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OPINION

Triumphalism And Denialism As Fallout Of The 2023 Elections

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 By Magnus Onyibe

Justice Monica Dongben-Mensem, the esteemed president of the court of appeals, has expressed concern about the strain placed on the judiciary as a result of an excessive caseload, mostly attributed to the inundation of political issues into the court system.

Her Lordship disclosed that during and after the 2023 election period, politicians officially presented a noteworthy total of 1,209 appeals.

These appeals are presently receiving privileged attention, potentially eclipsing other matters of economic and social importance in the country, consequently relegating non-political legal concerns to a position of lesser priority.

In her analysis, Justice Dongben-Mensem verified that out of 1,209 petitions filed, five (5) were specifically addressing the Presidential Election Petition Court, while 147 pertained to the senatorial election. Additionally, 417 petitions were related to the House of Representatives, 557 were associated with the state Houses of Assembly, and 83 focused on gubernatorial elections.

Although the distinguished jurist identified the high number of election-related lawsuits during this period as being primarily attributed to a deficiency in internal democratic processes within the political parties, it is also important to acknowledge the existence of an additional contributing component, which is the necessity for more amendments to our country’s legislation, specifically the Electoral Act of 2022.

These revisions should aim to address the existing loopholes and ensure a more comprehensive framework, a responsibility that falls upon the legislators of the 10th National Assembly (NASS).

As the verdicts of the various election petition tribunals began to trickle in on September 6th, with the five (5) justices who sat over the Presidential Election Petition, PEPT, leading the charge, the political atmosphere in Nigeria has become fraught with multiple upheavals, with a good number of senators, members of the House of Representatives, governors, and members of state houses of assembly having their victories overturned.

As of the most recent count, the tribunals have invalidated the governorship elections in Kano and Kaduna states, as well as several senatorial and House of Representatives elections across the country, and the election of the current speaker of the Plateau state assembly has also been invalidated.

The current situation implies that there is likely to be a prolonged backlog of cases in the judicial system, as politicians whose election outcomes have been overturned will pursue further legal action in higher courts in a bid to revalidate their electoral success.

Initially, owing to number of elections over turned,supporters of the Labor Party (LP) believed that the tribunals were specifically targeting their candidates. However, they later realized that candidates from other political parties, including the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the ruling party All Progressives Congress (APC), and even the smaller New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), were also experiencing setbacks in the electoral tribunals.

Given that the LP and PDP presidential candidates are currently pursuing legal action to challenge the victory and assumption of the APC candidate as president, it is important to note that their claims are based on allegations of a technical malfunction during the transmission of the presidential results.

This malfunction supposedly facilitated the manipulation of the outcome in favor of the declared winner by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). However, it is perplexing to observe that the results of other elections, which were not reported to have encountered any issues with the electronic transmission of results, are also being contested and invalidated.

The point being made here is that some of the results of both the Senatorial and House of Representatives elections that were passed electronically into the INEC database and displayed via IReV and which were adjudged to be unassailable by those denying President Tinubu’s victory at the February 25 polls have been decided by the various state tribunals as being tainted.

The events seen in tribunals around the country, which have led some politicians to express jubilation via triumphalism while others exhibit denialism, indicate that the principle of justice remains impartial. The emblematic representation of justice, often shown as a blindfolded woman wielding a sword in one hand and a scale in the other, serves as a powerful embodiment of the concept of justice. In the context of the 2023 elections, in my view,this symbol has been used to impartially administer justice to all candidates involved.

It is plausible to surmise that the electoral tribunals around the country are working autonomously rather than in concert, resulting in distinct rulings tailored to specific cases.

In this context, if the judiciary is really seen to be biased towards the All Progressives Congress (APC), as claimed by the opposition, it is noteworthy that the two governors who have been removed from office by the tribunals are from the APC (Kaduna state) and the NNPP (Kano state) stables.

It is noteworthy to observe that there has been no instance of a reversal of a governor’s election conducted under the platforms of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) or the Labour Party (LP).
Does that not suggest that the judiciary is working independent of the influence of the ruling party?

Following President Tinubu’s inauguration on May 29, the opposition parties have mostly been in control of the election narrative, focusing on President Bola Tinubu’s academic history at Chicago State University (CSU) in particular.
As a result of that, all eyes have been focused on the duel between the triumphant candidate of the APC, President Bola Tinubu, and the denier,who is the APC’s flag bearer and former vice president, Atiku Abubakar.

Given that this conflict has now shifted across the Atlantic Ocean and is being considered within the jurisdiction of the United States court system, where significant action from the opposing sides has already played out,as the presiding judge in the US case, Nancy Maldonaldo has determined the ultimate victor between the two parties with respect to Discovery order of court on Chicago State University,CSU, our focus will solely be directed towards the presidential elections within this discourse.

To establish context, American attorney Angela Liu, the legal representative of former vice president Atiku Abubakar, lodged a formal complaint with CSU which president Tinubu’s alma mater requesting the disclosure of his alleged counterfeit certificate.

In response, Christopher McCarthy, President Tinubu’s attorney, sought to postpone the release of his client’s personal information, citing potential harm if done hastily. This legal tactic was utilized to allow sufficient time for the preparation of a comprehensive response, a common strategy frequently employed by legal professionals.

