Friday, March 31, 2017

SHUT DOWN SENATE FOR TURNING AGAINST NIGERIANS



31st March, 2017
PRESS RELEASE:
SHUT DOWN SENATE FOR TURNING AGAINST NIGERIANS


The Nigerian polity has witnessed several earth-shaking incidents in the past few weeks due to apparent deadlock in the relationship between the executive and the Nigerian Senate.


Nigerians are traumatized by this ugly development. The Nigerian Senate has turned itself into a hydra-headed monster with its jaws wide open to swallow up the Nigerian social order. Though it has been denied, the threat allegedly made by Senate to shut down government appears real. Senate’s body language indicates it is all out for war with the executive. It is parliamentary rascality at its worst. We can no longer trust the eighth Senate. It is capable of doing anything. The Nigerian people must strike while the iron is hot. We must shut down Senate before it shuts down government.


A look at just a few of the excesses of Senate is enough to justify the above position. Firstly, the head of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, was rejected twice by Senate. Nigerians were quick to conclude that the senators were unwilling to stomach a man who would not make concessions to lawmakers particularly since many of them have pending cases of fraud.


In the second instance, Senate suddenly bared its fangs and summoned Hammed Ali. The red chamber insisted that the customs chief must appear in customs uniform. It was later revealed that a bullet proof SUV car illegally brought into the country was at the root of the matter.


Thirdly, Professor Itse Sagay, a respected constitutional lawyer was summoned by Senate for criticizing its actions. This is indubitable evidence of Senate’s determination to silence critics. Very soon they will start serving summons on journalists and poor market women.


The Nigerian Senate has also been ruthless in dealing with dissenting voice within the hallowed chamber. Senator Ali Ndume was suspended for six months merely for voicing opposition to Senate’s recklessness. This is another red signal. A few powerful senators are perpetrating oligarchic dictatorship in the red chamber. Nigerians must rise before this powerful but self-serving oligarchy descends on other patriotic and progressive senators in their midst.  


This Senate will not tolerate free speech. It is out to strangulate the democratic process. Senate is gunning for parliamentary totalitarian dictatorship. It must be stopped before it is too late.


A fourth example has occurred in Senate’s refusal to screen people nominated as commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Yet screening of nominees is the statutory responsibility of lawmakers. Does Senate want carpenters and taxi drivers to come forward to perform this legislative duty? How then do we explain a situation whereby senators refuse to perform their duties? We hope we are communicating with Nigerians and we hope the masses can read between the lines. Senate appears to be telling the executive arm: “Play ball or …” There is no other word to use for this than ‘armtwisting’.


We want Nigerians to compare Senate’s ruthlessness in dealing with both external (Professor Itse Sagay) and internal critics (Senator Ali Ndume) to the red-carpet treatment it gave the senate president on the imported car scandal and the kid’s-glove treatment it gave Senator Dino Melaye on Dinogate.  


First is happenstance, second is a coincidence, the third time is enemy action. The Nigerian Senate has declared war on the Nigerian people. Nigerians must wake up from their deep slumber before it is too late.


It is an open secret that corruption is the major obstacle standing between the good people of Nigeria and higher standard of living. If we must know, corruption robs us of macadam roads, good public health scheme, qualitative and affordable education, steady power supply, reliable public transport system, security of lives and properties, clean drinkable water and, above all, good governance.


Corruption is therefore Nigeria’s foe numero uno. It must be brought to its knees and anybody, no matter how highly placed, who stands in the path of Nigerians, any institution that weakens our resolve to eliminate corruption, has declared war on the Nigerian people.


It is sad to note that this is exactly what the eighth Senate has done. Senate has been involved in actions incompatible with its parliamentary responsiblility. Senate has thrown its lot with corruption and its Satanic agents by taking deliberate steps capable of debilitating the executive and the Nigerian people in their war against corruption.


Any institution that does this is an enemy of Nigeria. We must therefore rise against this Senate. Nigerians must prove to Senate that senators were elected by them. Who owns the land and where does the real power reside? Nigerians must prove that power belongs to the people.  


MURIC calls on civil society to do the needful. We must occupy Senate until the Senators shut down or until they confirm all confirmables. For the sake of our poor families, in the interest of the oppressed and marginalized jamaheer (masses), in order to save democracy from the jugular-hold of a ruthless Senate oligarchy, Nigerians from all walks of life must join civil society groups in non-violent rallies to shut down Senate.


We must make Senate feel the people’s impact not only in Abuja but also in all the 35 state assemblies. Activists who cannot reach Abuja are urged to stage peaceful rallies in their state assemblies. Nigerians must send a strong message to Senate that they will not tolerate parliamentary terrorism.  


We advise organizers of rallies to inform Senate, state assemblies and security agents of their peaceful intention. We urge security agents to provide protection for the nationwide exercise whenever and wherever it takes place in order to prevent hoodlums from hijacking the rallies. Organizers are further advised to ensure that they pick rendezvous which are very close to their targets in other to keep trouble-makers at bay. We do not want the same ordinary Nigerians whose interests we are protecting to suffer unnecessarily.


