For about a decade, their voices were heard from the rooftop. This report examine the opulent lives of ex-agitators and their new roles
Though they go by different names -activists, agitators, militants and what have you – they had a common denominator in agitation, irrespective of what part of the country they came from.
They claimed their agitations were informed by the injustices and deprivations meted out to their people. These injustices ranged from pollution of their communities, farm lands, rivers and all forms of degradations as a result of oil exploration activities in their areas without commensurate level of development.
Others agitated for good governance and since the advent of civil rule in 1999, the Federal Government had to contend with the various agitators who go by different names and leaders. The agitation threw up a lot of names who made fame and fortunes.
Then militancy was a big business as oil pipelines were blown off, expatriates were kidnapped for ransom, until the Federal Government granted them amnesty through its amnesty programme. Consequently, these militants dropped their arms and were reintegrated into the society.
Over 30,000 of them were registered at the post amnesty programme, where almost all of them were trained and reintegrated into the society.
Of course most of them have seen the other side of life contrary to their life at the creeks which was devoid of any form of civilisation. Haven embraced amnesty with both hands and dropped their arms, many of them went back to school, some today are monarchs while others hold political positions besides a few others who have delved into business.
At the peak of the Niger Delta struggle, Mujahid Asari-Dokubo, the renowned ex-militant leader controlled the Niger Delta Volunteers Force (NDVF), which clashed severally with the military.
But before then, he had served as the president of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) in 2001. During the implementation of the amnesty programme the Federal Government granted repentant militants,
Asari was the only militant leader that rejected the programme, arguing that he didn’t commit any offence for which he should be pardoned. Since then, he has enjoyed massive patronage, especially during the Goodluck Jonathan administration.
Then, he was reportedly contacted by the Federal Government for arms purchase for the prosecution of the war against Boko Haram. Sometime in 2013, it was reported that Asari-Dokubo had soccer institutions in Abuja and in Benin Republic to provide free training to youths. He also had a private university in Benin.
In an interview, Asari-Dokubo said he decided to establish the institutions in Benin Republic because he does not only live there, but has adopted it as his country.
However, during the last general elections in Rivers State in 2019, soldiers raided his compound in Buguma in Asari Toru Local Government Area. These days, Asari occasionally airs his views on issues via video recordings that uploaded in the social media.
Lately, Asari-Dokubo has been criticising Nnamdi Kanu, the rearrested leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, (IPOB) of fleecing the people. He vowed to bring Kanu down, stating pointedly: “Nnamdi Kanu, I’m not in your category but for this, I will surely bring you down.
I will destroy this evil empire that is working as a hindrance to the restoration of Biafra. Biafra is your business now; you have no other avenue for gainful income. It is a pity how Igbo people have fallen for this evil, but your time is up. I am out for you.
And I will get you.” Asari-Dokubo, leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Salvation Force (NDPSF), accused Kanu of turning the Biafran struggle into a business.
He tackled Kanu over a N20m gift. In a new video, he accused Kanu of diverting funds meant for the Biafran struggle. Both activists have been at loggerheads over the quest for Biafra – the very cause that unites them.
The cold war between them resulted in the formation of the Biafra Customary Government (BCG) which Dokubo announced in March, with himself as the head. In the video, he accused Kanu of failing to account for some funds donated for the quest for Biafra, adding: “They are now telling U.S. India, Russia etc. This is how they audit accounts.
This is what Biafra will look like under the criminal Nnamdi Kanu. “They claim that they brought money to Cotonou to give to me -N20 million. We are waiting for them to bring the evidence.
They came to Cotonou to meet with me and I hosted them. They did not bring a dime. Biafra is your business now; you have no other avenue for gainful income. It is a pity how Igbo people have fallen for this evil, but your time is up.”
King Ateke Tom
The story of the Niger Delta struggle is incomplete without mentioning Ateke Tom, who led the Niger Delta Vigilante, an ethnic Ijaw militia for many years. Ateke Tom is now a traditional ruler and the first Amanyanabo of Okochiri Kingdom, in Okrika Local Government Area of Rivers State
He was crowned king on November 25, 2017. Ateke Tom came into limelight during the first tenure of former governor Rotimi Amaechi, after soldiers raided his home. He advanced deep into the Okochiri forest and control the axis using his men. For a long time, he felt that Amaechi was obsessed with arresting him for reasons he failed to give.
Years later, he said he has forgiven Amaechi, who he described as a man that bears grudges and hardly forgives. During the crisis in the Niger Delta, some of the actions taken by Ateke’s men were credited with the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), the invincible group which only sent email signed by Jomo Gbomo.
When Ateke Tom accepted the Federal Government amnesty, he surrendered heavy weapons to the amnesty officials and the Nigeria Army, and vowed never to return to the creek. More than 10 years after, he has kept his promise. During the 2019 general elections, soldiers raided his home in Okirika and destroyed some valuables, forcing him to cry out that he was not a politician and was not participating in the election.
Now stupendously rich and hardly hides this fact through his acquisition of ultra-modern property in Port Harcourt, Ateke is a major beneficiary of the amnesty programme.
He is a benefactor to some top Nollywood actors who he hosts occasionally at his mansion in Okochiri. These days, the “Area Father,” as Ateke is fondly called by his admirers, hardly speaks in public on issues. He once said that his concern now is how to better the lives of his subjects.
Sobomabo Jackrich (Egberipapa)
Jackrich was relatively unknown until security operatives arrested him at a king’s palace. Jackrich, unlike Asari and Tom, did not have a group that could be easily used to track his activities during the Niger Delta crisis.
