Saturday, 11 May 2013

Arrest me and Nigeria will be history, Dokubo-Asari dares Reps

Niger Delta frontline activist and leader of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF), Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, has dared the House of Representatives and leaders in northern Nigeria to arrest him if they can, adding that if they do, Nigeria will become history.
Dokubo-Asari, who addressed a press conference in Abuja, stressed that he stands by his words that “there will be no peace if Jonathan is not re-elected in 2015.”
The House of Representatives had, after a motion moved by Honourable Ali Madaki, called on the Inspector General of Police,  Mohammed Abubakar, to arrest Dokubo-Asari for saying that there would be no peace in Nigeria if President Jonathan was not returned for a second term in 2015.
The position of the House was supported by the Niger State governor, Alhaji Babangida Aliyu, who also called for his arrest.
Other northern leaders and organisations, including the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), also called for Dokubo-Asari’s arrest.
Responding to the various calls for his arrest, the activist said they were cowards if they failed to arrest him.
The former president of Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) also stated that any attempt to arrest him would make Nigeria a history.
He queried why those calling for his arrest turned deaf ears when some northern leaders, like former head of state and 2011 presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), General Mohammadu Buhari; Alhaji Lawal Kaita and a former member of the House of Representatives, Adamu Farouk Aliyu, among others, threatened to make Nigeria ungovernable if a northerner failed to emerge as president in 2015.
According to him, “I stand by my statement which I made in my earlier press conference. There will be no peace, not only in the Niger Delta, but everywhere, if Jonathan is not president by 2015, and I want to add that the Fulanis, who migrated and invaded our lands and continue to show disregard and disrespect to the owners of the country they came into, and people have tolerated them for a very long time, but that will no longer continue.”
Dokubo-Asari said a follow-up to Kaita’s statement that “Nigeria would be ungovernable if Jonathan was returned in 2015 was the insurgent groups from the feudal Fulani occupiers of the land, who are wreaking havoc, attacking military barracks and seizing weapons, while their foot-soldiers in the army are planning a coup, but we will not sit and watch.
“For every action from them, there will be an equal and opposite reaction and it will be disproportionate. Kaita made this statement, nobody arrested or call for the arrest of this fellow,  today he is walking free.”
Dokubo-Asari also carpeted Buhari for his inciting statement against Jonathan, adding that “Buhari made this statement in 2012, he was never arrested and nobody ever called for his arrest. In other countries, former leaders are being tried, but here, a man who overthrew a legitimate government continues to threaten us with blood and nothing has happened. Who is this criminal, who took our guns, our resources, to plan and overthrow a legitimate government and introduce retroactive laws that led to the death of innocent citizens, and nothing has happened.”
He also carpeted Aliyu,  saying “I am happy he remarked that nobody has the monopoly of violence, and I want to tell him that we have not had maitasine or Boko Haram in the south, we have not had Shahid revote in the south, we thank God that they don’t have monopoly of violence because we are going to give them surplus of violence.”
Responding particularly to Aliyu’s claims that the Ijaw people of the oil-rich Niger Delta did not have the population to match the North, Asari said “this Fulani invader is talking about population. We all know that they don’t have the number they claim to have and we know that we are more populated than they, and no figure they bring will be accepted by us.”
He added that “I am not afraid of arrest. I’ve been arrested before. I was put under SSS underground 10 months and 11 days. I was buried alive and I came out alive. I was detained for 22 months and 10 days, I didn’t give up the fight. I didn’t capitulate. So, I am not afraid of arrest and they cannot arrest me because if they do, the consequences of my arrest is that Nigeria will be history.
“The last time (Olusegun)Obasanjo arrested me, my arrest reduced Nigeria’s oil production to 700,000 barrels per day. This time, it will reduce to zero barrel, and we will match violence by violence, intrigues by intrigues, we are ready for them.
“Jonathan will complete his tenure of two terms whether they like it or not. For us, they don’t even exist because we pay them, and he who pays the piper dictates the tune. We pay them, we feed them, they are parasites, they are a burden on us, and these invaders must be expelled from our lands, they have no reason to be with us.”
Nigeria’ll not break if... —Edwin Clark
Ijaw leader and former Minister of Information, Chief Edwin Clark, has said come what may, hell would not let loose if Jonathan loses presidential election in 2015.
This is just as he petitioned the House of Representatives to investigate all inflammatory and provocative utterances made so far by Nigerians, especially northerners, instead of selectively hunting the duo of Mr Kinsgley Kuku and Dokubo-Asari for arrest by the Inspector General of Police.
The octogenarian, who granted a press conference at his country home in Warri, on Thursday afternoon, also asked President Jonathan to convoke a national conference of all ethnic nationalities, to determine the status of the country before the 2014 centenary celebration, without which the country may be heading for the parlous precipice.
The Ijaw leader said he was sure that Jonathan would accept whatever decision he got from the electorate in 2015, saying he would be the last person to cause chaos and anarchy for his successor if he lose.
Over 600 ex-militants threaten to invade NASS over Dokubo-Asari, Kuku
Over 600 ex-militants, on Thursday, threatened to storm the floor of the  House of Representatives over the summon on  Kuku and Dokubo-Asari, over alleged inflammatory statements on the 2015 presidential poll.
In separate statements issued in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, by the Coalition of Ex-Militants, under the aegis of the Leadership of the Peace and Cultural Development Initiative (LPCDI), and former member of the Senate Chamber of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Eris Paul, known along the creeks as Commander Ogunboss, insisted that the decision of the ex-militant was based on the perceived ethnic and parochial intent behind the summon by the House of Representatives.
While the LPCDI, through the statement signed by its president, Pastor Reuben Wilson, described the House of Representatives summon as “divisive” and “attempt to ignite the ethnic keg of gun powder in the country,” Commander Ogunboss described the summon as a show of undemocratic tendencies on the part of a serving governor, “who thinks he is protecting the unity of an already disorganised society by some northern cabals.”
In the statement of the LPCDI, Pastor Wilson said the posture of the House of Representatives was a show of bias and double standard in the monitoring of alleged volatile posture of the political class ahead of the 2015 poll.
“We observed that irrespective of the decision made by the representatives, they should be aware that the failure to arrest the likes of Buhari over his comment in the national daily on May 15, 2012; the national coordinator of the Coalition of Northern Politicians, Academics, Professionals and Businessmen, Dr Junaidu Mohammed, in another national daily of March 17, 2013, and Abu King Shuluwa on March 8, 2013.”
Paul accused the Niger State governor of bias and wickedness.”
“If Aliyu thinks he was sincere enough to protect the nation from an impending doom, let him call on the security agencies to begin their investigations with Buhari who, in recent times, has been crying foul over threats of bloodshed and revolt on the nations unity, as witnessed in Egypt andTunisia.
“We all know in this country that just minutes after Buhari’s presidential loss to Jonathern in 2011, riots broked out, where houses of the president’s loyalists were burnt in parts of the North, properties destroyed and lives lost, which we can attribute to present bombings of Boko Haram experienced till date.
“And if Dokubo-Asari’s statement is capable of creating disunity and disaffection on the nation’s unity, as Governor Aliyu and his counterparts in the House Representatives have stated, what will Buhari’s utterances be capable of?”

