Saturday, 16 March 2013

On President Jonathan's Pardon For Convicted VIPs




       “Pardon one offence
         And you encourage the commission of many”.
                                      -   Publilius Syrus, Great Thinker.


Alamieyeseigha, Former Governor of Bayelsa State,
The dust is yet to settle over the decision of the Federal Executive Council to grant state pardon to the former Bayelsa Governor, Alamieyeseigha, and other VIP ex- convicts.

Opponents of the state pardon have stressed that it is a devastating blow to the fight against corruption. Recent reports have shown that the US Government condemned the state pardon.

The Government, on its part, has defended its decision, stating that it merely exercised the powers granted it by the constitution.

Honestly, I think this singular act by the government is the official endorsement of institutionalized corruption among the ruling class.

Following the outrage that greeted this state pardon, the government’s cheerleaders have risen arm in arm in defense of the government. One government’s spokesman told everyone who cares to listen that the President owes no one any apologies. The government’s supporters are intelligent people who should know better, but they are mere actors in a script of diabolical cynicism. How can a government claim to be fighting corruption and in one single act destroy the hard works of people who brought a notorious (economic) criminal to justice?

People who support the government’s pardon cite the fact that other presidents all over the world exercise the same power without any outcry. However, that is only half-truth; if there’s any thing like that. Or put another way, it’s only one side of the story.

The overwhelming majority of the people granted state pardons in other climes are people who committed what we call simple offences. Offences where people take innocent lives or shed blood, or commit serious economic crimes are never ever pardoned.

I recently saw the record of all the state pardons granted by President H. W. Bush while in office. The offences include tax evasion, stamp duty fraud etc.

How do we view economic crimes in Nigeria? We’ve become such a corrupt society that we’ve come to accept it as one of ‘those things’, or as not a serious crime at all.

I have always believed that economic crimes, especially those committed by the ruling class, i.e. presidents, governors, national assembly members and their state counterparts, ministers, civil servants e.t.c, are the worst kind of crimes against society and humanity. It is far worse than armed robbery.

In China, anyone entrusted with public office, caught embezzling public funds faces capital punishment, or life imprisonment. In the U.S.A, economic crimes are rarely pardoned.

Armed robbery and other violent crimes are bad. But even worse are economic crimes. Until, we realize this fact, I’m afraid we are headed for doom.

Violent crimes kill hundreds or maybe thousands of people every year, while economic crimes are responsible for the demise of millions. While violent crimes cause immediate and sudden death, economic crimes indirectly cause slow, painful but bloodless deaths, and at the same time render millions poor.

It is sad to observe the seeming lack of objective positive self-assessment within the ruling class. A situation where a ruling political party will roll out the drums to welcome a convicted criminal back from prison, someone who should ordinarily be ostracized, shows the abyss into which we’ve fallen.

What we are witnessing is a ruling class who are united in a commitment to shameless profligacy, and who are engaged in what Prof. Wole Soyinka has described as “a mutually-assisted corruption”.

Finally, I think that this state pardon is like adding insult to the grievous injury we are all suffering at the hands of the very people who’ve helped themselves to our commonwealth. We might as well pardon Lawrence Anini and his gang of robbers.

What do you think?

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

TERRORISM IN NIGERIA ; HOW TO RESPOND


Nigerians used to look at terrorism as something that happens only in faraway lands. But not anymore. On December 25 2009, a Nigerian, Abdulmuttalab, made worldwide headlines for all the wrong reasons for trying to detonate a bomb on a plane bound for the United States. The whole world (especially Nigerians) was in shock. The Nigerian government’s response: - denial.

The Ministry of Information quickly put out several statements denying that Nigeria has a terrorism problem. The statements told whoever cared to listen that Nigerians were good people; and Nigeria, a great nation: and therefore it couldn’t be posited that Nigeria had a problem with terrorism.

