Saturday, March 31, 2012


 It is no longer news that World Bank President, former US Deputy Secretary of Defence and Nuhu Ribadu’s friend, Paul Wolfowitz, is due to step down from the plum job of ‘fighting’ poverty as World Bank President by the end of this month, following his indictment for the pay and promotion deals he approved for his mistress (deuxièm bureau in francophone parlance) and World Bank Libyan employee Shaha Riza.

For those who have always questioned the notion of a US controlled-World Bank fighting poverty in third world countries, the report of the World Bank committee that investigated the accusations of nepotism against Paul Wolfowitz, came as a heart-warming one as he was found to have "clearly and unequivocally " breached bank rules by arranging a sweet pay deal for his babe. The report came to light in spite of the shamefaced and sterile defence put up by him and his paymasters in Whitehouse and AIG Nuhu Ribadu’s infantile and unsolicited allocutus.

According to documents released by the bank, whose mission is to fight global poverty, Wolfowitz personally ordered a pay package worth nearly 200,000 dollars for Riza (Perhaps his own nifty way of fighting poverty in Libya). The package included an immediate 60,000-dollar pay increase and guaranteed promotions, eventually taking her up to the highest career rank of vice president, once she returned from an outside assignment to the US government. Riza stayed on the World Bank payroll during her external assignment from its Middle East arm to the State Department, which was designed to prevent conflicts of interest after Wolfowitz took charge of the bank in June 2005.

Based on the foregoing, there is no iota of credible doubt that Wolfowitz’s concept of integrity and moral conduct in a public office as elevated as the office of the Bank President stretches from mundane to bizarre levels. For Wolfowitz, a former University Don, former Pentagon deputy and an architect of the Iraq war who promised to clean up corruption in borrower nations after taking the helm of the multilateral bank in June 2005, the end seems to have come albeit too early, on the altar immorality-induced nepotism and irresponsible concupiscence. This embarrassing degree of moral aridity and hasty descent to the acme official misdemeanour has of late, become recurring decimals in the rise and fall of both public and private organisations around the world with global bodies and conglomerates in the US the worst hit.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

SEC, Ms Arunma Oteh And Hon. Herman Hembe: Who initiated the “bribe”?

“The House committee sent a letter of invitation to SEC for the public hearing. The letter contained requirements listed by the committee needed to facilitate the hearing. Based on those requirements and as part of its responsibilities regarding the development of the capital market, the DG recommended that N30 million be approved. The approval was made and in line with public service payment process, the payment was to be made through electronic system.

But that same evening of the fateful Tuesday, Hembe sent a proxy asking for N5 million out of the approved N30 million. This aroused the Commission’s suspicion, which led to the Commission putting a hold on the entire payment process.” Hembe has denied asking for a bribe.

The embattled Chairman of the House Committee on Capital Market, Hon. Herman Hembe, Tuesday alleged that it was the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that offered to bribe his committee with N30 million. The SEC Director-General, Ms Arunma Oteh, had alleged last week that she was being intimidated by Hembe because she refused to accede to requests for N39 million and N5 million “bribes” by the committee to “support” the public hearing into the crisis in the capital market. But Hembe, while offering to step down as chairman of the probe committee Tuesday, alleged that the true story was the other way round. The Press is in possession of copies of SEC’s internal memoranda which tend to suggest that it was the commission that initiated the move to “support” the House Committee with N30 million “for the success of the public hearing”.

