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Powerful Lagos, powerless Osun State

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If I were a politician, my devotion hours would be to the courts instead of pouring oil on INEC and voters, deities of limited powers. If the gods complain, I would ask them where they were when ugly death was killing sinners and saints. The buck – our electoral buck – stops at the courts. That is our reality.

 

A list of candidates for elevation to the Supreme Court was released last week by the Federal Judicial Service Commission. Every Nigerian should be interested in every name on that list; they are the electors of our future presidents and governors and lawmakers. They will decide the price of rice and beans tomorrow. Whether salaries and pensions will be paid and drugs will be affordable for the sick are attached to tomorrow’s decisions of the Supreme Court. It is our electoral college. We should ask questions on its proposed justices. How did the nominated get on the list? What qualified them to be there? What disqualified others who are not there? Why is Lagos on the list when it has already filled its quota?

 

History is replete with cases of people who went to bed free, slept too much and woke up a conquered people. Conquest used to be by the force of arms; now it is mostly through the courts. In Nigeria, the courts are the new military; they take and distribute power to politicians. To live well, escape poverty and captivity, we should take interest in our law courts and in those who sit in judgement there. How are the courts, particularly the Supreme Court, constituted? Ask questions; insist on answers.

The courts are under threats of abduction, immediate past president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Olumide Akpata, warned at the International Bar Association (IBA) conference in France last week. He described the selection process of Nigerian judges as “bizarre”. He said there was “a deliberate attempt” by the Nigerian political class “to capture the judiciary.” He added that they are “achieving results.” He painted the picture of a helpless nation. I agree with him.

 

There are 22 jurists on the nomination list released last week, but like in Animal Farm, the chosen are not equally favoured. The big men of power who drew the list put ‘priority’ in front of some; they stamped ‘reserve’ in front of others. What was the criterion (or were the criteria) for giving some priority over the others? Seniority? The seniority list in the Court of Appeal is publicly available on the court’s website; the nominations mock it, particularly for the South-West. Check the nomination list. Crosscheck it with the seniority list of justices of the Court of Appeal. In all the other five zones, seniority appears to have counted in arriving at the recommendations. But, in the South-West, it is a no. So, what was the goal of the appointers? And this is where I am going. I plead that you follow me.

 

I am from Osun State and I am interested in how it is affected by that list. There are two nominees from the South-West; one was chosen from Lagos and one from Osun State. The one from Lagos has a crown of ‘priority’ placed on it; the gentleman from Osun State is put on the reserve bench. The truth is: Lagos has no slot to fill; it already has Justice Kudirat Kekere Ekun as the number two of the Supreme Court. The slot is ordinarily for Osun State to fill and there is a history to that claim. Justice Emmanuel Ayoola, JSC, was the last candidate from Osun State on the Supreme Court bench. Ayoola retired at age 70 in October 2003. He was 90 last month. In simple arithmetic, for the past 20 years, Osun State has not been represented in the apex court – the result of a deliberate act of misallocation. And I will explain.

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Listen. How many justices are supposed to be on the Supreme Court? The court itself answers that question on its website: “The Supreme Court of Nigeria consists of the Chief Justice of Nigeria and such number of Justices of the Supreme Court, not exceeding twenty-one, as may be prescribed by an Act of the National Assembly. Presently, the Supreme Court is made up of the Chief Justice and nine (9) other Justices.” A CJN plus 21 justices cannot go round all the 37 states of Nigeria at the same time. When eight masquerades are on the line and there are six bean cakes, the system has a way to get every ancestral costume round the basket of cakes. There is always a way. For the Supreme Court slots to go round, the states are paired or combined in twos and threes and allotted slots which rotate between or among them. Ekiti and Osun states are a pair here.

 

Justice Olufunlola Oyelola Adekeye got on the Supreme Court bench representing Ekiti State in March 2009. She retired from the Supreme Court in November 2012. Her exit created a vacancy that should, by right, be filled by Osun State. But smart Lagos, which already had Bode Rhodes Vivour occupying its own slot, got up in July 2013, did a fast one and took what should go to Osun State. It happened and there was no protest from Osun State. You wonder why? It was because Osun State of that era was a colony of Lagos. What happened was a case of olówó gbà’yàwó òle (the rich snatched the fool’s wife). They do that very often. Instead of Osun State’s Justice Jimi Bada of the Court of Appeal moving up to his rightful place at the top, Lagos snatched the slot for its Kudirat Motomori Olatokunbo Kekere-Ekun. The Centre of Excellence then had two slots while Osun State had zero. It is because of ‘Gbajue’ steps like this that the hinterland people like me (àwa ará òkè) always salute Lagos as Eko Ile Ogbon (Eko, home of wisdom).

