Friday, 15 November 2013

Fix It or Let It Break: A Country Named NIGERIA

An article by Chikezie Nwaoha from Bangkok (chikezie.n@student.chula.ac.th)

Alone with my thoughts about my country, I became poised to put down a few lines and issues bothering over 160 million people with diversity in culture, religion etc, but enveloped under same struggle and challenges. I don’t know where to actually start, but a word begins a sentence, and a sentence begins a paragraph. Let me start from here:

My humble question to most of those people abusing ASUU for extending their executive meeting,  please 'if Prof. Iyayi was your father and bread winner of your family', what do you suggest should happen?. Secondly, we should learn to tackle issues using 'root cause analysis'. As a reference, if you have headache please don’t just take paracetamol alone, but go and find out what actually caused the headache and treat it accordingly. It’s time for the students to rise against this insanity and impunity from our so called governors, elected officers in several political offices etc. Issues like this should be used to correct some anomalies in the already decayed system. That was how the uprising started in some countries. Today, an average Nigerian wants to leave the country, but have we ever bothered to ask ourselves, how did most of these countries we want relocate to fix their country?

How much in trillions of naira was used to bail out some banks? After all that expenditure how healthy are the so called banks now? 2 billion naira got missing at NSPMC, what else have you heard about it.

How much in hundreds of billion naira that NNPC cannot account for, on an annual basis. Same thing goes to the SURE-P and all the parastetals under the federal goverment (dont forget Maina and Yusufu). At intervals the federal government sack top officials of NNPC on account of mismanagement of funds etc Please after the sack, what happens to the said mismanaged funds? So, it’s now a case of loot, get sacked, and you are free. What a story to tell.

$16 billion was said to be invested in the power sector during the Obasanjo era, how is the sector now? Yet people praise and laud him as an elder statesman. I'm yet to come to terms the yardstick for categorizing someone as an elder statesman. I stand to be educated here please. ..

Several hundreds of billion naira was used to launch the so called satellites in the space. Please, how is the internet and online services now? So embarrassing that a previously launched satellite (Nigcomsat) got missing in the orbit, after spending 40 billion naira. That’s a world record of fraud!

A complete vessel got lost in the shores of Nigeria, how possible is that? Even movie directors can't think of doing such in a movie. Did it enter the Bermuda triangle?

Several billions of naira have continued to be invested and siphoned to train the so called militants. The question is, is that the problem of Niger Delta? How does that affect the environmental, economic, social and health impact of oil and gas activities in that region?

300 billion naira was unaccounted for during Tony Anenih's time as the transport minister. Yet he's being celebrated. What of the 13 billion naira invested in mine and steel during Bola Ige's (RIP) time as minister? What of the 85 billion naira fraud during the time of Olabode George as Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Chairman? He only spent a few months in the prison and that’s ends the case. If you ask an average Nigerian, he will tell you, ‘give me 1 billion naira and I will spend 5 years in prison’. Will you blame such people that house this mentality?

It’s so unheard of, that even a serving minister will tell the country that the safety of the airline sector is in God's hand. Now, the question is, why didn’t she allow God to protect her? Yet she went ahead to procure bullet proof vehicles for personal use and safety.

The minister of Niger Delta Affiars, Elder Godsday Orubebe had the audacity to tell the country that 140 billion naira is needed to complete 35% of the remaining work on the east-west road, and 209 billion naira have already been spent on the 65% completed stage. Hmmm, does that road lead to fortunes and heaven? How are the Benin-ore road, lagos-ibadan expressway, and the lokoja-abuja road (that recently claimed the life of a patriot Prof. Iyayi). This is just to mention a few of the several federal roads that serves as death trap to traveler’s. Yet these politician’s have the guts to drive on such roads like 'I don't care people'. Of course, if they were actually voted in by the electorate, they wouldn’t have such mind to drive past them in such a manner.

A country where former governors are cleared of fraud charges against them. Ibori was cleared of 170 corruption charges by a so called reputable court. Yet he was convicted with the shortest possible time frame outside the country. What of the $500 million corruption charge against Dr. Peter Odili? In cases, where some of these funds were retrieved, it exchanged pockets to the people in the seat of power.

Governors pay monthly salary of state workers, and they publicize it as an achievement. It’s unthinkable.

