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The Anomaly In Kwara (2)

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Why I May Make Public Lagos ENDSARS Report - Adegboruwa

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Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa

A lot has happened in rapid succession, since last week when I wrote the first piece on the religious crisis in Kwara State, infamously stoked by the government in power purely for political expediency. Some new facts have also been made known to me, concerning the mutual agreement between the government of Kwara State and the owners of the mission schools in question. It was said that sometime in or about 1974, there was an agreement between all stakeholders, on limited involvement of government in the funding of the mission schools, without interfering in the day to day management thereof. In that agreement of 1974, it was stated that:

(b) The names of schools remain the same by proprietors.

(c) Religious orientation and practices in the schools remain generally undisturbed.

(d) The right to nominate Board of Governors with responsibility for the day to day management and welfare of the institution remain unchallenged. The Board of Governors will continue to function normally except in regard to staff matters which responsibility is now taken over by the State Schools Board.

(e) The total tone of the institution remains the responsibility of the Board of Governors as the main organ of the proprietors.”

It then becomes crystal clear, at least from item (d) above, that the purpose of government intervention in the mission schools was to assist in the payment of the salary of their teachers, while the issues of management of the schools and general policy formulation, reside in the Board of Governors.

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There should have been no issue about this at all except that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has intervened in respect of policy formulation, orientation and religious practices.

The agreement was signed in 1974 whereas the Constitution came into force in 1999 and with its supremacy clause in section 1, the provisions of the Constitution must, of necessity, prevail over private or public agreements. In the same vein however, there is a need for the government to respect agreements, especially as a way of engendering public confidence in governance generally.

In this regard, the global concept of uniform in schools will be defeated where different religious establishments work tirelessly to incite their wards to adorn separate outfits.

To the extent that the provisions of Chapter Four of the Constitution are unique and equal, it is doubtful if the right to religious practices by non-stakeholders attending private schools can override the right to freedom of association and to own property. However, I verily believe that this is a balance that the Kwara State Government must work out and sustain.

I received some responses to the first piece and I have decided to share them, largely unedited, in the hope that those concerned would take note and adjust themselves accordingly.

“Kemi: Good morning sir, I think this problem was foreseeable. Government took over these schools because the churches were tired of running the schools without thoughts of future problems like this. Secondly sir, the churches ought to have given conditions to government before the control took effect. Now the only solution I see here is to return the schools while those who gave out their land to build the schools should seek compensation from the churches.”

“Ayemoro Adebayo: Kwara State governor should apply wisdom to resolve the issue without being biased, it is only in Nigeria you see people fighting over religion frequently. Can men fight for God? Many people are ignorantly putting themselves into bondage, in the name of religions. God didn’t create human beings to fight for Him but to serve Him, whoever that’s serving Him wholeheartedly will not plan to destroy others.”

“Adebayo Azeez: The fact that the schools are partly funded by government would not make the churches to allow what they don’t believe in the schools they established in their names.”

“Pius Isiekwene: Thank you sir, for your fine commentary. Probably as you were posting your article, yet-to-be-denied news spread that the gates of two of the affected schools were forcibly uprooted in the dead of the night and removed under a contrived 30-minute blackout reminiscent of the Lekki Toll Gate fiasco of October 20, 2020. I just wonder, as you do, what could have happened if these blood-thirsty aggressors had been the victims of this government-incited madness?

“Edafe Great Sakoko: Please sir, what is the position of the law today on this issue ? I do remember the Court of Appeal judgement in 2019. You are a rule of law advocate and I do expect you to support the enforcement of court judgements and not our emotions.”

“Ayeh Kootoh: The governor of Kwara State seems to be the governor of the adherents of his faith and of Ilorin rather than being neutral and be the governor of a multi- ethno-religious Kwara State. He should heed the advice of Hon Abdullahi and hand over the missionary founded schools (Islamic and Christian) to their original owners like Lagos State did during Tinubu’s tenure or maintain status quo and wait for Supreme Court to give their verdict on the ownership of the schools. Common sense seems not to be common here or is it the fear of the emir or the jihadists that’s affecting him?