Coincidentally, similar to President Tinubu’s legal team, Atiku Abubakar’s lawyers also requested an accelerated hearing of the case in the United States court, presided over by Judge Jeffrey Gilbert. This request was made due to the potential harm that any further delay in obtaining the academic records from CSU could cause to the petitioner’s case.

It is important to note that, according to the Electoral Act 2022, introducing new evidence in Nigeria’s Supreme Court is prohibited after a certain period of time, thus making it time-barred.

On Monday, September 25th, which is the date that Judge Macdonaldo granted permission for the response to be submitted, President Tinubu’s legal team argued that the petitioner’s request would be considered a fishing expedition.

For the sake of those unfamiliar with legalese, it is important to clarify that the term “fishing” in legal discourse refers to a situation where the motive behind seeking the authority to inquire is unclear.

On the contrary, it is anticipated that upon the conferral of authority, a favorable outcome will ensue. According to law dictionary, it is typically uncommon for courts to approve such claims due to their tendency to be speculative in nature.

The ongoing legal dispute between former Nigerian vice president Atiku Abubakar and President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the courts of the United States of America bears resemblance to a previous incident involving former US President Donald Trump.

While preparing for his contest for the presidency of the US, Trump made claims asserting that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. Due to the absence of substantiating evidence, the individual in question was embarking on an exploratory endeavor, akin to a fishing expedition, with the intention of unearthing potentially compromising information by asserting that Mr. Obama is not of American origin.

Initially, President Obama refrained from providing his birth certificate as a means to refute Mr. Trump’s assertion. This situation subsequently led to Trump’s associates initiating efforts to obtain President Obama’s academic records through legal channels, albeit without success.

Eventually, President Obama chose to release his birth certificate voluntarily, thereby making it available for public scrutiny. Upon the release of this document, which served as confirmation of his birth within the United States, Donald Trump was ignominiously silenced.

Coincidentally, former President Trump had also taken measures to protect his personal and corporate financial records from authorities in the state of New York and the general public, both prior to and following his assumption of the presidency as the 44th president of the United States.

However, on Tuesday, September 26th, the city of New York successfully obtained official access to his financial records. Consequently, charges of fraud were brought against former President Trump and his two sons for allegedly inflating the value of their real estate asset in New York, namely the Trump Tower etc.

After employing legal measures to impede access to his financial records for nearly a decade,the regulator eventually obtained the aforementioned information. Upon review, did the regulator discover compelling evidence against President Trump that was anticipated to be very impactful or revelatory? Indeed, they did not. This assertion stems from longstanding claims that the real estate magnate, Mr. Trump, maintained connections with both organized crime and the Russian government.

During the prelude to the 2019 presidential campaign for re-election , opponents of Trump contended that he engaged in strategic politicking towards Russia due to a perceived influence the nation held over him, potentially stemming from his involvement in illicit activities on Russian soil.

The recent judgment by the New York Court reveals that Mr. Trump has been accused solely of engaging in the act of inflating the worth of his real estate holdings and nothing else. So, after all the hoopla regarding former President Trump’s finances, it turned out to be a little more than hot air as he was not found to be linked to any sinister activities as had been suspected.

This may be the case in the Atiku Abubakar/Bola Tinubu/CSU legal battle in the United States now that a superior court under judge Nancy Maldonado has ruled that president Tinubu’s CSU academic record (non-personal) must be released to the petitioner, as earlier ruled by judge Jeffery Gilbert.

In Nigeria, many have also referenced the instance involving former president Goodluck Jonathan, wherein he denied the request for the disclosure of his Doctor of Philosophy,PhD records from the educational institution from which he graduated . The university’s response to the Freedom of Information (FOI) request, in which they declined to give the information to a human rights and good governance advocacy group, has gained significant attention on various social media platforms.

While the veracity of the social media report remains unverified, the act of withholding or obstructing the disclosure of educational records to political adversaries is not an unprecedented occurrence in Nigeria.

At this juncture, it is apropos that we take a hard look at all the possible scenarios in the unfolding elections 2023 saga in order to have a good sense of the possible final outcome of the epic political battle between the ruling party and the main opposition party’s candidates for the presidency of our beloved country.

For the purposes of this discussion and conjecture, it should be noted that it is a well-established fact in Nigeria, as well as the rest of the world, that a male and a female can have the same name, particularly when the name is unisex, as in the cases of Chika, Uche in Igbo land, and Bola, Biodun in Yoruba land.

The prevalence of individuals sharing identical names is particularly widespread within the Hausa/Fulani region, where there is a significant number of perhaps up to one million Mohammed Abubakars who do not necessarily share the same lineage nor originate from the same locality or state.

The prevalence of shared names among individuals with origins from the northern region of our nation can be attributed to the historical practice of naming Hausa and Fulani individuals after their respective towns or villages of origin. Consider the late Mallam Isah Funtua, who was named after Funtua town, or Dr. Musa Kwakwanso, hailing from Kwakwanso village.

From a technical and political standpoint, it is plausible to consider the scenario where a female individual, other than President Tinubu who is male , is claimed to have gained admission into CSU. In this context, it is conceivable that both a female named Bola Tinubu and a guy named Bola Ahmed Tinubu, distinguishable by their middle names, may have been admitted into CSU around the same period.

