It is the last Friday of the month and as usual I take note of happenings on TV. I’ve known for some time that ours is a nation where anyone can, for selfish purposes, take advantage of the system that doesn’t work. For instance, fortune seekers and some government officials have turned approval for the setting up security outfits into something they settle in their living rooms. On July 27, 2018, the Nigerian Television Authority showed a committee of the National Assembly at a hearing over a maritime organisation’s request to set up its own paramilitary outfit. (Someone wants to be a General in his small corner.)
However, stakeholders who understand the sector submitted at the hearing that this would amount to duplication of role, the same way Peace Corps is promoted to take over the job of The Nigeria Police that isn’t adequately funded in the first place.
During the hearing, the committee’s chairman wondered why the paramilitary outfit yet to be approved by lawmakers was wearing uniform and conducting activities as though it had been legislated into existence. The boss of the maritime organisation concerned responded that the paramilitary outfit had documents showing that some government agencies had approved its operation. Is such approval a permission to wear uniform and engage in security activities as though the law of the land has already empowered them? Is the approval granted by such government agencies the same as the law legislated by parliament which must legalise certain paramilitary outfits? Where do these security outfits source the funds with which they kit young people and make a show of them even to lawmakers as the said maritime organisation did during the hearing?
Clearly, funds are being expended illegally on this endeavour. It’s either an agency is expending unapproved government resources to kit people, or someone is collecting money from Nigerians to recruit them into supposedly government approved security outfits as the case of the Peace Corps has shown. Like many Nigerians, a lawmaker on the floor of the Senate has accused officials of the Peace Corps of collecting N40,000 per person to enlist Nigerians. The group hasn’t denied it. Yet, such a body is supposed to operate like the police, taking over parts of the job of the police. Surely, Nigerians are in trouble with this kind of rascally approach to setting up security outfits. I take note also that both the man who says he is the head of Peace Corps and the Rep who energetically sponsors a bill to make the Corps take over the job of the police are from the same state. Setting up security outfits that will watch over all Nigerians has become what a few fortune seekers start and settle in their living rooms, with kinsmen. No wonder Nigerians suffer so much in the hands of uniformed men, recruited in such a way that how they get into our armed forces defies known rational, verifiable sequence. This tendency for a few to turn the security of our nation into a fortune seeking venture is a descent into chaos, and I thank President Muhammadu Buhari for reining in the one begun by Peace Corps. Government officials who encourage these fortune seekers to strive to take over the job of the police shouldn’t be allowed to turn this nation into a Banana Republic where settlements done in their living rooms can mushroom into security outfits that will then harass the rest of us. It’s the height of recklessness, a gangster conduct, and we must turn back from the dangerous path.
Meanwhile, it was obvious much-criticised Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, had issues to grind with the BBC when he was on “Hardtalk” on June 14, 2018. The presenter listed accusations made by Erdoğan’s critics until, with exasperation, the president responded thus at 8:33pm: “The BBC should relax.” Reason? The presenter accused Erdoğan of calling the last general election earlier than scheduled because, according to the opposition, he was afraid of losing if conducted at a later date. Well, Erdogan gave his stern advice because he thought the BBC was wrong by believing everything the opposition had said about the election. Meanwhile, he explained, the decision to bring forward the election was taken in collaboration with opposition parties, contrary to the impression they gave the public.
It was Zainab Badawi questioning Erdoğan that time. But I point this episode out because Stephen Sackur (another presenter of Hardtalk) tends to present his questions (based on claims made by critics) more as accusations rather than questions meant to elicit the view of the accused. In his effort to be seen to ask tough questions, Sackur has this disposition to present questions as though critics have the monopoly of facts or the reality. This gives him off as an interviewer who has made up his mind as to what the facts are before hearing the other side of the story. It shows in the manner he quotes his “facts” often from those who accuse his interviewee. I don’t think that’s fair on the part of a journalist. Sackur should ask hard questions, but he shouldn’t always end up sounding like a tough prosecutor, which he appears to do especially when he faces much-criticised political figures such as Erdoğan.
On January 22, 2018, at 11:46pm Nigerian time, Fox News reported that female surgeons across states in the US had more successes than male surgeons. That is, less patients die, and less are likely to return to surgery theatre after they have received treatment from female surgeons. Well, I do hope male surgeons haven’t lost clients since that piece of news was aired. But I rejoice with our women for this evidence which demonstrates that they are as able as their male colleagues in the theatre. It’s progress in a male-dominated world. On January 22, 2018, the AIT showed the Lagos State Government donating 30 power bikes to the Nigeria Police Force. At 11:46pm, the police official who collected the keys said the bikes were “necessary in pursuing criminals”. My first thought was: “On crowded Lagos streets?” Where are the helicopters or even drones that should give law enforcers aerial advantage in a crowded city such as we see in other climes? We know that criminals could be better monitored, pinpointed, and arrested when airpower is deployed. I’ve always expected the Lagos State Government to set examples in such things so that other states could copy.
The Federal Government too should have changed its tactics based on its expressed desire to tackle smuggling and assist Nigeria’s rice farmers to survive. On the AIT, at 8:05pm, January 31, 2018, it was reported that the Federal Executive Council approved funds for the purchase of 52 operational vehicles for the Nigerian Customs Service to combat smuggling. It’s good to purchase vehicles for the Customs.
My concern is, if after years of purchasing vehicles to chase smugglers on the ground, isn’t it time to effectively utilise the skies too? Our borders are many, they are porous, land patrol hasn’t proved so effective. At a time when our armed forces are producing drones and helicopters at home and the Federal Government celebrates them so openly, I think their products should be deployed at our borders. This is the kind of recommendation I’ve always waited for our National Security Adviser to make to the President and thereby bring significant changes to the nation’s security arrangement. I’m still waiting.
On January 2, 2018, the AIT reported that the Enugu State Government appointed 457 liaison officers. It’s said that they are to watch over development programmes and projects of the state government in localities. One government official states that development cannot be ensured without liaison officers. Another official added that traditional rulers would also monitor development projects. Now, 457 liaison officers from outside the civil service structure is extra financial burden. They may meet with obstacles from civil servants. I suppose officers who are paid to do the same job have always sat behind desks at both the LGA and state secretariats. Imagine this number added to the host of Special Advisers and Special Assistants that may themselves be about 1000, as it is the case in some states. One day, we’ll get serious with the business of good governance here and move ahead, rather than expend meager resources on finding “job for the boys”.
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