Huriwa Logo

Huriwa Logo

Friday, 20 March 2020

Politics of judicial integrity

By Emmanuel Onwubiko
“The state shall abolish all corrupt
 practices and abuse of power,”
Section 15(5) of Nigerian constitution.
One area of life in most jurisdictions in which the perception of corruption and loss of integrity has a multiply effects that dovetails into virtually most strategic strata of life is in the judiciary of every independent country. A rogue judiciary is unhealthy for the sustenance of constitutional democracy.
It is in recognition of the enormity of damage unleashed by judicial corruption that the framers of the Nigerian constitution in their wisdom considered the creation of the National Judicial Council which is the OMBUDSMAN of the Nigerian judicial arm and ofcourse the grund norm says that one of the most primary duties of the nation and governments that enjoy the legitimacy of the people’s mandate is to do whatever it can within the context of the rule of law to abolish corruption and the abuse of power.
In the contemporary times, the Nigerian court system has continued to come under the searchlights of observers for the very reason that certain unethical tendencies of some judges have led to the erosion of the moral and ethical fabrics of the judiciary and expose the judiciary to an imminent erosion of its integrity which is the soul and heart of the judicial institution. A judiciary bereft of integrity is like a tasteless salt.
As ministers in the temple of justice, judges are obliged to abide by the code of conduct so as to maintain the integrity of the courts.
However, since the beginning of the year, the case instituted by a political rival of Senator Ifeanyi Ubah in the person of Dr. Obinna Uzoh before the Abuja High court under justice Bello Kawu has imprints of illegality and indeed threatened the integrity and credibility of the judiciary in the Federal Capital Territory and in the entirety of Nigeria. These facts have just been stated by no other but the Court of Appeal, Abuja division which ruled that the court processes before the Abuja High Court which were relied upon by Justice Bello Kawu to seek the removal of Senator Ifeanyi Ubah were forged. 
But for the seemingly monumental fighting spirit of Senator Ifeanyi Ubah and his deep pockets, the massive injustice unleashed on him would have gone without redress. 
It must be stated that millions of Nigerians who have no means to wage counter litigation have had their human rights wantonly violated and these series of abuses manifested in some unethical judgments of courts are left unattended to.
From my experiences for the number of years I worked as a federal commissioner of the Nigerian National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), I came across many inmates in the different prison facilities across the country who are in jail purely because their legal rights were criminally denied and they lack the financial means to obtain redress. Some of these inmates were even convicted based on forged charges. This situation is not the same for Nigerians with the financial standing and the organized legal teams to appeal perceived irregular verdicts. 
Senator Ifeanyi Ubah being a resilient fighter whose benevolent God has blessed with the means to insist on his fundamental legal and human rights to remain inalienable and sacrosanct, seems to be succeeding in proving that it is good not to remain silent but to use legal means to overturn any act of treachery done to you no matter the powerful position of the source of the perceived injustice.
Ifeanyi Ubah’s political adversary Mr. Obinna Uzoh of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had almost succeeded in unseating him from his high office as a Senator when the Abuja High court had wrongly ruled that he (Ifeanyi Ubah) forged his school certificate. 
This is not only untrue but manifestly laughable because the group I lead; the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) had to apply to the National Examination Council through a freedom of information request to ascertain the validity of the claim that Ifeanyi Ubah forged his school certificate, but we were told that Ifeanyi Ubah has valid certificate.
As is already a public knowledge, Senator Ifeanyi Ubah of the Young People’s Party, YPP, lodged an appeal to challenge the judgment of an Abuja High Court that sacked him as the lawmaker representing Anambra South Senatorial District. 
In the four-ground of appeal he filed before the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal, Ubah, insisted that he was denied fair hearing by the high court. He told the appellate court that he was neither served with the Originating Processes nor hearing notice with respect to the suit that led to his sack from the Senate. Besides, he argued that the Abuja court lacked the territorial jurisdiction to hear and determine a pre-election matter that arose from election that held in Anambra State.
The senator through his counsel, Onyeachi Ikpeazu (SAN), prayed the court to allow the appeal and set aside the judgment of the lower court on the ground that the suit was never filed as the stamp and seal of the Nigerian Bar Association allegedly used in the filing of the originating summons was forged and the payment for the originating summons was made on September 25, 2019, months after the judgment was delivered.
But respondents in the matter, Anani Chuka, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and Dr. Obinna Uzoh, through their counsel, rather pray the court to dismiss the appeal in its entirety. Why would the same INEC that had approved the election of Ifeanyi Ubah now be seen canvassing contrary position in the Appeal Court? Did INEC not carry out due diligence before accrediting Ifeanyi Ubah to run for office after satisfying all the basic requirements? What on Earth is wrong with the Yakubu Mahmood led Independent National Electoral commission? This INEC under the current administration needs to be unbundled. The administrative decay in INEC is appalling.  
Let us recall that Justice Bello Kawu had on January 17, 2020 affirmed his order, which nullified Ubah’s election on the ground that he allegedly used a forged National Examination Council (NECO) certificate to contest the senatorial election that held in Anambra South on February 23, 2019. So by appearing at the Appellate court to oppose the application of Senator Ifeanyi Ubah, was INEC telling the World that it was so incompetent to the extent that it does no due diligence before accrediting Ifeanyi Ubah? 
The court headed by Kawu had on April 11, 2019, ordered INEC to withdraw the certificate of return it issued to Ubah and issue a fresh one to Dr. Obinna Uzoh of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who came second at the election.
The Court of Appeal, Abuja, on Thursday 20/3/2020 voided the order of an Abuja High Court which sacked Ifeanyi Ubah, as the senator representing Anambra South.
