A Peep into the Belly of the League Management Company- By Segun Odegbami

I found out a long time ago that some stakeholders in Nigerian football are very sensitive, emotional and protective of the body called the League Management Company, LMC. They do not like the organization to be a subject of discussion or scrutiny of any kind. They love to hear or sing its praises but hate any form of criticism with a passion. I have often wondered why that should be so but never taken the trouble to interrogate the subject beyond the surface.

I am not about to even do that now, but with the LMC holding the key to the growth of domestic football and the football industry in Nigeria, it makes sense to examine why the company could not function properly in the recent past. Its activities have been in a lull for almost two seasons.

It was said that because the leadership of the Nigeria Football Federation were being hounded by crime agents, the distractions were affecting the productivity of the entirety of Nigerian football, including the LMC.

That’s the theory and the story.

But things should not be so considering that they are not so in the country where Nigeria borrowed the concept of the LMC to run the professional league, England. So, it ought to be a subject, not just of useful discourse and interrogation, but of close scrutiny and audit. In due course, it will be, but for now, just a cursory look, a peep, at the organization. In the last few days, the LMC has rebounded into the consciousness of Nigerians after a long lull.

Twice in the past week, the Chairman of the LMC addressed a press conference and announced a new and interesting sponsorship deal with a foreign television company that would impact the league again according to him. He is yet to provide details of the content of the deal.

One day after that good news, he was again on several social media platforms with a picture of himself at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, standing with the FIFA president and others, after signing an agreement of cooperation between the World Professional League bodies and FIFA. The details are also not yet made public. These are truly exciting positive developments considering where the LMC has been these past 2 years.


Despite the worst scandals in the history of FIFA, with all the hounding of its officials around the world, football went on undisturbed all over the world. That’s how it should be. The game should be bigger than the administrators that come and go with their different ‘luggage’ and ‘baggage’. The game, with its awesome power, should be immune from the vagaries of administration. Otherwise, if we allow the fate of administrators to determine the fate of the game, football would ‘die’ with what we are witnessing in Nigeria, an environment wracked by corruption.

The domestic league, particularly the professional league, is the heart and soul of Nigerian football development. It matters what happens to it. Much has surely been done by the LMC during parts of the last 5 or so years, but the last two have been barren, largely unproductive and now ugly.

Why would the NFF leadership be under the microscope of financial crime agents and the leadership of the LMC is involved? And that is affecting the fortunes of the League?

What is the relationship between the NFF and the LMC? The bodies should be two separate entities just as the relationship is between the English Premier League, EPL, and the English FA that the NFF modeled its relationship with the LMC after.

I went and read about the EPL and the English FA, and things became clearer to me, and now understand better what is wrong with the present structure and operations of the LMC that has not made it achieve the objectives for which it was set up. I now see better why a proper forensic of the whole organization be done in order to make the company more functional, more transparent, less wasteful, less intrusive in the operations of its owners, less expensive to run and more profitable to the shareholders of the company.

The LMC has only one property – the Nigerian Professional Football League, made up of 20 clubs who should be the sole shareholders of the company (with the NFF as a special shareholder). No one else who is not a stakeholder.

Just as in the relationship between the EPL and the English FA, the LMC, is a private and independent company, has should have no business with the NFF. Their interactions should be very limited to using the rules of the game as determined by the NFF to run the league and in giving the NFF its own share of the revenue generated by the LMC, mostly through the sale of television rights! Beyond that, the LMC and the NFF should be totally independent of each other.

This is how it is in England. I urge everyone to go to the net and read it all.

The EPL and the FA are totally independent.

The Chairman of the EPL is not even a member of the board of the FA. Another member, selected by the clubs, represents the EPL on the FA board. The Chairman of the EPL is a club owner elected by the 20 clubs from amongst them. His position is non-executive. He does not run the day-to-day activities of the EPL. He sits atop the board of the EPL, meets occasionally and sets down policies and guidelines for the management headed by a Chief Executive Officer hired and paid for that purpose to run the day-to-day activities of the company.

The Chairman of the EPL is not paid a salary.

The office is occupied by the owner of one of the clubs in the EPL. The office cannot be held by proxy. The Chief Executive Officer of the EPL is a professional employed to carry out the business of the EPL, particularly in the marketing of the League. He is on fulltime engagement, earns a salary and other emoluments, and has no business with the FA.