But questions are also being asked as to how SEC arrived at figures for live coverage (N26,203,800) and secretariat needs (N4,215,000) in the internal memo, suggesting that the House committee might indeed have approached the commission for financial support based on its budget for the public hearing.Hembe’s offer to step aside was accepted while the entire members of the committee were eased out. Consequently, the House set up an eight-man ad hoc committee to begin the process of conducting the probe afresh. The new committee has 21 days to complete its assignment. The allegations levelled against Hembe and members of the House Committee on Capital Market have been referred to the House Committee on Ethics and Privileges. The allegations are to be investigated and a report of its findings is expected to be submitted in two weeks.
Hembe initiated the process of his withdrawal from the probe when, at the commencement of plenary, he raised a point of order and sought the leave of the House to offer personal explanations on the scandal rocking his committee.He explained that the allegations were false and claimed that he neither demanded nor took bribes but fought hard and rebuffed inappropriate overtures to influence the committee in the course of its assignment. He recalled the incident of last Thursday and said the confusion arose "when the Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (Ms Arunma Oteh) rather than answering questions on serious matters put to her chose to proceed on a voyage of false allegations and branded the entire committee a kangaroo court”.
"I stand before you this morning to reaffirm my innocence regarding the allegations made against me by the Director General of Securities and Exchange Commission. I want it to be on record that I demanded no bribes and took no bribes but rather I fought hard and rebuffed efforts to be inappropriately influenced," he said. In a bid to buttress his case, the lawmaker brandished what he called three internal memoranda of the SEC in which the management of the regulatory agency sought to assist the House Committee with some funds to enable it conduct the now botched public hearing. In one of the memoranda dated March 1, 2012, one Hassan Mamman, an official of SEC, wrote to the DG initiating the process of assisting the committee.
The letter read in part: "In view of the Commission's role as the apex regulator of the Nigerian Capital Market and in consideration of the existing cordial relationship cultivated over the years between it and the House of Representatives Committee on Capital Market, we find it appropriate for the management to assist the Committee by co-sponsoring this three-week long event.  If the above suggestion is acceptable to management, the committee may be approached on your directives, to find out the possible areas for the support."
A second memorandum dated March 9, 2012 which was also addressed to the  DG of SEC  showed that the agency narrowed down the support to two items namely, N24,203,800 for the  live coverage and N2,215,000 for sundry secretariat needs of the public hearing. However, a third memorandum conveying extracts of the minutes of the 63rd meeting of the Board of the SEC held on Monday, March 12, 2012 showed that "after due deliberations, the board approved a maximum of N30 million as donation by the Commission to the House Committee on Capital Market to enable it undertake the public hearing”. Hembe argued that he was stepping aside even though these memoranda were enough to prove that it was SEC that made overtures to bribe him and his committee and not the other way round.
"I am conversant with the principle of law that in the exercise of judicial and quasi-judicial functions it becomes inappropriate to continue to preside when allegations bordering on pecuniary interests are made against your person. I hereby wish to disqualify myself and request the House to withdraw the entire committee from further conducting the investigative hearing," he said. Hembe threatened that he might seek legal redress in a court of law not only to clear himself of the allegations but demand compensation for the damage the whole episode had done to his reputation. His motion was immediately followed by another motion sponsored by the Chief Whip of the House, Hon. Isiaka Bawa, seeking to reinforce the earlier motion to excuse the House Committee from the probe.
Ms Arunma Oteh,DG SEC
The motions were unanimously adopted by the members sitting at plenary. In his final ruling on the matter, Speaker of the House, Aminu Tambuwal, explained that what had happened in respect of the probe were part of the learning process and the strengthening of democracy in Nigeria. "This morning we have passed through yet another challenge which though not unusual in the democratic process has subjected this institution to further refining. These challenges are necessary for the strengthening of our democratic institutions. "Before I proceed further, let me thank the Chairman of the House Committee on Capital Market, Hon. Herman Hembe, and the entire members of the committee for their courage in voluntarily withdrawing from this investigative hearing.  It is not a popular propensity of public officers in our clime, but it is in line with our legislative agenda of transparency in the conduct of government business.
"The incidence of 15th March, 2012 which forms the basis of the deliberations just concluded arose from an investigative hearing which was being conducted pursuant to a resolution of this House. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) in Sections 88 and 89 places upon the legislature the duty and responsibility to conduct investigations into the activities of government for the purpose of exposing corruption, waste and inefficiency. This is no doubt a responsibility which is hazard prone. However, as I have stated elsewhere, these hazards notwithstanding, it is a duty from which we cannot and must not abdicate.
"Let me assure Nigerians once again that we are totally committed to the fight against corruption and shall deploy all energies available at our disposal to fight this war. The old saying that ‘when the going gets tough, the tough gets going’ will continue to be our guide.  I also wish to assure Nigerians that in fighting this war, we recognise that we must, like Caesar’s wife be above board and suspicion,” Tambuwal said. He said that all committees of the House have constitutional backing to perform their legislative duties, adding that the lawmakers were not elected for the fun of it.
"Those who elected us expect that we represent their yearnings and aspirations. Nigerians have chosen presidential democracy as a bulwark against dictatorship, against corruption and waste and above all against executive recklessness, this is the duty to which we have been called and we have sworn to promote, protect and preserve the will of the people enshrined in the Constitution," Tambuwal added. He announced that the new ad hoc committee would be headed by Hon. Ibrahim Tukur Elsudim. Other members include Hon. Ini Udoka, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, Hon. Bimbo Daramola, Hon. Toby Okechukwu, Hon. Buba Jibril and Hon. Rose Okoh.
According to Tambuwal, the newly constituted committee would commence the investigative hearing based on the earlier resolution of the House de novo for the benefit of Nigeria and Nigerians. In order to avoid role conflict and ensure fair hearing for all, Tambuwal said the Chairman of the Ethics Committee who happens to be a member of the Committee on Capital Market had been excused from the position for the purposes of the present investigation. Similarly, the Deputy Chairman of the Ethics Committee who is now a member of the ad hoc committee is also excused from the Ethics Committee for the purposes of the ethics investigation. Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Samson Osagie, has been appointed as the Chairman of the Ethics and Privileges Committee for the purpose of the investigation only. Meanwhile, SEC, in a statement issued Tuesday night, strongly denied making any overtures to the Hembe committee.
The full text of the statement read: "The Securities and Exchange Commission welcomes the timely action of the House of Representatives under the leadership of Rt. Hon. Aminu Tambuwal in creating the Adhoc Committee to preside over the Public Hearing on the Nigerian Capital Market. "There is no doubt that the action of the House aligns with our position and the view widely held by most Nigerians that the Hearing had deviated from the course set for it by the House and degenerated instead to a hostile attack on the Securities and Exchange Commission, and its Director General, Ms. Arunma Oteh. "We note the allegation made by Hon. Hembe on the floor of the House and on live television that it was Ms. Oteh who made financial overtures to him. We wish to state unequivocally that at no time and in no place did the SEC, Ms. Oteh offer Hon. Hembe any financial inducement.
"Despite Hon. Hembe’s claims even as he said he had copies of internal memos which he purportedly obtained from the SEC, however Ms. Oteh did not issue or cause to be issued any correspondence to Hon. Hembe which offered him financial gratification. "We confirm that the SEC received a document in respect of the public hearing with a list of items with cost implications totaling N39,844,490.00. "The correspondences which the Director General sent to Hon. Hembe comprised a letter dated 5th March 2012 which expressed her support for the Public Hearing in line with the SEC’s role as the apex regulator of the Nigerian capital markets and a cover letter for SEC’s submissions to the Public Hearing dated 12th March 2012. She had hoped that the Hearing would offer a platform for an objective examination of the market with a view to identifying the factors militating against its full recovery. She had expected that the outcome of the Hearing would facilitate realization of the SEC’s vision of a world class capital market that constitutes the engine room for our country’s rapid socio economic growth and development.
"It is sad that a genuine act of support to the process of fair and transparent review of our capital market has been twisted into something reprehensible. We totally disagree with the claim that we tried to financially induce or influence Hon. Hembe or anyone else. It goes against everything that the Director General stands for and has been known for, internationally and locally, by those who have known her in her professional career of over 25 years. "We are grateful to the House of Representatives for this intervention which we believe will strengthen the Nigerian capital markets and enable it contribute to the realization of the economic aspirations of the Nigerian people."

