Alleged Policy Banning Alcohol Sales in the FCT, Abuja
The attention of the National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) has been drawn to the recent pronouncement credited to the Honourable Minister of State for FCT, Mr. John Akpanudoedehe regarding the sale of alcoholic products within or close to residential areas in the Federal Capital Territory. The attention of the National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) has been drawn to the recent pronouncement credited to the Honourable Minister of State for FCT, Mr. John Akpanudoedehe regarding the sale of alcoholic products within or close to residential areas in the Federal Capital Territory. The said directive is meant to curb the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages within residential areas of the city, which would lead to a corresponding check in the crime rate.
While we welcome the concern and efforts of the FCT authorities towards the curbing of crime in the city, it is however amusing to note that an authority of such status would in its bid to execute this fight against crime, dwell in a misplaced, misconceived, misguided, and utterly parochial and primitive belief that the sale and consumption of alcohol invariably leads to an increased crime rate.
It is a known fact that crime and criminality manifest as a result of a number of factors; alcohol consumption and/or sale being only a very remote one of such factors. In fact studies and researches have revealed that large scale unemployment, social inequality and a skewed distribution of wealth to the benefit of a very small privileged section of the society leads to dissention and social tension and upheaval in some cases resulting in criminal activities on grand scales as the case may be in some of our cities including Abuja. The lust for easy wealth and the get-rich-quick syndrome is also a factor that is now so manifest with the attendant flaunting of ill gotten wealth by many in the society especially amongst the ruling class. The flaunting of this wealth by people, who questionably acquired such, leaves room for all comers in their bid to outmaneuver one another in the quest for this wealth. The resultant effect; corruption in high places, armed robbery, advance fee fraud, arson, murder, political assassinations, ritual killings, extortions on our roads, and all sorts of vices one can imagine. One then is forced to question the rationale and motive behind such pronouncement by the FCT Minister of State on the matter as most of these criminal activities are not induced by the sale and/or consumption of alcohol.
The continued neglect by those in government of their responsibilities and duties in favour of trivialities leaves room for concern. The ban on the sale of alcohol in the FCT can be regarded as a misplaced priority on the part of the FCT authorities considering the enormity of problems affecting the capital city begging for government’s prompt attention, including lack of an effective transportation system, accommodation, basic infrastructural facilities including poor state of water and power supply in most parts of the territory, etc. The FCT authorities should therefore focus on these pressing needs rather than dwell on issues that only satisfy sectional interests.
While not advocating for an indiscriminate proliferation of alcohol, NAS is of the view that an approach such as the one taken by the FCT authority grossly contradicts the objectives of the present regime which are rooted in the principle of rule of law It is pertinent to remind those in authority that the country is no longer in the grip of the military where few individuals wake up and make pronouncements without taking into cognizance, the effects of such pronouncements or decrees on the average Nigerian citizen. Democratic principles based on the requirements of the law as enshrined in the nation’s statute books must be observed when issues such as this are to be taken up. One expects the FCT authorities therefore to follow due process and throw open the matter for debate before going on air to make such pronouncement. The opinions of the people must be sought first before such action is taken. This is what is expected of a democratic government as obtained in developed, developing and civilized societies.
The economic situation in the country today unlike other developing, developed and civilized societies has led to families and individuals trying to make ends meet within their capacities. The operation of relaxation spots, restaurants and hotels is one of such ventures that sustain some of these families and individuals. The blanket closure of such outfits would invariably lead to a loss of economic livelihood by some individuals and families on the one hand, while leading to a surge in criminal activities on the other as some of the attendants may resort to negative societal trends in the eventuality of loss of such opportunities. This policy shall deprive families of recreational needs further adding to more pressures at home.
A lot other factors should also be considered when such actions are taken. Abuja being home to all Nigerians has been conceptualized to be accommodating to all irrespective of tribe, religion or societal status. It is therefore very important for the authorities to always take this into consideration before jumping to any action which may even prove to be counterproductive. Religious sentiments have already been expressed based on the decision. The secularity of the city therefore must be held sacred and not toyed with. Actions that may result to unnecessary tension within the polity must be done away with and avoided. Be reminded by the National Association of seadogs that Nigeria is not an Islamic nation. Abuja is a federal territory and should be seen to be a convivial environment for tourism. Hotels and Bars as well as Restaurants are outlets that promote the tourism industry. Banning the use and sale of alcohol in residential areas is an unnecessary intrusion and violation of fundamental rights of the individual.
NAS is of the opinion that effective ways of crime prevention should be adopted to check the increasing crime wave in the city and indeed the entire country. The police needs to be repositioned and effectively equipped to withstand the sophisticated trend criminal activities are gradually assuming on daily basis.
Totally banning the sale of alcohol in residential neighborhoods in the city should be reconsidered. Rather a process of effective regulation should be adopted. Operators of such outfits should be closely monitored by the relevant agencies while there should be a collaborative effort between them and the law enforcement agencies in a bid to monitoring the activities of undesirable elements with clandestine motives.
The world over, laws are put in place to make alcohol inaccessible to minors and juveniles. Our Policy makers should be thinking along this line. Finally, NAS wishes to use this medium to appeal to the general public for understanding while the issue is being handled. Jumping to unnecessary conclusions based on sentiments bothering on religion and other issues will only serve to aggravate the situation. The FCT authorities on their part are hereby called upon to rescind the decision and embark on sensitization exercises that will serve to enlighten the public on the need for security consciousness within the territory.
Professor Olatunde Makanju
National Association of Seadogs, NAS
Thursday, April 23, 2008.