So, the Chairman can only receive sitting allowances like all the other few members elected into the board of the EPL. Each club is an equal shareholder in the EPL, each with one voting right only. They sit and share revenue accruing mostly from television according to the agreement between them. They pay the only other ‘special shareholder’ in the company, the FA, its share, period.

In England, the EPL is richer and more powerful than the FA.

The EPL Chairman does not go around with the English FA to market or for any purpose whatsoever. Each body runs its own business and manages its revenues. Each club also does their independent business and gets its share of the sponsorship money and bonuses at the end of each season.

The EPL Chairman cannot be involved in the finances of the FA, and become a subject of interrogation and financial investigations of the FA.

The EPL does not run the business of any of the clubs on their behalf. The clubs own and run their stadia, their ticketing, their branding, their marketing, their advertisements, their endorsements, their travels, their security, independently.

That’s why they are private companies.

The LMC has been, with good intentions, overreaching itself. The LMC should set the benchmarks only for clubs, organize the matches, negotiate the league sponsorship, pay the clubs their dues and bonuses as agreed by the clubs themselves, enforce the rules guidelines given to clubs, run and monitor the league and the clubs.

The LMC has been taking on more than it can conveniently chew. And it seems to be doing so in order to control the finances of the league – the sponsorship money.

It has, therefore, been taking on responsibilities that the clubs should handle on their own, and paying the bills, involving NFF members (Chairman of State FA’s who are NOT direct stakeholders in the Professional League) in its operations with the tar they bring, being involved in the NFF itself by occupying the position of Vice-President, paying salaries and monthly allowances to non-executive directors and the Chairman, and so on.

It will indeed be interesting to find out the emoluments paid out by the LMC and to whom within the company’s structure.

The whole concept of the LMC as a registered company is new and, understandably, shrouded in unclear details. As a result, nobody is seriously interrogating the system and structures.

For the good of the game, that should be done.

The original visionaries surely must have had good intentions and must have run it the best way they could, but after 5 years everyone can now see that things could be better with the league, the clubs and the game on the football field.

There is a need for a proper forensic audit of the structure and the operations of the LMC, to protect the reputation of its founders, stakeholders and managers, and to ensure that in the end everything is done to grow the game, grow the industry and ensure that the principal actors in all of this – the players – are well taken care of.

Segun Odegbami

The Magical Farm Where ₦1.5M Turn to ₦1.5B in 21Months By Aisha Yesufu

On the 17th of October 2019, the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Professor Yemi Osinbajo tweeted from his Twitter handle about a farm he had visited. According to the Vice President, the farm was started by Reston Tedheke with a loan of 1.5m naira and today the farm is worth 1bn naira.

The tweet created a buzz amongst citizens. It was the kind of story you expect to hear from a scammer trying to part you with your money and not from the handle of the Vice President. How can a farm that was started in 2017 with a loan of 1.5m naira suddenly become a farm with a worth of 1bn naira?

Out of shock, I tweeted a reply to the Vice President’s tweet and asked if the farm was planting coca leaves from which cocaine is made? That was the only explanation I could think of that could lead to such astronomical growth. Or perhaps did they find the fabled goose that laid the golden egg or even the magical beans that grew into the sky to the land of the giants.

It was such a ludicrous claim that it would have been comical if not for the enormity of the claim.

A day after my tweet Tedheke came to clarify the issue and let me know how he grew his farm. In 2017 he recorded an audio in defense of President Muhammadu Buhari and the aide to the President on Social Media Lauretta Onochie reached out to him and it led to a meeting in Abuja and that meeting was the catalyst for the birth of the farm.

He then borrowed 1.5m naira to start the farm which he repaid in three months and in their first year the farm had a yield of three thousand tons of maize planted. He further explained that the Vice President had undervalued them as the farm was worth more than the 1bn naira the Vice President had mentioned.

Tedheke explained the different things they had done and also the future plans that they had. Finally he talked about a loan they applied for in 2018 called the Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme (CACS) one of the central bank schemes to help farmers. According to Tedheke they applied for 1.5bn Naira loan which was scaled down to 1bn and finally 720m naira. He ended his explanations with a challenge for me to visit the farm and confirm for myself if the Vice President was correct in his statement.