But he had a well-organised and compact group that drew the attention of MEND that claimed him as one of their commanders Egberipapa, like Asari Dokubo, hails from Buguma Community, Asari Toru Local Government Area.
He was among the last batch of ex-militant leaders to be considered for amnesty because after his arrest, he remained in detention until calls for his release became stringent.
When he was eventually released he accepted amnesty and vowed never to return to the creeks for armed struggle. Since then, Jackrich has set up an NGO apart from being the founder and leader of Kengema Unity Forum (KUF) and Network for Defence of Democratic and Good Governance (NDDGG).
During the first term of Governor Nyesom Wike, Jackrich was appointed the Caretaker Committee Chairman of Asari Toru Local Government Area. In 2020, the Acting Managing Director of the Interim Management Committee of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), Kemebradikumo Daniel Pondei, appointed Jackrich as the Chairman of its COVID-19 Palliative Committee.
He is politically active. Once an ally of Wike, he has fallen out with the governor. Now 43 years old, during his 42nd birthday reception, he berated political leaders in the state for keeping quiet in the face of the ongoing ‘abnormalities’ in the governance of Rivers State.
He is the first politician to declare interest in succeeding Wike as the governor of Rivers State. Jackrich declared his intention to contest for the governorship of Rivers at the first 2021 national stakeholders’ meeting of KUF convened in the three Kalabari areas of Asari-Toru, Akuku-Toru and Degema local governments.
Henry Okah and all
Among the militants from Bayelsa State are Henry Okah who is currently serving his prison term in South Africa, Ebikabowei Victor Ben (aka Boyloaf) who is a former commander in MEND but dropped his arms during amnesty.
Others are Selky Torghedi (aka Young shall grow) who accepted amnesty and since then has been living in Abuja. Paul Eris (aka Ogunboss) immediately after embracing amnesty dropped his arms and went back to school.
Today he has a very big rice farm in Peremabiri, his community in Southern Ijaw. Africanus Ukparasia also embraced amnesty and dropped his arms. He was the leader of Bayelsa State Security Task Force.
He also embraced western education and modern life, and he has been reintegrated into the society. Joshua Machiver was one of the gubernatorial aspirants in the 2019 election. He embraced higher education and got his Bachelor of Arts in Linguistic Communication in 2013.
He is the president, Iniebi Group, a dredging company and managing director of BAJEROS Nigeria Limited. Most of them have mansions and are living luxurious life with government support.
Many now control companies which have made them to retire to their shells and mind- ing their businesses. Most of them are into their private businesses now and have been empowered by the state and federal governments. Some have been granted surveillance contracts running into billions of naira.
This has made people to lose trust in them because they have enriched themselves from contracts from NDDC and the Amnesty Programme and are enjoying their money quietly. Many of them are said to be on the payroll of both state and federal governments.
High Chief Government Ekpemupolo, (a.k.a Tompolo), headed the Egbesu and operated mainly in the Creeks in Delta State before late President Musa Yar’Adua granted the militants amnesty. He is currently in his palace as a chieftain of Gbaramatu kingdom where he hails from and wields power.
Not long ago, he held the Minister of the Niger Delta Affairs, Chief Godswill Akpabio at the jugular when he issued ultimatum for the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to be inaugurated.
He threatened to resume hostility if the Federal Government takes him for granted. The Minister had to lead a high power delegation to him to calm his nerves. Before now, former President Jonathan had awarded contracts to him, taking charge of the surveillance of the waterways in the region.
It was a very lucrative contract, which placed him far above his kinsmen. He became a factor to reckon with in the politics of the state and Nigeria at large because he has money and belongs to the ruling class.
This status kept him busy for several years until Jonathan left office. He soon fell out with the government of President Muhammadu Buhari and was declared wanted when he refused to show up for the charges preferred against him over contracts awards.
And for many years, he kept a low profile until recently that he regained his voice. At the twilight of the administration former Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, he played a major role in the politics which produced incumbent Governor Ifeanyi Okowa.
He allegedly supported Senator James Manager, representing Delta South, to broker the peace-deal which determined the choice of Okowa, against all odds, through his alleged connection to a former president.
Hence, he was said to have produced the incumbent Deputy Governor of the state, Barr Kingsley Otuaro and he is still relevant in the buildup to 2023 governorship race in Delta as Ijaw axis of the state.
His militancy business seems not to be fashionable again and his boys have scattered all over the place, majority has been empowered through the amnesty programme. Sources said that some of his foot soldiers have lost confidence in him.
Comrade Joseph Evah
He is the coordinator of the Ijaw Monitoring Group (IMG), and speaks truth to power. His position is that ‘Niger Delta-born politicians are oppressing the people of the region and not the Federal Government as erroneously speculated in some quarters.
An agitator for good governance, Evah is not a militant leader or an ex-militant but he is from the militant axis of Delta State.
For him, the Niger Delta region is in economic and infrastructural quagmire till date because governors of the zone behave like cowards. He is still vocal because his business is not strictly for money-making.
Recent, he said unless the Federal Government takes drastic step against high rate of insecurity, there may not be elections in 2023. Also, he condemned the incessant communal war in Isoko ethnic nationality of Delta State and heaped the blame on the Okowa-led administration for being irresponsive, even as he called for 24-hour military presence to quell the killings in Emede and Igbide communities].
Leader and founder of Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Chief, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, holds court in Owerri, Imo State from where he controls the struggle and his other business interests.
He is still in the struggle for the actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra but has become a lot more temperate and not as fierce as he used to be it. He superintends over the Biafra Independent Movement (BIM). Perhaps he seems to have moved to the background with the entrance of some younger and radical pro-secession activists.
He is becoming a lot more circumspect in the level of risk he allows his members to take in the course of the struggle A trained lawyer, Uwazuruike is not known to have practised since he commenced the Biafran struggle.
He is however, known to have some interests in estate development and loves posh cars. It is only fair to say that Uwazuruike has seen almost all sides of the struggle for self- determination. He has lost men, had very close shaves with death, yet he has sustained his non-violent approach to the struggle. With the energies and radicalism of the rapidly emerging young activists,
Uwazuruike may have opted for a lower profile to avoid his men unwittingly getting carried away with the frenzy of the time. While many see Uwazuruike as a freedom fighter that has paid his dues, others perceive him as a wheeler-dealer who may have benefited from the struggle.
Another section of the people has their doubts about him, but believes his usefulness to the Igbo nation far outweighs their doubts about him. This is why he is still accorded some level of relevance in the contemporary society.
No fewer than 20 kidnapped victims have escaped from the deadly Rugu Forest in Nigeria Northwest after bandits who held them bound for over five months fled for dear lives on citing an air force fighter jet.
Among the victims are 18 females and 2 males abducted five months ago from Katoge village in Batsari Local Government Area of Katsina State.
One of the victims, Rabiu Mannir said they managed to escape from the hoodlums when a jet of the Nigerian Air Force caused a scare while flying over the bandits’ camp on Friday night. The development he said caused the criminals to scamper for safety, ignoring their captives.
Also, one of the female victims identified as Sahura Haruna was said to have delivered a baby girl at the kidnappers den recently as she was already pregnant before being abducted by the bandits.
“I put to bed five days ago. According to the Doctor, my baby and I are not very sound. The Doctor said our body system lacks adequate water,” Sahura said.
The Secretary to the Katsina State Government, SSG, Dr Mustapha Inuwa, said the rescued victims were brought back to Katsina by authorities in neighbouring Zamfara State and they have been medically examined and handed over to the authorities of Batsari LGA to reconcile them with their families once again.
A 2023 presidential campaign poster of Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello and former Aviation Minister, Femi Fani-Kayode has emerged online.
The poster has Bello as president and Fani-Kayode, as his running mate in the campaign, with All Progressives Congress (APC) party logo on it.
The poster stated: “Yahaya and Femi 2023.”
Recall that Fani-Kayode on Thursday officially joined the APC and was ushered in by President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja.
Amid claims of Bello nursing a presidential ambition, however, he is yet to declare his ambition to run for the presidency in 2023.
Ben Adaji, a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), has vowed to mobilize youths across Nigeria to stage a peaceful protest if President Muhammadu Buhari considers the former Minister of Aviation, Femi-Fani Kayode for an appointment.
Adaji issued the warning on Saturday during an interactive session with media practitioners in Jalingo, Taraba State.
He urged the leadership of the party to be wary of the former minister whom he described as “a serial betrayal.”
Adaji questioned the rationale behind Fani-Kayode’s decision to join the APC, a party he left in 2014 for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) after claiming it was trying to Islamise Nigeria and had plans to inflict pain on the populace.
He also recalled that FFK from 2014 “till today disparaged President Buhari using unfriendly adjectives such as wicked, dead, draconian, dictatorial among others.”
He urged Buhari to consider members who have been consistent in building, growth and success of the party before persons like Fani-Kayode.
abokiFX, a web platform that reports movements in the foreign exchange market, has suspended operations as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) placed its owners on investigations.
The platform said this in a notice posted on its website on Friday.
At the end of the monetary policy committee (MPC) meeting on Friday, Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), confirmed the investigation of Oniwinde Adedotun, the founder of abokiFX.
Recall that Adedotun and abokiFX Limited are currently under investigation for “illegal foreign exchange transactions”.
Speaking on the allegations, Emefiele claimed that Oniwinde used his website for forex manipulations and speculations by purchasing forex to make a profit — describing him as an illegal forex trader.
But in a statement on Friday evening, abokiFX distanced itself from the allegations, saying the platform is solely for parallel rate information and not trading.
“abokifx has taken the decision, today, 17th of September 2021, to temporarily suspend rate updates on all our platforms until we get better clarity of the situation,” the statement reads.
“Final rates have been posted this evening, but the abokiFX news section and the Crypto rates section will still be active.
“abokiFX was established in 2014 as a research and information service company, to conduct market research and gather data on the parallel market rates. We also wanted to provide some transparency around the parallel market with the available information technology.
“abokiFX purely provided benchmark parallel rate information which helps guide our users in almost 200 countries across the world.
“abokiFX does NOT TRADe FX, which we have always maintained in our emails and social media platforms.”
The platform said it has not received any official communication from any government agencies and its accounts intact.
“All allegations against our director are yet to be confirmed but we at abokiFX DO NOT trade FX neither do we manipulate parallel market rates”, the statement adds.
“Outside the media allegation, we have not received any communication from any government body and our accounts are not closed as stipulated in the media.
“abokiFX is fully functional BUT we will not be publishing any form of rates on our platforms for now.
“We sincerely hope this suspension will lead to the Naira appreciation from next week.
“With our decision to temporarily suspend online rate publication, we are aware that there will be limited visibility of parallel rates information which will impact decision making for many.”
Ahead of the 2023 presidential election, a fresh crisis is brewing in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over which zone should have its presidential ticket.
Since the party was defeated by the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2015 to bring its rule for 16 years to an end, it has been struggling to reclaim the presidency without success.
While the opposition party is in the process of holding an elective national convention to elect its new leaders, there are indications that the issue of zoning is tearing it apart.
For months now, there have been severe agitations as to where the presidential ticket of the party should be zoned to, with leaders and chieftains of the party, particularly from the southern part of the country, insisting that the party’s unwritten zoning arrangement be respected and the 2023 presidential ticket zoned exclusively to the South.
