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Buhari, also a Beneficiary of Legal Technicalities –Olanipekun

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In this interview with GBENRO ADEOYE, the former President of the Nigerian Bar Association and former Pro-Chancellor of the University of Ibadan, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), speaks about Nigeria, the economy, the law profession and other issues

You were at one time the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, looking back now, how well do you think the law profession has done since that time?

Before I became the NBA president, I was Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Ondo State, but I thank God for the NBA. But to me, the NBA should illuminate the darkness of Nigerians. It must act as the voice for the voiceless and the oppressed. To be the NBA leader is not a tea party; it is not like going for a picnic. I cannot see any NBA leader as good if he does not want to step on toes. When I was NBA president, it was under a democratic regime, which was supposed to be rooted in the constitution and constitutionalism. But before then, I belonged to the Alao Aka Bashorun (also a former President of the NBA) dynasty within the NBA. I was one of his boys and I stood by him and with him for the two years that he was president. And I liked his courage and appreciated his carriage. One day, while Femi Falana and I were at his office in Ebute-Meta, the telephone rang. There was no GSM at the time. He pressed the speaker button and from the other end, the person said ‘President’. Then Bashorun asked, ‘who is that?’ The person said ‘my name is Ibrahim’. Femi and I had known by that time that it was General Ibrahim Babangida’s voice. The person then said he was Ibrahim Babangida. Unconsciously, Bashorun stood up. That was reflex action. He said you are the President, sir. But IBB said the President of the NBA is the President of Nigeria. He said the fear of Alao Aka Bashorun was the beginning of wisdom. I’m telling you this so that you understand what the NBA presidency meant to a military dictator, for him to have said that. Babangida then said you are doing well for the NBA but we want you to come and serve. But Bashorun said, Mr. President, forget about that, I’m satisfied being the President of the NBA. He said, but one thing I will request of you. All the decrees that you churn out every day, please can you allow the NBA to have inputs? Can you send us the drafts of the decrees before you sign them? Babangida said Alao, take it as done. And from then on, every decree that Babangida wanted to pass, he would send to the NBA and we would debate it. So I became the NBA president, I knew the background I was coming from. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was the President but I knew he was a military dictator. He had and still has military traits and tendencies- the military’s ‘know it all’ attitude. So I knew what I was prepared for. Some people thought that because he was a Yoruba President and I was Yoruba NBA President, I would be treating him with kid gloves, no. When we needed to respect him, we respected him and when we needed to criticise him, we criticised him. There was a time we visited him in his office in Aso Villa and he was harassing me while I was reading my speech, he did it three or four times, interjecting me and banging his fist on the table. But I didn’t want to be rude to him. Gen. Abdulsalami Abukakar and the Attorney-General of the Federation, Kanu Agabi (SAN) were there. Obasanjo didn’t allow the press to come in. He was banging the table, saying No! No! No!

What did you say that made him do that?

We suggested to him to spend a term in office; to see how we would nurture our democracy. We pleaded with him. We said, for our democracy to have a smooth take-off, spend one term of four or five years in office and that the NBA was ready to assist him to see how we could amend the constitution. We made a lot of suggestions but he could not tolerate me any longer, he banged his fist on the table; it was bad. He said what kind of law are you talking about? Then it got to a stage, I said Mr. President Sir, I have a speech which I want to read, if you don’t want us, can we take our leave? At that time, I was packing all my files. Members of my executive were there. You could have heard a pin drop. Then Agabi and Abdulsalami had to come in and said the President would no longer interject you. After we left, I understand Obasanjo asked them who made that rascal the President of the NBA and that Agabi said he is not a radical, he is one of the best we have in the profession. That is why till tomorrow, I will always respect Agabi. I learnt that he defended us, the NBA. When a lawyer was being arrested, I gave Obasanjo 24 hours to release him, he released him. While I will commend NBA presidents that have come after me, I want to say that the NBA should not and never be for ‘bread and butter’ or ‘Yes people’. Although, we should not be rude to the government, the NBA president must be able to pick up courage because he has lawyers behind him. When an NBA president speaks, he speaks for all the lawyers in Nigeria, whether we like it or not. So I see no reason why NBA presidents will not be able to talk on issues relating to fundamental human rights, criminal prosecution, justice sector, economy, and so on. The NBA must always take a position; always. We are too big to hibernate. When Obasanjo increased the price of petrol, Adams Oshiomhole (former President, Nigeria Labour Congress) approached the NBA to defend him. Obasanjo took them to court; I went as NBA president, leading Falana and others to stand in for the NLC. Everybody has his own style; that was my own style. Today if an NBA president goes to defend the labour union, people may start lambasting him but the NBA president must first of all do it. You must be on the side of the masses. Ghali Na’Abba (former Speaker of the House of Representatives) could not believe what we did when the House of Representatives wanted to impeach Obasanjo. I left Lagos and sought audience with him. He said but this man (Obasanjo) does not like the NBA, I said NBA is above pettiness. It is a question of Nigeria and the stability of our democracy. He showed me all the allegations and in fairness, they were not just out to embarrass Obasanjo; they were not frivolous allegations. Some of them were provable but the NBA said no, don’t do it because of our young democracy that needed nurturing. So comparing then and now, I will say the NBA has been on the quiet side, even on matters that concern lawyers.