CACS Lending scheme

What manner of a Nation are we that we flaunt our lack of values and integrity so blatantly? How can the Vice President come out to tell us that a farm that was started in 2017 with a loan of 1.5m naira was now worth N1bn?

Did it not sound strange to him? Is that not something that should have warranted an investigation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission? For the Vice President to be the one touting such message most especially with the hit, the image of Nigerian has gotten from the recent arrest of many of its citizens involved in different fraudulent acts is disgusting, to say the least.

Mr Tedheke claimed that they planted only maize in 2017 and that the yield they had was 3000 tons. This is the equivalent of sixty thousand bags. Is it the 1.5m naira loan used to get this? As for the loan, where did Tedheke get the collateral for such a huge sum? With all the numerous debts bedeviling Nigeria and the many grants given to businesses that have failed repeatedly how come such amount was given to one farm that just started and had not proved its worth.

Was it the Vice President or the President that stood as collateral? Did they make a phone call on his behalf? Tedheke claimed to have crowdfunded for the farm and also in the process of raising millions of dollars for the farm. A lot of businesses with proven credibility and collateral are denied these single digits loans while companies with no known credibility get approved for them huge sums of money.

What is even more appalling is the fact that the Commercial Agriculture Credit Scheme is not open to Start-Ups( businesses that are less than two business cycles) yet the farm of Tedheke was considered for 720m naira.

For how long will we as a Nation continue to allow pseudo businesses that thrive based on their closeness to the seat of government?

For how long will the government continue to favor some because they defend or praise their incompetent, clueless and inept ways?

For how long? These are questions for the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to answer and we are patiently waiting for his response.

By Aisha Yesufu

One Item Missing from the Budget By Simon Kolawole

Over breakfast and the obligatory cups of coffee somewhere in New York late September, a bright and enterprising Nigerian lady was, as it were, preaching to the converted on the urgency and benefits of private sector investment in infrastructure in Africa. The previous day at the Africa Investment Forum road show held at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York, she had challenged the world’s biggest investors and partners of the African Development Bank (AfDB) to increase their stake in Africa. She said there were solid investment opportunities and bankable transactions on the continent which they would do well to tap into today for a greater tomorrow.

Ms Chinelo Anohu was eating her breakfast slowly as I frequently interrupted to ask questions about her new assignment at AfDB. I had been unable to attend the road show the previous day because I had other engagements, so she was bringing me up to speed and highlighting the benefits of private investment in public infrastructure. I was already a convert. So, as I watched President Muhammadu Buhari lay out his plans for infrastructure in his 2020 budget presentation to the national assembly on Tuesday, I thought he is the one Anohu should be discussing with, not me. I had this feeling something vital was missing from the budget narrative. We shall come back to this presently.

President @MBuhari on october 8th presented the #Budget2020Ng Proposals to a Joint Session of the National Assembly.

After being controversially removed as the DG of the National Pension Commission (PenCom) in April 2017, Anohu disappeared from the media radar. For some of us who appreciated her capacity — especially judging by the work she did at PenCom — it was bad news. At this stage of our development, we need all hands on deck. We should be attracting and keeping talents, not discarding them. She resurfaced on the radar in May 2019 when she was appointed into the board of the University of Edinburgh Business School, Scotland. Four months later, she was named the new head and senior director of the Africa Investment Forum by Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, AfDB president.

The Africa Investment Forum is saddled with “tilting” the flow of capital into the continent and “closing” the funding gap for transformational projects. It is branded as Africa’s investment deal-making marketplace aimed at raising capital, advancing projects to bankable stage and accelerating the financial closure of deals. “Africa has an annual infrastructure investment gap of about $100 billion,” Anohu said. The figure is intimidating. Nigeria alone is said to need about $10 billion yearly for federal infrastructure. Buhari has budgeted N2.14 trillion (about $6 billion) for capital projects in 2020. It does not meet the target but that is not the issue. We shall return to this.

I left my breakfast meeting with Anohu thinking of possibilities in Nigeria. Many development experts will argue that until we fix our infrastructural deficit, our huge potential will remain inchoate. The roads, in particular, are begging to be fixed. Bridges are longing to be built. Public schools are lacking not just in quality instruction but also in conducive classroom environment. The hospitals are forever dilapidated, lacking bed space, drugs and equipment. Any country that does not fix these basics cannot expect its people to be well educated and healthy — and should not expect magic from its economy. But where do we get all the money to fix these things?

