Lady (Hon) Nkeiruka Onyejeocha is the Chairperson, Committee on Aviation in the House of Representatives and former Chairperson, House Committee on Women. In this interview with ONWUKA NZESHI, she expresses her concern over the depletion of women in the National Assembly and the chances of a woman becoming the president in Nigeria
Recently you won the Female Parliamentarian of the Year award bestowed on you by the New Telegraph Newspapers. What impact does this achievement have on you and your political career?
First of all, I must commend the Board and Management of New Telegraph for considering me worthy of such an award. It was a pleasant surprise when I received the nomination letter. The impact of this award is that it goes to show that whatever we do, we should know that people are watching. You might think that nobody is watching your activities but people are watching. It’s a confirmation that there is no hiding place for any one in public service and whatever you do the people are watching you. I have won similar awards before now and each time I receive them I get surprised that my humble contributions to my society is being recognized. Awards like this help one to keep focused, knowing that people are watching you.
You have a reputation of being a politician in active community service and people say you are very close to your constituents and quite generous to the less privileged among them. What is the motivation for this?
The motivation is that I am fully aware that I am representing a people. If you define the word representation, it means you are representing some people who can’t come to Abuja. So if you are representing them, you have to assist them in any little way you can to alleviate their plight. You need to interact with them regularly and see how you can help them because at the end of the day whether people rig elections or not, it is those your constituents that gave you the mandate and it is they that could help you keep the mandate.
I cherish my people; I feel their pains because I grew up in the village and I know the situation of things there. I attended a local primary school; I attended a local college for my secondary education before proceeding to the university. So I have always been around my people and for me, their welfare and well-being matter a lot. If one of them is not feeling fine, as a member of the House of Representatives, representing them, I should identify with such a constituent. So, their discomfort is also my discomfort and it makes me go back and forth to make sure that I do the little I can to soothe their pains.
As a female parliamentarian, do you see Nigeria having a female president in 2019 or any time soon?
I am an optimist but I don’t see that happening so soon. There are several impediments on the way considering the fact that women are still regarded as just helpmates in Nigerian politics. So, I am not saying it’s not going to happen someday because there is nothing impossible with God, but that is when our men begin to appreciate that a woman has the capacity to do the job. It would have been possible if the women with their numerical strength are voting for women who seek elective offices but you find out that when it comes to election the women have people who are directing them on who to vote for, to the extent that their minds and whatever they believe do not count on the voting day. Some women rely on their husbands to make the choice of who they should vote for; others rely either on the community or the godfathers to make that crucial decision.
Until that culture is erased, it may be impossible for the women to break through that glass ceiling, but like I said earlier, with God all things are possible. But I dare say again, that it is not going to work without the support of the men because even for every position, you will see the men meeting to take the decision on who among them should take it.
Usually, it is the men who do the zoning, they are the people who does the leg work and they are the same people who will share the money when the need arises to deploy financial resources. Most women lack the financial muscle to run elections. If you go to the MDAs, how many women are given contracts? How many women are business people? Politics is about money. How much do women have to vie for this position of the president? So without prejudice to anything that might happen in the future, if you look at what is on ground now, someone would say that it is nearly impossible.
As for me, everything is possible because the Bible says that whatever God says He will do, He will do. God can decide to turn the Kong’s heart in any direction that He wishes. Assuming God decides that a woman will become the President, he may begin by convincing the menfolk to consider a woman for at least the position of the National Chairman of a political party. When God starts speaking to their minds, you will see that at the convention of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), they can elect a woman to be the National Chairman and that is how it starts. Maybe the woman will perform exceedingly well and they will start thinking that if this woman could do so well as party chairman, she could also do well if given the bigger position of a president. So, that’s how it works. If you put the God’s angle and the political calculations of our men agreeing to the aspirations of women, then we can achieve it.
Are you satisfied with the number of women we have in the National Assembly today?
