ONE: Oyo State elected its new female speaker for the State Assembly. Monsurat Jumoke Sunmonu, an ACN rep, is a former Immigration Officer and a Civil Servant. Her election was backed by an alliance between the ruling party, ACN and the emerging Accord Party. The participation of Nigerian women in the political process and governance is far below the world average. While women have been guaranteed the right to participate since the 1979 constitution and we have had many accomplished ministers and others serving at the federal level, participation at the state level has not been uniform. Hence, the emergence of Ms. Sunmonu as speaker is a positive development in Oyo State, considering the lack of external intervention in the fact that she is Speaker. While there is no evidence that women are better leaders or possess more integrity than their male counterparts, their participation and the end of patriarchy is nevertheless a public good. We hope Ms. Sumonnu will be successful in her post and that her reign might lead to the resurgence of women in politics.
TWO: The seventh House of Representative elected its Speaker through a revolution by the members of the House last week. Honorable Aminu Tambuwal, the 45-year-old lawyer and former personal assistant to the former Senate Leader, Senator Abdullahi Wali, was elected as Speaker. He represents the Kebbi/Tambuwal Federal Constituency of Sokoto. He has held many leadership positions and he is liked by his colleagues at the House, considering the revolution that brought him his speakership with 252 votes. The PDP at first vowed never to congratulate the new speaker but after Tambuwal’s apology, the party leadership forgave his impunity. Tambuwal has vowed to “carry every member along”. The apparent loser in the development is the Southwest, which no longer holds any leadership position at the Federal level. The president and the number 2 official of the PDP has expressed his commitment with working with the new leadership of the House and he promises to find other position for the disappointed Southwest. It seems that the power sharing “zoning” formula no longer holds absolute sway on the party and as such on the country. Perhaps its time that merit trumps quota in our democratic institutions.
THREE: Former speaker of the House, Mr. Bankole has been charged with a 16 count criminal charge of contract inflation. The N894 million worth contract inflation allegedly happened during Mr. Bankole’s tenure as Speaker of the House. He has pled not guilty to the charges. The speaker has requested a bail on his own self-recognition. The Federal High Court of Abuja granted him a N5 million, with a landed property surety bail this morning. He was subsequently re-arrested along with his deputy, a Mr. Nafada, by the EFCC on fresh corruption charges. The charges have not been released. This sad saga continues.
FOUR: Yesterday was June 12, 2011 and it marked the 18th anniversary of the lost MKO mandate. The implication of the date is numerous and most people found ways to mark the anniversary of the day that democracy was meant to return to Nigeria. The corruption of the subsequent Abacha government has been well documented and some of the money stolen by the military dictatorship has been returned to Nigeria. A sizeable batch of the money stolen by the former dictator has been recently returned to Nigerian coffers. His criminal associate, Raj Arjandas Bhojwani, an Indian, has been found guilty of money laundering. The two men had conducted a business deal that allowed Bhojwani to help Abacha launder £26.5 million through the Bank of India. He has since been ordered to repay the money and sentenced to 6 years in prison.
FIVE: President Jonathan spent last week in New York where he met with the United Nations Security Council to introduce his administration’s strategy of reducing the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Nigeria. Considering the recent report by the Lancet that only 3% of HIV-positive mothers receive antiretroviral treatments in Nigeria, we have a very long way to go in combating this disease. He also met with the President of the United States, Barack Obama, and lobbied him for a Nigerian seat at the UN Security Council. The president also opined that the Nigerian strain of terrorism was not a reaction to his election but a brief blight on human history. This is certainly fascinating considering that the leadership of the main terrorist outfit in Nigeria, Boko Haram, has stated that the new spate of terrorism is in response to his election.
SIX: The alleged mastermind of the October 1 bombing during the 50th independence celebration, Charles Okah will be sentenced on July 29th by a Nigerian judge. He and 3 others were charged with “terrorism and treasonable felony” and were denied bail since their arrest. The judge will rule on whether the charges should stand. Mr. Okah’s brother, Henry Okah, is also being tried in a South African court on similar charges.
SEVEN: The killing of some NYSC corp. members during the last election has been derided all over the country. The men have been buried and their family compensated. Facing calls for the dissolution of the entire scheme, the Oyo State branch of the NYSC has recently reviewed its policies on corps members posts. Hence, it has decided to proactively reduce the amount of corps members posted to violence prone areas. This is a good development, as the scheme will not be successful if the government cannot guarantee the safety of the corpers. However, it is important that the federal institution and other states adopt this policy for a more uniform implementation. Further, with the recent spike in the kidnapping of NYSC members serving in other parts of the country, the definition of violence prone areas should be expanded. This is a rare show of responsiveness and it shows that advocacy on the part of the citizenry does matter.
EIGHT: Kerosene is the elixir that keeps the low-income members of the Nigerian populace going. It lights up their lives. They use the product to make their meals, run their businesses and it is also a source of income for many Nigerians. The scarcity and subsequent extreme increase in price of the product is quite dangerous. Last week the price of the product rose to “N145 and N150 per litre around the Lagos area, N200 per litre in the FCT, and N180 and N200 per litre in Calabar. The next alternative to kerosene for low-income people is charcoal and it is not cheap either. Much worse is the obvious adverse health effects of charcoal on the respiratory health of our populace. The NNPC has stated that there is no shortage in supply and that it will work to reduce the shortages as soon as possible.
NINE: The environmental impact of oil in the Niger Delta has been captured in gory details by two international media agencies. The “curse” of oil has claimed many lives indeed and continues to do so. The pictures HERE and HERE capture all the unintended horror of the oil boom in Nigeria.
TEN: The millionaire oil magnate and former Defense Minister, T.Y. Danjuma has created a foundation that will distribute his millions to those who need it. He was gifted with lucrative oil blocks by the former military dictator, Sani Abacha, and became rich as a result of it. Rather than leave the money to his children, he has decided to set up a foundation in Abuja as a move to redistribute his wealth to those who need it the most.