By Onwuka Nzeshi and Goddy Egene

Friday, March 9, 2012

Nigerian Women And The Challenges Of MDGs

It was Olympe de Gouges, the renowned French Writer, who affirmed with a tone of finality in his seminal oeuvre Déclaration des droits de la femme et de la citoyenne that “la femme naît libre et demeure égale à l’homme en droits. Les distinctions socials ne peuvent être fondées que sur l’utilité commune” (woman is born free and remains equal to man in rights. The social distinctions can only be based on mutual usefulness). Twin-issues of gender inequality and women liberation which Olympe de Gouges essayed to lay to rest in his book, once again reverberates across the world as another international Women’s Day approaches.

The day March 8 was set aside I 1977 by the United Nations’ General Assembly through a resolution, proclaiming it as the UN Day for Women’s Rights and Internatonal Peace. The purpose of this day is to recognize the fact that securing peace and social progress and the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms require the active participation, equality and development of women to the strengthening of international peace and security. For the women of the world, the symbolism of International Women’s Day has a wider meaning as it is seen as an occasion to review how far women have come in their struggle for equality, peace and development. It is also an opportunity to unite, network and mobilize for meaningful change.

Through the years, the idea behind the observance of this day has ran on the inevitable wheels of time and now presently finds its true expression in the September 2000 Millennium Declaration by world leaders. This declaration distils the key goals and targets agreed at major international conferences and world summits in the 80s/90s and drew up a set of eight Millennium Development Goals with associated targets and indicators that by the year 2015, all 191 UN Member States must meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs which, set a powerful agenda for a global partnership to fight poverty and offered a shared vision of a better world by the year 2015 aim at cutting extreme poverty by half, ensure every child has the chance to go to school and live a long and healthy life, and bring discrimination against women to an end. The risks of dying as a result of childbirth are to be dramatically reduced, deadly diseases brought under control, the environment is better managed and the benfits of progress more equally shared by all nations of the world. Together, the aspirations set out in the MDGs and their associated targets and indicators represent a powerful framework for action.