And what if the clerk who documented Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s records at CSU made a typographical error and put female instead of male while carrying out the assignment? What if all the hullabaloo was caused by two (2) letters FE being unintentionally added to MALE to give the impression that there was a female Bola Tinubu?

The reason for raising the above posers is that these are political times wherein saying and doing things just to make political opponents furious or ticked off and fall into error are legitimate political weapons.

If the court has granted the petitioners’ full request, would this not amount to inadvertently giving aid to an opposition candidate, whom the intervenor has accused of conducting opposition research?

Is it not the reason why judges preside in the Temple of Justice with meticulous scrutiny, considering all aspects of a case, in order to ensure that justice is not only served but also perceived to be served?

William Blackstone, an English legal scholar, coined the proverb “It is better to err on the side of caution” in his influential 1760 book Commentaries on the Laws of England.

This statement provides a rationale for the legal principle in criminal law, commonly referred to as Blackstone’s ratio (or Blackstone’s formulation), which posits that “it is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”.

In trying to play the role of a devil’s advocate, one is of the opinion that proving a stolen identity case, which Turaki Atiku Abubakar’s lawyers are alleging and hoping would be the golden bullet to literally shoot down President Tinubu’s ambition and dispose him of his presidency following his election victory on February 25th, would not be a simple task, if not an impossible mission, and here are the reasons why.

So far, there may not be a female Bola Tinubu who has complained about being impersonated. If she is alive,she would have to be a witness or be joined in the case. If she has passed on, she must have family members that would stand in for her.

Otherwise, on what basis could it be asserted that Bola Ahmed Tinubu posed as a female Bola Tinubu in order to gain admission to CSU, given that no evidence of her existence is available?

My intuition is that the narrative may not resonate with the judges of the Supreme Court in Nigeria (assuming new evidence is admitted) if the petitioner is unable to produce the female Bola Tinubu, a purported US citizen, whom they claim has been impersonated by the incumbent president of Nigeria, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

Under normal circumstances (especially on moral grounds), I would agree wholeheartedly that the educational records of President Tinubu or anyone else occupying public office should be released to the public so that he can receive acclaim for academic excellence, especially since President Tinubu’s CSU transcript reveals that his performance is in the top 10 percentile.

However, I would want to protect my academic records if they were to be utilized for the purpose of doing opposition research on me. This is a commonly observed phenomenon in the realm of politics. President Tinubu and his legal team seem to consider the discovery litigation filed by the petitioner in this manner.

The reality is that it is in the character of politicians to behave in ways that confound the general public. This is because there are almost always underlying issues in political affairs, and only tackless actors in the political game fall into the pitfalls set by their opponents, who draw them into the public arena by means of blackmail and conspiracy theories.

The primary objective of shrewd politicians, however, is to convert the problems foisted upon them by their detractors (who are numerous) into promotion by doing things on their own terms.

Imagine if President Tinubu’s academic records are eventually disclosed as directed by Judge Maldonado later this week, and they turn out to contain nothing objectionable.

How would the legal and media teams of PDP candidate and former vice president Atiku Abubakar, who have been raising expectations and feeling triumphant, appear if it were determined that President Tinubu was admitted to CSU legally and did not engage in identity theft as has been alleged?

Although it would seem as if l an holding brief for President Tinubu, the purpose of this piece is to enlighten Nigerians on the subject by highlighting the fact that politicians have numerous reasons to be extremely complex and convoluted in their behavior.

The reality is that it is inherent in the essence of politics for players to engage in sophistry. Which is why I do not fault Nigerians who are perplexed by the ongoing political conflict between 2023 election winners and denialist politicians.

In reality, there are always grey areas in politics, as opposed to black and white divides. And what is taking place today between former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a classic illustration of things being in the grey zones of politics that can be perplexing to the uninitiated.

During the legal proceedings in 2019 involving Atiku Abubakar and Muhammadu Buhari, Mallam Abba Kyari, who served as the Chief of Staff to President Buhari at the time, made an allegation that Atiku was of Cameroonian nationality rather than Nigerian.

Supposedly, this can be attributed to his birthplace in Jadda, a region located within Adamawa State. Notably, Jadda was situated on the Cameroonian side, which had not yet been included in Nigeria prior to the vote that made Jadda a part of Nigeria . Despite the absurdity of the incident, it did occur.

During the presidency of Alh. Shehu Shagari from 1979 to 1983, under the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), there were allegations made against Shugaba Daman, a candidate representing the Great Nigerian People Party (GNPP), an opposition party to Shagari’s National Party of Nigeria, NPN in Borno State.

These allegations claimed that Daman was a foreigner from the Niger Republic. Consequently, it was determined that he did not meet the requirements to participate in the elections.

In the meantime, Alh. Daman was living a normal life in Nigeria until he confronted the NPN and was drawn into the arena of anomie, as he was deported to the Niger Republic after the NPN obtained a favorable judgment. Is that not ludicrous?

In 2003, I assumed a public office as a commissioner in Delta, my home state, through an appointment by Chief James Ibori, who served as governor from 1999 to 2007. Before the appointment was confirmed , I encountered vehement opposition from a local group that aimed to promote an alternative candidate for the commissioner position in my local government area.

However, their efforts were unsuccessful, as Governor Ibori selected me for the appointment instead of their preferred candidate.

