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Etteh: I’ve paid great price for Nigerian women

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Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Patricia Olubunmi Etteh, made history in 2007, when she became the first female legislator to preside over the lower chamber of the National Assembly. However, barely six months in office, her tenure was short-lived as she soon ran into a controversy over the N628m proposed to be used for the renovation of her official quarters. She was forced to resign but later, the same legislative chamber exonerated her from every complicity in a scandal that became known as Ettehgate. 10 years after the event, the frontline politician, in this interview with ONWUKA NZESHI and PHILIP NYAM, recalls the powerplay and how some people doubted her studentship after she travelled abroad to study law, among other issues. Excerpts…

 

 

…I bear no grudge against anybody

 

Since you left the House of Representatives in 2011, not much has been herad about you. What have you been doing?

To be honest with you, those 12 years were a little bit rough; and anybody that really wants to belong to the legislative arm of government and work will know what I am talking about. So I decided to stay back for about a year to reflect and freshen up and seek the face of God on what to do next. All along, I have been interested in studying law, and since I had applied and got admission, which I deferred, I decided to go for it. So, by 2012 I had to travel to England to see if I could actualise my dream and I am sure you are all aware of it because some of my inquisitive brothers went as far as calling the school to find out if I was actually in the school or not.

The school sent me a mail that some people were bothering to find out whether I was in the school or not, but I told the school that the mail was not for me because that is not my name. But the school said all the indices showed that I was the one. And I don’t know how they were able to even get my registration number.

One day I was just reading Nigerian newspapers online and I saw a story where they mention my school and even put my registration number. I said if they do this, it means, they will even want to know my result; I was a little bit baffled.

This incidence gave me the impetus to really work extra mile because I discovered that I was not the only one reading the course; anyone can fail but certainly not me, people ar

e interested in the outcome of my study. And my husband used to tell me, ‘know that it is not only you but over 180 million watching you,’ so I cannot afford to disappoint the family, He said nobody forced me to go back to school.

You are the first and only female Speaker of the House of Representatives; and indeed the only woman to have ever presided over a chamber of the National Assembly. How were you able to achieve this?

To God be the glory. To preside over the House or any chamber of the legislative house, everybody knows that there are some salient issues you must be abreast of. When I got to the National Assembly in 1999, to the glory of God, under the Alliance for Democracy (AD), I became the first female principal officer.

That gave me an opportunity and the determination that if God can take me to this position, there is no position He cannot raise me to. So, that encouraged me to work extra hard at the National Assembly.

So, when I joined the ruling PDP, there was an opportunity for someone to be elected as the Deputy Majority Whip of the House, which was zoned to the South-West and South-East. I think we were about four or five people who were interested in the position and our leaders said we should go for shadow elections.

Along the line, two people stepped down for me and I was left with two opponents. I was fully prepared because I like elective positions; and all the members were fully ready. Even for the position of the minority whip for AD, I was being propped up by some of the members who had been legislators before.

If I tell you the genesis it is so funny. On the day of the election, I was not ready but the men kept coming to my room insisting that I must contest. They said they know that as a woman, I have the mileage. I told them to give me time to think about it and it was a rainy day and I slept off.

They came knocking on the door that I should come out. I was looking for a way to ward them off, but they kept pestering and I said God, if it is your will let it be done in my life. They left me and went to the venue and when I got there, electioneering had started and they were all for me; and that was my first time of meeting with even most of my colleagues from the the South-West.

The election of leader was conducted first and then they came to position of the minority whip, we were eight and I looked at it and I said God take control. To the glory of God after the elections, the gap between I and the person next to me was 18 votes, and that was how I emerged. I give glory to God and I am ever grateful to the AD for that opportunity, I think I served to the best of my ability.

How was the experience, migrating from the minority whip to the position of speaker?

No, I did not just migrate, you missed a link. The link is that when I joined the PDP I became the Majority Deputy Whip of the House, which doubled as the leader of the South-West caucus. I believe that was another platform where I led the people well and they were all for me, that was 2003.

How did you become the speaker? That is another aspect. By virtue of PDP’s zoning arrangement or procedure of choosing their leaders; I understand they zoned the position of Speaker and National Chairman of the party to the South-East and South-West. So, it was now for the east and west leaders to decide on which to pick.