With the 2015 target year almost half gone, a penetrative gaze into the plight of the Nigerian woman and her counterparts in other parts of the world today will unearth an embarrassing degree of unfulfilled hopes and programmed failures garnished with a tinge of patriarchal laxity and ideological hypocrisy on the part of the women themselves. According to UN statistics, of the 1,3 billion people living in poverty around the world, 70% are women, women do about 66% of the world’s work in return for less than 5% of its income, in the least developed countries, nearly twice as many women over age 11 are illiterate compared to men, two –thirds of children denied primary education are girls and 75% of the world’s 876 million illiterate adults are women, women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, produce half of the world’s food and yet earn only 10% of the world’s income and own less than 1% of the world’s property.

In Nigeria, with an exceeding number of civil society organisations on gender issues and an intimidating number of top female political appointees ranging from Supreme Court Judge, Ministers, Deputy Governors, Directors-General, and Permanent Secretaries to Ambassadors, poverty still has a woman’s face. Nigerian women still disproportionately suffer the burden of poverty, reeling heavily under the pangs of hunger with majority of them living on less than one dollar per day! As primary agents of child welfare, they are victims of widespread and persistent discrimination in all areas of life, and put their lives at risk every time they become pregnant. They are still increasingly susceptible to HIV/AIDS and other killer diseases. As unschooled adults, they have less to say socially and politically and to be able to support themselves.

The impact of the activities of our ubiquitous feminine activists and women lib organisations is seemingly feeble as Nigerian women’s rights and access to land, credit and education are still limited not only due to legal discrimination, but because more subtle barriers such as their workload, mobility and low bargaining postion in the household and community prevent them from taking advantage of their legal rights. These problems affect their children and households without a male head are at special risk of impoverishment with no capacity to immunize their children or know how to help them survive.

The preponderance of feminist CSOs and Activists across the country has neither translated into improved living conditions for the rural women nor has it addressed firmly, the utter neglect and deplorable plight of the Nigerian woman in he village. Instead of concentrating energies on addressing the imbalances of the typical Nigerian woman, these elite organisations dwell more on self-serving actions aimed at launching them to national prominence, thereby cornering juicy positions for themselves and their cronies, in the name of activating the 30% Beijing affirmative action, all at the expense of the rural Nigerian woman. For them, the MDG 3 of promoting gender equality and empower women can only be achieved through the reservation of political positions for elite women, who will in turn use same to oppress the rural woman at will.

Buoyed by the ascendance of the likes of Ellen Johnson Sir-leaf, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Angela Merkel, Dr. Akunyili, Hillary Clinton, and Oby Ezekwesili in their chosen fields of endeavour, they hasten to forget that extreme poverty, hunger, high child mortality rate and poor maternal health can only be combated through a combination of advocacy, technical assistance, funding and working directly with community-based organisations and families themselves to ensure that households have access to education, clean, secure supply of water and safe anc convenient sanitary and health facilities. These actions directly support MDG 7 – improving access for all those who desperately need these basic facilities.

On their own part, Nigerian men should also note that while most of the MDGS face a deadline of 2015, the gender parity target was set to be achieved a full ten years earlier, an acknowledgement that equal access to education is the foundation for all other development goals. Until equal numbers of girls and boys are in school, it will be impossible to build the knowledge necessary to eradicate poverty and hunger, combat disease and ensure environmental sustainability. There is therefore no basis for competition or subjugation of one gender by the other as we march towards 2015. It is time to put an end to gender inequality and all its concomitant effects on our country’s future.

The survival of liberty and prosperity in our country increasingly depends on the liberty of our women and the best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of the frontiers of liberty for our women. This can be validated in the story of the American automobile guru, Henry Ford who died and went to heaven. Upon his arrival, he immediately went to God and asked him “when you invented woman, what were you thinking? God asked, “what do you mean?” “well” he says, “you have some major designs flaws in your invention, there is too much front-end protrusion, it chatters away too much at high speeds, maintenance is extremely high, it constantly needs repainting and refurbishing, it is out of commission at least 5 or 6 of every 28 days, the rear-end wobbles too much, intake is placed too close to the exhaust, the headlights are usually small, fuel consumption is outrageous, just to mention a few.”

“Hmm” replies God, “hold on a minute.” God goes over to his celestial supercomputer, types in a few keystrokes and waits for the results. In no time, the computer prints out a report and God read it. He then turned to Ford and said, “It may be that my invention is flawed, but according to these statistics, more men are riding my invention than yours.” God is of course quite right. After all, they are more women than cars in the world.

Happy women’s day!     

Atayi Babs ©