Avoiding Bad Legislation

NIGERIAN editors, under the auspices of Nigerian Guild of Editors, NGE, have commended the withdrawal of the proposed legislation in the National Assembly against online publications considered injurious to members of the society. If allowed, the editors reasoned that “such legislation could have been mishandled to stifle the press, and shackle free expression vital to the growth of our democracy.”

Rising from their Standing Committee Meeting in Calabar, the Guild, in a communiqué signed by Femi Adesina, president, and Isaac Ighure, general secretary, cautioned Nigerian politicians to be careful with what they and “refrain from making incendiary remarks capable of over-heating an already volatile polity.” They also advised politicians to ensure that their utterances, letters and actions were in consonant with the national interest and development.

On the state of security, the editors noted that there had been some appreciable improvement in recent times, but urged the government to do more. “The Guild commends the security agencies for this positive development exemplified by the successful conduct of council election in Yobe State recently. It urges the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to take a cue from this and work towards the successful conduct of elections in the three states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe currently under emergency rule, in 2015,” the statement said.

The editors said although there was positive development in road and rail transport in the country, they urged the government “to double its efforts toward improving the state of roads nationwide especially federal roads in the South East and South-South.” The Guild thus, charged government to explore the potentials of water transport in some parts of the country to reduce the strain on the roads.

While lauding the federal government and Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, for the resolution of the six-month impasse, the Guild urged both parties to be faithful to the agreements reached to avoid a recurrence. The editors also appealed to the governments to strive to resolve every trade dispute before it generates into strike action.

Nigeria, Britain in Prisoners’ Exchange Pact

EXCHANGE of prisoners between Nigeria and Britain is now possible. The two countries signed an agreement on Thursday, January 9, on the exchange of prisoners between them. Under the agreement, high-profile prisoners like James Ibori, former governor of Delta State, and other Nigerians in the British prisons can now be transferred to Nigeria to complete their jail terms.

Mohammed Adoke, SAN, minister of justice and attorney-general of the Federation, signed on behalf of Nigeria while Jeremy Wright, British minister of justice, signed for his country at a ceremony in Abuja, on Thursday.

Ibori
Ibori

Prior to the signing, Wright, who visited Viola Onwuliri, supervising minister of foreign affairs, and Abba Moro, minister of interior, told journalists that under the agreement, the consent of a prisoner was not required before his repatriation could take place. “In relation to individual prisoners, there has to be a good deal of discussion between our two countries about individual prisoners and the agreement of both countries to be secured before individual transfers. The compulsory nature of this prisoner transfer agreement is that the prisoners’ themselves do not have to choose where they go or not but the respective countries do still have an opportunity to discuss whether a transfer should be made.’’ Perhaps, to encourage Nigerian prisoners to opt to serve their ail terms at home, the British minister said that the British government would give the Nigerian government £1 million, about N280 million, for a comprehensive reform of its prisons.

On his part, Moro promised to do everything within his powers to ensure that the agreement became operative before the end of the year. “I think that it is in the mutual interest of the two countries that the agreement reached should be implemented to the letter … This government, anchored on transformation, is desirous of ensuring that we do things very differently from the way we were doing them in the past which have not given us results,” Moro said. The minister assured the visiting British minister that even though Nigeria was grappling with prison congestion, it would not hamper the new agreement.

Currently, there are 521 Nigerians serving jail terms in the Britain and only one British national in Nigerian prison. According to officials, about 60 percent of Nigerians in the British jails qualify for the compulsory prison transfer agreement.

When the law becomes operational, a lot of Nigerians would like to see the likes of Ibori coming back to the country to continue his jail sentence. In April 2012, a British court sentenced Ibori to jail for 13 years for money laundering and associated crimes. Nkoyo, his wife, sister and mistress were also convicted of related crime.

