An open appeal to President Goodluck Jonathan, GCFR
Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, GCFR,
President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces
Federal Republic of Nigeria
We, the National Association of Seadogs, Pyrates Confraternity, have chosen to write this open appeal, for your personal attention, and to the conscience of the entire Nigerian Political leadership. We are deeply concerned because of the ominous signs we foresee, as a consequence of unfolding events, at this juncture in our nation's socio-political and economic development.
We are concerned with the level of perversion, intransigence and the hostage nature of violence over our beloved nation, Nigeria. Corrupt practices, brigandage, proliferation of arms and armaments and poor social and economic infrastructure is rife and threatening to drive Nigeria over the precipice. We have opined in the past that the groans of Nigerian citizens are not being given due attention, as our leaders seem preoccupied with fulfilling either their personal or sectional agenda, instead of galvanizing and empowering the citizenry for unity, development and growth.
SOCIO-POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC CHALLENGES:
Over the years the Country seems to progressively slide from bad to worse. The marginal increase in our Country's revenue appears to translate to a corresponding pauperization of ordinary Nigerians. Nigerians are caught between the rock and the hard place. They are sandwiched between all major social ills, viz: hunger, disease, extortion, illiteracy, terrorism, armed robbery and kidnapping. In spite of our previous pleas, the government seems to have plugged its ears, preferring to stagger on, oblivious of the grave dangers facing our nation.
The President Olusegun Obasanjo-led administration not only paid off Nigeria's foreign debts but also left a sizeable foreign reserve. We have it on record that the reserves have not only been depleted but we have started accumulating new foreign debts. The state governors are not left out in the scramble for foreign loans. While all these problems persist, our elected officials are embroiled in their re-election campaigns oblivious of the fact that they are barely two years into their four year terms. This epitomizes crass insensitivity.
PROBLEMS OF INSECURITY:
KIDNAPPING FOR RANSOME:
Nigeria is currently ranked as one of the top five countries in the world for kidnapping incidents. Kidnapping has proliferated both numerically and geographically in recent years and the threat extends to both Nigerian citizens and foreign nationals. Since 2006, it is estimated that in excess of 300 foreigners have been kidnapped in the country, and the number of local victims is assessed to be in the neighbourhood of 6,000. Since 2009, it is estimated that over 140 foreign nationals have been kidnapped in Nigeria, with a large majority of these cases seemed to have been criminally motivated.
An output from analyses of the 113 incidents identified over a five year period in which a demand amount was made public, the average initial ransom demand was around =N= 3, 611,000.00 (three million, six hundred and eleven thousand naira only), Of the 58 cases in which a final release figure was reported or known, the average payment was around =N= 2,000,000.00 (two million naira only). However, for foreign nationals, the average ransom demand and payment was substantially higher; demands were usually over US $2 million and the average settlement was around US $100,000.
TERRORSISM AND BRIGANDAGE
The activities of terror groups around the nation, particularly, the Boko Haram sect has enveloped the nation with a veil of insecurity and despair. Permit us to single out some of the more spectacular events to underscore the peoples' concerns. This chronology of events is far from being exhaustive, thus:
October 1, 2010:
Nigeria Independence Day attacks; were two car bombs exploded at the Eagle Square, inside the crowd of Nigerians celebrating the 50th anniversary (golden jubilee) of Nigeria's independence. The attacks left 12 dead and 17 injured.
April 11, 2011:
About 150 people were killed in coordinated bomb attacks by Boko Haram insurgents. They also shot up and sacked police facilities in Damaturu and Potiskum in Yobe State. 2 Boko Haram suicide-bombers also blew themselves up near the military Joint Task Force Headquarters in Maiduguri in a botched suicide attack.
November 11, 2011:
3 police officers and a civilian were wounded in a Boko Haram bombing and shooting attacks in Geidam, Yobe State. 6 churches, a police station, a pub, a shopping complex, a High Court building, Local Council buildings and 11 cars were burnt in the attacks.
December 4, 2011:
A soldier, a police officer and a civilian died from bomb and gun attacks on a police station and two banks in Azare, Bauchi State.
December 7, 2011:
An explosion linked to Boko Haram killed 8 persons in Oriyapata Area, Kaduna city.
December 13, 2011:
A Boko Haram bomb attack on a military checkpoint and gun duel with soldiers left 10 dead and 30 injured in Maiduguri.
December 17, 2011:
Following a raid on the hideout of a Boko Haram sect leader in Darmanawa, Kano State; a shootout between sect members and police officers left 7 dead, including 3 police officers. The Police also arrested 14 Boko Haram suspects and recovered a large cache of arms and bombs.
December 22, 2011:
Boko Haram bombs attacks in parts of Maiduguri killed 20 people.
December 25, 2011:
A Christmas Day bomb attack on Saint Theresa Catholic Church, Madalla Town, Niger State, killed 42 worshippers, with many others wounded.