“Hameed Awobifa: Ayeh Kootoh, are you aware the CAN has gone to appeal court of law on this matter and lost and now to Supreme Court? Why don’t they allow court to come out with the final decision?

“Ayeh Kootoh: Hammed Awobifa, apparently, you read my text in order to respond and not to understand. Read my text again. (The ownership of these missionary founded schools is in contention and it is awaiting adjudication by the Supreme Court and the dress code of these schools hasn’t been changed, so why can’t your Muslim brother governor wait for the Supreme Court pronouncement before asking Muslim girls to be wearing hijabs in Christian schools?). It seems you hate CAN so much and relish the rubbish being spewed out by Isaq Akinola of MURIC concerning this issue.”

“Hameed Awobifa: Ayeh Kootoh, honestly I expect such reaction like yours. But before you start vituperating over what I said I would rather recommend that you go and read the judgement very well. Oga, but let me quickly correct a notion which that court of appeal referred to that the plaintiff (former owner) willingly gave out the ownership to the state government as far back as 1974, which the government has been funding and controlling. So I wouldn’t have joined this issue if not raised by Big Sam Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN.”

“Sanni Moses JP: The Kwara State government didn’t handle this issue well. I will advise the Kwara State government to learn from the way Osun State government handled a similar case too, during the administration of Rauf Aregbesola.”

“Hameed Awobifa: Sanni Moses JP, but CAN in both Lagos and Osun didn’t handle it this way. And more so those cases were also settled at the law court.”

“Ayeh Kootoh: Hammed Awobifa, you so much believe in these your courts because the justices and judges there are more of a particular religion. Let me shock you, Christian and Islamic organisations got their schools back without going to court in Lagos. Google is your friend if you doubt this fact.”

“Iyeme Victor: In all of this, the governor and his led government have been silent. It’s so sad and barbaric.”

“Hameed Awobifa: While I really appreciate your position taking your precious time to educate us readers, I am still confused whether you do this as a pastor or a legal luminary because I know you well to be very objective in your dealings considering the appeal court judgement of 2019 on this same case. Are you now saying the court is wrong legally and we should go by way of our own way of dealing with the issue? I’m not and I will never be in support of any religious crisis because it’s always fueled by the elites in those groups.”

“Elizabeth Oyeniran: The fall of a man starts with a step, I hope it won’t be too late for the governor and his cabinet members to reverse their steps.”

“Olayode Fortune: Thank you for this eye opening. Your position herein is an indication that you took your time to do the findings about the prevalent issue in Kwara State. Truth be told, the governor made a mistake to have allowed himself to be deceived into making a pronouncement permitting the use of hijab in these schools. Sadly, the case has been at Supreme Court since 2019 and the status quo should have been maintained. Now for him to reverse his earlier pronouncement has become a thing of shame.

“On the other hand, there are too many people in his government who do not understand governance and are fundamentalists, the SSG and CPS are not helping the matter and this can be seen in the way they respond to questions from journalists and their press releases. They are just one sided – this in itself would do a lot of damage to any system.

“After a week of attacking and vandalising a church building, the government has not seen the need to make any comment and this has empowered the Muslim fundamentalists the more, such that yesterday, they went on rampage at Sabo-Oke area of the state, destroying and vandalising other churches’ properties. Should a reasonable government not acknowledge the reality on ground and make it known to all? But he keeps playing the ostrich. Let’s see how far this would take him and his government. Olayode Fortune, Ilorin, Nigeria.”

A major issue for concern as raised in some of the responses posted above is the revelation that the gates of some of the schools were uprooted and taken away allegedly by those campaigning for hijab. Should things go this way? Can any government, elected to protect lives and property, sit in the comfort of a government house while the house is on fire? This is tantamount to lording it over the owners and management of the schools, in unleashing the adversary upon them through inciting pronouncements and press releases and having done that, to sit by and allow them to be cowed and subjugated, through force and violence. The rule of law is meant to protect the weak and the meek and it is not proper, for any government, least of all one that boasts of no viable alternative, to halt the career of these young children through religious bickering, orchestrated purely for political gains.