In an attempt to obfuscate the situation, the local political interest group had disseminated a fabricated story, which can be characterized as a very deceptive falsehood, asserting that my origin was in Edo State rather than Agbor in Delta State.

The individuals provided a rationale for their assertion subsequent to discovering the existence of a family residing in the border town between Edo and Delta State (Igbanke) who possessed an identical surname to mine. The absence of any biological or social connection to the specified family in Igbanke, Edo State, was inconsequential to them. In reality, I hail from Ogbe-Umudein, the homestead of the kingmakers in Agbor Kingdom.

Following Governor Ibori’s dismissal of the false allegations and subsequent confirmation of my appointment, a period of calm ensued, and the individuals involved in the plot to undermine my political career revealed to me their collaborative efforts aimed at sabotaging my political trajectory. This exemplifies the nature of politics.

As a result of the foregoing, my advice to those splitting hairs over President Tinubu’s academic records or those ecstatic that the president’s political career is about to be derailed by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, whose status has shifted from denial to triumphalism as a result of his victory in the US court, is to wait and see what happens in Nigeria’s Supreme Court, which is the final arbiter on the matter.

While the Discovery case in the United States has kept optimism alive in Turaki Atiku Abubakar’s camp, Mr. Peter Obi’s ‘neck of the wood’ looks to have turned inactive. Will the US court’s finding that the discovery requested by the petitioner on President Tinubu’s academic records at CSU rouse the LP camp?

The petitioner, former vice president Atiku Abubakar’s legal and media team, has been ecstatic about the explosive evidence that the president’s comprehensive academic records at CSU, once disclosed, may contain.
And is there any sure guarantee possibility that when the new evidence (assuming it contains anything incriminating) is presented by the petitioner in his appeal to the Supreme Court of Nigeria, it will be admitted or permitted to matter in the case?

And because the Supreme Court is structured to consider not only the fundamental principles of law but also the existential realities of society by balancing the positive against the negative effects of its decisions, the highest court will likely have a lot to ruminate on.

Over all, the greatest beneficiaries of the hard-fought legal battles in the US and Nigeria would be the Nigerian electorate. That would be regardless of the triumphalism and denial of the 2023 elections by the ruling and main opposition parties and their presidential candidates, President Bola Tinubu and former vice president Atiku Abubakar.

The assertion above is underscored by the fact that at the conclusion of the arduous litigation, our electoral law would be stronger.

That is not discountenancing the fact that some attorneys in Nigeria and the United States have reaped and will continue to reap handsome financial rewards as a result of the rush to the courts by politicians who believe that the laws of our land, particularly with regard to the Electoral Act 2023, are too vague and therefore require the intervention of the judiciary, the third branch of government, and the interpreters of laws.

Put succinctly, as someone who considers himself an optimist that constantly looks for the positive side of bad circumstances (turning lemons into lemonade) and who finds oasis in deserts, even though some critics think that the 2023 elections have brought democracy to its nadir in our nation,I am of the opinion that anything that emerges from the intensely contested legal battles in Nigeria and the US courts between Mr. Peter Obi of the LP and Turaki Atiku Abubakar of the PDP over President Bola Tinubu’s victory in the election 2023 would undoubtedly deepen the practice of democracy in Nigeria by turning it from what appears to be a narrative of doom, gloom, and a fledgling state into lofty heights.

That is because our lawmakers in the 10th National Assembly will now see the obvious need to fine-tune the laws and rules governing elections, which need to be clarified and made watertight in order to avoid clogging the law courts with pre- and post-election litigation, which the Appeal Court President Justice Monica Dongben-Mensem has lamented as putting too much undue strain on the judges.

According to the jurist, the prominence of electoral issues is overshadowing and displacing other facets of life, such as commercial disputes and familial problems, which also need legal resolution. Moreover, the prioritization of political cases seems to be superseding other matters during the present election period.

Having been apprised of the above information, it is my fervent hope and l guess the expectation of all well-meaning Nigerians that the 10th National Assembly will tie up all the loose ends in the Electoral Act 2022 that have caused politicians to rush to the courts over election matters so that apolitical Nigerians can breathe.

Magnus Onyibe,an entrepreneur,public policy analyst, author,democracy advocate,development strategist,alumnus of Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, Massachusetts, USA, and a former commissioner in the Delta State government, sent this piece from Lagos, Nigeria.
To continue with this conversation and more, please visit www.magnum.ng.

OPINION

Irukera: How Not to Reward Altruism

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By Tunde Olusunle

Monday January 8, 2024, Nigerians woke up to the news of the suspension of Betta Edu, who was formerly the Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation. On the same day, Babatunde Ayokunle Irukera who was for six years Executive Vice Chairman of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, (FCCPC), was relieved of his appointment.

Both developments compelled an essay which I titled “On Betta Edu and Tunde Irukera.

The article was generously ventilated by the media even as I attempted to draw comparisons between two public offices with different pedigrees and also different “misdemeanours.

” Evidence in the public domain attested to blatant disregard for public service rules and mammoth thievery by one of the two people I wrote about.
The other public servant was uncharacteristically innovative, transparent and altruistic in his approach to work. He literally excavated a government agency in the throes of asphyxiation and obliteration, to a world class organisation, to local and international aplomb.

