Saturday, December 29, 2007


Some people called it, but others of us most certainly didn't see this one coming. According to the BBC, reports say Nuhu Ribadu has been told to tender his resignation in readiness for further studies, having "been ordered to attend a one-year policy and strategic studies course in central Nigeria." Any surprise that this comes on the heels of the Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello scandal (see Nigerian Curiosity's take), which Yar'Adua and Aondoakaa were quick to 'dash' the EFCC, with it's nearly full Christmas hamper? What does this mean for the EFCC? and Nigeria's fight against corruption? Chris Albin-Lackey, researcher on Nigeria at Human Rights Watch, told Reuters that if Mr Ribadu's suspension goes ahead, "the day he leaves office will be the day the credibility of Nigeria's 'war on corruption' is entirely destroyed".


However, the EFCC for some time now has been staggering blindly and it could just be the breaking point needed to get Nigerians to finally call Yar'Adua and his AGF to order and demand that they elucidate on their strategy to win this war on corruption, with or without the EFCC.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Wishing you all a Merry Christmas (and a belated Barka de Sallah!!)

Saturday, December 15, 2007


This story in The Observer (Guardian) has enraged all who have read it so far. We need to do something about this perverse form of child abuse. I am sure it's going on in many states in Nigeria but the situation in Akwa-Ibom is of the utmost urgency. There needs to be a way to stop these fake pastors from preaching such hateful messages that end in violence being inflicted on helpless children all in the name of promised prosperity. These ostracized children need to be cared for. The Child Rights and Rehabilitation Network (basically, the man and his wife who currently care for these kids) needs to be supported in their efforts. They are currently being supported by Stepping Stones Nigeria but this is not enough people. We need to draw the attention of Nigerians to this atrocity (among many others in the ND but the focus of this post is on these children who have been convicted on false charges (based on the prophecies of "pastors") of witchcraft and are being brutally assaulted on a growing scale). If anyone can (or knows someone who can) help us get in touch with the Governor/Deputy Governor, First Lady, or any government official of Akwa-Ibom state, please email us at or Any other ideas on how to stop this madness are more than welcome.

Thanks to In My Head & Around Me and Naijablog for sharing this story.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Just what we needed...

Only just stumbled on this Economist article but was shocked to hear that Nigeria is West Africa's drug-trafficking hub! I've definitely heard more about drug raids in Ghana than I have in Nigeria, but it's possible that i've been living in the dark. It's one thing to be an international trafficking hub, like we were in the 80s, when most of the drug seizures were from consignments destined for the international market; but for these drugs to be so readily available on the streets of Nigeria (rural communities too!), is a whole other thing.
Drug intelligence is a costly endeavour but with so many hungry mouths at the Federal Govt's doorstep, it seems the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) gets the short end of the stick. According to Ahmadu Giade (Chairman), only 13 vehicles are available to the Agency throughout the whole country to fight drug crime, while the personnel receive meagre salaries, which he fears could lure them to the side of drug traffickers. I thought that was bad till I realised there's even less $$ (sorry, NN) going into the rehabilitation sector. Most rehab clinics are private and your average Nigerian can't afford that luxury. The few public ones are underfunded and over-stretched; and NGOs are (un)fortunately too busy dealing with more pressing issues like HIV/AIDS that drug addicted persons end up alone and stuck in a downward spiral of addiction (we all know Nigerian extended families have very low tolerance for drug addiction). Not quite sure what can be done about this, but just thought The Afro Beat should put a spotlight on the situation and get your thoughts.

Nigeria's Drug Trade, Just what they needed - The Economist

A FAIRLY typical recent morning at Murtala Mohammed, Lagos's main airport, saw four traffickers carrying cocaine, heroin or marijuana caught, arrested and X-rayed before noon. All but one of them lived abroad, in Belgium, India and Spain. Stuck without money or just looking for more, they had agreed to swallow the stuff or slip it into their luggage. Since the beginning of the year, Nigeria's Drug Law
Enforcement Agency has made 234 similar arrests at this Lagos airport. But this, according to the agency's director-general, Lanre Ipinmisho, is just grazing the surface of the country's booming drug trade.

West Africa is the newest centre for trafficking drugs into Europe. European demand for cocaine and heroin is rising fast and dealers, faced with intense scrutiny on familiar import routes, have been obliged to find new ones. Cocaine from the Andes is arriving at west Africa's ports, airports and border crossings. Heroin from Afghanistan is coming in too.

Nigeria is not the only victim of the growing trade. Guinea-Bissau, a small country emerging from civil war and a string of coups, has seen its tiny export economy overrun by illegal drugs. But as the economic hub of west Africa, Nigeria has, inevitably, also become its drug-trafficking hub. Last year 44% of the west African
drug-traffickers arrested in Europe were Nigerian (compared with 3% from Guinea-Bissau). Drugs have been trickling across Nigeria's borders since the 1980s, but over the past few years the trickle has become a torrent.

Nigeria's history of fighting the scourge is not the sort to discourage dealers. Its drug agency, founded in 1990, was immediately immersed in scandal when its own top people were themselves found to be involved in trafficking. At the end of October the country's independent commission on corrupt practices called in the agency's former chairman and eight other officials for questioning over money and drugs missing from an exhibit.

Organised criminals have also got into the business. The country's anti-graft body, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, says it often stumbles upon drugs during money-laundering raids. The most powerful crime syndicates are involved, says Lamorde Ibrahim, the commission's director of operations in Lagos. A six-person group from his office and the drug-enforcement agency work incognito, unknown even
to colleagues.

The network of gangs and dealers means that drugs are increasingly available on Nigeria's streets. At the Lagos State Rehab and Vocational Training Centre former junkies tell stories of taking to drugs while at university, or jobless, or under pressure from the city's notorious gangs of "area boys". Enough cannabis to roll one cigarette can be found on the streets for as little as 20 naira (about 15 cents). The UN's drugs office estimates that heroin and cocaine cost slightly more,
at 20 to 50 naira and 80 to 100 naira a pinch.

Reform of the drug agency may have begun to be serious. Pointing to a change, Mr Ipinmisho says that traffickers are often confused by their arrest, having been promised safe passage through the airport by junior officers, who can now no longer sneak them through. The intentions may be better, but the agency still complains of its lack of equipment and manpower.

Nigeria is the only west African country on America's list of major drug-producing and transit countries. It is concerned enough to have sent Tom Schweich, the State Department's international drugs man, to Nigeria last month. He promised to supply the latest body-cavity X-ray machines to four of Nigeria's international airports. New technology like this will be installed first at the airports and then, more slowly, at ports and land borders. Not too slowly, Nigerians hope. Their country is already notorious for corruption and financial crime; the last thing it needs is narcotics too.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Festival of Death...

Came across this on

Just before 8:30 a.m. on February 13, 1976, the following curious announcement was heard on Radio Nigeria:

"Good morning fellow Nigerians, This is Lt. Col. B. Dimka of the Nigerian Army calling. I bring you good tidings. Murtala Muhammed's deficiency has been detected. His government is now overthrown by the young revolutionaries. All the 19 military governors have no powers over the states they now govern. The states affairs will be run by military brigade commanders until further notice.
All commissioners are sacked, except for the armed forces and police commissioners who will be redeployed. All senior military officers should remain calm in their respective spots. No divisional commanders will issue orders or instructions until further notice. Any attempt to foil these plans from any quarters will be met with death. You are warned, it is all over the 19 states.
Any acts of looting or raids will be death. Everyone should be calm. Please stay by your radio for further announcements. All borders, air and sea ports are closed until further notice. Curfew is imposed from 6am to 6pm. Thank you. We are all together."

Just prior to this broadcast, then Head of State, General Murtala Ramat Muhammed, along with his ADC (Lt. Akinsehinwa), Orderly and driver, had been assassinated on his way to work in a thin skinned black Mercedes Benz car without escorts. The unprotected car had slowed down at the junction in front of the Federal Secretariat in Ikoyi, Lagos, when a hit team which allegedly included Lt. William Seri and others, casually strolled up and riddled it with bullets.

Following confirmation of Muhammed's death, Lt. Col. Buka Suka Dimka, of the Army Physical Training Corps, who (along with some others) had been up for most of the night drinking champagne, then made a quick trip to the British High Commission at about 8 am where he demanded to be put in touch with General Gowon in Britain.


TIME/CNN snapshot of the March 1976 executions of the coup plotters involved in the assassination of Murtala Mohammed.

Usually, Bar Beach on Nigeria's Victoria Island is dotted with sun umbrellas and gaily painted food stalls. Last week it became the scene of a kind of festival of death. Thousands of Nigerians, chanting "Traitors, traitors," jammed the beach, trampling the candy-striped awnings underfoot. A similar throng gathered not far away at Kirikiri Prison, just outside Lagos, the capital. Both high-spirited crowds were assembled to witness the public executions of some 30 soldiers, including four lieutenant colonels and six majors, and a lone civilian. A special military board had convicted them of planning the abortive coup of Feb. 13, in which Head of State Murtala Mohammed was assassinated (TIME, March 1).

"The condemned men are all in mufti," a Lagos radio correspondent announced crisply, giving a running account of the executions on Bar Beach. "Most of them look sober. Some manage to smile at newsmen." Religious confessions, Christian and Moslem, were received by two priests and a mallam (a Moslem religious leader). While the throng looked on, the 15-man firing squad opened up. The shooting lasted ten minutes, as one by one the coup plotters slumped to the blood-soaked sand.

With the executions, Lieut. General Olusegun Obasanjo, who took over the government of Black Africa's largest and richest country after the killing of Murtala, made good on his promise to dole out military justice to those found guilty. Surprisingly, one of the executed officers was former Defense Minister I.D. Bisalla, who had helped bring Murtala to power in an earlier, successful coup last July. Bisalla and many of the others were apparently implicated in the plot by Lieut. Colonel B.S. Dimka, the man who led the Feb. 13 overthrow attempt. Dimka managed to stay at large for three weeks, despite a nationwide manhunt, but he was captured at a roadblock in eastern Nigeria earlier this month.

During the investigation of the coup attempt, 125 people were arrested; 40 have been released. Aside from those already executed, several dozen others are still being interrogated, including Dimka himself. According to the Nigerian government, Dimka has also implicated Yakubu Gowon, the former head of state who was exiled after the coup that brought Murtala to power last July. Gowon, according to the government's charge, instructed Dimka to get together with Defense Minister Bisalla and attempt to overthrow the government. Their reasons for acting, said Nigeria's new defense chief, Brigadier Musa Yarduah, was the government's plan to cut the size of the army by almost half, a move that would transfer the 100,000 soldiers affected to other jobs, but which might leave a number of them out of work.

In England, where he is a political science student at Warwick University, Gowon denied any involvement in the coup attempt. Nonetheless the Nigerian government, which, after all, overthrew Gowon in the first place, seems bent on punishing him. Lagos radio said last week that "legal and diplomatic steps" are being taken to extradite Gowon to Nigeria, though it seems highly unlikely that the British government will accede to the request.

Nigeria's hate-hate affair with military rule (1966-1999) saw the loss of many great lives, and not much by way of economic development and improved standards of living for the populace. As many things as are wrong with this country, let's be thankful that we have closed the door (and thrown away the key?) on those dark days and now live in a time where we have freedom of speech and can at least demand accountability from our leaders.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

World AIDS Day

Came across this on and thought it would be great to share. Catholic Relief Services/Nigeria
supports local organizations in addressing social injustices in communities throughout Nigeria. One such social injustice is the plight of the HIV/AIDS-infected in Nigeria. Statistics tend to be just that - stats! So we thought a personal account of what it's like to have HIV/AIDS in Nigeria would be more befitting today.

In Nigeria, A Chance Meeting, A Saved Life - By Lane Hartill

BENIN CITY, Nigeria — Sara had a plan.

After picking up her HIV medication at the hospital, she would go to her two-room house, pull the small package out of her purse, tear it open, then swallow the rat poison. That would be it. She wouldn't have to endure the whispers or the rejection. She wouldn't have to hear her husband yell at her, calling her a skeleton.

About four months ago, her husband started coming home late. When she questioned him, the shouting started."I'm ashamed, I'm ashamed. You are like a skeleton," he thundered. "How can I stay in this house, you are like a skeleton. Who will I call my wife? Everyone is talking about you in the street. You look so skinny!"

Sara cried herself to sleep, remembering when her life was different.

Sara — not her real name — grew up in Warri. Her mother was a fruit seller, her father, a Nigerian Marine. She was the baby in a family of five and they showered her with attention. She came to Benin City in 1988 to join her father, who was originally from here. One evening, she wandered into a restaurant and ordered potato chips and a bottle of orange Fanta. A man sat down and started talking to her. She didn't know he owned the place. Or that he was interested in her. Two days later, he came to her house. Two years later, they were married.

When she became pregnant in 1991, she was thrilled. "When I discovered I was pregnant, I was so happy because I really loved children. After [I delivered] they told me it was a baby girl. I love baby girls because of their fancy clothes and everything."

Four year later, a second girl. The three of them were inseparable. They grinned at the animals at the Ogba Zoo here. They put on their best dresses and sipped Cokes at the swish Palmeria Hotel.

Life was good and so was Sara's business. She frequently traveled to Cotonou, where she bought gently used clothes — baled and shipped from the US and England — and sold them here. She was a working mom and life couldn't have been better.

So when the headaches started in 2002, she brushed them off. But then came the fever. And the weight loss. She went to see her sisters in Lagos. Maybe they could help. They were married to wealthy men. She hoped she could see the doctor at her brother-in-law's international company.

The Sting of Rejection

The reception caught her off guard. "Why did I come to Lagos? Why did I not call her?" Sara says her sisters shouted at her. Already a willowy woman, Sara had lost weight. Her svelte frame had been reduced to rail thin.

Her sisters were relentless with their accusations, their disgust.

"In the whole of Benin, don't they have a hospital?" they asked. "How can you come to Lagos with the way you are looking? My friends will soon be around."

Sara slowed again. "That stigma … I started crying," she says, flatly. "I said, 'You are my blood. How can you do this to me?' "

They hid her in a room, and said they would talk about it later. When they returned, they gave her about $150 and told her to return to Benin and take an HIV test. She did. Her husband, at that time, was brimming with support.

"I told my husband I wanted him to follow me to the hospital," she says. "When we were on our way, my husband was saying I should not fear anything. Even if the result comes out positive, people still survive with AIDS. They live a normal life."

But when her sisters found out that she had contracted HIV (Sara believes it was through a blood transfusion after a car accident in 2001), the storm of insults started again.

"They were shouting: 'How did you contract such a deadly disease? You've put a stain on the family name.' They said I was careless [that] I went close to the person with AIDS. I wasn't cautious."

Family bonds run deep in Africa. So when your family turns on you, there are few other places to go. This stigma of HIV in Nigeria freezes people with fear. Some HIV-positive Nigerians tell stories of villages scattering upon the arrival of an HIV-positive member. Husbands have been known to dump wives and leave home.

Sara felt this sting of rejection and it so pervaded her life, she wanted to end it. She had shrunk to 35 pounds. Her daughters had to carry her to the toilet. But it was the rejection, she says, that made her consider suicide.

During this time, she turned to her mom. But the stigma weighed so heavily that she couldn't bear to tell her mom she'd contracted HIV. Her mom took her to seven different "native doctors," — one required a trek through the bush to reach — who prescribed concoctions of herbs mixed with gin. Her mother spent more than $1,500. Unbeknownst to her, Sara didn't drink a drop.

It had all become too much. That's why she bought the rat poison.

But thanks to James, she never ate it. James, which is not his real name, is part of a support group that is facilitated by the health team at the Catholic Archdiocese of Benin City. CRS supports the Archdiocese which formed and supports this group — and the outreach team — to work with HIV-positive Nigerians.

The prevalence rate among adults in Nigeria is 3.9 percent, or about 2.9 million people. Of those, more than 92,700 people are on antiretroviral therapy. Through CRS' Seven Dioceses Community-Based Care and Support project, HIV-positive Nigerians receive home-based care from trained volunteers. They do everything from help bathe babies and deliver school supplies to counsel patients on the finer points of HIV and the importance of antiretroviral therapy.

'I'm Not Going to Die Anymore!'

Sara remembers exactly how James and his antiretroviral therapy message came into her life.

"He walked by," she says, remembering she was sitting in the hallway of the clinic. "Then he turned and looked at me. Maybe it was the tears that were in my eyes that attracted him."

He asked to see her for a moment.

She just wanted to be left alone, she said. She just wanted to end her life. He was a scam artist, and she knew it. She thought he, too, was out to make her feel bad.

"I was shouting on him. 'What do you want to see me for? I've never seen you before.' "

In his calm voice, James told her he knew her problem.

"I'm a victim too," he whispered.

She didn't believe him. James was healthy, even stocky. "I thought everybody that had the problem must be skinny like I was."

James told her he once looked like her. He'd been so sick he couldn't walk, reduced to crawling around his house. This got her attention.

He told her she could live a long time if she took her antiretroviral drugs and ate the right food. He assured her she'd be just fine.

To drive home his point, he pulled his HIV test out of his pocket. "I became calm," says Sara. "I was now interested in what he was saying." He asked for her address. He told her he would come see her. Stunned, Sara couldn't believe someone was comforting her and not rejecting her.

When she got home, James was standing in front of her house.

"I thought: Which type of human being is this?" she says. "When I opened the gate I said maybe God sent this man to restore hope to my life. Let me just give him a chance and see."