No. How would I be satisfied? I was Chairman, House Committee on Women in Parliament during the 6th Assembly and all that I was doing was advocacy on how to increase the number of women in parliament. That was how the former First Lady spoke with me and we talked about how we can reach out to the state governors and other stakeholders to increase our number. But unfortunately, after the outing our number depreciated rather than increased for some obvious reasons. Some people, who were co-opted to talk about us that were already in Parliament and to bring in more, just went there and rubbished us. They said they don’t want this person; they don’t want that person and they ended up spoiling the ones that were here and prevented fresh ones from joining us. Nobody who is sincere will be happy about the number of women that we have because for most of the issues concerning women, you need to convince a man 300 times plus for him to agree to support it. They have this erroneous notion that women issues are no issues. They believe that we may not be talking about issues that will be beneficial to them. Every time, they forget that we are the mothers and if we took the right decisions in the upbringing of children and we train them to be who they are that there is no how we can be brushed aside as people who don’t know what they are saying. Every time we talk, we are talking about something reasonable at least to the extent that it will be beneficial to everybody in the society
At that time, when I was demanding an increase in the number of women, they were fighting me and asking me who I want replaced among the men. They would ask me: ‘Whose seat do you want?’ I said ‘let us do it this way: For members who want to go to the Senate, let women from their constituencies replace them and for the senators who want to retire, let women replace them,’ but some were asking me who will take care of their children? Why would anybody be asking such a question? Now that I am here, does it mean I am not taking care of my children? Or does it mean that I don’t have children to take care of? The only thing is that as a woman who has a husband and children and who is hard working, it will take you some sleepless nights than someone who does not have, and of course you need to work three times harder than even the men for you to survive in the system. You know that women are multifaceted and our brains can do multi tasks at the same time. So the issue of a woman in politics keeping her home at the same time is not really an issue. I’m sorry to say that the real issue is that some men just feel insecure when they see a woman who is coming up there. But I am telling them that they should not feel insecure because all of us from Christian background know that our husbands are our lords in our homes unless in the case of a husband who doesn’t want to provide for his family and the Bible tells us that such husbands are worse than infidels. Even in the Muslim families, I know that they have their own guides on how to relate with their families to ensure the balance the role of women in politics without neglecting their roles at home.
In other countries around the world there are a lot of women in parliament and other political positions. What magic are they using to achieve this feat?
The only magic like it is in Rwanda is that they fought a war and almost all their men died. They will ask you, ‘do you want your men to die so that you can take over the polity?’ In other cases, it was achieved by negotiation and the men had to agree to concede certain number of seats to the women. They did it in form of legislation. If there is a legislation that prescribes that a certain number of seats in parliament must be reserved for women, it becomes a matter of law. It will no longer be a matter of whether you like me or not, you must come to my constituency and look for a woman to occupy the rest. If it is left open it is a different ball game but not when the law says the seat is reserved for a woman.
In many countries, parliaments have taken the bull by the horns to legislate that certain number of seats should be reserved for women. Even some parliaments have made laws that certain number of seats be allocated to other disadvantaged groups such as the physically challenged in the society. There are some of the things we also need to do to bring more inclusion to our parliament and our political system. The truth of the matter is that the earlier our men accept that we should fill the gaps, the better because women are more focused, more hardworking and they want to measure their successes with clear milestones. No woman wants to have excuses why success cannot be achieved under her watch. You know, most women who have been up there, if you work with them, you will see that they call them either Margaret Thatcher, Iron Lady or such names of strong female icons because they always want to achieve their goals. Even when the system does not set a goal for them, they come and set one and work hard to achieve it. The reason simply is because they are women and that is how God created them.
You’ve been a member of parliament for about 12 years. How would you describe the experience?
Well, every endeavour in life comes with its own challenges. It has been very challenging. But one thing I know is that I am a politician by calling and I take it as part of life and not as a past time.
How have you been able to cope with these challenges?
You see, if you are into something and you believe that that is the way God wants it to be, it makes things easier. It means that is the way you want to live your life. It will be a different ball game if you are doing something out of compulsion. I am one of those in politics by my own volition. I was not forced into it by circumstances and I am not being forced to remain a politician. I like what I am doing, I am focused and my eyes are always on the ball because at the end of the day, I know what it means to represent a people.