Let the Kwara State government take a cue from the experiences of other states in the resolution of this issue, let the owners of the schools also embrace dialogue and let the agitators refrain from force and violence. As experience has shown the world over, nobody truly has a monopoly of any option; thus, the deliberate choice of peace and engagement should be the primary target of all concerned.

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Opinion

Where Are Secular Lawyers?

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Witch Burning, Impunity And Abuses Linked to Witchcraft Beliefs In Benue State
Dr Leo Igwe

By Leo Igwe

This question has agitated me over the years, and it persists. At a recent event in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, a participant introduced herself as a member of the Christian Lawyers Association of Nigeria. Christian Lawyers Association? I wondered, Why Christian lawyers? Why should lawyers associate based on faith? Do we have a traditional religious lawyers association? Jehovah Witness Lawyers Association? Bahai Faith lawyers? Hindu Lawyers? I mean, why the religionization of everything in this country?

In northern Nigeria, the Muslim Lawyers Association exists. This organization is active. It features prominently in cases, especially those that concern religion, Sharia, or Islam. I guess there would be Sunni and Shiite Muslim lawyers associations. In 2022, over 30 Muslim lawyers came forward to defend those suspected of murdering Deborah Samuel in Sokoto. Meanwhile, no member helped prosecute the suspects. Muslim lawyers have strongly supported the execution and imprisonment of suspected blasphemers. They constitute the legal wing of Islamic separatism in Nigeria. This religious slant in practice, profession, and association of lawyers is disturbing and needs to be critically examined.

Look, a lawyer is a person trained to offer legal services. A lawyer is trained to represent an individual or organization in legal matters. S/he applies the law to specific cases, religious or nonreligious. The legal profession should be carried out without religious bias or favor. The law should be practiced to further justice, equity, and fairness, not in defense of a particular faith or belief. In practice, the law should be faith/belief blind. Unfortunately, this appears not to be the case in Nigeria. The tendency of lawyers to associate along religious lines is entrenched. As in other sectors of the society, religion has hijacked the legal profession and association. Lawyers practice and are pressured to practice law along religious lines. That is the raison d’etre of the religious (Christian/Muslim) lawyers association. And it is worrisome.

It has become pertinent to ask, where are secular lawyers? Put differently, where are lawyers beyond belief? By secular lawyers, I mean lawyers who are not religious, that is, lawyers who are atheists or agnostics; lawyers who do not take religion seriously. Secular lawyers include those who think that religious and spiritual matters are strictly private affairs and should not be the basis for legal practice, profession, and association.

Nigeria needs secular lawyers for the following reasons. First, based on section 10 of the constitution, Nigeria is a secular state, although not explicitly stated. Nigeria has no state religion. But theocrats often contest Nigeria’s secularity and openly propose that sharia and their religious books are superior to the constitution. The country needs lawyers to defend and uphold its secular character and help prevent the slow undoing of the secular gains and progress that Nigeria has made. Nigeria needs lawyers who can champion secularism. And secular lawyers can fulfill this need.

Second, Nigeria needs secular lawyers to professionally and constitutionally handle cases linked to faith or belief, such as witchcraft, blasphemy, and apostasy allegations. Lawyers who practice or associate on grounds of faith cannot be trusted to handle these cases because they are likely to compromise. They are likely to sacrifice their profession on the altar of their faith. For instance, it is a challenge to find lawyers to defend victims of witchcraft accusations because most lawyers, as people of faith, believe in the reality of witches and demons. Even though witchcraft accusations are against the law. Religious lawyers cannot be trusted to render professional services to victims of witchcraft branding. The same thing applies to cases of blasphemy and apostasy accusations. These accusations are linked to religious beliefs. Many lawyers do not want to profess law in ways that violate their faith. So, faith is a factor in hiring an attorney or getting a reliable solicitor.

In cases where Christians are accused of blaspheming Islam or insulting the prophet of Islam, Christian lawyers volunteer. They offer to help. Religious (Christian or Muslim) lawyers consider it a duty to defend their members. Christian lawyers defended Rhoda in Bauchi or the Christian barber, Elijah, in Kano. Muslim lawyers defended the suspected murderers of Deborah Samuel. But it is more challenging when the accused is a nonbeliever, an atheist, or a nonreligious person. Religious lawyers are reluctant to take up the cases. Religious lawyers cannot be trusted or entrusted with these cases because of concerns over religious bias.  Christian lawyers are guided by their christian faith and muslim lawyers are guided by their Islamic faith in their legal practice and representation.
So secular lawyers are needed. They can be trusted to represent in these cases because, in principle, they are free from the faith baggage that encumber legal representations by christian/muslim lawyers. Nigeria needs secular lawyers to keep church, mosque and state separate, and to ensure state neutrality on religious matters. It needs secular lawyers to tackle religious oppression, persecution and tyranny. Nigeria needs secular lawyers to uphold the rule of law and defend the freedom of religion or belief of all.
 Igwe, PhD,  is a board member of the Humanist Association of Nigeria.

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Minister Dangiwa Versus Cement Cabals

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Felix Oboagwina

By Felix Oboagwina

Wednesday, 31st October 2023, CEO of BUA Cement, Abdul Samad Rabiu, paid a visit to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in Aso Rock. As he walked out of the President’s office, journalists swarmed round Rabiu. To cut this narrative short, the billionaire businessman said he had come to assure the President that by March 2024, a bag of BUA Cement would start selling at N3,500 instead of N4,500 for which it then sold. The market leader, Dangote Cement, retailed for between N5,000 and N7,000 per bag. The hike not only alarmed but frustrated users because just two months earlier, Dangote Cement sold for a lower price of N3,500 max. The jump in price annoyed Nigerians. Thus, when the media went to town with Rabiu’s assurance of crashing the price, the news provoked much happiness nationwide.

Easier said than done, however, Rabiu’s optimism quickly evaporated into thin air. Mysteriously, thereafter, the price of cement went crazy and bizarre. The popular 50kg bag of cement flew to N10,000, then N12,000 and landed at N15,000. This year, Dangote Cement PLC reported a profit of N166 billion for first quarter of 2024.

In Nigeria, the dominant cement brands are Dangote, BUA, Lafarge and Elephant. For a country of 250 million, being serviced by four brands sounds like a monopoly or oligopoly, when a few companies exert significant control over a given market and together control prices by colluding with each other to promote uncompetitive prices. Today, manufacturers blame the skyrocketing rates on the falling value of the Naira. From the N700 per dollar pre-May 2023, the Naira had gone to exchange for N1,600 to the dollar, although it has now dropped to about N1,200. In addition to using the unhealthy Naira as scapegoat, cement makers blame the high cost on expensive gas and manufacturing equipment.

However, in the midst of the darkness, a silver lining appeared to appear from the midst of Tinubu’s cabinet ministers.

There are 46 ministers, although 13 of them wear the title of Junior Minister or Minister of State and 33 substantive ones. Suddenly, two substantive ministers called cement manufacturers to a meeting. The meeting by Dave Umahi, Works Minister, took place first on Monday, February 19, 2024. At that meeting, the minister and manufacturers fixed the price of cement at between N7,000 and N8,000 max.

The following day Tuesday in Abuja, Ahmed Dangiwa, Minister of Housing and Urban Development, also met representatives of the Cement Manufacturer Association of Nigeria (CEMAN). And there things exploded. Dangiwa displayed uncommon knowledge of all the tricks and shenanigans. He told the producers the implication of their pricing: “This is a crisis for housing delivery. An increase in essential building materials means an increase in the prices of houses.”

For Dangiwa, the reasons for the price hike were insufficient to justify such outrageous pricing. He confronted them with the bare facts, that the government stopped cement importation to enable local companies to increase output and lower prices.

Then he dropped the banger: “Government can open the borders for mass importation of cement, the price will crash, but you will have no business to do.”

When CEMAN said the association “does not interfere with the pricing of cement,” Dangiwa hit back with, “One person cannot be selling at N3,500 per bag and another selling at N7,000 per bag and you cannot call them to order. The association is expected to monitor price control; otherwise, the association has no need to exist.”

Where the President and the Works Minister pacified and appeared to have lost touch with reality, Dangiwa spoke to manufacturers in the language they understood. He threatened them. Government, Dangiwa said, could fling open the borders to tame prices.

He told them: “We know that some of the key components of producing building materials, especially cement, are locally sourced, so the recurring disproportionate increase in the price of cement is unacceptable and unreasonable. Key input materials such as limestone, clay, silica sand, and gypsum within our borders should not be dollar-rated.

“You cannot continue to give excuses and blame it on the dollar all the time. The worst part is that other building materials manufacturers take a cue from cement manufacturers, and once they see that you increase your price, they do the same. Recently, this is happening almost every week, and it has to stop.”

Fact is Nigeria has been hijacked by cartels. They have the country by the jugular mercilessly. Like cartels the world over, the Nigerian business profiteers nurse the motive of profiteering at all costs. Governments have been unwilling to confront them and break that hold today. Past pro-people regimes behaved otherwise.

General Murtala Mohammed imported Argentinean beef to force down the price of meat in the market.

General Gowon goes down in history for the Cement Armada. Ships upon ships upon ships of cement harboured at the Apapa Lagos port and crashed the price of the product.

In his own time, when the price of cement rose astronomically and the country complained, Goodluck Jonathan, in May 16, 2011, invited producers to Aso Rock and gave Dangote, BUA and others 30 days to crash cement price to N1,000. They succumbed.

While that drama played out, four cement manufacturers in February 2013 wrote to Jonathan to demand import licences, calling themselves “Cement New Entrants Stakeholders.” They each wanted to be granted papers by Jonathan to import 5 million metric tons of cement. According to them, granting import licences was a sure way of forcing down cement price to between N500 and N1,000 per bag and breaking the current monopoly of the “cartel” in the industry.

There is much to learn from this engagement. Monopolistic profiteering dictates cement pricing in Nigeria. The monopoly flaunts every excuse to justify the high price, which the proposed independent importers told Jonathan was “making Nigeria to be classified as the country with the highest price of cement in the world” with the ex-factory price then fixed between N1,400 and N1,800 per bag.

That is the way to go. Good history ought to repeat itself. Open the borders. Grant licences to import. Create competition. It will amount to a win-win for Nigerians because cement imports will create a new line of businesses as well as jobs through the value chain of importation, ports, clearing, re-bagging, warehousing, marketing, advertising, distribution and retailing. This the Housing Minister Dangiwa knows as a professional architect, a player in the building industry and a politician who wants to deliver pocket-friendly housing to the masses.

He had similarly maintained this humane stance when, as Managing Director of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria (FMBN, 2015–2022), he packed several human-faced, pro-people policies into his tenure. He processed N39.5 billion worth of refunds to 247,521 retired Federal housing contributors. Under him, FMBN made available NHF mortgage loans to 5,900 beneficiaries as well as home renovation loans to 77,500 people. He, also, led efforts to develop the Diaspora mortgage loan. This innovative scheme specifically aimed at assisting Nigerians living abroad to own homes without the weeping tales of getting duped by relatives or friends in Nigeria.

Minister Dangiwa knows that ONLY the cartels’ insatiable greed propels the price of cement sky-high. Exorcising this evil begins with taming the profiteers and making them sell cement to Nigerians at the N3,500 per bag that CEO of BUA Cement, Abdul Samad Rabiu, promised Tinubu at Aso Rock.