 

The wisdom of Lagos here means craftiness and determination. It gets anything it wants because it is Lagos. If you don’t have money, everything you have amounts to nothing – including your wisdom. Lagos is rich both in means and guile – and that combination is lethal. Osun’s strength is more in needless crises and in acquiescence to rape of all kinds.

 

The retirement of Justice Bode Rhodes Vivour in 2021 should ordinarily reset justice for Osun State at the Supreme Court. But no; it does not appear this will happen. Instead of returning the snatched slot to Osun State after Rhodes-Vivour, Lagos is now positioned to grab it as an addition to Kekere-Ekun. The Federal Judicial Service Commission headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria last week nominated Hon. Justice Adewale Abiru from Lagos State as South-West’s ‘priority’ nominee to join Kekere-Ekun who is already representing Lagos. Check the seniority list of the Court of Appeal where all the candidates were drawn from, Abiru has seniors in the South-West; two of them from Osun State. One of the two from Osun is, in fact, the number two in that court -Justice Jimi Olukayode Bada; another is number 15, Justice Tunde Awotoye. The favoured Lagos man, Abiru, is number 22 – far behind those two. They ignored numbers 2 and 15 and went for number 22 – because he is from Lagos. Even if, for whatever reasons, those two seniors refuse to move up and the choice of the commission is Osun State’s Justice Olubunmi Oyewole (number 32), should he be made to be a ‘reserve’ candidate as the commission has done given the fact that the slot is for Osun State to fill?

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In all these, we’ve seen how untrue our laws are that Nigerian states are equal. There is no equality of states in Nigeria; there are 22 Supreme Court seats for 37 states, Lagos alone takes two. Why is Lagos investing its men in the courts, particularly the Supreme Court? Lagos may be plain-speaking but it is never plain-dealing; it cheats, and it does it without consequences. I call Lagos the Napoleon of the West; it fights for other Pigs by cheating them. When an elder plays a game of ayò with a younger person, he must win, whatever it takes. Kí ni wón nfi àgbà se? What is the usefulness of age if you cannot deploy it to cheat children? That is the political and moral compass of the political entity called Lagos. If you like, disagree with this and flaunt Osun as the elder because it is the ‘cradle’, the ‘beginning’. But, know this: in Yorubaland, the rich is the elder – Olówó l’àgbà. Anyone with loads of years without money exists to be ignored, cheated and exploited.

 

I suspect the courts are being eyed by interests because with their gavel, judges confer privileges, advantages and freedoms. They also oppress and subjugate. Check how the original owners of lands in the United States lost their rights over their lands and were converted into tenants. Read Lindsay Robertson’s ‘Conquest by Law’ (2005), how the American Supreme Court awarded “all discovered lands” to European “sovereigns” and gave “occupancy rights” to the original owners. How did it happen? Would it have happened if the judges were not of European origin? The Nigerian people have their feet firmly on that route. Their own conquest by law will be complete and completed soon unless they cap their sleeping hours.

 

A whole country can be helpless. Nigeria is. My dictionary says ‘helplessness’ means “weak or dependent: a helpless invalid deprived of strength or power; powerless; incapacitated.” A whole people can be helpless, especially if they choose to. The 1823 American case referenced above, Johnson v M’Intosh, gave birth to the Discovery Doctrine which, if applied here, would bequeath River Niger and all its lands to Mungo Park and his descendants. Fortunately, our politicians and the judges have not thought of importing it into our laws complete with affidavits averring that they are heirs to Mungo Park’s estate. They may still do it, once they are through with the construction of the courts in the image of their desires.

