Saint Saraki’s sermon on mount Abuja

It was impassioned. It was soul stirring. It was statesmanlike. It brimmed with moral fervour and patriotic ardour. It was the perfect speech clinically crafted to meet the demands of the moment. I call it Saint Bukola Saraki’s sermon on Mount Abuja. Senator Bukola Saraki had emerged Senate President on June 9 in controversial circumstances and against the preference of his party hierarchy. To achieve this feat, Saraki had swung the bloc opposition votes of 49 PDP Senators to his side by offering the minority party the deputy Senate Presidency. With nine rebellious APC Senators and in the absence of a majority of his party’s Senators, Saraki was elected Senate President in perhaps the hastiest leadership election in the history of Nigeria’s National Assembly. Some saw this as wily political pragmatism at its best. To others it was nothing but cynical Machiavellianism in which Saraki’s ends, no matter how ignoble and self- serving, justified any means no matter how foul or disreputable.

The Senate had adjourned abruptly on June 9 ostensibly to let tempers cool and allow some form of compromise and reconciliation before the resumption of plenary. To strengthen his hands and pre-empt the APC leadership, Saraki had immediately announced principal officers immediately after his election. Perhaps his most clever and strategic move in this regard was the naming of Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, who had lost to Senator Ike Ekweremadu of the PDP in the contest for the position of Deputy Senate President, as Majority Leader. This not only broke the ranks of those opposed to him within the APC but was also calculated to shift the geo-ethnic balance of forces in his favour.

It was against this background that the Senate President gave his impressive welcome speech on resumption of the Senate on Tuesday, 28 July. The speech was wide ranging touching on the economy, the country’s dwindling revenue profile, crude oil theft and the challenges of security among others. For me, however, the most important aspect of the address was Saint Saraki’s sermon on the challenges and demands of leadership at this critical juncture in Nigeria. In his words “Distinguished colleagues, we have our work cut out for us, we cannot afford to frolic. Nigerians did not give us our mandate to come and pursue leadership; their mandate was for us to pursue governance and bring solutions to their burning issues…Leadership is secondary to our primary responsibility of good governance. As Senate President you have given me responsibility to ensure that our primary responsibility is placed on the table not under the table”.

What is remarkable about Senator Saraki’s pious admonitions to his colleagues on leadership is the wide gulf between his words and his actions in his burning, remorseless pursuit of the Senate Presidency. In his cynically single-minded pursuit of his ambition, nothing mattered to him – not the interest of his party, the sanctity of the Senate’s rules and conventions or the moral health of the National Assembly. Having attained his objective of leading the Senate at all costs, it is therefore quite convenient for Senator Saraki to advocate the virtues of placing service to the people above selfish personal quest for leadership positions.

Even more damaging is the fact that the rules under which Dr Bukola Saraki was elected as Senate President seemed to have emerged mysteriously from under the table rather than from on top of the table to adapt his own phrase. No amount of sweet sounding words can deodorise the lack of transparency and credibility that characterised the way he emerged as Senate President on June 9. The truth of the matter is that the Senate 2015 Standing Orders (as amended), under which Dr Saraki was elected Senate President is of doubtful provenance and illegitimate paternity. All the acts purportedly carried out under its purview on June 9, particularly the election of principal officers is akin to constructing a structure on a non-existing foundation.

How do we explain the magical leap from the 2007 Senate Standing Orders (as amended), which guided the 7th Senate between 2007 and 2011 and the 2015 variant, which is said to be the arbitrary contraption of some National Assembly bureaucrats in utter contravention of the extant rules of the Senate? Given the inexplicable haste with which the National Assembly bureaucracy conducted the Senate Presidency election in the absence of half of the Senators, they were obviously in partisan collusion with some forces to achieve a pre-determined outcome of the process. Can the leaders of such a bureaucracy be entrusted in future to carry out their duties in an objective and disinterested manner that will enable them enjoy the confidence of all partisan tendencies in the Senate?

Of course, given the nature of Nigerian politics with most actors being largely self-seeking, Senator Saraki’s hands have been considerably strengthened by his emergence as Senate President no matter how dubious and questionable the process. He now has considerable largesse, including juicy Committee memberships to dispense. Thus, the vote of confidence passed on him and other leaders of the Senate by a majority of Senators on July 28. The prevailing sentiment among the majority of Senators is that they should put the unsavoury events of the past behind and move forward in the national interest.

Some of the pro-Saraki Senators, obviously referring to the on-going investigation into allegations of forgery of the Senate rules; a crime that allegedly aided his emergence as Senate President contend that the affairs of the Senate should not be externalised. This they argue will amount to threatening the legislative immunity of the Senate. Indeed Senator Samuel Anyanwu urged “The Nigeria Police Force and all other security agencies in Nigeria not to allow themselves to be used by any person or persons to harass, intimidate or blackmail the Senate, Senators and/or their spouses”.

Of course, the crime of alleged forgery of Senate rules is not an internal affair of the Senate. It is a crime against the laws of Nigeria for which there is no legislative immunity. Since the investigation into the alleged crime has commenced and has even become a subject of litigation, the process cannot now be aborted without doing grave damage to the APC and President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise of change.

Senator Bukola Saraki concludes his sermon on Mount Abuja with the stirring declaration: “My distinguished colleagues, the job of changing our corporate destiny starts today. Though the challenges are huge, they are not insurmountable. Let these challenges inspire us as leaders to show courage, statesmanship and valour”. I agree entirely with Saint Saraki’s submission. But that process of change cannot preclude pursuing the alleged forgery of Senate rules to its logical conclusion and bringing to book all those implicated in the odious infraction.

Posted By: Segun Ayobolu.


Re: Nigeria’s killer containers


I am writing a rejoinder to Lekan Sote’s article, “Nigeria’s killer containers” published in The PUNCH, Wednesday, July 15, 2015. The author failed to hold the Federal Road Safety Corps responsible for the lax enforcement of traffic laws concerning unlatched containers on trucks found on Nigerian roads. Also, the article glossed over the many fundamental issues why unsecured containers are ubiquitous on Nigerian roads. For instance, the author merely referenced government agencies’ (the Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigeria Police Force, Nigeria Customs Service, Vehicle Inspection Office, Lagos State Ministry of Transportation) official positions on and their reaction to the problem of unlatched containers in the country. The agencies in the safety chain provided standard responses with little insight into the crux of the problem and how to resolve it. It is obvious there was no claim of responsibility as they merely passed the buck among themselves. Therefore, accountability by a particular agency becomes elusive.

Which government agency is responsible for the safety of containers on trucks plying Nigerian roads? If someone observes unlatched containers on trucks on the roads, to which government agency is the report made? Over the years, I have observed many trucks with unsecured containers go thru the FRSC checkpoints without being stopped. The million naira question is, why in the world is this blatant failure of the FRSC to enforce the traffic regulations of the country?

A few months ago, on the Owo-Ikare Road in Owo Town, a freaky accident occurred involving a truck with two unlatched containers. The containers on the truck fell on a small car parked on the roadside. The car was compressed like a “sardine.”There was no death reported due to the accident. But it was observed that the FRSC officers were busy on the scene controlling and managing the flow of traffic around the accident site.

The recent horrible accident on the Sagamu Interchange-Benin Expressway, which took the lives of 11 students and a driver from the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago Iwoye is the latest in the series of unlatched containers accidents on our roads. It also underscored the poor state of enforcement of traffic regulations in the country. How can you imagine a truck driver driving into the wrong lane facing the oncoming traffic? This is part of the impunity syndrome that Nigerians have had to live with daily. According to Sote’s article, the FRSC is unable to trace the driver and the owner of the vehicle. The truck is supposedly licensed by the agency. So, what happened to the vehicle’s information? This raises many issues among which is the FRSC’s bureaucracy and record keeping capacity in terms of its ability to provide vehicle information in the country in the case of an accident.