What have happened to those indicted by USA on the $18 million Halliburton bribery case? Some of them have even received national honors in such regards.

I wasn’t surprised either when America’s Wall Street Journal revealed the mind-boggling million dollar sums that the Nigerian government has been paying Niger Delta warlords to keep them off the oil pipelines; Mr. Dokubo Asari collects $9million every year, ‘General’ Ateke Toms and ‘General‘ Ebikabowei Boyloaf Victor Ben collect $3.5million apiece while General Government Tompolo Ekpumopolo gets $22.5 million yearly. Hmmm

A certain developing country imports 85% of their consumed crude oil and have a refining capacity of 1.007 million barrels of crude oil per day, with 6 functional (100% capacity) refineries. Yet a country that produces an average of 2.3 million barrels per day have only 445,000 bpd refining capacity, with just 3 refineries (0% capacity). Mrs. Petroleum minister keep telling us that refineries are not profitable. May be she feels that all Nigerians are not informed. If that's her feeling, then the reverse is the case. If refineries are not profitable, why is the global refining capacity on the increase? This year alone Total (which exists in Nigeria) commissioned a 400,000 bpd (full conversion) refinery (Jubail refinery) in Saudi Arabia, a joint venture with Saudi Aramco, the national oil company of Saudi Arabia. Why is everything so different when it comes to Nigeria?

Crude oil is constantly siphoned on a daily basis from oil trunk lines. Yet there's no end to it. Of course I wasn't surprised too when I was informed by a credible source that these siphoned oil is tagged 'Federal' in the oil stock market. And for sure it sells cheaper than the supposed price. I have mentioned this in my previous updates, and YES it now been confirmed by the current leak that the NNPC in connivance with major Swiss oil trading companies, was draining Nigeria of billions of dollars ($6.8 billion) of revenue through the sale of crude oil below the market value. The case is as good as ended. At the worst case, some people might get sacked and they are free. Fresh people appointed and the looting continues.

The national assembly consumes 25% of the nation’s total overhead budget as rightly stated by the current CBN governor. An association of not up to 600 persons consumes 25% of the budget meant for over 160 million people. This is where the change should start. Being in the state and national assembly should be a part time work and not a career (as it’s currently done in Nigeria). STOP CONSTITUENCY ALLOWANCE, SITTING ALLOWANCE AND PLACE THEM ON MINIMUM WAGE!!! If the people own a country, then they should be better positioned to dictate what happens there in. 1 Million naira gross income per month for Senators, 750,000 for House of Representatives and 450,000 for State House of Assembly members!!!!!. If and when this is implemented, then we will definitely see and feel the change in all facets of nation building.

A member of federal House of Representatives packs several hundred thousand dollars under his mallam cap, yet he walks tall and freely. I won’t be amazed if some people call him a statesman too. After all, some certain individuals who breathe same polluted air with us could say that DSP Alamieyeseigha should be pardoned and allowed to contribute to nation building. Some even said he’s now remorseful. This sounds just like comic relief, but it actually happened. Of course, he was pardoned by the type of government we have. Please, don’t be surprised if you see him in the political scene soon.

A country where it’s financial watch dog EFCC and ICPC have turned to mere spectators to the happenings in all sectors of the country.

These days we celebrate rogues and people who have generally failed to impact positively in our country. National honors are shared between the rogues and failures, except for a very few. Have we immortalized 'Taiwo Akinkumi', the man that designed our national flag? What of John A. Ilechukwu, Eme Etim Akpan, B. A. Ogunnaike, Sota Omoigui and P.O. Aderibigbe, those that their lyrics were used to compose the national anthem? This is just to mention but a few. Yet when certain self-centered people die, some funny people shout ‘immortalize them’.

Several billion naira is annually allocated to the governors etc as security vote! The real and bitter fact is that, once these security votes still exist in the country for all level of political office holders, the entire nation will NEVER BE SAFE for the average and common Nigerian!!!!

Please, everybody should ponder over these and many more devastating issues we currently encounter and face in our dear and beloved country Nigeria.

