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Lauretta Onochie and the burden of partisanship, by Onyeisi Chiemeke



Lauretta Onochie

If there is a calibrated index of President Muhammadu Buhari’s supporters on the social media, Ms. Lauretta Onochie will rank amongst the top contestants to take the trophy. For that reason, it is not a surprise that since the announcement, about eight months ago, by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan of the President Muhammadu Buhari nominating her as one of the commissioners for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the battle over her appointment has shifted to the social media her favorite turf. The core of the arguments of her traducers or opponents is the fact that for her alleged partisanship, she is disqualified from being nominated or being a commissioner of INEC considering the fact that such a body is required to act with such utmost good faith by its non-partisanship and by extension its personnel. Partisanship in this sense may be an act by a person of showing too much support for one person, group or idea.

We can do away with few preliminaries by not dwelling much on the fact of the legality of her nomination, as there is only one person vested with the authority to nominate her as a commissioner of the INEC in this case the president. Secondly, whether the National Assembly will approve her nomination we believe may be in the realm of public sentiments and not the legality of her qualification as a result of her alleged partisanship.

The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) by virtue of section 153(1F) established the INEC, as it said; there shall be established for the nation the following bodies namely – Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) it went further to state in section 153(2); the composition and powers of each body established by sub-section (1) of the section as contained in Part (1) of the third schedule to this constitution. In the said Part 1 of the third schedule of the Constitution, particularly section 14, the composition and process of appointment of the commissioners of INEC are set out. It says in Section 14(1);

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the Independent National Electoral Commission shall comprise the following members –

(a) the Chairman, who shall be the chief Electoral Commissioner; and

(b) 12 other members to be known as National Electoral Commissioners.

Who shall be persons of unquestionable integrity and not be less than 50 years and 40 years of age respectively.

Further, section 14(2) states that;

(a) there shall be for each state of federation and the federal capital territory, Abuja, a resident Electoral Commissioner who shall be appointed by the President,

(b) the person of unquestionable integrity.

(c) not be less than 40 years of age.

What is clear is that for the appointment of commissioners of INEC, there are two basic requirements to be fulfilled, and they are:

Such person(s) being person(s) of unquestionable integrity
Being not less than 40 years old.
If these were, the two basic requirements, as provided for by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999), where then cometh the objection with regard to the nomination of Mrs. Onochie as INEC commissioner? The obvious answer seems to be on the fact that she is an adviser on social media to the president, who as her appointor for her current job has now gone ahead to nominate her as a commissioner for INEC. This argument for ethical reasons that we shall come back to sounds logical, taking into consideration that for the reasons of the antecedent of her appointment as an adviser to the President, it may be difficult for her to distance her loyalty to the president in her new place of work. But this argument may not be sustained for the reasons of the fact that the argument does not have a legal foundation on the requisite requirements for such appointment as provided for by Section 14(1), Part I of the Third Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999).

We do not want to go into the counter argument by her supporters that there may be other commissioners who are closet members of other political parties, because as the popular African saying states; it is the dog seen with excreta that is guilty of eating excreta.

We can only ask the question whether in truth being a member of a political party and subsequently, an electoral body creates a situation that may make the person partisan.

Even in the United States example we cited, despite the fact that the offices of Secretary to the State Government are in charge of conducting both states and national elections the overwhelming evidence does not support the bias of such electoral officers for their political parties. For instance in Sierra Leone too, members of the political parties form part of the members of the electoral commission.

In effect, the problem may lie elsewhere in this case, the deficit of ethics with which our politics is conducted.

It is our humble opinion that no law has been infracted upon, either in her nomination by the president, or where possible her confirmation by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

We can situate the argument properly by questioning whether it is ethically right for an appointee of the president elected by a political party to make one of his appointees a member of an electoral body charged with the responsibility of conducting elections of which the president’s party in the present and in the future will be a contestant. But as we said, we do not see a law that bars her from holding such an office.