2015 Election Will Be Free, Fair

ATTAHIRU Jega, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, wants Nigerians to be rest assured that the commission would conduct free and fair elections in 2015. Speaking while hosting John Groffen, the Netherlands Ambassador to Nigeria, in his office in Abuja, on Wednesday, January 8, Jega said that the ability of the commission to conduct free and fair polls should not be judged by the November 16, 2013, governorship election in Anambra State, which was marred by some irregularities.

Jega
Jega

Jega, who was responding to a concern expressed by Groffen on the political situation in the country, said there was nothing to worry about. “We are aware that friends of Nigeria are anxious as we move towards the general election and they are keen to know the challenges that we face ahead of the elections. We are aware that a stable nation will lead to improved economic growth. Our job is to use electoral process to ensure that elections are conducted with credibility and add to the political and economic stability of the country. As we move towards 2015, we are confident that it will be much better than 2011. Elections in Nigeria, considering its size and complexity, are very challenging but those challenges are not insurmountable. We have also learnt the hard way that sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, things happen which raise questions about our preparations,” he said. On the recent election in Anambra State, the INEC boss said the commission had learnt lessons from previous elections and now ready to make amends. “What happened in Anambra was unfortunate and it will not in any way represent what will happen in 2015. We learnt additional lessons from it and we are factoring it into our preparations for 2015,” Jega said.

The Dutch ambassador said his country had been monitoring political developments in Nigeria, especially the crisis in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and called for free and fair elections in 2015. “We are interested to see free and fair elections as they would help Nigeria become a more stable economy. We are here to discuss prospects of the coming year. The international community is willing to assist Nigeria where it wants help and INEC in particular where it wants help,” Groffen said.

Nwabueze’s Candid Advice

FOR a second time in less than one year, Ben Nwabueze, SAN and professor of law, has publicly advised President Goodluck Jonathan to jettison his plan to seek for a second term in office. Briefing newsmen on the activities of the Concerned Igbo Leaders of Thought which he leads, in Enugu on Wednesday, January 8, Nwabueze said history would judge the president right if he ensured the return of peace and unity to the country, but it would be difficult for him to be mobilise Nigerians for a National Conference and at the same time bid for a second term in office. “I’ve advised him to please, please try and be a hero and a statesman and forget 2015, that the day you announce to Nigerians that you are not going to stand for election in 2015, you will become an instant hero,” he said. The law icon said he would continue to stand by his advice notwithstanding what anybody may say. “I stand by my advice. I will continue to stand by my advice,” he said. The elder statesman had given the same advice to President Jonathan when he led a group of elders to Aso Rock in August, last year.

Nwabueze
Nwabueze

Nwabueze’s advice coincided with a letter written by Ndigbo of the South-east also on Wednesday, to the president asking him to reject the recommendations of the Presidential Advisory Committee, PAC, for the proposed national conference led by Femi Okunroumu. In the letter, the Ndigbo was said to have insisted that the type of conference the committee recommended was completely different from what Nigerians demanded.

On the proposed conference, Nwabueze said the Ndigbo leaders had already sent a letter to the president on their thoughts but refused to make the contents of the letter public. But he explained that the letter was signed by respected elders from all the states of the South-east zone on behalf of Ndigbo, adding that what they were canvassing for had already received the endorsement of the Yoruba, the people of the South-south zone, as well as the Ethnic Nationalities’ Movement of Nigeria, ENMN. He said the Ndigbo’s letter was premised on the fact that the PAC had deviated from the recommendations of The Patriots in their memorandum presented to the president during their visit of August 29, 2013, particularly the elucidation on the fundamental attributes of the type of conference being demanded. “We want a conference that will adopt a suitable new constitution embodying re-negotiated terms and conditions on which the diverse ethnic groups comprised in Nigeria should live together in peace, security, progress, prosperity, general wellbeing and unity as one country under a central government, the result of whose deliberations will be integrated into the existing 1999 constitution.

“The conference we are demanding is the conference for the adoption of a new constitution for Nigeria not the one whose deliberations will be integrated. The 1999 constitution is one only in a loose sense not in a strict sense of the original act of the people,” the elder statesman said.

— Jan. 20, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT