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Agbakoba writes Buhari, advocates return to regional autonomy

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For the country to make progress, it needs to return to regional autonomy, former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olisa Agbakoba (Senior Advocate of Nigeria), ha said.

The human right lawyer stated this in a letter dated February 2 and addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, noting that the present administrative model had proved to be unsuccessful and that only a return to regional autonomy can resolve Nigeria’s diversity challenge.

According to Agbakoba, Nigeria lacks common fundamentals that can enhance unity.

“It is my honour and privilege to present to you, for consideration a proposal on regional autonomy and devolution of powers,” he stated.

“Common fundamentals are policy goals in the political, economic, cultural, religious and social affairs of a nation that often must be similar to achieve political cohesion. These common ideals are usually taken for granted but remain central to effective governance and development of nations. The notion of missing fundamentals is at opposite poles and refers to an absence of common political objectives on vital national policy.

“Kjell Magne Bondevik, once Norwegian prime minister, attributed Norway’s success to its political homogeneity. That is Norwegians have common national identity that drives their political and economic stability. China, India, Taiwan and Singapore also have common fundamentals. China is significantly Han so is Singapore and Taiwan.

“Nigeria, on the other hand, has no national fundamentals. Diverse religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds severely impair our ability to work together. The challenge is to resolve our diversity in harmony. This needs deliberate policy choices to create unity in diversity. This was the central theme of our old national anthem.

“Unfortunately, our policy choices have resulted in very divisive dialogue. We cannot agree on a mode of a federal political system. We continue to raise issues around our differences – the dilemma of missing fundamentals. We can only make progress by understanding and embracing our challenges.”

Agbakoba said the process of regional autonomy and devolved powers could be achieved by virtue of an enactment-styled constitution alteration (regional autonomy and devolution of powers) bill, adding that it was the only way to stabilise Nigeria.

“In Nigeria’s case, we have not unfortunately managed the challenge of diversity. Brought together by force of amalgamation in 1914, it was not until 1951 that the first attempt to manage our diversity occurred. There was self-rule in three regions – Northern, Eastern, Western and eventually Mid-West Region,” the lawyer said.

“By aggregation of discussion among our founding fathers, they understood the need to manage unity in diversity by devolved political authority. But this all came to a halt with military rule in 1966, with the unification and centralization of our political processes. We are still stuck with a highly centralised federation.

“Nigeria is made up of multi-ethnic nations managed by a central authority. This model has proved unsuccessful. Europe understood that diversity is best managed by regional autonomy. Switzerland has four ethnic groups. Each of them shares the presidency through four cantons that make up their federating units.

“Political power resides in Abuja to the almost complete exclusion of the 36 states and 774 local governments. As a result, we are projecting our missing fundamentals. But we can readily and easily resolve this challenge.

“We must return to the notion of devolution of powers and regional autonomy. Regional autonomy resolves our diversity challenge. More important, it allows subsidiary to deliver public service at the base of the nation. I was intrigued by the extent of devolved power in the Western Region under self-rule in 1951.”

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News

Anxiety over plans to truncate inauguration of NDDC board

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A group in the Niger Delta region has claimed that some people are desperately working to truncate the inauguration of the board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

The 21st century youths of Niger Delta and Agitators with Conscience (21st CYNDAC) raised the alarm yesterday in a statement made available to The Nation.

It would be recalled that the upper legislative chamber on 5th November 2019 screened and cleared 14 of the 15 nominees to the board of the NDDC by President Muhammadu Buhari.

But their inauguration was put on hold to allow for the completion of the comprehensive forensic audit of the Commission.

The report of the audit has since been submitted to the President on 2 September 2021.

Two weeks after submission and no talks of inauguration of members of the boards of the Commission, tongues have started wagging over plans by some powerful persons working to maintain the status quo.

The Commission has been under the control of a Sole Administrator, Effiong Akwa since December 2020.

Reacting to the rumour, the group stressed that the continuous running of the activities of the Commission by a Sole Administrator is inimical to the representation of the various stakeholders in the region and thus is totally rejected.

The group alleged that those behind the scheme are doing it for their own personal interest and not for the good of the region.

Consequently, the group urges President Muhammadu Buhari to as a matter of urgency inaugurate members of the board already cleared by the senate to deescalate the agitation already going on over the issue.

The statement which was signed by Mr. Izon Ebi leader of 21st CYNDAC reads: “The 21st century youths of Niger Delta and Agitators with Conscience (21st CYNDAC) have been made aware of the various underhand tactics been employed by political jobbers to truncate the inauguration of the substantive board of the Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC.

“As critical stakeholders, we reiterate our stance that any attempt to truncate the inauguration will bid the region and the Commission no good.

“The attempt by these political jobbers to truncate the inauguration is for their political and pecuniary gains and nothing else, of what benefit will it be for the people and the region? Nobody is talking about the prosecution of people found culpable of the decades-long malfeasance, these rogues masquerading as stakeholders are only interested in planting people in the commission as a means of getting their hands on the cookie jar to fund their lifestyle.

“We use these medium to urge Mr. President to keep to his promise of cleaning the NDDC Augean stable by making the NDDC to benefit the people and the region, any attempt to allow fifth columnists to truncate the work of the forensic audit and further delay in inaugurating the substantive board will be of no benefit to the people and the region.

“The palpable restiveness and tension of the youths in the region is already being felt.  We urge Mr. President to do the needful and deescalate the tension and agitations. The 21st CYNDAC therefore use this medium to urge the Honourable Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio to take his redemption mission of the Niger Delta Development Commission NDDC to its logical conclusion by making sure that the substantive board of the commission is sworn in.

“Words on the street is that the minister is more amenable to running a one man show through the sole administrator vehicle which gives him unilateral power over the running of the Commission,  though the 21st CYNDAC are not in tandem with this submission taking cognisance of the forensic audit of the Commission which is more or less the brainchild of the Honourable Minister,  it behooves on the minister to come clean on his plans for the inauguration so as not to give charlatans an avenue to rubbish his noble objectives about the Commission to downsize the board of the Commission is inimical to the representation of the various stakeholders in the region and thus is totally rejected by the 21st century youths of Niger Delta and Agitators with Conscience  ( 21st CYNDAC  ) and other stakeholders in the region.”

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Lawyer: We have CCTV evidence of how Kanu was abducted from Kenya

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Details of a N5 billion suit filed by the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) against the Kenyan government have hinted on the torture the IPOB leader allegedly went through in the custody of security agents in the East African country.

Kanu’s lawyer, George Wajackoyah, claimed in an audio tape that he had CCTV and other evidence of how his client was abducted in Nairobi, Kenyan capital by the Muhammadu Buhari government.

“We have copies of his passport and a stamp that he was indeed in Kenya. We also have evidence he was in his residence on a particular day.

“We also have material proof that he was at the airport on a particular day to meet a friend and there he was arrested.

“Definitely, he was kidnapped,” Wajackoyah said.

The Kenyan government had strongly denied involvement in the process that led to the arrest and repatriation of Kanu back to Nigeria, with its High Commissioner to Nigeria, Wilfred Machage, describing the claim that Kanu was arrested in the East African country as “deliberately concocted to fuel antagonistic feelings in the minds of certain sections of the Nigerian people against the people of Kenya.”

The high point of Kanu’s ugly experience, according to the law suit, was that he got his body smeared with his own urine and faeces because the security agents allegedly denied him permission to use the toilet.

The suit, which was filed in Umuahia, Abia State by Kanu’s counsel Aloy Ejimakor on September 7, revealed that Kanu was beaten severely until he fainted and was revived with cold water.

The suit is seeking to enforce Kanu’s right to life, dignity of the human person, personal liberty and fair hearing.

The affidavit in support of the originating motion, which was done by Kanu’s brother, Emmanuel, stated: “That the facts and violations deposed to in this affidavit started at the applicant’s residence in Isiama Afaraukwu Ibeku, Umuahia North Local Government Area of Abia State; to wit; the military invasion of the applicant in September 2017 by a combined team of Ohafia-based 14 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, the Abia State Command of Nigeria Police Force and the Abia State Directorate of the State Security Service.”

“That it was the said invasion that nearly took the life of the applicant that caused him to seek refuge abroad which ultimately to Kenya, where the respondents lawfully pursued him, abducted him, disappeared with him and ultimately brought him to Nigeria and detained him.

“That in October 2015, the applicant was arrested in Lagos upon his return from the United Kingdom, detained in Abuja and ultimately charged for certain offences Charge No: FHC/ABJ/CR/383/2015 (Federal Republic of Nigeria vs Nnamdi Kanu).

“That the applicant was detained for 18 months, but was later released on bail whereupon he returned to his home in Isiama Afaraukwu Ibeku, Umuahia North, Abia State, and there awaiting his next trial date set for October 2017.

“That on or about 10 September, while the applicant was resting at home with some family members and friends, the Ohafia-based Nigerian Army, police and DSS launched military invasion and assaults at the applicant’s residential building and premises.

“That in the course of the military action, 28 people were killed and several others, including the applicant, were wounded. Both of the applicant’s parents sustained grave injuries from the military invasion and both of them eventually succumbed to those injuries and are now late.

“That in the course of the invasion, the applicant managed to escape to a safe location from where he managed to flee overseas to save his life. That there was neither a court order revoking the applicant’s bail nor any arrest warrant that could have justified the deadly military assault.

“That had the President implemented the provisional measures, the applicant would have felt safe enough to voluntarily end his exile and return to Nigeria to face prosecution in the said charge under reference therein.

“That in the course of his exile, the applicant on or about May 5, 2021, entered the Republic of Kenya on his British passport and was admitted as such at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi. After his admission, the applicant settled in at a temporary location in Nairobi, Kenya.”

Giving details of the alleged abduction of Kanu from the East African country as well as his ordeal at the hands of the Nigerian security operatives at a private residence where he was taken to, Emmanuel said: “That on June 19, 2021, the applicant drove himself and without any companion to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, to drop off a friend at the airport.

“That as soon as the applicant pulled to stop at the parking lot and alighted from his vehicle, about twenty respondent’s agents (hereafter abductors) violently accosted and abducted the applicant, handcuffed and blindfolded him, bundled him in a vehicle and sped away, while telling onlookers that the applicant is a “terrorist separatist.”

“That the applicant’s abductors took him to a nondescript private house (not a police station) somewhere in Nairobi, Kenya, and chained him to the floor. That while chained to the floor, the applicant’s abductors took turns to beat him torturing him to a point that he fainted several times and was intermittently revived when they poured cold water on him.

“That to prevent the applicant’s anguished screaming from being heard in the vicinity, the applicant’s abductors tied a cloth over his mouth and so close to covering his nostrils that the applicant struggled to breathe.

“That the applicant remained chained to the floor for eight days and was thus forced to relieve himself of urine and excrement where he was chained with same being smeared all over his body.”

That throughout the duration of the applicant’s captivity, he was not allowed to bathe and was fed only on bland bread once a day and given non-sanitary water to drink.”

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2023: PDP governors split over zoning

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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 ally of the Oyo State governor explained in a chat with our correspondent yesterday that Makinde’s position is based on his understanding of the practice in PDP.

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.

Determined to send the message clearly to their colleagues, PDP governors in the south have joined their APC colleagues to insist that the next president of the country should come from the South in 2023, in spite of indications that many of their colleagues are plotting to keep the ticket in the north.

“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.”

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