Sara opened her heart to him. She told James she'd hit bottom. She needed someone to turn to. James suggested the HIV support group at the Archdiocese of Benin City.

"On the first day that I came and I saw women as fat as this," she says, holding her hands wide, signaling they were broad across the beam. "I saw a lot of people, they were so beautiful. Wow! So these people have this problem? Me too, I will live. Oh! I'm not going to die anymore!

She hit a rough patch after she started taking the antiretroviral therapy. But soon, Sara's life was transformed. She's even working now, baking donuts and egg rolls and selling them at a school. The rice, beans and vitamins that CRS helps to provide has meant she saves almost $120 a month. She's now looking for money to buy a deep freeze. She wants to sell ice blocks and ice cream in the market. They're popular items, and she knows she can make good money.

"If CRS had not been there, a lot of people would have been long gone," she says. "They paid our children's school fees. The first day they paid my children's school fees I was so surprised. They brought books. I said, 'Wow!' "

Her husband has changed too. He calls her every day now. He's ready to come back home.
Lane Hartill is the West Africa regional information officer for Catholic Relief Services. He has visited CRS programs in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Lane is based in Dakar, Senegal.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Year of the Nigerian Reader

This Economist article highlights the sad truth that even though 2007 has been "the year of the Nigerian writer", it has not been the same for the Nigerian Reader. It's harder to change behaviour in grown adults than it is in our children, so the focus should be on the next generation. So, how DO we get our children excited about reading amidst the poor infrastructure around education and health in Nigeria? Should we wait till we've solved all our other "big" problems? It's good to see there are those out there who are keen to get Nigerians reading (again?). And for those who feel like doing something about it this minute, here are just some ways: One Laptop Per Child and Merry Hearts.


Award-winning novelists have more readers abroad than at home

WHEN a bookstore in Makurdi, the central state of Benue, wants to buy Chimamanda Adichie's latest novel, "Half of a Yellow Sun", it sends a text message to Muhtar Bakare in Lagos, down south. Mr Bakare, a publisher who heads Kachifo, replies with a bank account number and a price. Once the money is transferred from Makurdi to Lagos, Mr Bakare loads the books onto a public bus, which then begins a day-long trip to the other side of Africa's most populous country.

Though Ms Adichie's second novel, winner of this year's Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction, may have sold over 240,000 copies in Britain, in Nigeria it has shifted barely 5,000. Her book, like others by Nigeria's novelists, is stuck, often literally, in a publishing industry in shambles.

Nigeria was once the centre of literary publishing in west Africa—not just for local companies but international houses as well. But when military rule and economic decline saw much of the middle class flee in the 1980s, the publishers left too. Today, there is no distribution network and scant demand for fiction.
In order to survive, publishers switched from literature to textbooks, certain to be bought by students and schools. Fiction is much harder to sell. By the time a novel is printed and transported across the country, the price may be as much as a tenth of an average worker's monthly salary. Ms Adichie's novel costs N850 ($7.30) from Kachifo and goes up to N1,500 in bookshops in Abuja, the capital. Far more readers choose self-help and religious books that are supposed to have a more immediate pay-off.

So pity the enthusiasts who persist in trying to sell novels. Mr Bakare likens his business to the telecom industry, which has had to build its own infrastructure from scratch. He is not building roads or relay towers but a network of bookstores, buses, taxis and bank transfers. Cassava Republic, a publisher founded last year, operates with a low profit margin for now, in the hope that it can cultivate a loyal base of readers that will one day meet costs. The founder, Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, says she wants her customers' "intellectual hunger to be as pressing as their stomachs".
Her hard work may just be paying off. Ms Adichie says she is starting to get e-mails from all over the country—from Kaduna in the north, Lagos in the south and Makurdi in-between. She is flattered by the foreign attention but says that Nigerians are still her most important audience. "Half of a Yellow Sun" is mainly about the Biafran War, a conflict that, from 1967-1970, split Nigeria apart; its scars still linger. Ms Adichie is telling Nigerians about a history that was never taught in school—and which she wants more of her countrymen to know about.

Muhtar Bakare launched his publishing business Kachifo Limited, which trades under the name Farafina, in June 2002. (Check out their free online magazine @ )Over the last couple of years, "Farafina has become one of the most energetic and forward looking book-publishing companies in Nigeria... attempting to balance cost, quality and marketing with the kind of self-confidence not common in that industry." (Nigeria Daily News)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Lest We Forget....

This article from Nigeria Village Square brought up so many burning questions around the new twist in EFCC's mandate - from bringing corrupt criminals to justice to making deals to secure stolen loot. On the surface, there appears to be nothing wrong with this shift - true, the nigerian people cannot feed on wicked (wo)men rotting in jail, and true, the families of these looters should not indefinitely continue to live the lavish lifestyles they have grown accustomed to, courtesy of stolen Nigerian wealth - but should this be the new FOCUS of the EFCC? Will the Nigerian people be better served in this way? And who will take up the former cause of bringing the "teefs" to justice?

Economic and Financial Confusion Commission - Sonala Olumhense

Finally, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has confirmed our worst fear: it has forgotten its mission.

For four years, Nigerians have seen the EFCC as the answer to the challenge of financial and economic crime in our country, acting on the side of the Nigerian people. It chairman spoke courageously and loudly about this mission, particularly about the looting of state resources by governors. He told Nigerians he would be putting many of those governors before the law as soon as their terms ended on May 29, 2007.

As one of the EFCC’s loudest supporters, I have complained since then that the anti-graft agency seemed to have lost traction and direction.

It is now official. Last week, two of its officials told the nation that the EFCC is now “more interested” in recovering Nigeria’s looted wealth than in prosecuting economic criminals or embarrassing anyone.

I beg your pardon?

According to a report in The Punch of Sunday, November 11, 2007, the EFCC has done a deal with five former governors under which they would return N50 billion to the public coffers. They risk prosecution (only) if they fail to honour this “agreement” within two weeks.

The second of The PUNCH’s EFCC sources was particularly adept at speaking through a lower orifice in his body. “Our stance on anti-corruption is not necessarily to expose and shame the looters of the collective wealth,” he said, pompously, “even though that is equally important if only to serve as a deterrent to others.”

But he was just warming up, this powerful hawker of cow manure. “It is the belief of the commission that justice will be better served with the recovery of the stolen wealth because that is what the people really need.”

And then, this political gymnast reached backwards, towards that other orifice, for this overarching contradiction: “We want to prove that the proceeds of crime cannot be the reward of crime.”

I really have to find out where they manufacture this kind of personnel at the higher levels of the EFCC. He continued: “The EFCC has done a great deal to curtail the culture of impunity and corruption in Nigeria today. Granted, we have had a lot of challenges in accomplishing this, but the important thing is that we are making progress.”

At that point, you knew a chest-pumping boast was next. The EFCC coward, and you know he is one because he did not want his name appended to his voice, then said: “ I can confidently tell you that there is an international consensus that assets recovery programme in Nigeria is the best in the world; it is the most robust and the most remarkable in the history of assets recovery.

“We are also working fervently to ensure the quick return of billions of naira looted by corrupt governors and to remit these to the government‘s coffers for the development of the country, which is what it was originally meant for,” he told the reporter.

Let me interpret the game. The EFCC is saying that contrary to previous promises to the Nigerian people to deliver on the assignment in the law by which it was established—or in violation of it—it is now on the market for deals with our powerful thieves. The broad outline of this new regime is that, in exchange for drops of the stolen funds, the EFCC will look the other way and let these men enjoy their freedom, their loot and their laughter.

So the EFCC was not investigating these people for purposes of prospection after all. All our months and years of waiting for the commission to deliver on its plans and “readiness” to do the right thing now turn out simply to be a hoax. Our worst nightmare, that the EFCC might have a hidden agenda, and serve the status quo, is emerging as our fate.

What is the EFCC saying? It will now abandon the law by which it was set up—and its own boasts about nobody being above the law—and become policeman, judge and executioner. The only problem is that even in this new plan, it is pre-determined that the criminal does not lose too much: certainly not his freedom, because that kind of punishment is reserved only for the poor. The anti-graft body will supposedly “agree” to terms with the criminal over what sounds good to be returned to the same people he had betrayed and left to starve and die.

This new age Robin Hood headed by Mr. Nuhu Ribadu will then turn to Nigerians and say, “People, take this and be grateful. It is better for you to take this and give it to the current governor than to seek justice against this man who thought you were not worthy of the same air. We recommend that you take this.”

Of course, the people may ask, “What if the current governor also steals the money?”

To which Mr. Ribadu would respond, “Ah! Ah! That is not a problem. You can see we have an internationally-celebrated track record of achievement. We will also make him refund the loot! Can’t you see you have nothing to lose?”