December 30, 2011:
As worshippers left a mosque in Maiduguri, after attending the Jumat prayers, 4 Muslim worshippers were killed in a Boko Haram bomb blast and shooting attack which targeted a military checkpoint.
January 5, 2012:
6 worshippers were killed and 10 others wounded when Boko Haram gunmen attacked a church in Gombe city.
January 6, 2012:
8 worshippers were killed in a shooting attack at a church in Yola. Boko Haram gunmen also shot dead 17 Christian mourners in the town of Mubi, Adamawa State.
January 7, 2012:
3 young men engaged in a game of cards were summarily shot and killed and 7 others wounded by Boko Haram gunmen in Biu Town.
January 10, 2012:
A Boko Haram attack on a beer garden killed 8 people, including 5 police officers and a teenage girl, in Damaturu, Yobe State
January 11, 2012:
4 persons were killed by Boko Haram gunmen in Potiskum, Yobe State, when gunmen opened fire on their car as they stopped for fuel. The victims had been fleeing Maiduguri to their hometown in Eastern Nigeria.
January 13, 2012:
Boko Haram killed 4 and injured 2 others, including a police officer, in 2 separate attacks on pubs in Yola, Adawama State and Gombe State.
January 17, 2012:
2 soldiers and 4 Boko Haram gunmen were killed in an attack on a military checkpoint in Maiduguri, Borno State.
January 20, 2012:
Several bomb blasts rocked various sections of Kano City including the Zone I Police Headquarters, Sharada; the State Security Service Headquarters, Kano; Kano State Police Command, Bompai; Immigration Passport Office; Farm Centre Police Station; Naibawa Police Station; YaarAkwa Police Station, UngwarUku and Jedijedi Police Station. Red Cross officials put the death toll in this well-coordinated attack at about 120. More than 200 persons were also injured.
We are worried that the appearance is being inadvertently created that our government have lost control of its ability to secure the lives and properties of its citizens.
THE FUEL SUBSIDY SCANDAL:
Please recall that a few months ago; this country was rocked by news of huge criminal and fraudulent racket that bedeviled the fuel subsidy program at a time when Nigerians are forced to endure the hardship of removal of subsidies for locally consumed petrol. In spite of the photo-op show of dragging a few culprits to court, nobody has been convicted of, or penalized for this huge national show of shame. It is instructive to observe that a good number of those complicit in this fraud are politically connected individuals and children of prominent politicians and captains of industry. The Committee that was appointed by your Administration to investigate the subsidy scandal recommended the refund to the national treasury, the sum of
N1, 067,040,456,171.31 (one trillion, sixty seven billion, forty million, four hundred and fifty six thousand, one hundred and seventy one naira, thirty one kobo only) by the under listed entities, thus:
1. NNPC (Kerosene Subsidy) - N310, 414,963,613.00
2. NNPC (Above PPRA recommendation) - N285,098,000,000.00
3. NNPC (Self discount) - N108,648,000,000.00
4. Marketers (Total violations of PSF) - N8,664,352,554.00
5. Companies that refused to appear - N41, 936,140,005.31
6. PPPRA excess payment to self - N312.279.000.000.00
TOTAL: N1.067, 040.456, 171.31
To date, there is no evidence that the investigative report by the Nuhu Ribadu-led committee on petroleum subsidy payments has, or will be given further attention. It will probably end up gathering dust on the bureaucratic shelves where previous, well-meaning reports, like it are forgotten. One more time, the nation has been sent on a wild goose chase.
EXERCISING THE PREROGATIVE OF MERCY:
The recent granting of presidential pardon to Ex- governor of Bayelsa state, Dr. Dieprieye Solomon Peter Alamieseigha, a convicted usurper of public funds is a case study. While it is the constitutional right of the Nigerian President to exercise the prerogative of mercy, the circumstances under which the said pardon was granted, coupled with the fact that Dr. Dieprieye Solomon Peter Alamieseigha is still wanted in the United Kingdom for jumping bail on charges of money laundering is indicative of insensitivity and leaves the impression that this government is willing to sacrifice the interest of Nigeria on the altar of personal interest and political expediency. This pardon flies in the face of your much vaunted war on corruption; an affront on our collective moral and traditional values and sends a wrong message to our children that crime has no consequence. Corruption and misuse of public funds now seem acceptable in high places! It is apparent that for the Nigerian government, the purported war against corruption appears to have become a cruel joke created to further denigrate the already battered sensibilities of Nigerians.
SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC COST OF CORRUPTION:
PRIMARY SCHOOL ENROLMENT:
Corruption has pulverized our education system with millions of Nigeria children that should be in school dropping out to hawk products on the streets, in order to supplement family incomes. Our primary, secondary and tertiary institutions are not maintained and are poorly funded. The UNICEF have reported that 40% of Nigerian children aged 6-11 do not attend any primary school while 30% of pupils drop out of primary school and only 54% transit to Junior Secondary Schools. Nigeria accounted for 10.5 million of the 61 million "out of school ''children worldwide.