Buhari has presented our biggest budget ever to the national assembly. I will attempt a summary in just one paragraph, with plenty full stops and commas. We will spend N10.33 trillion, earn N8.155 trillion and have a deficit of N2.175 trillion. Of the N10.33 trillion we plan to spend, N2.14 trillion will go into capital projects (excluding statutory transfers), N3.6 trillion into personnel and pension costs and N2.45 trillion into debt service. We intend to produce 2.18 million barrels of crude oil per day, sell at $57 and earn N2.18 trillion from the black gold. I can see problems and challenges with the distribution and feasibility of these figures, but I would leave that to the experts to sort out.

Buhari said something in his presentation that caught my attention: “Investing in critical infrastructure is a key component of our fiscal strategy under the 2020 budget proposals.” He added that the “main emphasis” will be the completion of “as many ongoing projects as possible, rather than commencing new ones”. The president also revealed that MDAs “have not been allowed to admit new projects into their capital budget for 2020, unless adequate provision has been made for the completion of ALL ongoing projects”. The “all” was written in capital letters, which would suggest the importance Buhari attaches to the issue. Why start what you can’t finish?

Now let me go to my argument of the day. We’ve been running deficit budgeting for decades — which I don’t think is a crime — but when are we going to be more innovative with funding so that we do not incur more debts? Buhari talked about “innovative borrowings using instruments such as Sukuk, Green Bonds and Diaspora Bonds” to finance infrastructure. How many more debts can we take? We are already servicing debts with a quarter of our federal budget. Why do we have to keep piling debt upon debt, no matter how favourable the conditions are and no matter the ratio to GDP? As many economists have pointed out, you pay your debt from your revenue, not your GDP.

Critically, the one missing item in Buhari’s budget is a plan to cut down on borrowing — not just raising more revenue through increase in VAT. If you have an annual need of $10 billion to finance infrastructure, you have to look at your resources carefully and decide which ones you can finance and the ones you need to borrow for. I would suggest, for instance, that government should focus on infrastructure that is central to the health and education of ordinary Nigerians. The private sector can handle some others. Why should government be taking loans to do railways and inter-state roads that are commercially viable and can be better managed by commercial entities?

I would say some of the most commercially viable roads in Africa are in Nigeria — already identified and mapped out by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC). Take a look at the Lagos-Ibadan expressway. Why should the government take loans, whether commercial or concessionary, to build such a road? Buhari himself has lamented time and again the state of federal roads and the lack of finance to fix them. Mr Nurudeen Rafindadi, the managing director of the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency (FERMA), said recently that the agency needs N100 billion yearly to rehabilitate 36,000 kilometres of federal roads across the country. We need good money.

What can we do? The federal executive council recently announced that toll gates will soon return to federal highways. If my reading is right, this is to generate money to maintain the roads or pay back loans we took to build them — or both. The idea of toll gates is good but I would not recommend that government should be collecting the money. It is better to concession the roads to reputable investors who will build and maintain them under a Public Private Partnership (PPP). There are global investors who have billions of dollars to spend on infrastructure and are only looking for the right countries. There is nothing creative in borrowing to build roads that can pay their own way.

But I am not naïve: I understand the game a bit. No investor will want to jump into an environment where contracts are not worth the paper on which they are written and signatures are not worth the ink. It requires us putting our house in order, establishing world-class processes and respecting the rule of law to win the confidence and respect of big-ticket investors. That is demanding quite a lot in a Nigerian democracy experiencing a stop-start relationship with law and order. In this business, confidence is everything. Investors want to be sure of what they are getting themselves into before taking the plunge. I will only hope that we can see things this way in Nigeria.

Agreed, we have had bad experiences with concessioning before. The Lagos-Ibadan road was a terrible experience, but the truth is that President Olusegun Obasanjo was only doing favours. He did not do it the right way. We should, therefore, not use that to discredit concessioning. It is working in many countries. I would also say that what we need to do is not simply wait for the investors to come on their own or to wait for them to develop confidence in Nigeria. We can actively promote PPP as a viable way of bridging our infrastructure gap. We can create the right environment by removing the lingering obstacles. We can then market these opportunities to investors.