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The Supreme Court should be the afflicted’s locus amoenus, a pleasant place of refuge, safety and comfort. But how do we tell the story of a court built of blocks of injustice? That is what I see in those who have enough taking from those who have none right inside the temples of justice. Our ancestors had neither good names nor prayers for warlords who pull straws from their neighbours’ roof so that theirs would stop leaking. The current flood from the rains will wash away the house of justice if the owners look on. It is almost a week since that Supreme Court list was out, I have not heard a whimper of protest from those holding the short end of the stick. Osun’s forbearance is legendary. But is it not stupidity to stay in queue when the other party wants everything? Lagos that has Surulere (patience is profitable) has never believed in waiting for its turn.

 

“He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want” (Proverbs 22:16). Enablers of iniquity have not read that verse in their Bible. They have also not read Romans 12:19. – “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” To those who are Muslims and who excuse evil for reasons of class, creed and ethnicity; to them that teach or plead or enforce acquiescence as evil multiplies itself, I commend the words of the Prophet as reported by Abu Sa’id al-Khudri: The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Whoever among you sees evil, let him change it with his hand. If he cannot do so, then with his tongue. If he cannot do so, then with his heart, which is the weakest level of faith” (See Sahih Muslim, 49).

 

Evil will grow and flourish if it is manured with helpless acceptance. And that will be the death of Nigeria, its democracy and our freedoms. Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) was a Lebanese-American writer, poet and visual artist. He warned us never to refuse anything by accepting it; he said we should never nurse half hopes and fight half battles. He wrote many powerful lines, the most engaging are in his book, ‘The Prophet’ with the avant-garde poem ‘Do Not Love Half Lovers’. I reproduce it here: “Do not live half a life/and do not die a half death/ If you choose silence, then be silent/When you speak, do so until you are finished/If you accept, then express it bluntly/Do not mask it./If you refuse, then be clear about it/for an ambiguous refusal is but a weak acceptance./Do not accept half a solution/Do not believe half-truths/Do not dream half a dream/Do not fantasize about half hopes/ Half the way will get you nowhere/You are a whole that exists to live a life/not half a life.”

I pray we listen – and loudly refuse to choose silence.

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Why I killed rival bandits’ kingpin – Notorious bandit Turji

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Bello Turji, leader of a group of outlaws operating in northern Nigeria, has blamed Minister of Defence (State), Bello Matawalle, of not handling banditry effectively when he was governor of Zamfara State.

 

During his time as governor, Matawalle had rolled out an amnesty programme to bandits, describing dialogue as best option to tackle banditry.

 

He, however, later withdrew the amnesty, saying the bandits failed to embrace the peace initiative his government offered them.

 

In a video released on social media, Turji linked the escalation of banditry in Zamfara and other Northwestern states to the policies mapped out by Matawalle when he was governor.

 

“Any person living in Shinkafi, Zurmi, and Isa (Sokoto State) cannot deny this claim. There is a particular group of bandits whom the former governor pampered. I chased the group from Shinkafi, I killed their leader, Dudu, for peace to reign in Shinkafi. The group had 200 arms, but the governor later hosted them (Dudu’s boys) at the Government House.

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“But the government failed to ask the group to surrender their weapons. Another group led by Bashari Maniya has over 300 guns.”

Turji claimed that he had seized 30 guns from a bandits group led by one Bashari Maniya, adding that the group never surrendered their weapons to the government.

In the video, Turji also alleged that some leaders of the bandits’ groups who were part of the peace deal initiated by the Matawalle administration had relocated to Sokoto after arming their boys to continue kidnapping people for ransom.

 

“Ali is a boy to Kabiru Maniya, and he is responsible for attacks in Tangaza axis. Both Bashiri and Kabiru are residing in the Sokoto metropolis, enjoying their lives. One other person, Buhari, is also in Sokoto town enjoying himself.

“Three weeks ago, a younger brother of Buhari was apprehended with guns in the Sokoto metropolis. Let anyone come out and deny this. I can come forward with video evidence where Kabiru was seen firing machine guns.

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“The question now is, where are the machine guns after they claimed that they have embraced peace and settled in Sokoto town? Who did he give the machine guns? Let the government explain this to Nigerians, who are killing the people. Let them stop blaming Bello Turji for the killings and kidnapping.

 

“People that are being kidnapped in Sokoto metropolis and taken to the back of Achida and Goronyo, who is responsible for the kidnapping? Is that also Bello Turji? Who is living in peace in Shinkafi?”