It is believed in many quarters that the zoning controversy is at the bottom of the storm that has been the lot of the suspended national chairman of the party, Prince Uche Secondus.
His alleged tacit support for a presidential aspirant from the north in spite of the clamour for power shift is believed to have won him several enemies from his home zone.
However, fresh indications have emerged that anti-zoning forces may have devised new plans to forestall the possibility of the party zoning the presidential ticket to the South.
The Nation gathered that an ongoing process towards the election of a new national chairman for the party is brewing suspicion and creating a fresh crisis within it.
Very reliable party sources said the high number of southern PDP chieftains indicating interest in the national chairmanship while no northerner is showing interest has become a source of worry for pro-zoning agitators within the PDP.
It was gathered that some prominent leaders and chieftains of the party, including governors, National Assembly members and Board of Trustees (BoT) members from the southern zones have expressed dissatisfaction with what they described as an attempt to scheme the zones out of contention for the presidential ticket.
It was also gathered that governors elected on the platform of the PDP are now divided over the zoning issue.
The Nation gathered that while some of them are now openly supporting national chairmanship aspirants from the south, others like Governor Seyi Makinde and Udom Emmanuel of Oyo and Akwa Ibom states respectively are warning that the emergence of a southerner in that position may nail any hope of the region getting the presidential ticket.
An aide to the governor said: “A look at previous arrangements revealed that the national chairman and the presidential candidate had never emerged from the same region in the past.
“So, our governor, given his commitment to the southern presidency project, is asking his colleagues for a commitment that the chairmanship is not a bait to stop power from shifting to the South in 2023.
“He is not alone in this. There are other governors with him.”
The Nation however gathered that some other governors have recently proposed that the presidential ticket be thrown open for aspirants from all zones of the country to contest for it. “Their major arguments are that the last president the PDP produced is from the South and it may not be easy to defeat the APC with a presidential candidate from the South So, they have a plan to retain the ticket in the north,” a source claimed.
Finding by our correspondent revealed that majority of southern governors are opposed to the new plan by their colleagues from the north. “Though a couple of southern governors are now being convinced to join the anti zoning push, with offers like the vice presidency and other promises, the majority is still unrelenting in the quest for the ticket in 2023,” a party source said.
“At the recent meeting of southern governors, PDP governors sent a very strong signal to their colleagues from the north and others opposed to zoning when they openly supported and signed the communique insisting on power shift. The implications are that PDP governors are now poised for showdown over the zoning issue,” our source said.
The Nation also gathered that members of the PDP caucus in the National Assembly are also not on the same page on the zoning issue.
Last week, the Southeast caucus of the PDP NASS met and decided that it will not be part of any arrangement that opposes the zoning of the presidential ticket to the South.
The legislators were responding to alleged moves to give the Southwest the national chairmanship in order to keep the presidential ticket in the north.
“Our position is to put it on record that the chairmanship is not the same as the presidential ticket and that those angling for the seat are not doing so on behalf of the entire south,” our source added.
As the drama continues to unfold, prominent chieftains of the party are urging the gladiators to be careful not to cause an implosion within the party. They have also been expressing fears about the chances of the party in the next general election.
A member of the PDP BoT, while speaking on the current crisis, accused some governors of trying to return the party to its troubled era.
He said: “The plot to give the Southwest the chairmanship so as to block the South from the presidential ticket will fail.
“It is an attempt to destroy the PDP and we must be careful. If PDP wants to win in 2023, we must respect zoning and give the South the ticket.
“I commend the governors that are still standing and I am sure they will prevail.”
Northern PDP candidate will lose — Okupe
A PDP chieftain and former presidential spokesman, Doyin Okupe, warned yesterday against the plot to deny the South the presidential ticket of the party in 2023, saying that doing so would spell a disaster.
Okupe spoke on during a media briefing in Abuja.
According to the Ogun State politician, the issue of zoning within the PDP ranks is not up for discussion.
He warned governors and others working to ensure the emergence of a Northern candidate for the 2023 elections to desist, explaining that this has already led to defection from the party by a lot of dissatisfied members.
He said: “The gale of defections in the Peoples Democratic Party has nothing to do with any form of crisis. It is just part of happenings when a general election is approaching. Those who have defected have personal issues with party leadership, especially on the zoning arrangement.
“The issue of zoning shouldn’t be a basis for defection at this time because the committee set up to determine that will soon conclude their assignment and submit their report.
“However, there is a strong indication that the party is erroneously tilting towards zoning the presidency to the North.
“Zoning is a veritable instrument that ensures equity and balancing in the nation, gives hope and confidence and support to our national unity.
“The zoning arrangement which the PDP started since 1998 was based on the assumption that the party will be in power consistently. But the moment it lost power in 2015, automatically the arrangement has to be reviewed in view of the development.
“When the PDP lost power, there was a southern president in power. If the party didn’t lose power and completed in 2019, zoning would kick in and power would have shifted to the North.
“However, the party that won the election presented a northern candidate who by 2023 would have ruled for eight years.
“We still carried on as if the former arrangement was still in place in 2019 and it was justifiable because within the PDP at that time for us to put forward a northern candidate.
“In 2023, with APC having ruled for eight years with a northern candidate, it will be preposterous, unjust, uncaring and blatant for the PDP to zone the presidential ticket to the north because the arrangement expired the moment our party lost power in 2019.
“There should be a reset of the zoning arrangement in 2023. It does not make sense to replace a northern government of eight years with another northern government for another eight years. It doesn’t make sense.”