I laugh, but I have burning tears running down my cheeks. I laugh because this is way too serious for words. I liked Nuhu Ribadu, but the time has come when he should either deny being a part of this mess and resign his office, or simply publish his resignation letter and go home. Since this awful story broke, one week ago, nobody in the commission has denied it. And of course, no former governor has been taken to court.

This development largely confirms the popular perception that his commission is selective in its work. But that may be too generous an assessment. Perhaps the EFCC has forgotten what it was set up to do, or itself been paid for.

That is why it is laughable that the Commission this past week, the Commission’s Head of General Investigations, Umar Sanda, promised the Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders which visited to file a petition against Olusegun Obasanjo, that the Commission would investigate the allegations of corrupt enrichment against him.


The Commission would “embarrass” Obasanjo where it is now hesitant to embarrass former governors? The Commission will investigate Obasanjo, and not settle for deals as it is now doing with former governors?

I cannot wait.

But let us return to basics. The very name of the commission includes the word, crime, that is, illegalities of an economic and financial profile. When something is a crime, its perpetrators are known as criminals, and sought by the law as suspects. It is the role of the law to bring criminals to the bar of justice...In the courtroom, due process permits the accused person access to lawyers and a structured defence. In the end, the court makes a decision regarding the guilt or innocence of that suspect. If the verdict is guilty, it also determines responsibility or punishment. In that scenario, a convicted former governor would not be negotiating from behind bars how much of his loot to part with, or leave with his girlfriend, or on what foreign beach he will spend his post-stealing days.

This process is often rigorous. Otherwise wealthy or powerful suspects are carried in police trucks they would never have permitted themselves to be seen near. They may be handcuffed and shackled. Grown men have been known to sweat and weep in the sun, fall on their knees in front of a laughing, taunting throng, or even lose control of their bowels. It is not a pretty process, but it is the way of the law, known ahead of time by each and all who choose to violate its terms.

Last week, regrettably, the plan unveiled by the EFCC was one under which it would pre-empt this process and save the former governors the indignity of facing the law. This is a shame, and the most profound betrayal since Nigerian began to pretend to be fighting corruption. It makes the EFCC now just an accessory to the crime, but a criminal.

We are looking at a situation here where men who ignored the law and their people for as long as they were in office will enjoy the additional entertainment — at the expense of the people— of being treated with deference — even reverence — by that law. It is enough to make a man vomit.

But is this whom we are? Is this how much we love our Nigeria? Is this the EFCC’s tribute to the rule of law? So, all of the loud talk and reassurances and promises of Mr. Ribadu comes down to sloganeering and posturing? So, his EFCC is an agency that would chase the rule of law only when it is convenient? Perhaps that is the hole into which they have driven themselves. But Nigerians must come out of their own complacency and find ways of making it known to the EFCC that they will have nothing less than a public trial of those who commit crime, whoever they are. Contrary to the EFCC’s emerging nonsense, we are more interested in this process and in the lessons it teaches than in any trillions of Naira the thieves decide to favour us with. Give us the trial, and we will determine how much they stole, and take every penny we can find in the same way Obasanjo and the EFCC have scoured the world for Sani Abacha’s loot.

In the spirit of MORE TALK, MORE ACTION, if any of you know someone in the upper echelons of the EFCC, it might be worth us all getting together to write them a letter/petition to revert to their initial raison d’être. Email us at

Monday, November 12, 2007

Spot the difference...

We're always quick to call out the gross misconduct of oil companies and our dearest federal and local government when it comes to the Niger Delta (and rightfully so, wethinks) but it's nice to hear some good news once in a while. According to the Guardian, this project, though not scheduled to be completed till the end of 2008 should at least give those quant-heavy economic development folks some actual quant data on just how terrible things are in Ogoniland (and rouse them out of their indifference) and hopefully the project can be scaled to include other badly-hit parts of the Niger Delta.


UN bodies to assess oil-polluted sites in Ogoniland - Chinedu Uwaegbulam

A COMPREHENSIVE environmental assessment of oil-impacted sites in the Ogoni region of the Niger Delta is to be launched by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), in association with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The move follows a request by the Federal Government as part of the broader government-led peace and reconciliation process in the region. Local communities and partners will be supporting UNEP to undertake the evaluation.

Senior officials from UNEP began talks in Abuja yesterday to seal the final detail of the assessment, expected to be completed by the end of 2008.

The assessment will be conducted by the Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch (PCDMB), which leads UNEP's work in areas of the world where the environment is impacted by conflicts or disasters, or where the environment is a factor contributing to conflict and disaster impacts.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: "The assessment will seek to identify, evaluate and minimise the immediate and long-term human, social, health and economic impacts of oil contamination in Ogoniland, as well as those related to environmentally and economically important ecosystems.

"We will be deploying several teams of international and local experts in order to conduct field-based assessments in over 300 sites to identify the impacts of oil on environmental systems such as land, water, agriculture, fisheries and air - as well as the direct and indirect effects on biodiversity and human health," he added.

On the basis of the findings, UNEP will make recommendations for the appropriate remediation activities to rehabilitate the land to a condition that is environmentally acceptable, according to international standards.

The project will be undertaken in a manner that maximises benefits to the community through employment, capacity-building activities, information and consultation.

PCDMB conflicts and disasters are closely intertwined with the environment, hence, proper environmental management and governance is considered essential for long-term peace, stability and security in any conflict- or disaster-prone country.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Looks promising. PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD...

+234 Magazine is a branding tool for the country, and is hereby calling for submission of articles, short stories, expose', interviews, reviews, photographs, memoirs, cartoons, poems, and features, for its maiden publication soon.

We are looking for submissions with a strong bias for Nigeria, showing a Frenzy outburst of patriotism and works that will speak for the country in turn.

To promote and redefine Nigeria as a positive brand.

By 2011, Nigeria and her brand 'Heart of Africa' will be thriving uniquely as an acceptable and advanced nation.

-To promote Nigeria as a positive brand, hence, ensuring a positive image for the country.
-Re-brand our image in a very handy medium.
-Promote positive and alluring perceptions of Nigeria, its people and values.
-Promote our people, resources, business, and all facets of Nigeria to the world

Topical works with special relevance to Nigeria.
Submissions must be objective and accurate.
Meet international writing standards; normal grammatical standards in written English: use of correct punctuations and spelling.
Must be original, relevant sources must be referenced.
Submissions should be made along with a brief biography.
Submissions should be minimum of 1500 words and maximum of over 2500 words.
Deadline for submission is 19th November 2007.
Please all submissions should me emailed to
For further enquiries call +234-803-780-3142.

+234 Magazine…..redefining Nigeria!!!!

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Price We Pay for Democracy

This letter, written by Funke, a friend of The Afro Beat, is a wake-up call addressed to our "democratically-elected" leaders to get up and do something about the plight of the people as it is THEIR JOB (for which, they are paid rather handsomely indeed) to see to it that their constituency is able to attain a certain (let's even call it a universal minimum) standard of living. She focuses on the dire security situation in Lagos but really, this applies to all parts of Nigeria (except maybe Abuja, feel free to correct us on this).


The Price We Pay for Democracy - Funke

The recent and recurring spate of armed robberies in Lagos poses a serious threat to the security of life and property of its residents and makes our existence in this state a mockery. Lagos is under siege by armed robbers, hoodlums and thugs and our politicians pontificate. People are being traumatised on a daily basis and no one feels roused enough to take action. People have lost property that was hard won and cash that was hard earned and still we have people swaggering about, claiming leadership. People are dying and the cries of the dead fall only on the ears of their loved ones. The commercial nerve centre of the country is being targeted and the state turns its back while the lobbyists and apologists hold centre stage.

How many must die, lose their property, remain in fear and apprehension and cower under this reign of terror before action is taken, before resources are put in place, before the choice of the people reacts?

Fear. Apprehension. Terror. Trauma. Insecurity. Loss. Death.

These are some of the symptoms of a Hobbesian existence, where the state of life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” This is the regrettable and tragic state of life in today’s Lagos.

I say tragic because, according to Thomas Hobbes’s theory and philosophy, the role of government is to prevent people from their inherent selfishness and evil, which if left unchecked, would result in a constant state of anarchy and chaos. He believed that a people needed an authority figure to provide direction and leadership but also that it was important to have such a leader’s powers curtailed by a group representative of the people and their wishes. These theories are what have evolved into what we now know as democracy and the rules that bind civil society.

Now I ask you – when a people have elected individuals to lead them and other individuals to support that leader in ensuring that the people’s desires and expectations are met, and it turns out that those desires and expectations have not been met, are not met and perhaps never will be met, where does that leave the people? Exactly where they did not want to be when they elected leaders – in a constant state of anarchy and chaos. This is our tragedy.

