Friday, February 15, 2008

Things that make you go, "WHYYY?"

Another one of those blood-boiling stories.

This hospital has been in existence (and fully-equipped) for TWO YEARS, but for more-than-silly reasons on the part of the Maiduguri state government, the people of Maiduguri have been deprived of the "world-class" treatment this hospital could have provided. And then the governor dares to talk about how the people would have benefitted had it not been burned down!


Unused hospital razed in Nigeria - BBC Africa

A fully-equipped hospital that lay unused for two years has burned to the ground in northern Nigeria.

The General Hospital in Maiduguri was built in 2006 but the state government refused to open it until the president came to cut the ribbon.

Several surgical theatres, the intensive care ward, and the clinical section which held millions of dollars of equipment were all destroyed.

The president was due to visit the hospital next month to open it.

Borno State Governor Ali Modu Sheriff blamed the fire on arsonists who wanted to damage his political reputation.

The governor had refused to open the hospital, which was ready for patients in June 2006, until former President Olusegun Obasanjo came to the state.

His visit was postponed several times, the last being just two months before the election in 2007.

His successor Umaru Yar'adua was due to visit later next month.

Measles outbreak

Borno was recently hit by a measles outbreak that killed hundreds of children across three states.

Existing hospitals in Borno are poorly equipped and overcrowded.

Angry residents of Bulunkutu, where the hospital was situated, gathered around the burned hospital and shouted abuse at the alleged arsonists, local papers reported.

The governor addressed the arsonists through the media.

"There is not one hospital in the country owned by a state government that has the type of world class equipment we had in there. It is their people that would have benefitted," he told reporters at the scene.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Open Letter to African Leaders

This letter resonated with me (in particular, the call for political leaders to be servant-leaders) and so, just thought I would share it. The Fellows call for a "rediscovery of our true identity as Africans, to embrace and inculcate the moral base of honesty, love, peace and integrity," a call that I too once shared (and still do, for the most part). I wonder if we really have a true identity as Africans, or in the spirit of the world's changing individualistic culture juxtaposed against the growing global citizen, if there is any room for an African identity...when we can hardly get the national one right, and the tribal one is often a tool for selfish demands (at least in the political realm). Is Africa just the one true border that we all share (as opposed to the arbitrary man-made ones that exist throughout all continents) - a "motherland" of sorts- or is it something deeper that we can develop and learn to embrace - a state of being? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this...

Young African leaders are disillusioned with and disappointed by the current
leaders in Africa. As stated in the Open Letter to African Leaders below,there has been a crisis of leadership in Africa.
The hopes and dreams of the citizens of this continent have been dashed by our post colonial leaders. The 2007 Archbishop Tutu Fellows are no longer content to remain silent. They believe that silence and inaction in the face of yesterday's challenges are responsible for the anomalies we see across the continent today. They lend their voices to the call for African leaders – today, and in the future – to consider the common good over personal fears or greed. It is time for leadership behaviour to change in Africa, and the Fellows recommend a 5 point Agenda for Change in the attached Open Letter.
- Peter Wilson, African Leadership Institute


From Angola to Zimbabwe, questions abound about Africa’s present state. All capitals listed between Abidjan to Zanzibar, are not new to the rising voices of Africa’s sons and daughters who wish to know the fate of their land. Some express this concern through silent hope, others through evident fear, and many others look in no other direction than that of their leaders – those we have come to know as the captains of the ship of the state. Others even argue that Africa’s answers remain with future leaders, and not today’s. But there has been a crisis of leadership in Africa. The hopes and dreams of the citizens of this continent have been dashed by our post colonial leaders – from the heroes of the liberation struggles through to the leaders of opposition parties that subsequently emerged.

