…Say country under siege by criminals, corruption still endemic, economy declining irretrievably
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri & Henry Ojelu
President Muhammadu Buhari last week assigned his ministers to the various ministries and charged them to assist him in making life better for the generality of Nigerians in his second and final lap of governance.
And as the ministers settle down for business, lawyers in the country have demanded an improvement in governance in President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term.
Reviewing the performance of his administration in his first four years as a democratically elected president especially on his three-point agenda of security, economy and fight against corruption, the lawyers who spoke with Saturday Vanguard concluded that the president has not met his campaign promises to Nigerians in his first term.
According to them, his administration lacked the proper understanding of the solutions to the problems in the country as his policies have failed. They urged him to reconsider his administration’s strategies on issues of security, the economy and the fight against corruption while advising him to be mindful of the verdict of history in the evening of his tenure.
Nigerians are disenchanted—Jideobi Johnmary
While appraising President Buhari’s achievements in his first term, a constitutional lawyer, Mr. Jideobi Johnmary, said: “On security, in assessing the performance of the President, we have to remind ourselves that the primary duty of any government is security of lives and property of the citizens.
Talking about the performance of the government of the day on security, I am sure an average Nigerian of uncommitted mind would readily point out that the country appears to have come under siege laid by different shades of criminal elements across the entire federation. Comparing how safe we felt before the advent of this government and how safe we feel today as a nation would provide the best yardstick for determining President Buhari’s record on security of the nation.
“You may also want to add the recent report of the United kingdom warning its citizens to steer clear of over twenty states in Nigeria as being unsafe. Whatever that adds up to leaves you with the answer.
On economy, we have been classified as the poverty capital of the world. That ranking was neither done by the PDP nor the APC but rather by uncommitted minds looking at the global economic picture.
Yet again, it is for Nigerians to compare and contrast how challenging or otherwise their lives were economically before the advent of this government and what they experience now. You know the answer. It is staring all of us in the face. Interestingly, the situation is incapable of separating the APC members and the PDP members in the spread of its consequences.
On the fight against corruption, we all have seen how far we have come with the said fight and what the gains are if any. Speaking for myself, corruption cannot be successfully fought through a corrupt means. By that what do I mean? Let me explain.
When the war against corruption is waged outside the ambit of the Rule of Law the result becomes counter productive and less beneficial to the society. In any event, where is the transparency in the process and the outcome of the war? Can any of the prosecutorial agencies present an accurate account of all the recoveries made in the past years?
They are fighting the said war on behalf of all Nigerians and to that extent they are our trustees and we are taught in law that the first duty of every trustee is to stand ready with his account. Can Magu sitting at the EFCC show you how much has been recovered and from whom when you request him to?
Can the Federal Ministry of Justice do the same? There is therefore a huge legitimacy question on the manner adopted in prosecuting the said anti-corruption war and there is a huge question of transparency and accountability regarding the outcome of the whole process.
It raises the question; who guards the guard? All these negative signs combine to make discerning citizens disenchanted about the whole anti-corruption war which is incapable of commanding confidence from those who know. President Buhari is thereby called upon to reflect soberly on all these and think more of the verdict of history as he is facing the exit route of presidential power. He must now decisively axe all the transactional elements holding forth in different government agencies if he is indeed mindful of the verdict of history in the evening of his tenure. The time for him to act is now”.
Buhari’s policies have failed —Chukwueke Esomchi
Another constitutional lawyer, Chukwueke Caroline Esomchi said: “Buhari has also failed to deliver on his second promise to tackle the country’s economic woes. Unemployment has risen dramatically from 8.2 percent to 23.1 percent since he took office. In Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub, it’s virtually impossible to find anyone who has a word of praise for Buhari’s economic policies. To be fair, Buhari did inherit a state treasury plundered by kleptocrats and an oil-dependent economy at a time when global prices of crude oil were plunging. His election pledge to diversify the economy and strengthen local production was a step in the right direction. But his policies have failed. The import ban on tomato paste, for example, didn’t result in a boom in local tomato production, but rather in a Nigerian tomato paste with hardly any tomatoes in it. Economists and business people look annoyed, or even shocked, when Buhari pats himself on the back yet again for his reforms”.