A three-man panel of Justices of the appellate court held that the judgment delivered by Justice Bello Kawu of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory was a nullity because the suit was unlawfully instituted.
His election was also upheld by the Anambra State National Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal and the Court of Appeal.
In the unanimous judgment read by Justice Stephen Adah, the court held that its findings revealed that the originating summons that led to Ubah’s sack was not signed by any legal practitioner.
Specifically, the reasons for nullifying the high court judgment, according to Justice Adah is because, “An incompetent originating process cannot activate the jurisdiction of the court. Therefore, in the instant case the court processes are defective and incurably bad.
“The law is clear and unambiguous that it is mandatory that originating process must be signed, this is fundamental that validity of originating summons must not be in dispute.
“Any originating summons not signed by a counsel who issued it out is worthless and incompetent.”
Justice Adah, who dismissed the preliminary objection of the respondents, held that there was no evidence that Ubah was given fair hearing before judgment was entered against him at the lower court.
The indictment of this verdict of the Abuja High Court goes to the integrity of the Court system and with specific reference to the standards of adjudication in the High Court of FCT. 
Recall that judges Worldwide are working round the clock to update their members on the import and significance of maintaining integrity of the judicial arm of government given that integrity goes to the root of the independence of the judicial system. The second high-level meeting of the Global Judicial Integrity Network concluded by issuing ‘Doha Declaration on Judicial Integrity’ which focuses on enhancing judicial integrity through global partnerships.
The second high level meeting of Global Judicial Integrity Network hosted by Supreme Judiciary Council was attended by hundreds of participants from over 120 countries. The judges noted that whether actual or perceived, corruption in the justice system poses a real threat to confidence in the rule of law. Therefore with this in mind, boosting judicial integrity is an integral part of the Doha Declaration Global programme aimed at strengthening judicial integrity and preventing corruption in the justice sector in line with Article 11 of the United Nations Convention against corruption.    
Participants who signed the declaration believed that the Doha Declaration on Judicial Integrity represents a global reference document that complements the journey of the Bangalore Principles for Judicial Conduct 2003 and also enriches it with new indicative components that are the first of the kind in the process of finding a unified international perspective related to the right to a fair and equitable trial within the framework of a clear and dominant role of law in a professional and independent institutional judiciary. 
The Doha Declaration stresses the importance of training, research and studies programmes that would enhance the work of judges.
Addressing the closing ceremony, the President of the Supreme Judiciary Council and President of the Court of Cassation, H E Dr. Hassan bin Lahdan Al Hassan Al Mohannadi praised the outcomes of the meeting.
“The Doha meeting offered an opportunity to complete the foundation building of the Global Judicial Integrity Network, which is the first initiative of its kind in the history of international judicial work.”
He further said that the meeting also represented an opportunity to exchange experiences and expertise and review the developments in the field of judicial integrity and judicial work.
Nigerian Judicial system is not left out in the quest to sanitize the processes of obtaining and delivery of JUDGMENTS. 
In 2007, Justice Rosaline Bozimo who as the then Chief Judge of Delta State wrote that: “It may be appropriate to state here that the absence of a written judicial code of conduct before 1998 contributed a great deal to the level of decay which characterized the fortunes of the judicial arm of government in Nigeria at the time.”
“The code of conduct for judicial officers as we presently have it, was introduced in 1998 by the National Judicial Institute (NJI) under the distinguished chairmanship of the then CJN the Hon. Justice M.L Uwais, CON (Rtd). 
Justice Bozimo said further: "The code, which contains the “go” and as well as the “no go” areas and the attendant penalties for violators, is an all-embracing code which has done so much in streamlining judicial activities nation-wide. Such infractions on the part of judicial officers which border on corruption, abuse of ex-parte injunction, non-performance and such other related activities which may amount to misconduct on the part of a judicial officer are duly investigated and where the officer concerned is found wanting, he is duly punished.”
“Before the code came into being, of course, it was easy for many judicial officers who misconduct themselves to escape disciplinary action, as it was at the time, not easy to accurately pin-point which judicial activity was unethical and which ones were not. The decision of the lead speaker to include a discussion of the relevance of the code of conduct for judicial officers could never have been taken at a much more auspicious occasion. The emphasis, as rightly posited by the lead speaker is that all judicial officers, in consequence of the oath of allegiance and judicial oath of office taken, must ensure that these Oaths are religiously observed and that it is for this purpose that the code of conduct was provided.”
What this Senator Ifeanyi Ubah's case has brought to the front burners of public discourse is that the National Judicial Council may after all not have done well to weep into line judges of the different divisions of the court to comply with best global practices. The Judiciary in Nigeria now stinks of indiscipline and corruption. Beginning with the illegal process that threw up the change of the last substantive chief justice of Nigeria Justice Onnoghen removed by a quasi-judicial forum headed by an ethically challenged chairman of the kangaroo panel of Code of Conduct Tribunal through an illegal ex parte order which railroaded the current hierarchy of the judiciary, it can be stated that the same National judicial council which defecated on the Nigerian Constitution by permitting the illegal deposition of the then Christian and Southern born Chief justice of Nigeria just to install a NORTHERN Moslem as CJN, will need to do SELF CLEANSING EXERCISES. THE JUDICIARY IN NIGERIA NEEDS COMPREHENSIVE ETHICAL EXORCISM to weed out all corrupt practices and abuse of power by judges of the Nigerian court system. 
Emmanuel Onwubiko, former Federal commissioner of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) is head of Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA). Blogs @