Much unlike me, I had, just weeks before, written about Irukera following the recognition of the agency he superintended over as “Government Agency of the Year.” This was evidence to how very closely I followed the good works of Irukera. The honour in question came from *Leadership* newspapers one of Nigeria’s most reputable tabloids. FCCPC was selected for the acclamation for “promoting fairness, regulatory stability and consumer protection within the marketplace.” My piece alluded to the uncommon-ness of Irukera’s attitude to public service which is construed by many office holders as licence for the wholesale looting and holistic decimation of departments assigned to them. Haven’t we just been told that nine officers in the Nigerian Customs Services, (NCS) were recently fingered in a N12 Billion scam?

In pronouncing the FCCPC under Irukera as an authentic public service exemplar, *Leadership* noted that since his appointment in 2017, the organisation had pursued “a transformative journey reshaping and rebranding the erstwhile Consumer Protection Council, (CPC).” Further, the newspaper noted that the organisation had been refocused as a “proactive and consumer-centric FCCPC.” Irukera’s oversight of the commission’s transformation and operationalisation beginning from January 30, 2019, *Leadership* noted had been a game-changer. Further still, the awarding newspaper said: “Following the enactment of the FCCPC Act, Irukera has demonstrated “unwavering dedication to fostering a dynamic and responsive regulatory environment.” The FCCPC under Irukera it was observed “has recorded numerous milestones across diverse sectors including healthcare, digital finance and electricity.”

According to *Leadership,* “one of the standout accomplishments of Irukera’s FCCPC is the strategic development and implementation of the Patient’s Bill of Rights.” That initiative establishes a comprehensive framework empowering patients with essential rights such as informed consent, confidentiality and unrestricted access to their medical records.” The Patient Bill of Rights, *Leadership* observed, “serves as a charter of principles delineating the rights and responsibilities of patients, healthcare providers and the regulatory body.” This is “an approach which fosters a culture of transparency, accountability and patient-centric care.”

Irukera’s leadership at the FCCPC witnessed other strategic initiatives and impactful interventions in other sectors, notably in digital finance, the power sector and in the nation’s bureaucracy. FCCPC was also catalytic in shaping Nigeria’s business environment which became more cognisant of the emplacement of fairness, consumer protection and regulatory stability. Local and foreign investors have continued to experience the transformative impact of standardised practices instituted by the FCCPC. This congruence between national and international standards, in combination with rigorous process auditing and the development of guidelines and standard operating procedures, serves as an imprimatur of quality assurance in the Nigerian marketplace. These are identified perspectives about Irukera’s exertions in public service as dispassionately enunciated by one of Nigeria’s more serious newspapers.

Confident of his transparent governance approach, Irukera was never shy of media engagement. On the eve of the last yuletide therefore, Irukera hosted the media where he noted that the FCCPC under him, had become a wholly self-sustaining department. According to him, the FCCPC made history in 2023 by generating N56 Billion. The feat was achieved by the simple enforcement of compliance to existing laws vis-a-vis the payment of penalties by defaulting companies. This was a novelty by any standards in a milieu where many government funded establishments overdraw their allocations, expend their internally generated revenues, (IGR) and still prospect for supplementation. Irukera noted at that media interface that the organisation hired new staff in strict adherence to service procedures. This assisted the federal government in taking off young, qualified, unemployed people from the streets.

Perhaps if every ministry, department or agency under the thoroughly dysfunctional Muhammadu Buhari regime had transparently recruited qualified youths across board, the national despondency levels will be mitigated albeit marginally. Much of what we picked up in the media space was hush-hush recruitments into “A-grade” MDAs like the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), the Federal Inland Revenue Service, (FIRS) and so on. After addressing staff emoluments, overhead costs and capital requirements, the FCCPC, Irukera noted gifted the federal government N22 Billion by way of remittances! This was a most un-envisaged precedence by a government agency which was picked up from the backwoods and transformed into a national model, even bride.

On Wednesday February 28, 2024, the Senate of the Federal Republic under the leadership of Godswill Akpabio, rubber-stamped the request of President Tinubu to sack Irukera. He was deemed inefficient! For those who have followed the quiet yet impactful revolution which Tunde Irukera has pursued in the past six years, nothing can be more preposterous. There wouldn’t be a joke more cruel, more malevolent, more unfeeling than such a testimonial to a man who has invested so much in service to nation at testy times such as we have been in the past decade. Irukera demonstrated that government concerns can be effectively and productively run. What do we make of an organisation like the National Board for Arabic and Islamic Studies, (NBAIS), which was in September 2022 reprimanded by the legislature for unjustified spending? The Senate Committee on Finance and Appropriation queried NBAIS for spending N8.5 Billion annually, on 6000 employees to administer examinations to 500 students. No heads have rolled ever since in the Professor Muhammad Abdullahi-led organisation.

The spiteful removal of Babatunde Ayokunle Irukera from office the way it has been done is gross injustice and colossal disservice to patriotism and sacrifice. There have been unfounded suggestions to the effect that Irukera was blackmailed as one of those who “substantially” supported former Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo’s bid to contest the presidential primary of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) in 2022. This is most farfetched for a technocrat like Irukera whose gaze is almost permanently fixed to his desk treating official correspondences, receiving briefs, holding meetings. In other climes, Irukera should by now have in the bag recognitions like the “National Productivity Order of Merit,” (NPOM) as well as a minimum investiture with a national honour in the category of “Officer of the Order of the Niger,” (OON). He chose, however, not to hunt for titular aggrandisement preferring to immerse himself wholly and completely in service to fatherland.

