The unforgettable moments collectively determined how the country fared in the year under review and probably may shape events in the New Year, 2019.
Kunle Olafioye, Henry Okonkwo (Lagos), Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Fred Itua, and Godwin Tsa (Abuja)
In the next 12 hours, the curtain of 2018 would be drawn at full length to usher in 2019. From the Executive to the Legislature and to the Judiciary, 2018 presented its challenges, hiccups and some good news.
A look at the high points in the three arms of government in 2018 showed it all while Nigerians believe that a lot of works still need to be done.
Presidency’s year of mixed feelings
As the year winds down, there are certain events that defined President Muhammadu Buhari’s Presidency in 2018.
The unforgettable moments came in their numbers, not one and not two. Collectively, they determined how the country fared in the year under review and probably may shape events in the New Year, 2019.
Unlike in 2017, where the president once spent 154 days (May 7 to August 19, 2017) in London, undergoing medical treatment for an undisclosed ailment, this year was an exception. He went to London on April 9, nine days before the 25th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, also known as CHOGM 2018, to “enable him rest” before the commencement of the event on April 16 – April 20, according to the presidency.
Not too long after his return his visit to Washington DC to meet with President Donald Trump of the United States, in May he embarked on what his media handlers called “a four-day trip to the United Kingdom, to see his doctor.”
Buhari had also seen his doctor in London on his trip back from the US, over what the presidency called “technical stop-over for aircraft maintenance in London,” disclosing that his doctor had asked for a meeting.
In August, Buhari again took a 10-day “working holiday” to London, this, of course, raised some concerns over his health.
Senate’s refusal to confirm Magu as EFCC substantive chairman
Another issue that characterized Buhari’s Presidency in 2018 was the refusal of the Senate to confirm the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu, as the substantive chairman of the anti-graft agency.
The Senate first rejected his confirmation in April 2017 and the second time in April 2018, citing his indictment by the Department of Security Service (DSS).
Padded budget disagreement
The no love lost between the Executive and the Legislature continued in the year under review. The 2018 budget was only passed in May, six months after it was presented by the executive, after increasing it from N8.6 trillion to N9.1 trillion. President Buhari accused the members of the National Assembly of inserting an average of 13 projects each into the Appropriation Bill submitted by him.
While signing the budget in July, Buhari said he was worried that up to 6,403 projects initiated by the lawmakers were smuggled into the budget. First, he alleged that they removed some priority projects of the Federal Government and replaced them with theirs. Secondly, he accused them of sabotaging the executive’s effort of regularising the country’s budget on a January-December financial year.
Excess crude account crisis
The year is ending with controversy trailing the depletion of the Excess Crude Account, which balance in November stood at about $2.319 billion to only $631 million within three weeks. Excess Crude Account is a special account established to warehouse excess revenues from the prevailing crude oil price at the international market. Income generated above the approved crude oil benchmark price in the annual budget is saved in the account. Withdrawal from the account is subject to the approval of the three tiers of government and the Executive Council of the Federation (FEC). It was not clear when the decision to draw from the account was taken and for what purpose.
Controversies also trailed Buhari’s appointments since 2015, when he mounted the saddle as president. In the year under review, the controversy came to a head in October in the Senate, as the senators were divided along regional lines over the purported lopsidedness in the appointment of Service Chiefs by the president.
The senators from the Southeast accused President Buhari of marginalising the zone. Also of serious concern was the allegation that the South-south and the Southeast zones were left out in board appointments into the EFCC and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Speculation of cabinet reshuffle
During the year, a lot of media houses went to town with the report that President Buhari would reshuffle members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in November. An online medium even reported that emergency FEC meeting primarily convened for approval for the 2019 Appropriation Bill, was meant to announce the re-jigging of the cabinet.
Five ministers had left Buhari’s cabinet from 2015 to date, the latest being the Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Jubril, who resigned to become the 13th Emir of Nasarawa.
Others that resigned are Hajiya Amina Mohammed, on 24 February 2017.
This followed her appointment at the United Nations as UN Deputy Secretary General. Kayode Fayemi, the governor of Ekiti State also resigned as the Minister of Solid Minerals Development on May 30, 2018 to pursue his political ambition.