How has the rule of law fared under Buhari?—Abiodun Salawu
Similarly, Mr Abiodun Salawu, an Abuja based lawyer, said: “It is normal for any politician to attempt to portray his or her administration in a good light, however, it is for the citizens to give the verdict.
President Buhari, being a politician, was not wrong to claim that his administration has in his own estimation, performed well. However, whether his claim is right or wrong can be seen from what is happening across the federation. The questions to ask are these: are people faring better now than before? Has the standard of living improved or worsened? How many people have died within the last four years, including soldiers? Has the spate of kidnappings abated? In terms of the anti-corruption war, how many cases have been successfully prosecuted in courts and convictions secured?
How well has the rule of law fared under this administration? Are judgments and orders of courts respected? I believe that objective answers to these questions will definitely prove President Buhari wrong”.
The govt has failed totally on security—Gbenga Ojo
In his own contribution, Mr Gbenga Ojo, a senior lecturer at the Lagos State University argued that insecurity has got to a frightened stage.
He said “what is more infuriating is that of the herdsmen, I mean ordinary herdsmen. They have taken over the entire country. It appears that even the military has no clue at all. It is disgraceful and shameful. Gen. Danjuma raised the alarm sometime that government officials were giving logistics to the herdsmen. Are they really fighting corruption?
Tell me one conviction of significance they have secured in court in the past four years. Instead, the accused got acquittal at the stage of no-case submission. The recent case of a cousin of former President Jonathan is an example, a waste of public funds. Look again at Fayose, so much media trial. They said they have caught a big fish, we were happy and looking forward eagerly for the outcome. After calling 13 witnesses out of 15 proposed witnesses, unbelievably, the EFCC requested for transfer of the case to a new judge to start the case all over again.
Where do you do that except in Nigeria. Even the Chief Judge agreed with the request. Can Fayose request for transfer of his case, after he has called substantial part of his witnesses? That in itself is corruption by the government. It was clear that the case of the prosecution has been bungled with a vital witness giving evidence against EFCC. They saw the handwriting on the wall. The request for transfer was meant to correct the mistakes and start all over again. What do you call this? When Buhari ruled as Military head of state, it was not like this. He fought corruption holistically. Any way, what are we talking about when the National Chairman of the ruling All Progressives Party, APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomole told the world that when you cross over to APC, your sins are forgiven. All those who crossed to APC are left untouched. Is this the way to fight corruption?
As for the economy, find out the employment rate, young graduates are without job, cultism and sundry crimes are on the increase. EFCC is trying no doubt, but it appears they were overwhelmed. This second and final lap of this adminstration is crucial to correct and improve on the issue of security or energy, otherwise, there will be no difference between his government and that of Jonathan and the so called change will just be a media talk. Let us see meaningful improvement in the next level.
Our economy has declined irretrievably —Mr Evans Ufeli
Another lawyer, Mr Evans Ufeli, Executive Director, Cadrell Advocacy Centre, believed that the president misdirected himself when he made that proclamation on democracy day that his administration has made progress in the areas of security, economy and the fight against corruption.
He said “The assessment is weak, untrue and a sheer sense of obscurantism and subterfuge.
The economy of the Nigerian state has declined irretrievably under this administration and there seems to be no conscious effort to rescue it. The economy suffers under the inability of this administration to deploy the right economic strategy to underpin the resources of the country around its programmes.
Every economy all over the world derives its strength from the security situation of its country.
In Nigeria, under Buhari, insurgency has deepened its operational attack on innocent Nigerians, herdsmen killing has grown astronomically, kidnapping has increased incredibly and banditry has been added to the socio-economic vices plaguing the Nigerian State.
The government appears to have zero understanding of the solutions to the problem hence it keeps deploying troops to quell the security challenges when all it needs is to address the educational deficit, poverty, inequitable distribution of the common wealth and the welfare of the people. Corruption is still endemic under this administration and this goes unchallenged. The same way government contract is being awarded under previous unsuccessful administration is the same way it’s still being awarded till now. The Bureau of Public Procurement is dysfunctional and ineffective so contract aren’t properly awarded in conformity with the Public Procurement Act 2017. It is therefore a misappropriation of thought to say that this administration has done well in the midst of the socio-economic decay being witnessed in the Nigerian State.