The citizens of Africa deserve a brighter future, and that begins with visionary leaders who can answer the challenges that Africa faces as part of a global community in the 21st century. Recent events across the continent are cause for serious concern: from the crisis of corruption in Nigeria, the political tensions in South Africa leading to the 2009 election, or the political crisis in Kenya which is turning a once prosperous country into one that is marred by bloodshed and ethnic tensions. The ongoing conflict in Sudan, the current crisis in Chad, or the socio-political and economic meltdown obtaining in Zimbabwe have all caused great instability in the lives of millions of Africans across the continent.

We do not seek to play the usual game of just listing the problems but join our voices to that of over 920 million Africans to demand fair play in political processes. Though all of our democracies are young we expect our leaders to be men and women of excellence who respect the electoral process and as such the wishes of the people. As young people in Africa who are leaders in politics, business, health and information technology, we stand together and recommit ourselves to the ideals of true leadership, and we make the following recommendations:

(a) The establishment of a high-level African Union led campaign to fight tribalism and inequality in all its forms across the continent. Each country should establish a Commission Against Tribalism and Inequality (CATI) to fight the scourges, and to protect vulnerable 2007 Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellows minority groups. CATI should bring politicians using ethnic manipulations to perpetrate violence to justice and stop them from participating in future political contests;

(b) Political leaders must be servant leaders and use their power and influence as a tool for socio-economic change rather than oppression and fuelling personal greed;

(c) The establishment and strengthening of relevant institutions (judiciary, electoral commissions, etc) that ensure independence of the Electoral Regulatory Authorities in each country; and the establishment of an AU Electoral monitoring body which monitors election and has a clear, well defined set of guidelines which it uses to determine if the process is free or fair;

(d) The rediscovery of our true identity as Africans, to embrace and inculcate the moral base of honesty, love, peace and integrity. We believe that people of integrity would not allow a beautiful, socially and economically stable country like Kenya to collapse into political disarray;

(e) The strengthening of our national economies, and systems to ensure the provision of adequate health care, education and other social services that will equip all Africans to partake in a better future.

As young leaders in our own various spheres of influence, we as the 2007 Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellows1 find silence at this critical moment inconvenient. We believe that silence and inaction in the face of yesterday’s challenges are responsible for the anomalies we see across the continent today. We lend our voices to the call for African leaders – today, and in the future – to consider the common good over personal fears or greed. We are proud of those who have shown us that leadership is about service and call on all other leaders to remain true to the spirit of purposeful leadership.

Signed: 2007 Archbishop Desmond Tutu Fellows [Brilliant Mhlanga (Zimbabwe), Dan Kidega (Uganda), Ed Mabaya (Zimbabwe), Erik Charas (Mozambique), ‘Gbenga Sesan (Nigeria), Grace Ofem (Nigeria), Hassan Usman (Nigeria), Herine Otieno (Kenya), Ipeleng Mkhari (South Africa), Lisa Kropman (South Africa), Mezuo Nwuneli (Nigeria), Niven Postma (South Africa), Saida Ali (Kenya), Takalani Musekwa (South Africa), Tariro Makadzange (Zimbabwe), Terence Sibiya (South Africa), Tracey Webster (South
Africa), Yohannes Mezgebe (Ethiopia), Yolan Friedmann (South Africa)]

1 Each year, 20 high potential individuals from across sub-Saharan Africa are awarded the prestigious Archbishop Tutu Leadership Fellowship, following a rigorous competitive selection process. The Awards are aimed at the cream of the continent’s future leaders, specifically targeting the next generation of Africa’s leaders in all sectors of society, between the ages of 25 and 39. The fellowship program is coordinated by African Leadership Institute, and it includes a training program coordinated by the SAID Business School at Oxford University. For more information
about the Fellowship, please visit

Monday, February 11, 2008

More on Child "witches" and what YOU can do

Please visit COKERP's blog as he's done his homework and gotten a lot of information on the Akwa-Ibom authorities in a position to put a stop to the child abuse going on, as well as the pastors and evangelical ministries that are the main culprits. Other petition websites have also sprung up as a result. There's still a long way to go but at least this is a start.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Our first post (below) was written a year ago today. We would like to think we started with our hearts in the right place, we knew we didn't know much about the roots of the problems plaguing Nigeria but wanted to be enlightened by those who do, and those who equally share this hunger to know and to change things for the better.
We've always wanted to do more than just talk. We want the talking to spark ideas which will in turn dictate action and create impact. We've barely scratched the surface but we will get there. Thank you all for being a part of this.