Recently, the Federal Government and some members of the public have accused the NBA and the judiciary of aiding corruption with delay tactics to frustrate the anti-graft law. Do you agree with that?

Nowadays, you see people talking about lawyers defending some people. A lawyer is at liberty to defend any person that briefs him. So you should not condemn the lawyers because it is Mr. A, it might be you tomorrow. Frankly speaking, the government and those condemning lawyers are very unfair to lawyers. Have they cast some people aside as lepers that are untouchable? A lawyer must muster sufficient courage whether in criminal or civil actions, to take up the defence or the case of his client without compromising it and without minding whose ox is gored, but it must be done within the ambit of law. He must not go outside that to do what is criminal simply because he wants to save his client or win a case for him. But within the ambit of the law, a lawyer has sufficient room to meander. And a lawyer must be fearless and resolute but he must not be rude. Otherwise, don’t come to the profession. Some people don’t know and some pretend not to know that law has its technicalities-both civil and criminal proceedings. They talk of technicalities and say that lawyers delay cases, look, without being immodest; I have been involved in a lot of cases in this country. I have defended a lot of people. During the run-up to the 2015 elections, I was one of the lawyers hired on pro bono basis to defend the All Progressives Congress and its candidate, Muhammadu Buhari. We employed all the tactics available, employable and allowable in the legal profession; why didn’t they blame us then? If we didn’t, the election would not have held. If you do that today, some people, even within the profession, will blame you. I know what I’m talking about. The election was to hold on a Saturday and Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja, said he was going to deliver his judgement on whether or not card readers should be used by the Independent National Electoral Commission on Thursday, two days to the election. We filed preliminary objection, he overruled it. I was in court with Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), Akin Olujinmi (SAN), and Kola Awodein, (when) Asiwaju Bola Tinubu sent an aircraft to pick me in Akure, saying that if we were not in court, the election would not hold. There are things that need to be unveiled in this country. Tinubu, Babatunde Fashola (former Lagos State Governor), the Vice President (Prof. Yemi Osibajo), Lai Mohammed, the AGF (Abubakar Malami) were in the know. And Kolawole overruled us. Then he called the plaintiff and said, can you go ahead with originating summons? I will deliver my judgement tomorrow. Like someone who was possessed, I rose up and said I was applying for stay of proceedings. Then the other lawyer interjected and asked for my formal application. I gave him two authorities offhand that I could apply orally. That was two days to the election. Kolawole said well, whatever it is; I would want to listen to you. He listened to me. We did it pro bono in the sense that the APC hasn’t paid us. Nobody even wrote a letter to say thank you. Then thereafter, he wrote a ruling and granted stay of proceedings 48 hours to the election. The Supreme Court later held that, though the card reader was a good innovation, it was not yet in the law. Would Buhari have been President if we had not done that? What could be more technical than that? They filed action against Buhari, we looked at it; we raised objections and we were dragging that. Is that not technicality? And some people will now accuse me when I do it for other people that I’m defending looters. But when you do it for them, it is right; that is double standard. And what baffles me is that some high lawyers, who should know better, also accuse some lawyers of defending looters? To hell with anybody who has looted the treasury. I believe in my profession and I thank God for what I am. I am a fulfilled person and don’t want any position from any government, but then government should allow those of us who are privately engaged to do our work. In our offices in Lagos and Abuja, we have over 75 members of staff- professionals and supporting staff. We pay more than what the government pays and don’t owe workers. A cleaner in my office earns far more than what government calls minimum wage. And when you say someone is a looter, who is a looter? Anybody who loots will have his day in court and God will punish looters, but at the same time, judge not, so that you are not judged. And let the accused person defend himself. All religions give room for fair hearing. I grew up to know that when people came to my father to settle disputes, he would say ‘e je ko so tie, agba ti o gbo ejo enikan dajo, agba osika ni’ (let him say his side of the story; an elder who bases his judgement on only one side of the story is wicked). I grew up to know that. So you don’t want people to be heard? If that is the case, change the constitution. So once someone is accused, he is arrested and taken to prison. Then, abolish the courts. That is my position. And what goes around comes around. You may be the accuser today, tomorrow; it may be your turn to face accusations. Let the law take its course. It is tyrannical, dictatorial and smacks of militarism when you start accusing lawyers who defend people. You cannot have democracy without free speech and people having access to courts. You cannot be the accuser, the lawyer and the judge. They say lawyers and judges delay the prosecution of looters, then if they have already been adjudged looters, don’t prosecute them. It is only a court of law that can come to the conclusion that someone has looted the treasury after evidence has been produced.