PDP governors accuse Umahi of sabotaging party
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors yesterday accused their Ebonyi State counterpart, Dave Umahi, of sabotaging the party in the 2019 general elections.
The governors were reacting to the remarks credited to Umahi during this recent interview on Channels Television.
Governor Umahi had said during the interview that some PDP governors were not being honest with the idea of power shift to the South.
He said: “One or two governors that own PDP, their body language suggests that they are against zoning and I can tell you from a reliable source that they are just after their own interest.”
But in a statement signed by the Director-General of the PDP Governors Forum, CID Maduabum, the governors asked Umahi to face the business of governance, accusing him of sabotaging the party during the 2019 elections while he was still a member of the party.
The statement reads: “The PDP Governors’ Forum is outraged at the attempt by the Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi, who illegally and immorally sits on a PDP mandate and calls himself an All Progressives Congress (APC) Governor to turn truth on its head.
“Umahi left PDP for APC, according to him, because of the love he has for President Muhammadu Buhari, among other flimsy reasons, irrespective of the maladministration and daily incidents of destruction of lives and properties currently going on in Ebonyi State and the entire country under the watch of APC.
“Umahi sabotaged the PDP in 2019 elections in his quest to deliver 25 per cent to his APC benefactors. It took the determined resistance of Ebonyi people to checkmate him. It was good riddance that he subsequently left PDP for APC instead of continuing his role as an APC mole.
“We advise Umahi to face his frustrations in APC and not drag PDP and her governors into it.
“PDP is an independent political party with workable structures and methods of doing things. It’s not an appendage of the APC or, indeed, any other association or group.
“The PDP will take its decision on the issue of zoning political offices at the appropriate time. Even the APC has not taken any decision yet on zoning.
“Different groups and interests are advancing arguments to defend their positions as is required in a democracy. At the end of the day, decisions will be taken by each political party.
“The PDP is single minded in its resolve to boot out the APC in 2023 and would craft strategies to achieve the same in the national interest as APC currently represents an existential threat to Nigeria’s democracy and survival. Indeed all Nigerians have a duty and responsibility to end this long nightmare of APC misrule.”
No compromise on Southern presidency — Akeredolu
Speaking in a television programme monitored by The Nation in Akure yesterday, Ondo State Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu reiterated the Southern Governors Forum’s earlier position that it would not back down on its agitation for zoning of the Presidency to the region in 2023.
Akeredolu said the forum would resist any political party that fields a northerner as presidential candidate.
The governor said the Southern governors will pursue the agitation to the letter because they were unanimous in their resolution on zoning.
Akeredolu, who is also Chairman of the Southern Governors’ Forum, said: “If we have anything that we have agreed, that we have unanimity, it is the issue of president in 2023.
“All of us, irrespective of our political party; there are three political parties that are in the Southern Governors’ Forum. We have the All Progressives Grand Alliance, the Peoples Democratic Party, and the All Progressives Congress, and we all agreed on this.
“Any party that picks any candidate from the North will have to face all Southern governors, because they will not support. But it has to come from the South. We are saying that there must be rotational, justice, and fairness in it, that is what we are pushing.
“If my President, Muhammadu Buhari, has ruled for eight years, then it cannot be from the North again. The next president must come from the South. We have not got to the stage where we will say let us give it to somebody who is competent.
“There are many people that are competent. We have competent people in the North as we have competent people in the South.
“So, the President can come from any part of the country. But if you have occupied the position for eight years, then it has to rotate back to the South.
“We can continue to do that until it gets to a point where the issue of zoning becomes an anathema. But for now, zoning is it and those of us from the South are determined that the next president comes from the South.”
The Nigerian Army yesterday revealed how its officer, Major CL Datong, who was kidnapped when bandits attacked the Nigerian Defence Academy on the 24th of last month was rescued
The deputy director, Army Public Relations at 1 Division, Nigerian Army, Kaduna, Colonel Ezindu Idimah, said the division in conjunction with the Air Task Force, Department of State Service (DSS) and other security agencies jointly conducted sustained operations in the Afaka general area to rescue Major Datong.
“The operations were being conducted based on several leads received from various sources regarding the abductors and likely locations the officer was being held,” he said.
Idima added that the operations which were sustained since the kidnap of the officer proved quite successful and led to the destruction of several identified bandits’ camps at the Afaka- Birnin Gwari general area of Kaduna State and neutralization of scores of bandits, particularly in the late hours of September 17, 2021.
“The troops arrived at a camp suspected to be the location where Maj CL Datong was being held. At the camp, they exchanged fire with the bandits and overwhelmed them. In the process, the gallant troops were able to rescue the abducted officer,” he said.
He disclosed that although the officer had a minor injury, he was treated at a medical facility and handed over to NDA.
Colonel Ezindu Idimah said Major Datong was rescued in compliance with the directive of the Chief of Defence Staff and service chiefs that all security agencies conduct decisive operations to rescue him and find the perpetrators dead or alive.
Gunmen Kill 2, Abduct Ortom’s Aide’s Father-in-law In Benue
Meanwhile, gunmen suspected to be herdsmen yesterday attacked Yelwata community in Guma local government area of Benue State, killing two persons on the spot.
LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that the criminals also kidnapped the father-in-law of the senior special assistant to Benue State governor on media and ICT, James Igbudu.
When contacted on telephone, Igbudu who confirmed the killings and kidnapping of his father in-In-law, Iorver Igbo, told our correspondent that the attackers invaded the community around 7am shooting at everyone in sight.
He said, “The herdsmen attacked the community around 6 to 7am of Saturday killing two persons on the spot and kidnapping my Father-in-law and up till now we have not heard from them so we don’t know whether he is still alive or not.
“My father-in-law who is about 64 years of age does not even have a phone with him, and his abductors are yet to open conversation with the family,”
When contacted, the State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), DSP Catherine Anene, said he was yet to get the report of the killing and abduction.
Leading Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Nigeria have condemned the continued ban on Twitter by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
The organisations that included Media Right Agenda (MRA), Paradigm Initiative (PIN), and Enough Is Enough (EiE), in the conference to mark 100 days of the ban, maintained that the FG disregarded rule-of-law in the ban and the citizens are feeling its negative consequences.
The Executive Director, EiE, Nigeria, Yemi Adamolekun, described the ban as a disservice, as the government in a bid to stifle its citizens, had also destroyed the positive impact of agencies as the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), which, up until the ban, provided COVID-19 updates and kept citizens aware and conscious of the pandemic.
According to her, the country has such issues as unemployment, Coronavirus pandemic, insecurity, and poverty, yet the government neglected these concerns but moved to ban Twitter.
“If the government of Nigeria wanted to ban Twitter, it could have done it legally. But there was no document, neither a legal document nor a court order backing its action.
This is a gross violation of human rights, and we must hold the government accountable.”
Executive Director, PIN, Gbenga Sesan, noted that the present administration, having failed in doing its job of arresting criminals and terrorists, who use social media, decided to stifle the entire population and make Nigerians suffer for its failings.
On his part, Director, Programmes, MRA, Ayode Longe, said as soon as the Twitter ban came into effect, civil groups jointly condemned the action, and called on the FG to withdraw the order.
Longe started that the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) led 176 concerned Nigerians to file the first lawsuit at the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice against the government.
The group observed that the prolonged ban reflected the government’s poor understanding of a truly democratic state, as well as the government’s shameless use of fear and threats in passing draconian orders.
The group reiterated its positions in pursuing the various suits filed against the FG, ensuring that the voices of Nigerians are heard, encouraging the citizenry to stand their ground in exercising their rights, as upheld by the Nigerian Constitution.
Come to think of it, I have spent the past 18 years campaigning for restructuring, although not along ethnic lines. My campaign has been three-fold: (1) restructuring our mentality so that we can see the errors of our ways and begin to apply our hearts to wisdom (2) restructuring our politics to deliver good governance through competent and patriotic leadership (3) restructuring the economy to deliver prosperity, peace and justice to ordinary Nigerians — northerners and southerners alike. My tiny faction of the restructuring movement thinks Nigeria has two basic divides: the oppressors and the oppressed. These divides cut across all ethnicities, age groups, genders, religions and regions.
Undoubtedly, when you strip all my articles naked, these three propositions will always stare you in the face. But while restructuring the Nigerian mindset is one hell of a job — so many of us have been programmed from birth to view every single national issue through the prism of ethnic and sectional sentiments — we can always hope to make progress, no matter how slight, in our demand for good governance and economic prosperity. That is why I pray the VAT crisis would not be allowed to waste. It affords our leaders an opportunity to put heads together and work out how we can restructure our public finance to tackle the perennial crises and the accompanying political tensions.
Nigeria can be easily classified as a “rentier state” — originally defined by Hossein Mahdavi, an Iranian economist, as a country that receives “on a regular basis substantial amounts of external economic rent”. In our case, oil money is the external economic rent. This contrasts with a “fiscal state” which is run largely on revenues raised from domestic tax payers. Norway is oil-rich but it is a fiscal state — the bulk of government expenditure is raised from taxes. Norway’s oil revenue is saved in a sovereign wealth fund. Part of it is devoted to specific interventions in education and health care — not presidential jets, Prado SUVs, ultra-modern government houses and duty tour allowances.
We need a radical reappraisal of public finance in Nigeria. We spend money without thinking. We have carried on for too long thinking more about how to spend money, reflecting less on how to raise revenue — largely because of the seasonal oil windfalls. A modern state cannot build its finances on oil windfalls and hand-outs. The revenue base must be well established, reliable and predictable. For every new project, the state must work on raising extra revenue — either by cutting down expenditure elsewhere or adjusting a tax rate to raise the funds. For instance, to increase funding to its public health service, the UK recently raised the employee national insurance rates.
Conversely, a rentier state embarks on projects hoping that another windfall is just around the corner. Nigeria’s budget is eternally benchmarked against crude oil price. That tells the whole story. If oil price rises, government doubles the wage bill, builds new airports and Nigerians go on an importation binge. If oil price falls, we begin to owe salaries, abandon projects and start throwing even the kitchen sink at saving the naira. Any economy built around the prices of commodities, such as crude oil, is a fickle economy. Ours is even worse because we do not save — we keep eating the oil money, sometimes borrowing with the hope that we will pay back when crude prices rise again.
The vulnerabilities of public finance in Nigeria hardly feature in public discourse. Our emotions are elsewhere. As things stand, 35 of the 36 states are parasites on oil. Take away the oil revenue and only Lagos has a chance of surviving. It is the only state that currently makes more from IGR than from federation allocation. Also, if oil-producing states keep the petrodollars, no fewer than 30 states will struggle to survive. It is the sharing of the oil revenue that stabilises the finances of states. Until federation allocation becomes mere “pocket money” to states and IGR becomes the real deal, we will continue brawling over the national cake. We all need to wake up and smell the coffee.
The good news is that most states are viable. I have heard many people argue that most Nigerian states are not viable. That is true — if all that matters in this world is federation allocation. As I pointed out years ago, Luxembourg, a European country, has a landmass of 2,586.4 square kilometres — half of Toro LGA, Bauchi state. With a population of 600,000, Luxembourg has fewer people than Oshodi-Isolo LGA, Lagos state. But its GDP, built on industry, agriculture and banking services, is $72 billion. That is more than the combined GDP of Lagos, Rivers and Delta states, Nigeria’s top three states by GDP ranking. Countries are developed by brains, not allocation.