2015: It’s Either A Northerner Or No More Nigeria - Farouk Adamu Aliyu

Again, the issue of Nigeria and her governance took a centre stage yesterday, with the threat by a former member of the House of Representatives and a chieftain of the Congress for Progressive Change, Hon. Farouk Adamu Aliyu that ‘it is either a Northerner as President in 2015 or there will be no more Nigeria.
Aliyu’s outburst in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP in Abuja was a direct response to the ex-Niger Delta militant and leader of Niger Delta Volunteer Force, Mujahid Asari Dokubo declaration on Sunday that ‘there will be no peace in the country, if Jonathan was denied a second term’.
Aliyu, who was the 2011 CPC governorship candidate in Jigawa State, said it is unfortunate and sad that Dokubo is still walking the streets a freeman after making such unguarded statement.
He warned that “if Jonathan, Dokubo and their people want to destroy this country, then we are willing accomplices”.
The ex-lawmaker who claimed to be speaking for the people of the North warned that nobody has the monopoly of violence adding that such arm-twisting tactics as was exhibited by the Presidential Adviser on Niger Delta Affairs, Kingsley Kuku in United States some days ago,will not work.
“Few weeks back, Kingsley Kuku, the presidential adviser on amnesty programme in faraway America also went and made similar statements, which means President Goodluck Jonathan has already won the PDP primary election and the secondary election - that’s exactly what they are saying.
“Let me also use this opportunity to say on behalf of us in the north that nobody has monopoly of violence and that on behalf of the people of northern extraction, there shall be no one Nigeria if a northerner is not elected president of this country, because politics is a game of numbers and the Ijaw people are not up to one million or two million or even five million.
“So if in a democracy, the President will allow somebody to say if he is not voted, there won’t be peace – this clearly shows that they don’t want peace and thepresident is not a democrat,” he said.