Let us analyse each of the words in Hobbes’s famous quote one by one and apply it to the state of life in Lagos. 1) Solitary – means being by oneself, alone, lonely, or without associates. Lagosians today are in a solitary state. We have to fend for ourselves in a society and under governments where even the basic amenities of life are not provided. Each person or family unit is a city in its own right, providing its own electricity and water and their own security. 2) Poor – means with little or no possessions or money, to be pitied or of low quality. We have little or no infrastructure to speak of and what there is existing is pitiable and in shocking states of disrepair; we find it almost impossible to own property or acquire wealth given that most people are even struggling to feed themselves and their families and keep a roof over their heads, and finally, attaching the word quality to life is inconceivable. 3) Nasty – means something bad or disgusting. We exist in dire circumstances but call it life and the fact that those who are in leadership over us insulate themselves with the wealth and resources of other people’s toil and sweat is frankly disgusting. 4) Brutish – means resembling a beast, bestial, showing lack of human sensibility. People here have become bestial in nature as a direct result of the hardships they are facing, the absence of human comforts and niceties in society, as well as the decrepit state of tertiary and continuing education. The leaders in turn have repeatedly shown a lack of care for the plight of the people; after all they are in power to further their own needs and self interests. 5) Short – simply put, our average life expectancy has been considerably shortened by stress, hardship, turmoil and for most, not even the faintest glimmer of light at the end of the sweltering, stinking tunnel.

The collective senses of the people who granted you the right to reign and rule are affronted. Do something. Prove our votes right!

Funke, Ikeja

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Adedibu Menace...

Ok, so this was one of those blood-boiling-type articles that leaves you dazed. Of course, we've all heard about the "great" Lamidi Adedibu, godfather of godfathers, and his antics in Oyo state(think ballot-machines piled high in his living room and police authorities knowing this but doing absolutely nothing to bring him to justice...this being just one small incident among many). But how can we talk about bringing an end to corruption when people like this still walk the streets without any fear of reprimand/repercussions for their actions? Imagine the huge difference one LESS Adedibu could make in the war against corruption (and one MORE Akinyuli for that matter)? According to this Reuben Abati article in the Guardian(this is a well-known fact, but for the sake of accuracy...), Oyo state is completely under Adedibu's control so this matter needs to go straight to the Presidency, as he might be the only one with the power (since we're not sure where the EFCC stands these days) to call this glorified hooligan to order. Do we (the government, EFCC, international authorities if need be) need to concentrate our efforts on bringing down the "big dogs" (the Adedibus, Ubas, insert names of other godfathers that you know of here) who've been on the scenes for Lord knows how long and are now in-built self-made institutions in their respective regions? or focus on taking down their cronies-turned-big-boys (the Iboris, Odilis, Alamayeiseghas) who stole sickening amounts directly from their constituents in order to butter their godfathers' bread?

NAFDAC And The Adedibu Menace - By Reuben Abati

"We have been having a lot of problems with Adedibu. When we were working on unfortified spaghetti and macaroni that were smuggled into the country and that were unhealthy for consumption of our people, Chief Adedibu got to our office and threatened our staff and stopped that activity. He did not stop at that. When NAFDAC closed Kollington fisheries, Chief Adedibu sent his boys to go and open the warehouse. When my staff reported to me, I told them to go back and seal it. They went back and sealed the warehouse. Chief Adedibu sent his boys to go and re-open it. Nobody has ever done this in Nigeria since we started our activities. Chief Adedibu never allowed us to complete any investigation. He (has) never allowed us to carry out sanctions that we carry out in other states" - Dora Akunyili, Director-General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control in Ibadan, October 17.

These were the words of the Director General of NAFDAC, Professor Dora Akunyili in
the course of her visit to Ibadan, Oyo state to flag off the NAFDAC/NYSC Grassroots Sensitization programme, last week. She pushed her case in a similar tone at the office of the Governor of Oyo state, Alao Adebayo-Akala, she also did so at the palace of the Olubadan of Ibadanland, Oba Samuel Odulana, and at an open forum with the people of Ibadan. It was as if Akunyiili went to Ibadan to deal with the Adedibu menace once and for all. Governor Alao-Akala, Adedibu's protege was reportedly shocked by the allegations and he promised, we are told, to "personally confront Baba Adedibu to make sure that he does not turn the state into a den for the enemies of NAFDAC." The Olubadan, who is not on good terms with Adedibu was said to have compared Akunyili to Jesus Christ; and he promised to invite Adedibu to his palace to come and defend himself against the allegations leveled against him.

Akunyili took her case to the court of public opinion where she told her audience: "Adedibu is terrorising us. And this hostility is actually led by Chief Adedibu. We are getting disturbed. The hostilities in Ibadan are mounting by the day. The agency has reached a critical point concerning its activities in Oyo state and if the hostility continues, we are not only going to arrest some people, we are going to move our office away from here... It was disheartening that the agency arrested some people who were handed over to the police but the people were released on the instruction of Chief Adedibu... How can we operate like this? We cannot continue in this manner".
At this interactive session with the public, Dora Akunyili was taken up by the Deputy Governor of Oyo state, Taofeek Arapaja who was in attendance. Arapaja accused Akunyili of insulting Chief Lamidi Adedibu without having "sufficient facts". The event later became melodramatic as the public booed Arapaja and he felt compelled to return the jeers. The situation then became riotous. Arapaja's reaction is understandable. He is an Adedibu protege. Other Adedibu defenders have also responded to Dora Akunyili's allegations. One Alhaji Taofeek Olayiwola says: "What concern Adedibu (sic) with NAFDAC again? It is a lie. He cannot do such a thing. He is loving and caring and by the way, his own family members have been benefiting from the activities of the agency. He cannot hamper the activities." Another Adedibu aide, Alhaji Yahya Adetuinji alleges that some people may have committed the atrocities in Adedibu's name to discredit him.

By taking the fight to Ibadan, and to Adedibu, Akunyili has again shown the depth of her commitment. By naming Adedibu in public as an obstacle to NAFDAC operations, she succeeded in shaming him and that was why she got the support of the audience at Jogo Centre where the interactive NAFDAC/NYSC forum took place. She spoke out of frustration. It should have been possible for her and her staff to report Adedibu to the police, but part of her protest is that the police in Oyo state are under the control of Adedibu. He is so powerful that he can order the release of persons from police stations! Akunyili in pointing this out confirmed what the rest of Nigeria had always known: in Oyo state, Adedibu is above the law. He is "the law". The NAFDAC boss referred to "Adedibu's thugs": these miscreants wield more powers than the Nigeria Police .

Oyo state is thus a classic case of how not to run a democracy and Adedibu is a threat to democracy in that state and by extension, Nigeria. His most memorable contribution to the show of shame in the House of Representatives for example is that Patricia Etteh should be left alone because she is a Yoruba woman and that any criticism of her leadership style is an attack on all Yoruba. The simplest response to the Adedibu menace is to say, that this is the quality of Nigerian leadership.

What manner of man would stand in the way of an agency that arrests the merchants of killer drugs? What sort of man would encourage the sale of fake drugs that can maim and kill? What man is this who cannot appreciate the work of NAFDAC? Who is this man who is prepared to reduce everything to politics, including the lives of people? The additional question must be asked: does Adedibu really love the people of Oyo state? Or he is just using them, that is the crowd that converges on his Molete residence to swallow dollops of amala? And why is Adedibu so audacious?
Akunyili's public protest in Ibadan last week may be a good strategy but it does not go far enough. Who was Akunyili reporting Adedibu to? To Governor Alao-Akala? Yes, the Governor has promised to take up the matter with Adedibu, but is he in any position to challenge, criticise or admonish the old man? "I will personally confront Baba Adedibu" , the governor promised. Can Alao-Akala call Adedibu to order? He owes his presence in Government House to the old man. I do not see him jeopardising his political interests just because some people are dying from the use of fake drugs sold openly and freely in Adedibu's markets. And the Olubadan? The king says he will invite Adedibu to respond to the allegations. Which Adedibu does the Olubadan want to invite? The same Adedibu who has made it clear to all and sundry that there are two traditional rulers in Ibadan?

So what should Akunyili do? When next Adedibu stands in the way of NAFDAC operations, he or his agents should be promptly arrested. The police may release him later but NAFDAC would have shown that it will no longer be intimidated by the Adedibu menace. The agency should also document its allegations against Adedibu properly and formally and send a petition to the Presidency. During the Obasanjo era, Adedibu acquired power and notoriety because he enjoyed the support of the Presidency and the personal attention of the President. Adedibu is one of those liabilities that President Yar'Adua needs to cut down to size. He and his men are already testing the patience of the Federal Government. Will President Yar'Adua continue to fold his arms and allow Adedibu bring further embarrassment to his government and the PDP?
Akunyili has threatened to close down the NAFDAC office in Oyo state and leave the people at the mercy of merchants of fake drugs. To do so would be to violate the NAFDAC mission statement. It is the Adedibu menace that should be dealt with. Adedibu's thugs have been accused in the last four years of all kinds of atrocities in Oyo state including a recent assault on the hallowed grounds of a praying ground on Eid-il-Fitri day. Oyo state is desperately in need of the rule of law. President Yar'Adua who loves the rule of law so much he mentions it at every conversation should help rescue Oyo state from the rule of that one man called Lamidi Adedibu.

Please read the full article on the Nigerian Village Square if you get a chance! And look out for a future post on the Amazing battles of Dora Akinyuli.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Another casualty in the War Against Corruption

A pro-Etteh member of the House of Reps slumps from suspected cardiac arrest. Nothing too unusual about this heading. Very sad indeed and we pray for his family at this time. But the point here is, how did we get to this state of affairs. Why has she still not resigned? Why do we as Nigerians not have shame in our misdeeds? It's true that she stands to make so much more $$ if she's able to ride this wave of controversy and remain Speaker of the House, but has she no shame? Hasn't she looted enough already(allegedly, of course, remember "innocent till proven guilty"... but in this case, the IDOKO panel has declared her to be an "incompetent leader" )? Are there no limits to our shameless politics?

Etteh’s Sit-Tight Drama Claims Lawmaker’s Life - This Day

The crisis rocking the House of Represen-tatives over the controversial renovation contract took a tragic turn yesterday as a member from Katsina State, Dr Aminu Shuaibu Safana, slumped at the lobby of the legislative chambers and was certified dead moments later.
Safana, a pro-Speaker Patricia Etteh lawmaker and former Secretary to the Katsina State Government, was first wheeled to the National Assembly Medical Centre after he collapsed.
But when doctors at the clinic found that his case was not getting better, he was rushed to the National Hospital, Abuja where he was later certified dead.
The Chief Medical Director of the Hospital, Dr. Olusegun Ajuwon, who confirmed the death of the lawmaker, said Safana stopped breathing immediately after he was admitted.

Ajuwon said that although relatives and colleagues of the deceased lawmaker hastily took away his corpse and did not allow the conduct of an autopsy, basic investigations carried out during his brief stay at the hospital revealed that it was one of those cases of sudden deaths associated with cardiac arrest.
Safana headed the House Committee on Health (ironic, no?) until his death.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

This article doesn't suggest that the Human Rights Watch report on Nigeria says anything new. Nigerians know the 2007 elections were a sham, that corruption is endemic (must have learned that phrase in primary school), and that as long as godfathers and corrupt politicians continue to gain more than they stand to lose, things are unlikely to change much. But why bother? Do such reports (like many before) shame our leaders into acting, or our people into demanding more from them? Whenever i meet a Pakistani, a friendly conversation usually gets kicked off by a shared acknowledgement of our countries' ongoing competition to be at the top of Transparency International's Most Corrupt list. SO WHAT will be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
Your views on the "findings" of this new report and the effects of such reports on the state of affairs are welcome...


Nigeria: Violence, Corruption Institutionalised - HRW Report

Nigerian leaders are so violent and corrupt that their conduct "more resembles criminal activity than democratic governance", according to a scathing report issued by Human Rights Watch on 9 October.

"Violence, corruption and impunity are not just problems that government has failed to tackle; they are systemic abuses that flow from the heart of the very same government institutions that should be working to combat them," the report, titled Criminal Politics: Violence, "Godfathers" and Corruption in Nigeria, said. In some Nigerian states, powerful political "godfathers" control politicians, the report said. "In return, the 'godfathers' have captured government institutions to serve their own interests."

In Oyo State, one of several examples cited in the report, the ruling "People's Democratic Party (PDP) godfather Lamidi Adedibu recruited gangs that sowed terror on the streets of the state capital Ibadan and other cities".

Besides surveying what it calls "systemic violence openly fomented by politicians and other political elites", the report shows "corruption that both fuels and rewards Nigeria's violent brand of politics at the expense of the general populace". The report also seeks to show "the impunity enjoyed by those responsible for these abuses".
According to author Chinua Achebe, winner of the 2007 Man Booker Prize, "Corruption in Nigeria has passed the alarming and entered the fatal stage; and Nigeria will die if we continue to pretend that she is only slightly indisposed."
At the same time, the report said corruption and mismanagement had led to the waste of record oil revenues that could have been used to tackle poverty and improve access to basic health and education services.

HRW said efforts to investigate and prosecute corrupt politicians "focused on enemies of the [former President Olusegun] Obasanjo administration, [thus] undermining if not destroying the credibility of those efforts altogether."

Written by senior researcher in the Africa Division of HRW Chris Albin-Lackey and consultant Ben Rawlence, the report is based largely on missions they conducted to Anambra, Delta, Ekiti, Gombe, Katsina, Lagos, Oyo and Rivers states and the capital Abuja before, during and after the April 2007 elections.

The report called for an end to impunity. "One obvious and important place to start would be for the federal government to enact and aggressively implement the long delayed Freedom of Information Bill, which would make it possible for Nigerians to peel back the veils of secrecy that allow many government officials to conceal the evidence of their misdeeds by denying access to even the most basic government-held information."

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

Monday, October 1, 2007

WANTED: A Proactive Government

"The value of life has suddenly become greatly fractionalized and the worth drastically reduced. Is that due to poverty too? Probably it is a combination of poverty, frustration and anger. It is nevertheless unacceptable..."

This Guardian Newspaper article by Kunle Sanyaolu paints a picture of the current frustration (nay, depression) among Nigerians as we mark our 47th year of independence. Various pockets of "unrest" throughout the South have left citizens jaded and back in the pre-election mood of 'indifferent spectator'. So where is our government in all this?


Four months after President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua assumed the mantle of leadership, the focus of his government is hazy still. The period is short for any meaningful impact-assessment. But it is long enough to have more than a faint idea of what a government will deliver...[and so far it] is not living up to the momentum. Too many issues are urgently begging for resolution and Nigerians are simply losing patience, not minding that the problems did not crop up, or assumed their present dimension overnight.

Can one blame Nigerians? They are living through a difficult time presented by poverty, unemployment, disease, frustration and crime, against the backdrop of a practically non-existent police. In Lagos and a few other western states, armed robbers have taken over, targeting banks in the main, eliminating policemen, bank workers and other citizens who either get in their way or constitute an obstacle - real or imagined. In Port Harcourt and other Niger Delta states as well as some Eastern states, kidnapping has become the order of the day. The serious offence is certainly not new to the country, but it has never attained the seriousness, frequency or pathological fervour with which it is now carried out. Initially, the focus was on expatriates, particularly those working in oil and related companies. Then attention shifted to just any white-skinned in the region, the underlying idea being that they could fetch handsome ransoms, which they did, even where nobody so acknowledged or officials denied outright. It was a question of time before the South-South ran out of white men, a development that led to the kidnapping of children going to school. This was closely followed by their politician parents, particularly those elected. When parents became elusive, grandparents consisting of aged mothers and fathers, became the targets. The rest of the country is only slightly better in terms of security.

The fact that political, social and economic conditions differ in different parts of the country at any particular time has its implications. When Port Harcourt is under the siege of kidnappers and cult members, Kaduna is peaceful, with everyone going about his normal duties. And when Lagos and environs are reeling under incessant armed robbery attacks, Katsina is deep in Ramadan fasting with the entire town praying and atoning for sins. Therefore, anyone commending or condemning particular situation stands the risk of not being perfectly understood by citizens outside the vicinity of his focus. Notwithstanding this, a central theme usually runs through the nation most times, depending on the circumstances. News reports in the media, including live television, in the last few weeks tends to elicit a feeling more of depression, sadness and frustration, that despite the numerous resources and high potentials of this country, its fabric seems to be going from bad to worse. When and how did we get here?

There is little doubt that what is happening now took roots firmly under Obasanjo's government and its reform that lacked a human face. Obviously however, the criminals have been emboldened because no one is challenging them. There is a lot wrong with Nigerians for our newfound love of dispensing with fellow citizens at the slightest provocation or no provocation at all. The value of life has suddenly become greatly fractionalized and the worth drastically reduced. Is that due to poverty too? Probably it is a combination of poverty, frustration and anger. It is nevertheless unacceptable, even if Nigerians have cause to be angry at the insensitivity of political leaders who spend millions renovating official houses, buying Ramadan gifts for themselves and awarding jumbo salary and allowance packages for themselves. Government's assignment in this regard is two-fold. One is to provide a machinery to effectively challenge and subdue violent criminals, be they robbers, kidnappers or political assassins. There is a thin, imperceptible line between them anyway. Two is to provide real governance which entails provision of service to the people; spending public fund judiciously and in public interest; and bringing to book highly-placed officials found to have abused their office or corruptly dealt with public assets. So far, government is not discharging any of these duties either out of insensitivity or out of incompetence...