Once again, FIX IT or LET IT BREAK.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Oracle Uncovers Hidden Aspects of The Nigerian Constitution: The Child Marriage Imbroglio

In the Nigerian Constitution, Chapter 3 is about citizenship. This chapter contains Sections 25 through 32 but the Oracle is interested in section 29 and particularly sub-section  4(b). To ensure that I drive my point home, here is the entire Section 29 of the Nigerian Constitution:
(29)
  1. Any citizen of Nigeria of full age who wishes to renounce his Nigerian citizenship shall make a declaration in the prescribed manner for the renunciation.
  2. The President shall cause the declaration made under subsection (1) of this section to be registered and upon such registration, the person who made the declaration shall cease to be a citizen of Nigeria.
  3. The President may withhold the registration of any declaration made under subsection (1) of this section if:
a. the declaration is made during any war in which Nigeria is physically involved; or
b.      In his opinion, it is otherwise contrary to public policy.

         4.  For the purposes of subsection (1) of this section:

a.       "full age" means the age of eighteen years and above;
b.      Any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age.

In a nut-shell, this Section is mainly about the renunciation of citizenship and the modalities involved. It stipulates that only Nigerians who are of full age (i.e. 18 and above) can renounce their citizenship. As long as the renunciation does not come at a time when Nigeria is physically involved in a war and as long as the renunciation was not made contrary to public policy, it shall be valid. Sub-section 4(b) however states that "any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age"...and this is the very essence of this divination.

The Nigerian House of Senate or a reasonable part of it noticed the connotation of Section 29, subsection 4(b) of the Nigerian constitution as it concerns child marriage and its flagrant contravention of Sections 21, 22 and 23 of the Children's Rights Act of 2003 which can be found here. Therefore, in July, they sought take it down and a vote was cast. Although a majority of the House (60) voted for the removal, 35 voted that is should be retained...and because a minimum of 73 votes are required to amend the constitution, the controversial clause still remains part of our constitution. I do not want to bother myself wondering about the manner of men and women who were amongst these rather pervasive 35 persons. Now to the matter at hand:

The Nigerian Constitution as it concerns Child marriage

Section 29, subsection 4(b) of the Nigerian constitution; contrary to popular belief, does not endorse child marriage...it is rather a show of stupidity as you shall see later. However, the Nigerian constitution still implicitly endorses child marriage and the rogue clause can be found on Section 11, Subsection 1(b) of the Code of Conduct for public officers which states that "...at the end of his [a public officer] term of office, [he should] submit to the Code of Conduct Bureau a written declaration of all his properties, assets, and liabilities and those of his unmarried children under the age of eighteen years".
Note “...his unmarried children under the age of eighteen years". 

What this means is that though it is legal to have married kids under the age of eighteen; a public office holder has to declare the assets of his kids who are under 18 years and are unmarried at the end of his term in office. The clause did not say “...his children under the age of eighteen" which would have been appropriate if it were only legal for Nigerians to get married from the age 18 and above.

This clause also creates certain rooms for siphoning public funds as Public Office holders can 'legally'  embezzle public funds as long as these funds are not in their names or in the names of their unmarried children. I can visualise a Public Office holder with a 13 year old daughter; he embezzles Public funds and stashes them away in his daughter's name; gets her married off at that tender age and when his term in office is over; he only gets to declare properties in his name and not his daughter's because she is now married. Nice!

The stupidity of Section 29, subsection 4(b) explained

As I said initially, the very essence of my divination today is about Section 29, subsection 4(b) of the Nigerian constitution which states "any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age". I also said that this clause does not endorse Child marriage although whoever proposed it had intended it to. That clause is fraught with tautology, stupidity, a mixture of both or a sinister motive to confuse.

First, who is a woman? Since the Nigerian Constitution does not contain its own definition of the term “woman”, it is fair to say that our constitution refers to “woman” as generically defined.

The Oxford dictionary defines a woman as an adult human female. The same dictionary defines an adult as:
  • Biologically: a human who is fully developed or matured physically, mentally and emotionally.
  • Legally: a person who has reached the age of majority.
Biologically - on the average- female humans hit full (physical, mental and emotional) maturity at the age of 18 and this is when they usually become women. Wikipedia calls this state of maturity "womanhood" and defines it as a period in a female human's life after she had outgrown childhood and adolescence; and this generally occurs at the age of 18. For some, hitting all three might even take a longer while and into their early 20s.

