South-East Stirs Up Polity •Celebrates Biafra •Protests marginalisation

By cattnews on June 5, 2017

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Kanu
Kanu

More than any other issue plaguing the country, at this point in time, the agitation in the country’s South-East suddenly took a dangerous whirl, last week.

The question of the status of the Igbo Nation within the Nigeria Polity, became the burning issue.

It would not have been had the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), let the sleeping dog lie. 

As it did on many other diverse issues when it came into power, the party stoked the embers of discord when it arrested and arraigned, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mr. Nnamdi Kanu for reasons one would consider - misdemeanour. 

The actual charges included conspiracy and treasonable felony by allegedly conspiring among themselves to broadcast on Radio Biafra agitation for the secession of Republic of Biafra from Nigeria; improper importation of goods and illegal possession of firearms and publication of defamatory matter by allegedly referring to the then President-elect, Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and now President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as “a paedophile, a terrorist,  an idiot, and an embodiment of evil” in a broadcast on Radio Biafra on April 28, 2015.

As if that was not enough, after 18 months in detention, so much agitation for his release and a windy lawsuit that was apparently going nowhere, the federal government chose to grant him bail, ridiculously, at the wrong time – too close to the 50th anniversary of the Biafra War.

Moreover, Kanu was the only one granted bail, among the four defendants standing trial, the other accused persons charged along with Kanu were the National Coordinator of IPOB, Mr. Chidiebere Onwudiwe; an IPOB member, Benjamin Madubugwu, and a former Field Maintenance Engineer seconded to the MTN, David Nwawuisi.

After the judge struck out six out of the 11 counts preferred against the defendants on March 1, 2017, the defendants were left with five charges.

By the turn of the remembrance of the Biafra War, emotions, hitherto, building up had peaked and when it did spilled, it resulted in the successful sit-at-home protest. 

The May 30 sit-at-home order to Ndigbo and Biafrans by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), to mark the 50th anniversary of the declaration of the defunct republic witnessed the people complying with the directive, thus resulting in a shut-down of the South-East geo-political zone and parts of the South-South like Asaba and Port Harcourt. 

And as if in retaliation, the House of Representatives, on Thursday, rejected a bill seeking to establish a South-East Development Commission.

The bill failed at the session, which was presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, after it had been debated.

A similar bill to establish the North-East Development Commission had since been passed by the National Assembly, awaiting the assent of President Muhammadu Buhari.

However, South-East lawmakers immediately protested the decision on the grounds that the House could have, at least, allowed the bill to pass the second reading for more views to be collated from Nigerians at a public hearing.

Tension had built up in the House since Wednesday when the bill was billed to be moved for second reading.

However, it was stepped down on Wednesday because the lead sponsor and Deputy Minority Leader of the House, Mr. Chukwuka Onyeama, was unavailable in the chambers.

He returned soon after the bill was stood down.

The bill was re-listed for Thursday, but again, Onyeama was unavailable just as the bill was to be taken and it had to be stood down a second time in line with the rules of proceedings.

But South-East lawmakers began a loud protest, insisting that the bill must be taken.

In the midst of the rowdiness, Onyeama reappeared in the chambers, just like he did on Wednesday after the bill had been stood down.

Dogara had to bend backwards to approve a motion for the rescission of the earlier ruling stepping down the bill.

The speaker said, “Let me clarify that it was not as if the bill was stopped. The sponsor of the bill was not around and we followed the rules to step it down.

“Now that he is here, we will take it. Nobody will shut out anybody because we don’t have the right to do that.”

Dogara calmed frayed nerves and opened debate on the bill.

Onyeama, while leading the debate, said the South-East geopolitical zone needed the commission to develop collapsed infrastructure and the damage suffered by the zone as a result of the Nigerian Civil War.

“The war led to massive destruction of critical infrastructure in the region, including roads, houses and environmental degradation,” he said.

Onyeama added that the region was worst-hit by erosion and other ecological problems.

The lawmaker stated that the commission would be funded from seven sources.

The first is through “15 per cent” of the total monthly statutory allocations due to member states of the commission from the Federation Account.

The second source, he explained, would be from “three per cent” of the total budget of any oil-producing company operating onshore and offshore in the South-East states, including gas processing companies.

The third source is from “three per cent” of the total annual budget of any solid mineral extracting or mining company operating in the South-East.

The fourth source will come through “50 per cent” of money due to member states of the commission from the Ecological Fund.

Five to seven of the funding sources are ”Such monies as may, from time to time, be granted or lent to or be deposited with the commission by the Federal Government or a state government, any other body or institution, whether local or foreign.

“All monies raised for the purpose of the commission by way of gifts, loans, grants-in-aid, testamentary disposition or otherwise.

“Proceeds from all other assets that may, from time to time, accrue to the commission.”

All South-East members, who spoke, including Mr. Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, Mr. Henry Nwawuba and Mr. Toby Okechukwu, said they gave “100 per cent” backing to the bill.

For instance, Nkem-Abonta argued that he believed the bill was the solution to the renewed agitation for the Republic of Biafra.

“We have to stop the crisis that is building up in the South-East before it turns into something else,” he said.

Members from the South-South, led by the Minority Leader, Mr. Leo Ogor, also supported the bill.

“Every zone deserves a commission because this country needs to be restructured. We cannot continue this way,” Ogor told the House.

Mr. Kehinde Agboola, who spoke for the South-West, said, “History will not forgive us if today we fail to support this bill.”

However, trouble started when all the lawmakers from the North spoke against the bill.

Members from North-West, North-East and North-Central, all opposed the bill.

For example, Mr. Mohammed Sani-Abdu opposed the bill on the grounds that it was a move to “divide Nigeria in piecemeal.”

He observed that coming soon after the government was trying to address the devastation caused by Boko Haram in the North-East, the timing of the bill was wrong.

Sani-Abdu recalled that after the civil war ended in 1970, government made concerted efforts to rebuild the South-East and re-integrate the people into the rest of Nigeria.

He argued that funding of the commission, using “three per cent” of the annual budget of oil companies operating in the South-East was indirect funding by the Federal Government.

Another member from the North, Mr. Karimi Sunday, said some South-East states were already benefiting from the funding of the Niger Delta Development Commission by the oil companies.

“Are we going to ask the same oil companies to fund the South-East Development Commission again?

“Are we saying that every zone should come up with its own development commission?” he asked.

When Dogara put the bill to a voice vote, he ruled in favour of those rejecting the commission. For clarity purpose, he called the votes twice before bringing down his gavel.

But South-East lawmakers began another round of protests as Dogara handed over proceedings to the Deputy Speaker, Mr. Yussuff Lasun, and left the chambers.

Lasun quickly adjourned the House as the rowdiness worsened.

Outside the chambers, South-East lawmakers continued the protest.

Onyeama threatened that he would resign his position as a leader of the House.

“I am a leader in this House; you can’t just kill my bill like that. I will resign,” he fumed.

Another member from Abia State, Mrs. Nkiruka Onyejeocha, said her colleagues were not happy that the bill was rejected.

“At least, they could have passed it for second reading.

“At the committee stage, more work could have been done on it to remove the grey areas,” she said.

One member from Rivers State, Boma Goodhead, joined in the protest, saying the North was not fair to the South-East.

“They are using our oil money to address the issue of Boko Haram. Now, they are against this bill. It is not fair,” she shouted and walked away angrily.


Addressing the issue of South-East agitation, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo in his speech: ‘Greater together than apart’, sorely missed the point.

Quoting late Professor Chinua Achebe, Osinbajo said, “Chinua Achebe repeatedly reminded us of the Igbo saying that a man who cannot tell where the rain began to beat him cannot know where he dried his body.”

The question is: where did the rain begin to beat Nigeria as a country?

The answer is simple- Corruption.

The answer is not in the creation of commissions be it: Niger Delta Development Commission, North-East Development Commission, South-East Development Commission, and even the Niger Delta Ministry. All of these became necessary when the country’s leaders at all the three tiers of government kept diverting quoted public funds to private pockets.

An articulate Federal Ministry of Works, and conscientious state governors and local government chairmen can meet all the needs of these communities in terms of infrastructural development, with the amount of recourses at the country’s disposal.

Likewise is corruption in matters regarding political posts at the federal level.

 

Source cattnews

Posted 05/06/2017 12:14:59 AM

 

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