(Below is a special interview session held in Onitsha-Nigeria on 5th September 2015 by some media practitioners with Board Chairman of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety), Mr. Emeka Umeagbalasi on general and critical assessment of one hundred days in office of the Buhari Administration particularly as it concerns his running the country for four months without a government (Federal Executive Council).
Q: Sir, tell us more about yourself: Who are you to Nigerians and the world at large?
A: I am Emeka Umeagbalasi, 46 years of age and former Chairman, Anambra State Branch of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) and onetime Vice Chairman of the Southeast Zonal Management Committee of the Organization. I am presently the Board Chairman of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety), founded in 2008 as well as a graduate of Criminology & Security Studies and M.Sc. Student or Candidate of Peace Studies & Conflict Resolution. I am adorned with at least three freely given awards from the Law Faculty of the Anambra State University (ANSU), the Nigerian Red Cross and another from a children’s rights advocacy group in the Southeast, Nigeria. Internationally, I am an alumnus of the International Visitors Leadership Exchange Program (IVLP) of the United States Department of State on NGO Management in USA (class of June 2013). Our organization (Intersociety) also belongs to a number of local and international rights coalitions and partnerships.
Q: President Muhammadu Buhari and his APC have just marked 100 Days in Office, first on security, with your versed expertise on security, what is your in-depth and unbiased assessment of his modus operandi in tackling the Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast in particular and Nigeria in general?
A: We are yet to see President Buhari’s policy direction on security including his modus operandi towards the Northeast insurgency and terrorism in general, which is of international standards or best practices. It is very important to inform all and sundry that till date, Nigeria still operates a national policy on security it adopted in 1979 or 36 years ago under then Obasanjo military regime. President Buhari’s present counter insurgency approach is largely same with that of his predecessor, which still originates from the archaic National Security Policy of 1979. The issue of Boko Haram insurgency is still worrisome. Under Buhari, over 1,300 people have been killed in his three months regime and terror killings and maiming have remained unabated particularly in Borno area of the country. In the past one week (31/8/20015 to 6/9/2015), up to 100 innocent citizens have been reported killed by the media. Nigeria requires a new and major security policy shift in line with international securitization best practices.
The stark truth about Boko Haram Islamist insurgency is that its onslaughts are expected to reduce drastically under Buhari, not as a result of his securitization artistry but because issue of northern Muslim presidency, which he presently occupies, was a major reason why Boko Haram insurgency was formed. But for regional and global radicalization and indoctrination including loyalty oaths, Boko Haram insurgency would have abruptly ceased its hostilities days after Buhari’s presidential emergence and oath of office. In all, end of Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria may most likely lead to emergence of new insurgencies in other parts of the country. This is why the Presidency under Retired Gen Muhammadu Buhari must at all times be very careful in its governance policies and actions particularly the thorny and growing issue of politics of exclusion and segregation in utter defiance of the 1999 Constitution.
Q: What do you think should be done at curbing or stopping the insurgency menace in Nigeria?
A: Though combating insurgency globally is very difficult, but insurgencies are not formed in isolation. People socially, culturally, politically and economically aggrieved, cheated and pushed to the wall; are historically responsible for their formations and sustenance. Addressing factors (unresolved positions, interests and values) responsible for the formation of Boko Haram Islamist insurgency and related civil violent entities is a critical first step at curbing the menace in Nigeria. Most importantly, Nigeria must realize that modern security is no longer rested on gun culture or AK-47 driven alone. The United Nations had in 1994 formulated the concept of Human Security, made of food security, environmental security, economic security, health security, personal security, community security and political security.
These seven dimensions of Human Security are fundamental guides for any country formulating its policy on security. For now, Nigerians are still far from secured or feeling of being secured from want and fear. In Africa, it is only South Africa that has fully embraced the concept of Human Security. The insurgency menace cannot be ended only by military confrontation or reshuffling of the country’s service chiefs alone. There is need to ensure that social factors that triggered off Boko Haram insurgency in the North and the Niger Delta militancy in the South are nipped in the bud at all times through avoidance of politics of exclusion and segregation and positive socioeconomic turnaround of the country’s economy. The pluralistic composition of the country must be borne in mind at all times by the country’s political leaders when formulating and implementing governance policies. Religiously, Nigeria must be returned to secular status and all forms of codified State religious practices prohibited and criminalized. Section 10 of the 1999 Constitution and related others must be amended and secularly phrased.
Q: Can you give us an appraisal of the Buhari administration’s efforts at finding the Chibok girls, bearing in mind assurances by the President that they would be rescued from the insurgents’ captivity?
A: The major challenge facing the possible rescue of Chibok girls goes beyond presidential assurance. President Buhari’s predecessor made similar promises, yet nothing happened. It is a fact that Buhari does not even know whether the captured girls are still alive or whether they have been forcefully married or taken to radical Islamic camps across borders such as Sudan, Somalia or Lebanon for radicalization, forceful conversion or trained and indoctrinated as suicide bombers. President’s assurance remains a political statement.
Q: Military and Police check points have been dismantled in most parts of the country, on the order of the President. What is the impact of the development on socio-economic lives of Nigerians?
A: Our field observation indicates the contrary, though a number of army checkpoints have been put off the roads, but others still remain across the country. For police checkpoints or roadblocks, Nigerians do not need them because they do more social harm than good. It is very rare to see police officers at roadblocks responding to any distress insecurity call particularly during highway robberies. But they are artistic in harassing and extorting innocent road users with reckless abandon. The presence of a military checkpoint alone scares away highway robbers and makes them change destination.
If Nigeria has advanced in modern securitization particularly electronic and intelligence security, then security road checkpoints of any type are not needed. Security roadblocks or checkpoints are the trademark of countries under civil and clan wars. Countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia during their last civil wars are a clear case in point. Somalia of today bears such ugly scars on most of its battered and tattered roads. Our direct answer to your question, therefore, is: police roadblocks no, strategic military checkpoints with oversight monitoring-yes!
Q: Kidnapping, armed robbery, cattle rustling and other security problems were rampant before the inception of the Buhari Administration. Has the new government successfully tackled these vices?
A: It is not yet ripe to attribute any governance achievement to President Buhari. He can be best rated now in terms of administrative conducts like office appointments and policy directions if any. Violent crimes including violence associated with livestock rearing or rustling, abduction and armed robbery; are still on steady increase, though that of armed robbery has appreciably gone down not because of GEJ or PMB magic but because of institutionalization of electronic banking and less carriage of cash. Armed robberies of nowadays are carried out on target.
Q: Pipeline vandalism was rampant in the Niger Delta and some other parts of the country during the last administration. Has the Buhari Government checked the menace?
A: Again, it is too early to credit or extract any achievement or failure to or from President Buhari on any concrete governance issue. It is important to note that those vandalizing pipe lines are not alone. They have big sponsors, some of whom prominent politicians who may be waiting to see Buhari’s policy direction towards the Niger Delta and its oil and gas exploration before they devise the next action line including pipe line vandalism.
Q: Is it correct to say that Nigeria of today is practicing a constitutional democracy with a federal system of government in which the federal government is the first among equals? If it is so, is it constitutionally democratic for the Buhari administration to be in power for four months running without a cabinet or government?
A: The straight answer to your question is that it is unheard of in any credible constitutional democracy and even in any parliamentary democracy that a government can be operated without a cabinet for four months running. Any administration without a cabinet under the above democratic governance arrangement is a candidate of the World’s Guinness Book of Records, which is the world’s book of earthly wonders and surprises. By this singular act alone, President Muhammadu Buhari invented “Buhari Wonder” and earned his sole administrative regime a qualification for automatic entry into the World’s Guinness Book of Records as the first world’s constitutional democratic President without a cabinet or government for four months.
Q:. How will you assess the political appointments made by Buhari so far: are they in line with the Constitutional sectional spread provided in Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution?
