom and his Taraba state counterpart, Darius Dickson Ishaku, both of who enacted the anti-open grazing law as a panacea to the frequent violent clashes between farmers and the Herdsmen. It can be said therefore, that the two governors understood the issues and the best solution and indeed acted appropriately. It is to their credit that  NEC arrived at the same solution the two governors proffered several months earlier.

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While we commend NEC for the courage to take this decision, the security agencies especially the police and the Department of State Services(DSS) must immediately commence the enforcement of this ban otherwise the Federal Government decision would pass as one of the  rhetorical statements commonly associated with politicians when confronted with difficult situations. 

As has been severally argued by experts, Nigeria with a little over 26million cattle should have no problem operating ranches since countries like India, Brazil, Argentina and the US with upward 100million cattle have long practiced ranching.

What more, animal scientists have since established that the nomadic cows produced less milk and poor quality meat compared to those kept in ranches.

The Federal Government should live up to its words to provide subsidies for animal husbandry as recommended by the Umahi Committee.

In our view, the subsidies should come by way of

If the NEC decision is properly implemented, Nigeria would have just began the journey towards a profitable and healthier cattle rearing business through the ranching model.

Most importantly, the NEC decision banning the free movement of

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EDITORIAL

The Owo Killings

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Nigerians appear  to be tired  and even  helpless  as a result of the nation’s drift into a  state of high level of insecurity.

The country that prides itself  as Africa’s most populous nation, and equally  boasting of its largest economy  has degenerated  over the years  to   become the killing field for terrorists, bandits, kidnappers , and other criminal elements in the society.

The killings of hundreds of the nation’s defenceless citizens, and even scores of security men have continued unabated because the government, especially the Federal Government has shown itself to be   weak and indecisive towards  handling the criminal elements.

Barely a week after the massacre  of farmers and other  defenceless   Nigerians in Borno and some states in the North, a group of criminals carried out another heinous  attack on a church in Owo , Ondo State on Sunday, June 5.

The attack, which was unleashed on   Saint Francis Catholic Church, Owa-luwa Street, Owo,  the headquarters of the Owo Local Government Area of Ondo State witnessed pandemonium  as gunmen struck leaving no fewer than 50 persons dead.

There has  been serious concern among Nigerians as the  attack on the church in Owo,  the hometown of the state Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, came barely a week after the Prelate of the Methodist Church of Nigeria, Bishop Samuel Kanu-Uche, was kidnapped in Abia State by gunmen which  the priest later identified as Fulani youths working with some security men.

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Reports had it that  the gunmen, who attacked the Catholic church, arrived at the premises, which is less than 200 metres from the palace of the Olowo of Owo, at 12pm when the Sunday mass was being rounded off.Reports further had it that  worshippers, mostly children and women, were killed in the attack, by the criminals  who were said to have thrown an improvised explosive device before they started shooting sporadically.Some videos posted online showed some of the slain worshippers in a pool of their own blood.

Workers of the Federal Medical Centre and Saint Louis Hospital, both in Owo, where the dead and the injured were taken to, said no fewer than 50 persons were killed in the tragedy.

While visiting the scene of the tragedy,  Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo state and the Olowo of Owo, Oba Ajibade Ogunoye have appealed to youths in Owo, Ondo state not to retaliate the killing of worshippers at St Francis Catholic Church in the town.

Speaking during his visit to the church and hospitals where survivors of the attack are receiving medical attention, Gov. Akeredolu,further  described the terror attack on innocent worshipers at St Francis Catholic Church, Owa-luwa Street, Owo, as a massacre and horrific.

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Akeredolu, who said he was terribly sad, noted that the attack was the most dastardly act that could happen in any society.He said the  security agencies lost no fewer than  two men and that the incident  was not an expected attack.

The Governor  expressed  his  condolences to those who  lost their dear ones to this unnecessary gruesome murder.

He declared that the ugly incident  must not happen again as the people must  very vigilant.

At the palace of the Olowo of Owo, Oba Gbadegesin Ogunoye,  Gov. Akeredolu  condoled with the monarch over the sad incident.Akeredolu said the gunmen made a mistake of attacking Owo, vowing that they will not escape justice.Like other men of goodwill we condemn in totality the killings in Owo, which we describe as callous, wicked and inhuman.

We are condoling with the government and people of Ondo state, the relatives of worshippers that lost their dear ones as a result of the ugly incident.

Once more, we call for a review of the nation’s security architecture, which has failed the nation in tackling the numerous security challenges. Without further ado, the much advocated state police is an idea whose time has come. Nigeria must embrace state police for its survival and existence as a nation.

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EDITORIAL

NPA as Den of Corruption

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The Nigeria Ports Authority, (NPA)is one of the agencies of the Federal Government notorious for corruption.  A body like NPA that should serve as a  cash cow for the government of the Federation  has unfortunately  been turned into an organ  for looting and stealing in high places.

Exactly a year ago, its former Group Managing Director, Hadiza Bala Usman was suspended from office, with an Administrative panel set up to investigate a number of allegations against her, mainly on illegal diversion of funds close to N 200 billion.

 While Nigerians continue to wait in despair for the official  outcome of the probe, another disturbing report of high level of corruption against the management of NPA came to limelight recently. 

Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts, Hon. Wole Oke has demanded explanation from the management of   NPA, over non-remittance of millions of dollars by terminal operators and the agency into the Federation account.

This followed the launch of a large scale investigation by the House committee into the matter. The probe came on the heels of 12 audit queries from the office of the Auditor General for the Federation on the financial statement of the NPA for the 2019 financial year. Of the number, NPA has only responded to one on the indebtedness of terminal operators to the government.

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The House of Representatives  has therefore began probe of the  unremitted multi-million dollars by terminal operator,  to the commonwealth.

The amount involved is about $852.094 million and N1.897 billion.

NPA however said the sum of N269.410 million of the N1.8 billion has been recovered while the balance of N1.6 billion “invoices processed on the encumbered areas remain unpaid”.

NPA said in its lame defence that bills raised on encumbered areas which remained unpaid is $19,169,459. This is a serious development ,  that should not be allowed to be swept under carpet as appears to be the case with the former GMD of the NPA.

Hadiza Bala  Usman who  did not conduct her self with the integrity  while at the agency. President Muhammadu Buhari approved her suspension, as a result of grave allegations against her.

She had to be probed as a result  at the instance of the supervising transport ministry, headed by Rotimi Amaechi.

Curiously before her sack, Usman was reappointed to continue heading the NPA in Janaury 2021 by President  Buhari several months before the end of her first tenure.

But the public is disturbed that there have been attempts to exonerate her of these allegations.  The former managing director of the NPA, has reportedly  been cleared of allegations of failing to remit N165 billion operating surplus to the coffers of the federal government.

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However, the 11-member committee set up by the ministry of transportation to probe the alleged fraud decided to shift its attention to allegations of insubordination to Rotimi Amaechi, the minister.

She was instead accused of ignoring ministerial directives and communicating directly with President Muhammadu Buhari.

Usman was originally suspended in May 2021 by the minister over an allegedly missing N165 billion but the committee did “not find any evidence” in its account reconciliation. We are calling on the Administrative Panel to make its report public for  the scrutiny of Nigerians. We are equally calling on the House of Representatives  to probe the Audit Report  indicting the NPA of unremitted colossal amounts in local currency and in foreign ones. It is no doubt a case of a case of high level of  corruption too many in NPA.

Corruption, sadly, continue to thrive in government agencies because of the present government’s lackadaisical attitude towards this monster. Matters must not and ca should not continue so for the advancement and well-being of the nation.

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