2015 Presidency It’s either Jonathan or war–Asari-Dokubo

Leader of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF), Alhaji Mujahid Asari-Dokubo, said at the weekend that the current insecurity and tension in the country would be a child’s play if President Goodluck Jonathan fails to win a second term in 2015. He said that Niger Delta will ensure the nation does not know peace if Jonathan is prevented from returning to office after the 2015 general elections.
Asari-Dokubo told reporters in Abuja that peace will take a flight in Rivers State if Governor Rotimi Amaechi continues his romance with the northern leaders who are plotting against the President, even as he lashed out at former Head of State, Maj-Gen. Muhammad Buhari, saying he is unfit to rule the country again. He said: “Recently, the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta, Mr. Kingsely Kuku, made a statement in the United States of America that the peace being enjoyed in the Niger Delta will not be guaranteed if President Goodluck Jonathan is not returned in 2015.
This statement has been supported by several groups from the region.” According to Dokubo-Asari,” the statement has been attacked from several quarters, expectedly from the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and others. I want to go on to say that, there will be no peace, not only in the Niger Delta, but everywhere if Goodluck Jonathan is not president again, by 2015, except God takes his life, which we don’t pray for. “Jonathan has uninterrupted eight years of two terms to be president, according to the Nigerian Constitution.
We must have our uninterrupted eight years of two tenures I am not in support of any amendment of the Constitution that will reduce the eight years of two tenures that Goodluck Jonathan is expected to be President of Nigeria. “For a very long time, our resources from the Niger Delta had been used to feed and fund Nigeria, and some people are still feeling that Nigeria is their personal property, and they can manage it the way they like, but those days are gone forever, it can never come back again.
The days when we will elect a president and some people will annul our mandate, and place the winner of that mandate in their dungeon and murder him, such days are over and they will never come back again.” Asked if he was aware of claims that the President has not lived up to expectations, he dismissed such views as the handiwork of those he called greedy politicians. He said: “A lot of people will say that Goodluck has not performed as President. We from the Niger Delta have been fair. We criticize our own, but that does not change what I have always said that “monkey no fine, but him mama like am”.
We will continue to support and stand by Goodluck. “Our colonial operators left functional railways system and roads that were motor able, education and energy sectors that worked. But from Yakubu Gowon, to Murtala Mohammed, Olusegun Obasanjo, Shehu Shagari, Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, Sani Abacha, Abdulsalami Abubakar, Olusegun Obasanjo again, these infrastructure built by the colonial operators were totally destroyed. We are all aware of it and nobody can deceive us.
“But today, the story has changed, I made five hours from Benin to Lagos by road. Electricity supply is relatively constant now than what it was before Jonathan came in as President. The Abuja-Lokoja Road that was neglected is almost completed and several other roads across the country. People have started using the rail system again. This shows that Jonathan is silently moving the country at the direction to satisfy these in-searchable people, while we from the Niger Delta are not being satisfied.
“Before now, we have had university lecturers going on strike for over six months, people go to universities to study courses of four or five years, but end up staying five and six years because the lecturers were always going on strike, but that is not the case as at today because the government is handling the issue. Even at that, this is the most maligned government because some people think, and they have been made to believe that they are born to rule, and so many people who are very timid to challenge them have accepted it.”
On Buhari , Asari-Dokubo said: “They talk about Buhari, and I asked them what has Buhari got to show in all the years he had been in government. He was a governor in the North, later he became Commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources, he was Head of State, and he also headed the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), in all of these positions, he held, what are his achievements? “When we go to Dubai and other former Third World countries, we see the achievements of their leaders, if Buhari is so good, let him show us one thing that he achieved when he was in the positions he held before.
Let him show us one monument in the former North-Eastern that can be attributed to him when he was governor there. He has nothing to show. They’re saying he is not corrupt, and we were told how $2.8 billion got missing. “Group Captain Usman Jubril, a Muslim and former governor in the North, accused Buhari of corruption, that his cronies were given contracts in the Afri Project, Buhari’s cronies controlled PTF, we all saw it. But because some people love slavery, and they will say the master is coming with koboko, he will flog me if I don’t fall in line. President Jonathan is not using the hammer that IBB and Buhari used when they were in power. Jonathan is not using the retroactive laws that Buhari used to murder people that is why they see him as clueless.
They want him to start behaving like IBB, Buhari and Obasanjo, then he becomes a president that is strong”. On the rift between Amaechi and the Presidency, Asari-Dokubo lambasted the governor, accusing him of acting like a traitor. He accused the Rivers State governor of not respecting President Jonathan and creating an impression that Governors’ Forum was bigger than the Presidency. He said, “There is this war that is going on, instigated by Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi. The law does not know the Nigerian Constitution, and as a body, Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) as an association that is unknown, it has no legal power. Where the governors’ forum wants to usurp the constitutional powers of the president elected by the people, is something that will not be acceptable to anybody.
“They didn’t do it under Babangida, they also didn’t do it under Obasanjo, they didn’t do it under Yar’Adua, for Chibuike to arrogate this power to himself, he has been looking for trouble. Now he is saying that failure to provide security is an impeachable offence, that is what Chibuike is telling the President. Chibuike has been making statement, disparaging the person of President Goodluck Jonathan. “He went to Kano State and declared there that he will contest 2015 presidential election as a running mate to a northern aspirant, he is free to do so, but the South-South region will not allow traitors among us. And if Rotimi Amaechi has singled himself out as a traitor, he will be treated as a traitor.
There is nothing anybody can do about it. “Now that we have come out of slavery, nobody can take us back into slavery, it is not possible. Rotimi Amaechi with his background enjoys slavery. He knows his background and everybody knows him. If God has given him a lease of life to be with people who have freedom, he should appreciate what God has given him, but to think he will take us back to slavery, we will not let him do so. There is monumental corruption going in Rivers State under Amaechi. He budgets $3billion every year, and there is nothing to show for such budget in Rivers State, which is a one city state,” Asari-Dokubo alleged.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

