BY EZE ONYEKPERE
We are reaching new heights in making impunity an integral part of statecraft. Our social, economic, political and fiscal governance systems have entered the widening gyre that fails to respond to laws, policies, and laid down norms of civilised conduct. The law is now what the high ranking government official declares to be the law and any other thing written down in the books is nonsense upon stilts meant to deceive the uninitiated and the poor to give them the hope that things may change. But the more things appear to change, the more they remain the same and no lessons are learnt from history. A few examples will suffice.
The other day, it was the police breaking up the rally of the Academic Staff Union of Universities. A rally of professors and academics, even dressed in their academic robes, was dispersed by the police based on “orders from above”. Pray, this “above” that always gives these orders for the violation ofhuman rights cannot be from Heaven; it must surely be from the pit of hell. As if to say that was not enough, a workshop on the Freedom of Information and anti-corruption organised by Dino Melaye’s Anti-Corruption Network was dispersed by the same police. The constitutional fundamental rights of protection of freedom of association and the right to freedom of movement did not avail the organisers. What the constitution states does not matter, but what is stated by someone, who has lost the decency of a civilised mind, reigns as law. It was an illegal and unconstitutional order given by a likely ignorant and ill-trained officer who in saner climes has no business with the police uniform that prevailed. The imbecility of a police paid at taxpayers’ expense, stopping a workshop or peaceful rally in the face of constitutional provisions is an affront to development and civilisation and should be condemned by all right thinking persons. A police that can stop innocent persons going about their legitimate business but cannot lift a finger against an insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives is not my idea of a police for a nation that desires to be in the top bracket by 2020.
An elected governor goes about with a convoy that drives above speed limits. The convoy drives so recklessly, capriciously and in such a manner that cares less about the safety and lives of other road users. The first time, about a year and half ago, the Kogi State Governor, Idris Wada, was involved in an accident and broke his arm whilst the police officer attached to him died. No lessons were learnt by this man and his convoy who apparently are above the law. This time around, the same governor and his convoy have claimed the life of one of Nigeria’s foremost intellectuals, a man who has made more contributions to Nigeria’s march to development than the governor. The governor’s drivers have been reported to have refused to attend the training of the Federal Road Safety Corps and their driving is suggestive of persons operating under the influence of drugs and psychotropic substances. They killed Iyayi and in the usual Nigerian tradition, after we have made our noise, nothing will come out of it and the governor who has immunity from suit and legal process will continue with his impunity and the task of seeking out more people to kill, maim and destroy through the reckless driving of his convoy. The Federal Government that signs agreements it does not intend to honour is now rest assured that its insensitivity has taken a good victim and so it may now decide to end the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
Now, to the federal budget, the President will on Tuesday, November 19 present the 2014 Appropriation Bill to the National Assembly without the latter approving a clean copy of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework. But the law states that the MTEF should be the basis for the preparation of the budget. Now, we have a budget that has been prepared without an MTEF. And even the MTEF that was forwarded to the National Assembly was so watery that you begin to imagine whether Nigeria has no good technocrats that should sit down and craft a document that reflects our fiscal, monetary and other policies rolled into an action plan for the next three years. Of course, this is impunity writ large. Without elevating myself to the status of a prophet, let me predict that on Tuesday, the National Assembly will still get its allocation of N150bn or more, billions will be voted for refreshments and meals, local and international travel; sports facilities for high level public officers, new cars, computers and computer software, etc. Of course, the slush fund called service wide votes will also get a hefty chunk of the votes and for those of us who have no public titles at the back of our names, it will be for us to go to hell until the next fiscal year.
The disputation about the management of the Fuel Subsidy Funds is also another case of practice being different from what is written in the books. The figures are not adding up as the findings from the National Assembly probe indicate. Can Nigerians recall the beautiful pictures the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, painted would come out of the reduction of subsidy – the good roads, railways, new power projects, schools, hospitals and maternities? Where are these facilities, amenities and improvements? The issue is straight forward. How many litres of fuel have we imported into the country since the regime of the new price? Just multiply the sum by N32 which is the difference between the old and new price and subject the sum to sharing by the three tiers of government and it will be clear whether it is the executive or the legislature that is deceiving Nigerians. I pity Dr. Christopher Kolade who has come forward with his good name in his old age to this SURE-P scheme which appears to be heading nowhere. I hope he fully understands that even though he may not steal any money from the funds, Nigerians will hold him liable for presiding over any scheme that eventually turns out to be a scam. It is not too late for him to use the eyes of his golden age to look through the veil and take a stance. At the state level, what are the governors doing with their share of the subsidy funds? You may recall that state governments manage both their share and the share of local governments. How many new kilometers of roads and other infrastructure have they provided?
It is clear to me that Nigeria is stagnated because of the elevation of impunity to an art of statecraft coupled with the docility of the people who have refused to ask questions and challenge for the enforcement of their God given rights. As we move through the week leading up to the International Day against Impunity on November 23, 2013, it is imperative to send a clear message to the authorities to stop impunity now before it consumes the nation. Stop impunity Nigeria! Stop impunity now!!