As part of the Christmas celebrations, some inmates of the Kuje Medium Security Prison, the Federal Capital Territory, were set free on grounds of prerogative of mercy. CALEB ONWE reports
For over two hours, the ministerial delegation and journalists were within the four walls of Kuje Medium Security Prison, located on the outskirt of Abuja.
They were there, not as prisoners or detainees but as harbingers of good news. On the entourage were the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Mohammad Bello; Minister of Justice and the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami; Chief Judge of FCT, Justices Ishaq Bello, and other legal minds. The delegation were on a journey to the ‘ land of loneliness’ where some Nigerian citizens who ran afoul of the law were kept behind the bars. One of the thought-provoking messages that must get glued to the mind of all visitors to prison facility is, that apart from the gifts of life and a healthy body, the next gift that every living being must crave for is the gift of freedom.
This understanding must have been the motivation behind the trip as the august visitors went to prison with the best gift anyone could offer the inmates at Christmas, which is freedom for 114 inmates.
As a popular saying goes, freedom does not come cheap, the FCT Minister, represented by the FCT Permanent Secretary, Christian Ohaa; coughed out over N1m to pay pending fines on behalf of these inmates who have been languishing behind bars for many months and even years.
Apart from the 114 inmates whose secret night sobbing and prayers, God used the Minister of FCT to answer, about 12 other inmates also got answers to their prayers, as the Chief Judge of FCT, a Civil Society Group, and other individuals, turned on the humanity in them to heed to the prodding of their inner minds to reach out to the inmates with freedom. The 114 inmates that were released by the FCT Minister after paying the fines were not physically present at the Kuje Prison, but at Suleja and Keffi prisons.
While the ceremony of their release was performed at Kuje, the Chief Judge of FCT, as the officiating ‘ Chief Priest’ in the temple of Justice, justified the action by saying that though Suleja and Keffi prisons were in Niger and Nasarawa states respectively, they are under the jurisdiction of Abuja. The Chief Judge, who also doubles as the Chairman, Presidential Committee on Prison Reforms and Decongestion, pointedly told the inmates who were set free to go home ” and sin no more”.
Inside Abuja also gathered that aside the Minister’s benevolence that got these inmates out of prisons, his administration has also allocated land for the building of a children and youths prison, as a way of providing a standard rehabilitation facility for delinquent youths in the society.
“We have concluded arrangements to build a world class Children and Youth Prison. We are also going to build a booster Institute that would serve as counselling and rehabilitation centre that would reshape our youths and children,” he said.
The fines paid for the freed inmates ranged between N50,000 to N250,00 for minor offences.. Bello said: “We are paying this court fines for these inmates as part of the FCT contributions to prison decongestion in the territory.
We are also using the gesture to assist the less privileged inmates to become free citizens as we know that they may be left in prison for longer times because they have no one to assist them’’.
Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Prison Reforms and Decongestion, Justice Ishaq Bello, who expressed gratitude for the gestures in bailing out the young and vulnerable persons from the prisons, stated that the proposed children and young people’s prison will go a long way to changing the attitude of the youths from being wayward and also help in reforming the society.
“It is not that the minister paid only for the people who could not pay fines for their release but he has also agreed to establish a children and youth centre in the FCT. We are happy to announce that this is only happening in the FCT among other states and that should be a very big rehabilitation centre. It will certainly be an extension of the prison and what we intend to achieve is to provide a sort of shelter to those who sleep under the bridges instead of allowing them to be loitering on the streets.
In the plan, we should be having psychologists, counsellors and other important child trainers, who will help reform these young people and thereafter, reintegrate them with their families”, he said. Lucky inmates Inside Abuja can confirm that the happiest of all the released inmates, was Musa Abdullahi, a 60-year-old man, who ran into the hook of the law when he allegedly entered a car that was being used by armed robbers.
The car was said to have been abandoned by the criminals when security agents engaged them in a gun duel. The man was very unlucky to have been found inside the car at the arrival of the security agents.
Since in the face of the law, the man was a suspect by circumstantial evidence, he was arrested and thrown in to the prison. He told the Chief Judge that he had spent more than four years in the prison without any legal representation in the court. Inside Abuja observed that when the man was asked to go home and ” sin no more”, even the prison warders, were in a jubilation mood. Some of the prison officials clapped and shouted in admiration of the uncommon gestures that broke the prison bands of the old man.