" What Nigerians Pay The Federal Government" -The Opinion Piece That Got El Rufai Into Trouble With Jonathan

By: Nasir El-Rufai

This year, every Nigerian - all 162 million of us - man, woman and child will 'pay' the sum of N27,685 each to help run the federal government. What we cannot afford, government will borrow on our behalf to pay for its activities.
That is why the federal government, on behalf of you and I will spend the sum of 4.485 trillion (over four thousand billion) naira in 2011. This is against the backdrop that our entire oil earnings for the year cannot pay the generous salaries and allowances of politicians on the one hand, and the meagre pay cheques of other public sector workers on the other, while infrastructure and unemployment are barely getting attention.
When you walk into a government office to request for a basic service, the staff you meet may not even bother to reply to your greeting and barely has time to listen to you; the policeman that should protect you on the roadblock, stops you and demands for bribes and has no qualms shooting dead any motorist that refuses to give him twenty naira; the customs officer at the border who is supposed to stop smuggling takes a bribe and actually connives with the smugglers to bring in banned products into the Nigerian market, while harassing the traveller entering Nigeria with two new pairs of shoes; the hospital staff that, contrary to every professional oath, refuses to attend to dying patients because they are on strike; the soldiers who get so bored that they occasionally go on a rampage, using policemen for target practice. With live ammunition, of course; the politician who rigs himself into office then proceeds to loot the treasury: these are all the people whose standard of living we are spending nearly 75 per cent of the 2011 budget to pay for - and borrowing some after spending all our collections from oil and taxes!
It will cost nearly 2.5 million naira this year on average to pay for the salary and upkeep of each of Nigeria’s nearly one million federal public sector workers – in the police, civil service, military and para-military services and teachers in government schools and institutions. Whether this amount justifies the service that is rendered is left for Nigerians to decide. In all, the 49 line Ministries, Departments and Agencies specifically mentioned in the 2011 Appropriations Act will each cost an average of N49.49 billion to run.
We elect a total of 360 members to the House of Representatives and 109 Senators to make laws and enhance good governance by checking and balancing the excesses of the executive arm of government. For this privilege, the 469 members of the federal legislature and their support staff at the National Assembly will spend N150 billion this year. It is worth noting that NASS only passed 8 bills as at the end of May 2011. So assuming that they manage to pass another 7 bills before the end of this year, it would cost the Nigerian citizen an average ten billion naira to pass a single bill! This implies that to pass the 2011 budget (which allocates N150 billion to NASS), Nigerians paid 10 billion naira. An even more interesting statistic is the cost of maintaining every legislator every year. It works out to princely N320 million per legislator per annum. At this rate, every four year stint at NASS works out at N1.28 billion per legislator. No wonder machetes, guns and thugs are used at will to "win" primaries and the elections. How many new businesses can achieve a turnover of N1.28 billion within four years with net tax-free profit in excess of 50 percent? Is this social justice?
For the NASS, even the amount of N150 billion above is just what we can see easily but is not broken down for further analysis or accountability. There is a bit more hidden all over the Appropriation Act - another N1.595 billion was tucked away for "In-lieu of accommodation for the Seventh Session of NASS" and another N200 million for "Funding of House Resolution Mandates." What these two provisions mean is best explained by those that legislated them and the executive that will release the sums! What is clear is that none of these will ever be accounted for, or audited!
Last week, I wrote about the cost of justice. I got a few things wrong because I did not appreciate fully the unique role of the National Judicial Council (NJC) in the administration of the nation's judicial system. My friend and former classmate Mrs. Maryam Wali Uwais clarified this and educated me, for which I am grateful. The NJC's budget of N95 billion covers the salaries and allowances of all judges of superior courts of record in Nigeria - that is State High Courts and their federal equivalents, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. The NJC also funds the overheads of all the Federal Courts only - the Federal High Court and the appellate courts, as well as the salaries and allowances of all Federal Judicial support staff. The State Governments are responsible for the salaries of all other judicial staff (magistrates, support staff, etc.) and the overhead costs of all courts within their respective jurisdictions. It is therefore slightly more complicated to compute what it costs to keep our entire judicial system running without adding up all the budgetary allocations to the Judiciary in all 36 states. We will return to this sometime soon.