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

CORONAVIRUS: Nigerian Govt must halt official “mass suicidal” tendency: - says HURIWA

The prominent civil Rights advocacy platform – HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has described as a “mass suicidal” tendency the government’s deliberate failure to take concrete actions to stave off and contain the spread of the coronavirus in the country. HURIWA lamented the lack of political will power and the right leadership at both national and subnational levels in Nigeria to mobilize Nigerians and enlighten them along the lines of what they are supposed to do in the current severe medical emergency created by the emergence of COVID-19.
Besides, the Rights group has asked civil Rights bodies and Nigerians of means to institute fundamental Rights enforcement processes against the Federal government at the FEDERAL HIGH COURTS to obtain declaratory orders mandating President Muhammadu Buhari to personally address the nation, close the land borders and impose strict travel bans for people coming in from jurisdictions with unprecedented cases of the new pandemic. "The Right to life is sacrosanct and inalienable but it is one of the first generation rights that cannot be recovered the moment the citizen is dead. This is the time to use all lawful means to force President Muhammadu Buhari to embrace responsible, responsive and receptive political approach to confront the biggest health emergency the World has seen in the last 100 years. 
“We totally condemn the poor attitudes of the federal government; President Muhammadu Buhari particularly and the painful non-challant tendencies of virtually all the key federal and state governmental officials who are behaving as if they are paid to allow the coronavirus to become widespread in the country before any concrete measures can be adopted. This attitude is at best the type you see in persons who are bent on embarking on ‘mass suicides’.”
“Why will the federal government insists on allowing all kinds of travels into Nigeria even from nations whereby the unfortunate pandemic is more widespread? Why take such insensitive, reckless and irrational step when even developed societies with the best of technologies and medical facilities in Europe, America, and Australia have imposed one type of restrictions on travels or the other? This is outrageous and outrightly despicable.”
“As a matter of fact, it is a manifestation of a lack of leadership that till now, the current president has not thought it wise to personally address Nigeria. This is scandalous. Nations like Kenya, Namibia, South Africa, Ghana, and Senegal amongst others have had their presidents actively take the driving seats in the fight against coronavirus but in Nigeria it is as if we are political orphans. NIGERIAN PRESIDENT MAY HABE TO BE COMPELLED BY COURT ORDERS TO SPEAK TO NIGERIANS.”
“The Federal Government says it has no plans to impose travel restrictions on visitors from countries where coronavirus continues to spread rapidly. This piece of information as far as HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) is concerned is insanely irrational to have been made by our government at this perilous time of coronavirus. HURIWA believes that the decision by Nigeria to casually screen visitors entering the country from China (where the disease originated last year), Japan, Iran, Italy, Germany, France, South Korea and Spain is a national scandal and a monumental disgrace. This current suicidal government must be called to order immediately. Nigerians must speak out so we are not led astray by a rudderless government.”
"HURIWA heard that whilst addressing a press conference in Abuja on Monday, the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Olorunnibe Mamora, said the FG decided to screen visitors from the eight countries after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. This is a grave error of JUDGMENT which must be reversed and the most stringent travel ban imposed"
“Is Mr President listening and is he unaware that South Africa has barred some foreigners from entering and will close schools; European Union states including Germany, Austria and France are among the latest to announce radical action to curb the spread of the virus; against all but essential travel to Spain after the government there announced emergency restrictions; the Foreign Office has issued the same advice for the United States of America , effective from Tuesday morning, after President Trump decided to extend a European travel ban to include the UK; Airlines warned the UK's aviation industry may not survive the pandemic without emergency financial support; And about 600 Britons are among passengers stranded on a Fred Olsen cruise ship in the Bahamas after five people on board tested positive for the virus. The company said all onboard bars and restaurants are still open and passengers had been given a "complementary all-inclusive drinks package." Is President Muhammadu Buhari not aware of all these strong steps taken by civilized societies?"