(read Guardian link for rest of the article in which Sanyaolu points out the need for a proactive government at the state and federal level to tackle the current state of affairs)

HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!! May the best of our past be the worst of our future.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Promises promises

The first sentence of this article was much more promising than the actual story it relates. At least the allegations against these former ND governors have now been brought to the formal (public) attention of the President...let's hope the investigations (would these be headed by the EFCC?) are transparent and that the results actually lead to some concrete action being taken against the guilty parties.


Nigeria: FG to Probe Govs, Others -

PAST and serving governors of the Niger Delta region are now to be probed by the Presidency, over charges that they are the chief sponsors of kidnappings and violence in the area.

President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua agreed to the clamour of some Ijaw ethnic nationality leaders on the matter yesterday in Abuja, maintaining that a judicial inquiry may be raised.

Reacting to the development, Rivers State government hailed the plans and said it will support anything that would bring a permanent solution to cultism in the state.

Yar'Adua said he would order a thorough investigation of allegations by leaders of the Ijaw National Forum (INF) led by Chief Edwin Clark a former federal commissioner (minister) on the origin and causes of the recent crises in Port Harcourt and Rivers state generally.

At an audience with a delegation led by Clark, Yar'Adua said that he was also prepared to establish a judicial inquiry into the crises, if investigations indicated that there was a need to do so.

In a statement by Ojay Abuah on behalf of presidential spokesman Segun Adeniyi, President Yar'Adua was quoted as saying that the allegations must be put in writing for thorough investigation.

"You have made very grave allegations. Put the allegations in writing and we will investigate them. I assure you that our interest is for peace and stability in the Niger Delta.

"We need peace to achieve rapid development of the region. If it is clearly established that anyone is a party to causing the crises, he will be dealt with according to the law. We will act on whatever comes out of a thorough and just investigation," the statement quoted the President as saying.

Could this be the start of something, a continuation of the EFCC saga or just more promises?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Yar'Adua's First 100 days and Beyond - Reuben Abati

Reuben Abati examines the first 100 days of the Yar'Adua administration and what gaps need to be filled in the coming months...we do agree that at the centre, Yar'Adua has done a fair amount of work (and should definitely be commended), but as Abati points out, he cannot be the "President of everything"... surely Nigerians would thank him for focusing on 3/4 key issues and resolving those during his time in power. As for the governors, do you think Abati highlights their gross ineptitude enough? (for example, read about Oyo state governor's current woes). What's your take on THE FIRST 100?


In 100 days, it should be possible to know where a new government is going and gain an idea of its programmes and motivations. And so an assessment of the Yar'Adua government in 100 days should be useful. I begin by arguing that in the last 100 days we have seen at the centre, a government that has been struggling to settle down and define its focus. President Yar'Adua had come to power on the first day with a seven-point agenda and the promise to be a servant-leader.

He also promised to continue with the reform programmes of the previous administration that was led by the political party that brought him to power and his Godfather and benefactor, General Olusegun Obasanjo. In 100 days, the new government has been very busy trying to define what this means in an experimental, stream-of-consciousness fashion. Matters of governance have moved so slowly and tentatively that the President has earned for himself the moniker, Baba Go-Slow. There may be nothing wrong in being deliberate and calculating, but what has been advertised is a certain kind of slowness arising from lack of preparation which has since given birth to extreme caution.

Three major events have promoted this perception: the shoddy handling of the matter of legal powers between the office of the Attorney General and the EFCC/ICPC, with government reversing itself within 24 hours; then, the aborted flirtation with the idea of a national unity government. There is also the scandal of the Naira re-denomination policy which gave the impression of a divided government at the centre with the Presidency so out of control that it could be upstaged by the Central Bank Governor. But it is not only in the Presidency that there is so much fluidity. In the states, the various Governors are behaving as if they are in a swoon. In Imo state, the Governor has launched a state-wide environmental sanitation exercise to remind the people of the importance of hygiene; in Jigawa, the Governor is focussing on the handicapped and providing them social security, but in most other states, the Governors have been full of excuses or they are having to battle with serious crises arising from the circumstances of their election to office (this is the case in Edo, Rivers, Ekiti etc.).

Generally, there is a lull. Governors who are spending their second-term in office are also celebrating their first 100 days in office, but the people are too willing to forgive these ones for doing nothing. The assumption is that you do not need to do anything as a Governor if you are no longer seeking re-election. New Governors are excused on the grounds that they are also slow because of cases pending against them in election petition tribunals. But I do not see how this can justify inaction. The explanation is to be found in the lack of ideas about what to do, and the failure of our institutions. Even when politicians are busy with matters of political survival relating to their mandates, a state can run on the energy of its existing institutions. But here, the institutions are dependent on the whims and caprices of the man in power. If President Yar'Adua closes from work at 4 p.m everyday, the entire presidency also shuts down, whereas running Nigeria is a 24-hour/7/365 days business.

To be fair to the Yar'Adua government at the centre, it has done a good job of establishing an identity. It has managed to brand itself for public consideration. Although the President had campaigned on the platform of continuity, in 100 days, he has succeeded in showing that he is aware of the burdens of history sitting on his shoulders. He still talks about continuity but the greatest victim of his administration in the last 100 days has been the preceding government and former President Olusegun Obasanjo in particular. President Yar'Adua has already reversed some of the controversial decisions taken by that administration, with an instructive sub-text: rejection and distancing.

The first is the reversal of the increase in the pump prices of petroleum products and the sale of the Kaduna and Port Harcourt refineries, following an early protest by organised Labour. The second is the suspension of import duty waivers. The third and perhaps the loudest is the refusal of the new President to offer appointments to known cronies of the former President, those ones who claimed that they helped to put Yar'Adua in power! The fourth is the radical manner in which Yar'Adua's Ministers have been criticising, albeit indirectly the performance of the previous administration. The Minister of Health, Adenike Grange and the Minister of Transportation, Diezani Alison-Madukeke have both publicly condemned the state of affairs in the respective sectors under their watch.

Fifthly, Yar'Adua has since released the outstanding revenue allocation due to the local councils in Lagos state which President Obasanjo seized in defiance of a Supreme Court ruling. Sixthly, under Yar'Adua, there has been much emphasis on respect for the rule of law. He demonstrated this by refusing to interfere in the Anambra case in which the Supreme Court ruled that Peter Obi should be reinstated as Governor of that state. We can go on. Yar'Adua has also been praised for adopting a quiet, dignified style. He is also talking about electoral reforms and he has set up a committee to carry out the assignment.

He has split the NNPC into five and re-organised the leadership structure. He has stopped further arbitrary demolition of buildings in Abuja. He has been making some body movement on the Niger Delta question and the problems of the energy sector. There was some noise also about zero tolerance for corruption, and indeed some former Governors were arraigned by the EFCC but that has since died down. Obviously, Yar'adua may not offend sacred cows. One set that has found favour with him is the Council of traditional rulers whose members have suddenly become very influential. The Sultan of Sokoto is now constantly in the news!

Yar'Adua may have given enough indications in 100 days that he is not dumb at all and that he is his own man, but he is yet to provide any clues or answers to two questions: What are the ultimate goals of his government? What is the ideology propelling it? This is not yet clear. He will need more than reading and following the wind of public mood and opinion to govern Nigeria. He must engage the country at the level of ideas and immediate action. He does not need to be the President of everything. Three or four key issues are enough, let him choose out of a long list: Niger Delta, the railways and the roads, electricity and education and get the country moving.

In 100 days under a new government, Nigerians have been confronted with just how desperate their situation is. The word out there is that eight years of the peoples' life was wasted between 1999 and 2007. But the people should by now have also learnt some lessons. It must be clear to each and every one that the rains are still beating us and the roof of this falling house is leaking. All the issues that were papered over by the Obasanjo administration have returned to haunt us even more urgently. Look at Port Harcourt, the place is now a land of anomie; look at the political elite - as greedy and as mercurial as ever, look at the Constitution: we still have to tear it apart and create a new Constitution; look at the society: no jobs, no water, no electricity, a land of unhappy people! This is the broken down vehicle that has Yar'Adua has inherited. And we shall waste no time in holding him accountable.

About 100 days later, many Nigerians appear to be willing to give him a chance. The man is so different, every woman wants to protect him and every critic is studying him as a specimen. But he carries a baggage: the circumstances of his election and the unresolved conflicts over the April 2007 elections. Even if Nigerians are willing to forgive and forget, the international community as indicated in the recent damning report by the EU Observer Mission in Nigeria would not join what seems like a growing conspiracy of silence inside Nigeria. Whatever President Yar'Adua does, or even the state Governors, no one among them can sleep with both eyes closed until the election petitions have been resolved.