So where does a lawyer find balance? How do you decide who to defend or who not to defend?

A lawyer is at liberty to defend any case and once he takes up the case, he must do it uncompromisingly to the best of his ability. No lawyer can be condemned for defending any person. But as for me, at times, I might decide not to take some cases because of the extenuating circumstances. Today, I have rejected a particular brief, but I won’t mention names because of the parties concerned. I cherish my independence. A lawyer must not be under the control of any person. My clientele cuts across tribal, ethnical, religious boundaries. Once I take up a case, I take it that there is an unwritten covenant between that person and myself supervised by God and I must not compromise his interest. That is at the bottom line for me. I don’t care what anybody says, I owe a duty to that client just as I did to Gen. Buhari as a candidate without seeing him. Some people briefed me on his behalf and I loyally served him.

Some people will wonder how you are able to handle briefs from people from opposing sides like when you defended Tinubu at the Code of Conduct Tribunal and by 2.30pm on the same day, you were defending former President Goodluck Jonathan in another court. How do you quickly shift allegiances?

What I give my clients is my knowledge, I don’t sell my conscience. I retain my conscience and independence. I cherish my liberty. I keep it. No client will tell me not to represent others, I will tell that client to go. Let me give you an example. Tinubu is not just my client, he is also my friend. I respect him and he respects me but he cannot say he wants to control me. He does not even discuss my professional jobs with me. The day you just referred to, I was at the CCT in the morning in a suit. Jonathan’s election petition was stood down till about 2 pm and immediately I finished addressing the CCT on Tinubu’s matter, I had to go and change for Jonathan’s matter. Jonathan would dare not ask me why I was defending his foe. But one thing I knew then was that there was no Nigerian that Jonathan’s government feared more than Tinubu.

Why do you think so?

I know. In fact, his camp believed they were contesting election against him, that he was the arrowhead of the opposition but they dared not ask me anything about his case. One thing I also noticed was that Jonathan’s team started withdrawing from me gradually because of the Tinubu factor. And I won’t go to anybody to beg for briefs. A lady, whose name I don’t want to mention, called me one day and said these people are in trouble, why are they running away from you? Who cares? I can be very committed to my clients. Former President Umaru Yar’Adua is dead; I was his lawyer since his days as Governor of Katsina State. He was a gentleman per excellence; he would have been the best president Nigeria ever had but he was overwhelmed by his illness. He was so humble, intelligent, honest and frugal. He was the one who appointed me as Pro Chancellor of the University of Ibadan and he told me, Wole, I know you are going to help me revive and revamp that place. Thank God we did that eventually. We changed the entire face of the university. Anytime Tinubu wants to make jest of me, he will say when it comes to law, nobody talks to you, I will say thank God you know that. He knows that when it comes to his case, I will not compromise his interest. Also, I defended Tinubu when the late Funsho Williams took him to the tribunal. He has been my client over the years. And if you are talking of technicality, we had a plan when we handled his CCT case. We had even planned against the ruling and ahead of the ruling. I had already prepared notice of appeal. I had prepared a notice of appeal, a motion for stay of proceedings, and that if the ruling went against us, we would say okay, let’s take a short adjournment, argue that motion for stay of proceedings. Would you say that is technicality? Is that not allowed in law? Today, if I do it for somebody else, would you now want to shoot me down? When people are in government, they appropriate all knowledge to themselves. And it is only they that are patriotic; that can’t be right. It is only God that is always right. I see a lot of us now, who believe that government is always right, that can’t be right. We must objectively critique the government, not to bring it down but to make it perform. Nobody has the divine right to govern over me, you do so through democratic means, therefore, you owe me a duty to do well and listen to me and my complaints. When government says 2 plus 2 equals 10, we clap. We don’t take the government up any longer; we must not be like robots. It is not in the interest of the government, it is not in our own interest and it is not in the interest of our children.