They may have seen the man’s innocence all these while, but had no power to release him. Another freed inmate, whose
show of appreciation to the Judge, elicited some emotional outbursts, was Abdulahi Salisu. He was 17-year-old when he was brought to the prison on the accusation that he killed someone.
Salisu was eventually convicted and sentenced to death by hanging and had spent 16 years behind bars, and have been transferred from one prison to another around the country, before coming to Kuje prison, where he met his saviour.
The young man, who was overwhelmed by the freedom he got unexpectedly, quickly went down on his knees and bowed his head on the ground to appreciate the gesture. Inside Abuja gathered that he was released by the Judge because he was convicted as a minor in the face of the law.
Hard luck While it was a day of salvation and freedom for some, it was not for the others, who were asked to wait for another opportunity, perhaps when ” the next Angel will come to stir the pool.”
One of such unlucky inmate was Jeddida Ezenwa, also known in the prison as Igwe, who on face value did not look like an inmate considering his pot belly, plump body and well groomed dress sense. However as the law is not ” a respecter of anyone”, Ezenwa has been in the confines of the prison yard, five years and eight months.
According to the man, who was so confident that the Judge’s human disposition was going to favour him, and break the prison bands off his neck, he was thrown into the prison by sheer conspiracy.
Ezenwa, whose testimony before the Judge did not differ from what the prison document read out, said about him, was disappointed when the Judge told him to wait for his case to be given an accelerated hearing as the court had decided. Inside Abuja saw signs of disappointment on his face when he was walking back to his prison cell, escorted by a prison warder.
One aspect of Ezenwa’s case that elicited interest was the revelation that his trouble with the law started when he bought a car worth N12.5million.
In the over five years he had spent behind the bars, he had only been taken to court to answer for his alleged crime, only once.
Another unlucky inmate was Segun Adejoro, who was said to have been brought to the prison because he was found with a vehicle that was conveying some substances suspected to be Cannabis. The consignment weighed 193.2kg. He was also told to wait for the court to decide on his matter that was already fixed for January 22, 2018.
Nigeria: Soaring investment inflow amid deficit, insecurity
Nigeria’s investment profile is rising based on data from the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) and The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Ironically, infrastructure gap and insecurity are threatening the investment landscape. Abdulwahab Isa reports
Nigeria’s exit from economic recession has spurred investors’ appetite. They have, in recent months, upped their investment stakes while potential ones are at various stages of taking decisions.
Investment data from key agencies, the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) and National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) attest to increase in this regard.
Latest chart by NIPC revealed that inflows totaled $17.88 billion in first quarter of 2018 while NBS put it’s own at $6.3 billion. The figure is higher than that of 2017.
With a population of over 190 million, Nigeria is unarguably a darling for discerning investors.
For instance, NIPC’s investments record shared recently with the media revealed that of the $17.88 billion investments recorded in the first quarter of 2018, they were spread across 32 projects in eight states of the federation.
The figure surpasses the $6.38 billion investment flow in six projects across four states recorded in the first quarter of 2017.
Further scrutiny of NIPC data showed that most of the investments and sources of their finances came from the United Kingdom, accounting for $59.000 million, followed by Nigeria with $212.00 million, United States $2,357 million and China $1.200 million.
Others are Switzerland with $847,00 million, while $262,00 million came from other sources respectively.
In a similar data by National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), first quarter 2018 saw a continuous growth in total capital importation into Nigeria.
The total value of capital imported in the quarter stood at $6.30 billion, which is a year-on-year increase of 594.03 per cent and a 17.11 per cent growth over the figure reported in the previous quarter.
This increase in capital inflow in Q1, 2018 was driven mainly by portfolio investment, which grew from $3.47 billion in the previous quarter to $4.56 billion, accounting for 72.42 per cent of the total capital importation during the quarter.
Further analysis of the report showed that foreign direct investment stood at $246.62 million, dropping by 34.83 per cent from the figure reported in the previous quarter, and growing by 16.67 per cent on a year-on-year basis.
“Foreign Direct Investment in Nigeria was still weak when compared to Portfolio Investment and Other Investment, representing only 3.9 per cent of total capital imported,” NBS capital investment flow data revealed.
While presenting investment data to the media in Abuja, NIPC Chief Executive Officer, Ms. Yewande Sadiku, listed oil and gas sector, transport, construction, ICT, manufacturing and solar plants as areas mostly favoured.
Sadiku listed Lagos, Kano, Niger, Ogun as preferred destinations.
I Guide Nigeria
To consolidate the process, NIPC has come up with an investment guide, a sort of compendium on investments for investors.
