On May 7, the Federal Government secured the release of 82 Chibok schoolgirls who have been in captivity for three years. The 82 girls were released through a swap deal negotiated by the combined efforts of Nigerian security agencies, the government of Switzerland and the International Committee of the Red Cross. A total of 276 schoolgirls were abducted from their dormitory at Government Secondary School, Chibok in Borno State on the night of April 14, 2014. Out of the lot, 57 were said to have escaped same night and 24 returned after two years In spite of these releases, there are still 113 schoolgirls in the den of the terrorists more than three years after the unfortunate incident.
While we applaud the efforts of our gallant troops and the Multi National Joint Task Force (MNJT) in sustaining the war against terrorism on the frontlines, we must appreciate the wisdom and courage of our government, the Swiss government and other international partners in pursuing the difficult option of dialogue and negotiation which resulted in the release of the 82 girls. Like the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) movement said during the third year anniversary of the abduction, three years is too long a time for these girls to be left in the hands of their abductors and no effort should be spared in their rescue.
With this release, President Muhammadu Buhari has not only demonstrated the capacity of his administration to honour the pledge it made to the parents of these girls that their daughters will be rescued but has rekindled the faith of the average Nigerian citizens that all hopes were not lost on the matter. The Federal Government has no choice but to work towards bringing back the remaining 113 Chibok girls and reintegrating them into the society.
This government must work assiduously to erase the feelings of abandonment among the Chibok Community that the lives of their daughters were worthless because they happen to be the children of the poor. However, the government must also learn to be prompt and transparent in communicating the rehabilitation,and resettlement programme for the already rescued Chibok girls to demonstrate the adequacy and effectiveness of the exercise. We acknowledge with dismay, the complaints of the parents whose daughters have been rescued and placed under protective custody by the Department of State Services (DSS).
For over three years, these parents have been battling with the emotional stress arising from the forceful and shocking abduction of their daughters and it would amount to further and avoidable frustration if they cannot have access to their daughters, several weeks and months after they have been released by their captors.
It is disheartening to know that the 24 girls who were rescued last October have not returned to their parents but have remained in the custody of the secret police up till now. Already, Nigerians are beginning to express fears and doubts about the real intentions of the government in keeping these rescued girls away from their parents, siblings, relatives, friends and even the media.
If the government is committed to the rehabilitation, reintegration and resettlement of these victims of abduction, then it must go beyond rescuing them and confining them to a “detention facility” where they have no interaction with the outside world or the normal society they were used to before their abducted from school.
If their emotional and psychological wounds must heal fast, the rescued girls must not be subjected to another round of “imprisonment” in the custody of our security agencies. Admittedly, a lot of these girls have become radicalised having lived with the terrorists for over three years and require some therapies to re-tune their minds to the normal human frequency.
But we equally believe that their de-radicalisation and re-integration cannot be fully achieved by keeping them away from their families. These girls have been away from home for such a long time that keeping them behind the high walls of the DSS might only make them more home sick.
They need to be set free to go back home and be re-united with their families. They need to share their harrowing experiences with their families and loved ones. They need to tell their stories to a world that had waited for them for so long.
By keeping them in confinement for too long, the government might inadvertently be putting a wedge between these girls and the larger society which could engender a sense of discrimination and stigmatisation on the long run. We therefore urge the Federal Government to be more transparent in its handling of the rescue and rehabilitation of all the Chibok girls to ensure that its efforts are not unnecessarily smeared by suspicion and its outcomes ruined by conspiracy theories.
Killings: Defence minister, IGP’s gaffes
Since the beginning of this year, Benue State has been at the centre of controversies in the country. No thanks to the killings of 73 people on January 1, 2018 by suspected herdsmen in three local governments of the state. For a state visited by such orgy of violence in the beginning of the New Year, what the state deserved was pity and a treatment of the case as a national emergency.
The governor of Benue State, Dr. Samuel Ortom, who has battled all sorts of problems in the state since assumption of office in 2015 is exasperated by the humanitarian crisis dumped on his laps in the New Year.
Today, Nigerians are worried by the massive orgy of violence and bloodletting across the country. Yet, the killings have not stopped, even though not in the magnitude of the January 1st attacks.
Bad as it is that citizens of Nigeria were killed like ordinary animals, despite the vaunted security set up of the Federal Government, what baffles us is the posture of security chiefs on the carnage in Benue.
From the Defence Minister, Brig.-Gen. Mansur Dan-Ali (rtd) to the Inspector- General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, down to the spokesman for the Nigeria Police, CSP Jimoh Moshood, their comments have at best been saddening. Rather than face the security challenges that have hit the nation, they are more after criminalising Ortom, adducing reasons that seem to justify the killings.
Rather than being the victim, Ortom is today the aggressor in the eyes of security agents. Nothing could be more annoying than the careless remarks that seem to justify the mass murder by the very people charged with maintaining the security of the country.
Dan-Ali, in whose hands the defence of the country falls, above all security chiefs and just below President Muhammadu Buhari as the Commander- in-Chief of the Armed Forces, obviously needs to apologise for insisting that the killings were because of the enactment of the anti-grazing Bill and blocking of grazing routes in Benue.
Speaking after a security meeting chaired by President Buhari at the State House, the minister said: “Look at this issue (killings in Benue and Taraba). What is the remote cause of this herdsmen/ farmers’ crisis? Since the nation’s Independence, we know there used to be a route which the cattle rearers take because they are all over the nation.
You go to Bayelsa, Ogun, you will see them. If those routes are blocked, what do you expect will happen?
Herdsmen are also Nigerians. “These people are Nigerians. It is just like one going to block shoreline. Does that make sense to you? These are the remote causes of the crisis. But the immediate cause is the grazing law.” His position seemed to justify that of the IGP, who has insisted that the killings were a result of communal clashes in the state.
The IGP was also mandated by Buhari to relocate to Benue in the wake of the killings. He spent one day in Benue, apologised for his initial statement on communal clashes only to head to Nasarawa State and, again, blamed the crisis on communal clashes. Since then, it has been de ja vu.
One careless statement here, the other there! We note with deep regret that such gaffes by the Defence Minister and the IGP might have given fillip to the insult by the Police spokesperson, Moshood, who referred to a distressed governor as a ‘drowning man’.
We believe that such comments not only make the security agents culpable in the crisis, but actually should be enough reasons for them to resign, having failed woefully in their mandates. It is on record that killings have been going on in the Benue Valley and other parts of the country for long in the hands of the herdsmen. Were the killings after promulgation of the grazing law the first?
Have Enugu, Delta, Imo and other states where killings took place enacted grazing laws?
What of Plateau, Adamawa and Nasarawa states where killings have taken place? Rather than engage in shadow chasing and unnecessary hair splitting over the killings, we demand in unequivocal terms that the defence minister, IGP and other security agencies rise to the challenge and see the killings as a security challenge that requires the highest attention from security agencies.
Resorting to blaming the governor over the anti-grazing law is akin to playing the Ostrich, hiding the head when battle calls. We also believe that President Buhari has a major role to play in all these.
He visited Nasarawa State last week. Did he visit Benue? No! Whatever he went to do in Nasarawa could have been left for a more pressing issue of Benue to commiserate with the government and people of the state. Rather, Benue has become a state where opposition governors have gone to make political capital over the death of innocent citizens.
We hold very strongly that the security chiefs have danced on the graves of innocent people of Benue with their utterances. It does not in any way make them innocent of allegations of culpability.
LMC too soft on unruly Sunshine Stars
Nigerian football has come of age. With three Africa Cup of Nations trophies through the Super Eagles and two CAF Champions League titles courtesy of Enyimba of Aba, the country’s profile in the round leather received major boost. Between 1994 and 2014, six FIFA World Cup competitions took place in different continents. Nigeria featured in five of the competitions and these shot the country’s name to international limelight.
The country’s footballers who move from the domestic league abroad also made impact especially in the late 90s and early 2000s.
Some Nigerian administrators rose to become executive members of the Confederation of Africa Football (CAF) and the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA). Dr. Amos Adamu was a former member of CAF and FIFA executive bodies while the President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick, is currently an executive member of CAF and head of the organizing committee for the Africa Nations Cup. Many other Nigerians have served in various capacities at continental and global stage while some are still doing so actively.
The implication of the little profile is to show that there is no hiding place for anyone in the country to pretend about the country’s pedigree in football. We believe it is crucial for the administrators and all the stakeholders in the game to behave in accordance with the world’s best practices in football. All over the world, football hooliganism is one of the major acts of football fans that FIFA frowns at.
The world body always preach fair play at all levels of the game both on and off the pitch. It is expected that fans of opposing sides should tolerate one another and be mature to accept match results that come their way.
The referees are expected to also make the right calls and avoid corruption or any act that could make them shun objectivity in officiating. Last week, it came as a rude shock that referees that handled the Match Day Eight of Nigeria Professional League Encounter in Akure were molested after the game between Sunshine Stars and Kano Pillars which ended in a draw.
Damian Akure was the centre referee with Emmanuel Apine and Lewis Gwantana as his assistant referees while Kenneth Onyiro was the fourth official. Gwantana was the most hit among the officials as a sharp object thrown at him gave him a cut on the forehead. The photographs of the injury sustained went viral on social media.
It took the League Man- agement Company (LMC) one week to arrive at a decision on the matter because all the officials did not indicate in their report that anything happened after the match.
We condemn the unruly act of the fans and also frown at the compromising disposition of the officials who failed to tell the truth in their report to help the home team avoid LMC’s hammer. Only on Friday, the LMC slammed a three-point deduction and a fine of N1.5 million on Sunshine Stars Football Club following the attacks and the body also called for the withdrawal of the three match officials who posted injury pictures on social media, but failed to reflect it in their official report.
The most annoying aspect of this incident is the fact that Akure is fast becoming a venue for crowd incidents.
