The Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) just assented to as an Act of Parliament by President Muhammadu Buhari is a mere ruse, a monstrosity, an artifice and device carefully crafted, incubated and delivered to actually do irretrievable violence to Nigeria’s progress and juris corpus. The Act constitutes a direct assault on age-long cherished principles of federalism and the doctrine of separation of powers, most ably propounded in 1748 by Baron de Montesquieu, a great French philosopher.
The Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) seeks to frontally attack the provisions of Section 162 of the 1999 Constitution, which states that all revenues accruing to the federation shall be paid into a Federation Account from which sharing shall be made among the three tiers of government – the federal government, the 36 states and the 774 local government areas of Nigeria. No expenditure can be made by the Federal Government outside the provisions of Section 162 nor can any monies be expended without going through an Appropriation Bill through submission of budgetary proposals. See sections 80-84 of the Constitution. To the extent that the Act seeks to redesign the provisions of the Constitution (the fons et origo, grundnorm, Oba, Eze and Emir of all our laws), to that extent is the Act unconstitutional. It must, therefore, be struck down with the constitutional sledgehammer of Section 1(3) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria.
In a sane clime, Nigeria’s only surviving cash cow, the NNPC, ought to be totally unbundled to make it more viable, productive, transparent and accountable to the Nigerian people. But, alas, most curiously, the Act has further strengthened NNPC’s hand of non-accountability and non-responsibility. How can the Federal Government alone have shares in the only viable milk industry of Nigeria, to the total exclusion of the other tiers of government, major stakeholders, oil-bearing communities and the long-suffering people of the Niger Delta? How can an Act of Parliament, rather than assuage and ameliorate the sufferings of a beleaguered people, further compound them by reaffirming the people’s perilous status as slavish hewers of wood, drawers of water, masseurs of ego and sideline onlookers in the exploitation and use of their God-given wealth through their natural resources? The Act is nothing but a mere totalitarian and draconian piece of legislation designed to rob Peter to pay Paul.
The Act is a deliberate design by state captors to further their egoist and bacchanalian self-interests. It was never designed to reform an institution such as the NNPC nor passed to advance the principles of federalism or doctrine of separation of powers. It is most egregious, expropriatory and unfair to states, local government Areas and the suffering masses of the oil- bearing communities of the Niger Delta area of Nigeria. The panacea? Simple. The 36 states’ Attorneys-General should IMMEDIATELY approach the Supreme Court and challenge this latest Federal Government impunity and the outrageous acts of executive lawlessness and legislative rascality we are beholding, by invoking the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction under Section 233(1) of the 1999 Constitution. That is the way to go. Allowing the Act to stay will further cement the present misguided unitary system of government that Nigeria is currently operating, under our thinly garnished disguise of a pseudo-federalism.
How Nigerians can stop President Buhari from carrying out anti-people polices
President Buhari’s insistence on enforcing non-existent open-grazing laws and the construction of a rail line directly from Nigeria to Niger Republic, in spite of massive opposition by Nigerians, since critical rail lines/road networks have not been carried out in Nigeria, continue to draw public ruckus from Nigerians. But does he have untrammelled powers to always go along such lines? The answer is a capital NO.
Buhari does not have any absolute right to take unpopular decisions that he solely desires, such as those described above, even where they are inimical to the interests of the public, simply because he is President. Buhari is a democratically elected President of Nigeria, not a military dictator and not a tyrannical usurper who seized the reins of power through the brute force of the gun and bayonet as he once did on December 31, 1983, when he overthrew the democratically elected government of Alhaji Aliyu Shehu Shagari.
There are checks and balances entrenched in the Nigerian Constitution to check absolutism, dictatorship and authoritarianism. Sections 4, 5 and 6 of the 1999 Constitution provide checks and balances. This is what you call the doctrine of separation of powers, a doctrine that was most ably propounded by the great French philosopher, Baron de Montesquieu, in 1748. The National Assembly is supposed to check the President bumper-to-bumper, using sections 4, 88 and 89 of the Constitution. These sections give the NASS powers of oversight and powers to make laws for the peace, order and good government of Nigeria.