Nigeria has a tertiary education enrolment rate of 4.3% and is ranked 116th out of 151 countries sampled by UNESCO. It has been established that Only 520,000 of the 1.7 million individuals that wrote the 2013 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) can gain admission into the university. This is due to a deficiency in the capacity of Nigerian universities to accommodate them.
The university system of education in Nigeria is indeed in dire straits. Public universities in the country are unable to compete with their counterparts in the world due to manpower and infrastructural deficiencies.
The steady decline in the quality of infrastructures like lecture rooms, laboratories, libraries, hostels, staff, non-teaching staff quarters, and the deficit in the high quality manpower, in effect, have had a negative impact on the quality of graduates that are being churned out from our citadels of learning. This terrible state of Nigerian universities is an ugly reflection of the overall decadence in the country itself.
This rat race in the society today has eaten so deep into the fabrics of education that we abandoned merit for favouritism. It is a matter of who you know in high places of authority. This has succeeded in taking us to a level where lecturers are usually compromised by students, and vice versa just to get unmerited grades.
To make matters worse, our political leaders to whom we have entrusted the management of our nation's affairs seem to be preoccupied with fending for themselves rather than work for the upliftment of those that elected them into office. With earnings of approximately N29, 479, 749.00 per month, our Senate is the highest remunerated in the world, at a time when The World Bank estimates that 70% of Nigerians currently live below the poverty line of USD $2 per day.
Can you imagine, Mr. President, how much impact 25% of these staggering amounts of money can make in the lives of ordinary Nigerians if invested in Education, healthcare delivery or infrastructure?
The eaves that once held the rafters of our nationhood are falling and we, sworn to defend the downtrodden and resolute in our vision of an egalitarian society have chosen to sound the alarm bells, once again.
HEALTH CARE DELIVERY:
As ordinary Nigerians die of preventable and treatable diseases and injuries on account of the dearth of motor able roads and decent health care facilities, our leaders have developed a penchant for seeking medical attention overseas further draining our scarce foreign reserves.
It is more heart rending, given that elected public officials, even state governors spend periods that far exceed the constitutionally approved leave of absence in hospitals abroad, at the expense of tax payers'. A recent study of foreign medical expenditure by Nigerians revealed that as the nation's health sector continues to reel under a plethora of seemingly intractable problems, the country loses $500 million or N81 billion yearly in capital flight as Nigerians seek solutions to their medical challenges abroad – this amount is spent on medical care in three sub-specialties alone. This figure pales into insignificance, when you take additional cognisance of the amount estimated to flow to foreign health services providers through private health insurance placements by Nigerians.
GOVERNMENT EFFORTS AT COMBATING SOCIETAL ILLS
We recognise and commend the current efforts being made by your government in curbing the monster of insecurity as exemplified by your inauguration of the Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North and the Committee on Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons on Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Given that the Judiciary arm of government houses the last vestiges of hope for ordinary Nigerians, the efforts of The Chief Justice of the Federation, Hon. Justice Aloma Maryam Mukhtar, GCON, in cleansing the Judiciary of graft and inconsistency is also commendable,
As laudable as these and other government policies are, we are of the opinion that they are palliative in effect and will be of little consequence until the monster of corruption is tamed.
We are convinced that the Nigerian economy is haemorrhaging so uncontrollably through pervasive corruption and fiscal profligacy that no policy direction, no matter how well articulated, will produce the desired objectives under the current situation. Nigerians, therefore anxiously await a corresponding reduction of graft and waste across all levels of government, without which we, as a nation, will keep "perambulating", motioning without movement!
In order to curb the current wave of insecurity, government needs to desist from giving a political coloration to the incidences of hostage taking and bombing. Persons arrested in connection with these dastardly acts should be tried under the relevant sections of our Penal Code, as applicable to murder, arson, manslaughter, etc, etc; and where they are found guilty, imprisoned. At present, there is no disincentive or deterrent for people who are predisposed to lawlessness. Also, the focus of the government should shift to identify the sponsors and financiers of the Boko Haram sect. They should be apprehended and made to face justice. The law must become a leveller; no name should be too big to face justice.
In order to engender economic development, government must recommit itself to the enormous task of taming corruption and prosecute all those who have been indicted in the series of misappropriation scandals rocking the nation, from petroleum subsidy scam to pension fund misappropriation, from electoral malfeasance to budget implementation and government spending. It is only by doing this that it can arrest the hemorrhaging of the Nigerian economy and free up funds for the much needed investment in power, critical infrastructure and support for Small and Medium Scale enterprises.
We are confident that Nigeria can be great again! But we are convinced that this greatness will remain a fleeting illusion until the political leadership of this country has made a conscious decision to find the political will to empower the citizenry. We urge you Mr. President to apply yourself to an Ernest and conscientious effort to rein in corruption, graft and save this nation as it trudges down the road to perdition.
Let us make hay while the sun shines!
National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity)