All publications of Priceless . Abuja , Nigeria


Senior Advocate of the Masses

I have watched closely enough to realize that being an advocate is no longer restricted to legal practitioners dressed in apparel, working in a law firm and handling lawsuits in the court of law. At some point in life, one will need one of these advocates to speak for the masses where there is an infringement on citizens’ rights. Only a few persons are in that position advocating for Nigerians without being in the court of law or panel of judges.

I remember as far back as June 2005 in Abuja, the unfortunate police brutality case of six Nigerian youths that needed a strong voice from the presidency but there was no one to get the “Apo six” justice. Hence it was swept under the carpet.

Fortunately, we now have a member of the presidency who has fashioned out a perpetual solution to this societal ill that arose again in October 2020. 15 years down the line, the “Apo six” families each got compensation of ₦200 million after a fair hearing from the judicial panel of inquiry.

Here you will meet our Senior Advocate of the masses standing for us beyond the borders of his constitutional roles, currently receiving the reports of his effort through the state judicial panels of inquiry set up nationwide, and the successful journey on this advocacy thus far.

On October 4 2020, he summoned the erstwhile Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, over rising concerns of brutality, assault and extrajudicial killings by members of the now-disbanded police unit – Special Anti-robbery Squad (SARS) and the general police force.

After the meeting, he addressed the press and described the situation as deeply unpleasant stating that you cannot have a situation where SARS says they are investigating cybercrime by arresting young men and women carrying their laptops and phones. “Cybercrime is an electronic crime. I don’t see how you can investigate that by seizing people’s phones in a taxi or in their cars.”

On October 7, he met with the Minister of Police Affairs, Muhammad Dingyadi, Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, Director-General of State Security Services (SSS), Yusuf Bichi, and the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Anthony Ojukwu at the Presidential Villa in Abuja. The meeting was based on discussions on ending police brutality and reforming the police force in Nigeria.

On October 9, he went along with IGP Muhammad Adamu to meet with President Buhari to discuss the decisions made from the previous meeting held with other security stakeholders on October 7th 2020, particularly concerning possible disbandment of SARS and the implementation of reforms in the Nigerian police force.

On October 11, he ensured the President officially disbanded SARS through the Inspector General of Police.

On October 12, the President officially spoke and affirmed the disbandment of SARS at the launch of the Presidential Youth Empowerment Scheme in Abuja. The President noted that the disbandment was only the first step, adding that the police reforms will ensure the police’s primary duty remains the protection of lives and properties and that all culprits of police brutality are brought to justice.

That same day after the President spoke on the disbandment of SARS, he also spoke with the press and restated the government’s commitment. He said, “I think the clear message is that there is a government commitment to ensuring that the process of reform is done and those who have committed wrongful acts are duly investigated and prosecuted; and whatever replaces SARS is something that is acceptable, first of all, in its compliance to all the tenets of the rule of law and human rights.”

On October 15, he chaired the National Economic Council meeting and directed the immediate establishment of Judicial Panels of Inquiry in each state of the country and the FCT. These Judicial Panels of Inquiry investigated all issues of police brutality or related extra-judicial killings petitioned to them and proffer justice to all victims (or their families) of the dissolved SARS and other police units.

On October 16, he highlighted all the measures taken to meet the demands of ENDSARS protesters which involve setting up the Judicial Panels of Inquiry and a victims’ support fund to compensate victims and their families for any consequences of police violence they may have suffered.

On October 21, he apologized to Nigerians for the incident at the Lekki toll-gate and the loss of lives and properties across the country.

By October 23 through November 3, states had set up Judicial Panels of Inquiry to bring justice for SARS/police brutality victims.

On the 26th of October, another emergency National Economic Council meeting was held and a committee was set up to engage the youths, representatives of Civil Society Organizations, religious and traditional leaders on employment, social safety net programmes, security, empowerment programmes and national unity among other key issues of concern. The committee was chaired by him and it comprised governors representing the six geopolitical zones.

On November 3 2020, he inaugurated the National Economic Council Ad–HOC Committee Meeting created to engage with youths, civil society organizations and different groups and strands of leadership across the nation on the deeper issues ascertained from the post-ENDSARS protests.

In course of the last quarter of the year 2020 through 2021, the state judicial panels of inquiry have heard not less than 100 victims and compensated them. The Senior Advocate of the masses continues to monitor this process closely and has begun receiving the panels’ reports since June 17 2021 for the National Economic Council review.

We look forward to more of his honest display of care and concern for Nigerian citizens.

Meshach Chukwuma writes from Abuja.

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The time to act is now. The transformation in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must go on

By Samuel Haruna

Recently, I had the pleasure of writing the memoirs detailing the decades spent in active service by a retired distinguished senior officer in the Nigerian Foreign Service. It was a most informative and educating exercise, to say the least. The discourse that ensued is best narrated in his own words.

The purported letter dated May 4, 2021 addressed to Mr. President by some unknown persons has created an opportunity for the need of some anomalies ongoing in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be brought to the open. One of the most resisted things in organizations or most establishments, has always proven to be change.

Change from the way of doing things and change that tend to bring about transformation and betterment of the establishment; resulting in the curbing of waste and injecting of new ideas into the system. The classical example of this analysis is what is currently playing out at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs especially as it relates to foreign service officers, a firsthand information of a retired staff.

The slogan “Soldier come, Soldier go, barrack remain” has shown to be apt and accurate, even so beyond the military circles. For many of us who know the inner workings of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and by extension, the Foreign Service operations, the expectations that things will improve in areas of service delivery to Nigerian citizens in the diaspora, continue to get dashed as things continue to be recycled in a business as usual manner.

Having served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as Ambassador, now retired and in the position of a highly informed observer, he gets numerous calls from friends and former colleagues who are still in active service, every time on issues both those that affect Nigerians and the staff of the Ministry generally.

The insanely high levels of corruption in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) over the years begs for urgent attention ranging from over inflated ticket costs and passages of officers, using official resources to ferry family and friends not covered by official travel, is a well-worn tale that needs not be rehashed.

The resultant effect is that the crop of young officers who do get recruited periodically are speedily initiated into the cesspool, leaving not much hope for any systemic change, irrespective of the lofty ideas these younger ones may have held upon entering the service. It has become imperative that the time is now for that drastic change and holistic overhaul of the Ministry, in order to rid it of this deep-rooted systemic corruption.

The high level of indiscipline inevitably characterizes any such work environment, and directly for the work culture as well. Numerous cases readily come to mind over the course of years spent on active duty, where undisciplined officers at Nigerian foreign missions were never sanctioned, but instead they got cross-posted to other stations, in order to calm frayed nerves and cover up their criminal acts and misdemeanors.

Most times one would be forgiven if you find yourself wondering whether there is a Code of Conduct to guide actions by the officers. This is due to the way Public Service Rules and Extant Circulars get flouted at will. In the end, operations become subject to the fancies, whims and caprices of the most senior officer on ground, and his inner circle.

Quite unforgettable is one such case where principal officers of the ministry were known to be collecting 5 Million Naira (5,000,000.00) per month for sundry issues without recourse to any financial guidelines bordering on such spending.

Most of these misgivings are done within the staff with no knowledge of the Hon. Minister whom one would imagine turns a blind eye to all these happenings. Equally deserving of note is the firebrand approach of the new Permanent Secretary, who is currently unearthing and suspending unjustifiable spending, thereby curbing wastages of the Ministry’s limited resources.

However, I will quickly add that with the caliber of Foreign Service Officers we have, who are desperate and bent on using Aso Villa connections or “my Oga at the top” to clip his wings, and thwart the efforts of the permanent secretary as a result of all his well-intentioned reforms, so that they can continue in their nefarious ways unchecked.

Over the years, things have truly fallen apart, as can be seen in the breaking down of facilities in the MFA Headquarters such as elevators, generators, working materials, even when money was duly voted, disbursed and expended as clearly shown in the financial records and books of the Ministry.

One inevitable effect of these decades of decay is that Foreign Service officers lack capacity for effective representation abroad. Nigerian owned mission houses are known to be abandoned in order to justify rent of alternative houses at very ridiculous and exorbitant costs. Your guess is as good as mine as to where the padded monies from such real estate deals are headed.

Presently, we see situations where the current minister cannot stamp his authority to whip this hydra-headed monster into manageable shape. Staff of the MFA lament openly that he is being too much of a gentleman while dealing with hardened law-breakers who only see personal profits, not minding the far-reaching damage being done by the day. They feel he is too laid back for the good of the ministry; the time to act is NOW.

There have been some tough stances as it is echoed in the Ministry from the desk of the Permanent Secretary in dealing with matters under his purview, and the heat is building up thereby making these elements uncomfortable. The firebrand approach he brings to work is starting to give some hope for sanity.

Most insiders who try to be neutral are quick to tell you that the caliber of Foreign Service Officers who populate the rank and file of diplomatic missions abroad will not hesitate to deploy ‘Federal might’ underhandedly through known Aso Villa ties, if push comes to shove.

