STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS
Saturday, 12th January, 2019 – Saturday, 13th April, 2019
by the TMC Committee on Social Mobility, the Economy & Politics
Presented by the Chair of the Committee,
Dr. Luqman AbdurRaheem on Saturday, 13th April, 2019
1. CONGRATULATIONS TO PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI ON HIS DESERVED VICTORY
We congratulate the winner of the Presidential election as announced by INEC, President Muhammadu Buhari, and his vice, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, for a deserved victory. We also send our best wishes for your continued strength and good health in performing the duties and responsibilities of your exalted office. We believe that the President was re-elected by majority popular votes on the basis of his performance and the improvements in the quality of lives of Nigerians due to the giant strides in infrastructural development and the welfare of the downtrodden across the nation. This re-election should spur our president towards exercising greater determination, focus and diligence in further improving the quality of lives of the people through developing the national economy, promoting transparency and accountability, further improving infrastructure and guaranteeing the security of lives and properties. We urge the winners to be magnanimous in victory and to be ready to work with all and sundry. We urge the runners-up to exercise the spirit of sportsmanship by accepting the results in good faith in the hope that tomorrow presents a better opportunity to be even more successful. This is not to say that it is an aberration to approach the courts once there is the conviction that that is what is desired. Even then, approaching the courts will be better than heating up the polity. At the same time, we should be conscious of the fact that Nigeria is our nation and it belongs to all of us. Once the elections have been concluded, let us suspend all rivalries and contestations, and then work towards nation-building in oneness and togetherness. This is what is needed to build a great, prosperous, peaceful and progressive nation that will be a model to all nations.
2. ONNOGHEN AND NJC’S SOFT-LANDING: LET THE LAW TAKE ITS COURSE
The recommendation by the Nigerian Judicial Council (NJC) that the former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen be compulsorily retired with full benefits and also retaining his position at the Council of State falls short of the expected requirements of the law. Once the NJC is convinced that the former CJN has erred under the laws of the land, he should be made to face the music. With the incontrovertible allegations made by the EFCC according to the NJC, nothing short of a sack and prosecution under the laws of the land will be suitable. Since he who must come to equity must come with clean hands, the former CJN must be punished for getting his hands soiled. There are many Nigerians in jails today who only stole meagre amounts. Does it not look like he is being rewarded for wrongdoing if he gets compulsorily retired, gets full retirement benefits and maintains his seat at the Council of State? What deterrence does it serve by allowing Justice Onnoghen to go scot-free? The former CJN must face the full wrath of the law so that others in his shoes or those who aspire to follow his example must know that their days in court will come soon when the law will deal with them mercilessly. There cannot be one set of laws for the rich and mighty while there is another set of laws for the poor and lowly. President Muhammadu Buhari should sack Justice Walter Onnoghen and let his trial continue at the courts till a pronouncement is made on him.
3. POLICE BRUTALITY MUST STOP
The Federal Government, the Inspector-General of Police and the Police Service Commission (PSC) must work assiduously to stop the increasing and horrendous brutality by the police that has led to loss of innocent lives. Any sane human being has a good reason to be afraid of the Nigerian police. In July 2018, a 23-year old female corps member of the NYSC serving in Abuja, Linda Angela Igwetu, was shot dead a day before her passing out of the NYSC programme. In March this year, an NSCDC official, Ogar Jombo, was killed by a policeman who beat him with police baton till the man died. His offence was that he contravened traffic rules. Tell me, when did the death sentence become the punishment for contravening traffic rules? The latest is the unlawful killing of Kolade Johnson by two officers of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). For how long will these unlawful killings continue to go on? Even though some of the perpetrators are eventually dismissed after following internal processes of the police, only a few of them are charged to court. Those charged to court try to evade justice for a long time and many of them eventually escape justice. It is only a punitive system that ensures perpetrators of police brutality swiftly face the full wrath of the law that will ensure these acts of senseless killings are stopped. The Nigerian people armed with social media, the NGOs and the mainstream media must stand guard in the defence of the people’s fundamental human right to life.
4. RISING INSECURITY IN THE LAND HAS TO BE CHECKED
There is a growing insecurity that is threatening to overwhelm the nation from Kaduna, Zamfara, Taraba, Rivers and Anambra all the way to Lagos and Ondo states. The police that areresponsible for internal security must rise up to the task in taming the upsurge in insecurity. The other armed forces have to be enlisted in this task since it does not appear like the police can tackle it alone successfully. The government will also need to re-organise and expand the armed forces in order to tackle this menace of armed robbery, banditry and kidnapping ravaging the country. A lot of lives and properties are needlessly being lost daily to this problem of insecurity. Insecurity has a way of slowing down the economy and causing food shortages since people are no longer free to go about their businesses. Anyone that is found aiding insecurity anywhere or benefiting from it should be brought before the law for the proper punishment to be meted on him or her. It is the duty of everyone to assist the police and the armed forces in checking this menace. There is certainly a link between the resurgence in banditry and illegal mining in parts of Taraba and Zamfara states. The armed bandits provide protection to the illegal mining sites under their control and then get the funds to buy more ammunition to aid their nefarious activities. If the illegal mining sites can be stopped, it will lead to a reduction in criminality fuelled by money from the mining sites. We do not however support the move by some members of the NASS who are looking at the creation of state police as the only solution left to check the menace of insecurity. Granted that the numerous killings in the country have exposed the underbelly of our security architecture, the recourse to State Police needs to be handled with caution. For all its merits, it will be bedevilled with the challenge of funding and favouritism. Already, a large number of states are unable to pay the salaries of civil servants within their care. Added to this is the new minimum wage of N30,000 that has just been approved. It will be a bigger security threat to the people to have a Police Force that is owed salaries for months and years. It will result in a lawless and undisciplined police who will exact their pound of flesh from the ordinary citizens they are meant to protect in the first instance. It will therefore be better and more sensible for the Police to continue to be under the Federal system while we look for more pragmatic solutions to our problem of insecurity.
5. DRUG ABUSE AND CULTISM ON OUR CAMPUSES: A REAL DANGER TO NIGERIA’S FUTURE
Nigeria’s future is seriously threatened because of the high number of students from the ivory towers that are embracing drug abuse and cultism. Youths that have been sent to school in order to develop themselves and their nation are now turning to nation-destroyers by virtue of engaging in negative activities that are inimical to their development and progress of the nation. Three students of the Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO) have died after engaging in a sex romp involving the use of Tramadol and Indian hemp. This is the time for the heads of institutions of higher learning to curb drug abuse, cultism and all forms of indiscipline on their campuses. Higher institutions are not for academic excellence alone but also the development of noble character by the students who are expected to become leaders tomorrow. VCs should ensure that rules and regulations are followed strictly and students who are found wanting should be dealt with according to the laid-down penalties. Universities should create awards of excellence for students who have exhibited exemplary good character throughout their course of study. It is time to celebrate the virtues of honesty, tolerance, good sportsmanship, patience, endurance and good neighbourliness in our schools. Parents and guardians also have a lot of work to do. It is not enough to pay for school fees and other needs, but the spiritual, moral and character development of these students must be looked into. Let us not be absentee parents. Let us ensure that our children develop into well-groomed adults who are both brilliant and disciplined.