The job of representation has been keyed into my brain and every time, it keeps ringing a bell in my brain. You are here not because you want to be here; you are here because some people sent you here. You are here because of your constituents whom you represent in parliament. So that consciousness makes it easier for me to face any challenge. Even in committee work, once I know that it is about people, I get focused and do it because I know that at the end of the day it is their people that will be asking questions and one should be able to provide answers. As a representative, you are accountable to the people and above all, you are accountable to your conscience and your creator.
I believe that any place you find yourself, it is not by accident because nobody comes into this world by accident. As a member of the House of Representatives, I am not here by accident. If I am not here by accident, what it simply means is that at the journey, God will ask me ‘how did you fare? What did you do when this matter came to you as member of the parliament? What decision did you take? Did you consider my own angle to it?’ As a Christian, no matter what you do, you should ask, what is God thinking about it? If you don’t, you are on your own and when the tsunami comes, you could easily be swept away.
Earlier, you talked about women and multi-tasking. How have you been able to manage your roles as a wife, mother and politician?
It has not been easy but so far so good. I have taken every of these roles as part of life and living. Even if I find myself in Wuse Market as a trader, I will still have to contend with my family responsibilities. As a mother, I didn’t have children by accident, so I just have to take care of them.
The fact that I am here today doesn’t make any difference. The only important thing is that you set a goal and work hard to achieve them. You are expected to do certain things and you should get focused and do those things. Like I said earlier, as a woman, the only thing is that you are expected to work three times harder than others who are not in your position because you don’t want to be found wanting in your responsibilities. Even if you are just a house wife, your role is also very tasking. If you want to be a good house wife, you must be ready to do things well. You must make sure that food is served on time; you must make sure that your home is kept clean; you must make sure that the children are well catered for and you must make sure that your husband is well looked after. So, whichever way you look at it, every woman’s role is tasking but they are achieving results everywhere you find them. The only difference might be that because you are a parliamentarian, they see you more than they see the other women. Some women have shops in Wuse Market, Abuja. They will have a salon on their street and could also be doing some menial jobs to fend for their families. But it’s all just the same struggle at different categories. The bottom line is that women are multitasking
As Chairman, House Committee on Aviation, what legacy would you like to leave in the aviation sector?
I will like to leave a legacy that during my tenure there was no air crash basically because we are doing the right thing and calling the spade, a spade. So far, we have made sure that the right safety measures have been put in place and there is no cutting of corners in the aviation sector. No matter what anybody does, once it’s against the laws, we apply the sanctions. Remember that in aviation there are no rooms for mistakes and excuses. Anything that is against the law will affect safety of lives and property. The number one priority of aviation is safety. Number two down to hundred priorities is safety because any small compromise will affect safety on the long run. Even when you see some airlines that owe their workers’ salaries and you look the other way because you think it doesn’t really matter, you are making a mistake. It matters because one pilot that is not paid could be a time bomb flying an aircraft conveying hundreds of people. For me, what it simply means is that you must be able to do the right thing all the time without exception.
No one has the right to another ’s body without consent even in marriage –Yinka Oguntuga
President and Founder of Heartminders Societal Advancement Initiative, Funke Oguntuga’s passion for safe sex advocacy, mentoring and blogging six year on is yet renewed daily by the staggering impact from the interventions. And tomorrow, her organisation would be staging another sensitisation walk to be led by boys and men for the first time. About this and more, she speaks to LANRE ODUKOYA.
into what your organisation represents?
The organisation is called Heartminders Societal Advancement Initiative and it’s a non-governmental organisation that is against rape and sexual abuse. What we do is to basically sensitise the public about the menace and how it can happen and if it happens what they can do to get help.
We teach sex education in Lagos schools by informing teenagers about things that can lead to their hearts; getting them prepared for eventualities because the truth is that we cannot live in denial of these cruel realities.