*Onyeisi Chiemeke is a Legal Practitioner based in Lagos. He is also a writer and he is the author of the book; June 12 Election: Campaign for Democracy and the Implosion of the Nigerian Left.


Why Ndigbo should put on their thinking cap




By Chidi Nkwopara

THIS issue was not into reckoning until after the Resident Electoral Commissioner, REC, Imo State, Professor Francis Ezeonu, finished addressing the press recently, in Owerri.

Although Professor Ezeonu’s address centred on “the roll-out of the online registration portal for the resumption of the Continuous Voter Registration, CVR”, by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, it however, brought to the fore the fabled and sad, ‘I-don’t-care attitude’ of Ndigbo to the civic responsibilities of bona fide citizens to things like census and continuous voter registration exercises.

While explaining that the press briefing was part of the Commission’s effort to keep the citizenry posted with its activities, as the nation prepares for the 2023 general elections, Ezeonu also said that 1,235 new polling units had emerged from the previously existing 3,523 polling units in Imo State.

His words: “The locations proposed for siting the new polling units and their Global Positioning System, GPS, coordinates, which had been mapped for geo-referencing, has been verified by the Commission. I am happy to inform you that the exercise has been completed and both the old and new polling unit names and delineated data has been published on the INEC website. This exercise was purposely designed to precede the Continuous Voter Registration exercise, so as to make new polling units available to voters.

“The Commission has continued to improve on its operational strategy and deployment. It was the desire of the Commission to roll-out both the physical and online registration exercise at the same time, but we are encumbered by the security challenges in the country.

As you are aware, the Commission has had the sad experience of recent attacks on our offices across the country. Although the attacks have subsided, the Commission is still deeply worried by the threat that they could pose to registrants and INEC staff, during the CVR. Following nationwide consultations, the Commission has agreed with stakeholders on a phased deployment of the CVR.”

This brings into focus the staggeringly low figure ascribed to the South East geo-political zone. It also brings into focus, the probability that Ndigbo are not conscious of the ongoing exercise and/or, if they do, what they are doing to change the narrative. It also raises the question about the preparedness of Ndigbo to jump at the current CVR opportunity to redress the sad reality that the South East takes the unenviable back seat, after each registration of voters and national census exercises.

We all, especially the careful political watchers, can vividly recall that in the 1955 national census conducted by the colonial administration, Ndigbo recorded the highest population figure! So, what has happened to this ranking? The Nigeria/Biafra war may be an issue, but it is unthinkable that Ndigbo died so much that they started procreation afresh! Pertinent questions to ask again at this juncture are: Has any government policy contributed to this ugly development?

Did Ndigbo at any point shoot themselves on the foot and for whatever reason? Nobody is in doubt that Ndigbo are everywhere, and in their numbers too. It has also been variously said that anywhere you go and don’t find an Igboman there, the best thing to do is pack your load and leave the place immediately. This is a sure proof that Ndigbo are everywhere, including every community in Nigeria!

The Igbo belief that “ebe onye bi ka onawachi” (make your place of abode your home), is no longer helping the people. Ndigbo should please, have a rethink about this. It has done colossal, collateral damage to Ndigbo, but will they ever learn from their past and bitter experience? This remains the greatest worry of Igbo patriots.

The Igbo psyche could not have been so myopic to some that they have so soon, forgotten that at the end of the Nigeria/Biafra war in 1970, the issue of abandoned properties in Rivers State sadly came into the Nigerian socio-political and legal lexicon. In case they have forgotten, it is good to remind them again about it.

Anybody that refuses to remember the past, especially the pitfalls and what caused it, also stands the risk of repeating the same mistakes and suffering deeper consequences! As in the abandoned properties of Rivers State, so it was in so many areas across Nigeria. Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu also went to court to recover his late father’s property in Lagos.