An interesting observation is the fact that the government says the problem of power shortage is a priority, yet the Ministry of Power only got 91 billion naira as total appropriation in 2011, while the National Security Adviser (NSA) controls and will spend 208 billion naira (Recurrent - N51 billion, Capital N59 billion, and another N98 billion for the Amnesty Programme!). This amount does not include the Defence budget. The Defence Ministry will get N348 billion, while the Police will get 309 billion naira. In other words, though Nigerians have never felt so insecure in recent history, the NSA, Police and Defence will spend a combined 865 billion naira - more than 2 billion naira a day, weekends included! This does not include the 36 states’ so-called security votes. Even state assembly members and local government councillors now have security votes. Clearly their security is more important than ours!
The point of these statistics is to show how expensive governance has become and how little Nigerians get in return. And the unproductive portions of our national budget have been rising rapidly in the last 4 years, to the detriment of capital investments in infrastructure and human development. Four years ago in 2007, the entire federal government budget was 2.3 trillion naira; today we are spending 4.485 trillion. In 2007, statutory transfers amounted to 102 billion naira or 5% of the total budget. Today, transfers amount to 418 billion or 9% of the total.
This year, the federal government will spend 495 billion naira or 11% of the budget on debt servicing compared to 326 billion naira or 14% it spent the year we finally exited from the London Club debt. More telling is the 1.05 trillion naira or 46% for recurrent expenditure in 2007 against the 2.425 trillion or 54% government will spend this year. Just four years ago, capital expenditure accounted for 36% (830 billion naira) of the budget. This year, the amount for capital expenditure has fallen to 25% (1.147 trillion naira - out of which N1.136 trillion is the budget deficit - that is to be borrowed!).
To the uninformed eye, the figures may seem to represent increases in all aspects, but to what cost, and to what effect? Apologists would want us to believe that the astronomical increase in the cost of government services can be explained by inflation, but even taking into consideration the high inflationary trend (thanks to Jonathan’s profligate campaign year spending), statutory transfers in the budget has gone up by a whopping 310%; debt servicing has a 52% increase; recurrent expenditure has gone up by 131% while capital expenditure has increased by 39% over four years. In real terms however, and accounting for inflation, the total budget has increased by 33% with recurrent expenditure going up by 58% while capital expenditure has actually reduced by 6%.
Facts and figures do not lie. Every figure used in this analysis came from official government records. What is the justification for allocating such huge amounts to running the government when a staggering 30 million Nigerians are unemployed? Only N50 billion has been budgeted to create employment, forgetting that money by itself does not create jobs without a well thought out plan to stimulate small and medium scale enterprises and the creation of appropriate regulatory environments. What are the strategies to ensure that these funds are not diverted? How many jobs will be created this year or in the next four years? Are our priorities right?
All these come down to the questions: Will government’s 4.485 trillion naira budget make life any better or even provide security for Nigerians? Can we feel the impact of this huge spending? Is the cost of governance justified? If we do not have the courage to ask these questions, we will be doing ourselves a disservice and endangering our people's future.

Monday, 22 March 2010

The Nigeria mass media on trial

It is dangerous to dismiss the current crisis at The Punch as a crisis at The Punch. It is a crisis in the national mass media, and therefore a national crisis. It began when Steve Ayorinde, the editor of The Punch, was asked to resign his appointment last month. Left with no choice, he penned a long, detailed petition against his former boss, the same man who had asked him to leave.