The Federal Government recently proposed the sale of some assets, which was largely condemned by Nigerians. What is your take on it?

I’m not an economist but I think I have some rudimentary knowledge of economics and what is commonsensical, reasonable and just and not hasty and scandalous. I’m a bit worried about how it came to the national front burner as a discourse. Who first hinted the idea? It was the business mogul- Aliko Dangote. Later, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, supported it and later on, the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II. As someone who has a stake in this country, I ask, was it accidental or were they acting in concert? I’m not happy with the way things are going on in my country. Dangote is a successful businessman but what is his leverage in economics? Saraki is a medical doctor by training but now a politician by vocation and practice. The Yoruba will say the witch cried yesterday, the child died today, who would not know that it was the witch that killed the child. Is it not a case of people trying to position themselves to buy the assets? We must not allow it to happen. We must not behave like prodigals. Does it make any sense to say you have kidney problem, someone now advises you to remove your brain to solve your kidney problem. Does it make any sense? Is it not nonsensical? Is it not stupid? We are talking about core national assets that are not even failing like the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited, which fetches us billions of dollars annually. May the time not come when they will sell off Aso Villa and lease it back to us. I hope the time will not come when they will be selling off Nigerian citizens. I read that Obasanjo said that he agreed that they should sell off the assets but not to the cabals. Who constitute the cabals? They should let us know the beneficiaries of the assets that they have sold in the past. Let us have the list; let us know those who bought directly and those who bought through proxies. They are cheating this country and taking us for a ride. And I heard someone saying government will put a repurchase clause in it; they are insulting our intelligence. What an insult? Is there no law again? I sell this building and put a repurchasing clause that after 10 years, I will buy it back. Who will buy that from you? And which court will enforce it? Enough is enough. They are selling dummies to us every day and insulting the mentality of Nigerians. The CBN governor also said recently that the worst was over as regards recession; that is also insulting. People are hungry and angry and you are saying the worst is over. I have some questions to ask when you say that: are you now saying that before the end of the year, the naira will be restored to the position it was before the crisis? Are you going to give people, who have lost their jobs, the jobs back? Obasanjo must reveal the members of the cabals. And let government stop talking about corruption every day.

Don’t you believe in the anti-corruption fight?

I believe in anti-corruption, you know, I said earlier that woe betide anybody who has looted the treasury or any person who uses his position to amass wealth. But when you keep on describing Nigeria as a country that is corrupt, investors will stay off. And if you know some judges are corrupt, deal with them, but don’t go to another country to say that the judiciary in your country is corrupt; nobody will come there because it is about investment and the rule of law. And when you talk of corruption among lawyers, who are the people? It takes two to tango. Let every politician in Nigeria swear by the god of thunder that he has not tried to induce a judge. Let the President take a cue from the United States President, Barack Obama. George W. Bush squandered American funds on the Gulf War as President of the US because he wanted Saddam Hussein by all means –dead or alive- after the September 11 attack. The economy of the US was comatose when Obama took over, but did you hear him say any bad thing about Bush? He had his own agenda. He started issuing presidential orders and proclamations and within two or three years, the economy was revived without him condemning anybody. To me, government is a continuum. I’m not in the Peoples Democratic Party or the APC; I don’t even see any difference between the two of them when it is so easy for the PDP people to move to the APC and immediately become progressives. You don’t sell that to me. Mr. President should have an inclusive government.

Culled from Punch newspaper

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EDITORIAL

EDITORIAL: Healthcare Reforms in Nigeria; A Mere Political Statement Lacking Commitment