Kemi Adeosun resigned on September 14, as Minister of Finance, following the scandal that trailed her forged National Youth Service Commission (NYSC) exemption certificate to get into public office. Senator Aisha Alhassan also resigned as Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, hinging it on her disqualification in the screening for the 2019 Taraba State governorship contest by the APC National Working Committee.
Declaration of June 12 as public holiday
President Buhari hit the bull’s eye with the directive that effective from 2019, Nigeria’s Democracy Day, hitherto marked on every May 29 for the past 18 years, be shifted to June 12 in honour of the late Chief Moshood Abiola, who presumably won the annulled 1993 presidential election.
The directive was given on June 6, few days before the 25th anniversary of the annulment. Apart from the opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that saw the move as cheap political move to win the 2019 election, the recognition of June 12, went down well with even his critics, particularly the Abiola family, who also apologized for the role their late father played in Buhari’s ouster as military Head of State.
Faceoff with National Assembly leadership
The face-off between the executive and the legislature came to a head when the leadership switched from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to the opposition, the PDP.
Indeed, this is the first time the ruling party is losing both leadership of National Assembly in the country. The Senate President, Bukola Saraki had dumped the APC for the PDP as he accused the party of witch-hunting him for undemocratic reasons.
Two months after Saraki’s defection, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, in September after several speculations finally dumped the APC for the PDP. Saraki doubles as the chairman of the National Assembly while Dogara is the deputy. With this development, three out of the four presiding officers of the National Assembly are now in PDP. Saraki, Dogara and Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu belong to one fold while the Deputy Speaker of the House, Hon. Sulaiman Lasun Yusuf, is now alone in the APC at the top leadership level.
Since then, the National Assembly has drawn the battle line with the President, and at a time, they charged him to address threats to lives of the citizens and the country’s democracy, threatening to initiate constitutional actions against him if he failed.
The face-off came to a head with the booing of President Buhari, when was giving a speech at a joint session of the National Assembly while presenting the 2019 budget proposal of N8.83 trillion.
The Jubril from Sudan brouhaha
Some members of the Nigerian public actually believed that President Buhari had died during one of his medical trips to London and was replaced by a clone called Jubril from Sudan.
On Sunday, December 2, 2018, he responded to the rumours during an interactive session with the Nigerian community in Krakow, Poland, where he attended the 24th Session of the Conference of the Parties (#COP24) under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (#UNFCCC).
“A lot of people hoped that I died during my ill health. Those who spread the rumour are ignorant and irreligious”, the president had declared.
Buhari said he was not surprised by what the tale bearers were able to come up with, saying “one of the questions that came up today in my meeting with Nigerians in Poland was on the issue of whether I‘ve been cloned or not.
“The ignorant rumours are not surprising – when I was away on medical vacation last year a lot of people hoped I was dead.”
He assured his audience that he’s going strong and he’ll be around for a while, adding, “I can assure you all that this is the real me. Later this month I will celebrate my 76th birthday. And I’m still going strong!”
His wife’s disagreements
Twice, the First Lady, Aisha Buhari, publicly disagreed with her husband’s administration and the ruling party.
In October 2016, during an interview with the BBC, she openly criticised the president, saying that she might not support his 2019 re-election bid.
“The president does not know 45 out of 50, for example, of the people he appointed and I don’t know them either, despite being his wife of 27 years.
“Some people are sitting down in their homes folding their arms only for them to be called to come and head an agency or a ministerial position,” she said.
And on December 4, while speaking at a conference organized by Project 4+4 in Abuja she alleged that two powerful men were preventing Buhari’s government from moving forward.
She described them (the unarmed men) as retrogressive elements, who have become clogs in the wheels of development of the current administration.
But in an interview with the Voice of America, Buhari dismissed the claims by his wife, saying that was her business.
Buhari refuses to sign 2018 Electoral Act Amendment bill
The most contentious of the issues was the refusal of President Buhari to sign the 2018 Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law.
On December 7, he declined to sign the 2018 Electoral Act Amendment Bill into law for the fourth time and returned the bill to the National Assembly.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on National Assembly Matters, Senator Ita Enang, while previously returning the rejected bill explained, said that it was due to errors discovered by the president.