Unfortunately, we have in place today, the 9th NASS, especially the “take-a-bow Red Chamber Senate, which is unarguably the worst in the history of the legislature in Nigeria since the time of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Dr. Nwafor Orizu of the First Republic. The Senate has deliberately refused to check a rampaging President and his anti-people policies, all because of political exigencies, protection of personal interests and the place of origin of NASS head, Senator Ahmed Lawan, which is the same North as President Buhari. We, therefore, see in place crass nepotism, sectionalism and tribalism in its operation and modus operandi. The NASS does not consider the larger interests of the Nigerian people.
The third arm of government, the judiciary, though bloodied and harassed, has tried valiantly to hold its ground under a most inclement environment. However, it cannot by itself initiate or instigate suits or cases. It waits for litigants to come forward with their grievances.
This is where the civil society which ought to champion the causes of the masses, has failed woefully and miserably. In the 1980s, as youth, some of us joined legendary Chief Gani Fawehinmi to fight serial military dictatorships. I co-founded the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), the first rights league in Nigeria, on October 15, 1987. Where are the youth today? They have refused to come out smoking because the state itself has been most unfair to them, failing them at every turn, and at most critical times of their growth and development.
Dire situations such as we now find ourselves in under Buhari ought to ignite the involvement of critical associations, organisations and unions, such as the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC), the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), etc. These groups have collectively failed the Nigerian people. The labour is much but the labourers are quite few. Most of the NGOs you see mushrooming around today are bread-and-butter groups, solely formed by their sponsors primarily to make money and not to defend the interest of the people. Like Learned Hand once put it, the only price we have to pay for our liberty is eternal vigilance. We must stand up to this despotic and fascist government before it irretrievably destroys what remains of a beleaguered and fundamentally structured contraption called Nigeria.
Channels TV’s travails
Channels Television is said to be undergoing tribulations in the hands of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC). Its offence? For merely granting its television platform for Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State to air his views on the dire state of insecurity in Nigeria that subjects his Benue citizens to unending onslaught by herdsmen, bandits and Boko Haram. He is said to have spoken unkindly to their new deity, untouchable President Buhari. Nothing more. The Channels station and other television stations should resist this new onslaught against the media and our decent nation into a state of anarchy and dictatorial absolutism and fascism. Let us not allow Buhari and his cronies, fawners and bootlickers re-enact Mussolini, Hitler, Idi Amin, Stalin and other historical dictators and renegades of yore.
Sounds and bites
There are two sides to every coin. Life itself contains not only the good, but also the bad and the ugly. Let us now explore these.
“When you are at the top, be careful of the monster called PRIDE. Pride will make you look down on the people who haven’t attained your level of success.
When you are at the bottom, be careful of the monster called BITTERNESS. Bitterness will make you jealous and think that other people are the reason you haven’t made it.
When you are on the way to the top, be careful of the monster called GREED. Greed will make you impatient and make you steal or seek shortcuts.
When you are on your way down, be careful of the monster called DESPAIR. Despair will make you think it’s all over yet there is still hope.”
– Nelson Mandela (1918- 2013)
“There was a wedding in Nigeria a few weekends ago that put dollars and pounds to shame? Nobody said…pim!
But when a man buried his mother, in a celebration of life, the world went gaga!!! Explain!” – Anonymous
Thought for the week
“Living in lawlessness gives you lawlessness.” (Vikram Bhatt)
“Repression and intimidation are not – and never should be – the acceptable companions of reform.”
“I have seen how leaders rule by intimidation. Leaders who demonize and dehumanize entire groups of people often do so because they have nothing else to offer. And I have seen how places that stifle the voices and dismiss the potential of their citizens are diminished: how they are less vital, less hopeful, less free.”