Irukera’s mistreatment echoes the manner Damilola Ogunbiyi who was Managing Director of the Rural Electrification Agency under the Buhari government, was unjustly treated in 2019. She has since moved on to the global heights of the “Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Sustainable Energy for All.” She is also Co-Chair of UN Energy. Irukera always had a flourishing law practice in the United States before heeding the call to avail his country of his multiplex competencies and experiences. He is not a jobber like many whose only CV is “being abroad.” For as long as he remained in his job in Nigeria, he ran his family by telephone, virtually. The manner he has been treated will be a major disincentive to Nigerians out there who would otherwise be glad to come contribute their quotas to national development. In Irukera, Nigeria has a brand ambassador who should be engaged to hoist the nation’s banner across the world. He deserves to be genuinely apologised to, pacified and given his flowers.

Olusunle, PhD, poet, journalist, scholar and author is a Fellow of the Association of Nigerian Authors, (ANA)

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OPINION

Interest Rate Hike – Knee on Nigeria’s ailing Economy! 

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Nick Agule

Introduction

The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) yesterday, 27th February 2024 briefed the nation on the outcome of its meeting.

A major decision that was announced was to raise the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) from 18.

75% to 22.75% (400 basis points).
The MPR is the rate at which the CBN loans money to the commercial banks.
The commercial banks in turn add their margins to the interest rate and charge higher rates on loans they extend to their customers. 

Here are the reasons why this is a wrong decision for Nigeria’s ailing economy and rather than being the “necessary steps to get the country’s fiscal and monetary health back to normal” as the CBN Governor announced, rather portends the killing of the economy:

  1. The CBN erroneously thinks Nigeria is suffering from inflation alone, but the country is suffering from stagflation which is a triple whammy of inflation, low output and massive unemployment.
    Tragically if a doctor gets a diagnosis wrong at the outset, the medication will be wrong and possible death of the patient becomes a reality! This is the situation Nigeria’s economy faces now!
  1. Inflation alone can be tackled with increases in interest rate because if there is too much money in the economy that’s fuelling demand for goods and services, if the MPR is increased, individuals and businesses will find it more expensive to borrow so the volume of money in the economy will be reduced. Also interest on savings will rise and individuals and businesses will find savings more attractive therefore demand for goods and services will fall. With the combined effect of less money in the economy and lower demand, prices of goods and services will fall (fall in inflation is achieved!). 
  1. With stagflation however, if you increase interest rates, you are doing more harm to the economy than good because you solve stagflation by increasing output hence creating more jobs. If you increase interest rate, it becomes more difficult for businesses to access credit to boost output. As businesses fold up, the unemployment situation worsens! To resolve stagflation therefore requires interest rates to be cut so that businesses can afford cheaper credit and boost supply which consequently boosts employment thus leading to economic recovery. Cutting rates risks increase in inflation but if the CBN is faced with the twin evil of inflation and low output/high unemployment, the economy stands a better chance of survival if there is a boost in output and a cut unemployment. If interest rate is hiked, the economy may never recover. But if interest rate is cut, output will rise and unemployment will fall and even if there is a side effect of increased inflation, it is a better outcome overall! 
  1. A rise in interest rates tackles demand-pull inflation. However, Nigeria’s inflation is not only demand-pull (rising prices due to demand). There is a massive cost-push inflation (rising prices due to increasing input/production costs) arising from the twin government policies of increase in fuel costs and foreign exchange unification. Due to the poor power supply in Nigeria, businesses are forced to run on generators and the increasing fuel costs are transferred to prices. Same for increasing transportation costs. Same for increasing costs of imported inputs. Even the increased cost of borrowing becomes inflationary as businesses transfer all these costs to the consumers! All these factors lead to rising prices without a change in demand. INTEREST RATE RISES WILL NOT RESOLVE COST-PUSH INFLATION!
  1. To make matters worse, the CBN increased cash reserve ratio (CRR) to 45% (which is the amount of deposits that commercial banks must transfer to the CBN) e.g. if a customer deposits N1m the commercial bank must transfer 450k to the CBN and only have 550k to loan to the economy. This curtails the bank’s ability to boost the economy which is in stagflation and badly needs a boost in output or slow death is imminent! Increasing interest rates in an economy that is struggling to breathe (low output and massive unemployment) is killing such an economy!
  1. Another major cause of inflation in Nigeria is supply shortages (from low output). Even if demand remains the same or even falls, if the supply of goods and services falls, there will be inflation! A good example is food. Because less food is being produced due to insecurity around the country’s farming communities and even where farming is taking place it is by manual labour that does not produce much, and imported food has become too expensive due to naira crash, and farm inputs have become more expensive due to forex crash, the supply of locally produced food to Nigerian markets has drastically fallen such that even if demand is held constant, the prices will rise. Demand for food and other necessities does not respond to MPR because people must eat therefore even if MPR increases to 100% consumers will not save because they must buy food to survive! The solution to the food crisis therefore is to reduce interest rates so that farmers can access cheap credit to produce more food! And urgent steps must be taken to mechanise agriculture and insecurity must be addressed! FOOD INFLATION WILL NOT RESPOND TO INTEREST RATE INCREASES!
  1. Ways and means. This is a process where the CBN prints money (credits the account of government without value) which throws a lot of liquidity in the economy which in turn fuels inflation. The same CBN then raises interest rates to try and control the same inflation they have caused! The CBN can best control this inflation by stopping ways and means! INFLATION WILL NOT RESPOND TO INTEREST RATE INCREASES IF WAYS AND MEANS CONTINUES! 
  1. Unemployment. With a massive unemployment approaching 50% and even those who are working are poorly paid or not paid at all, the CBN can provide data to support their conclusion that Nigeria’s inflation is demand-pull because empirical evidence suggests otherwise. At a minimum wage of N30,000 ($20), most households cannot even afford the basic necessities. Where is the demand the CBN is seeing? Interest rates increases in other economies have succeeded in taming inflation because 95% of the people are in jobs with money to spend whereas in Nigeria majority are living from hand to mouth! INTEREST RATE INCREASES WILL WORSEN THE UNEMPLOYMENT CRISIS IN NIGERIA!
  1. The CBN says interest rates increases will help with the foreign exchange crisis. However, those who are converting their naira balances into dollars will not stop even if interest rates rise to 100% because they want their money saved in dollars! Those who are looking for dollars to pay school fees and medical costs abroad will not stop because interest rate has gone up! Even if interest rate is 100% they will still buy dollars to pay the fees and medical costs! Interest rate increases rather does more damage to the foreign exchange crisis because as local businesses are unable to access cheap credit they will fold up or produce far less, Nigerians will thus continue to import goods including food thus worsening the exchange rate and exacerbating inflation. Only a boost in local production can support naira to become stronger and interest rate increases does damage to output!
  1.  To underscore that the CBN has been getting it wrong, since the interest rates have been increasing, inflation is jumping higher and higher and not slowing as expected. There is no other evidence that interest rates rises is the wrong solution because the patient (economy) is not responding to treatment (interest rate increase)! In other nations, interest rate increases have succeeded in slowing down inflation but not in Nigeria! Nigeria is suffering from typhoid (stagflation), but the doctor (CBN) thinks it’s malaria (inflation)!
  1.   With power supply at 3,000MW, the Nigerian economy is on life-support and cannot produce enough goods and services to meet even the basic demand. The Nigerian inflation is caused by low supply and not high demand as the CBN thinks! There can never be high demand when the people are multi-dimensionally poor! The solution is to boost power supply to at least 10,000MW in the first instance. Qatar where President Tinubu will soon be heading to are less than 3 million in population but delivery 12,000MW of electricity which is an average of 4,000MW per day to 1 million people but Nigeria is giving 3,000MW to over 200 million people! There is no way the Nigeria’s economy will do well with such abysmally poor power supply regardless of the interest rate! INTEREST RATE HIKES WILL NOT RESOLVE INFLATION FUELLED BY LOW SUPPLY WHICH RESULTS IN LOW EMPLOYMENT – STAGFLATION!