That man is Azubuike Ishiekwene, the company's Executive Director (Publications) . Mr. Ayorinde's comprehensive complaint to the company's Board of Directors, which was first published by i-reports-ng. com, seems to have resulted in Mr. Ishiekwene's suspension, but The Punch has announced no such measure. The complaints against Mr. Ishiekwene are many and extremely serious. They include allegations of collecting millions of Naira from corrupt politicians and governments in exchange for their protection and promotion, as well as millions and perks from businesses and organizations.

Mr. Ishiekwene is accused of being a consultant to the Lagos State Government, and of attending meetings of "media consultants" comprising Senior Editors and Chairmen of Editorial Boards, for which he is being paid. According to Mr. Ayorinde, newspaper houses that awarded the Man of the Year award to Governor Fashola were either paid N25million to do so, or as a reward for granting the honour. Some newspapers did not award the governor anything, but if they were considered important, they still received "a N15million largesse by way of contract (sic) to the Senior Editors, including, as I reliably learnt, Mr. Ishiekwene, who are consulting for the government," the former editor wrote.

In the private sector, according to the account, Mr. Ishiekwene seems to have had a presence as well, including a significant retainer by a bank. Mr. Ayorinde also cites the paper's August 2008 publication of the power sector probe report of the House of Representatives. Among those that took a hit in it was Rockson Engineering, whose chairman is Chief Arumeni Johnson. He also happened to be a friend of Mr. Ishiekwene's, who was away on vacation at the time The Punch was publishing the report. Mr. Ayorinde alleges that as soon as his boss returned, he called a meeting of newspaper editors with Chief Johnson at Sheraton Hotel in Lagos, and that Mr. Ishiekwene "personally distributed money to the guests, ostensibly to have them protect Rockson's interest in their papers."

Chief Johnson is also the Chairman of Arik Air, and "Mr. Ishiekwene and a friend of his who is also a senior editor in another newspaper, are both consultants to the business interests of Chief Johnson through their company, A&L," of which the 'A' stands for Azubuike.

Among other things, writes Mr. Ayorinde, when Arik bought a new aircraft in France in 2008, Mr. Ishiekwene, as a Board member designate of the airline and media consultant to Chairman Johnson, overruled the plan by the company's Head of Media Relations to take aviation correspondents to France for the show. Instead, Mr. Ishiekwene took a group of selected editors who flew Business Class and were each personally handed an allowance of $5,000 by the Punch Director.

For Mr. Ishiekwene, it would be a shame even if only a few of the allegations, of which these are a sample, were true. While it is often rumoured that many journalists are on the payroll of powerful politicians and businessmen, what Mr. Ayorinde has achieved is to provide a face for the menace in his compelling narrative, which he has invited The Punch to investigate, and for which he offers names of people who would be prepared to testify. There is no doubt that Mr. Ishiekwene's credibility and career are on the thin edge of the knife.

But it would also be a fascinating report The Punch turns in when its investigation is done, because its own credibility is also in question. To begin with, it turns out that in December 2008, investigative reporter Mojid Musikilu, who is now of 234NEXT, had written a protest letter to the management about the disappearance of a story he had filed on the indictment of Ogun State's Governor Gbenga Daniel for corruption by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Mr. Musikilu compared that experience with an earlier one, in July 2008 in next-door Oyo State. At that time, he said, not only did his story on the indictment of Governor Bayo Alao-Akala by the same Commission enjoy "generous usage," including front page treatment, even the EFCC's interim report on the governor's activities was published in full some days later.

The reporter complained about other stories: Early in 2008, another story he wrote on the EFCC's investigation of Patience Jonathan, the wife of then Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan was killed. And he was "advised against doing a story on the curious withdrawal of N3.6 billion from (the) Rivers State Government account with Zenith Bank." What this means is that in one year alone, that single reporter had at least three significant stories curiously spiked. The public is left to wonder how many other reporters at the paper suffered similar denials and frustrations during that year, or routinely. Mr. Musikilu's complaint to the management of The Punch pre-dated that of Mr. Ayorinde by over one year. It clearly indicated the reign of negative practices in The Punch newsroom, but the company does not seem to have shown any interest.

In retrospect, the Ayorinde story is not about The Punch at all, but about journalism in Nigeria. One cannot read Mr. Ayorinde's protest without coming away with the frightening impression that many senior journalists have now adopted a loose lifestyle of selling their influence to government officials and businessmen in exchange for cash and gifts without the slightest concern for any conflict of interest. This is a terrible burden because the power of the press lies in its credibility. If stories are being paid for, or editors bought in order to ensure specific kinds of coverage, a newspaper is, in effect, a doctored and worthless document. The reader is left to wonder whether a particular story was paid for with the objective of making an individual look good, or to make someone else look bad.

Similarly, if an editorial portrays an organization or institution in poor light, how does the reader know that the opinion is genuine, and not because the asking price of the editorial writer or Chairman of the Editorial Board was met? When is a story a hoax, a reward, a love story, a campaign jingle? When is the absence of a story the story? When is a headline a "head-lie"?

This is an ethical crossroads that the media, and not just The Punch, must take seriously. Nobody and no media organization should hide behind the fig leaf that this concerns only one newspaper and one editor. I do not see how anyone can be comfortable with the image of the nation's editors as a prostitution ring with its members ready to lie down for everyone that can pay the gate fee. The way forward is for the media houses, the Nigeria Union of Journalists, the Nigeria Guild of Editors and the Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) to conduct independent investigations if they wish to re-establish public credibility in their industry, knowing that further failures on their part would throw this trade open to intrepid citizen reporters.

Without doubt, the guilty editors must be identified and exposed in order to protect the good ones and give the profession a chance to survive. Those senior journalists who have nothing to fear should defend themselves by exposing the traitors or risk going down with them. There is no middle road and nowhere to hide.

* sonala.olumhense@

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Two Journalists Arraigned in Niger

The publisher of Liberator Newspaper, Kelani Mohammed, and Editor, Usman Saidu, have been remanded in prison custody over allegations of conspiracy and inciting the public against the Secretary to the Niger state Government, Dr. Mohammed Kuta Yahaya.

Mohammed, who is the publisher of the weekly paper and his editor, Saidu, were yesterday charged to a chief Magistrate court in Minna by the Nigerian Police as a result of an article published in the paper on the January 9, 2010.

According to the prosecution officer, the offensive article published by the newspaper accused the SSG of aquiring wealth illegally and purchasing properties around the state.

The dou were charged for conspiracy, defamation of character, inciting public disturbance, giving false information to the public contrary to section 92 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC).

The police said the report in the paper had been investigated and found out to be false information aimed at inciting the public against the person of the SSG.

Prosecuting lawyer, Mark Igwe, requested that the journalists be remanded in prison custody to prevent them from tampering with ongoing investigation.

Counsel to the accused, Mohammed Ndayako, said the First Investigation Report (FIR) signed by the Niger state Commissioner of Police, Mike Zuokumor, shows that the investigations had been completed and they cannot tamper with investigation.

He therefore pleaded that the publisher and his editor be granted bail.

The presiding judge, Salihu Tanko, however opposed the plea, saying they should be remanded in prison custody while counsel of the accused was asked to apply formally for bail. The case was adjourned to 26th January, 2010.

courtesy Thisday Newspaper

Monday, 21 December 2009

Security Operatives Arrest Editor

The State Security Services (SSS), at 10 a.m. today picked up Ahmed Shekarau, the editor of Peoples Daily, a newspaper based in Abuja.

An email from Abdullzeez Abdullahi, a colleague of Mr. Shekarau, stated that the three officers of the SSS who came to pick up Mr. Shekarau “said that the SSS DG wanted to have a chat with him (Mr. Shekarau).” The men gave no further details.

Mr. Abdullahi wrote that; “our belief however is that the invitation may be over the story of the succession battle for the VP’s slot in the event that Goodluck Jonathan becomes president. The story was published last Friday.”

He said; “The Public Relations Officer of the SSS, Maryln Ogah said she would get back to us with some information but still hasn’t done so and is not picking calls to her phone.”


Friday, 4 December 2009

Security service detains French journalist

The Social and Economic Rights Action Center, (SERAC), has reported the detention of a French television reporter, Frederic Tonolli, by the Nigerian State Security Service (SSS) in Lagos for taking footage in a private housing community in the Amuwo Odofin area of the city.

SERAC is a non-governmental organisation that works for the promotion of social and economic rights of which housing rights are a major aspect.

Victoria Ohaeri, the Programme Coordinator for the center in a telephone interview said that Mr. Tonolli, a reporter for the French television network, Channel Five, was arrested Wednesday, December 2 by the security service.

She said Mr. Tonolli was “vigorously interrogated and detained by the SSS for several hours at their Shangisha office in Lagos and eventually released later in the night with an order to report back the following day at noon.”

Mr. Tonolli was again detained when he reported Thursday December 3, 2009, according to Ms. Ohaeri, who said the French journalist is expected to leave the country on a scheduled flight tonight but have been told that he may not make that flight because operatives have yet to conclude their investigations.

Mr. Tonolli has requested consular assistance, but was denied the opportunity to make contact with the French Embassy in Lagos, according to Ms. Ohaeri who also claimed that the SSS has not furnished any legal basis for interfering with Mr. Tonolli’s liberty.