I believe that the government is suffering from ‘selective myopia’. The authorities see only those things they want to see, and pretend not to see the others, even when they are so glaring. A careful observation will reveal that the social conditions for terrorism to thrive in any environment are all around us. Nigeria has a vast number of young people who are impressionable, uneducated, unemployed, poor, and restive.

The Boko Haram, an Islamic terrorist organization active in North Eastern Nigeria, has claimed responsibility for the August 19th suicide bomb attacks on the United Nations building in Abuja Nigeria. According to news reports, 23 people died, while over 80 people sustained various degrees of injuries.

The President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan in his response to the terrorist bombing said, “This is an attack on the international community. We will spare no effort in order to bring the perpetrators of this crime to book.”

That was the same thing we heard earlier in the year when a suicide bomber drove into the police headquarters in Abuja and killed some people. Properties worth millions of naira were destroyed. The tyrants are yet to be brought to book.

The word terrorism can be traced to the French 18th century word “terrorisme” based on the Latin language verb terrere, which means to frighten, and deterre, meaning to frighten from.

Terrorism has been practiced throughout history and throughout the world. Roman emperors such as Tiberius and Caligula used banishments, expropriation of property and executions as means to discourage opposition to their rule. Also Spanish inquisition used arrest, torture and execution to punish what it viewed as religious heresy.

In the United States after the American civil war, defiant southerners formed a terrorist organization called the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) to intimidate the supporters of reconstruction.

In many totalitarian regimes, terrorism did not refer to bomb attacks, but rather to what is now called a police state. The current use of the term has now been given much broader meanings.

During the latter half of the 19th century, the adherents and followers of anarchism in Western Europe, Russia and the United States adopted terrorism as a means of achieving their aims. They believed that the best way to effect revolutionary political and social change was to assassinate persons in positions of power.

The religious roots of terrorism however can be traced to the time of the Sicari and the zealots, who were Jewish groups active during the Roman occupation of the 1st century Middle East . These groups targeted Romans and Greeks and also Jews whom they deemed apostate and thus selected for execution. Adherents of other religious groups also resorted to methods which might today be regarded as terrorism. The assassin- an 11th century offshoot of a shia Muslim sect, known as the Islamis, like the zealots also stabbed their victims in other to send a message.

Terrorism was initially viewed by Nationalists as an instrument of state and therefore used as a positive term. The French revolutionary leader, Maximilien Robespierre viewed terrorism as vital, if the French republic was to survive its infancy, proclaiming that “terror is nothing other than justice…applied to our country’s most urgent needs.”

The appearance of political ideologies such as Marxism also created a fertile sense of unrest in an existing political and social order with terrorism offering a means for change.

Also the Italian revolutionary Carlo Pisa canes’ theory of ‘propaganda of the deed’- which recognized the utility of terrorism to deliver a message to the audience other than the target and draw attention and support to a cause was typical of this kind of terrorism.


The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Act of 2004 defines terrorism as ‘any act…calculated or intended to intimidate, put fear in, force, coerce, induce any government, body institution, the general public or any segment thereof to do or abstain from doing any acts according to certain principles….”

Nigeria is regarded as a very important country in the fight against terrorism. This is due to the fact that Nigeria has one of the largest Muslim populations in Africa . Also due to the strategic position of Nigeria in Africa , a rise in terrorist activities would have a reverberative effect on the rest of the continent.

Several factors have continued to impede the battle against terrorism in Nigeria .

As noted above, there is still a policy of denial concerning terrorism in Nigeria. A sage goes thus, “the best way to correct anything is to recognize and accept the error or problem”.

Nigeria is yet to ratify all the twelve key international counter terrorism Conventions and Protocols relating to terrorism.

The response of Nigeria to terrorism has so far been reactionary. There is no proactive measure to stop and deter terrorists before they strike. They employ what the ordinary Nigerian will call the ‘siddon look’ approach.

The most annoying part of the government’s reaction is to set up committees to investigate terrorist crimes. This reminds me of what a writer once said, “If you want to kill anything, get committees working on it.”

The Nigerian security agencies are to say the least: inefficient, ill motivated, ill equipped and grossly corrupt. They lack the wherewithal to fight ordinary petty crimes, talk less of fighting terrorism which is a more sophisticated form of criminal activity.

The Nigerian government has recently tried to use the carrot approach. A committee was set up to negotiate with the terrorist Islamic sect, the Boko Haram. The effect of this approach is so far useless.

What then should we do in dealing with terrorism?

We can use the Law Enforcement Approach. This method considers terrorism as basically a civil police responsibility. The objective of this method is to deter terrorists or at least manage them through arrest, prosecution and imprisonment. This method aims at outlawing terrorism and making it a crime. Terrorists are viewed as ordinary criminals and not as engaging in combatant activities, where they can be offered amnesty as the Nigerian government is currently doing. Terrorists are known for their abuse and exploitation of civil liberties. To succeed with this approach, there should be a total overhaul of our security agencies, especially the Nigerian Police Force.

There is also the Law of Armed Conflict Approach. This method considers terrorism as primarily a military responsibility. Here terrorists are viewed as unlawful combatants engaged in warlike or combatant activities. The law of armed conflict can be a great tool in the fight against terrorism. This approach is however fraught with many problems as there are rooms for abuse and other excesses. An example is the recent deployment of the Nigerian military to Borno where Boko Haram has been terrorizing people of that state, and the subsequent outcry of the civil community who claim that the military were carrying out extra judicial killings of innocent civilians and combatants. It is suggested that when using this method against terrorism, the rules of engagement should be clearly developed and defined.

Today terrorism influences events on the international stage to a degree unachieved before now as terrorism continues to spread to places that have hitherto been free from terrorist activities. All over the world there is a grave fear with people at a tiptoe stance that future strikes might even be more deadly with the likely use of weapons of mass destruction.

The Nigerian government has asked the FBI for assistance to unravel the people behind the terrorist bombing of the United Nations building in Abuja . That is a good start. At least there is an admission that there is a problem and also that our Police Force as presently constituted lacks the expertise to investigate and fight terrorist crimes.


Wednesday, 24 August 2011

2011 ANNUAL GENERAL CONFERENCE OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION

The Annual General Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association, kicked off in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on sun 21st August 2011.

So many programmes are lined up for the week long event with so many distinguished professionals and government functionaries set to deliver lectures on different areas of professional life.

One of the workshops which particularly appealed to me, was the one on “Increasing Profitability in a Recession; Relevant Business Development Skills for Lawyers”, where two speakers Mrs. Boma Ozobia, and Mrs. Funke Adekoya SAN presented glowing insights on how lawyers can survive in our ever changing world.

Mrs. Ozobia spoke on the importance for lawyers to understand and analyze the need of current and potential clients. She listed some basic business development strategies which lawyers should have. This lecture was interesting because Mrs. Ozobia pointed out the need for lawyers to see law practice as a business venture and not just a profession, if they intend to continue to pay their bills.

The second speaker, Mrs. Funke Adekoya SAN focused on how law firms can stay profitable in a recession. She mentioned that in doing this, a law firm must focus on what she called the four ‘P’s, Product, Place, Promotion, and Price.

Mrs. Adekoya SAN encouraged lawyers to consider expanding their target if their product range changes e.g. a website is an effective way of reaching a wider market.

Mrs. Adekoya SAN also said that cutting legal fees in a recession is not a good solution to beating the recession because clients will not increase the fees for the same reason when the economy improves.

Participants asked questions, most of which hinged on why lawyers do not insist on the scale of charges for legal practitioners, when other professionals insist on theirs.

The speakers urged the Nigerian Bar Association to look into this issue of undercharging by lawyers with a view of arresting the ugly situation, and sanctioning defaulters.

The conference continues….

Look out for updates.