Oboagwina is an author, journalist and publisher, reachable via foboagwina@gmail.com

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Money Without Family Relationship: A Time Bomb!

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The Futility Of A Marital Chase
Dr Hope Nwawolo

Money Without Family Relationship: A Time Bomb!

By Hope Nwawolo

Recently, l came across a trending post of a 72-year-old pensioner, who was said to have worked all his life to raise his kids. The writer of the post claimed the man was abandoned by his children whom he trained in expensive schools, at home and abroad.  It was further disclosed that his 65-year-old wife, had relocated to live with her children abroad, on the excuse of taking care of their grandchildren. The writer went on to paint the gloomy picture of the man as a bachelor once again and battling with high blood pressure and other old age ailments. He cautioned men that women love their children more than their husbands, so they should plan for their future. He erroneously put the number of such women at 97%.

This piece is in response to the above biased claim which is also capable of causing friction in homes striving for unity and togetherness. He may just succeed to plant a negative seed of distrust and discord in the minds of fickle-minded men, who before reading the article were enjoying a blissful relationship with their wives. It may also be possible that the writer is a disgruntled person who did not succeed in marriage or relationship and believes the same must be for all men.

When we see people like the writer portrayed, we should ask a pertinent question. What was the man’s relationship with his wife and children when he was ‘struggling’ to fend for them? Unfortunately, some men fail to realize that there is so much more in family life than money. In as much as money ‘answereth’ all things, it cannot be exchanged for lasting family relationship. 

Some men literally shove their wives aside while making the money without realizing the children see the treatment of their mothers. When some of these children become independent and financially stable, they feel obligated to compensate their mothers for the loveless treatment received from their fathers. In other cases, some men do not value family time, no matter how short, and would not understand the emotional craving of the wives and children when they really need it. Often, it is these women, that stay in the  gap in their absence, making the children bond more with  them. And instead of appreciating such women for filling in their physical vacuum, some men rather get jealous of the bond and further drift away from the children, while blaming the wife. 

Today, wise men make out time to pray, discuss, and have family outings with their families. This is called relationship building, which cannot be broken by distance in the future. The children from these homes grow up with memories of fun and family laughter. The women from such homes, have strong relationship with their husbands and will not stay more than one month when they go to visit their children. You will hear them say to the children, “Please, l want to go back to my husband.”  Why is nobody talking about them?

There are also couples who travel together to visit their children from time to time. So what stops a man from also going to visit his children whom he struggled to train? Is it that they did not invite him, and why? Perhaps they have no relationship! 

The claim of 97% women who abandon their husbands for their children is not empirical, cannot be scientifically proven, and is unfair to women. It also has the tendency to put fears into innocent men who are building strong relationships with their wives and children. I pray such men do not abandon their effort after reading such a biased write-up…for their own good! Every marriage and family is unique and should have values and principles that will bind its members together today, tomorrow, and in the future. This should override the quest for money if it cannot be combined with building lasting relationships with every member of the family.

Nowadays, while many men believe their provision of money for the home is the answer to family issues, the women sacrifice key factors that cannot be monetized, and build lasting relationships with the children. These vital factors are their tears and worries, emotional support, and constant prayers, among many others. Observably too,  some women are also contributing financially to feeding and sometimes, schools fees, as well as other necessities of the families. Despite these, they  find time to ensure that the family bond is maintained as best as possible. Unfortunately, the ego rather than complex of some men will not allow them acknowledge or appreciate the effort of these women and which the children obviously witness as they grow into independence and financial stability.

Therefore, instead of blaming women for the unpalatable fruit of old age loneliness as a result of early years of family emotional neglect, men should attempt to juggle their quest for money with building relationships that will see them through the evening of their lives, with members of the families. 

 Nwawolo, PhD, writes via 

hopenwawolo@yahoo.com

 

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