Conclusion:

To resolve Nigeria’s stagflation:

  1. The CBN is to STOP further rate increases and begin rates cut in line with President Tinubu’s pledge in his inauguration speech.
  1. The CBN is to reduce the CRR so that banks can have more liquidity to lend to the economy to boost ouput!
  1. Reduced rates will boost supply and cut unemployment leading to an eventual fall in inflation even if it rises at the first instance.
  1. Fiscal policy to release the power sector 100% into the private sector. Transmission company (a bottleneck in the power value chain) to be leased or sold to global power operators to boost the capacity. No sufficient power supply, no economy!
  1. Fiscal policy to mechanise agriculture, tackle insecurity, lease/sell steel plants, lease/sell the rail infrastructure, stop gas flaring and harness for power, domestic and industrial uses etc.

#ABetterNigeriaIsPossible

Nick Agule is an oil and gas expert and a public affairs analyst.

Twitter: @NickAgule

Email: nick.agule@yahoo.co.uk

Facebook: Nick Agule, FCA

28.02.2024

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OPINION

Combating Oil Theft Remains a Joint Effort between NNPCL and the Navy

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By Adewole Kehinde

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Henry Ford

I came across the interview of the former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, where he asserted that the lack of coordination between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPCL) and the Nigerian Navy could be impeding the strenuous battle against oil theft.

Quoting the former Senate Minority Leader, “I went to the office of the Chief of Naval Staff.

He had this screen in his office. He could see Takwa Bay; see that? And I said to him, ‘Sir, I didn’t know that you had all this.
That means we can track this and that.
So, what’s the real problem?’

“He said there is no linkage between us and NNPC. So, we don’t know what NNPC is doing.”

I remember vividly that on September 4, 2019, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Nigerian Navy pledged to deepen collaboration to tackle the menace of crude oil theft and attacks on oil and gas facilities.

The two organisations came to the resolution when the NNPC Ltd. GCEO, Mallam Mele Kyari, paid a courtesy visit to the former Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas (Rtd), at the Naval Headquarters.