 

Efforts to reach Matawalle for reaction failed as of the time of filing this report.

 

Multiple calls made to Henshaw Ogubike, a spokesperson of the Defence Ministry, rang out.

 

Ogbuike, however, sent a text message, asking our reporter to reach him via text. He had not responded to the message sent as of the time of filing this report.

 

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Previously, Matawalle denied any link to the bandits and maintained that his government did its best to address the security challenges in Zamfara when he was in power.

 

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Good morning! Here Are Some Major News Headlines In The Newspapers Today: Gunmen kill Police inspector, three others in Abia

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1. A police Inspector and three civilians were confirmed killed by armed men on Sunday morning in Aba, Abia State. The state Commissioner of Police, Kenechukwu Onwuemelie, in a statement signed by the Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Maureen Chioma Chinaka confirmed the incident.

 

2. President Joe Biden has endorsed Kamala Harris, his deputy, as the Democratic Party’s candidate for the November 5, 2024, election. He made the announcement in a tweet shortly after declaring that he was quitting the presidential race.

 

3. Bello Turji, leader of a group of outlaws operating in northern Nigeria, has blamed Minister of Defence (State), Bello Matawalle, for not handling banditry effectively when he was governor of Zamfara State. In a video released on social media, Turji linked the escalation of banditry in Zamfara and other Northwestern states to the policies mapped out by Matawalle when he was governor.

 

4. The Nigerian Army (NA) has reiterated that the ban on the unauthorised use of military camouflage remains in full effect. The Director of Army Public Relations, Maj.-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, said this in a statement on Sunday while reacting to a video depicting a soldier molesting a civilian for wearing Army Desert Camouflage uniform.

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5. The Federal Government, through the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, is expecting fresh reports to confirm the real sulphur content of the diesel produced by the Dangote refinery as the company debunked claims of inferior fuel production.

 

6. The Federal Government says it will spend an average of N36bn to convert 30,000 petrol or diesel-powered vehicles to start running on Compressed Natural Gas in the next 90 days. The government stated that it had acquired 30,000 CNG conversion kits for distribution free of charge nationwide within the period.

 

7. Africa’s wealthiest man, Aliko Dangote, says one of his friends who started investing abroad four years ago, has been taunting him over the back and forth with the government in recent times. Dangote has been having issues with the government over his refinery project in Lagos.

 

8. A gruesome incident has occurred in Zaria, Kaduna State, where some applicants vying for a spot in the Nigerian Army Depot allegedly hacked a fellow applicant to death. It was learnt on Sunday that the victim, who hailed from Gombe State, had reportedly received nearly N1m from his parents to facilitate his recruitment.

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9. The National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, has foiled attempts by drug syndicates to smuggle cocaine and loud consignments, a synthetic strain of cannabis concealed in incense candles, game packs, dry hibiscus leaves and ladies’ native wears in and out of Nigeria through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, by some courier firms in Lagos.

 

10. The Ebonyi State Independent Electoral Commission, EBSIEC, on Sunday declared the All Progressives Congress as the winner of Saturday’s local council polls in the state. Chairman of the commission, Mr Jossey Eze, who announced the results in Abakaliki, said the party won all the 13 Chairmanship seats and 171 Ward Councillors.

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Dangote offers to sell 650,000 bpd oil refinery to NNPC

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Africa’s wealthiest man Aliko Dangote says he is willing to give up ownership of his multibillion-dollar oil refinery to the state-owned energy company NNPC Limited.

 

The billionaire spoke as a new dispute with one of the key equity partners in the plant heats up in the latest phase of a bitter row with regulatory authorities in Nigeria.

 

The 650,000 barrel-per-day refinery, which came to life last year after a decade of prolonged construction, cost $19 billion, more than double the initial estimate, promising to help wean Africa’s biggest oil producer off its reliance on fuel from overseas and save up 30 per cent of the total foreign exchange spent on importing goods

 

While speaking with PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday, Dangote reportedly said: “Let them (NNPCL) buy me out and run the refinery the best way they can. They have labelled me a monopolist. That’s an incorrect and unfair allegation, but it’s OK. If they buy me out, at least, their so-called monopolist would be out of the way,”

 

“We have been facing fuel crisis since the 70s. This refinery can help in resolving the problem but it does appear some people are uncomfortable that I am in the picture. So I am ready to let go, let the NNPC buy me out, run the refinery.”