But, there is a silver lining in the Sagamu-Benin Expressway accident in terms of pushing the problem of unlatched containers to the public domain for discussion and it provides the opportunity for changes in public policy.

This author has not lived in a country where containers are loaded on trucks at the seaport without properly secured. The Nigerian experience where unlatched containers are loaded on trucks, and allowed to ply the highways, is contrary to the international norm. How can the governments in Nigeria be an exemption to the international standard and practices? Consider a truck carrying a load of unlatched containers from the Lagos seaport to Abuja. the nation’s capital. The truck may have passed through a chain of law enforcement checkpoints (FRSC, VIO, NCS, NDLEA) without being stopped. It is the responsibility of the government at all levels (federal, state and local) to make the highways safe for the commuters. It appears the current FRSC is weak as a public institution, which lacks the capacity in terms of trained manpower to effectively safeguard our roads. Corruption is part of daily life in the Nigerian society, the operations of the FRSC as a public institution have not escaped this tendency. According to the article, motorists obtain the MOT certificate without bringing their vehicles to any of the testing grounds. This may help to explain why there are so many junk vehicles on Nigerian roads. At night, it is a common occurrence to find vehicles without number plates, head and brake lights and other violations. In fact, there are many old, unfit vehicles on Nigerian roads that belong to the grave yard – vehicles’ junk yard.

The Federal Government needs to reform its motor vehicle policy concerning the operation of trucks on the country’s roads, particularly relating to unlatched containers. As part of this reform, the state governments must require regular inspection of vehicles to ensure road worthiness. The government should formulate a national policy and create a national data bank for all commercial trucks plying Nigerian roads. This bank will contain all pertinent information concerning the vehicle, owner, state of residency, insurance, etc. As asserted in the article, the FRSC accuses truck drivers of excessive speeding, drunk driving, drudgery and sleepiness from long distance drives, poor attitude to vehicle maintenance and ignorance of the highway codes. These allegations levelled against the drivers reflect the frustration being experienced by the FRSC officers. What are the corrective measures or programmes being implemented by the agency to mitigate against these issues?

What is the way forward in reducing the truck accidents on the roads? It is imperative that the Federal Government provides leadership and employs a comprehensive and integrative (vertical and horizontal) approach to a national policy to manage the commercial trucks plying the roads. It is obvious that the FRSC cannot do it alone. This requires all government law enforcement agencies (FRSC, NPA, NCS, NPF, etc.) to cooperate and work together through a multi-agencies organisation. This is part of the strategy to providing a better management structure to improve the performance of the FRSC. It is okay to solicit for the cooperation and voluntary compliance to traffic regulations from stakeholders (National Road Transport Owners, Licensed Custom Agents and Freight Forwarders). But, the effective implementation of the vehicle regulations remains paramount and more potent instrument in reducing truck accidents. As part of the reforms, all commercial trucks in the country must be officially registered with the Federal Government in each state capital and the FCT. Thus, each truck will carry a registered number boldly written on it for an identification purpose.

Copyright PUNCH.



Inspector-General of Police, Suleiman Abba

Tambuwal: Agbakoba, other SANs seek IG dismissal

The All Progressives Congress, some Senior Advocates of Nigeria including Olisa Agbakoba, Yusuf Ali and Niyi Akintola, have called for the removal of the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Suleiman Abba, over his refusal to acknowledge Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal as the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The APC in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said Abba had shown that he was ‘partisan’ and would not be able to ensure a free and fair election next year.

The statement partly read, “‘Abba is presiding over perhaps the most-partisan police force ever in the history of our nation. He has thrown professionalism, neutrality and fairness to the winds and made the police a willing tool in the hands of a frenzied executive. He cannot be trusted to ensure a level-playing field for all parties at the next general elections, hence he should be removed immediately.”