Turbulent year in Senate
The Senate experienced turbulent time in 2018, as there were incidents of Mace snatching, face-off with the executive, invasion, among others.
The National Assembly, which in some climes, is referred to as a Parliament or a Congress, is the epicenter of democratic values. It is usually labeled as the symbol of democracy. Whenever there is any coup d’etat, the National Assembly is always the first casualty. While the Executive and Judiciary arms are permitted to function, the Legislature is usually proscribed.
However, after years of military interregnum and the eventual return to democratic rule in 1999, Nigeria’s National Assembly had functioned amid challenges. Within the period, Presidents of the Senate and Speakers of the House of Representatives have been removed over trumped up charges.
Despite these repeated challenges, pundits believe that the Eight National Assembly is unique for a number of wrong reasons.
They argued that the Senate, for instance, has become a retirement home for former governors, military administrators and ministers, who seldom place any serious premium on lawmaking. The Eight National Assembly, kicked off on a wrong footing, political observers have noted. They also hold a strong view that 2018 would go down in history as one of the most turbulent years in the annals of the Nigerian Parliament, where a number of ‘firsts’ happened.
The phrase budget padding was alien to many Nigerians until the Eight National Assembly came on stream. In 2016, few months after President Buhari presented his first budget to the National Assembly, the parliament was in a turmoil over alleged insertions of projects not originally captured in the proposal submitted to the lawmakers. The leadership of the National Assembly, especially the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, had a bitter battle with a former chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, Abdulmumin Jibrin.
Although the Senate was insulated, its leadership was, however, fingered and accused of apportioning huge chunk of juicy projects to their constituencies.
In 2017, the same scandal rocked the National Assembly and President Buhari returned the budget to the parliament. In 2018, the same trend resurfaced, when President Buhari again accused the National Assembly of inserting projects worth over N500 billion into the budget under the guise of constituency projects. Therefore, in the last three budget circles of the current Eight Assembly, it has been accused every year of padding the budget.
Face-off with Executive
The National Assembly, specifically the Senate, had a cocky take off. The two presiding officers, Bukola Saraki and Ike Ekweremadu, emerged against the wishes of the leadership of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Presidency. As soon as the duo emerged, they were slammed with series of litigations. First, Saraki was dragged before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT). He was accused of under-declaring his assets while he held sway as governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2011. The case was finally resolved in 2018, when the Supreme Court discharged and acquitted Saraki.
Saraki was still battling to stay afloat, when the Executive arm, through the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, dragged him and Ekweremadu before an Abuja High Court. They were accused of forging the Senate Standing Rules, which they allegedly relied on to take their oath of office. The case was eventually withdrawn.
In 2018, Saraki and Ekweremadu were again in the news for the wrong reasons. While Saraki was accused of sponsoring a deadly robbery attack in Offa, Kwara State, which claimed scores of lives, Ekweremadu on the other hand, was accused of not making a full disclosure of his assets. The two issues are still pending.
Within the period, the Senate lamented over the refusal of government appointees to appear before it. Specifically, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr Ibrahim Idris, repeatedly refused to appear before the Senate, despite a valid court ruling. Other appointees like ministers and heads of boards and agencies, refused to appear before the Senate or its relevant committees.
Some of the signature bills of the National Assembly were vetoed by President Buhari in 2018. The Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) was rejected by the president, despite years of efforts. In four successive intervals, the president vetoed the Electoral Act Amendment Bill. The Senate within the period accused the Executive of selective implementation of the budget, especially constituency projects. It also decried the non-implementation of their resolutions.
Invasion of the Senate
In April 2018, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege made history, when he allegedly led armed thugs into the Senate Chamber while plenary was going on and snatched the Mace. The armed hoodlums, who accompanied Omo-Agege into the chamber, made away with the Mace, despite the presence of over 250 security personnel in the National Assembly.
Till date, none of the suspects arrested have been prosecuted by the Federal Government. The report of a preliminary investigation by the police was never made public. Many political actors believe that the invasion was the climax of months of face-off between the two arms.