The bad news is that this fact never sinks into our heads — no matter how many times we hear it per second. Luxembourg would not exist today if viability were determined by natural resources. Banking services form the largest sector of the economy — Luxembourg is one of the world’s most competitive financial centres. The country also manufactures steel. Its farmers are producers and exporters of meat, dairy products and wine. Anytime I think about the possibilities Nigeria sits on in every sector and in every region, my heart breaks to pieces. We have too much potential to be living this beggarly life. We are suffering basically because we are a sheepfold without the right shepherds.
But the good news again: with most states now seeing their vulnerability without VAT redistribution, there is a slight chance that this might ignite what I generously tag “fiscal revolution” — by which I mean a new thinking on how we can radically improve IGR by using the existing tax handles. As I advocated last week, it is not about instituting new taxes. We already have enough tax handles in my opinion. I would also not suggest increasing the tax rates. I believe the rates are generally fair and should remain so for now. Rather, the fiscal revolution can be achieved by (1) improving state capacity to ensure more compliance (2) expanding the local economy to enlarge the tax base.
In fiscal federalism terms, our current structure allows states to collect and retain personal income tax (PAYE and self-assessment) and withholding tax on certain rents, in addition to sundry levies. However, FG collects VAT, company incomes tax, petroleum profit tax, WHT, stamp duties, technology tax and tertiary education tax on behalf of the federation. All the tax revenues go into the federation pot, from where they are shared by the three tiers of government using a matrix that tries to ensure equalisation and stabilisation. Mineral-rich states take an extra 13% as derivation. Nevertheless, southerners often criticise the allocation formula which they say favours the north.
Irrespective of the outcome of the VAT dispute, the greatest thing that can happen to states, going forward, is for them to improve their IGR meaningfully. That is a tough job. It is very easy to say “improve your IGR” but it cannot happen overnight. While ensuring tax compliance can immediately raise the revenue, even if not massively, the economy of a state also needs to grow consistently before it can enjoy an enlarged and predictable revenue base. That will take a number of things to achieve: critical infrastructure, good security, creative policies and a number of productive incentives. I must of necessity acknowledge that many governors are not in the mood for this.
Why? It requires good thinking and hard work. It is not a champagne party. Most states are not creating the productive environment for business, so how can the local economy grow and broaden the tax base? According to the World Bank Ease of Doing Business 2018, it takes the whole of 118 days (four months) to get a building permit in Lagos. When it comes to having the title deed to a property, Ogun’s score of 82.9% is the only one above 50% among the 36 states. Getting a CofO is even worse: every state scored F9, with Lagos (22.9%), Kaduna (21.4%) and Adamawa (18%) being the best in class. These things hamper local economic growth and consequentially hurt the IGR.
There is good news, though. When Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu became governor of Lagos state in 1999, the IGR was N600m a month. When he was leaving in 1999, he had taken it to N6bn per month. No state was anywhere near that. Today, Lagos is averaging N34bn monthly. This is the closest example of a fiscal state. We can argue that Lagos enjoys an unusual advantage because it was federal capital and plays host to the ports, telecoms and financial services. But the IGR did not grow on its own. It was stimulated. I agree that every state will not move from N600m to N34bn like Lagos, but we must start working hard to move away from the comfort zone of federation allocation.
This should count as good news too: many states are making progress on the IGR issue. In 2020, for instance, NBS data showed that Kebbi grew its IGR by 87%, the highest in the federation, followed by Ebonyi (82%), Oyo (42%), Borno (42%), Katsina (34%), Gombe (26%), Taraba (24%), Zamfara (20%) and Plateau (16%). The naira and kobo may not be humongous yet but any progress is better than no progress. And to achieve fiscal prudence, states need to ask themselves: do we really need to build a cargo airport? Do we really need a new stadium? Do we really need a new university? Before increasing expenditure, they should ask: can we really afford this? Is this the best way to spend?
If all goes well, the ultimate benefit of fiscal revolution would be “fiscal social contract”. That is, the government feeling contractually obliged to deliver the goods to the citizens because it is their taxes, not oil money, that provide the bulk of the revenue. That way, the demand for accountability will be people-led and this should ordinarily impact on the quality of governance. The current rentier structure, built on oil windfalls, makes us treat public money as nobody’s money. We all want to take our share and run. Unfortunately, many theories fail in Nigeria. Even if tax revenue forms the bulk of public revenues, accountability may not be automatic. We just have to fight for it.
AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…
The house of representatives on Thursday passed a resolution accusing President Buhari of violating the constitution in his appointments in the Federal Character Commission (FCC). The two top positions in the commission — chairman and secretary — are occupied by northerners. The commission is constitutionally mandated “to promote, monitor and enforce compliance with the principles of the proportional sharing of all bureaucratic, economic, media and political posts at all levels of government”. If the appointments into the Federal Character Commission itself do not reflect federal character, that would be ironic. I think we need a convincing explanation. Puzzling.
FURORE OVER FFK
Who helped popularise the tag, “clueless”, as a nickname for President Jonathan? Chief Femi Fani-Kayode. He had left PDP for APC at the time. FFK returned to PDP in 2014 to become spokesman for the same Jonathan in the 2015 presidential election. Having done tremendous work in the last six years to help classify APC as a party of almajiris and participated in “Jubrilising” President Buhari and defining the narratives around “Fulanilisation”, FFK was seen in Aso Rock on Thursday formally returning to APC. He attributed his decision to the “Spirit of God”. His embarrassed disciples are livid and have been raving mad at him. Me: what’s shocking about FFK jumping ship? Amusing.