Monday, 16 March 2020

Exclusion of South East, Edo from $22.7b loan amounts to ‘apartheid’ policy:- says HURIWA

Gentlemen of the media, permit us to frontload this speech by skipping the usual protocols because of the urgency of the matter.
We are here to condemn the deliberate scheming out of over 60 million Nigerians of Igbo extraction in the proposed foreign loan shopping list of $22.7 billion prepared by President Muhammadu Buhari and approved by the senate dominated by the All Progressives Congress and also headed by a northerner in the person of Ahmed Lawan.
The exclusion of another 5 million citizens of over 20 ethnic nationalities from Edo state stands absolutely condemnable. We believe that this policy is akin to the apartheid white minority rule that was practiced in South Africa prior to the current majority rule of the blacks. This policy of exclusion also violates section 42 of the Nigerian constitution which states as follows: “(1) A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person:- (a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions are not made subject; or (b) be accorded either expressly by, or in the practical application of, any law in force in Nigeria or any such executive or administrative action, any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religions or political opinions. (2) No citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth. (3) Nothing in subsection (1) of this section shall invalidate any law by reason only that the law imposes restrictions with respect to the appointment of any person to any office under the State or as a member of the armed forces of the Federation or member of the Nigeria Police Forces or to an office in the service of a body, corporate established directly by any law in force in Nigeria.”
Section 15(5) states “The State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of power.”
Section 16(1)(2) states: “(1) The State shall, within the context of the ideals and objectives for which provisions are made in this Constitution. (a) harness the resources of the nation and promote national prosperity and an efficient, a dynamic and self-reliant economy; (b) control the national economy in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status and opportunity; (c) without prejudice to its right to operate or participate in areas of the economy, other than the major sectors of the economy, manage and operate the major sectors of the economy; (d) without prejudice to the right of any person to participate in areas of the economy within the major sector of the economy, protect the right of every citizen to engage in any economic activities outside the major sectors of the economy. (2) The State shall direct its policy towards ensuring: (a) the promotion of a planned and balanced economic development; (b) that the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good; (c) that the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or of a group; and (d) that suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, reasonable national minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, and unemployment, sick benefits and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens.”
The exclusion of the south east and Edo State, which is provocative, unconstitutional, primitive and discriminatory, is said to be a fallout of what has been described as the dirty politics that preceded the approval of the loan request which President Muhammadu Buhari presented twice to the National Assembly and eventually got approved by the Senator Ahmed Lawan-led ninth Senate.
The eighth Senate under the very ebullient and activist Bukola Saraki had rejected the loan on the grounds of lack of details.
However, in a total show of shame, the 9th Senate ignored all requests to allow for debate on the details of the loan and approved the document amidst protest and uproar.
President (Major General) Buhari had said that the loan was to “ensure the prompt implementation of projects under the borrowing plan with special emphasis on infrastructure, agriculture, health, education, water supply, growth and employment generation, poverty reduction through social safety net programmes, governance and financial management reforms, among others.”
Details of the loan, as approved by the Senate, showed that the South West got $200,000,000.00 while the South South, excluding Edo State, got $4,270,000,000.00. The South East which produced 15 of the 109 senators got nothing from the loan.
And more shocking is the fact that the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, Clifford Ordia, which processed the loan request and recommended its approval, represents Edo Central.
However, the North West, which produced President Buhari, got $6,372,000,000.00 just as the North East got $300,000,000.00 while the North Central got $6,531,000,000 and $5,853,900,000.00 was reserved for general expenses.
In more specific details, the power transmission project in Lagos and Ogun states were given $200 million just as $800m was voted for the East west road in the Niger Delta.
The coastal railway project (Calabar-Port Harcourt-Onne deep sea port segment got $3.47billion (Cross River and Rivers states.)
Projects in the North East that were covered in the loan are the multi-sectoral crises recovery programme ($200m, north-east), North-east Nigeria integrated social protection, basic health, education, nutrition services and livelihood restoration project ($100m); and the Lake Chad Basin Commission ($13m, multinational).
In the North West, the following projects were captured by the loan:
“Kano-Lagos railway modernization project (Kano-Ibadan segment double track, $5.53billion; and vocational training in power sector ($50m; FCT, Lagos, Ogun. Kano, Plateau, Niger, Enugu, Kaduna and Cross River).
Others are: Kaduna State economic transformation programme for results ($35m, Kaduna); National Information and Communication Technology Infrastructural Backbone Project (NICTIB) phase II ($328.1m (Lagos, Abuja, Ibadan, Akure, Maiduguri, Lokoja, Kaduna, Akwanga, Bauchi, Kano, Katsina); Health System Project ($110m, Katsina); Rural water supply and sanitation ($150m; north-east, and Plateau); and development of the mining industry ($150m, nationwide).
In the North Central, these projects were covered: Staple crops processing zone support project ($100m, Kogi); Greater Abuja water supply project ($381m, FCT); Abuja mass rail transit project (phase 2) ($1.25b, FCT); Mambila hydro-electric power project ($4.8b; and Taraba integrated programme for development and adaption to climate change in the Niger Basin ($6m)
It was gathered that only 60 per cent of the loan would be available for spending as 40 per cent is to be paid to those who offered consultancy services regarding the loan.
The source disclosed that although the Federal Government was aware that the remaining 60 per cent would not be enough for the projects for which the loan was sought, it had insisted on getting it loan because it intended to seek a second loan later in the year.
“A request for the second loan would soon be sent to the National Assembly, “the source said.
Lawan had during his heated argument with the Senate Minority Leader, Eyinnaya Abaribe, before the approval of the loan insisted that the recommendation of the committee should be taken and adopted. Abaribe had also insisted that debate on the loan be on project by project basis.
In the politics that played out shortly after the inauguration of the 9th Senate, the PDP caucus had replaced Clifford Ordia with Sahabi Yau from Zamfara State as Senate deputy minority whip, a development, which was very unpleasant to Ordia.
Since then, it was learnt that the PDP caucus had never found it easy to prevail on Ordia to do its bidding.
Recommended steps:
1.    It is already a national emergency which must be remedied tomorrow by the Federal House of Representatives which is scheduled to vote tomorrow on the loan request. It is either that South East / Edo are included or the states in the S/E and Edo state should stage an open walk out and not be part of the show of shame.

2.    We condemn the south east senators who stayed away for fear of EFCC or DSS so as to allow the pliant senate headed by the stooge to approve the loan. Why did they stay away and left just Enyinnaya Abaribe and a few others? Senator Ekweremadu said he was on a national assignment that was why he was not at that senate plenary when this decision that will affect all Nigerians for 40 years was made. We ask him thus: Did Enugu North people elect you for national assignment or to defend their interests?
We call on the south east governors to file a suit at the Supreme Court to stop the Federal government from compelling south east to be part of the repayment if we are not part of the beneficiaries. This suit must be filed immediately.
We also call on Nigerians to call on the Federal government to stop enslaving Nigeria to the apron strings of foreign creditors such as China.
Nigeria’s external debt commitment rose by $11.77bn in the last three years, investigation has shown.
According to debt statistics obtained from the Debt Management Office, the country’s external debt rose from $10.32bn in June 30, 2015 to $22.08bn as of June 30 this year.
This means that the country’s external debt commitment has grown by 114.05 per cent in the last three years.
Although multilateral debt made up $10.88bn or 49.28 per cent of the country’s external debt profile, most of the increases in the last three years occurred in the area of commercial loans.
According to the DMO, commercial foreign loans, which stood at $1.5bn as of June 30, 2015, had risen to $8.8bn as of June 30 2018.
This means that in the last three years, the country’s exposure to commercial foreign loans has risen by $7.3bn or 486.67 per cent.
With a commitment of $8.47bn, the World Bank is responsible for 38.36 per cent of the country’s foreign portfolio.
Apart from the World Bank Group, Nigeria is also exposed to some other multilateral organisations such as the African Development Bank with a portfolio of $1.32bn and the African Development Fund with a portfolio of $843.47m.
Others are the International Fund for Agricultural Development with a portfolio of $159.44m; the Arab Bank for Economic Development with a portfolio of $5.88m; the EDF Energy (France) with a portfolio of $64.96m and the Islamic Development Bank with a portfolio of $16.92m.
On the other hand, bilateral debts make up $2.39bn or 10.87 per cent of the country’s external debt exposure.
The bilateral agencies to which the country is indebted are the Export-Import Bank of China with a portfolio of $1.91bn; the Agence Francaise de Development with a portfolio of $274.98m; the Japan International Cooperation Agency with a portfolio of $74.69m; the EXIM Bank of India with a portfolio of $4.76m; and Germany (KFW) with a portfolio of $132.24m.
Unlike the foreign debt, the domestic component of the country’s total public debt decreased marginally recently as a result of moves to rebalance the local/foreign debt ratio.
According to the DMO, a major highlight in the latest public debt data was the decrease in the Federal Government’s domestic debt, which declined from N12.59tn in December 2017 to N12.58tn in March 2017 and N12.15tn in June 2018.
The DMO said the reduction in the FGN’s Domestic Debt Stock arose from the redemption of N198bn Nigerian Treasury Bills in December 2017 and another N639bn between January and June 2018.
A total of $3bn was raised through Eurobonds to refinance maturing domestic debt as part of the implementation of the debt management strategy for the purpose of substituting high cost domestic debt with lower cost external debt to reduce debt service costs for the government, the DMO said.
It also explained that the implementation of the Public Debt Management Strategy, whose overall objective was to ensure that Nigeria’s debt is sustainable, was already yielding positive results.
The implication is that in the next 40 years, every one of us Nigerian citizens will effectively become a slave.
We urge Nigerians to file a class suit before the Federal High Court to clearly show that both they and their generations yet unborn are not part of all the loans collected by the current government.

Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko;
National Coordinator;
16th March 2020

Friday, 13 March 2020

Why Nigeria’s Democracy Falters

By Emmanuel Onwubiko

Mr. Enyinnaya Abaribe is not your typical run-of-the-mill career politician who is in it for what he can grab. Most modern day's politicians in Nigeria are opportunistic, unprincipled and ideologically aloof. 
He (Enyinnaya Harcourt Abaribe) is a man of history who realizes that his vocation in the field of politics is not for personal aggrandizement but to offer quality counsels on how best to achieve viable institution building that would consolidate the practice of constitutional democracy in Africa’s largest country - Nigeria. Such characters are rare in the last two decades of constitutional democracy which accounts for the rapid faltering of constitutionalism in Nigeria. 
From a closer look at him, he appears rebellious; although not in the negative sense.
He is rebellious of anything that would undermine the arts and science of the real practice of democracy which must of necessity generate good governance whose beneficial goal should advance the living conditions of the greatest percentage of the greatest number of people.
 He was once a deputy governor in Abia state. But less than two years as the deputy governor of Abia state, he fell out of favour with his then boss (now jailed for corruption whilst holding office as governor of Abia State) in what is believed to be his aversion for poor governance method of the then Abia state governor.
Mr. Abaribe comes from Aba Ngwa - a city that represents the symbol of how corruption by successive governors of Abia state have stolen the state blind. Aba used to be the commercial nerve centre of South East of Nigeria.
But from 1999 till date, Abia state has had the misfortune of producing some of the worst predatory administrators that have ever emerged in the black world. Abia state lacks the basic necessities of good governance and the state of infrastructures has deteriorated beyond human imagination. Aba has been reduced from a bubbling commercial hub of Igbo land to that of squalor and criminal neglects by the political class who govern the state from the equally poorly developed town of Umuahia.
So it is very clear to understand the backgrounds to his intolerance for poor governance.
Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe is the leader of the opposition parties in the senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In this pivotal position, he has made landmark speeches and presentations that have demonstrated that indeed there are still some courageous men and women in the corridors of political power. He has had brushes with the politically compromised secret police.
Not long ago, he gave speech in which he captured the unfortunate tendencies that constitutional democracy has been confronted with and the primary thing he said which is true is that democracy falters in Nigeria because of the deliberate weakening of critical institutions that are meant to be independent and ought to be in the vantage positions to act as stabilizing factors for the sustenance of the Rule of Law and Democracy.
His speech in which he rightly stated that democracy is difficult in Nigeria perhaps summarizes all that is wrong with the way we practice democracy here.
The Senate Minority Leader Enyinnaya Abaribe said   Nigerians are struggling for basic democratic rights because “democracy is difficult for some people to really fathom”.
Abaribe said this at the Government House in Port Harcourt during a condolence visit by the Senate Minority Caucus to the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, over the death of his uncle, Charles Wike.
He said, “Nigeria as it needs to move in a different direction from where we are moving now. We need you (Wike) to support us in our effort to make every Nigerian feel the impact of good governance.
“We understand the difficulty every Nigerian is feeling today. We understand the pain most Nigerians are going through. We understand that those who came on the platform of change have ended up even being worse than those that they came to change.
“The disappointment, the disillusionment that most Nigerians are feeling today is our responsibility to bring to the fore in our public debate.”
The former Abia State deputy governor added, “We have been keeping up with our ideals. Democracy is difficult for some people to really fathom.  I think that is why the government at the centre is finding it really difficult.
“You cannot have democracy without having democrats. Only democrats can give you democracy. Autocrats can never give you democracy.
“What autocrats want at every time is to say that their word is law. We believe in interaction and the contestation of ideas in the public space. That is what will lead us to a better Nigeria.
“We have been trying to steer the ship of state in the right direction when we get communications from the Presidency and it has been very difficult.”
He the Senate Minority leader added that though the Senate Minority Caucus had continued to work to correct the anomalies in government, the struggle had been met with resistance.
Abaribe said, “It has been very difficult for us. We thought we would have been able to change the direction of Nigeria in 2019. Be that as it may, we also resolved that we would give a positive direction to government, considering that all of us are supposed to be working for the interest of the country.
“But as you have seen from interactions and what has come out in the media, it has been a very difficult task. Even today, we had to go into a very difficult discussion with our colleagues on the propriety of plunging Nigerians into further debts.
“What we have seen is that maybe there’s a reluctance on the part of the Federal Government to take good advice from the citizenry represented by us.”
He said the security challenges facing the country were making development difficult.
“You cannot have development when almost all parts of the country are burning. The insecurity we contend with, we have tried to get the government to see reason and change tactics and the personnel.
“It is those who refuse to buy into the new ideas that don’t want the economy to grow and they don’t want anything good to happen,” he said.
I think one key area that shows how constitutional democracy has faltered in Nigeria is the poor standards and criminal hijack of the electoral system by the political party controlling the office of the president.
Since 2015 till date, almost all the elections conducted by the central election management board have been compromised.
The Independent National Election Commission (INEC) has become so compromised and weak to such an extent that virtually fifty percent of the elections it has conducted since 2015 have all been overturned by the courts.
To underscore the severity of how weak INEC is, the Supreme Court of Nigeria had in a recent case between the then Imo state governor Emeka Ihedioha and the 2019 All Progressive Congress governorship candidate Mr Hope Uzodinma, discountenanced the fact that the electoral umpire nullified results from polling centres in which there  were proven cases of over-voting and the Supreme Court gave a massively erroneous verdict affirming the validity of  a result computed by  the police which legally has no right to compile election results and in the process, the apex court validated the case of over voting in Imo state by returning the candidate who INEC rated as number 4 to become the governor.

This show of shame by the Supreme Court of Nigeria also shows that the judiciary which is the institution that should exercise the judicial powers of the Federation is also compromised and there are widespread allegations of executive interferences in the running of the judiciary since the current Chief Justice of Nigeria Muhammad Tanko was brought in through an ex-parte order by a quasi-judicial body known as Code of Conduct Tribunal.
The removal of the then substantive Chief Justice of Nigeria Onnoghen from Southern Nigeria and his replacement by Tanko Mohammed from the North is the clearest evidence of the capture of that arm of government by the executive arm of government.
Also, the National Assembly is headed by stooges of the president and this sad episode completes the trinity of political infamy in Nigeria. The rest of the World is watching as Nigeria's democracy falters.
The latest copy of The Economists has a coverage on how Africa’s democracy is faltering. The key observation by this Foreign Magazine pointed to the weakening of such critical democratic institutions such as the election management boards.
The Economist of March 7th in the 2020 ran a beautiful article on “How to beat the Big Men.”
The Economist stated as follows: "A struggle is raging in sub-Saharan Africa. Most Africans, like people anywhere, want to choose their own rulers. A smaller but powerful group – autocrats and their supporters – is determined to thwart them."
These are the same experiences painted graphically by the leader of the opposition party in the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria- Senator Enyinnaya Harcourt Abaribe.
The Economist noted also that: "Over the past 30 years democracy has gained a ground in Africa. During the cold war, peaceful changes of government at the ballot box were almost unheard of, because of Soviet and American support for friendly tyrants. After 1990 nearly every African country held elections. But in the past decade democrats have been pushed back again. Political freedom has shrunk in Africa since 2008, according to Freedom House, a watchdog. Crooked ruling parties have found myriad ways to nobble opponents and make that they are free to say what they think fell from 79% to 70% in 2008-18. Of the 21 countries that switched off the internet last year, 12 were African. The same number have passed laws making it harder for NGOs to operate."
"Several trends favor the autocrats, China offers cash for roads and bridges with no pesky questions about governance. The current White House has no interest in promoting democracy. And new surveillance technologies let autocrats snoop inside dissidents’ phones, making it easier to harass them."
The Economist further observed rightly that: "Support for elections should be more creative. Rather than merely watching what happens on polling day. Donors should back local NGOs that can spot intimidation months in advance; digital analysts who can detect disinformation; and parallel voter tabulations against which official results can be checked".
The internationally respected The Economist then told World leaders thus: "Most important, outsiders should support institution-building. This is slow and thankless. The results are less visible than China’s railways and dams. Yet it is essential. Prosecutors, legislators and journalists all need training; some also need cash to keep the lights on.  African whistle-blowers are harder to ignore when outsiders trumpet their findings. It would be wrong for outsiders to fund opposition parties. But championing financial liberalization can make for more competitive politics, especially in countries where state-run banks deprive opposition parties of credit, thus making it hard to fund campaigns."
Africa matters, so says The Economist and then emphasized that by 2020 Africa will have as many people as China. "Outsiders should care whether such a giant neighbor is prosperous and peaceful. Democracy cannot guarantee that, but its absence makes poverty and disorder more likely", concludes The Economist.
Fellow Nigerians the ball is in our court not to slumber and lazy about and refused to be vigilant to protect our constitutional democracy from being hijacked perpetually by crass opportunistic politicians who are in politics to advance their selfish goals that are inimical to public good and good governance.  Democracy is approaching the precipice of doom and we must stop it from falling down the dangerous autocratic slopes.
*Emmanuel Onwubiko is the Head of the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and;www.emmanuelonwubikocom;;

HURIWA to NASS: Check disturbing trends of abuse of power by EFCC: .........*wants National Assembly to create anti-graft ombudsman:

The prominent civil Rights Advocacy group: - HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) is worried by the disturbing menace of abuse of powers by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which infringes on certain professional privileges of legal practitioners and other affiliated professional institutions in the private sector of the economy. The group said it has received dozens of petitions from lawyers on how the practice of law in Nigeria has systematically been criminalized by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) under the All Progressives Congress led Federal government. 
“We have noticed since the last couple of years since 2015 that there is a growing phenomenon of officers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) engaging in deliberate clampdown on lawyers of certain individuals who may have some political differences from officials of the powers that be within the corridors of power in Abuja. In some of these sad developments we are understudying, it would appear that the anti- graft body has consistently embarked on politically motivated witch-hunt targeting certain politically exposed persons who were influential in the past administration of the People’s Democratic party (APC) or who may still be holding political offices that enjoys immunity in which cases the EFCC has already charged legal practitioners connected with such individuals for series of money laundering charges that on a more serious analysis are smokescreen for political persecution. We have been told how lawyers working for prominent political opponents of the administration have been coming under persistent surveillance and reconnaissance missions by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and we intend to petition the National Assembly's Committee on Public petitions to investigate this dangerous development which does not augur well for constitutional democracy and may harm the legal profession in the Country if left unchecked."
In a media statement, the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) through the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf, disclosed that it will soon publish a report of a scientific investigation it conducted to list out the most disturbing cases of how some legal practitioners either affiliated to political opposition party of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) or have personal issues with some powerful people with connections to the Abuja's political establishment have faced horrendous media trials by the anti-graft agencies and due to massive propaganda in the media by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission these Senior Lawyers are constantly harassed by immigration officials in different international airports in London; New York; Germany; Paris amongst other World's capitals even when the Nigerian constitution affirms that accused persons are innocent until proven guilty by a competent courts of law but the media propaganda machinery of the EFCC give crude slants and coverages of such cases to appear like the accused are already guilty as charged.”
“In that report which will soon be presented and sent to all relevant government institutions including the anti-graft bodies and the National Assembly, the Rights group said it will make the case for the establishment of a monitoring body similar but smaller in staff strength like the police service commission (PSC) to investigate cases of abuses of power by the anti-corruption agencies. We believe that corruption should be eradicated only through law-based modalities and we also think that he who comes to equity must come with clean hands. It would appear that legal practitioners who work for individuals with cases instituted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) are facing persecution.”
“May we kindly appeal to the Economic and financial crimes commission (EFCC) which is an institution created by law to stop the media persecution of legal practitioners defending clients that have cases with the anti-graft bodies because by so doing, these accused persons will have their constitutional rights to fair hearing violated as against the provision of section 36(5) of the constitution which states thus: “Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty; Provided that nothing in this section shall invalidate any law by reason only that the law imposes upon any such person the burden of proving particular facts.”
HURIWA said: "May we remind the anti-graft body that under the enabling law: "The EFCC Act 2004 states “6: The Commission shall be responsible for - (a) the enforcement and the due administration of the provisions of this Act; (b) the investigation of all financial crimes including advance fee fraud, money laundering, counterfeiting, illegal charge transfers, futures market fraud, fraudulent encashment of negotiable instruments, computer credit card fraud, contract scam, etc.; (c) the co-ordination and enforcement of all economic and financial crimes laws and enforcement functions conferred on any other person or authority; and among others. (d) the adoption of measures to identify, trace, freeze, confiscate or seize proceeds derived from terrorist activities, economic and financial crimes related offences or the properties the value of which corresponds to such proceeds.”
HURIWA however restated to the hierarchy of these anti-graft bodies- EFCC and ICPC that the Courts of law have the judicial powers of the federation and are the only authority to rule an accused person guilty or not and not the EFCC using the media because section 6 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 (as amended) affirmed thus: “(1) The judicial powers of the Federation shall be vested in the courts to which this section relates, being courts established for the Federation. (2) The judicial powers of a State shall be vested in the courts to which this section relates, being courts established, subject as provided by this Constitution, for a State. (3) The courts to which this section relates, established by this Constitution for the Federation and for the States, specified in subsection (5) (a) to (1) of this section, shall be the only superior courts of record in Nigeria; and save as otherwise prescribed by the National Assembly or by the House of Assembly of a State, each court shall have all the powers of a superior court of record. (4) Nothing in the foregoing provisions of this section shall be construed as precluding:- (a) the National Assembly or any House of Assembly from establishing courts, other than those to which this section relates, with subordinate jurisdiction to that of a High Court; (b) the National Assembly or any House of Assembly, which does not require it, from abolishing any court which it has power to establish or which it has brought into being. (5) This section relates to:- (a) the Supreme Court of Nigeria; (b) the Court of Appeal; (c) the Federal High Court; (d) the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; (e) a High Court of a State (f) the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; (g) a Sharia Court of Appeal of a State; (h) the Customary Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja; (i) a Customary Court of Appeal of a State; (j) such other courts as may be authorised by law to exercise jurisdiction on matters with respect to which the National Assembly may make laws; and (k) such other court as may be authorised by law to exercise jurisdiction at first instance or on appeal on matters with respect to which a House of Assembly may make laws. (6) The judicial powers vested in accordance with the foregoing provisions of this section - (a) shall extend, notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this constitution, to all inherent powers and sanctions of a court of law (b) shall extend, to all matters between persons, or between government or authority and to any persons in Nigeria, and to all actions and proceedings relating thereto, for the determination of any question as to the civil rights and obligations of that person; (c) shall not except as otherwise provided by this Constitution, extend to any issue or question as to whether any act of omission by any authority or person or as to whether any law or any judicial decision is in conformity with the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy set out in Chapter II of this Constitution; (d) shall not, as from the date when this section comes into force, extend to any action or proceedings relating to any existing law made on or after 15th January, 1966 for determining any issue or question as to the competence of any authority or person to make any such law.”