I Guide Nigeria is meant to open Nigeria investment opportunities to foreign investors. It was launched by NIPC in collaboration with United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the United Nations Conference on Trade Development (UNCTAD) to showcase country’s investment opportunities.
It houses all the vital investment information, which gives details of the business opportunities in Nigeria as well as steps for engagement from registration to land acquisition to would be investors.
Speaking at the occasion, Sadiku said the online platform showcasing Nigeria business environment would assume the position of the country’s investment voice, saying it was important to give Nigeria business environment a voice
“The I Guide online platform is such a simple investment tool, yet very useful. I Guide is an easy-to-use online platform providing investors with up-to-date and pertinent information on the processes, procedures and basic costs of doing business in Nigeria, to enable investors get access to the basic information they need to make better informed decisions on Nigeria as a preferred investment destination.
“The platform provides information on starting a business, labour, production factors, land, taxes, investor’s rights, growth sectors and opportunities. It is a marketing tool as information on Nigeria investment processes and procedures are on one platform for easy access,” she said.
Sadiku said the platform provides information on local data, which “contains information on labour costs, taxes, rent values, utility prices and transport cost as well as information on relevant laws and regulations as well as contact of ministries and agencies responsible for the issuance of licences/approvals.”
While investment horizon looks pretty good and decidedly certain for Nigeria, the country is contending with huge infrastructures gap and protracted insecurity challenge – the two are vital indices that influence investors’ decision.
Experts in infrastructure postulate that the country needs to spend $3 trillion on economic infrastructure over the next 30 years, if it must meet its ambitious development goals.
Nigeria’s major infrastructure challenges border on poor power supply, bad roads, and inefficient railways.
Relatedly, security is intractable challenge and a draw back to investment. Kidnapping, banditry, Boko Harram attacks and other crimes cast a spell on investments flow.
Whatever quantum of investments that came into Nigeria during the period under review, a higher figure of investments flow would be attained under a better atmosphere.
Interestingly, the Federal Government said its faith on investment flow was undaunted, notwithstanding security and infrastructure challenges.
Minister of Industry Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelemah, said the Federal Government was aiming first to 100th position on the World Bank ranking on the ease of doing business with the launch of I Guide.
According to the minister, Nigeria appreciated 24 places in the recent ranking of the World Bank’s ease of doing business presented last year, moving from 169 places to 145 among 190 countries.
Enelemah expressed optimism that with the government’s efforts to improve ease of doing business, Nigeria would fair better in 2018 ranking.
While the country’s investment outlook is very attractive and irresistible to investors, the onus is on government to upgrade its various infrastructure facilities and curtail the current high level of insecurity.
A work on these two infrastructure will certainly put Nigeria in league of first top investment destinations.
Coping with economic realities in Abuja
Times are hard and the role of women in many families are changing. In Abuja, many women have dumped their traditional status as housewives. DEBORAH OCHENI reports
The economic hardship in Nigeria has unleashed a silent revolution in many homes in Abuja. The rate at which women financially support their families to make ends meet is now unimaginable.
Gone are the days when women were contented with keeping the home as housewives and their husbands were meant to carter for all the needs of the family. In some homes today, women have become the bread winners, particularly where the husband has lost his job due to the job cuts, down-sizing and lay- offs in various work places in and around the Federal Capital Territory. Nowadays, it’s very difficult to find a “stay at home mum” in Abuja.
But this is not only attributable to the hardship but also to the growing population of women who have acquired western education and have got the skills to seek paid employment or be self employed.
These educated women try to force their way into one organization or the other no matter how little the salary might be, while the semi-educated acquire vocational skills such as catering, tailoring, soap making and petty trading to assist their husbands in running the homes. Indeed, many women, who were once mere housewives are now in the business of selling provisions and food stuffs in Abuja.
Invariably, there is no point denying the fact that they are happy at their decision of refusing to be ‘stay at home mothers’, as they can attend to their vital needs and the needs of their family from their income without involving their husbands. Most of these women are no longer contented with the meagre resources they get from their husbands as housekeeping allowances.
They now hustle their way to ensure their contribution to the economic wellbeing of the family is greatly felt in their homes. Inside Abuja went on the streets to interact with some of the financially independent wives.
The interviews showed that they all have diverse reasons for their choice of pursuing additional livelihoods independent of their husbands. However, the underlying factor is the fact that most women are tired of always asking their husbands for money to cater for their needs no matter how little it may be.