The Kaduna police command paraded two suspects, named as Bashir Mohammed and Nasiru Balarabe, allegedly linked to the death of Abdulkarim, son of Senator Bala Na’Allah. Their reported confessions are so distressing. Abdulkarim, who was a pilot, had struggled with them at his Malali home. They overpowered him and they tied him with a rope, one of the suspects said. With him motionless, they went ahead to rob the apparently dead man. They said they stole his car and sold it for N1m. One of the suspects said he used his own share to buy 33 bags of imported rice but they were seized by Customs. The life of a human being wasted for a reward of 33 bags of rice. Sick.
BANDITS OR TERRORISTS?
There has been an interesting debate over the difference between bandits and terrorists. This, I would say, is a purely academic exercise. Whatever name they are called, the bandits are wreaking havoc on the country. Still, there is a distinction for whatever it is worth. Terrorists usually have a political demand. Bandits are purely out for the material gain without making any political demand. Boko Haram wants to establish an Islamic Caliphate. The bandits have not told us yet if they have a political ambition. However, both invoke fear and terror in people, and the increasing sophistication of the operations of bandits means we are not safe, whatever name we call them. Simple.
There are strong indications of looming fresh crisis in the All Progressives Congress (APC) over the entrant of the former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode and the proposed plan to bring in former President Goodluck Jonathan into the ruling party.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on Thursday, last week, at the State House Abuja, formally received Fani-Kayode into the party in company of the National Chairman, APC Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, Governor Mai Mala Buni and Zamfara Governor, Bello Mohammed Matawale, while the planned entrant of former President Jonathan has remained in the realm of speculation.
The entrant of the former Aviation Minister and Jonathan’s proposed crossing over to the ruling party have continued to generate hostile, negative criticisms and cold reception from party chieftains instead of celebrating what many would consider the capture of two big fishes.
In a chat with Sunday Sun, an APC chieftain who craved anonymity queried why Fani-Kayode should claim Federal Capital Territory (FCT) as ward instead of joining the party from his ward in his state, Osun.
He argued that a party like the APC battling image problem ought not to admit certain persons in its desperation to increasing membership base.
The chieftain alleged that the reason behind Northern oligarchy desperately wanting to lure former President Jonathan is just to satisfy the yearnings of the South for power rotation, explaining that with Jonathan, the South will only have a shot at power for just four years.
Commenting on Fani-Kayode’s defection, the chieftain said: “Are you aware that Fani-Kayode is not joining from his ward in Osun State? For your information, he is joining APC from the FCT, but the big questions are, first, why is he joining APC from the FCT instead of his ward in his state? Could it be that his ward and by extension, his state, is not welcoming him?
“Every other member of the ruling party, including those that took him to the State House and Buhari who received him all joined the party from their wards. How can Buhari who joined the party from his ward in Daura tolerate such? I can tell you that his entrant is a bitter pill for many APC members I have interacted with.”
But Fani-Kayode in a national TV programme claimed that he has lived in the FCT for over 20 years and, therefore, has every right to join the APC from there.
Reacting to the speculation that Fani-Kayode was brought into the party for certain hatchet jobs, our source replied: “If they claim that we brought him for a hatchet job, it is not an unexpected speculation because in the minds of many, he has record of doing hatchet jobs. I can tell you that his entry into APC will widen the cracks within the party because he even came at the wrong time.
“For a party struggling to redeem its public image, this is apparently a wrong time to admit anybody with any iota of credibility doubt. Yes, I am aware that he forced himself on APC, but this is the wrong time for him to join. When the time comes, I will tell you the real reason he joined the APC”.
Advising Jonathan to resist the temptation and remain with the opposition party, PDP, the source, however, warned that he will run into more problems pushing his desperation too far as he would still run into constitutional lacuna of swearing him in two times again.
“Some top members of APC majorly of northern extraction actually started the move to lure Jonathan into the party based on their selfish reasons and I can confirm to you that they have really gone very far into the deal. Part of the plot to settle for him is that the odd will favour them since he has only a term to serve.
“They have perfected arrangements to ensure that one of them becomes Jonathan’s vice preparatory to taking over from him if he finishes his remaining term. This move is purely a northern affair and they are not relenting about it regardless of the effect it will have on the party.
“Those opting for him forgot that Jonathan’s return has a constitutional lacuna where a section has a proviso that he cannot be sworn in as President for more than two times. If APC issues Jonathan presidential ticket, the party is running a big risk due to that lacuna unless there is amendment of the constitution at the National Assembly.”
Meanwhile, plans are at an advanced stage for the ruling party to constitute a high-power zoning committee to articulate the party’s zoning arrangement ahead of its National Convention and 2023 presidential election in an attempt to avert implosion in the party.
A source close to the national leadership of the party made the disclosure in a chat with Sunday Sun, emphasising that toeing the path of the opposition party, the PDP, has become very necessary to reduce the ever-escalating tension over which zone gets what.
“We have not actually started anything about zoning, but I can tell you on good authority that there is every likelihood that we may have to set up zoning committee, just like the PDP did, to evolve acceptable arrangement and resolve the delicate issue of which zone gets what position.
“However, regardless of what the report of the zoning committee might contain, I can confirm to you that the Southeast is still the beautiful bride. The agitation and actualisation of Igbo presidency may be a remote possibility to many party members, but the good thing is that the dream is very much alive. I am not oblivious of the fact that the powers that be will certainly decide who becomes the party’s national chairman and gets the presidential ticket in 2023,” the source quipped.