Legally, female humans - just like their male counterparts - assume responsibility over their persons and for their actions and decisions at the age of majority or at a full age which is 18 years in Nigeria; in some countries it could be as early as 16 or as late as 21. Age of majority or full age bestows the status of adulthood on people notwithstanding their level of physical, mental or emotional maturity.

Therefore, a woman could be micro-defined as a female human:
  1. who is in her early 20s for the avoidance of doubts or 
  2. who has reached full maturity at the age of 18 or 
  3. who has reached the age of majority/full age, which in the Nigerian context is 18 years. 
In all three micro-definitions; a woman reaches age of majority/full age without marriage playing a part. So saying "any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age" is logically the same thing as saying "any female who has reached full age and is married shall be deemed to be of full age"...which doesn't make sense. Why deem a woman to be of full age if she already is of full age?

Whoever proposed that clause should just have stated that "any female who is married shall be deemed to be of full age" or "any girl who is married shall be deemed to be of full age". And since the terms "female" and "girl" could be used to refer to even a day old baby, it would then have become obvious that section 29, subsection 4(b) endorses child marriage. But since this is not the case and since the Nigerian Constitution doesn't have its own definition of the term “woman”, the truth then is that the clause is useless and lacks meaning.

The Barriers To the controversial Clause 

Again, in the actual sense, that clause refers only to Section 29 and does not stand valid outside it. Subsection 4 states that:

For the purposes of subsection (1) of this section [Section 29]:

        a.       "full age" means the age of eighteen years and above;

        b.      Any woman who is married shall be deemed to be of full age.

And subsection 1 states that:

Any citizen of Nigeria of full age who wishes to renounce his Nigerian citizenship shall make a declaration in the prescribed manner for the renunciation.

T   Therefore, as long as the issue has nothing to do with the renunciation of citizenship, "Any woman who is married shall NOT NECESSARILY be deemed to be of full age". This presents again some sort of ambiguity as the Nigerian Constitution within a single Section appears to legalise Child Marriage,while outside that section it doesn't. 
So in essence, any man who marries a child in Nigeria and claims he has the backing of Section 29, subsection 4(b) is either delusory or has a blatant intention to distort this particular clause to his own advantage and...if I were a lawyer, I would tear him up in court and sue him for all he is worth. 

The advice
  • Section 29, subsection 4(b) should be removed from the Nigerian constitution, not because it promotes child marriage...it was intended to but it doesn't. It should be removed because it is meaningless.
  • The ChildNotBride campaign should draw its attention to Section 11, Subsection 1(b) of the Code of Conduct for public officers which is really the only clause in the Nigerian constitution that endorses child marriage, albeit cunningly.
  • There should be a change in the way votes are decided in the senate as it concerns amending the constitution. There are 109 Senators and 73 votes are needed before a part of the constitution is amended.
    In July when there was a vote to remove section 29, subsection 4(b) from the constitution, 60 voted for it to be removed; 35 voted that it should be retained which means that 14 senators were either absent or sat on the fence. This should not be encouraged; with all the money they squander in that House they should either have a say in important issues or have no impact on the outcome at all.
    As it is now, a single Senator not casting a vote affects the ability of the House to reach a decision. I, therefore, suggest a system which arrives at conclusions based strictly on the number of votes cast; this would force Senators to pick a side and jump down from the fence.  For example, if there were 60 ayes and 35 nays...the total vote count would be 95. The ayes have approximately 63% of the vote while the nays have 37%. If there was a rule which says that "60% of cast votes is required to amend the constitution" by now that clause would have been history...but it sits there still even though majority want it removed.
  • Even as we try to get the Constitution changed and the Nigerian child accorded her full rights, parents should be sensitised to the dangers and detriments of child marriage. That the constitution wrongly implies that children can be given out in marriage does not mean that parents a compelled to do so. We will fight to get the extra protection of the Nigerian Constitution, but before that happens, every parent must have his/her Family Constitution which states that "No member of this family shall get married until s/he is 18 years old, a bit more or has reached a certain level in her academic or career life"...once this is done, no Yerima can force your daughter from you even if he has the backing of a 100 explicit clauses in the Nigerian constitution.


The Oracle Has Spoken!!