Recently, the usual grumblings are starting to well up from various camps of entrenched interests, that he is threatening their illegal sources of slush funds by his insistence on carrying out operations in the most professional way possible, devoid of sentiments as he is widely known to be a stickler to extant rules and regulations.

The sovereignty of every land upon which the foreign missions are located is called into question when one realizes that the citizenship services which Nigerians are routinely denied in these foreign mission offices, can be easily gotten from offices located near the same missions and are often run by Nigeria’s retired foreign service officers.

These services have become so openly brazen that they now advertise online in US cities, obviously orchestrated in connivance with mission staff who get their regular cuts, or even own these business centers out rightly. This is the so-called ‘express service’.

The presence of operations such as these, effectively usurps the sole responsibilities of Nigeria’s missions abroad. Suffice to say that they are now running parallel government services without due authorization from the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The ministry which has a penchant for fighting dirty especially against non-career Permanent Secretaries, in order to sustain their looting game, are already at it again. This was done to their last Permanent Secretary who lasted only 31 days in office at the ministry. Her only wrong doing was wanting to do things right.

If Nigeria must see effective and competent foreign service representation and a return to the good old days of global significance, when Nigerian missions abroad were well respected, had the requisite clout and caliber of persons, then we must deliberately embrace a new paradigm shift towards respect for extant rules and regulations, training and re-training, entrenchment of discipline, amongst others within the Ministry and its foreign service operations.

As a keen follower of the happenings in the Ministry, I am very confident of some achievements of the current Permanent Secretary, Mr. Gabriel Aduda who is barely 4 months in the Ministry, and should be encouraged to sustain the reformation ongoing at the Ministry. When my attention was drawn to the publication of May 4, 2021, it was not the least bit surprising for me to understand that corruption is fighting back with the sponsored “non-note” written by unknown concerned Foreign Service Officers and purportedly forwarded to Mr. President.

The Federal Civil Service under the leadership of Dr. Yemi Esan, must by all means rise to the occasion and identify this faceless group, towards applying the appropriate sanctions in line with Extant rules. The impunity in the Ministry must be addressed headlong in the interest of the country. The orchestrated blackmail against non-career Foreign Service Officers posted to serve as Permanent Secretary, must be effectively addressed. The Service is beyond an individual or group of people who are benefiting from the deeply entrenched corrupt system.

The era of sacrificing competence on the altar of selfish interests and resistance must come to an end. Waste in the Ministry must be investigated, the unfathomable spending must be investigated and culprits brought to book.

The publication has indirectly unearthed their sordid gimmicks, however unknown to them, and the time to act is now. The anti-corruption agencies as a matter of urgency, should beam their searchlight into the affairs of the Ministry and the assertions contained in that publication should be completely ignored as the attempt is to distract the attention of the new management, who have made bold moves to change the state of affairs at the Ministry by challenging the usual norm for the sake of what is right and proper.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs must not die, and the much needed transformation has just begun. The Ministers and the Permanent Secretary should be allowed to do their work.

Long live Nigeria’s Foreign Missions!

Long live the Ministry of Foreign Affairs!

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

(Samuel Haruna has served as a Senior Media Aide in the Nigerian Consulate)

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Military Air Crash: Tears, emotions as Osinbajo's wife visits Attahiru's family, homes and relatives of other departed military officers

There was shedloads of emotions and tears as the wife of the Vice President of Nigeria, Mrs Dolapo Osinbajo visited the wife and family of late Chief of Army Staff, Ibrahim Attahiru.

Mrs Osinbajo who paid to a visit to seven of the families, all of whom reside in Abuja, conveyed the message of the President and First Lady. NAN had actually reported earlier that she was among early callers at the residence of the COAS on Friday soon after the news got out. Since then reports say she has been visiting the relatives of the departed every day.

In what was a very emotive scene, Mrs Osinbajo could been seen embracing the wives of the departed officers.

When she arrived at the residence of Mrs Attahiru, she was received by Mrs Victoria Irabor, the wife of the Chief of Defence Staff, Lucky Irabor.

She assured Mrs Attahiru and family that both the President and his VP would ensure that the memories of the COAS and all the military officers involved would not be forgotten.

She was then accompanied by leaders of the Defence and Police Officers Wives Association (DEPOWA) to pay condolence visits to the families of six other families over the weekend.

She assured them that the Presidency would stand with the families and that the men did not die in vain. Later on Sunday the First Lady also visited the COAS family.

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