Some state governments have since formed the habit of giving Ndigbo virgin areas to inhabit. Ndigbo expectedly skinned themselves to make the place habitable and enviable. However, and in almost all cases, possibly within a few years duration, the same government will sack them from the place and give them a new location. In Owerri, for instance, a segment of Owerri municipality is called “Ama Hausa”. This place was given to them in 1902.

It has remained virtually the same till date. Again, the story is the same at Lokpanta, Abia State, where Orji Uzo Kalu gave Hausa/Fulani cattle dealers to stay and carry out their business. Can anybody explain why this is so? Conversely, it is a truism that in virtually all the troubled regions of Nigeria, Ndigbo have properties which they cannot access now.

Whether such investments have become abandoned properties again, or outrightly forfeited, is anybody’s guess. Look at what happened in South Africa, even if as a footnote. How many Nigerians were killed during the ugly schizophrenic attack on foreigners? How many of them were from the Igbo nation? Again, the happenings in Ghana is another serious pointer that Ndigbo should think home.

Now, let us get back home and take a hard look at the nation’s population census and the continuous voter registration. The two exercises point to the real strength of a people. Today, there is no space in the national population data which indicates a citizen’s place of birth.

We have also heard some state governments threatening non-indigenes that if they go to their respective places of origin to get counted during census, they should not return to where they stay and do their business. This threat is unnecessary, but they know that it will help to boost their voting strength and/or their population, during any national headcount. It is a plus for them and a minus for Ndigbo.

Once upon a time, the National Convention of Nigerian Citizens, NCNC, won the keenly contested elections in Western Nigeria. History narrated what happened thereafter and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe returned to his Eastern Regional home. Was any lesson learnt from this?

Again, during the current electoral engineering, some residents of Lagos State, who are of Igbo extraction, won elections in both the State House of Assembly and the House of Representatives. But, what happened in the last general elections? There were very clear evidence that mayhem was let loose in areas Ndigbo had good voting power.

They were, thus, tactically disenfranchised. Has anybody learnt from this? Is there any plan on ground to ensure that this does not happen in 2023? When will Ndigbo learn that no matter what they do for the children of their concubines, they will never be taken as their biological fathers? The questions begging for answers are endless.

This current voter registration exercise is another opportunity for Ndigbo to think home. It is a time to boost the numerical strength of Igbo voters at home. It is a time to change the narrative. It is a time to lift the Igbo nation from the last position on the log, to where they really belong. Egg heads in Igboland should take up the challenge. Everybody should be sensitized to register now, before the exercise ends.

Unless Ndigbo decide today to think out of the box, the current history will remain unchanged. Thanks be to God that INEC has made it possible and very easy to register and/or change polling units online.

Igbo leaders at all levels are urged to take up the challenge of properly educating their relations and friends, on the urgent need to think home. Ndigbo, please think!

Chief Nkwopara, a journalist, wrote from Owerri, Imo State

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Security agencies: Ruthless on agitators, pampering bandits, killer herdsmen by ADELANI ADEPEGBA



Secessionist agitations and insecurity are rising across the country but security agencies’ approach to tackling them appears divisive, ADELANI ADEPEGBA reports

A notorious bandit operating within the precincts of Zamfara State forest recently boasted about his operations and exploits against the Nigerian military.

In a trending video, the bandit who was identified by his alias, Dankarami, was holding a rifle while surrounded by a crowd.

He granted an interview to some persons suspected to be government officials, including policemen. In the video which lasted four minutes, 40 seconds, the dreadlocked bandit was heard boasting about his ambushes against military convoys in Zamfara State.

Narrating his deadly exploits, Dankarami said, “After three months, they brought in soldiers and took them to Dumburum. I allowed them. My house was under the road they passed; I let them.

“I relocated my wives and stayed alone with my boys. One evening, on the fourth day, on their way from Gusau, I dealt with them (soldiers).

“They sent another team and I killed half of them. Another evening, they ambushed my brothers who were bringing me supplies and seized their motorcycles. They joined forces with Niger State. I dealt with them. I’m still here till tomorrow.

“No one can arrest me unless I let them. Whatever they (my boys) want to do, they won’t do until I say so. The other day, they went to Zurmi and kidnapped children, small children. I was sleeping at home; they said there were 40 people. I took them back. Since our parents pleaded with us to return the children, did we collect a single naira? Did anyone give us anything?

Apart from Dankarami who relished the killing of security operatives and abduction of innocent people, there are hundreds of other gun-wielding outlaws holding sway in different forests in the North whom the government has tacitly given the licence to kill, steal and destroy.

In Katsina State, bandits have killed over 1,500 citizens, and rustled thousands of livestock while Governor Aminu Masari appears helpless.

He had been pictured with various bandit leaders, who, after collecting huge sums, abandon the so-called amnesty offered by his administration.

The Secretary to the Katsina State Government, Mustapha Inuwa, revealed in July 2020, that the government spent N30m on the last failed amnesty programme.

The fund was used to buy surrendered weapons from ‘repentant bandits’ who went back into crime after deceiving the government.

Five months after vowing never to negotiate again with the bandits, Masari hosted two gang leaders, 30-year-old Sale Turwa and 33-year-old Muhammed Sani Maidaji at the Government House.

Promising a change of heart, the two men surrendered 10 AK-47 rifles to the governor during the meeting which was also attended by the heads of security agencies in the state, including the police, the Department of State Services, and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.

Speaking at the state police command headquarters last month, the governor asked the residents to defend themselves, noting that the people should not rely on the security agencies to protect them.

Not a few Nigerians were annoyed by the statement from a man who was elected and paid to protect his people.

Rather than tackle the bandits, the Muhammadu Buhari regime appears to be indirectly encouraging an Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, to meet with the bandits frequently.

The cleric has been demanding amnesty for the hoodlums, while also suggesting that they should be engaged to guard the forests.

In Zamfara, rampaging bandits have prevented farmers from going to their farms. This has worsened the famine situation in the state.

The state governor, Bello Mattawalle, hobnobbed with the outlaws, gave them vehicles and money in what appeared like futile efforts to buy them off.

Sadly, reports have since indicated that the bandits have been using the donated resources to further their noxious business.

While the government and security agencies are pampering the outlaws who have become more emboldened, the regime has been going after propagators of secession in the country, especially in the South.

Many Nigerians thought the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, SAN, was about announcing a major breakthrough in the security crisis facing the nation during his hastily arranged press conference a few days ago.

But an apparently happy and satisfied Malami had something else to share.

Sitting behind a battery of microphones, the Minister of Justice triumphantly disclosed that security agencies had apprehended Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra. The news which was short on details brewed speculations on how and where he was arrested and the manner of his extradition.

Some applauded the government for apprehending the Biafra leader, but a huge number of Nigerians argued that the Federal Government should focus on the urgent security situation instead of chasing gnats while the nation implodes.

Mass abductions of students and large-scale killings have assumed pandemic proportions under the Muhammadu Buhari regime.

About 110 female students of the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State were kidnapped on February 19, 2018; on December 11, 2020, over 300 students of the Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, Katsina State were abducted by bandits.

On February 17, 2021, a student was killed while 27 other students of the Government Science Secondary School, Kagara, Niger State, were also whisked away by gunmen.

Similarly, 279 students of Government Girls Science School, Jangebe, Zamfara, were abducted on February 26, 2021.

A group of gunmen took away 39 students from the Federal College of Forestry Mechanisation, Kaduna on March 11.

The victims spent two months with their captors before they were released. The bandits also abducted 23 students of Greenfield University, Kaduna, on April 20.

Despite collecting over N55m from the parents of the students, the gunmen murdered five students while insisting on additional N100m ransom.

Last Tuesday, five soldiers and nine villagers were killed, while 104 people were abducted in three communities in Zamfara State.

Over 700 persons were said to have been kidnapped since December under General Buhari’s watch.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, between the start of January and the end of November 2020, there were a total of 142 attacks by Boko Haram or ISWAP insurgents in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, an average of 13 incidents a month. At least 1,606 people were killed in 125 fatal incidents, making an average of 13 deaths per violent event in the Boko Haram insurgency in 2020.

The United Nations Development Programme reports that nearly 350,000 people have been killed in the North-East in the past 12 years. Also, 1.9 million people currently live in Internally Displaced Persons camps in the North.

In a report on the insurgency released with the Ministry of Finance early this year, the UNDP said many more had died from the indirect effects of the conflict, citing damage to agriculture, water, trade, food and healthcare.

If the conflict continues to 2030, more than 1.1 million people may die, according to the agency. The UNDP noted that needs would remain high for vulnerable people in 2021 and 8.7 million people would require urgent assistance

“Up to 5.1 million people risk being critically food insecure during the next lean season (June – August 2021), a level similar to 2016-2017 when famine was looming over Borno State,” it warned.

Forty-eight hours after Kanu’s secret extradition, the Department of State Services invaded the residence of Yoruba rights activist, Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known as Sunday Igboho, in Soka, Ibadan. Two persons were killed during the raid while 13 persons were arrested. The raid, which was carried out at night, has however, sparked anger among Nigerians with many expressing fury over the deployment of state power and violence against secessionists.

Reacting, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State urged the Federal Government to demonstrate the same zeal put into the arrest of the IPOB leader , against the leaders of militia herdsmen and Miyetti Allah “who have owned up to the killings in the state.”

The governor, who spoke while inaugurating the sale of fertilizer in Makurdi, said, “If the Federal Government has demonstrated capacity to arrest Nnamdi Kanu, they should also exhibit the same zeal, will and decision to arrest the Fulani herdsmen that are terrorising our state and country. Let that be done, they are living here with us.

“If Nnamdi Kanu can be arrested from a foreign land, I believe that if the Federal Government can exhibit the same will, they will arrest Fulani herdsmen, especially Miyetti Allah who have owned up to the killings in Benue State and have continued to terrorise our land; if the Federal Government does not do that, it means that they are not serious.”

In the same vein, a Tiv group, Mzough U Tiv Worldwide, expressed concern over the refusal of the FG to arrest killer herdsmen terrorising parts of the state.

In a statement, the President General of MUT, Chief Iorbee Ihagh, drew the attention of the government to the security situation and the attendant danger to food production.

It said, ”We are deeply concerned and worried that the Federal Government has refused to look inwards by arresting leaders of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore and other violent Fulani groups who openly threaten and carry out attacks on communities in Benue and other states of this country without any form of resistance.”

A former Assistant Director of the DSS, Mr Dennis Amachree, however, defended the agency’s action against Kanu and Igboho, describing the men as low-hanging security threats which should be nipped in the bud.

He stated, “The country as a whole is going through a crisis but the government has also been seen as not doing anything about it. Now, the government is trying to do something about it by going for the low-hanging fruits trying to arrest people like Kanu whom they have been looking for, for a while; arrest people like Igboho who is trying to look for self-determination for Yorubaland but intelligence report has shown that he is having guns in his possession.”

Amachree disclosed that the security forces had overwhelmed the insurgents and bandits, stressing that kidnapping incidents had reduced nationwide due to increased operations against criminals.

A security analyst, Ben Okezie, also argued that the security forces had largely eliminated the insurgents, noting that a major onslaught against bandits in Zamfara was also ongoing. He also justified the actions against Kanu and Igboho.

He stated, “They (DSS) knew that Igboho might eventually become another serious case and due to the fact that he has arms, the DSS moved against him. He is not an institution, why would he have more than one firearm?”

Okezie was nevertheless silent on why the government has refused to deploy the same zeal it unleashed on both Kanu and Igboho against bandits and killer herdsmen who are continuing in their deadly activities in the country almost unchallenged.

According to some analysts, Nigerians are keen to know whether the bandits and other criminals the government and its officials are engaging in talks are institutions.

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