While wishing Anohu all the best in her new job at AfDB, I can bet that one thing she will find out is that most investors are willing to put their funds in many countries before considering Nigeria, particularly if it has to do with the public sector. Yet we desperately need the inflow of investment, particularly the ones that will bring concrete forex, finance concrete projects and create concrete jobs. I would choose a 25-year concessioning of a highway above a 25-year bond that will only balloon our debts. It is unfortunate that Buhari is president at a time we don’t have much money, but when the world throws lemon at you, you make lemonade — not go borrowing orange.

AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…

MR LECTURER

Throughout my undergraduate years, I was never aware of any sex-for-grades practice. I knew students dated lecturers, but sexual harassment must have been covert or maybe I was naïve. I think it is sex — not climate change — that will destroy this world. I was also not aware of bribe-for-grades because no lecturer even ever hinted at it, apart from forcing us to buy their books and handouts. I never heard anything about having to “sort” lecturers before you could graduate. I am a young man talking about an experience of roughly 30 years ago. You can imagine how low Nigeria has sunk that these practices are now described as “open” and “common place”. Disgusting.

PHANTOM WEDDING

Those who underrate the power of social media must have eaten the humble pie last week as wild rumours of President Muhammadu Buhari taking Sadiya Umar Farouq, minister of humanitarian affairs, as second wife took over the cyberspace. Somebody, or a group of people, sat down, composed tweets, dug up old videos, designed invitation cards and started broadcasting them. Pronto, the social media caught fire. I lost count of how many people asked me: “Simon, is it true?” Of course, I could easily see the manipulation of facts with the videos. Friday came, Friday went, no wedding took place. I always knew the fake news merchants were just having fun. Mischief.

NEW OIL

Finally, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has found oil in the north after decades of intensive search. The NNPC announced the discovery of hydrocarbon deposits in the Gongola Basin on Friday. This is good and bad news. Good news for the political economy of Nigeria — the rage about “the north is a parasite on our oil” would become moderated and there would also be more petrodollars for FAAC in the short run. But it is bad news for the development of Nigeria — more oil may only worsen our laziness, ruin the lives of local communities and hamper the drive towards value-added agriculture and industry. Mixed.

OIL MONEY

To help us gain further insight into how we spend oil money in this country, Chief Seriake Dickson, governor of Bayelsa state, has just appointed 60 new special advisers to help his government “finish well” — four months to the end of his eight-year tenure. Governor Mohammed Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa has just appointed “SA to first wife”, “SA to second wife” and “SA to third wife”. The mismanagement of the resources of this country under the false assumption that we are super rich will continue to hurt us, no matter the price of crude oil. I have always said that if you are stupid, more money does not make you wise. You only become more stupid. Annoying.

Written By Simon Kolawole

“How I Cemented my Friendship with Aliko Dangote”- Bill Gates

Have you ever met someone new and immediately felt like you could talk to them for hours?

That happened the first time I met Aliko Dangote. A couple years ago, he and I ended up going to the same event in New York. A mutual friend suggested that I meet him because he knew we were both super interested in global health. So we made sure to sit next to each other at dinner.

As soon as we shook hands, it was clear we had a ton in common. We both started successful businesses in the late 1970s. For our second act in life, we both chose to start foundations aimed at improving health and education. (Today, the Dangote Foundation is the largest such organization in sub-Saharan Africa.)

More importantly, we both love to geek out over things that make some people’s eyes glaze over, like cement, fertilizer, and iodized salt. Check out this video of Aliko’s recent visit to our foundation’s office in Seattle for proof:

That first meeting sparked the beginning of a fruitful friendship. In 2016, our foundations announced a joint, five-year $100 million commitment to reducing malnutrition in Nigeria.

Malnutrition is the greatest health inequity in the world. It’s responsible for nearly half of all under 5 deaths in Nigeria (and around the world). Even if you survive to adulthood, your chances of dying are much higher, and your quality of life is greatly reduced.

One of the ways our foundations are working together to fight malnutrition is through food fortification. Kids often become malnourished when they don’t get enough micronutrients—vitamins and minerals—to digest their food properly. One way to correct this is by adding micronutrients to the food that families—especially those from low-income households—are purchasing every day.