As much as we don’t want to make it sound as if we’re preparing them for sexual abuse, there’s a possibility that one out of 10 teenagers might experience it in their lifetime, according to the statistics we currently have.
From which agency did the statistics emanate?
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); so we need to create a curriculum where we’ll talk about sex and sexuality, rape, sexual violence, the helplines available in case it happens and how not to tamper with evidence. We also have an annual walk that comes up every February. What we do is to converge on a particular spot.
From what age do you provide this sexual education?
We do it only in secondary schools for now and that covers from ages 10 to 18. We visit both private and public secondary schools.
What is the reach of your organisation?
We are in Lagos only for now simply because of logistics. But we’re available online and we can reach a huge number of people. We have people who call in from other states to see how we can help them. And then there’s a way we connect with people who do the same thing that we do in other states and ask them to help whoever contacts us from remote places. The third thing we do is our annual conference which we call Project Talk. It simply means to talk about liberation for kids.
This is where we get all stakeholders together from the judiciary, police, NGOs, the government and everybody that can work together with us to come up with how we can curb the menace. So we do the annual conference every May, and in the last two years we’ve done it as a part of what we do for the children on Children’s Day in May. We’ve done two already and the third one is coming up. The annual walk is tagged HAAROSA, it means Heartminders Action Against Rape and Other Sexual Abuses.
Boys also get sexually abused, is your organisation addressing this?
Coincidentally, we’re focusing on boys only for the whole of this year. This year alone we’ve visited three purely boys’ schools instead of the mixed or girls’ only school that we visit regularly. The reason we’re doing this in 2018 is so that we can shift the attention a bit and try to raise boys who understand consent, relationship and dating because at the end of the day, you’d see that you keep on telling girls how to keep their bodies, dress moderately, how not to binge on alcohol when they go to parties and how not to walk alone at night.
But then, we need to raise boys who understand that sex has to be mutual, it’s not something to take by force and when you’re in a relationship you have to know that you must seek consent; it must be given. And at any point during sexual intercourse that consent is withdrawn, it becomes rape.
So, we need to teach boys and talk to parents who understand consent. That’s why we would be having boys lead the walk this year. The sensitisation walk comes up tomorrow, February 24, at the National Museum, Onikan, Lagos.
How many schools have you been able to reach?
In Lagos State alone we’ve been to 83 schools in the last four years and we’ve been teaching the same curriculum all over again. So, we get schools that refer us to other schools and say these people came to my school and what they taught my pupils was very impactful. For public schools, we seek the state government’s permission to visit.
How do you source funds to prosecute projects like these?
Mainly, we get money from personal donations; sometime they come from harassing our friends to support us. We’ve not got a major donation or grant from anyone or anywhere yet. But what we do is to get friends and close associates who buy into what we do to sponsor each project as they come and not that we get the money and keep in the bank. We just make sure we seek what we need for a particular project. For instance, as the sensitisation walk is coming up tomorrow, we have a budget, maybe we need N1m to get it done, we’d write to our friends, to corporate organisations, our patrons and board of trustees.
Why are you into this area of humanitarian project, did any story inspire you to be here?
Two things are the reasons actually. I know people like to attach people who are already victims to the ones who always begin the advocacy, but for me, it’s more of my zeal to see a healthier society because you look around and see a whole lot that happens especially in this age where you find a father abusing or defiling his own daughter.
It happens a lot and I have so much passion for teenagers as one raised in Baptist Church where I had the option of working at the children’s department. That was where I began to meet teenagers asking questions relating to sex. But then there’s also part of it that stemmed from my experience because I was also a victim when I was 15 or thereabouts.
Even rape happens to adults; traditionally speaking, can a husband rape his wife?
Traditionally, it’s admitting to a rape culture. There’s nothing traditional about sex. A man even feels a woman is his property and that is part of the problem we have in this advocacy because there are men who think because they have paid their wives’ bride price, they now can take sex by force.