Four extra years of nepotism, religious bigotry, ignorance of economics —Destine Tankon
Human Rights lawyer, Mr Destine Tankon, described President Buhari’s claim of having made solid progress in economy, security and fight against corruption as laughable.
His words: “Government’s claims are laughable and can be compared only to an Ostrich sticking its head in the sand and deluding itself that no one sees it because it has prevented itself from seeing. Facts common to all right thinking Nigerians however tell otherwise. Nigerians were being killed with impunity and the economy has fared as bad, from one of the fastest growing economies in the world and the biggest economy in Africa, to the poverty capital of the world. From a government that set up all existing anti corruption agencies and sacked, tried and jailed serving Ministers, Public Servants and an IGP, to a government that sprays perfumes on its own corrupt officials and provides a safe haven for decamping corrupt politicians, while witch hunting members of the main opposition party. The list is endless.
I am wondering why he should force himself on Nigerians for another four years because all the President has to offer is four extra years of nepotism, religious bigotry, massacre by herdsmen, ignorance of economics, lip service about fighting corruption and persecution of members of the main opposition party and perhaps further degradation and corruption of an improved electoral system that he inherited in the year 2015!
No visible sign of progress on security —Prof Ernest Ojukwu
In his own estimation, a member of the inner bar, Professor Ernest Ojukwu, said “there have been some successes recorded by Buhari administration on the subject of security and corruption but more could be done. It is true that on security, criminals need only one success and the government needs many successes to be applauded, but the reality on the ground shows that our country even needs more than many successes to record progress on security. The ordinary citizen does not need to be reminded and directed to where to find evidence of this progress. If there is progress, it would be obvious to everyone whether he is an enemy or friend. Right now there is no visible sign of progress on security.
Buhari has done well, We should play our part for the betterment of the country —Kayode Ajulo
Nevertheless, another constitutional lawyer and human rights activist, Mr. Kayode Ajulo, deferred in his opinion, insisting that President Buhari has performed creditably under the prevailing circumstances. He said: “You will remember that during the electioneering campaign of 2015, those were the three key issues the President promised to address, and from the given circumstances we can say that he has tried. First, let me pick the one that nobody can fault him on, and that is anti- corruption. You can see that at least we are no longer paying lip service to anti-corruption war in this country.
Even the mighty have been brought before the law and the high has been dealt with by this administration. Whether we like it or not, irrespective of the number of persons that have been dealt with in the anti-corruption war, it is now in the consciousness of the populace that there is someone that abhors corruption. That one alone, nobody can fault it.
Though people can say that the issue of corruption fighting is lopsided, but the first question to be asked is, are those people that have been picked, can we say they are innocent? On issue of economy, I always say that to be able to effectively appraise the economy of any country, you need to discuss it vis-a-vis the general global economy. Whether we like it or not, today we live basically on oil, and what is the condition of the oil market today? Whether we like it or not, in the constituency that I belong to which is the Labour Union, they are very happy that at least their salary/minimum wage has been increased. Mind you that this was something that was done after the election, because it would have been said that it was done because Buhari wanted to win another election.
There is no doubt that key agencies of government, including the Central Bank and the Debt Management Office are toiling day and night to churn out policies that will further better the economic situation in Nigeria. Finally on the issue of security, yes nobody is happy with what is happening today, but we should look at it relatively with what obtained with the past government.
There was a time in this country when Boko Haram nearly seemed to take over a whole state and hoisted their flag. There was a time in this country, including Abuja, that there were places you could not drive to or pass through.
There was a time that half of the roads were blocked in the name of security. Mind you, it was in 2011 that I myself was abducted. So the issue of spate of kidnappings have been on, but there must be a way to put activities of the perpetrators in check. That is what this administration is doing. So irrespective of what anyone will say, I believe that we are on the right track. All we need to do is to support the government and play our own part for the betterment of the country”, Ajulo added.