PRESS RELEASE: Commemorating June 12 – DEMOCRACY DAY
A COMMUNIQUE ON THE STATE OF THE NIGERIAN NATION
JUSTICE DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE CENTRE, CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF LAGOS.
The Justice, Development and Peace Centre (JDPC) is a non-profit-making, non-governmental, non-partisan organization and the main social-development agency of the Catholic Church, whose mission is to promote sustainable and integral human and community development through a holistic empowerment approach, without any form of discrimination against any person or group.
As we commemorate June 12, we reflect on a few salient issues in our nation, and lend our voices and opinion on the State of the Nigerian Nation. The aim here is to further strengthen and deepen our democracy, urging all stakeholders that we cannot and should not take what we have and enjoy (our democracy) for granted.
The following issues and resolutions bordering on the State of the Nigerian Nation are hereby outlined:
- Fuel Hike
- Grazing Bill
- Religious/Education Bills in the Country
- Security Challenges
- Apparent Dearth of Formidable Opposition.
The following resolutions are herewith forwarded to the Press:
- FUEL HIKE: The following questions were raised: What templates informed the authorities to choose a particular benchmark? Is the present exercise, subsidy removal or deregulation or simple price hike? Is this the end? What cushioning effects are afoot aimed at mitigating the effects on the masses?
- The four refineries should be made to work since their prostrate state, for 17 years now, expose the Country as the only OPEC Country that is incapable of refining petroleum products, and whether the Country imports refined products or contract-refined her crude, sounds like the same poison in a different bottle because the bottom line is that some people, over the years, had been paid to turn-dead (instead of turn-around) the refineries.
- More painful is that by importing refined products, the Country inadvertently creates jobs for foreign citizens while her qualified citizens roam the streets. This affects her Economic Multiplier Effect negatively and places heavy burden on her already lean foreign exchange portfolio.
- The dwindling revenue base sequel to the fluctuation in oil prices and the activities of destabilizing forces in the Niger should be a spur to all stakeholders towards developing alternative sources of energy and alternative sources of revenue.
- Measures aimed at cushioning the effect of the quantum jump of PMS price, especially on the vulnerable members of the society should the announced and implemented faithfully.
- Government should enter into reasonable and meaningful dialogue with the agitators in the Niger Delta to stem the worrying trend of destroying our crude oil facilities. Very important is the fact that there must be meaningful and sincere infrastructural development in the Niger Delta to ameliorate the plight of the suffering masses.
- THE GRAZING BILL:
This should not have been an issue if the Country had, over the years, developed needed Federal Political Culture which could have compelled the federating units to “think federalism”, thereby removing suspicion, fissures, cleavages and conduce the system to pull centripetally.
- Option 1: Grazing is a private business and the herdsmen should cater for their businesses by either going into negotiation as individuals or as groups for the purpose of acquiring grazing land. Since the Land Use Act made the State Governors the custodian of all lands within their states, these groups should negotiate with the governors;
- Option 2: As is the practice in other climes, because we all need protein from meat for our survival; since in most part of the country indigenous grazing has been abandoned; and since Nigeria is blessed with unexplored land resources, the three tiers of Government should create grazing reserves where landmass for it exists following the economic philosophy of “Site and Sound”.
- Option 4: Since, from yore, other tribes engaged in grazing exercise and there is this call for ‘return to land’, there is no reason other nationals should not take advantage of governments’ largesse if approved.
- Option 3: Since some states are more endowed with land than others in our federal arrangement (and this is not peculiar to Nigeria federalism), the economic principle of “localization” should naturally apply.
- These actions will need deft political bargaining which is vintage all federal arrangements that bring together peoples and nations of different and disparate antecedents into a republic.
- In the short run, while the ‘hoofed invaders’ (apologies Prof Wole Soyinka) should be discouraged from carrying Gaddafi-type sophisticated weapons, the natives should concomitantly and reciprocally be discouraged from poising or stealing their cattle under whatever guise.
- The Legislature and the Executive, along with all other tiers and stakeholders should work assiduously to own the grazing bill and re-fashion it in such a way that nobody is hurt. It should not be a private members bill. It should be one of those bonding bills in a federal system that conduces to cooperation and concatenation.
- RELIGIOUS/EDUCATION BILLS IN THE COUNTRY
- Proper training and education should be given to all religious teachers. The curriculum of such education should border on tolerance, love, peaceful co-existence and oneness.
- We are totally in support of any bill in any part of the country that should curb noise pollution, blockage of public roads (for preaching, ceremonies and worship) and tele-evangelism where hate is preached and where spurious and curious miracles are claimed. The overarching intension of democracy is that all rights must be matched with concomitant responsibilities. However, we suggest that such a bill, before it is passed, should go through committee stage and of course, public hearing where stakeholders should be invited to air their views in non-rancorous, friendly atmosphere.
- It is the responsibility of the Immigration Department to profile visitors, especially those with religious coloration and keep necessary tab on their movements and activities. No serious country leaves her borders to all sorts of visitors without necessary profiling.
- The Religious Education bill: Although Education is on the Concurrent Legislative List of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), the same constitution, like most federal constitutions, insists that whenever the laws made by a lower tier conflicts with that of the Centre, to the extent of the inconsistence of such law, the federal law takes precedence. Based on this provision, we suggest that the issue of contentious educational curriculum should be a federal affair so that all states should fall in an Indian-line.
- FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION:
- To fight corruption, we should examine corrupting influences. Curative actions should move hand-in-glove with preventive actions. Although we are not unaware that a lax system where accountability and transparency are taken for granted; where people who occupy elective and appointive positions act like kleptomaniacs; and where sleaze is adored, eulogized, deified and glorified, efforts at curbing the privatization of the country’s common patrimony may not come easy.
- We associate ourselves with the present fight against corruption—a fight which we had for years past been calling for.
- We also call on the government to spread its dragnet to people who ran away from their former parties and took refuge in the ruling party in other to escape the anti-corruption dragnet. The government of the day must not only be heard fighting corruption but must be seen effectively doing so, without fear or favour of whose ox is gored.
- We also associate ourselves with the innovative introduction of Bank Verification Number (BVN) followed by the use of Pin Numbers and Passwords. Two outcomes of such policy-trust have helped the recovery and redirection of the system: reduction of ghost workers and pensioners, and waking up the banks from a very long reverie where profits are announced, unsecured loans privately granted; and the terrible banking system created (systems that thrive on LPO financing and round-tripping). We doubt whether Nigerian banks understand the import of engaging in venture capitalism as a spur to economic growth
- Same goes for the Single Treasury Account. This is expressly provided for in the 1999CFRN (Section 80(1)). That the past governments had obeyed this provision in breach is not the reason it should continue.
- We ask for the institutionalization of these policies so that they may outlive governments. As much as individual personalities go a long way in fighting corruption or putting the fear factor in the minds of persons, we appeal that stronger institutions should be built to fight corruption.
- SECURITY AND CHALLENGES WITH FORMIDABLE OPPOSITIONS:
- There should be reduction in the use of private security guards by individual persons so that we could have more hands to help with the security of the Nation and that could reduce the kidnap rate which has been in an alarming rate nowadays.
- There should be strict penalty for any anybody caught in the act of kidnap and such must be enforceable. For instance, giving a life sentence without an option of fine for anybody caught in the act.
- There should be free functional helplines and prompt attendance by law enforcement agencies to any criminal matters reported to them.
- The ratio of security personnel and the issues to be resolved are far apart so we have little hands to deal with more pressing security needs. There would be need for security education.
- There should be use of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) in strategic areas of the country starting with urban areas.
- More than any time in our political history, the need for formidable opposition has become urgent. The PDP or an amalgam of parties should study the process that led to the success story of the APC and move very quickly to provide a ‘shadow government’. No democracy is worth its salt without focused opposition. We fear that if the present ruling party is left unchecked, it will soon grow uncheckable and this is against the ‘principle of alternation’ which we had been speaking against.
We remind all our citizens that the sad incidence of June 12, 1993 must always remind all that democracy must be protected because, like the American elite-thinkers averred many years ago, “it (democracy) is the worse form of government but for all others”.
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!!!
REV. FR. RAYMOND ANOLIEFO