The Afro Beat is a new movement, a fresh heartbeat, a racing pulse.

It is a club/ forum/ virtual gathering place for individuals of Nigerian heritage or association, who share the collective ambition to see their country move forward.

The Afro Beat is centered on the following:

The mutual and collective enlightenment of ourselves by discussion of our country’s plight,

The development of a sense of accountability to one’s peers,

The implementation of a series of realistic projects for the benefit of every Nigerian, and

The ultimate objective of improving the situation in Nigeria, one step at a time, and one day at a time.

How The Afro Beat will be kept going:

This idea was birthed by Misan, Tokini, Bitchy and theAfroBeat, but it is not “our” club alone. We’re offering ourselves up as mere facilitators. We desire the contribution of everyone who wants to learn more about their country, its past, and most importantly, about effective methods to contribute to its future. We’ve noticed a growing interest amongst our peers, in the injustices currently plaguing Nigeria, and simply wanted to provide a way for us to group together to share ideas on how to move the nation forward, and to have fun at the same time.

We intend to start with the simplest things.

First, we’ll begin by publishing articles on this blog, written by Nigerians and others, about Nigeria, that we hope you’ll be interested in. We’ll also publish articles by The Afro Beat’s members, to provoke discussion and commentary. We’re open to receiving anything you find on the world wide web or elsewhere, or that you yourself write, that you want to share with The Afro Beat’s members, and which you feel will be for their benefit. We hope to provide a worthwhile learning experience for us all, about our country.

We’ll also be opening up discussion about the projects we would like The Afro Beat to be known for. We have several exciting ideas which we hope you’ll see potential in, and which we know would benefit immensely from your contribution and participation.

Our address is:

“Every sector of society has been left to fend for itself”
- an observation about Nigeria by the Vanity Fair columnist, Sebastian Junger, in his article on the Niger-Delta entitled “Blood Oil”.

If The Afro Beat works as we hope it will, no journalist will ever be able to make such a sweeping statement about Nigeria again.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Police nko?

In the span of 20-sth odd years of living in Lagos (23 of those years being in the same house), my family has been attacked and held hostage by armed robbers in our home exactly 3 times, resulting in the deaths of 2 of our "mayguards" on separate occasions(security man seems too impersonal, as these pp had lived with us for several years and were practically part of the family). Attempted attacks probably number about 4, while roadside ones probably about 4.5 (normal for a medium-sized 4-bedroom house in a non-conspicuous location and above-average security measures? be the judge). In all these incidents, not once has the police ever been a reliable source of protection or order. I'm sure you all can relate. The Nigerian police force is one of those conundra(ums) that i have never quite understood how to solve, because to be honest, I don't know the answer, as it surely can't be as simple as providing adequate equipment and increasing salaries (Right?). Not only have the Nigerian police been "forced" into becoming criminals themselves but now, according to this Guardian article, other (more than well-off) people are stealing in their name...

The Police Equipment Fund Scandal - By Reuben Abati

A FRIEND told the story of how on a certain occasion, armed robbers had laid siege on the Estate where he lives. The hoodlums moved from house to house wreaking havoc and robbing innocent persons of their lives and property. One of the neighbours who lived to tell the story put a call across to the police in utter distress, to ask for help.

"Calm down, can you give us the address?", the policeman at the other end, had asked. Help, it seemed, would be on its way at last. But the policeman asked yet another question.

"Oga, please can you tell me the kind of gun that the robbers are using?"