Siege to the National Assembly
In August 2018, barely one week after the National Assembly embarked on its annual break, operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS), laid siege to the National Assembly. The siege occurred at the peak of a plot to unseat the President of the Senate, Saraki, who was making moves to defect to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) then. Lawmakers, who got wind of the planned siege, besieged the NASS complex as early as 7:00a.m, but were barred by hood-wearing operatives from accessing the place.
It took the intervention of some ebullient members of the House of Representatives to break the siege to make their way to the building.
For several days, senators and members of the House of Representatives, kept vigils in the building to prevent any emergency sitting and impeachment of the presiding officers of the two chambers.
Few weeks after the siege, Saraki announced his defection vide a letter addressed to the leadership of APC and a press statement he personally signed.
Jeering and cheering of President Buhari
The climate of 2018, was on Wednesday, December 19, when at the presentation of the N8.83 trillion 2019 budget proposal, lawmakers predominantly from the PDP, heckled the president while those from the APC cheered, but their cheer couldn’t match the jeers from their opposition counterparts.
Lawmakers have been reacting to the developments in the National Assembly in 2018, especially the recent heckling of the president.
Senators and members of the House of Representatives, who spoke to Sunday Sun, traded blames. Senators Godswill Akpabio, Matthew Urhoghide, Clifford Ordia, Adamu Abdullahi, Gbenga Ashafa, among others, spoke along party lines.
Akpabio who recently defected to the APC, put the blame on Saraki and Dogara. He called on the duo to resign since they were no longer in control of the National Assembly.
“Even when they tried, we had the upper hand during the budget presentation. Our party members cheered up the president more than the way PDP people jeered him. I think they should all resign their positions,” Akpabio said.
Urhoghide on his part said that the jeers and cheers were unnecessary. He, however, noted that the cheers by members of the APC led to jeers from their PDP counterparts, arguing that it could have been avoided.
Ordia said it was expected since the country was going an election year. He told Sunday Sun that many lawmakers didn’t hear what the president said during the budget presentation as a result of the protest in the chamber.
“It is expected. We are going into an election year and what happened was expected. Many of us didn’t hear what the president said throughout because the noise was too loud. We tried to listen, but they drowned the whole place,” he said.
For Abdullahi, Saraki and Dogara masterminded the embarrassment. He said that since their attempt to override the veto of the president failed, they decided to embarrass him during the budget presentation.
“Those people will go to jail after the 2019 general elections. They masterminded this whole thing to embarrass the president and I am happy that they didn’t succeed. We had the upper hand in the end. This is very shameful, I must say,” he said.
Ashafa, said the protest was unexpected, adding that despite the brawl, the points made by the president were noted.
He said that for the first time, the president budgeted over N2 trillion for debt servicing even as he hailed his other developmental projects.
The chairman, House Committee on Media and Publicity, Abdukrasak Namdas described what played out in the House of Representatives as democracy in action.
Namdas told journalists in Abuja that the most important thing was that the president was able to lay the 2019 Appropriation Bill before the National Assembly.
The Deputy Minority Leader, Chukwuka Onyema, said that the 2019 Appropriation Bill is not different from previous budgets presented by President Buhari, since he assumed office in 2015.
The lawmaker stated that since the inception of the present administration, the government has performed woefully in the implementation of the budget, noting that like the ones before it the 2018 budget may soon be followed by excuses for non-performance.
According to him, the dismal implementation of the budget since 2015 betrays the All Progressives Congress (APC) led federal government as insensitive to the plight of Nigerians, who are longing for economic development.
It’s bumpy year
The 2018 legal year commenced with growing concerns on how to resolve the backlog of high-profile criminal cases littering the courts across the country, which started over 10 years ago. Beyond the the backlog of criminal cases, the judiciary during the year under review was faced with the problem of how to redeem its integrity, which has suffered terribly due to the disreputable acts of some judges in connivance with some members of the bar. Indeed, the judiciary was characterised by justice to the highest bidder, hasty judgment against the poor, personal inefficiency, slow judicial process, tolerance of unwarranted petitions and injunctions. These and more are the blemishes of the Nigerian judiciary in 2018.
Era of protracted trial of cases
In the past, it was a common trend that the arrest and arraignment of politically exposed persons usually generate frenzy in the media, but soon after that the defendants, through their lawyers, would raise preliminary objections, challenging the competence of the charges and the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the cases.