The LMC on its website said: “In an unprecedented application of the NPFL Framework and Rules, the LMC reviewed a series of past breaches of the rule by the club (Sunshine) dating back to the 2014/2015 season for which varying sanctions, including monetary fines, playing without fans, ban of use of home ground and an order to identify for prosecution, supporters cited for acts of breach of security and or interference with match officials.”
Last year, Sunshine were banished to Ijebu-Ode, fined N1 million and the goalie received 12-match ban following crowd incident.
Twice in 2016, Sunshine were sanctioned and ordered to pay N2.5 million in September for an incident after a match with Heartland and in March, the team was asked to pay N5 million following an incident after a match with Shooting Stars. In November 2015, Sunshine were banished to play in Lagos following a crowd incident in the encounter against Lobi Stars.
After evaluating several incidents involving this team, we make bold to say the punishment meted at Sunshine by the LMC was too soft. Teams and referees will be in fear anytime they go to Akure for matches and this is very bad for the game and the league.
We recommend that the LMC should revisit the case and take NPFL matches away from Akure for not less than one year. The punishment given to the team is not enough to teach lessons since the same unruly fans will still come to the same stadium to watch matches. We also urge the officials of Sunshine and the government of Ondo State to educate fans to always be calm while security should be improved at the stadium to prevent recurrence.
Nigerians should be encouraged to take their families to stadia and this can only be done if fans are peaceful.
NHIS: Another blunder from Buhari’s men
The sounds of discordant tunes from men within the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari appear endless. While the country was still to come to grips with the recall of the sacked Chairman of the Pension Reform Task Team (PRTT), Abdulrasheed Maina, the recall of the suspended Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Prof Usman Yusuf, surfaced.
Yusuf was, some months ago, suspended by the Minister of Heath, Prof. Isaac Adewole, over allegations bordering on corruption, insubordination and sundry issues. He was accused of spending about N860 million without approval.
Usman was appointed in July 2016 by President Muhammadu Buhari. He took over from Mr. Olufemi Akingbade, who acted for almost two years after the former Executive Secretary, Dr. Femi Thomas, was removed a day to the exit of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
The case was so serious that both the Senate and the House of Representatives set up committees to investigate the matter with a mandate to report back. Nigerians have waited for the reports, which have not been released, but Yusuf was restored to his position by the Presidency without the consent of the minister who suspended him in the first place.
Rather than keep quiet on the matter or at best not insult Nigerians, the Federal Government, through the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, came up with the lame excuse that Yusuf’s recall would not stop any investigation into his case by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The Presidency had, in a letter it released, reinstated Yusuf without the consent of Adewole. Rather, Adewole was summoned a day after the controversial move, where he was told to work with the man he suspended.
The letter marked SH/COS/10/6/A/29 and signed by the Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari, informed the minister of health of Yusuf’s recall. According to the letter, he (Yusuf) had been “admonished to work harmoniously with the minister.”
Ordinarily, the position of the Federal Government could have been glossed over, if not that the idea of recalling men, who have been accused of corruption, is gradually becoming a dark spot for this present government. We recall that Yusuf failed to appear before the panel set up to investigate his involvement in the alleged corruption cases against him. We also recall that Maina was recalled controversially, forcing Buhari to set up an investigation into his recall. Till date, nothing has been heard of the outcome of the report submitted by the Head of Service of the Federation, Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita.
There was also the case of a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Babachir Lawal, who was suspended and a panel set up by Buhari to investigate his alleged involvement in corruption allegations. Although he was relieved of his appointment reluctantly, nothing has come out of that investigation, except the mere invitation by the EFCC and his administrative bail two days after.
We note with sadness that the implications of these cases might be interpreted to mean a Presidency that protects its own. For a government whose one major policy plank is anti-corruption, the recall of the NHIS boss and the other cases mentioned clearly rubbishes whatever gains that have been made in the fight against graft. Rather, it arms the opposition and critics of government in the argument that the anti-corruption fight is just one of those strategies designed for the enemies of this government.
We accept the fact that corruption has, over time, dealt a major blow to the Nigerian system. We also accept the fact that one of the selling points of Buhari as a person is his perceived non-corrupt nature. But we submit that a situation where some people become sacred cows when allegations are levelled against them negates the spirit and letter of the anti-corruption fight.
One of the reasons adduced by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in his now famed letter to Buhari in January this year against the president was his feeling that the Presidency is shielding its own from corruption charges. Does the reinstatement of Yusuf not give credence to that assertion? Can those who re-instated Yusuf argue in good conscience that his recall was the most pressing decision in the Presidency? How do they convince Nigerians that the issue of anti-corruption is broad based and not targeted at the opposition? These are serious questions that need answers from the Presidency.
By the same token, how would Yusuf be working with his boss, Adewole, when he knows that he is not accountable to him?
In saner climes, Adewole ought to have resigned in protest by now. But being Nigeria, we do not expect him to resign, even though he has been told boldly that Yusuf, his subordinate, is his boss. We expect that the presidency should stop being disruptive of itself. Men within the Presidency should also stop undermining the administration through unnecessary favouritism. That way, they would not end up rubbishing the little legacies being left by Buhari, if any.
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