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By  Manny Ita

Nigeria has since her independence in 1960 had a very robust verbiage or policies by successive gobernments on health reforms but with very little progress or success recorded in what might well be a lack of political will in reforming the health sector.
Over 90% of the Nigerian population are without health insurance coverage. The inability to effectively address the country’s numerous public health challenges has contributed to the persistent and high level of poverty and weakness of the health system.
Political instability, corruption, limited institutional capacity and an unstable economy have also been major factors responsible for the poor development of health services in Nigeria. Households and individuals in Nigeria bear the burden of a dysfunctional and inequitable health system – delaying or not seeking health care and having to pay out of pocket for health care services that are not affordable.
The health challenges of the country include:
National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS),
National Immunisation Coverage Scheme (NICS),
Midwives Service Scheme (MSS)
Nigerian Pay for Performance scheme
After many attempts at implementing legislation on health insurance since 1960, NHIS, although established in 1999, was eventually launched only in 2005 with the goals to ensure access to quality health care services, provide financial risk protection, reduce rising costs of health care services and ensure efficiency in health care through programmes such as the: Formal Sector Social Health Insurance Programme (FSSHIP), Mobile Health, Voluntary Contributors Social Health Insurance Programme (VCSHIP), Tertiary Institution Social Health Insurance Programme (TISHIP), Community Based Social Health Insurance Programme (CBSHIP), Public Primary Pupils Social Health Insurance Programme (PPPSHIP), and the provision of health care services for children under 5 years, prison inmates, disabled persons, retirees and the elderly.
The NHIS was expected to provide social and financial risk protection by reducing the cost of health care and providing equitable access to basic health services with the most vulnerable populations in Nigeria including children, pregnant women, people living with disabilities, elderly, displaced, unemployed, retirees and the sick.
Free health care services and exemption mechanisms are expected to provide financial risk protection for the most vulnerable populations but evidence suggest that they are ineffective and have failed to achieve this aim.
The maternal mortality ratio for Nigeria remain quite high at 814 per 100000 live births according to 2016 World Health Statistics. Across the country, pregnant women and children under five years are generally charged fees when accessing health care services, despite the federal government’s declaration of free health for pregnant women and children under five years in 2005.
The Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole in 2016 announced the Federal Government’s plan to provide free health services to 100 million Nigerians in the next two years. Under this new health agenda, pregnant women across Nigeria are expected to enjoy free maternal and delivery services at the primary health care (PHC) level.
Unfortunately, Free health care services and exemption mechanisms often arise as campaign promises of political actors to the electorate and fall short in meeting the health needs of the most vulnerable populations. According to Nigeria Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) in 2013, over 60% of pregnant women aged 15-49 deliver their babies at home without any antenatal care visits. In rural areas, this value reaches 76.9%. The situation is critical in North East and North West regions of Nigeria where over 79% of pregnant women age 15-49 deliver their babies at home. Over 60% of pregnant women in Bayelsa, Plateau and Niger deliver at home rather than a health facility.
The cost of health care and the low quality of care by the public have been argued to be the reason for the poor utilisation of maternal and child health services in Nigeria.
In addition, health spending in Nigeria is low and this is responsible for the over-reliance on out of pocket payments for health care services.
Despite its launch in 2005, NHIS covers less than 10% of the Nigerian population leaving the most vulnerable populations at the mercy of health care services that are not affordable. This means the most vulnerable populations in Nigeria are not provided with social and financial risk protection. Poor people constitutes about 70% of the Nigerian population. They lack access to basic health services, which social and financial risk protection should provide, because they cannot afford it.
CBSHIP was expected to meet their health needs as well as provide social and financial risk protection to this group, which mostly reside in rural areas. As evidenced in the high rate of out of pocket payments for health care services , poor people financially contribute more to health care than official care and funds programmes in Nigeria. Out of pocket payments for health care services limit the poor from accessing and utilising basic health care services.
The quality of health care services delivered is poor and remains a huge source of concern. Most of the PHC facilities that are supposed to meet the health needs of the poor and rural dwellers are in a poor state due to poor budgetary allocation.
In trying to solve these issues, healthcare in the country must be tackled headlong in order to stem the detyeriorating development therein, which could portend grave danger for citizens of the country in the no-ditant future.
Policy makers and political actors need to devise health care reforms to address the lack of social and financial protection for the poor and vulnerable populations. Part of this reform is the expansion of the NHIS. States should be mandated to provide health insurance coverage to all residents. Making health insurance optional for states over the years has affected the ability of the NHIS to increase the level of coverage for the people.
While the mandatory CBHI scheme is being scaled-up as a supplementary measure, state governments should enrol poor residents in a private health insurance plan and bear the responsibility of paying the monthly premium per person to Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs). It is not enough to have a national health insurance policy, it is important to ensure that health insurance coverage is provided to the poor and most vulnerable populations as a matter of the human right to health.
Although the NHIS Act made provision for children, who constitute the largest population in Nigeria, many children still have to pay for health care services in spite of being born into poor families that do not have the ability to pay for health care services and suffer financial hardship as a consequence. The free health policies and exemption mechanisms provided by some states, targeted at children, pregnant women and the elderly, are not social and financial risk protection policies, as these groups are largely responsible for the cost of health care with the free health care programme barely covering their basic health care services.
Another way of providing social and financial risk protection for poor and vulnerable populations is by establishing a legislative framework for a UHC scheme and setting aside funds for it. Evidence from Thailand has shown the effect of UHC schemes through PHC on expanding access to health care for the poor and vulnerable populations.
Political actors, policy makers and all stakeholders in the health sector should establish a government funded social and financial risk protection scheme through a general tax financing system for the poor and vulnerable, and invest in basic infrastructure for health care in rural areas for quality health care service delivery. UHC schemes are important in addressing the problem of poor coverage, limited access to health care, and poor quality of health care services.
Nigeria is yet to adopt innovative ways to protect the poor and vulnerable populations against financial risk of ill health. It is important to guarantee by law the right to health care of all citizens in Nigeria. Although the National Health Act (NHA) that was signed into law in 2014 stated that all Nigerians are entitled to basic minimum package of health care services, it is not clear if the provisions made in the NHA are capable of achieving UHC in Nigeria. In addition, the NHA is yet to be implemented over two years after its signage into law.
Some low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) have been able to provide social and financial risk protection schemes for poor and vulnerable populations as a matter of the human right to health. Therefore, there is a need to provide social health protection schemes targeted at these groups in Nigeria. The poor and vulnerable populations should not become impoverished because of failure to obtain much needed health care services. Governments must reduce out of pocket payments for health care services by households through the adoption of a tax financed non-contributory UHC scheme.