The judge would rule, dismissing such preliminary objections in most cases, after which the defendants would file an appeal and ask for stay of proceedings and await the outcome of the appeal. While proceedings have been suspended, the appeal would travel for many years up to the Supreme Court, which would then, in most cases, dismiss the appeal and ask the defendants to go back to the trial court for the case to be re-opened.
However, the passage of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 by former President Goodluck Jonathan marked the dawn of a new era in the Nigerian criminal justice system, as the law, among other radical provisions, abolished stay of proceedings.
Another interesting provisions of the Act is Section 396(3) and (4) which stipulated that “hearings shall be on a daily basis, but in exceptional cases, while adjournments, not to be in excess of 14 working days, may be granted, but such adjournments must not exceed five in any proceedings.
But it is not yet Uhuru as defence lawyers have started to deploy other tricks, which were not envisaged by the ACJA, to delay criminal cases and keep them perpetually in court.
Among such new dilatory tricks are long cross-examination of witnesses by defence lawyers; intimidation of judges through petitions and complaints of alleged bias; filing of no-case submission and constant resort to appeal as exemplified by the ongoing N400million alleged fraud case of a former Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Olisa Metuh.
Another factor against speedy disposal of high-profile cases is the Constitutional presumption of innocence, which makes it extremely difficult to prove allegations of corruption in an adversarial system that Nigeria operates. Except this is reversed, conviction of high-profile corrupt persons will remain a mirage.
The above scenario was responsible to the lack of speedy disposal of high-profile corruption cases. For instance, only 12 major convictions have been secured after trial in 17 years since the inception of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) in 2002, out of about the 177 high-profile prosecution conducted, between 2000 and 2017.
On the other hand within the same period, the EFCC and ICPC secured an average of 100 convictions each year for low-level offenders.
Those convicted are Mrs Anajemba; Mr Emmanuel Nwude; Chief Bode George, whose conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court on technical grounds.
The remaining seven convictions were subject to plea bargain, one of which was the conviction of Mr Lucky Igbenedion, the former governor of Edo State, who was sentenced to a prison term with an option of fine which was paid promptly in court.
Some others were the conviction of Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, a former Governor of Bayelsa and one Mr Golama, a former Chairman of Bank of the North, both of them were convicted subject to plea bargain, but former President Jonathan has granted them Presidential pardon.
Backlog of high-profile cases
The 2018 legal year began with the trail of high-profile cases, which were a carry over from previous legal years. Some of the notable cases involved Saminu Turaki, a former Governor of Jigawa State, charged for alleged misappropriation of N36 billion while in office; Sule Lamido, former governor of Jigawa State, charged for alleged abuse of office and money laundering; Aliyu Akwe Doma, former governor of Nasarawa State, charged for allegedly laundering State funds to the tune of N8 billion; Ikedi Ohakim, former governor of Imo State, charged for allegedly making cash payment of $ 2.29 million for land; Olisa Metuh, former Publicity Secretary of the PDP, standing trial for corruption charges along side his firm, Destra investment limited to the tune of N400million, said to be from the office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), without executing any contract.
Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd), was National Security Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan. He is standing trial for allegedly mismanaging $2.1 billion meant for purchase of arms to fight Boko Haram insurgents.
Others are Gabriel Suswam, former governor of Benue State, Murtala Nyako, former Adamawa State Governor, his son, Abdulaziz and two aides, among others.
Year of reforms
At his inauguration, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen promisedthe Executive arm the full cooperation of the judiciary in the continuation of the war against corruption and misconduct in the judiciary.
It was on account of this promise that he instituted a wide-range 13-point reform that if faithfully adhered to by his colleagues on the bench, can literally revolutionise the delivery of judicial services in the country.
In driving home these reforms, which are aimed at improving quick dispensation of justice and also rid the system of bad eggs, the CJN adopted the use of new technology through the introduction of Nigeria Case Management System (NCMS).
Onnoghen also inaugurated a 13-man steering committee on judiciary reform. The committee headed by the Secretary of the National Judicial Service Commission, Mrs Bilkisu Bashir, was tasked “to coordinate a comprehensive reform of the country’s judiciary”.
The reform introduced new modalities for the appointment of judicial officers, tightening judicial discipline regulations; and fashioning out a speedy way to clear backlog of cases, among other measures.
A new rule of court procedure provides for the award of punitive cost by the court for frivolous litigation or delays and an inspectorate arm that ensures judges sit from 9:00a.m to 4:00p.m every working day.
In addition, judges require the notification and permission of the CJN to travel out of the country.
Judges of the lower courts are required to submit for assessment by the Federal Judicial Service Commission, quarterly report of cases handled, while higher courts submit their reports to the NJC.
In other to keep incompetent men and women out of the bench, appointment will be subject to written examination and interviews through rigorous screening and painstakingly appointment procedures.
To give effect to this anti-corruption stance, the NJC constituted the Corruption and Financial Crimes Cases Trial Monitoring Committee (COTRIMCO) headed by a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Suleiman Galadima, to serve as checks on the excesses of some bad eggs on the bench.
The committee has identified poor prosecution, absence of counsel for parties in court, reliance on irrelevant documentary evidence, multiplicity of charges, non-adherence to court rules/procedure, retirement/transfer of judges; amendment of charges after commencement of trial amongst others as some of the factors militating against speedy disposal of corruption cases.
Justice Onnoghen had at the beginning of the 2017/2018 legal year, announced the setting up of special courts within high courts to handle only corruption cases.
The 2018 legal year saw the conviction of ex-Plateau governor and serving Senator, Joshua Dariye to 14 years imprisonment on charges of criminal breach of trust and misappropriation of over N1.16 billion belonging to the state.
The sentence was, however, commuted to 10 years by the Court of Appeal. His Taraba State counterpart, Jolly Nyame, was equally sentenced to 14 years imprisonment, which was commuted to 12 years by the Court of Appeal.
Conceding that corruption is deep rooted in the judiciary, the CJN, Justice Onnoghen stated that “corruption in the judiciary is not limited to bribe-taking, but the giving of judgments or orders based on any consideration other than legal merit”.
Onnoghen was addressing judges and Khadis at the 2018 refresher course held at the National Judicial Institute (NJI), Abuja.
Also, his predecessor, Justice Mariam Aloma Mukhtar at a different forum, had cause to lament what she described as the rising culture of lobbying, favouritism, and godfatherism in the Nigerian judiciary.
Recall that in October 2016, the Department of State Service (DSS), in what it termed “sting operation” stormed the residences of seven serving judicial officers of the Supreme, Federal and High courts across the country at the wee hours of the night and arrested some of them.
However, more than seven out of the hundreds of high-profile criminal cases initiated under the Buhari administration has been concluded, but none of them resulted in the conviction of the defendants as they were either discharged at the trial court or their conviction at the trial court was over-ruled by the Court of Appeal.
For instance, the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal had on December 12, 2017 dismissed the corruption charges instituted against a Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Hyeldzira Ngangiwa, on a very novel ground that generated controversy in the judicial circle.
The decision of the Court of Appeal was to the effect that a serving Judge could not be investigated or prosecuted without first being disciplined by the NJC.
Irked by that judgment, the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption (PACAC), Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN) said it was a show of Espirit de corps among the judges.
Cleaning the Augean stable
As a self-cleansing organ of government, the National Judicial Council (NJC), which is the body charged with the responsibility of hiring, firing and disciplining erring judicial officers appears to have heightened its activities lately.
More judicial officers are now getting warnings for different judicial infractions, while others are recommended for dismissal or compulsory retirement periodically. A lot more are also under investigation following plethora of petitions before the NJC.
Those sacked by the NJC for various acts of misconduct include Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court; Justice Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia; also of the Federal High Court; Justice Segun Tokode, Federal High Court; Justice Michael Goji of the High Court of Adamawa State and Justice James Agbadu-Fishim of the National Industrial Court.
Nigerians want improved economy, security, hitch-free elections in 2019
Amid the worsening security situation, apocalyptic economic predictions and rising fear over next year’s general elections, Nigerians have called on the government to rise to its responsibilities on all fronts to save the nation from further slide in 2019.
A cross section of Nigerians who spoke to Sunday Sun on their expectations from the government in the coming year unanimously agreed that kick-starting the New Year with transparent, free and fair elections would be pivotal to achieving peace and tranquility in the country in 2019.