Blessing Augustine, a mother of four children, said she decided to enrol in a skill acquisition training programme to enable her acquire the needed skills to do something meaningful for her family. “I only regret not taking this decision earlier.
The worst thing that can happen to any woman is to relax at home and watch her husband providing all her needs. It doesn’t matter if you have to suffer a lot before you can have small gain on whatever legal business you do. It is better you suffer and make your money because it will cause your husband to respect and appreciate you more.
Before now, it’s so difficult for me to feed my children if their father doesn’t provide money for feeding. But those days have passed. I can’t even remember the last time I asked my husband for feeding money but my children are feeding fine and I am happy. I can now do my daily contributions, feed my children conveniently and buy my cosmetics effortlessly,” she said. Ladi Sunday is a provision shop owner in Abuja. She said she was living comfortably but decided to earn a living on her own.
“I thank God I have a husband that cooperates well with me. He said I should stay at home and take care of our children. Although he meets every of our needs timely, he never complained but I was still not comfortable.
I discussed with him how I desire to have a personal source of income and he opened a shop for me. Since then, I feel so fulfilled because I do so many things now without involving my husband.” Sunday said. Joy Akhire, a seamstress, who makes a living from her fashion and designs shop, said it was a decision she had to make because of the realities of the times.
“My upbringing did not allow us to stay completely idle at home no matter how wealthy the husband is. Marriage almost made me a lazy woman but the present condition of the country made me to realize the need to seek for extra income for the family.
I have slight knowledge of tailoring but when the family load became too much on my husband, I decided to perfect the tailoring skill in me and the outcome has been awesome,” Akhire said. Mary Makoji, a mother of four children, narrated to Inside Abuja how she delved into multiple economic activities that made her financial contributions to the family almost equal to that of her husband.
“Initially, I was comfortable using whatever comes out of my husband’s pocket but when we had our second baby, I thought of the high rate of house rent and our children’s school fees and then realized that my husband’s salary cannot handle it.
I saw that if we continued that way, we might not feed well or attend to other things. “Severally, I sold the idea of opening a hair dressing saloon to my husband but he wouldn’t allow me based on what people may say. I started by bringing customers to the house for hair dressing at an affordable rate. Gradually , the level of patronage blossomed but my husband was not aware of all this as he goes to work early and returns late.
I could attend to three customers in a day and I get paid. “As time went on, I was not complaining much in terms of feeding again because whatever he drops for feeding I will add up money and prepare delicious meal while paying my daily contributions. When it’s time to renew our house rent, I suggested to my husband that we should add up what I have saved from the daily contribution to the rental fee to build a house since we already have a land and my husband was shocked to his marrow at the amount that I coughed out.
That was how we built our house. Although, I have not gotten a shop yet, I still do hair-dressing and tailoring in one of my rooms. I sell soft drinks and foodstuffs too. I am relieved of so many things now.
We no longer pay rent. Our four children go to the best school around us and we feed better. My husband loves and appreciates me more now,” she said. Similarly, Veronica Ochanya, mother of three, said she detested being called a ‘housewife’ and decided early in her marriage not to allow herself to be boxed into a corner. “I detest the slogan ‘housewife’ that relegates many women to the house.
We have a lot of potentials that can fetch us better money but men with their ‘I can take care of my wife’ mentality will waste our potentials in the name of marriage. “Thank God for the hype in cost of living in Abuja. It has made my husband to realize the need for me to go out and make extra money for family upkeep and he is enjoying everything now because it’s a great relieve for him,” said Ochanya.
Creating partnerships for transparency
The Open Government Partnership Week which held recently in Abuja, brought together government functionaries and civil society groups where they linked public confidence in any government to the level of transparency and accountability in that government. CALEB ONWE reports
The Open Government Partnership( OGP) Week is a global dialogue platform for both the government and all stakeholders to evaluate the impact of government’s policies on the citizens.
Its overall goal is to provide an objective assessment of the situation and chart the way forward on how best to institutionalize good governance in the country. At a symposium on the week, government officials tried to prove that the current administration has been laying greater emphasis on transparency and accountability in its activities. They claimed governance in Nigeria was no longer business as usual, but the Civil Society Organizations were not particularly convinced that anything had changed.
They argued that relentless efforts must be made to raise the bar for continuous improvement in the processes of governance. Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo’s keynote address at the event, showed deliberate efforts by government in changing the narratives that once depicted government’s activities as the exclusive preserve of a few privileged individuals.