As a final note, MURIC is on the same page with Muhammed Fawehinmi (son of late Chief Gani Fawehinmi) who has asked President Muhammadu Buhari and the Chief Justice of Nigeria the option to invoke their constitutional powers by shutting down this rancorous Senate. The Nigerian people will hail such an action. Buhari was voted into power on the strength of his commitment to the war against corruption. Like Rousseau’s General Will, if this Senate will not allow the General Will of Nigerians, viz, to fight corruption, something must give way. We make bold to say it is Senate which must go.



Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Director,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)


Tuesday, March 28, 2017

BUHARI’S PROPOSED VISIT TO SAMBISA POORLY MANAGED



29th March, 2017
PRESS RELEASE:
BUHARI’S PROPOSED VISIT TO SAMBISA POORLY MANAGED


The Nigerian Army last week disclosed the proposed visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to Sambisa forest, Borno State. During the visit which was billed to take place on Monday, 27th March, 2017, the president was expected to declare open this year’s Nigerian Army Small Arms Championship.    


Although the event has since been held and the president was represented by a high-ranking Nigerian official, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) berates the way and manner the Nigerian Army made the president’s movement public ahead of the time in a zone that is yet to become completely secure. That publicity blitz on the president’s proposed visit to Sambisa was, to say the least, na├»ve, infantile and ill-advised.


While it is true that presidents of countries who dispatched soldiers to war zones usually visit such dangerous places as the commaders-in-chief of the army, such visits are usually clandestine for obvious reasons. This explains why US President Lincoln’s visit to Antietam on October 3, 1862 was unannounced. The same Lincoln was protected by more than 100 US soldiers when he paid another surprise visit to Richmond on April 4, 1865.


Neither British nor American authorities announced Winston Churchill’s rendezvous with Franklin Roosevelt in Casablanca during World War II in January 1943. On Sunday, 25th May 2014, former US President Barrack Obama slipped into Afghanistan under cover of darkness.   


So why should Buhari’s visit to Sambisa be different? This is a notorious Boko Haram stronghold that was held in awe for years. We cannot afford to underestimate the enemy. Although Boko Haram has been defeated, bombs are still exploding in Borno State. Villages are still being attacked. Innocent people are still being killed. That shows how desperate the insurgents are. We should not play into their hands, at least not with the life of the president.


MURIC therefore pleads that future movements of President Muhammadu Buhari and that of senior government officials around Borno State should be shrouded in secrecy until the remnants of insurgency have been totally eliminated.


Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Director,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

AKPABIO ON MAGU: ONUS OF DENIAL IS ON AKPABIO



22nd March, 2017
PRESS RELEASE:
AKPABIO ON MAGU: ONUS OF DENIAL IS ON AKPABIO


The Senate Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio, yesterday reacted to a press statement issued by the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) in which the organization quoted him as saying that Magu wanted Senate to confirm him so that he could use some of them for pepper soup. Senator Akpabio denied making such a statement and challenged MURIC to provide evidence.


We aver that Akpabio missed the crux of our statement. This would not have occurred if he had taken a good look at the semantics. Our statement was crafted to indicate that we were quoting a third party. That was why we used the adverb ‘allegedly said’ and the adjective ‘alleged utterance’. It means we did not pretend to affirm the statement but left a window for the Senator to either confirm or deny.


We reproduce the half paragraph here for the avoidance of doubt, “A statement credited to Senator Akpabio in which he allegedly said, “Magu wants us to confirm him so he can use some of us for pepper soup” lends credence to our hypothesis. Akpabio’s alleged utterance confirms our worst fears.”


To bring what people feel or say about public officials to their attention is our duty and a priviledge, to deny or confirm such statements or sentiments is the right of the public official. We have used our priviledge. Senator Akpabio has exercised his right.      


The onus is on Senator Akpabio to confirm or deny the statement. He has chosen to deny it and we are satisfied because there is nothing personal for us to pursue. Therefore, we will not press the issue of the statement allegedly made by him any further.


What the Senator cannot deny is that he has a case of graft before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) or that he did not oppose the confirmation of Magu during the screening in the red chamber on Thursday. We leave Nigerians to make their own deductions regarding the rationale for the senator’s opposition of Magu’s confirmation.


Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Director,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)

Friday, March 17, 2017

MAGU: SENATE HAS SKELETON IN ITS CUPBOARD



17th March, 2017
PRESS RELEASE:
MAGU: SENATE HAS SKELETON IN ITS CUPBOARD

The Nigerian Red Chamber yesterday and for the second time refused to confirm Ibrahim Magu as the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).    


The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) strongly condemns Senate’s action. It is victory for the monster called corruption. Senate has shown that it is not fighting corruption. On the contrary, it is fighting for corruption. By rejecting a firebrand anti-graft boss, our senators have sent out a wrong signal to the international community. But Senate has been too clever by half. It has exposed itself as an institution with skeleton in its cupboard.


