NIGERIA

NIGERIA is in a MESS!

The current situation in Nigeria today is nothing to write home about. Without any doubt, the current administration is trying to fight corruption but the way it is going about it raises doubt about whether much is going to be achieved.

In previous article, we highlighted that the problem in Nigeria is a System Failure but no one has actually listened or try to examine the contents of our suggestions. Take for instance the problem of our elected representatives overly enriching themselves. This is not a new phenomenal and not unusual. If only the drafters of the 1999 constitution have thought about it before now, they would have put measures in place to prevent such occurrence. Even now, everyone is directing their anger at the law makers but failed to see the weakness in the system that makes such action possible. We all know and as this adage goes that if a mad man is given a hoe, he will use it rightly meaning that if you present a fool with a glaring opportunity, he would make use of it to his own advantage. This is the case with Nigeria. The law makers are not stupid, they sees how the system allows the Executive arm of government to illegally enrich themselves with public money with no consequence and knows that the only way to get in the act is to enrich themselves by voting themselves some ridiculous amount in allowances. The problem therefore is not just the acts of the law makers but the system that allows such act with impunity.

This situation is not new in Nigeria. The set up of the country at independence is similar to what currently exists in the United Kingdom and in fact with regionalisation more pronounced as each region had its own seat at the United Nations. However, the one single act of the Aguiyi Ironsi government to unify the country, though well-intentioned to bring about unity to a fractious country was soon to be exploited by Ironsi’s successors. The move by the Ironsi government to introduce a unitary system of government into Nigeria after the 1966 coup brought the control of the nation’s resources under the central government and thus under the control of the few. Ironsi government saw this as a move to bring unity to a country about to break up but his successors sees an opportunity to be in control of vast amount of resources and thereby a means to enriching themselves at the expense of the whole country. Now you hear leaders and politicians of diverse persuasions advocating a change or a return to pre-Ironsi regime when not in power but when in power would do something different and in fact do nothing to effect the changes agitated prior to coming into power. We should stop fooling ourselves if we continue to hope that one of these leaders will bring these much-needed changes into reality. Nigerians need to wake up and realise that unless they are prepared to get involved and look for ways to effect the changes themselves nothing will change.

The first step in achieving this is to effectively tackle corruption. We in Nigerians For Referendum (NFR) are leading the campaign for a change in the law to rectify the weaknesses in the system which allows for people in power to misappropriate public funds without any fear of consequence. We are proposing a law that reverse the burden of proof in corruption cases. We need to do away with a system which requires the prosecutor having to prove beyond reasonable doubt that a corrupt official is guilty rather we are asking for a change in the law that will hold it that for anyone who holds or has held a public office, all the prosecutor needs to proof is that the person has wealth beyond what his/her legitimate means could justify or living beyond what his/her known earnings could explain and prima facie, such official or former or current public office holder is guilty unless he/she can prove that such wealth was amassed by legitimate means. Stating that such wealth was given to him/her by someone is not enough, the given source of the wealth should also be investigated and if such source is also found to be illegitimate, the officer and the source must be charged with similar crime. And anyone found guilty will have his/her entire property seized by the government and any money spent on anyone including money spent on their children or relatives will be declared illegally spent and the relatives and children would forfeit their wealth and entire belongings to the government (people) since such children and/or relatives would have used part of the money to achieve the status they are now including any educational qualification attained. Any educational certificate obtained by their children should be declared null and void and should not be accepted since it was obtained using stolen public money. There should also be no time limit as to when anyone or their estates could be prosecuted. We believe this is the only way to effectively fight corruption in Nigeria. We have no doubt that such law will remind erring politicians and government officials that even after they are dead and gone, their estate and or their children could be made to pay for their crime.

Reversing the burden of proof is nothing new in legal arena. Many advanced countries are using it to fight criminal gangs. As the issue of corruption in Nigeria is endemic, it may be the only way to effectively address the problem. In the United Kingdom for example, there is a law against proceeds of crime. This reverse the burden of proof from the prosecutor to the accused and makes conviction more likely.

 

AGITATION FOR SEPARATION

We have been hearing agitations for secession all over the country. At the moment, these agitations are peaceful however, the response from the government has not been peaceful which raises the concerns that the government may actually be playing into the hands of the extremists. Everyone and every tribe have a right to self-determination so long as this objective is pursued peacefully and legally. The response from the government has however made it impossible to actually determine how widely popular these agitations are. The Nigeria government needs to approach these agitations in a more professional manner. We are in a democracy and the rule of law must prevail. A given example is when the nationalist party of Scotland - Scottish National Party (SNP) sought to break away from the United Kingdom by asking for an independence referendum for Scotland. Most people including myself thought at the time that the referendum would be won by the SNP as opinion poll suggested likewise. However, when the question was put to a vote in a referendum, SNP was well defeated. Not only that, when shortly the United Kingdom voted in a referendum to leave the European Union and the SNP raised an issue of calling for another independence referendum, they were duly punished by the Scottish electorate in a snap election called by the British Prime Minister – Theresa May as the SNP lost many seats to their opponents who were campaigning against independence referendum. The leader of the Scottish National Party admitted in a post election address that her party has been punished by the Scottish electorate for suggesting another independence referendum.

There is a lesson to learn from this. You will not know how popular a cause is until it is put to a test and the voice of the few appears much louder when not listened to or when the few are not allowed to air their view. When the SNP started their campaign of wanting an independence for Scotland, David Cameron, the then British Prime Minister did not say he was going to prevent the referendum vote or prevent the proponents of Scottish independence from airing their view but rather he stated that this was an argument he and others opposed to Scottish independence would win which he did when it was eventually put to a vote of the Scottish people.

We understand that the problems in Nigeria today gives little to be admired in the country staying as one single entity but the federal government and in fact the politicians needs to embark on a path that address people’s concerns and give them hope. This is what is missing in Nigeria at the moment and this is the main reason why it appears that many people do not have or have lost interest in the Nigeria project.

The federal government is not controlled by a single region but consists of politicians from the various regions and it is these people that are colluding to deprive the people the benefits that a single Nigeria could offer. The government should give people hope by giving power to the regions and let the regions once again be in charge of their own destiny. When this is done, let us see if there will be any yearning for secession and if there is, let that region put it to the vote of its own people.

We currently have a situation in which various groups are issuing threat and counter threat and the response from the federal government is to quote the law and send state armed elements to quell the agitation. This will not address the problem and as a matter of fact, it will only make it worse.

Firstly, the government needs to take the agitation away from the mob and into the National Assembly to be debated by the elected representatives of the people. This will at least prevent a rule by the mob. This will give the people immediate hope that their voices are being listened to and their agitations are being addressed.

The outcome of such discussion in the National Assembly will then informed the next step to be taken by the government. We understand that there had been a National Conference in the past but the outcome has never been implemented. These need to be discussed at the National Assembly and the outcome agreed upon should be implemented. There is no going away from the fact that Nigeria is currently not practising true federalism and this is why we have to return to pre-Ironsi regime. Power and control of resources need to return to the regions. This will give real power to the regions and the people will have their destiny back in their own hands. As accountability will now rest with their own people any blame for their situation will be placed on their own people.

We believe the situation in Nigeria today is a ticking time bomb but unfortunately those charged with running the country appears not to perceive this or hoping it will go away by itself. Concrete actions need to be taken to address the problems before the situation get out of control.

 

Folorunso Makinde

President

Nigerians For Referendum (NFR)

www.nigeriansforreferendum.co.uk
Email:
nigeriansforreferendum@mail.com

Tel. + 44 - 07574342640