A: The Buhari administration has made at least 31 major office appointments since 30th May 2015 and as of 5th September 2015, not even one of them is from the Southeast zone, which is one of the country’s six geopolitical zones; thereby grossly violating Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution. It is very important to inform that most of the 64 active intra State conflicts going on globally involving 591 militia-guerrillas and armed separatist groups including Africa’s 27 civil wars involving 167 militia- guerrillas and insurgencies; are majorly traced to this type of political lopsidedness and brazen politics of exclusion and segregation.
For the avoidance of doubt, the important constitutional Section provides as follows: “the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or any of its agencies”. Also, Section 171 (5) of the Constitution further provides as follows: “in exercising his powers of appointment under this section (Section 169 creating the Civil Service of the Federation), the President shall have regard to the Federal Character and the need to promote national unity”.
Of the 31 presidential appointments mentioned, the North took 23 slots and the South eight, and as it concerns the geopolitical spread, mandatorily provided in Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution, Northwest zone alone took thirteen slots, followed by the Northeast with six, North-Central four, South-south four, Southwest four and the Southeast zero. In the present composition of the Federal Government of Nigeria under the Buhari administration, judicially, presidentially and legislatively speaking, the North controls 80%, if not more. Also, on gender justice or equity, 99% of all the appointments under Buhari have gone to men. The referenced administrative conducts of President Muhammadu Buhari were also done in gross default and defiance of the 1999 Constitution and the Civil Service Rules of the Federation.
Q: What is your take on recent promotions, postings or redeployments of senior police officers particularly the AIGs?
A: Not long ago, we issued a statement commending the Police Service Commission and the authorities of the Nigeria Police Force for their fair consideration of the Federal Character in one of their recent promotions by making a woman and the Southeast Zone to have a representation in the country’s Police Management Team, composed of the Inspector General of Police and seven Deputy Inspectors General of Police. We also urged the Police Authorities to ensure that the promotions to the ranks of Commissioners of Police and Assistant Inspectors General of Police (AIGs) as well as their posting to various State Commands and the country’s 12 Zonal Commands headed by AIGs, is strictly done in accordance with Section 14 (3) of the 1999 Constitution. But to our greatest surprise, it appeared that the commendation of ours did not go down well with the Buhari administration, which has maintained steady lopsided governance and appointment policies and actions particularly against the Southeast geopolitical zone since the inception of the administration on 29th May 2015.
Obviously not to fall into the “Buhari sacking tsunami” traps that have gripped heads of major federal offices of the Federal Government; the authorities of the Police Service Commission headed by Retired IGP Mike Okiro and the Nigeria Police Force headed by IGP Solomon Arase, appeared to have reverted to the status quo in line with President Buhari’s whims and caprices. In the recent posting or redeployment of senior police officers particularly the AIGs as well as recent promotion of two Commissioners of Police to the rank of AIG, no single senior police officer from the Southeast was among the posted or the promoted. In other words, no senior police officer from the Southeast is among the country’s 12 Zonal Commanders (AIGs) of the Nigeria Police Force. It also appears correctly that no officer of the Southeast is presently among the country’s serving AIGs. We have further observed that out of the country’s 12 Police Zonal Commands headed by AIGs, ten (10) are headed by Northerners and two from the Southwest sub-region of the South. The ten Northern Zonal Commands’ AIGs are all Muslims; likewise the two newly promoted AIGs.
Q: What is your take on Buhari’s anti corruption crusade? Have due process and rule of law been followed to the letter?
A: The stark truth is that the anti corruption policy direction of the Buhari administration is totally misguided and unknown to modern international anti graft control mechanisms as clearly stated in the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) of 2005, which Nigeria ratified on 14th December 2004. Buhari’s anti graft policy direction is haunted by “three terminal sicknesses of: moral burden or incompetence, selective application and misguided approach”. For the records, Official or Government Corruption occurs when a public office holder or other government employees act reprehensively in an official capacity for personal or material gain. It is also official misuse of powers or public resources for personal gain or with criminal intent.