Ms. Ohaeri said her organisation is currently in dialogue with the SSS to seek the release of Mr. Tonolli.


Tuesday, 17 November 2009

What is Abike Up To?

The plot against the Freedom of Information Bill is crystallising at the House of Representatives. Notonly has its passage into law been frustrated, a new bill aimed at curtailing press freedom and suppressing the practice of journalism has been freshly manufactured.

Unfortunately for Nigeria , the same journalist-turned- lawmaker who sponsored the FOIB is also the initiator of "An Act to Provide for the Repeal of the Nigerian Press Council Act 1992 and Establish the Nigerian Press and Practice of Journalism Council" at the House of Reps: Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa.

The bill seeks to create two new bodies - the National Examination Accreditation Board and the Media Practitioners' Complaint Council - to prescribe fresh conditions for journalism practice in the country. Before one could work as a journalist, one must be certified fit by the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ), not any degree-awarding institution in the world!

And, in case of an infraction, a media house has to pay a fine of N100, 000 while the journalist, a first-time offender, has to pay N50, 000 and risks being suspended for a maximum of six months. The fine could be upped to N500, 000 and N100, 000 respectively where the corporate body or individual refuses to comply with rulings.

Nothing illustrates the ignorance and idiocy of the bill's makers (including, unfortunately, Dabiri-Erewa) better than sections 35, 36 and 37 that provide for the salary and conditions of service of media people. Every media organisation must pay a minimum of 20 per cent more than the salaries paid by the federal and state governments as well as private companies "as the case may be".

In the case of any media house that covers up to two-thirds of the country, it shall pay not less than 120 per cent more. The bill adds, in section 37, that the salaries and conditions of service of journalists are to be negotiated collectively among the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Newspaper Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN) and the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON). And, for the avoidance of doubt, the agreed salaries and conditions of service shall be published in the Federal Government Gazette and made available to every journalist (section 39)!What is Dabiri-Erewa up to?

We are surprised that such a trained media person could permit her name to be appended to this bill that is only fit to remain in the trashcan. It is unworkable. It is distasteful. It seeks to reverse all the gains made from the practice of journalism in the country over the past 150 years. Needless to add, it is the product of some idle minds that have nothing meaningful to contribute to the media and to national development.

We are at one with the Nigerian Guild of Editors, which has advised the legislators not to waste its energy on shadow-chasing. It is not their duty to educate journalists on the ethics of journalism. And they are not competent to legislate on how the business of mass communication and indeed other businesses should be managed effectively. Already, the Nigerian media is on the road to better self-regulation - the birth of the ombudsman. "Veteran" journalists like Dabiri-Erewa ought to have sought clarifications from those who know.

Perhaps, no other profession absorbs as much insult from unlearned persons as does journalism in Nigeria . This bill offers a good example: It abhors the independence of the council to be created to regulate media practice, as its chairman shall work at the pleasure of the Nigerian president and the minister of information and communications (both of whom might know nothing about journalism). In fact, the council's members shall be required to swear to an oath of secrecy - an apparent contradiction to the Freedom of Information Bill that canvasses openness and accountability.

Yet, journalism is the only profession assigned responsibility by the Nigerian constitution: "The press, radio and television and other agencies of the mass media shall at all times be free to uphold the fundamental objectives contained in this chapter (Fundamental Objectives and Directive of State Policy) and uphold the responsibility and accountability of the Government to the people." (Section 22) Where the government - the legislature, in this case - chooses to make rules to be used in holding it accountable and responsible to the people, it violates the supreme document of the land, and its rules are therefore null and void.

Our lawmakers would do well to make laws for the good governance of Nigeria before attempting to design a training programme for would-be journalists. It is to their eternal shame that Nigeria has become one of the most corrupt, most ungoverned, most discomforting nations in the world. Today, the easiest route to wealth is having access to public funds, not hard work or intelligence. When future generations shall probe into Nigeria 's ugly past, our current lawmakers' names shall be listed among those who acquired enormous wealth without doing any work.

The new bill sponsored by Abike Dabiri-Erewa is dead on arrival. Any time the house spends debating it is a waste. Instead, it should resurrect the FOI Bill which former President Olusegun Obasanjo refused to sign into law in 2007, which the current lawmakers are apparently afraid of, but which journalists, anti-graft agencies and the overwhelming majority of the Nigerian public have been yearning for.

All through the ages, tyrants have made vain efforts to gag the press. The army of detractors led by Dabiri-Erewa shall surely fail. If history is any guide, they should be educated by the third amendment to the United States constitution: "Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of expression.. ."

Courtesy: Leadership Newspapers