"How am I supposed to know the type of gun armed robbers are using and what has that got to do with your coming to help us?"

"Everything. I beg. It has everything to do with it.", said the policeman. He then implored the caller to place his phone slightly out of the window so he could transmit the sound of the gunshots, which continued to reverberate through the night. The confounded SOS caller did as instructed.

"Okay. Okay", the policeman later said furtively.

But the robbers continued with their evil operation for more than three hours. No police van showed up. The truth is that the security situation in Nigeria is compounded by the fact that the same policemen who have been recruited and mandated to protect lives and property are wont to take to their heels the moment their attention is drawn to an armed robbery incident. Similarly, Nigerian policemen run away from other criminals, preferring instead to limit their operations to safe activities such as the harassment and intimidation of hapless persons.

The explanation for this resort to cowardice as a rule of engagement is that armed robbers are better equipped than the average Nigerian policeman. Many of our policemen are carrying old rifles, whereas the armed robbers boast of superior fire-power. The sound of the robbers' gun alone could make policemen scamper for safety. This was the case a fortnight ago when armed robbers struck around Toyota bus stop, a shouting distance from Rutam House, the home of The Guardian newspapers. The hoodlums took over the expressway and shot persistently into the air.

As is often the case under such circumstances, people fled in all directions. Policemen pulled off their uniforms and rushed into companies in the neighbourhood, to beg for protection. People obliged the fleeing policemen because somehow the Nigerian public has come to accept the police establishment as one of the big jokes in Nigerian life and society. Our policemen have no communication equipment. They do not have enough vehicles. Often when people ask the police to come to their rescue, they could be told that there is no vehicle in the station or that the caller should arrange transportation for them.

Most of the police stations in the country were built around the middle of the last century, and they have also become terribly inadequate. Policemen across the nation, are holed up in a devil's slum known as police barracks, where there are no facilities that can guarantee decent living. Their take home pay is paltry, conditions of service are poor and salaries are never paid on time. In desperation, policemen earn their keep by extorting money from the public. They do so with such impunity which members of the public have also accepted. Motorists set aside "money for the police" the moment they get onto the roads.
Justice at the police station and with policemen is for sale. Far more frustrated policemen often turn their guns on the people. Police brutality remains a major issue in Nigeria. The problem with the Nigerian police is the continuing theme of many books and reports, the latest perhaps being Taiwo Kupolati's Remaking The Police: A Kaleidoscopic Inquisition (Lagos, 2007)

Nonetheless, Nigerians continue to nurse the hope that the Nigeria Police Force, despite all its imperfections could be rescued and made to serve its constitutional purpose. To this end, there has developed, in recent times, a culture of private support for the funding and equipping of the police. People buy vehicles for police stations, communities and private sector organisations raise funds for the police sometimes out of their own volition, at other times, they are blackmailed to do so. The mobilisation of private support for police funding is in itself a problem. It compromises the integrity of the police. When persons and institutions that may be investigated later by the same police directly on their own fund the institution, could there not arise a conflict of interest? There are police stations in this country that are kept going on the fuel of private goodwill. This speaks to the failure of government to provide adequately for the police and to tackle the national security challenge more seriously.

But no other case demonstrates the dangers of private funding of the police than the scandal that has now been reported in relation to the Presidential Committee on Police Equipment Fund, which was set up by the Obsanjo administration in 2006. All the details are sordid. They point further to the abuse of power that characterised the Obasanjo administration. The Police Equipment Fund was a scam from the outset. Three persons: Godson Ewulum, Joseph Agharite and Ibrahim Dumuje reportedly had a brain wave about what could be done to help the Nigerian police so they drew up a proposal on a Police Equipment Fund.

But not knowing how to get this accepted by government, they turned to Kenny Martins, Obasanjo's former brother-in-law and a self-styled man of influence. Martins took over the matter, presented it to his in-law and pronto, a Presidential Committee Police Equipment Fund was set up.

The reason the police equipment scandal has also become public knowledge is because of disagreements among the original promoters of the idea. Much of what is known has been thrown at the public by Godson Ewulum. He feels that his other colleagues, Dumuje and particularly Kenny Martins who used family influence to secure Presidential approval for the idea, have short-changed him in the management of the huge wealth at the disposal of the Police Equipment Fund. If Ewulum had been carried along and given his due, I doubt if he would have raised any alarm.

Soon after the Police Equipment Fund was established, local councils across the federation, 774 of them were forced by the Presidency to contribute 7.8 million each to the Fund and the money was deducted at source from the Federation Account, a completely illegal seizure of local council funds. State governments, companies and other institutions also contributed generously to the fund. In 2007, the Fund also took a loan of about $100 million from the US Exim-Bank and another N50 million loan from First Inland Bank. There were also donations from the Chinese government. Soon enough, the Police Equipment Fund had at its disposal a capital base of about N50 billion.

If this amount had been used to improve the welfare of Nigerian policemen, much could have been achieved. But then events moved swiftly. Kenny Martins allegedly turned himself into the main co-ordinator of the fund, Then in due course, he registered the Fund as a Non-Governmental Organisation and created a Police Equipment Foundation. This brazen diversion of the assets of the Presidential Committee on Police Equipment Fund is curious. Ewulum is asking for a probe of the management of the Fund, including where interests on monies kept in the banks are, and how the resources of the Fund have been disbursed. In the past few weeks, the public has been fed with utterly salacious details. According to one report, under the watch of Kenny Martins, N5 billion out of the police fund was spent on the purchase of luxury cars which were handed out as gifts to influential individuals and government agencies. The cars were bought at inflated price and without due process. Another hefty sum of N202.6 million was allegedly spent on a so-called pre-launch dinner. Members of the House of Representatives are angry. The House Committee on Public Petitions is conducting an inquiry into the management and conversion of the Fund.

President Yar'Adua should also take an interest in the matter. Long before Godson Ewulum went to the House of Representatives with his petition, other members of the original Presidential committee had also raised objections about how the Fund was being managed. The present Senate President, David Mark, then the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Police Affiars was said to have complained. But his observations were ignored as were those of others, because we could safely assume, President Obasanjo was in power and his "untouchable" brother-in-law Kenny Martins was the one in charge of the Police Equipment Fund.

The Yar'Adua government must not abdicate its responsibility in ensuring that the N50 billion is accounted for. The individuals who collected car gifts from the Fund should be asked to return them with immediate effect. And this should include the Yar'Adua Campaign Organisation which received 15 cars from the Fund! The EFCC also has a job to do here. Those who donated to the Police Equipment Fund did so as an expression of Corporate Social Responsibility in the honest expectation that the Fund will be used for its advertised purpose. But now, what we are faced with is a case of "obtaining money under false pretence."

This scandal is yet another explosive and embarrassing revelation from the Obasanjo past.

Reading these stories, the average policeman must be seething with anger. What has been done is like stealing from the dead. Political and family connections have been used to defraud society. The security of the lives of over 140 million Nigerians has been compromised. Rather than buy guns and bullet-proof vests for policemen, they were busy buying luxury cars and throwing lavish dinners! The last time anyone checked, policemen were still complaining about being poorly equipped, being poorly paid and being treated unfairly by the state which nevertheless expects so much from them. Lives could have been saved if the N50 billion had been well-managed. This just shows how callous and wicked some Nigerians could be.

But apart from the investigation of the Police Equipment Fund, the appropriate authorities must also begin to ask questions and provide answers to the conundrum of how the police is perpetually cash-strapped. The police receives its due allocations to cover its expenditure. How is this disbursed? Is anyone diverting police resources? These are questions that should be answered. To reduce the Nigeria Police Force to an organisation perpetually living off charity is unconscionable. This is certainly not how to ensure the safety of lives and property in Nigeria.
Some/Any/All insight welcome.