A statement credited to Senator Akpabio in which he allegedly said, “Magu wants us to confirm him so he can use some of us for pepper soup” lends credence to our hypothesis. Akpabio’s alleged utterance confirms our worst fears. This Senate will not confirm any EFCC boss who refuses to withdraw cases involving its members. This Senate will not confirm any anti-graft boss who is not ready to treat senators as sacred cows even if they are corrupt. We also entertain the fear that these senators will not allow any other EFCC boss to function effectively even if Magu is removed.


. Our suspicion has been confirmed by Senator Akpabio. Now we know why Senate rejected Magu. It is simply because our senators’ hands are not clean so they fear a no-nonsense anti-graft boss. Yet we know where Akpabio is coming from. He was invited twice by the EFCC last year after Leo Ekpeyong, an Abuja-based lawyer and activist, wrote a petition in which he accused Akpabio of looting a whooping sum of N108 billion belonging to the Akwa-Ibom government.


Apart from Senator Akpabio, eight other senators, including the Senate President, are facing corruption charges amounting to billions of naira. It is therefore paradoxical that a tainted Senate sits in judgement over the fate of the same man investigating not only its helmsman but also many of its members. What do you expect? Senate has not disappointed us. It has demonstrated its readiness to kill EFCC and any other anti-corruption agency that has the temerity to investigate its members.


The issue is not even Magu this time around. Senate does not want any agency investigating fraud anywhere around the red chamber. Senate wants its members to be untouchable. The first rejection of Magu was meant to serve as a yellow card from the senators and the message was clear, “Back off or we will never confirm you.”


Instead of compromising, however, Magu was not only barking but biting and very hard too. As a result of EFCC’s resilience, huge sums of money stolen by public officials have been discovered in cash in bunkers and in judges’ homes. Two fuel subsidy fraudsters have bagged ten years jail each. For the first time in the history of Nigeria, an ex-governor was sent to jail for fraud-related charges.  Senators became alarmed. Seeing that Magu will not be intimidated, our senators are bent on denying him confirmation even if his name is presented a thousand and one times.


The excuse used by Senate to deny Magu that confirmation is neither here nor there. Somebody somewhere is playing Jekyll and Hyde. What caused the seemingly yawning lacuna between the presidency and the Department of State Service (DSS)? Didn’t Aso Rock get a security report on Magu ab initio? Why should the whole affair be made to appear as if the DSS is working at cross-purposes with the presidency? Why is there no synergy? The DSS too may have questions to answer at the end of the day.


Nigerians must not allow this crop of senators to tarnish the image of this country. We must not allow them to drag us back to those days when every Nigerian who went abroad was treated like a leper. Transparency International (TI) ranked Nigeria the Most Corrupt Nation in the world in 2001. In 2003 Nigeria was ranked 2nd Most Corrupt Nation and in 2004 we were labeled 3rd Most Corrupt.


But the current war against corruption has been so vigorous and its impact has been felt around the globe. This has led TI to drop Nigeria’s corruption ranking to 39th Most Corrupt Country as Nigeria moved to 135 out of 175 countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index of January 2017. This is commendable progress in our war against corruption. We should not allow selfish politicians to drag us into the abyss of shame again.  Nigerians should resist Senate’s attempt to stop the good work Magu has been doing.

The alarming figures in senators’ jumbo pay and the secrecy of its budget indicate its unwillingness to share in the pains of this recession. Already, Senate is plotting to take the power to appoint the head of anti-corruption agencies from the president and to arrogate it to themselves.


This is definitely a dangerous trend in a polity where the hands of the senators are not clean. It is the president who conceptualizes the focus of his administration. He knows what he wants and he must be allowed to pick his men. Who picks his ministers for him anyway?


Nigerians should reject this crop of senators at the next general election. With the exception of a few senators, we are constrained to conclude that these are not the true representatives of the people. Nigerians want a Senate that will complement the efforts of the executive in its war against corruption. Nigerians now know that there can be no improvement in standard of living so long as corruption still reigns supreme and so long as members of the National Assembly not only aid and abet corruption, they are also neck-deep in corrupt practices.


For the war against corruption to be thorough, MURIC suggests that anybody facing corruption trial should not be allowed to contest in elections. Should they use technicalities to wriggle through and become candidates, the Nigerian electorate should also reject them at the polls.


We charge civil society, the media and religious leaders to speak out. Senate must tow the path of transparency, probity and accountability. We appeal to the international community to turn its searchlight on the Nigerian Senate and note how its members are frustrating the executive in its war against corruption.


As a final shot, we issue this red alert: the Nigerian Senate is not with the Nigerian people in the fight against corruption. Senate is protecting the narrow interest of its members who are facing corruption trial. Senate is not on the side of the electorate. It has elected to fight the very people who elected its members into the red chamber. Nigerian senators have become foot-soldiers for corruption thereby constituting a most potent threat to democracy.


Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Director,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)