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Protest Rocks Alausa Over Supreme Court Verdict On Agidingbi Community

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Scores of community leaders and residents of Agidingbi area of Ikeja on Thursday embarked on peaceful protest against the judgment of Supreme Court which awarded ownership of 398 acres of landed property in the community to a traditional land-owning family, Akinole-Oshiun.

The possession order is said to cover a large section of the Lateef Jakande Road, Acme Road, Fagba Close, and other streets around the area, totaling over 2000 buildings.

The protesters, who marched from Agidingbi to House of Assembly complex in Alausa, said Akinole-Oshiun family, which is the judgment-creditor in the case, had already given them seven days ultimatum to vacate their houses, urging the government to quickly intervene to avert bloodshed.

They displayed placard of various inscriptions such as “There is no ancestral link between Akinole and Agidingbi Land, Land Grabbers are enemies of Lagos State,” among others.

Leader of Ojodu Legislative Arm, Hon Wasiu Bolaji-Seidu who is also a community leader in Agidingbi said the news of the possession order came to the community as a big surprise as nobody from the area was served with the court process that led to the judgment.

He said: “On Friday, they (judgment-creditor) brought a judgment and placed it on our houses and said they have taken over the entire Agidingbi land. The issue is Agidingbi was not mentioned in the judgment; nobody from Agidingbi was part of the case and I don’t know how you will enforce a judgment against a person that was never part of the case.

“Agidingbi has been in existence for over 200 years ago. I was born and bred in Agidingbi; my forefathers were born and bred in Agidingbi and I don’t see any reason why somebody will just wake up and say they are the owner of the community.

“I am over 50 years; my father lived for over 90 years in this community before he died; my great grand-father died at the age of 150 years and I don’t know where Akinole is coming from and we have people like Habibatu Mogaji who was the Yeye-Oba of Agidingbi; we have Femi Okunnu who is our father in the community and we don’t know where Akin-ole came from.”

He particularly urged the State Government to activate the provisions of the Anti-Land Grabbing Law of the State, and prevent the matter from degenerating into a full blown crisis.

“To the best of my knowledge, I know that Lagos State has enacted a law duly signed by the Governor prohibiting land grabbing in the State because this is a clear example of such case. That is why we are here to call on the Lagos State House of Assembly to look into it and find a lasting solution, failure of which there will be bloodshed,” Bolaji-Seidu said.

Also speaking, Baale of Agidingbi, Chief Ganiyu Ayinde Haruna, said they were embarking on the peaceful protest to call the attention of government to the silent crisis that is brewing in the community.

Narrating how it all began, Haruna said: “On Friday last week, we woke up to see people posting possession order on our property and we don’t know these people. We have been living here for several years and the issue is we don’t know this family that is laying claim to ownership of our land.

“We have never heard any relationship with this Akinole family and so it is surprising to us. Nobody knew anything about the court case. I mean how can you enforce court judgment against a party that was never part of the case?  We are peaceful people and we are urging the Lagos State Government especially Governor Akinwunmi Ambode and the House of Assembly to intervene urgently in this matter because we don’t want bloodshed in our community.”