National Chairman of Arewa United Forum, Alhaji Shuaibu Ado Dansudu tasked the government to take necessary steps towards ensuring a credible election in the coming year.
Dansudu reasoned that Nigeria already had so many problems to contend with, saying that the nation could not afford to add election crisis to its present challenges.
Prof Abiodun Michael Oni, Head, Department of Political Science, Babcock University, Ogun State, called on the government to show more commitment in prosecuting the war against insurgency in the country. Oni opined that it was high time the government showed more ruthlessness in prosecuting the war, stressing that the government has so far been playing politics with the issue.
He also called on the government, as well as other stakeholders to play by the rules as the nation heads towards the 2019 election.
He said that the incumbency factor must not be unduly exploited. “It is only when we have a flawless election that we can prevent violence. INEC must resist every temptation that may taint the outcome of the exercise. Buhari must do everything possible to ensure credible election having been a victim of flawed elections in the past,” he said.
Dr Margaret Okafor, an educationist, said the government must sustain its anti-corruption crusade in the coming year if Nigeria must overcome its numerous challenges. Okafor who identified social injustice as the bane of the country maintained that only a sustained effort by the government to address social injustice in the country would save Nigeria from total collapse.
On his part, a lecturer in the Department of Economics, University of Lagos, Dr Afolabi Adebisi, expressed concern over the nation’s economy, which he believes has been stagnated by lack of proper attention from the government on the real sector.
“The economy is still in doldrums. The government must focus on the real sector of the economy. Our economy does not have a strong structural base. The real sector of the economy is not there. The nation’s economy is dominated by buying and selling; no effort is being made to bring the real sector, which is the basis, to life. This must change next year; the government must focus on the real sector of the economy,” he said.
Uche Nwaleke, Professor of Banking and Finance, Nasarawa State University, Nasarawa State, said that he would like to see the nation’s economy coming out stronger in 2019 just as he called for improved infrastructure in the country.
“I expect the stock market to rebound in 2019, especially after the general elections which I pray should be free, fair and credible. In particular, I expect to see the return of foreign portfolio investors in Nigeria next year who are currently taking flight due in part to the heightening political risk as we approach the polls.
“The halt in capital flow reversals next year will support healthy external reserves and stable exchange rate. By and large, I expect to see a stronger economy in 2019 where the contributions of key sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing to GDP will be on the rise and helped in particular by CBN’s strategic interventions,” he said.
Chinelo Ugwu, a postgraduate student of University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, said that she would like to see Nigeria go through another hitch-free election year that would culminate in the emergence of good economic team to lead the nation out of its current economic crisis.
Alhaji Rasheed Awofeso, a community leader in Lagos State, in his own contribution said that he is looking forward to better times in 2019 after what he described as a rough year. “My expectation in year 2019 is for things to get better. Honestly, the outgoing year has really been tough on Nigerians because of our crawling economy. So, I expect that come year 2019, the government would provide enabling environment devoid of social insecurity. I believe that once this is attained, both local and foreign investors will be attracted, and this will be a catalyst for growing employment opportunities.”
Prince Saviour Iche, national president, Association of Micro Entrepreneurs of Nigeria, AMEN, hopes to see Nigeria feel the impact of governance better in 2019 and called for more decisive actions in dealing with insecurity in the country.
His words: “We had a very rough 2018; things were mostly on the negative. The recent killings in Zamfara plus that of the former naval chief showed how bad it has become. A situation where a top ranking military official is killed on the road makes one to worry for the common masses. So, in 2019, we would want our budget to be passed on time by the National Assembly and I expect it to reflect on the common man. Also I expect that we have a free and fair election without bloodshed,” he said.
Eric Obuh, an artist, admonished the government to pay attention to the demands of the labour unions to avoid nationwide strike.
Aham Njoku, a legal practitioner urged the government to do everything within its powers to ensure that the 2019 elections meet international standards just as he called for an end to violence and killings in Nigeria.
Bamidele James Avose, a community leader, urged the government to have a fruitful dialogue with the labour, ASUU and ASUP in order to avoid total shutdown in the nation’s tertiary institutions.