Though countries or States-Parties to the UNCAC Convention were allowed to use the concept of “mala prohibita corruption” (defining and criminalizing corruption according to States), but the United Nations gave 60% attention to preventive measures as the most effective modern control mechanisms. Investigation, indictment, prosecution, conviction and sentencing got 20% and international cooperation, technical cooperation and information exchange among Member-States got the remaining 20%. Preventive Measures include institutional reforms and institutional capacity building, overhauling of anti graft agencies and laws in accordance with international best practices, stiffening sentencing processes and categories other than death penalty; and institutionalization of probity and accountability in public governance and offices as well as effective collaborations with formidable, unbiased and non conformist civil society organizations and the media.
Most importantly, those driving the modern anti graft engines must be transparent and accountable at all times. It is a globally established fact that the modern corruption has a commander-in-chief, which is morality corruption. There are modern dimensions of corruption, which include morality corruption, legislated corruption, electoral corruption and political corruption (grand political corruption and petty political corruption). Modern agents of corruption include fraud (criminal fraud), money laundering (including terrorist financing), bribery, criminal extortion, forgery, embezzlement, kickbacks, confidence trickery, tax evasion, tax avoidance, criminal taxation (multiple taxation and tax diversion), contract inflation and abandonment, over invoicing and false pretence. Other triggers of corruption include criminal gratification, criminal patronage, cronyism, favoritism and nepotism.
Apart from the fact that there are 22 or more anti graft agencies and criminal enactments in Nigeria, which include the EFCC Act (2004), the ICPC Act (2000), the Money Laundering Prohibition Act of 2004, the Advance Fee Fraud & Other Related Offenses Act (1995), the Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) & Other Financial Malpractices in Banks Act (1994), the Banks & Other Financial Institutions Act of 1991; and Miscellaneous Offenses Act, the Corrupt Proceeds & Properties’ Forfeiture Act of 1999, and the Criminal and the Penal Codes of 2004; corruption and abuse of office are also constitutionally prohibited in Nigeria in Section 15 (5) of the 1999 Constitution. Section 15 (5) of the Constitution provides as follows: “the State shall abolish all corrupt practices and abuse of office”.
With these provisions and citations, their central meaning and message are hinged on the fact that fighting corruption in modern time goes beyond “threats of crushing looters” or “rotting them in jail” on the pages of newspaper. The Buhari administration must go back to classroom and drawing board so as to learn the fundamentals of modern corruption including their dimensions, agents, triggers and control mechanisms. The President’s office conducts so far amount to triggers of corruption, which is why we have insisted and still insist that “those fighting corruption must start from themselves and approach equity with clean hands”..
Q: What is your take on recent publication of declared assets of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President, Yemi Osibanjo?
A: What was made public under the guise of “assets declaration” fundamentally falls short of the constitutional assets declaration. Gross loopholes also characterized the publication. For instance, locations and addresses of the houses credited to the duo of Buhari and Osibanjo as well as their market values were not publicly disclosed. The monetary value of equity shares belonging to President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osibanjo as mentioned in the publication were not disclosed; likewise the houses mentioned in the publication. The face valuation of some items mentioned in the publication such as the whopping sum of over N280Million cash belonging to Prof Yemi Osibanjo and another cash of N30Million belonging to Retired Gen Muhammadu Buhari as well as non disclosure of the monetary value of their equity shares, clearly indicates serious suspicion and need for thorough official and independent investigations.
The CCB Act provides for declaration of assets of the wives and 18years and above children of the duo of Retired Gen Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osibanjo; yet these were not done or disclosed in the publication. This is even Prof Yemi Osibanjo ought to know better as a Prof of Law and Senior Advocate of Nigeria. The lateness with which the publication was released to Nigerian public is a further attestation of the fact that the Presidency has a chronic moral burden and guilty of “morality corruption”. The argument of the Presidential spokespersons to the effect that the documents are still undergoing the CCB authentication; do not hold water. There is likelihood of further foul play at the end.