Also speaking, an 83-year old resident and Iyalode of Agidingbi, Evang Dorcas Faworaja said her great grand-parents were born in the area, therefore the claimant cannot just come from anywhere and lay claim to the community.

Receiving the protesters, Deputy Majority Leader of the Assembly, Hon Olumuyiwa Jimoh commended them for conducting themselves peacefully, assuring that the House would look into their case.

“Let me assure you that we are going to look into your petition without any fear or favour and I can assure you also that you will receive judgment at the end of the day,” Jimoh said.

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Agidingbi Community leaders presents their petition on the Supreme Court judgement to the Deputy Majority Leader, Lagos State House of Assembly, Hon. Jimoh Olumuyiwa Wahab (2nd right) on Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

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Agidingbi residents and community leaders protest against a Supreme Court judgement on their properties at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa on Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

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Agidingbi residents and community leaders protest against a Supreme Court judgement on their properties at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa on Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

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Agidingbi residents and community leaders protest against a Supreme Court judgement on their properties at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa on Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

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Agidingbi residents and community leaders protest against a Supreme Court judgement on their properties at the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa on Thursday, 2nd May, 2019

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Abia 2019: Why Ikpeazu Won with a Landslide

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By Jude Ndukwe

The March 9 governorship poll has come and gone in Abia, and the people have since moved into post-election mood and activities. They have also since resumed their normal businesses after the rigours of what was an intense campaign period for some and simply a test of popularity for others.

The final result as announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is as follows: PDP: 261,127; APC: 99,574; APGA: 64,366

The good news about the governorship election in Abia is that while some other States are still at it, grappling with needless violent deaths of not few Nigerians starting from when campaigns were flagged off last year, the conduct in Abia recorded no violence.

The free, fair, transparent, credible and violence-free conduct of the election in Abia State can be attributed to the peaceful and gentlemanly nature of the governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, who does not see any election as a Do-or-Die affair but simply the exercise of the people’s rights to freely choose their leaders. Despite all the shenanigans of his opponents, the bitterness of their campaigns, their twisting of facts to suit their warped narratives, their belligerent posturing etc, the governor never replied in kind. He was rather busy telling the people what he had done and the need to reelect him so as to continue to take Abia on the path of irreversible prosperity.

Abians are peace loving people. That is why the State has remained one of the most peaceful States in Nigeria under Ikpeazu, and it showed during the election, so that no matter how good one’s manifesto is, belligerent posturing put them off. After their ugly experiences in the past, there was no way Abians were going to elect anyone of bellicose nature to lead them and cause bitter divisions among them based on party and or tribal lines, entrench crime and criminalities and turn the state to a breeding ground for hoodlums. So, it was only natural that they queued behind Dr Okezie Ikpeazu who has been able to restore Abia to a State of peace which Abians earnestly craved for before the coming of the incumbent.

It is instructive to note at this point that in a report  by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), for election-related killings between November 16, 2018 to March 10, 2019, while neighbouring States like Imo, Enugu, Anambra, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, recorded 2, 1, 8, 55, 4 and 2, respectively, Abia recorded no single casualty.

The massive infrastructural development taking place in Abia is another factor that got Ikpeazu an easy reelection. With 74 road projects completed and over 90 others of strategic importance to the people and the State ongoing, Abians knew that they have never had it so good and reelecting Ikpeazu based on this was a no brainer.

Having constructed 4 new Model Schools, 359 new classroom blocks, and renovated about 70 of them across the three senatorial zones of the State, the educational sector of Abia received a massive boost under the governor to the extent that the State sits with pride atop all other States of the federation in WASCE in 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 and still counting, and could not be dislodged by others no matter their resources.

Abia has remained the only State throughout the federation where all her primary school pupils are fed in school every school day. While the federal government feeds children of Primary 1 – 3 nationwide, Abia feeds her pupils from Primary 4 – 6, despite her lean resources, thereby making her the only State of the federation where all her primary school pupils are fed every school day.

The result of this massive investments keep showing in the result the State posts every year in WASCE and other external exams.

This investment has also seen the State owned university, Abia State University, Uturu (ABSU), improve massively in the National Universities Commission (NUC) ranking, from 96th when Ikpeazu assumed office in 2015 to currently being in the first 10.

The revolution in agriculture where over 4 million high yielding tenera palm seedlings have been distributed to farmers is another factor that has endeared the governor to Abians of all status. Government-supported mushroom farming, poultry clusters and local rice production have all empowered many Abians.