6. THE CHRISTCHURCH MOSQUE KILLINGS OF HARMLESS MUSLIMS STANDS CONDEMNED
We condemn in totality the unwarranted and unjustified killingsof harmless Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand. The death of 50 innocent Muslims and the injuring of another 50 call for concerns on the safety of Muslims the world over. This terrorist act by a lone gunman, Brenton Tarrant, against his fellow citizens turned out to be a well-planned and well-orchestrated demonstration of hate and bigotry. While we commiserate with the families and relatives of the dead and injured, we urge governments the world over to ensure that Muslims everywhere are well-protected and secure as they engage in their lawful activities. Governments must do more by preventing sick minds like this lone gunman from carrying out their nefarious activities and also ensuring adequate punishment as stipulated by the law. We, however, commend the government of New Zealand in the way and manner it responded after the horrendous event. Even though the Muslims are a minority group in this small nation, the Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, treated the Muslims with dignity and respect. She accepted the fact that it was a terrorist act carried out by a 28-year old Australian citizen. She led the country through a period of mourning for the dead and the living victims, raised nine million dollars for the affected families, fast-tracked visa requirements to enable families of the affected to visit New Zealand, ordered flags to fly at half mast, provided armed security at mosques that were threatened, galvanised the parliament towards a ban on semi-automatic weapons and enabled the broadcast of the Adhaan (Muslim call to prayer) on both national radio and television. This is indeed a shining example that is worthy of emulation by other nations. It is the way to treat minorities at all times so that there security and safety can be guaranteed.
7. LET THE NATION PREPARE FOR RAMADAN
Since Ramadan is a special event that occurs in the life of the faithful Muslim once a year, we beseech Allah to keep us alive till the month in good health and sound mind and to enable us to diligently observe the fast for His sake. Every Muslim needs to make adequate spiritual, moral, financial and social preparations now in order to welcome the blessed month of Ramadan. He should do this by strengthening his relationship with the Qur’an, engaging much in the remembrance of Allah and re-connecting himself properly with the beneficial act of fasting in order to maximize the blessings when the time comes. We should learn about the correct laws of fasting as well as consult our physicians to take care of any health challenge so that we do not fall sick during the period. We should cultivate the intention to fast not just by abstention from food and drink but with our minds, hearts, eyes, ears, hands and tongue. We must awaken now the spirit of charitable and compassionate deeds by extending help to those in need. We wish all Muslims highly rewarding and beneficial fast that is acceptable to Allah and we pray for peace and prosperity in our nation.
8. THE ECONOMY, THE RISING CRIME WAVE AND A GREATER POLITICAL WILL
There is a certain link between the failure of the economy to cater to the needs of the teeming middle class and the poor and the recourse to crime by the people in order to make ends meet. As the Nigerian population increases without a corresponding increase in the volume of her economic resources, there is a palpable strain on the available economic and financial resources of the nation and its eventual inability to cater to the needs of her people. Those who lose out in the economic struggle are tempted to try their hands on criminality in order to survive. There is therefore a contestation by groups to hold on to lands at their disposal for farming and other needs since they have no access to capital. This is what has partly resulted in inter-tribal and the herders/farmers’ clashes. Though the present administration must be commended for trying to make a difference through its fight against corruption, financial inclusiveness for the middle class and the poor and the reforms in the ease of doing business, a greater political will is still needed to do the needful. Focusing on economic growth that favours the few at the expense of the majority is what has led us to this route of massive unemployment and insecurity. What needs to be done is to invest massively in the middle class and the poor. Investing in these groups provides massive purchasing power necessary to stimulate the economy and keep it on a sustainable path of recovery and growth. This is why the recent approval for increase in the national minimum wage, the GEEP and Tradermoni programmes of the Federal government and the Micro Pension Plan (MPP) recently-launched by the Federal Government for the informal sector make a lot of sense. There has to be excellent economic and financial access for the middle class and the poor without the barriers of collateral and guarantor. This is a major hindrance that has stopped, and continues to stop, the poor from creating wealth, reducing unemployment and improving the quality of their lives. There must be massive government intervention in creating financial options for the poor since the conventional banks are not structured to provide such reliefs to the poor who are most in need of such assistance. It is when this is achieved that we can surely say that we are working on the economy and that the economy is improving. When there is improvement in the quality of lives of the poor, violence and insecurity in the land will also reduce to the barest minimum.