The multisectoral investor’s big bet on oil and gas, which he ventured into following years of relatively stress-free dominance of Nigeria’s cement, salt and sugar industries, is turning out problematic in its early days.

 

Set for its first roll-out of petrol to the Nigerian market in August, the mammoth plant has been operating just above half its capacity since the January start of refining operations, constrained in part by difficulties in sourcing crude from international producers.

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Dangote Refinery said those companies are either demanding outrageous premiums before agreeing to supply crude or simply claiming the product is unavailable.

 

NNPC, once a sweetheart of the refiner before the current dispute soured relations, had delivered only 6.9 million barrels of oil to the plant as of May since last year, according to S&P Global Platts, a tracker of supply data.

Dangote Refinery

NNPC Limited has a supply deal with the company dating back to the commencement of operations and previously agreed to a 20 per cent equity participation, the refinery saying only 7.2 per cent has been fully paid for before the deadline issued to the company to acquire the stake.

 

Starving the refinery of the feedstock required to keep it running at present capacity means it has turned to countries like Brazil and the US to bridge the gulf in supply.

 

“As you probably know, I am 67 years old, in less than three years, I will be 70. I need very little to live the rest of my life. I can’t take the refinery or any other property or asset to my grave. Everything I do is in the interest of my country,” Dangote said.

 

“This refinery can help in resolving the problem but it does appear some people are uncomfortable that I am in the picture. So I am ready to let go, let the NNPC buy me out, run the refinery. At least the country will have high-quality products and create jobs,” he added.

 

 

Dangote said the obstacles his refinery is facing seem to have vindicated friends and associates who conselled him to tread with caution as he pumped billions of dollars into the Nigerian economy.

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“Four years ago, one of my very wealthy friends began to invest his money abroad. I disagreed with him and urged him to rethink his action in the interest of his country. He blamed his action on policy inconsistencies and shenanigans of interest groups. That friend has been taunting me in the past few days, saying he warned me and that he has been proven right,” the businessman said.

 

Last month, Devakumar Edwin, who serves as the vice president, oil and gas, at the Dangote Group accused the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) of allowing marketers to import dirty fuel into the country.

 

That has drawn a reprisal from the main watchdog of Nigeria’s midstream and downstream operations whose chief, Farouk Ahmed, claimed diesel from the plant as well as the one from modular refineries like Waltersmith and Aradel contain high sulphur levels.

 

A high sulphur content in fuel could be injurious to vehicle engines and is known to be harmful to the environment in that it further heats up the fast-warming climate.

 

“The AGO quality in terms of sulphur is the lowest as far as West Africa’s requirement of 50 parts per million (ppm). Dangote refinery, as well as some major refineries like Waltersmith refinery, produce between 650 ppm to 1,200 ppm. So, in terms of quality, their quality is much more inferior to the imported quality,” Mr Ahmed told journalists last Thursday.

 

On Saturday, Dangote debunked the claim during a tour of both Dangote Petroleum Refinery and the Dangote Fertiliser Limited complex by members of the House of Representatives, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas and other members.

 

The company in a statement said the representatives observed the testing of Automotive Gas Oil (diesel) from two petrol stations alongside Dangote Petroleum Refinery, praised the company for its significant investments and contributions to Nigeria’s development.

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“The Chairman of the House Committee on Downstream, Ikenga Ugochinyere, and Chairman of the House Committee on Midstream, Okojie Odianosen, oversaw the collection of samples from the Mild Hydro Cracking (MHC) unit of Dangote refinery for testing of all the samples,” the statement said.

 

 

Dangote openly challenged the regulator to compare the quality of refined products from his refinery with those imported, advocating for an impartial assessment to determine what best serves the interests of Nigeria.

 

On Saturday, the businessman announced plans to halt his investment in Nigeria’s steel industry to avoid being accused of monopoly.

 

“You know, about doing a new business which we announced, that is, steel. Actually, our board has decided that we shouldn’t do the steel because if we do the steel business, we will be called all sorts of names like monopoly. And then also, imports will be encouraged,” Dangote said.

 

 

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