The infrastructural development of the state and the peace she is enjoying under Ikpeazu have also given massive boost to the governor’s objective of attracting foreign investors to the state. The Enyimba Economic City, EEC, which is the governor’s prime investment creation and already labeled the “Dubai of Africa” by global investors has already attracted massive foreign direct investment to the extent that the World Bank rated Abia as the third most preferred investment destination for foreign investors after Abuja and Lagos in that order, for the last quarter of 2018.

The deliberate policies put in place by the Ikpeazu administration for Ease of Doing Business have also earned the state a rating as the fifth best state in that area, hence, giving the State the needed edge above others for investors.

Also, Dr Ikpeazu’s commitment to SME development in the State has earned him several awards including one from the federal government even though he is of a different party from the government at the centre. He has been aggressively leading the “Made in Aba” campaign to a huge success to the extent that the military and some paramilitary organisations have ordered for thousands of pairs of booths from Aba entrepreneurs. This is in addition to the fact that the government of Ikpeazu sponsored thirty of the Aba shoe and other leather works manufacturers to China to enhance their skills and acquire the requisite modern technological know-how to improve both quality and quantity of their works. The thirty young entrepreneurs have since returned and are in the process of cascading down their newly acquired knowledge to others back home. This is more so as the governor has acquired the needed advanced shoemaking machines for their use.

There have been revolutions also in the health sector where medical facilities are now easily accessible to all citizens of the State just at the dial of a number in the Dial-a-Doc Telehealth Initiative. This is particularly beneficial to the aged who might not have the strength to visit a health facility and are either attended to via telephone or visited by the mobile medical staff of the state. These are all in addition to 4 new General Hospitals built by the governor and strategically located in different parts of the State in addition to the already existing ones.

There is hardly any sector or population group in Abia State that the governor has not touched directly. It is therefore not surprising that long before the March 9 governorship election, Dr Ikpeazu had received a gale of endorsements from notable groups including political blocs, religious groups, traditional rulers, civil servants, artisans, traders, entrepreneurs, professional bodies, student and youth groups, women groups etc.

Among all the contenders, it was only Dr Okezie Ikpeazu who ran a comprehensive and energy sapping campaign that took him round all the 17 local government areas of the state despite his extremely tight schedule as governor. His wife, Deaconess Nkechi Ikpeazu also took to the streets vigorously campaigning for her husband from one local government to the other. While all these were on, the other candidates locked up and made themselves comfortable within the confines of their air conditioned campaign offices without reaching out to the people even if in, at least, five local governments of the 17 in the State. Throughout the campaign, a majority of Abians could not reach nor interact with them in person. They cordoned themselves off from the people and only made feeble attempts to reach out to the electorate through the media and social media which, most rural people where the bulk of votes come from, do not even have easy access to. While Ikpeazu was busy selling himself, his programmes and projects to the people in person, and even featured several times on all the radio stations in Abia State in no holds barred phone-in programmes, others were relying on “federal might” and “red eyes” for magic! Tragic!

From the foregoing, no objective political observer would be surprised at Ikpeazu’s landslide victory at the last governorship poll.

His case was even made easier by the Charter of Equity as bequeathed by Abia’s founding fathers which stipulates that, for the sake of fairness and peace, the Abia State governorship should be rotated among the three senatorial zones of Abia North, Abia Central and Abia South. Having taken their own turns from 1999 – 2007 (Abia North through Orji Uzor Kalu), and from 2007 – 2015 (Abia Central through Senator T.A. Orji), it was only fair and just that the people of Abia South where Ikpeazu hails from be allowed to complete their own eight years of two tenures as did his predecessors. This is more so given the achievements of the incumbent which have more than justified the Charter.

There was no way Abians were going to jettison the Charter just to satisfy the selfish yearnings of few politicians who hail from the same senatorial zones that had already taken their turn at the governorship in the past. That would have been a recipe for disaster in the State. To avoid such a political catastrophe, Abians overwhelmingly rejected the other contenders and stuck with Ikpeazu in order to preserve the sanctity of the Charter of Equity that has been an effective template for the peaceful transition of power from one administration to the other in the state, hence, Ikpeazu’s landslide victory at the polls had long been foretold by political historians and scientists, and unfolded as expected based on the variables enumerated above and even more!

An attempt by anyone to challenge this people-oriented election in court will court the people’s anger against such a person and will further diminish the little of what is left of the person’s image before the people.

jrndukwe@yaho.co.uk; Twitter: @stjudendukwe

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