I don’t know how they arrived at finally zoning the speaker to South-West. But like I told you before, I was the Minority Whip for the AD and then became the Majority Deputy Whip and South-West caucus leader; and again Chairman of Female Parliamentarians in Nigerians. So, naturally, if there was anyone qualified to hold the position of the Speaker, I was eminently qualified.

Your tenure was short-lived. What really happened?

 

That is one aspect I don’t always want to talk about it at all because it is not palatable. But let me tell you that as a Christian, there is nothing that happens to a human being that does not have the hand of the Almighty God. I believe strongly that if God wanted it to be longer than that, nobody would have changed it. But if I now start telling stories, it will look as if I want to justify myself. I want to leave everything to God because; the God who placed me there has been fighting for me and has not stopped fighting for me. I got there by His will and when it pleased Him that I should leave, I left; so whatever transpired has a hand of God and that was why I could not complete my tenure. So, whatever way people look at it, they are free to judge.

But at the valedictory session of the 6th Assembly, they tried to re-write the story by clearing and vindicating you of any wrong doing.You were exonerated. How did you feel when that took place?

To be honest with you, the number of calls that I received that day were more than the ones I got when I became the speaker. That is to tell you that Nigerians knew what happened. When it happened people came up with different insinuations but it was much later that I started seeing what actually transpired.

All I need to say, whatever the allegations, it is between me and my God; and the way I perceived it, God wanted it to happen that way. May be the history would not have been completed if I being a female had not stepped into that position because people see it as an exclusive preserve of men. And look at my sister (Hon. MulikatAkande-Adeola) that wanted to come in, what they did to her! Are they going to say that she too was not qualified? But I am not too surprised because it is happening all over the world. It looks to me as if people are generally not prepared for women leaders. I believe they are just wasting their time because the best people to handle leadership positions are women and I keep praying to God that one day, Nigeria will get there.

The Bible says touch not my anointed and do my anointed no harm. And when you toy with God, He shows you. When I see women who have risen to the pinnacle of their careers in this country, I keep praying for them because I know that I have paid the price for every woman to excel in this country. The way they wanted me to start talking about what happened would have pitched me against a lot of people. And if I had done that, I would have blocked the way for other women coming behind me. They said, ‘she cannot be trusted’ but I chose to pay the price for our women to excel. I am happy that after I became first female speaker, several women have scored first in different walks of life in this country. We have had a first women chief justice of Nigeria; we have had first woman president of the Court of Appeal, just name them. But once they see a lady, they believe that she doesn’t have the capacity. Look at what is happening to the current Head of Service. I have been following all ladies in high places and I wish them the best of luck.

No woman has been elected governor,senate president, vice president or president in this country. What are your future plans?

Will you give a shot at the Osun gubernatorial seat come 2018 or are you planning to contest for senate in 2019 or what?

I do not like taking such decisions myself. I allow God to decide for me. He knows the right position for each of us. If He says Patricia Etteh move, then I will move but if He did not say I should move and I did so, it may not augur well for me. The second aspect, except our people change their orientation because if I had presided over the House of Representatives, Osun State governorship should not be an issue. But the issue is that Osun is a predominantly Yoruba state and culturally they don’t reckon with women, which we have tried to change.

For example, I heard very lately that the Kabiyesis said they will not take the staff of office from a woman; and I went and asked some of our Kabiyesis. I said, if you people said you don’t want to take staff of office from a woman, why did you people asked that I should be left alone when they were fighting me as speaker? I said I was baffled. Are you saying women are not ripe enough to rule?

But I know ultimately that God is not a man that can lie; one day, sooner than later a lady will become the governor of one or two states. Secondly, do not foreclose the fact that a woman will rule this country one day and when it happens you will surely see the difference. Unfortunately, in my case, not many people knew what actually happened. Some would say, oh she stole our money; she renovated her personal house for N628 million, meanwhile I was still living in my personal house. Honestly, when I reflect on all that happened, I just but continue to pray for this country and ask God to forgive those responsible. Even when people say derogatory things about me, I do not respond because I know that I have God behind me. So, it is better for me to keep my head because I want Nigerians to know that my head is not something anybody can use to break coconut. As for my exoneration, I asked for it. I know I was wrongly accused and would not leave the chambers of the House without demanding my rights. I told them if something was actually missing they should tell me but if nothing untoward happened, my name should be cleared before I leave or else posterity will judge all of them. That was how they searched their books and found nothing and were compelled to clear me. That was exactly what happened at the valedictory session.

What has been your relationship with your successor, Hon. Dimeji Bankole and those who played principal roles in your removal from office?

Very cordial. Extremely cordial. I bear no grudge against anybody because it’s not good that I will profess Christianity without practicing forgiveness which is a major doctrine of Christianity. It is very painful when you think about certain issues but if you don’t let go those issues, they will continue to haunt you. The Bible says: ‘forgive us our sins as we forgive others.’ It means that if you don’t forgive others of their shortcomings of whatever, anything you ask for under that atmosphere, solution cannot come your way. Therefore, I am not begrudging anybody. Dimeji Bankole who took over from me is not my enemy because that seat is meant for one person at a time. Like I said, if I had to leave the place, definitely somebody has to step into the position. I was so happy that he was the one chosen to replace me because Dimeji Bankole is one of those that I trained from the South-West. So, if he took over from me, I accepted it with all pleasure. But at the initial stage, you know he had to fight for the seat and when you have 360 members with divergent views, you cannot rule out bickering and all sorts of things. You know some may have told him that; ‘Mrs Etteh is this and that, she doesn’t wish you well’. So at that initial stage, he withdrew from me but towards the latter part of the session, he came to me and we embraced each other and as far as I am concerned, it’s a forgotten issue. The issue of my removal was not even about Dimeji Bankole at all. They just gave the seat to him; it could have been given to someone else. The real issue was that there were just some people who believed that Etteh should not be there and I didn’t want to fight anybody. I didn’t know many of the people except that we all met at the National Assembly.

What is your true political affiliation now? Is it true that you are no longer in the Peoples Democratic Party?

Well, I have moved to the All Progressives Congress (APC) and do not owe anybody any explanation for that because I believe that party politics is like friendship. If I believe that your ways tally with mine, then we become friends but if I know that what you are doing does not augur well with me and I don’t want to offend you, all I need to do is to step back a bit. Let me tell you, I have one thing: If I know that I love somebody and he is doing something that I don’t like and I don’t want to offend him, I will kneel down and pray to God saying, Please Father, I don’t even want to meet this person on the way not to talk of crossing his or her path. I don’t want anything that will make us to quarrel. God has always been granting me that prayer. I just believe that PDP was not there when I believed that it should be there. Yes I finished my tenure as a member of the House of Representatives, I went away to do other things, but by any stretch of imagination they cannot change history. Nobody can change the history that I was the number four citizen of this nation. Nobody can say that I was never the Speaker of the House of Representatives; but you cannot continue to begrudge everybody. If God says that we are going to flow together, we flow together but if God says otherwise, no one can change it. I came back from abroad and saw the way things were going and so many factors can be responsible for one’s movement from one party to the other. In my own case, my own state and all the people have all gone into APC. This is a party willing to accept you, extending a hand of friendship and this another party carrying good and stick and calling dogs to come and eat. So that was how I left PDP. I left not because I am annoyed with anybody or begrudging anybody or any political party.

What is you view on the just concluded national convention of the PDP, your former party?