Osinbajo stated that in the time past, government business was hijacked by a few greedy officials at the detriment of the citizens. According to him, the present administration was working to institutionalize policy frameworks that would ensure higher transparency in governance.
Osinbajo noted that the OGP Nigeria has since developed its first National Action Plan (NAP) of 14 commitments and with focus on four thematic areas of Fiscal Transparency, Anti-Corruption, Access to Information and Citizens’ Engagement.
“One of the remarkable things about the OGP is that it was designed to function as a partnership between the governments and the private sector. Without this coalition-building, I doubt that much progress would be achievable.
Regardless of whether the goal is improving infrastructure or fighting corruption, it is clear, as it has always been, that governments cannot do it alone. “The skills, experience, resources and technology that the private sector brings to the table, are often invaluable and in many instances represent the difference between success and failure.
We ought to equally acknowledge that there is a limit to what civil society can accomplish by itself, without building bridges with the public sector that is very often the target of its work. What our experience with OGP in Nigeria has proven, is that it is possible to build a coalition of like-minded reformers drawn from government and non-state actors,” he said.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said that Nigeria would not lag behind in any activity that would place the citizens at advantage. Malami, who reiterated the resolve of government to full implementation of the OGP principles, was however not happy that some government’s agencies were yet to key into the ongoing reforms which OGP seeks to institutionalize.
“The Open Government Week is a global week of action during which developers, and implementers of issues of open government will come together to share ideas, discuss challenges as well as solutions aimed at transforming how government serves their citizens.
It offers us an opportunity to take stock of what has been our achievements so far and try to take an inventory of challenges we face currently and brainstorm on how best to overcome them.”To reap the fruits of openness, I urge government agencies to re-dedicate themselves to fulfilling their part in the commitments set out in the NAP.
It is now more than a year now since we started implementation and there are still government agencies who have not implemented the activities we committed to,” Malami said.
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright, who was present at the event, did not mince words when he stated that citizens would always be insatiable in their expectations of good governance from those elected to represent them at various levels.
He said that while many governments across the globe were struggling to make all processes of government open to the citizens, corruption has hindered development in many countries. According to him, corruption thrives when so much secrecy has been adopted in running governments.
“Open government is the simple but powerful idea that governments and institutions work better for citizens when they are transparent, engaging and accountable. It is not a set of lofty principles, but the building block for a more democratic, equal, sustainable and prosperous society.
These issues are relevant to all societies and always work in progress. “The consequences of an opaque and unaccountable government are clear to see. Secrecy enables corruption, injustice, and negligence to go unchecked.
The release of the Panama Papers revealed the scale of global resources hidden in secretive tax havens. Lobbying scandals have revealed how vested interests seek to influence public decision-making.
“Citizens today have access to technology and data that would have been unimagined a decade ago; pro-viding new tools and data sources to monitor what a government promises and delivers. Citizens are expecting and demanding more from their leaders.
In Nigeria alone, it has been reported that over 90 million people use the internet. “But there are formidable challenges. In many countries of the world, governments lack the capacity to implement transparency reforms and respond to citizens’ demands.
Poor public financial management increases the risk of leakage of public funds, meaning that in many places, delivery of critical services such as health and education are weak,” Arkwright said. One of the leaders of the Civil Society groups, Dr Otive Igbuzor, counselled the government on the need to be committed to the implementations of the OGP principles.
The public affairs analyst believed that there would be greater development when the citizens are carried along in all processes of governance. Igbuzor, who is the Executive Director of the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy and Development, was of the opinion that when civil society groups were not allowed to actively participate in monitoring and evaluating government’s project and activities, corrupt tendencies would take root in public spheres.
Igbuzor said that there was need for the citizens to enjoy unfettered liberty in holding the government accountable, arguing that corruption could be reduced in government by opening up the activities of government to public scrutiny. “There are many reasons for holding government to account.
First and foremost, holding government to account will promote accountability and transparency and prevent corruption. “This is very important in a country like Nigeria, where the level of corruption is very high.
The problem of corruption is as old as society itself and cuts across nations, cultures, races and classes of people. It is undoubtedly one of the greatest challenges of our time, leading to underdevelopment and poor service delivery.
Corruption has a lot of negative consequences on every sphere of societal development whether social, economic or political. Corruption not only leads to poor service delivery but loss of lives,” he said. The symposium ended with a rally to create awareness and arouse public interest on the progress already achieved by adopting OGP principles in the country.
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