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Nigeria and the rule of law

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It always starts small. I was small. My friends were small. The amount of money was small. My mother, apart from being a full time midwife was a seamstress and events caterer – cakes for weddings, salad every weekend for the frequent dances at the recreation and other African clubs, the box. Her singer sewing machine could be tilted for repairs and services thus the box on which the machine was mounted providing a convenient place to keep important documents like her Action Group party membership card, her church class membership card and some loose pennies and half pennies.

I was rather small and constantly told how adorable I was. I attracted a coterie of boys in the area who dropped in for bits of left over cakes, salads, jollof rice etc. We all had sweet tooth encouraged by Fulani hawkers of sugar cane sweets, flaked coconut candy , mosa , gurundi , alewa sweet candy (Arimiminiss) all selling for half penny. My friends all know of the pennies in the machine box and for ever pushed me to tilt up the machine and get some money, I refused. My mother was strict but generous, impressing upon me to ask for whatever I wanted, and not to take anything that did not belong to me without permission. My friends’ pressure on me was immense. I refused. But there was compromise. Some of my friends asked where my mother was; if she was on duty, or gone out, they would sneak to the machine and take a penny or two. If my mother asked if I took any money from the machine, no, I would reply. Since she did not ask who took the money anyway, I kept quiet. I did not feel I could tell her it was Bayo or Segun, or Pratt or Ibisi. I would not tell what became of many of these chaps. The point about this story is that bad things (I pressure also good things) start from small beginnings. When government start by ignoring small wrong doings, ignoring court rulings, it takes no time before they ignore large wrong doings and even spearhead crimes and misdeeds.

President Jonathan assembled a first class team of political strategists including Cambridge Analytical to manage his elections of 2011 and 2015. Large sums of money were spent (politics is an expensive business anywhere) but most of President Jonathan `s money was spent by his followers who helped themselves to what they could, party functionaries, political propagandists etc (imagine President Jonathan`s minister claiming that Nigeria had endured an industrial revolution under Jonathan, that our GDP was grown at 9% or 10%, that Nigeria was self sufficient in rice and fish production etc.

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The mismanagement of our resources was either painfully obvious or disparagingly ignored, thus believing the spin and not the reality. By 2015 those strategies no longer worked. There was the Boko Haram insurgency. I do not know whether this was politically motivated by his opponents but the handling was worse than inept (this is not the place to tackle the ideology of Boko Haram, which I understand means western education is anatherma to muslims and therefore deserving a jihad– the same people who use that education and its techniques to oppose politicians who Boko Haram despises!)

The National Assembly passed an emergency decree placing nearly one fifth of the country under emergency and curfew. It made no sense to hold any elections under such conditions. Election must mean the free expression of a people about who should rule them. Such freedom to elect could not really be exercised under a state of emergency. Moreover, I believe that the internal dialectical contradictions within Boko Haram i.e. that Western education is Anathema and therefore worthy of a jihad should and could be better exploited. Whatever western education is it cannot be divorced from the unmeasurable Islamic contribution to that education. (More of this later)

The government of Nigeria, federal and state have grown accustomed to perpetuate illegalities and to choose which judgments of the judiciary to accept and which to ignore. When Nigeria likes it accepts non-binding decisions like the international court decision on Bakassi; ignore decisions for the massacre of the whole ethnic groups in Odi. Lately there is plethora of court decisions which had been ignored by relevant state and federal governments .e.g contractors win award from the courts but the government refuses to pay. The constitution of Nigeria is the supreme law of the country- establishing 3 equal institutions- executive, legislative and judiciary with the added proviso that in disputes between the executive and the legislature, the judiciary adjudicates and interprets. A Court grants bail or gives orders to free individuals but the executive continues to hold such individuals.

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International contracts are never signed except it goes through the Attorney General, the Minister of Finance and the Central Bank if the contracts have to do with money, local and foreign exchange. The Attorney General`s office is either over loaded or worse. It tends to fail in cases taken against Nigeria overseas. And the recent case of the nine billion pounds award against the federal government has shown that case is only a single case in the massive case load against Nigeria in almost all major industrial countries. Such contracts have an arbitration procedure and where this fails parties may resort to courts with acceptable competent jurisdiction. There is no doubt that some of these cases are scams but that apart, it is the willingness of Nigerian official in the phase of negotiations to satisfy unorthodox settlements most of which are opaque and self-seeking that ends us where we do not want to be. Simply put many of these cases are not worth the paper they were written on but it is not the job of the participants in a transaction to point out the pitfalls for those representing Nigeria.

The Central Bank of Nigeria has had an inglorious history with regards to Governors. Chief Ola Vincent, Clement Isong are perhaps two of the most qualified and celebrated of all the Governors. Almost none of the others has any backbone. (This may be because they were recruited from the commercial banks in the country. Nothing should disqualify a governor of a central bank more than that he was a managing director, owner, chairman of a Nigerian commercial bank. The path of a CBN governor and that of an MD of a bank are two parallel lines, never meant to meet. Moreover, neither the Chief Justice nor the CBN governor serves at the pleasure of the President so why are they so frightened of the executive? Why should the CBN carry on an MLR which is antithetical to the development of Nigeria? I am told that this was to prop up the naira having failed to restructure the economy. Maybe that’s why there seems to be no relation between the 13% or so percent the banks receive for deposits in CBN and the almost 25% – 35% the banks charge if one tries to borrow from them? I know that the corona virus has pushed the banks hard in the West; but before that the rates have been low in Switzerland, Japan. They have the negative rates rule. Now in the west the highest central bank lending rate is 0.25%. When Sanusi was the CBN Governor cases which Nigeria lost several. He paid some, some he refused to pay claiming a moral responsibility which was irrelevant. He defied a presidential order which sought to carry out a court judgement. Even so, I believe that there are fundamental issues with his dethronement and subsequent treatment.

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Under the colonial government and the government of the Northern Nigeria and because of the operation of indirect rule, an Emir who was dethroned left his emirate in exile. But we have a constitution in Nigeria which allows freedom of religion, movement, abode etc.

As a former Emir he may decide he does not want to live in Kano but that must be his decision not that of the Kano state government. The constitution trumps all laws local, religious etc. I know that Sultan Dasuki left sokoto after his removal as Sultan and that Emir Sanusi (the grandfather of the late emir) did likewise in Kano. It does not matter. It is against the constitution.

Nigerian governors are now fond of assembling chiefs, kings, emirs etc. and tongue lashing them as if they were delinquent school boys because they gave them a staff of office, some small change and vehicles. These exchanges are now of greater frequency: the governors’ language and behaviour more trenchant and utterly unmagisterial. That these men, the traditional chiefs who listen to this gibberish had no backbone to look the governors in the eye and say no more , is a sad commentary on how debased they and their stools are and how the traditional rulers have failed to rescue their own prestige . A man who eats like a pig cannot complain if he is treated like a pig. The governor of Rivers state the other day called the Rivers chiefs and tongue lashed them. They collected their envelops and walked away with their tails between their legs. The demise of the emir of Kano had long been predicted and we have all watched that inglorious denouncement.

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