Well what happened last Saturday at the convention of the PDP… Well, I was wide awake when the convention was on live television. As a politician, you must know what is going on around you whether it is in your party or other parties. So, I watched the proceedings on television until I saw that what was going on was no longer interesting and I had to go to church early the following morning, I decided to go to sleep. I was in the church till about 4.00pm on Sunday and I don’t take my phone to church because I want to concentrate. The Bible says: ‘Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God, what is God’s.’ When I came back, had my lunch and went to have my rest. However, when I switched on my phone I discovered that a lot of people had been calling me and messages were pouring into my phone. So, I was wondering what could be happening in the country. Is anything happening in Nigeria? You know, once something is happening, you will see people calling and sending messages all over the place. So, I decided to open the messages and the first one I read said: ‘Ma, have you crossed to PDP?’ The question did not make sense to me. Then somebody called to tell me that they listened to the acceptance speech of the new National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus and that he mentioned my name. By that I did not even know that it was Secondus that finally got the mandate. Initially, I thought may be somebody wrote the speech for him and added my name. But in politics, you don’t leave anything to chance; you don’t leave fire on the roof. It is not about Secondus; it’s not about PDP; but it’s about letting people know where I belong and where I stand. If I am standing with PDP, I should stand upright and I will say my mind. Now that I am in APC, people must know that I am in APC and there should not be any misgivings. Every other name mentioned in the speech are all in PDP except me. So if I keep quiet and I don’t talk, then APC will start thinking that I have returned to PDP. Already, some people from my state were insinuating that some of us who joined them from PDP are still eyeing PDP. So it will be very wrong of me to see such things happen and keep quiet. Why is it that it was when they wanted to use my name that they remembered that there was one Mrs Etteh somewhere? If I were a man, they would have been coming to me and we would have been flowing together in agenda, but because I am a woman and I need to respect myself, there is little that I can do. I cannot be seen moving anyhow; I need to respect myself. If I am called upon to attend a meeting, for Christ’s same, I will be there but I cannot just be everywhere. When there is a mistake, concerning my person, I think I have every right to correct it. I know the National Chairman (Secondus) very well, I knew him when I was in PDP. I know that personally, he is a nice man and if PDP says that is the man they want, what is my headache about it? But all I’m saying is that I am no longer in PDP. So, I expected him to apologise for mentioning my name in their gathering.

Don’t you think mentioning your name and prominent people was merely beckoning on you to return?

I won’t lie to you that they have not approached me. They came but there is an adage in Yoruba that says: What you are not going to eat, you don’t even smell it. You don’t want to perceive its aroma. They invited me and they also said they wanted to even come to my house in the village. I told them that I was busy and I was really busy. The date they said they wanted to come, I was engaged in a committee that was seeking reconciliation of members of our party in Kogi State. I mean APC members who were having problems with their governor in that state. Secondly, I am no longer interested in PDP.

Why do I have to honour their invitation? If you start honouring such invitations, along the line they may change and begin to ask you something that may change your mind. But again, don’t get me wrong because the people that are in PDP are the same people that are in APC. People have the freewill to move to any party , but something must provoke you to move. For now, nothing is provoking me because I am comfortable where I am.

The truth is that if I want to return to PDP, the party will be willing to have me but the issue is that where I am today, I am more than comfortable. I can say that today I am in APC and the APC is working for me because we are able to put our heads together to chart a new course for this country.

What would I say that I am running up and down for? But I believe that if my name is mentioned I have every right to correct the wrong impression and let everyone knows where I stand. In any case, since I’ve been on sabbatical leave, why are they just remembering me? But in law, people interprete issue in the way it suits them. Some people are already saying I was planning to go back to the PDP whereas others are saying that even if I wanted to go, PDP should not take me back. They should leave me alone. They cannot interprete my movement or intentions for me. If tomorrow, per-adventure, if there is something wrong, there is a way of sitting together with party leaders to reason together and correct the issues. It is where you cannot correct issues that they become problems. Any decision you take at that point, nobody will blame you for it. So for now, I just think that even in future, if any party doesn’t do well, we will not hide it because the essence of being a leader is to be able to say the truth. It’s to be able to make sure that you care for the interest of Nigerians and not an individual. You don’t join a party because of an individual. You join politics to be able to be relevant and useful to your community and Nigeria.

Still on the PDP Convention, there have been insinuations that the South-West was cheated. Do you agree?

Unfortunately, I am not in a position to make any comment on that issue. The reason being that I’m not with them and I don’t know how they started this journey. It will be very wrong of me to sit in judgement over the matter. However, in the political climate of this country, let me say it loud and clear that there is no way you can marginalise the South-West because we are talking about elections; we are talking about votes which a region can deliver. By the time you take North- West out of Nigeria, the next place is South West. So if you now believe that the South-West does not deserve anything, you need to think twice. Yes, I said I don’t want to dabble into it but if what I heard is correct, they said that this particular slot, National Chairman, was zoned to the South-West, meaning that no other zone should go and fight for it. They (South-West) should fight internally and bring out their own candidate. So I don’t want to judge; I don’t want to dabble into it, but I believe that if they reached that decision and the position belonged to the South West and they later went to involve other zones, then there must be a reason for that, that is clear to them and not me. I don’t know anything; I’m not in PDP.