When you go to a grocery store in the U.S., a lot of food already has this fortification. Think iodized salt, or milk that comes with extra vitamin D and calcium. By introducing additional micronutrients to the food people are already eating, you can improve health without changing any habits. Our foundations are now working together to find other staple foods and condiments that could be used to deliver more micronutrients to more people in Nigeria, like fortified bouillon cubes. (I talked with Aliko about this at our Goalkeepers event in New York a couple days ago. You can watch a video of our conversation here.)

Improving health in Nigeria is critical to making progress in sub-Saharan Africa. The country is home to nearly a quarter of all people living in sub-Saharan Africa, and that population is only going to grow in the future. By solving problems in Nigeria, you can have a huge impact on all of Africa.

Aliko Dangote understands this, and that’s why he’s committed to making progress in his home country. Melinda and I are lucky to have him as a partner (and friend!) in improving health.

President Buhari Must Release Sowore Now!- Premium Times

On Friday, September 20, the federal government charged Omoyele Sowore, the presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) in the 2019 general elections, with treason and money-laundering.

This is sequel to his arrest and detention for the past 45 days for having planned a series of protest marches against the state of the nation under the Buhari administration. This is an ominous sign. Opposition to the government of the day is not treason, however conceived. The additional claim that Mr. Sowore “insulted” the president would make the whole episode laughable, were the liberty and freedom of speech of a citizen not at stake. Nigerians asserted and exercised the right to protest against successive military dictators, including Buhari, in his earlier incarnation as head of state, and that right does not become dormant under civilian rule. The government is doing itself a disservice by infringing this right by way of these ridiculous charges.

Since Sowore’s arrest at his hotel in Lagos on August 3 by operatives of the SSS, two days before #RevolutionNow, a planned protest that he was spearheading and until formal charges were filed on Friday, the government had put out one ridiculous “explanation” or another, none convincing, for the arrest and continued detention of this political activist and engaged citizen. As a matter of fact, many have speculated that the latest charges were a last-minute attempt to hold Mr. Sowore beyond the 45-day limit set on keeping political detainees in custody without trial.

Mr. Sowore is certainly not the only victim of the Buhari administration’s highhandedness. Several citizens, including Ahmed Dadiyata, the journalist Jones Abiri, and others have fallen on the wrong side of this government’s definition of conduct it deems offensive and, therefore, illegal. We wonder what has become of Buhari’s vaunted claim of being a “reborn democrat” on the campaign trail.

Mr. Sowore’s arrest and now arraignment is the latest instance of this government’s growing intolerance of criticism and brazen violations of citizens’ rights and liberties.

PREMIUM TIMES asserts that Mr. Sowore is a patriot and a passionate crusader for justice, whose commitments to Nigeria are not in doubt. Since his days as a students’ union leader at the University of Lagos in the mid-1990s, Mr. Sowore has put his immense gifts for organisation and mobilisation at the service of the disenfranchised in the country, including those of latter-day “democrats” like Mr. Buhari.

From his work as an organiser among US-based Nigerian pro-democracy groups to the founding of the citizen-journalism platform, SaharaReporters, to his recent exertions as a politician, Mr. Sowore has maintained a commitment to improving Nigeria’s civic values.

Is Sowore paying for remaining at the forefront of the struggle for a better Nigeria, displaying the courage of his conviction in a steadfast, fearless, truth-telling, and progressively influential way, while other challengers to Buhari’s presidency during the 2019 elections have either made their peace with things as they are or returned to their private businesses?

PREMIUM TIMES believes that the administration adds nothing to the legal merits in its case against Mr. Sowore by proposing an imprudent charge of “insulting the president,” a funny retort unknown to the laws of our country. The hint is therefore difficult to dispel that, adding its serial disobedience of court orders, the increasing side-stepping of protocols that strengthen democratic norms, plus Mr. Buhari’s own record of contempt for democratic preferences in the 1980s, President Buhari’s administration is now embarking on a steady march towards authoritarianism and the undermining of citizens’ constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedoms of assembly, speech and protest.

Mr. Sowore is a patriot and a genuine, compassionate defender of the freedoms that Nigerians are entitled to enjoy. His current ordeal is totally unwarranted. We call on the government to stop the persecution of this exemplary citizen, to release him from detention, and vacate all the charges against him.

PREMIUM TIMES calls on all Nigerian citizens and democrats to stand up and resist the creeping dictatorship emerging in our country.