They think it doesn’t matter whether the woman isn’t in the mood; she’s in her period, just gave birth and so on. Some men even threaten and say okay, ‘I can get it outside.’ But then you forget that sex has to be with mutual consent because there’s no way you’d enjoy it when it’s not with mutual consent.
Interest rates cut likely at MPC’s meeting in 2018 –Aigboje
Managing Director, Capital Bancorp Plc, Mr. Higo Aigboje in this interview with Chris Ugwu, speaks on the financial services sector and the economy and concludes that there is a possibility of rates cut in 2018. Excerpts:
What is your take on the financial market?
The Nigerian financial market performance in 2017 was more stable than the previous year using some economic and market indicators as yardsticks.
Unlike the previous year where only the money and bond markets were active as a result relatively high interest rates occasioned in part by the ever increasing inflation rate and federal government’s appetite for borrowing, the stock market had its fair share in the upbeat with the stock market index closed northward and ranked as the third best performing stock market of 2017 globally.
The Foreign Exchange market experienced some level of stability owning to CBN’s actions on introduction of Investors’ and Exporters’ Window and CBN’s direct intervention occasioned by the accretion to the foreign reserves from oil revenues.
The banking industry also saw some level of better performance as some of the banks were able to latch on the opportunities in Nigerian Treasury bills in the year. The banks also saw an improved provisioning as a result of the improved performance of some of their debtors in the year.
Do you expect the gradual recovery in the economy to gain momentum this year?
In what we describe as a fair outing for the Nigerian economy in 2017 having come from a difficult year in 2016, I think the country looks poised to record better performance in 2018. In the early part of the year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected a growth rate of 0.8 per cent while the World Bank projected a growth rate of 1.00 per cent for 2017.
Recent forecast by both bodies have maintained their initial growth forecast for the country. However, we are more bullish as we maintain our growth estimate of 1.5 per cent for 2017. Growth in 2018 was projected to significantly improve on the back of firming oil prices, improved foreign exchange liquidity, rising government revenues and increase in the government spending.
Going from the third quarter 2017, GDP report released by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the non-oil sector of the Nigerian economy needs to report signs of a recovery for growth to reach levels seen before the oil price decline as consistent negative growth in the non-oil sector will continue to remain a drag on the overall growth potential of the Nigerian economy.
I also hope that appropriate policies, both monetary and fiscal will be put in place in 2018 to drive economic growth. I think also that the Federal Government will rapidly pass the 2018 Budget into law and execute the projects in desirable time to boost economic activities. 1 am of opinion that if the government rides on the current events, which presently are in the favour of Nigeria, the country will grow by an average of 2.2 per cent in 2018, despite downside risk to this growth forecast.
So, what are the downside risks to Nigeria’s GDP growth?
The projected GDP growth rate for 2018 should become a reality if the government continues to boost its non-oil sector revenues and properly deal with issues relating to wasteful government spending and non-friendly business policies.
Some of the downward risks to GDP growth also include a sudden decline in oil prices due to increased production from exporting countries; a sudden rise in insecurity and insurgency, which may disrupt economic activities in Nigeria; improper management and use of its foreign reserves, which would lead to further depletion and cause FX volatility and lack of clear and proper fiscal policies to drive different sectors of the economy.
The trending patriotic policies by advanced countries may also hamper inflow of both Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) and Foreign Portfolio Investments (FPIs) even as some advanced countries have reported a rise in interest rates.
Looking at how some banks fared in 2017, do you think they will continue to return profits in 2018?
The Nigerian banking sector has remained one of the most vibrant and delicate sectors in the Nigerian economy especially as it has the capacity to send shock waves round the economy if it fails.
The sector has since 2015 continued to suffer significant headwinds as the CBN monetary policies and economic realities have continued to hamper its ability to significantly grow profits. However, most of the Tier-1 banks have been able to surmount these headwinds and have continued to surpass expectations even in the face of the unfriendly business environment and hostile business policies.
2017 saw the banking sector continue to post bumper earnings especially for most of the Tier-1 banks and a few Tier-2 banks. The rest of the group have continued to battle with high level of loan impairment, which has eaten deep into their operating profit and dampened their ability to grow their bottom line.
Non-Performing loans as at June 2016 stood at 11.7 percent and rose to 12.8 as at December 2016 with a large portion of the rise attributed to the banks in the Tier-2 space. The CBN may need to increase its oversight of the credit and approval process of the tie-2 banks in a bid to limit the rising NPLs.
The banks in 2017 are also expected to report higher interest income on the back of the high interest rate environment observed during the period while we expect an increase in cost to income ratio for the period.
Going forward, the banking sector is expected to remain robust and continue to return profits into 2018 but with the implementation of IFRS 9, which require banks to recognise impairment sooner and estimate lifetime expected losses against a wider spectrum of assets, which is expected take effect from 2018, we expect a prompt increase in the banks impairment charge, which will reduce profitability going forward but make banks stronger and less exposed to risk of impairment shocks.
Also, despite the reduction in interest rates, which is expected to increase banks’ lending to the real sector of the economy, the implementation of IFRS 9 may hamper some of the banks as an aggressive rise in loan advances would give rise to increased provisioning, which may affect the bank’s capital buffers in the immediate. All in all, the banks are expected to have a decent outing during the year 2018 with less shocks expected in the sector.
Do you think there is need for rates cut following the decline in inflation?
Having maintained the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) and Cash Reserve Requirement (CRR) at 14 per cent and 22.50 per cent respectively while also retaining the asymmetric corridor of +200 bps above and -500 bps around the MPR for over a year, we expect a rate cut at the first meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee of the CBN in 2018, and we are of the opinion that the committee will cut the benchmark interest rate by 0.5 per cent or 1.00 per cent thereby taking the Monetary Policy Rate (MPR) to 13.50 per cent or 13.00 per cent.
The projected cut in rate is imminent owing to CBN’s continuous slash in stop rates for treasury bills, which once stood at a high of about 18.815 per cent in May 2017 and closed the last auction date at 15.57 percent last November.
The continuous decline in inflation figures have also supported the banks target to reduce the interest burden on its debt obligation and also offer real return on its securities.
In a bid to reduce the country’s domestic debt obligation, CBN repaid all the maturing treasury bills that matured in December 2017 and have signalled that it would continue to drop its stop rate going forward into year 2018 even as the CBN targets inflation rate below 12 percent for 2018.
As CBN drops MPR rate, we expect the real sector of the economy to benefit as a few banks will be forced to lend to the real sector of the economy as government securities become less attractive given the low return being offered.
Businesses will also see their interest expense drop on the back of dropping interest rates and we anticipated the MPR to close the year at 12 per cent, 2 per cent down from 14 per cent benchmark rate as at December 2017.
What is your take on the stock market in 2017 and the prospects in the current year?
The Nigerian stock market had an impressive showing in 2017 having closed the year with return of 42.30 per cent making it the third best performing stock market behind Argentina, which returned 77 per cent and Turkey that returned 48 per cent, we have projected a 25 per cent return for the Nigeria Stock Market for 2018 though downside risk to achieving this target remain visible.
The market gains in 2017 were driven by impressive returns in the Banking sector, which returned 73.32 per cent, the consumer goods sector that returned 36.97 per cent and the industrial goods sector, which returned 23.84 per cent while other sectors of the market recorded gains except for the Alternative securities market (ASEM), which closed down by 8.60 per cent.
The trading aspect recorded significant recovery while the market witnessed increased issues compared to 2016 where there were no issues.
The year 2018 is expected to witness a similar trend observed in 2017 as economic indicators have improved and the world now projects increased investor confidence and GDP growth for Nigerian economy.
Going forward we expect to see more trading activities in the secondary market as listed companies will begin to trade at new highs never seen before even as their profitability soars on the back of a vibrant economy.
The primary market is also expected to be active in the year with expectation of new listings, mergers and acquisitions, Rights issue, listing by introduction etc. are all expected to drive overall market activity and deepen the market in the process.
What do you think will determine the success of the market this year?
The success of the Nigerian stock market will be hinged on many factors. Amongst them are the firming or stability of oil prices; constant monitoring and effective management of the foreign exchange market; improvement in corporate earnings for the period; significant focus on the non-oil sector to increase output; enhancing the country’s non-oil sector export proceeds to improve FX liquidity; a lower interest rate regime; effective implementation and communication of the government economic policies.
Others include government focus on the real sectors of the economy to stimulate the economy; improve market participation by local investors and Domestic institutional investors; continuous robust regulatory oversight of the listed companies by all the market regulators; passage of Petroleum Industry Bill, unbundling of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and listing of the resultant companies; listing of already privatised companies such as MTN, Gencos and Discos and effective use of monetary policies.
Having seen the nine months earnings result for most of the listed companies, investor will begin to take position in anticipation of the companies audited result, dividend declaration and Q1 2018 result, which we expect to boost stock prices in the immediate and also trigger further activities especially for companies, which report impressive performance for their Q1 2018 numbers.
Generally, despite the downside risk to the outlook of the equities market, we are optimistic about the performance of the equities market as we believe that most of the fundamentals are in favour of a further surge in the equities market.
In conclusion, despite the rally observed in the equity space in 2017, there remains a pool of untapped potential in the stock market as most of the listed companies still trade at prices below their book value while a few stocks still trade at prices below our recommended target price.
We believe the current prices still gives room for ample upside and significant return to investors despite the fact that the dividend yield of the company would have slightly inched lower on the back of rising prices but still remain attractive especially with the potential benefit of capital appreciation in the short to medium term. We however, advise that investment in the stock market be made mainly on fundamental analysis and not on the back of a band wagon effect, which could fizzle out at any moment and keep the investor trapped in a wrong stock.
Ogebe: FG must brand killer herdsmen as terrorist group
He plies his law trade in the United States of America (USA). Emmanuel Ogebe, managing partner of US-Nigeria Law Group, in this interview with TUNDE OYESINA, speaks on killer herdsmen, proposed cattle colonies, anti-grazing laws and sundry issues
There are a series of solutions being canvassed by major stakeholders to at least curb excesses of the Fulani herdsmen and its attendant implications on nation building. And one of them is Anti-Open Grazing Law passed in Benue and a few other states of the federation. To what extent would you say this would help to tame frequent clash between the Fulani herdsmen and the farmers?
Barely a month after our last fact finding meeting to Nigeria, the human rights situation has continued to deteriorate and on January 1st, 2018, there was a serious massacre in Benue State, where about 73 people were killed. We went on a fact finding mission to Benue and it what we found was deeply disturbing. The piece of evidence we got support the allegations we heard previously about the Adamawa attack that there was government action of bias in favour of the attackers.
In Adamawa, we heard that the Air Force officers were used against the indigenes who were trying to defend themselves from the attackers. In Benue, it was even more grievous in that the Minister of Defence announced while we were in Benue, essentially, that these attacks were justified because the governor passed a law that they didn’t like and we evaluate whether the Fulani herdsmen are actually terrorists as it’s being reported by the global terrorism unit, we begin to see that the case is being established.
If you have a group that says they are rejecting a duly passed law by a constituted authority and they demonstrated their protest against the law by taking up arms against the state, that is an insurgency. They are now confirming what they said about taking over Nigeria and for the officials of the federal government, including the minister of defence to actually go against a state government that passed a law which was popular in the state is very worrisome.
There were protests by Benue indigenes over the activities of herdsmen in the state and they were the ones who pressed on members of the State House of Assembly to pass the law. It is a very sad situation where the FG is undermining the state to regulate activities of herdsmen in the state.
They feel the movement of cattle is a threat to their safety, farmland and crops, hence, the need to pass the law.
For the FG to begin to undermine the state is something that is very bad and should be condemned
Do you think the Fulani herdsmen’s claim that they were not carried along before the law was passed is enough justification for the mayhem?
That allegation from my investigation is false because it was a bill. There were public hearings on these bills and they were invited to make their presentations. We were told that an additional hearing was done in different locations just to accord everybody the opportunity to air their views.
We talked to current actors in the state and past officials of this administration. One of the things that we were told was that the president said to them that for God sake go and accommodate your country men. People from the past administration said that they flew down the Sultan from Sokoto to come and speak to those people as part of the peace efforts. Not only that, the previous administration built a mosque for them.
Despite the fact that Benue state is a Christian state, they went out of their way to build a mosque for them. It is a fact that Benue state “over accommodated” these people as an average of six people were killed in a day, that is an epidemic between 2003 and 2016 as there were over 40 attacks in Benue.
Do you think the cattle colony as being suggested by the Agric Minister, rather than the Anti-grazing law in the state is the way out?
Of course, by now, this government is supposed to have realised that the use of the term colony is despicable and unacceptable to any right thinking Nigerian. What has happened is, in Benue state, I found out that the former Senate President, David Mark has a ranch and has herds of cattle and he is obeying the laws of his state. Then, other people from outside will come into the state and talk about rejecting the laws when indigenes are obeying the law? He was the Chief lawmaker of the Federation and he is respecting a state law. It is very bad that the Federal Government wants to propose cattle colony, a solution they do not have the legal capacity to implement.
Land is vested on only two people, the state and the local authorities, and that is why we have the C of O’s and the R of O. The Federal Government essentially do not have land. So, they are proposing something that they cannot even implement.
Another finding we made when we were in Benue state was that they had ranches that were actually developed under the civilian democratic dispensation that Buhari overthrew. We have cattle ranch in Igumale and Ikyogen. You can see that at least 30 years ago, cattle ranch was already in order in the state but now, what we are looking for as a potential solution is for the state to resuscitate those ranches. It is not even the best agricultural practise to be running cattle up and down.
The leadership of the Miyetti Allah Breeders Association visited the NBA president in his office here in Abuja and said that Governor Samuel Ortom was warned before passing the anti-grazing law. What do you have to say about this?
You see, it is worrisome when an NGO makes threat to a duly constituted government. There have been other laws that have been attempted to be passed. There was the proposed social media law, NGO regulation law and many others but what did the civil society do? They did advocacy against these laws and those laws were not passed.
That is what any right thinking civilised person should do. But when you start killing people, then you are legitimising barbarism. What we should have seen would have been advocacy when the bill was being debated upon. You can even go to the extent of filing legal actions instead of trying to justify the mayhem that is not justifiable.
It is only in Nigeria that you see cows in stadium, expressway, Airport runway and everywhere. Cows have turned to executive convoy. What these people should do is to either obey the law or leave the state. When they were introducing Sharia laws in their states, President Buhari went as far as saying that why are the Christians bothered about cutting of Muslims hands. He told them to keep quiet.
The same argument can be made in Benue. Benue people are saying that they don’t want cows to destroy their farmlands and they should respect the laws of Benue. If you cannot pass through Benue without destroying their farms, find another route and go to states that allow destruction of farms. This is an issue of survival of human beings because the food stuff is been threatened not only in Benue but the whole of Nigeria. You have a situation where in addition to the hardship that has been caused by government’s policies, you also have the hardship of the herdsmen atrocities.
We went to Benue and we saw farmers in IDP camps. If the farmers are not working, there is going to be a shortage of food supply and obviously when there is a shortage of food supply and high rate on demand, the prices go up. So, the government inaction is having an adverse economic effect in Benue.
The civil servants in Benue have not been paid and the only way they survived in Benue is through farming. You now have a double jeopardy where salaries are not been paid and the farmers cannot farm. There is food crisis in Benue as we speak and within a short while it will spread across the country. We have a serious food crisis situation in Nigerian when the Boko Haram started and now we have a new additional factor of the Fulani herdsmen.
These herdsmen have claimed more lives this year than the Boko Haram. They have the broader footprint of the attack in Nigeria than Boko Haram. This year alone, they’ve attacked Taraba, Benue, Adamawa, Plateau and Ondo.
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