Kyari, who applauded the intervention the Navy had brought to ensure sanity to the system in a statement he issued by the then NNPC Ltd’s spokesperson, Mr Ndu Ughamadu, noted that there was a need to do more as crude oil theft was still a potent reality in the nation’s oil and gas industry.

The then-Navy chief noted that the corporation’s intervention in resolving the challenges to its operations was welcomed.

Reacting to the Chief, Kyari said NNPC Limited was ready to support the Navy in any initiative it could come up with to further check the menace.

Also, on January 19, 2020, NNPC Ltd. GCEO Mallam Mele Kyari pledged to work with the Nigerian Navy to stop oil theft.

Mele Kyari said this when he visited the Navy Base Ojo, Lagos State, where he met with the then FOC Rear Admiral Oladele Daji.

In another development, on March 14, 2022, the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC Ltd.), Mallam Mele Kyari, paid a courtesy visit to the then Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, at the Naval Headquarters. The purpose of the visit is to strengthen the working relationship with the Nigerian Navy.

On April 2, 2022, the Nigerian Navy commenced what is evidently its biggest operation aimed at putting an end to oil theft and illegal refining in the Niger Delta, with the deployment of 40 ships, five helicopters, and 200 boats for “Operation Dakatar Da Barawo” (stop the thief) across the region.

On the same day, the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC Ltd.), Mallam Mele Kyari, assured Nigerians that with this special naval operation against oil theft in the country, Nigerians would begin to see measurable results in two to three weeks.

The then Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, disclosed that “Operation Dakatar Da Barawo” was in collaboration with Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC Ltd) and that it confirms the Nigerian Navy and NNPC Ltd’s collective resolute and deep commitments to end the menace of crude oil theft, illegal oil refining, and other insecurity within the nation’s maritime environment.

The then-CNS appreciated the contributions of Kyari and his staff for helping to activate the operation, which he said would last for three months. Gambo stressed that the Nigerian Navy, on its part, has over the years undertaken several operations geared towards ensuring unhindered exploration and exploitation of the nation’s maritime resources for economic growth and national development.

The then-CNS assured that the Nigerian Navy under his watch remains committed to eradicating all acts of criminality in Nigeria’s maritime domain and, by extension, the Gulf of Guinea for the economic well-being of the people.

“He assured me that Operation Dakatar Da Bararwo would involve dominating the nation’s backwaters through aggressive and intelligence-driven patrols.”

He adds: “It would also be dedicated to monitoring pipelines, blocking identified strategic estuaries to prevent conveyance of stolen crude oil from inshore to sea, and maintaining a credible presence along the coastline of areas prone to crude oil theft.

“This initiative became necessary considering the recent reports of massive revenue losses, which compelled all efforts to be emplaced to curtail the wanton crude oil theft and illegal bunkering of crude oil in the nation’s maritime environment.

“The operation would also involve aerial surveillance as well as the insertion of special forces to conduct clearance operations.

“The vast expanse of the nation’s maritime domain coupled with the limited capability of maritime security and law enforcement agencies, including the complex nature of maritime threats, make it expedient for maritime stakeholders to emplace more robust collaborative engagement to surmount these crude oil thefts, illegal oil refining, and other maritime security challenges.

“We are bringing at least 40 ships, between 100 and 200 Navy boats, and we are deploying between four and five helicopters, some of which will be coming and going throughout the period, and all Navy Special Forces and units will also be involved to make sure the operation is successful.”

On November 2, 2023, the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) BEECROFT discovered and halted the syphoning of petrol from one of NNPCL’s pipelines at Atlas Cove, Lagos.

NNS BEECROFT commander Kolawole Oguntuga said, “The thieves connected hoses and suction pumps to vandalised parts of the pipeline to steal petrol. After halting their activities, the NNPCL was alerted, and repairs on the vandalised parts of the pipeline have gone underway.

“Efforts are ongoing to detect and rectify other potential vulnerabilities along the pipeline to ensure a comprehensive approach to deter future illegal activities,” he said.

On July 17, 2023, the Nigerian navy evacuated the equipment of suspected oil thieves on oil mining lease (OML) 18, in Elem Krakama creek in Degema LGA of Rivers State.

Suleman Ibrahim, commander of the Nigerian Navy ship (NNS) Pathfinder, said the discovery led to the dismantling of multiple pipelines buried in the ground.

He said the equipment was used in syphoning crude from oil well 17 operated by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited.

The commander said its patrol helicopter noticed the unlawful activities on July 11, 2023, and that the excavation exercise was done in collaboration with the NNPC.

“We came here with members of NNPC and OML 18 resources; they are the owners of the well,” he said.

“We came with our heavy equipment to make sure we dismantled the illegal structures that were being used to syphon crude illegally.

“A lot of pipes have been recovered from the wellhead, and we have disconnected where they are being connected.

“As an individual, what I have seen here is way beyond what I have seen elsewhere. The level of sophistication is beyond our imagination.

“The individuals involved had taken their time, done a lot of measurements, and did welding on-site.”

He said the cartel involved in the act is being tracked, noting that they will be arrested and prosecuted accordingly.

With the above chronicles of cooperation and operation by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) and the Nigerian Navy, it would be wrong for someone to say that there is no linkage between the Nigerian Navy and NNPC Limited.

Kehinde is the publisher of Swift Reporters and can be reached at 08166240846. E-mail: kennyadewole@gmail.com

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