Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Opinion: The Gratuitous Controversy On The Requirement For The President’s Assent For The Amended Constitution Will Derail The Forthcoming 2011 Elections

By Kayode Ajulo, Esq.

As the gratuitous controversy over whether the just amended Constitution by the National Assembly requires President Goodluck Jonathan‘s assent or not, I cannot help but admit that I do not share the views of some of our learned eminent Senior Advocates on the need for the President’s assent for the amendments to be effectual.

This erroneous argument has become so intense that a respected Senior Advocate of Nigeria and others have vowed to take the Federal Government of Nigeria to Court on the need that the President must assent the amended sections of the Constitution before the amendments become valid.

This position, with due respect, is an absolute misconception of law and is unqualified faulty as there are 23 grounds as distilled by my humble self after due consideration of our extant constitution, enabling statutes, judicial authorities, foreign and local jurisprudence.

Some of these grounds under the sub-heads inter alia are:
1. The distinction of the Constitution and an Act of the Parliament.

2. The nature, scope and supremacy of the Constitution over and above all other organs and agencies of the Government of the Federation.

3. The Proviso in the Acts Authentication Act which granted Constitutional matters an exception See-Section 2 (4) of the Act;

4. The clear distinctions of the scope and meaning of the Acts of the Parliament and the Resolution of the Parliament;

5 The procedures of authentication of Constitutional amendments and enactments and amendments of ordinary laws of the Parliament;

6. The principle and practice of Federalism;

7. The principle of interpretation of the provisions of the Constitution;

8. The need and the effect of the assent of the required two-third of the State Houses of Assembly, etc

The erroneous argument canvassed for the need of the President’s assent becomes more repelling and laughable upon the consideration that if the President’s assent to the amendments as passed by the National Assembly is so required, it therefore behoves and nothing stops at least all the Governors the consenting State Houses of Assembly assenting to the resolution of their individual State!

What a great confusion and anarchy in the making!

It is therefore important to state that those in unchartered voyage of doing the undoable will not only introduce bewilderment into the forthcoming general elections in other to stall same but also to cause great waste of human and capital resources over a sheer misconceived interpretation of the clear provision of Section 9 (2) of the Constitution which states that:
“An Act of the National Assembly for the alteration of this Constitution, not being an Act to which section 8 of this Constitution applies, shall not be passed in either House of the National Assembly unless the proposal is supported by the votes of not less than two-thirds majority of all the members of that House and approved by resolution of the Houses of Assembly of not less than two-thirds of all the states.”

The Supreme Court of Nigeria, when it comes to the interpretation of the provisions of our Constitution, has severally held: “required a literary interpretation to avoid any ambiguities”

As such, the assent that is required in the amendments of our Constitution is the approval by vote of two-thirds of the State Houses of Assembly.

The erroneous argument should abate as it is seemingly tending towards derailing the forthcoming general election, constitutionally slated for January 2011.

Thank you.

(Kayode Ajulo,  is a lawyer & Chairman Egalitarian Mission Africa (EMA) )

Article: Sani Abacha; The Lesson We All Fail To Learn

Rufus Kayode Oteniya

On 14 September 2001, as my wife and I with our little boy were driving through Bishops Avenue , Hampstead, London , Nkiru, our friend who lived in the neighbourhood and who had come to pick us at the Underground station asked if we would like to see late General Sani Abacha’s house on the avenue. Yes! I said, even though I wasn’t really sure my wife was keen about it.

Bishops Avenue is one of UK ’s most opulent street. It is also known as Billionaires' Row because many well known international wealthy men have a penchant to have a house there as the ultimate status symbol. It is more easily compared to a slimmed-down version of America’s Bellevue Avenue, in Newport, Rhode Island. Some of the houses there are owned by the Saudi royal family, whilst other notable owners of houses on the street include the Sultan of Brunei.

Mamma mia! I shouted at the sight of Abacha’s massive mansion in the expansive and expensive compound. While the avenue was not famous for small houses, Abacha’s house was one of the grandest on the road where the smallest house is known to cost over £5m. Babangida also had a house there.

I was reliably told Sani bought the house while he was the president of Nigeria and records showed he never travelled to UK nor any Western country throughout his presidency which indicates that the best he could have seen of the house was just the picture or the video of it. He never had the privileged that I had to drive in front of the stately gate and fence of the stately house.

I had the opportunity to see the house live but he didn’t, I could behold the beauty and the magnificence which he couldn’t. Then I wondered what a waste of resources? Why did he build a house he never needed and would never enter nor live in? Why steal to acquire earthly possession all over the place as if here is the final destination? Why? Why? Why?

How many of such houses did he acquire? Did he own other mansions in Kensington Palace Gardens in London (world’s most expensive neighbourhood) or Jupiter Island in Florida or Belle Haven in Greenwich, or Victoria Peak in Hong Kong or Seventh Arrondissement in Paris? Who knows?

The old Latin proverbs say a wise man learns by the mistakes of others, a fool by his own. Going by the account of this proverb, a wise man will never wait to make a mistake that someone else has already made before he learns his lessons. But often times, we see people who fail to learn even from their own mistakes.

Naturally, one would have expected Nigerians especially the political class and the business leaders to learn a lot of lessons from the rise and unceremonious fall of the late Abacha since most of us (adults) were living witnesses of the regime of terror of the notorious and kleptomaniac dictator.

With up to $5 billion in stolen funds, Abacha made Transparency International’s top five looters - that is, he was considered one of the world’s most corrupt leaders in recent history. Sani was the military dictator of Nigeria from 17 November 1993 to 8 June 1998. His reign of insatiable greed, wanton wickedness and reckless power intoxication was the darkest point in the history of our nation since the end of the civil war and was to be a great lesson for everyone who has chosen to be wise. His abrupt end showed that power is only transient.

Sani, like all other military heads of State before and after him was a defacto president who had all the power to do great thing but failed. He eschewed greatness. He had the same absolute power as some of the dictators in South east Asia who used theirs to turn their countries to economic giants that are now known as Asian Tigers. Needless to write here that the economic miracles of the last 35 years in Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore were mostly championed by leaders with authoritarian inclinations. Sani was rather brutal and repressive with the power he had.

Sani would go to any length to crush his perceived enemy as if the power of life and death belonged to him. As a notorious coupist, he was suspicious of everyone; young and old, poor and rich; high and lowly; national icon and local champion. He was never tired to unleash his ‘Roger’ team on anyone or order Al-Mustapha to give ‘VIP treatment’ to people.

Sani was stealing our oil money 24/7 as if the oil wells were going to dry up the next day. When General Abdulsalami Abubakar was appointed head of state upon Sani’s death, Abubakar's government delivered a clear message to the Abacha clan that Sani had looted huge sums, and they had to be restored. Members of the Abacha family and some of their accomplice 'voluntarily' returned approximately $1 billion to the Federal Government of Nigeria during his ‘interim’ tenure.

Obasanjo's government also implicated the deceased general and his family in wholesale looting of Nigeria 's coffers. The extent of his venality seemed to have surpassed even that of his more notorious military predecessor whom many believed institutionalised corruption in our system and who still need to clear himself of the allegation of swindling the Nations’ oil windfall during the first Gulf war.

In 2002, $1 billion was returned to Nigeria as part of an out-of-court settlement with the Abacha’s family. In 2005, Swiss government returned $505 million. Also, the United Kingdom , Liechtenstein , Luxembourg and other entities returned an additional $700 million.

Abacha’s son, Abba Abacha was on 18 June 2010 convicted by a Geneva court and sentenced to a two-year suspended sentence and made to forfeit $400 million in ill-gotten wealth. What a people? What a family? Like father like son.

Sani descended on our beloved nation as someone who had come only to ‘steal, kill and destroy’ until the day of the Lord when on 8 June 1998, God heard the cries of His people and came to their rescue. God did what we least imagined. His ways are higher than ours. His thoughts are beyond our comprehension. He answers prayers!

As the sayings go that ‘pride goes before a fall’ and that ‘whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad.’ So it came to pass on that day of the Lord, on that fateful day Sani looked at his Indian girls and boasted. “Chei! girls, if you cooperate with me, I’ll give you anything you want. If you want houses here in Abuja , I’ll tell Jerry to give you, in fact if you want mansion in Lagos , I’ll call Buba to arrange houses in Ikoyi or VI. Wallahi, I will tell Gwarzo to arrange cash for you in dollars.”

After this, he looked through the window, he saw the beauty of Aso rock villa and said to himself “I have power to do anything. I have money in Switzerland , Luxembourg , Jersey , Liechtenstein , Belgium and the UK , I have houses everywhere and what else do I want. I am sure to be the president for another 8 years, all my enemies are scattered everywhere in exile and the ones here are in prisons even that Oladipo, by this time next week, I go send am go meet Saro Wiwa to teach others a tough lesson.”

Then he said to himself, “my soul enjoy your girls, take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”

After this, he heard a Voice called saying ‘Sani! You fool! I made you president over my people even though you are among the least qualified. I saved you when Olusegun pencilled your name down for dismissal, yet you fail to honour Me. When Ibrahim purged all the senior officers after June 12, I preserved you yet you do not regard Me. Instead of leading My people to the promised land, you oppress them, you chastise them, you steal their oil money, treat their elders with disdain and kill their advocates. You incarcerate My people and boast of your might. Today your soul will be required of you”

After this he ate the ‘spiced apple’ and his soul was taken away from him to the pleasure of his countrymen. “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” So what shall it profit a man who gains the whole world…….

What a relieve for a nation! The demise of the despised ruler from Kano was celebrated with an ecstasy such that is only seen with winning a FIFA world cup. Kano is also the hometown of late General Murtala Mohammed, another military dictator whom the nation never stopped mourning after his assassination on 3 February 1976. What a contrast!

12 years on, nothing seems to have changed. People in positions of authority still steal left, right and centre forgetting that we all came here with nothing and will certainly leave with nothing. Must they die before it dawns on them? If Abacha couldn’t take anything with him, no one can. Why must people choose to be the richest men and women in the grave at the expense of their souls.

Politicians and civil servants seem not to fathom the difference between private and public funds. Its scandal here and there involving huge sums of money without any regards for law and integrity. Parliamentarians award themselves exaggerated remunerations that beat any logical reasons for doing very close to nothing. Company executives doctor financial reports thereby eroding the values of shareholders’ investments and bank directors, just like Abacha, unrestrictedly dip their hands in the vaults of the banks to buy houses all across the globe with the same passion a philatelic collectors collect stamps. Same story everywhere with most people in authority.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 says “whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.” This includes managing the resources at one’s disposal. For everyone shall give accounts of his/her stewardship. Also, Hebrews 9:27 says ‘And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.’ Death is an inevitable end that we must factor into everything we do.

Another hallmark of Abacha’s era was power intoxication. Now that we are in a democratic dispensation, it should have been impossible to overtly misuse power yet it is still a common thing. People in authority still use power to forcefully influence and oppress others without any regard for the rule of law. Impunity is the order of the day. There is a need to remember always that power is temporary. Major Hamza Al Mustapha, the detained Chief Security Officer (CSO) to late Head of State was an all-powerful aid who would never economise his authority. Where is he today? Who could have predicted that he would be help up in the prison for over a decade for his offences under Abacha. The trial is still ongoing but he has spent over 11 years in incarceration. This is no triviality!

A good leader leaves behind a good structure for the future generation and that was exactly what Abacha couldn’t do. Instead, he wanted and he actually left behind stolen billions for his children and children’s children. Naturally, someday, stolen funds will one way or the other disappear and in his case, it has brought disrepute to his family and turned one of his children to an international convict.

Tony Blair and Bill Clinton would never be bothered if they did not leave so much money for their children and their children’s children because they knew they had helped build structures that would ensure generations after them live in sane and prosperous nations with abounding opportunities.

A special lesson President Goodluck Jonathan needs to learn is to beware of political jobbers who like to surround anyone in power. The shamelessly self-seeking opportunists; the same people who were opposed to his ascendancy to become the acting president just a few months ago are now all over the place blowing vuvuzela that only Jonathan can do it in 2011. Wherever the wind of power blows, they are there. Little wonder they told Abacha that he alone could rule Nigeria ; their parties even adopted him as their torchbearer. Jonathan should listen to his heart.

The final lesson for all is that on the day of the Lord, no mansion in any avenue or hilltop or any other place on earth can save, no amount of money anywhere can do either. “Vanity upon vanity, all is vanity.”

Abacha came he saw but he failed to conquer. He made enough mistakes for everyone to learn from. Anyone who fails to do so must be ignoring the path of wisdom.

News Release: Dr. Sid And D'Prince support Hospitals for Humanity

Hospitals for Humanity (HFH), a nonprofit organization established to provide access to quality and affordable health care for people who are in dire need, especially those who live in developing and third-world countries, will be hosting a fund raising dinner at the Eko Hotels & Suites, Lagos, Nigeria on Sunday, August 8, 2010 and officially launching HFH Africa.

Amongst other projects, HFH is currently holding, in conjunction with the Lagos State Ministry of Health, the first of what we hope will be numerous Medical Mission Initiatives (MMI) to the water community of Makoko near Yaba / Ebutte Metta, Lagos running from August 1-8, 2010.

We are passionate about providing qualitative health care for people who would otherwise not be able to have access, said its founder, Segun Ajayi. And I am working with friends and colleagues to make sure that
this is a thing of the past for as many people as we can reach".
Although this is the first medical mission to Makoko, it is not the first for HFH. In December 2008, HFH organized a week-long MMI to a rural community in Kogi State (Isanlu village), working nearly around the clock and providing free healthcare services to nearly 10,000 grateful residents with the $150,000 worth of medical supplies donated by sponsors such as St. Mary's Hospital, Riverside Medical Center and AmeriCares“ all in the United States of America. The HFH medical staff that flew to Nigeria
from the USA consisted of Surgical Ophthalmologists, Pediatricians, Internists, Geriatricians, Nurses, Pharmacists and Medical Students.

Again in December of 2009, HFH was able to return to Isanlu village and provided healthcare services again to nearly 10,000 residents. The medical supplies and medications were graciously donated by local, regional,
national and international organizations. The HFH Medical staff volunteers worked tirelessly to ensure that every patient received quality patient care and no one was left untreated by the end of the week long mission.

Added to this are the organisation's stellar international achievements. After the January 12th 2010 catastrophic earthquake that hit the capital city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, HFH immediately mobilized volunteer medical teams to provide emergency medical services to the earthquake victims. A
59-member volunteer team consisting of: Orthopedic surgeons, Family Medicine, OB-GYN, ER, Trauma, and Internal Medicine Physicians, Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants, Medical Students was able to respond to the Haitian crisis in which HFH Staff secured $30,000.00 worth of donations for a private jet to fly into Haiti. Since then, HFH has committed to provide free healthcare to the Haitian people on a monthly basis for a minimum of one year with the hope of securing funding to build a state of the art Rehabilitation Center for the people affected by the earthquake.

In order for HFH to continue to provide free services to the global healthcare community we, out of necessity, must ask individuals, corporations, and organizations to assist us in rendering the much needed
healthcare by providing your tax-deductible donations for many necessary expenses said Deji Williams, one of the members of the advisory board, which also has Biola Alabi (MD, Mnet). You can request for your
donations to be utilized for these medical missions in specific ways such as procuring medicine, medical supplies and equipment, or educational materials for the local beneficiaries. Our activities have been made
possible through the generosity of our historical donors as well as new donors such as Richards Medical, Lake County Health Department and Gwinnet Medical Center and in Nigeria, we are especially proud to be partnering with Eko Hotels and Suites and the Nigerian Leadership Initiative (NLI) who have helped to make this fundraising dinner possible."

Performing at the fundraising dinner are two of Mo'Hits stars D’Prince and Dr. Sid, to show their support for the cause. There will also be an art action with the works of Eugene Agee as well as an auction of clothes from Phunk Afrique and jewelry from Circa and Cornucopia, 2 indigenous jewelry makers. Tickets for the dinner are N20,000.00 per person and additional donations are also very welcome.

Many hospitals and clinics in economically distressed countries operate without basic medical supplies, prescription drugs, or laboratory equipment, Ajayi says. Hospitals for Humanity, in partnership with
volunteer medical professionals and in-country investors, offers sustainable and relevant solutions focused on improving access to quality health care in the developing world. To this end, Hospitals for Humanity
is committed to long-term community development; including helping to build state-of-the-art medical facilities and upgrading existing hospitals and clinics to adequately meet the needs of under-served people facing the challenges of poor health and disease. We are extremely excited to formally launch HFH Africa and look forward to the achievement of our goals through the support of well-meaning Nigerians.

More information on the work HFH is doing is available on http://www.hospitalsforhumanity.org/.

Segun Ajayi