During the last senatorial rerun in Osun State, the PDP defeated your party and some analysts believe that PDP could take over the state in the next governorship election. What do you think?

Let me give you an analysis of what happened in the rerun. The senatorial district you are talking about is where I come from and I think that I am in a proper place to say something about it. There were a lot of indices responsible for APC losing that seat to PDP. A major reason is the numerical strength of the district. Just like we earlier mentioned, the strengths of the North-West and South-West, North-East, South- South, South-East and North-Central differ. The same thing is applicable in Osun State, particularly Osun West Senatorial District where the late Senator Isiaka Adeleke came from. If you are talking about the strength of each local government in Osun West Senatorial District, you will realise that Ede where our Senator emerged from has a high population you cannot ignore. Again, don’t also forget what happened that the late Sen. Isiaka Adeleke was once a governor in that state. Definitely, whether he did it rightly or didn’t do well, he must have had his own clout and many of his people may have just voted in support of his brother out of respect for his demise. So if you marry these two factors, you can see that they were sufficient to sway the votes in favour of the PDP. But let say it clearly that it was not an issue of the PDP and APC. It was about a protest vote in support of the candidate’s late brother; it was about the total vote- Omo wani ( he is our son). Finally, the issue of APC and PDP is a different factor. As at the time the Senator discovered that he cannot get the APC ticket, if he had gone to any other political party at that time, honestly speaking, he would have won. Therefore, it is not about the race between PDP and the APC. You can’t judge it that way and it is not over until God says it is over. The governorship election in Osun State comes up on September 22, 2018. God spearing our lives, we will all be there and you never can tell, anybody can spring surprises but I know that APC is on the ground in the state.

How do you see the recent defection of the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, from the PDP to APC?

Well, to me I am not blaming Atiku Abubakar for moving to the PDP. He is a politician to the core and he knows what is good for him. He is matured enough politically. Secondly, if he feels like this is the party that can take him to his Promised Land, then nobody should fault him. Let him try; he was there before and he still believes he has some people there who can give him the support to win. He believes he can give the APC a run for its money. So, please nobody should judge anybody. If he thinks defecting to the PDP is the best way to go about it, the choice is entirely his. He cannot choose for me, I cannot choose for him because I believe that everybody knows what is good for him at a particular time. Even if you are choosing for people, I don’t think that Atiku is somebody anybody can choose for; he knows what he wants. For him to take that decision, he must have been thinking and consulting with his followers over a period of time because it is not a decision you take overnight. So, I don’t think anybody should judge him for moving.

If you are opportune to go back to public office, what would you do differently?

Well, let me put it this way that the issues that I did not know then are now known to me clearly. You have to know your friends. You know who your friends are when you go through the thick and thin of life. And now that I am a lawyer, I think I know my rights better now. Outside that, I believe that I tried my best for that short period of being the Speaker. I thought I could correct so many things that needed to be corrected and I was all out to do that while the tenure lasted. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to do what I was planning. I thought I could wait until I get to the cruising altitude and now look at issues such as appropriating money for Ministry of Works, Health and other critical sectors and they will not utilise the funds. I was looking forward to putting on my jeans one day and just call the Minister of Works and said I am going to inspect that project today, let’s meet there. Come and give me an account of the money that was appropriated. But I am 100 per cent sure that they had seen the handwriting on the wall, that they will not be able to control this lady. You know it is very difficult to control a lady once she knows what she is doing is right. Contrary to the opinion in some quarters, ladies are capable of delivering results when they have the opportunity to serve. But it appears, some people just sat down and said; ‘we need to get rid of her’. I knew it was a coalition of forces, not only within the House of Representatives, but outside of it. They said that it was because she was removed from an exalted position, that is why she has been out of circulation. No. I don’t like to be idle at any time. I don’t want to move frivolously. I move when I need to move; I do what I am supposed to do and I do my things diligently. So if I have any other opportunity to serve the public, I will just be myself as always.

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Interview

No one has the right to another ’s body without consent even in marriage –Yinka Oguntuga

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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.

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Business

Interest rates cut likely at MPC’s meeting in 2018 –Aigboje

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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.

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Interview

Ogebe: FG must brand killer herdsmen as terrorist group

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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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