Let the occasion of their first 100 days in office be an occasion for sobriety and humility. Let no one spend N623 million on any jamboree and turn round later to say that only N238 million was spent. We expect this new set of leaders to act with some level of intelligence. We may not have had a hand in their election, but it hurts to see another tainted team donning the national jersey.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Watch this space...

"Industry Players Differ On Scrapping of NNPC" -
"Nigerians abroad plan mega firm to run refineries, power plants" - Guardian Newspaper

There seems to be a lot happening on the Oil & Gas scene in Nigeria this week...

Reactions yesterday greeted Thursday's approval by the Federal Government for the unbundling of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) into five new organizations as industry players differ on what will be the place of the corporation between now and six month's time when the new policy will take effect.

However, the President of Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) has described it as a welcome development, noting that it will make the oil companies autonomous and quickens decision making.

But his National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) counterpart, Mr. Peter Akpattason, has called for further clarification on the whole issue in view of the fact that the law setting up the NNPC is yet to repealed.

He argued that it was controversial for the federal government to effect the changes based on a new law in place, when the old one has not been repealed.

Some believe this exercise will "take Nigeria nowhere because it will worsen the bureaucratic process in the industry" (former President, Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE), Mr. Austin Avuru). Others believe that "commercialization of NNPC's activities will translate into more investments, more innovations and more profit" (Dr. Levi Ajuonuma, Public Affairs Division of NNPC).


NIGERIAN professionals abroad have offered to work with the Federal Government to realize its goal of a viable oil and gas and energy sector.

For a start, they have proposed to float a public quoted company with global outreach to set up 24 refineries and generate 50,000 megawatts into the national grid.

The professionals, who operate under Nigerians for Super Energy based in Houston, United States (U.S.) said that the country needed about $29 billion to have a functioning energy sector.

They suggested that the government should provide $15 billion of the funds while Super Energy and its partners would source for the balance.

Apart from working with the government to realize the twin-goals, the experts are collaborating with the National Union of Petrol and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) to ensure that the local people fully participate in the project.

This seems like an extraordinary initiative these "Super Energy" folks are undertaking, an effective way for Nigerians in the Diaspora to make hands-on change in the oil industry. It would be nice to know a bit more about what they stand for and who exactly these individuals are, as we wouldn't want a situation where they end up simply being a front for the naija "big players" under the guise of being well-meaning Diasporans (i hate that term but couldn't think of anything else). Thoughts pls.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Design a Uniform, Shape a School

A friend of the AfroBeat, Shirley, who works with the African Leadership Academy (ALA) (a world-class boarding school opening outside Johannesburg next year), wanted us to pass this along.


At ALA, our aim is to develop a new generation of African Leaders. One of the core elements of our philosophy is that young people can (and will!) change the world. As a result of this, we are selecting a design for our school uniform by organizing a pan-African competition open to students and schools from all over Africa. By doing this, we're living our belief that young people can be given great opportunities for impact and trusted to deliver on them.

The competition will be judged by a panel of internationally-renowned African fashion designers. As a Ghanaian who is a huge fan of several African designers, I'm excited by the opportunity to explore the potential of a new generation of designers, and I think this is something that might interest your readers.

There is more information on the competition on our website here:

Below is the news item we've published as well.

ALA Launches Uniform Design Competition

Design a Uniform, Shape a School

On August 1st, ALA launched a pan-African competition to solicit designs for the Academy's inaugural school uniform. ALA believes in the power of young people to change the world, and that young leaders will transform Africa. By opening the uniform design competition to students, we are giving them the opportunity to impact the lives of thousands of these potential leaders from all across Africa. The competition is open to individual students or groups of students between the ages of 12 and 20 all across Africa. The best design will decided by an international panel which will include world-renowned African fashion designers, and the winner will be commemorated with a plaque at the Academy. The first round runs until the 15 th of November.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Nicolas Sarkozy's Africa

Achille Mbembe's commentary (thankfully translated by my former African Studies prof) is an insightful critique of Nicolas Sarkozy's (and extends to France's elite ruling class in general) skewed view/language regarding Africa. It is chilling to think that this is the man who will rule France possibly for the next 10 years. Mbembe asks some thought-provoking questions such as: What credibility can we afford such gloomy words that portray Africans as fundamentally traumatized beings incapable of acting on their own behalf and in their own recognized interests? How is it possible to come to promise us a fanciful Eurafrica without even mentioning the internal efforts to build a unitary African economic framework? But the article is rather long so keep in mind that the excerpts below only make up about a quarter of the whole commentary.

Nicolas Sarkozy's Africa - by Achille Mbembe

If they'd had the chance, the majority of French-speaking Africans would have no doubt voted against Nicolas Sarkozy at the last French presidential elections...a high price for his attitude to immigration when he was Jacques Chirac's Minister of the Interior, his alleged collusion with the racist extreme right-wing and his role in sparking the riots in France's deprived suburbs in 2005.

Violation by language
On his first tour of sub-Saharan Africa, he thus arrived in Dakar preceded by a terribly negative reputation: that of a hyper-active and dangerous politician, cynical and brutal, power-crazy, who doesn't listen, speaks his mind and more, doesn't skimp on the means and who, with regard to Africa and its people, shows nothing but condescension and contempt.

For those who expect nothing from France, the words pronounced at the University of Dakar were nonetheless highly revealing. Indeed, the speech written by Henri Guaino (special advisor) and delivered by Nicolas Sarkozy in the Senegalese capital offer an excellent illumination into the power to harm - conscious or unconscious, passive or active - which, over the next ten years, might well arise from the paternalistic and hackneyed vision that some of the new French ruling elite (on both the left and right) continue to project onto a continent which has nonetheless constantly undergone radical changes, especially during the second half of the 20th century.

The new French president's speech shows how, trapped in a frivolous and exotic vision of the continent, the new French ruling elites claim to shed light on realities that they consider their worst fears or their fantasies (race) but which, in reality, they know nothing about. To address "the elite of African youth", then, Henri Guaino contented himself to lifting, almost word for word, passages from the chapter Hegel devotes to Africa in his work Reason in History, which I again, after many others, recently criticized in my book On the Postcolony.
According to Hegel, Africa is a land of unchanging substance and dazzling disorder, the joyful and tragic country in Creation. Black people, as we see them today, are as they have always been. In the immense energy of the natural arbitrariness that dominates them, neither the moral moment, nor ideas of freedom, justice and progress have any place or particular status. Whoever wants to discover the most appalling manifestations of human nature can find them in Africa. Strictly speaking, this part of the world has no history. What we understand, in short, going by the name of Africa, is an ahistoric, undeveloped world, entirely prisoner of its natural spirit and whose place remains on the threshold of universal history.
The new French elites do not believe anything different. They share this Hegelian prejudice. They now consider that one can only address societies so deeply plunged into the night of childhood by speaking unguardedly, with a sort of virgin energy. And that is indeed what they have in mind when they now openly defend the idea of a nation no longer "hung-up" about its colonial past.
In their eyes, it is only possible to speak of Africa and to Africans by following the path of sense and reason in reverse. It doesn't matter if this is done so in a context in which each word spoken is so in a blanket of ignorance. It suffices to pile on the words, to employ a kind of verbal plethora, to advance in a suffocating wealth of images - all the things that give Nicolas Sarkozy's Dakar speech its abrupt, faltering, and blunt character.

How then, can one be surprised that his definition of the continent and its people is ultimately purely negative? Indeed, our ethno-philosopher president's "African man" is above all characterized either by what he hasn't got, what he isn't or by what he has never managed to achieve (the dialectic of lack and incompletion), or by his opposition to "modern man" (read "white man"), an opposition which apparently results from his irrational attachment to the kingdom of childhood, the world of night, to simple pleasures and a golden age that never existed.
For the rest, the new French ruling elite's Africa is essentially a rural, magical, phantom Africa, partly bucolic, partly nightmarish, inhabited by peasant folk, composed of a community of sufferers who have nothing in common other than their common position on the margins of history, prostrate as they are in a outer-world - that of sorcerers and griots, of magical beings who keep fountains, sing in rivers and hide in the trees, of the village dead and ancestors whose voices can be heard, of masks and forests full of symbols, of the clichés that are so-called "African solidarity", "community spirit", "warmth" and respect for elders and chiefs.

Today, the cultural and intellectual prism through which the new French ruling elites consider Africa, judge it, or doll it out lessons isn't just obsolete. It leaves no place for the amicable relationships that would be a sign of freedom because coextensive with relationships of justice and respect. For the time being, when it comes to Africa, France simply lacks the moral credit that would allow it to speak with certitude and authority.
That is why Nicolas Sarkozy's Dakar speech will not be heard, and even less taken seriously by those he was supposed to be addressing.

Achille Mbembe is a research professor in history and politics at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He has written extensively in African history and politics, and is the winner of the 2006 Bill Venter/Altron Award for his book On the Postcolony (University of California Press, 2001).