The APC said by refusing to recognise Tambuwal who was duly elected by the 360 members of the House of Representatives, the police boss had “thumbed his nose at the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

The party added, “By refusing to recognise Tambuwal as the Speaker, the IG has also indicated he does not recognise the entire House of Representatives. For a man who was not elected by anybody to make this impertinent assertion about elected representatives of the people is tantamount to treason.

“Abba has shunned all pretences to neutrality, professionalism and decency and he is no longer fit to occupy the important office of the IG.”

The APC alleged that Abba was acting the script of the Presidency in trying to unlawfully remove a duly-elected Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The APC said, “Shortly after the incident, the Police spokesman, Emmanuel Ojukwu, said the police acted the way it did because it got intelligence report that ‘’hoodlums and thugs’’ were coming to invade the House.

“Now, Abba said it was because Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State and the APC were coming to invade the House. This is a most shameful lie from the highest police officer in the land, and it is a terrible dent on the image of the police under Abba.

“One wonders why the police were so concerned about the security of the National Assembly that it engaged in selective granting of passage to the principal officers of the Assembly. The Senate President was allowed to enter without qualms, just like the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. But when the Speaker came, he was locked out. That speaks volumes about the intention of the police.”

In his own reaction, Akintola (SAN), said the IG erred by saying that it was wrong to recognise Tambuwal as the Speaker, on the excuse that the matter was in court.

He said, “The IG cannot turn himself into a court of justice to be interpreting the law. It is left for the court to interpret it one way or the other; it is not open to anybody. I think the attitude of the IG calls for concerted effort of all Nigerians to put him in check. The impunity and the derogatory remarks of the IG, if allowed to go unchecked, he will extend it to the President of the Senate, he will extend it to the CJN and he will even extend it to the Vice President.

“So to me, it is not even Tambuwal that is affected and it is very unfortunate because I would have expected that by now members of the National Assembly should have relieved him of that position. The IG is simply not mature enough to lead an organisation like the Police. All Nigerians should rise up against the impunity of this man called Abba.”

He added that the issue was not about Tambuwal but about democracy.

“And I am of the opinion that members of the National Assembly should rise up to the occasion and the man should be sacked, anything short of that, they should all go back to their respective homes until the man resigns,” Akintola added.

Also, Yusuf Ali, (SAN), said though both the Nigeria Police and the IG were supposed to be insulated from politics, Abba had demonstrated beyond any doubt that he was partisan.

“For whoever is the occupant of that office to be partisan, it is dangerous for our democracy. And that is part of the problems that we have in this country, we don’t have institutions. We only have government departments and loyalists, not to Nigerians but to individuals in government.

“It is quite unfortunate that the number one police officer in this country took it upon himself to assume the position of the court of law that pronounces the seat of the Speaker vacant and it is even more disappointing and pathetic that he is a lawyer, who is expected to know better.

“What happened yesterday was arrant insubordination,” Ali said.

For Agbakoba, the IG was wrong because the court had to pronounce the question of the Speaker’s resignation and until the court makes that pronouncement, clearly the Speaker would be entitled to be addressed as the Speaker.

“The IG was also wrong to have caused the raid of the National Assembly, so I think altogether, the IG has been acting as if he is politically-motivated and it is very dangerous. The IG was wrong to say he could not recognise the Speaker because the matter is in court.”

Also, the members of the Parliamentary Staff Association of Nigeria, on Thursday insisted that the action of the police was a clear invitation to anarchy and that the continued denigration of the legislature was dangerous being the most important symbol of democracy.

The Acting National President of PASAN, Mr. Mohammed Bala, who stated this at a news conference in Abuja, therefore advocated a constitutionally empowered Sergeant-At-Arms, who would be solely responsible for the security of the legislature.

Copyright PUNCH.