My Lord, Chief Justice Ibrahim Tanko You Gaffed Authoritatively! By Fredrick Nwabufo

The supreme court is an “ecclesiastical order’’; it sits on high looking down on the ”lowly”. It dispenses in inexorable ‘’justice’’; justice not because it is always just, but because it cannot be interrogated when it is unjust.

In the course of my career as a journalist, I have covered a good number of court cases. And I have beheld the power, glory and mesmerismo of judges.

I recall a justice of the high court who after delivering judgment on a matter, said: “Here, we judges are God. After us, whatever you don’t agree with, you can take it to God.’’ The sheer profundity of the statement hit me like a jab from Anthony Joshua.

Really, in the hands of judges lie the power of life and death. It is the reason the best of us mortals, in all aspects – intellection, integrity and morality – must be allowed on the hallowed bench.

The judiciary is a vital institution in the preservation and protection of rights and liberties, and in the maintenance of social balance; so, there cannot be room for oddities; the best and the best of us must people it.

The legislature can afford to make a mistake and emend it; the executive can afford to make a mistake and revise it, but when the last tier of the judiciary {supreme court} makes a mistake, it is irrevocable. That error will go on to become precedential law.

The presumption of infallibility of the supreme court is a prerogative that comes with great responsibility. It is dulia only reserved for the gods; why then should the head of this ‘’ecclesiastical order’’ be like mortals, and even, not the best among mortals?

In my early years, the late Justice Oputa was my impression of the archetypal supreme court judge. Oh! The intellection, the poetry, the philosophy, the depth and finesse he summarily dispatched on cases? But I came to an obverse impression after attending sessions at the apex court and heard in utter mortification the slovenly grammar and sloppy literary discharges of these ‘’celestials’’.   

I have watched a video clip of the senate confirmation hearing of Ibrahim Muhammad Tanko, chief justice of Nigeria (CJN), where he blundered irrepressibly, five times. And each time my mouth is agape with incredulity. I am embarrassed for the CJN.

In fact, here is the unsettling performance in words:

Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe: “My Lord, in 2018, Akeredolu vs Abraham, I can quote the supreme court if you permit me. The supreme court said, ‘technicality in the administration of justice, shuts out justice. it is, therefore, better to have a case heard or determined on its merit than to leave the court with the shield of victory obtained on a mere technicality.”

“But my lord, just a few weeks ago, the supreme court also said and I quote, ‘The correct order to make is to declare the judgement of the trial tribunal a nullity as a result of one of the panelists not sitting on a day when proceedings were held’. And Nigerians are really worried, we would like to know where this supreme court will be situated under you?”

In response, Muhammad defined technicality, saying there are technicalities in Nigerian laws because the laws were inherited from the British.

He said he could not “drive a plane” because of the technicalities involved, adding that: “If something which is technical comes before the court, what we do in trial courts is to ask people who are experts in that field to come and testify. We rely on their testimony because they are experts in that field.’’

My Lord, you dropped a clanger, but in my court I will pardon you for ‘’authoritative gaffing’’.

Obasanjo Writes Buhari Says Killings Can No Longer be Treated With Nonchalance[FULL STATEMENT]

OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT, GENERAL MUHAMMADU BUHARI

I am constrained to write to you this open letter. I decided to make it an open letter because the issue is very weighty and must be greatly worrisome to all concerned Nigerians and that means all right-thinking Nigerians and those resident in Nigeria. Since the issue is of momentous concern to all well-meaning and all right-thinking  Nigerians, it must be of great concern to you, and collective thinking and dialoguing is the best way of finding an appropriate and adequate solution to the problem. The contents of this letter, therefore, should be available to all those who can help in proffering effective solutions for the problem of insecurity in the land.

One of the spinoffs and accelerants is the misinformation and disinformation through the use of fake news. A number of articles, in recent days, have been attributed to me by some people who I believe may be seeking added credence and an attentive audience for their opinions and viewpoints. As you know very well, I will always boldly own what I say and disown what is put into my mouth. But the issue I am addressing here is very serious; it is the issue of life and death for all of us and for our dear country, Nigeria.  This issue can no longer be ignored, treated with nonchalance, swept under the carpet or treated with cuddling glove.  The issue is hitting at the foundation of our existence as Nigerians and fast eroding the root of our Nigerian community. I am very much worried and afraid that we are on the precipice and dangerously reaching a tipping point where it may no longer be possible to hold danger at bay.  Without being immodest, as a Nigerian who still bears the scar of the Nigerian civil war on my body and with a son who bears the scar of fighting Boko Haram on his body, you can understand, I hope, why I am so concerned.  When people are desperate and feel that they cannot have confidence in the ability of government to provide security for their lives and properties, they will take recourse to anything and everything that can guarantee their security individually and collectively.

For over ten years, for four of which you have been the captain of the ship, Boko Haram has menacingly ravaged the land and in spite of  government’s claim of victory  over Boko Haram, the potency and the activities of Boko Haram, where they are active, remain undiminished, putting lie to government’s claim. The recent explanation of the Chief of Army Staff for non-victory due to lack of commitment and lack of motivation on the part of troops bordering on sabotage speaks for itself. Say what you will, Boko Haram is still a daily issue of insecurity for those who are victimised, killed, maimed, kidnapped, raped, sold into slavery and forced into marriage and for children forcibly recruited into carrying bombs on them to detonate among crowds of people to cause maximum destructions and damage. And Boko Haram will not go away on the basis of sticks alone, carrots must overweigh sticks.  How else do you deal with issues such as only about 50% literacy in North-East with over 70% unemployment?

Herdsmen/farmers crises and menace started with the government treating the issue with cuddling glove instead of a hammer.  It has festered and spread. Today, it has developed into banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery and killings all over the country. The unfortunate  situation is that the criminality is being perceived as a ‘Fulani’ menace  unleashed  by Fulani  elite in the different parts of the country for a number of reasons  but even more, unfortunately, many Nigerians  and non-Nigerians who are friends of Nigeria attach vicarious  responsibility  to you as a  Fulani elite and the current captain of the Nigeria ship. Perception may be as potent as reality at times.  Whatever may be the grievances of Fulanis, if any, they need to be put out in the open and their grievances, if legitimate, be addressed; and if other ethnic groups have grievances, let them also be brought out in the open and addressed through debate and dialogue.

The main issue, if I may dare say, is poor management or mismanagement of diversity which, on the other hand, is one of our greatest and most important assets.  As a result, the very onerous cloud is gathering.  And the rain of destruction, violence, disaster and disunity can only be the outcome.  Nothing should be taken for granted, the clock is ticking with the cacophony of dissatisfaction and disaffection everywhere in and outside the country. The Presidency and the Congress in the US have signalled to us to put our house in order. The House of Lords in the UK had debated the Nigerian security situation. We must understand and appreciate the significance, implication and likely consequences of such concerns and deliberations.

No one can stop hate speech, violent agitation and smouldering violent agitation if he fans the embers of hatred, disaffection and violence.  It will continue to snowball until it is out of control.  A stitch in time saves nine, goes the old wise saying.

With the death of Funke, Chief Fasoranti’s daughter, some sympathetic Nigerian groups are saying “enough is enough”. Prof. Anya, a distinguished  Nigerian merit Laureate,  has this to say “We can no longer say with certainty that we have a nation”.  Niger-Delta leaders, South-Eastern leaders, Middle-Belt leaders and Northern Elders Forum have not remained quiet.  Different ordinary Nigerians at home and abroad are calling for different measures to address or ameliorate the situation. All the calls and cries can only continue to be ignored at the expense of Nigerian unity, if not its continued existence.

To be explicit and without equivocation, Mr President and General, I am deeply worried about four avoidable calamities:

  1. abandoning Nigeria into the hands of criminals who are all being suspected, rightly or wrongly, as Fulanis and terrorists of Boko Haram  type;
  2. Spontaneous or planned reprisal attacks against Fulanis which may inadvertently or advertently mushroom into pogrom or Rwanda-type genocide that we did not believe could happen and yet it happened.
  3. similar attacks against any other tribe or ethnic group anywhere in the country initiated by rumours, fears, intimidation and revenge capable of leading to pogrom;
  4. violent uprising beginning from one section of the country and spreading quickly to other areas and leading to the dismemberment of the country.

It happened to Yugoslavia not too long ago. If we do not act now, one or all of these scenarios may happen. We must pray and take effective actions at the same time. The initiative is in the hands of the President of the nation, but he cannot do it alone.  In my part of the world, if you are sharpening your cutlass and a mad man comes from behind to take the cutlass from you, you need other people’s assistance to have your cutlass back without being harmed. The madmen with serious criminal intent and terrorism as core value have taken cutlass of security.  The need for assistance to regain control is obviously compelling and must be embraced now.

A couple of weeks ago at a public lecture, I had said, among other things, that:

In all these issues of mobilisation for national unity, stability, security, cooperation, development, growth and progress, there is no consensus.  Like in the issue of security, government should open up discussion, debate and dialogue as part of consultation at different levels and the outcome of such deliberations should be collated to form inputs into a national conference to come up with the solution that will effectively deal with the issues and lead to rapid development, growth and progress which will give us a wholesome society and enhanced living standard and livelihood in an inclusive and shared society.  It will be a national programme.  We need unity of purpose and nationally accepted strategic roadmap that will not change with whims and caprices of any government.  It must be owned by the citizens, people’s policy and strategy implemented by the government no matter it’s colour and leaning.

Some of the groups that I will suggest to be contacted are: traditional rulers, past heads of service (no matter how competent or incompetent they have been and how much they have contributed to the mess we are in), past heads of para-military organisations, private sector, civil society, community leaders particularly in the most affected areas, present and past governors, present and past local government leaders, religious leaders, past Heads of State, past intelligence chiefs, past Heads of Civil Service and relevant current and retired diplomats, members of opposition and any groups that may be deemed relevant.”

The President must be seen to be addressing this issue with utmost seriousness and with maximum dispatch and getting all hands on deck to help.  If there is a failure, the principal responsibility will be that of the President and no one else.  We need cohesion and concentration of effort and maximum force – political, economic, social, psychological and military – to deal successfully with the menace of criminality and terrorism separately and together.  Blame game among own forces must be avoided.  It is debilitating and only helpful to our adversary. We cannot dither anymore. It is time to confront this threat headlong and in a manner that is holistic, inclusive and purposeful.

For the sake of Nigeria and Nigerians,  I pray that God may grant you, as our President, the wisdom, the understanding, the political will and the courage to do what is right when it is right and without fear or favour.  May God save, secure, protect and bless Nigeria. May He open to us a window of opportunity that we can still use to prevent the worst happening.  As we say in my village, “May God forbid bad thing”.

OLUSEGUN OBASANJO

July 15, 2019

Released by

Kehinde Akinyemi

Special Assistant Media.

The War on Women By Kadaria Ahmed

The war on women was brought into my bedroom on Friday night when my 21-year old daughter, Temisan was arrested by the Police at the check-point by the City Capitol hotel in Abuja at 23.23h for possession of old Nigerian currencies – one twenty naira (N20.00) and fifty naira (N50.00). That was three minutes after she called me she was on her way home and had shared her Taxify trip status with me.

She had gone for dinner with her friends at the Ivory Place in Wuse 2 and was on her way back home when the Police team of four stopped the car she was riding in, asked her to come down and started searching her handbag. When they could not find any contraband in her bag, they pulled her wallet apart and found the old bills. Thank God that she had the presence of mind to call me immediately they asked her to come down from the car and started searching her bag. They asked her to stand by the roadside and dismissed her Taxify ride.

Then she said they were taking her ‘somewhere’ and she will know her offence. So she started shouting that her mum wanted to speak with them. Then I heard the policeman say ‘stupid girl, who is taking your phone? So reluctantly he took the phone and I introduced myself as her mum and requested to know what they were charging her for. That was when Officer Nnaman (I think that was what I read on his tag) told me ‘we found old currency in her bag so we are taking her to the station’. When I asked where exactly that was, he could not tell me any particular location. All he said was ‘well, we are still at City Capitol hotel for now but we will soon go’. When he said that, I saw flashes of the manifestations of the war on Nigerian women: women arrested on trumped-up charges and raped in custody, commercial sex workers arrested for the sexual pleasure of the Police and detained for days, I saw women who were killed for trying to resist their Police abductors and labeled armed robbers or girlfriends of criminals, accused of illegal possession of hard drugs (which they would have planted on their victims), and so on and so forth.

I told God that Temisan should not be added to the statistics and quickly threw a boubou on my night gown, and raced out to save my daughter! In the car, I called a Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) friend of mine and explained the situation to him. He confirmed that wasn’t a criminal offence and asked me to call him when I got to where she was being detained.

It took less than 10 minutes to get to her but the car couldn’t move fast enough for me! We were like a minute from her when she called again that they said ‘someone’ was taking her ‘somewhere’. I told her not to move since I was already seeing her silhouette. When I saw my daughter, my heart sank. Whoever saw her where she stood by the hotel would have said she was soliciting. Nobody would have imagined that her journey did not originate from that location or that her Taxify driver was dismissed by the Nigerian Police Officers on duty! She was visibly shaken and traumatised but she was composed.

I held her tight and asked for the oic. He repeated her offence and showed me the two bills in the photo as evidence. I requested to know if that was an offence and he answered in the affirmative. I called the DCP and handed the phone to officer Nnama. The spoke and all I could hear was ‘yes sir, yes sir, yes sir’. When he handed the phone back to me, he was looking like a deflated balloon. the DCP apologised profusely on behalf of the Force. Then we were free to go home.

In the car I couldn’t stop imagining what could have happened to my daughter and the lies the Police would have told if anything untoward had happened to her. I could not bring myself to imagine how that would have changed the lives of every member of the family. I wondered how the evening would have ended if I did not have a DCP on speed dial.

It did not matter that she carried her NYSC ID card or her valid Driver’s license or her Voter’s Card in her wallet – documents that would have shown that she is a responsible, law-abiding citizen. I wondered what could have happened to her if I had been out of town or if I did not live here in Abuja with her. I kept wondering why she decided to ride in her friend’s car instead of taking her sister’s car as planned. I had a feeling she was going to have a run-in with the Police when she left me in the living room and I had told her the routes to avoid when driving back home because of Police harassment on Nigerian women.

When I realised she didn’t take her car, I called to ask how she was getting home and she said she would take a Taxify. I was uncomfortable and asked her to share her trip status with me the moment she got in the car. I also started praying for her safety as I monitored the trip.

We got home just before midnight.

I am THANKFUL. God loves us and I know it. I feel it every waking moment!

I am also ANGRY that we have a President that allows the war on Nigerian women to go on and refuses to say a word. I am angry at the innocent women whose lives have been taken or ruined due to poor leadership and virtuous followership. I am angry that all the gains made by women previously have been rolled back by a misogynistic leadership who just got re-elected for yet another term.

Nigeria belongs to all of us and nobody can run me out of town. I have joined other Nigerians to decry the war on women in the past few months but now the battle just got PERSONAL. The battle line has been drawn!

Written By Kadira Ahmed

Kadaria Ahmed is a Nigerian journalist, media entrepreneur, and television host. She started her career at the BBC in London and has worked in print, radio, television, online and social media platforms.

How to Get a Nigerian Passport Within one Week Without Paying a Bribe

Until August 2017, I was the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms (BPSR), with the daunting task of reforming Nigeria’s Federal Public Service. As part of that role, I sought to move the focus of Public Service Reforms away from the Public Service unto the public. This was a deliberate tactical approach that sought to change the approach to public service reforms from inputs to outcomes. Problems with the Public Service are often complex and intractable. There are various reasons why Public Service Reforms are difficult in most environments and are particularly difficult in developing countries, such as Nigeria.

In countries such as ours, the public service reformer is often dealing with myriad systemic input problems in the organisation he is trying to reform, including lack of electricity, insufficient financial provision, lack of working tools, poor internet access, poor staff motivation and systematic corruption. The combination of these, and any one of them for that matter, is sufficient reason to explain away a lack of improvement in public service delivery. Focusing on the outcome expected, rather than the problems with the inputs, gives the reformer a better chance of driving reforms in dysfunctional environments. The need to deliver the outputs expected forces the system to align the required inputs to achieve the expected outcomes, rather than focusing on the difficult task of trying to solve all the input problems before we can get the improvements in service delivery that the public expects and deserves. We will use the tortious issue of obtaining a Nigerian passport as a demonstration of how it could be done.

Many Nigerians go through a painful, dysfunctional and extortionate process when they try to obtain an international passport. Given its population and the absence of a focus on outcomes by the Comptroller-General, Lagos residents suffer the most. It is virtually impossible to obtain a Nigerian passport in Lagos without “knowing someone” and paying above the official rate of N15,000 for a 32-page passport and N20,000 for a 64-page passport. Even after paying more than double the official price and making obeisance to god-like Immigration officials, applicants are still confronted with the claim that “there are no booklets.” The Comptroller-General of Immigration often makes a categorical, but hollow, assertion that there are sufficient booklets nationwide, but the experience of citizens is clearly contrary to that claim. It is either that the Comptroller-General is being economical with the truth or that his officers are deliberately making things difficult in order to derive corrupt benefits from the dysfunction, and that the Comptroller-General is not interested in doing anything about it. Overcoming this logjam is relatively straightforward. Nigerians can obtain an international passport in a week without needing to know anybody and without paying a kobo more than the official price. In the next few paragraphs, I will outline how this can be done.

The first step is for the Presidency to demand from the Immigration Service the service standards for issuing Nigerian passports. The last time, that I am aware of, such service standards were set for passport issuance was under the SERVICOM regime in 2004. At that time, the Immigration Service undertook to provide international passports within one week, but expectedly within 72 hours. Most people, including the Immigration Service, currently appear not to be aware of this service standard. Nobody monitors performance against these standards, and although passport issuance is part of the Ease of Doing Business initiative, the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) has achieved little or nothing in this regard. It is important for the Immigration Service to commit to this standard, or revisit the standard and set a more realistic one and make the targets publicly-known, and for PEBEC and the National SERVICOM Office to publicly report the performance of the Immigration Service against these standards.

In order to meet the existing performance standard, or whatever new standard is set, it is necessary to take a number of straightforward actions. First, all payments must be made online. Notionally, this is already the case, but in practice, citizens are often unable to make online payments, forcing them to have personal contact with Immigration officers and their touts, who extract corrupt rents for “helping” people. The payment systems are often unavailable, either due to weaknesses in technical infrastructure or as a result of deliberate sabotage. Indeed, those that “stupidly go and pay online” are made to suffer interminable delays and forced to regret their attempts to do things properly. The Comptroller-General and PEBEC should be monitoring the frequency of “network” downtimes by location and tackling cases where the downtimes are as a result of deliberate sabotage. The good thing about technology is that there is always an audit trail that tells you who has done what to the system, at what time, in which location. They should also be monitoring how quickly applicants that pay in advance online receive their passports.

Even when an applicant successfully pays online, another major pinch-point is the capture process. Nigeria does not really have a passport renewal process. Every passport application is deemed to be a new application requiring fresh biometric capture. This would ordinarily not be a problem, particularly given the sensitive security nature of international passports. The process of being “captured” is, however, another corruption ‘toll gate.’ It should be possible to simply book an appointment for capture online, appear on the appointed date and time and be captured within 15 minutes. Currently, the appointment system tends to give you an appointment in 6 years’ time when the validity of the passport you are applying for is only 5 years! This forces you to seek out an Immigration officer that will “help” you, of course in the expectation of “appreciation.” There does not seem to be any willingness on the part of the Immigration Service to apply the simple technical fix required to make the appointment system work.

The Immigration Service knows the number of passport applications that it gets each year. It also knows that Nigeria’s population growth rate is 2.6%. How hard can it be to ensure that we have enough booklets to cover all applicants? I mean really! Unlike National Identity Cards, passports are not issued for free but for a fee. The Federal Government should configure the Treasury Single Account to ensure that the fees generated from passport issuance is used to ensure the availability of passport booklets at all times. If, as a result of exchange rates, the price of the passport is too low, especially as it is currently printed abroad, the Immigration Service should review the price and gradually increase it over time. Passport issuance is not a social service. Having said that, every effort should be made to print passports in country.

Every Nigerian knows that if you give enough cash to Immigration officials, you can get your passport in less than 6 hours. We also know that Nigerians like to leave things late, often applying for a passport within just days of needing to travel. Of course, pressure of time on the applicant is a compelling reason why they would pay for “help.” It is easy for the Passport Service to put in place an Emergency Fast Track process that charges four times what the normal rate of passport application is. Those that are in a hurry can pay N60,000-N80,000 per booklet to government, rather than into the private pockets of Immigration officials, and the funds can be reinvested into improving the passport process and even incentivising Immigration officers. Those that are not in a hurry and can wait a week, or whatever the new service target that the Service sets, can pay the normal price and get their passports without begging or bribing anyone.

Finally, the recent data integration between the Nigeria Immigration Service and the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) is commendable. When a Nigerian has a National Identity Number issued NIMC, there is really no reason why they should not be able to obtain their passport within one week of submitting all required documentation. They should be able to pay online, book an appointment for biometric capture, get captured within 15 minutes without begging or bribing anybody, and be given an appointment for when to collect their passports. The performance of the Immigration Service on each of these steps should be monitored and publicly-reported. Until this is possible, the One-Government mantra in Executive Order E001 is simply hollow rhetoric, and the Vice President’s recent charge that Nigerians should not pay a bribe to obtain a passport simply a political statement. These suggestions are not new. They were given to the Immigration Service in 2017as part of a BPSR study on removing the bottlenecks to passport issuance when I was the BPSR Director-General. Before then, a SERVICOM assessment of the Passport Service in June 2006 came to pretty much the same conclusions. The Immigration Service seems to lack the willingness to address the issue and appears to have the power to get away with it. The Vice President, who is the head of PEBEC, should use the power of his office to ensure that they implement these recommendations and that the Passport Service does not continue to get away with the current dysfunctionin passport issuance, to the detriment of Nigerians.

JOE ABAH

Dr Abah is the former Director-General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms. He is currently the Country Director of DAI, a global development company. The views contained in this article are personal to him and do not represent the views of any employer past or present.

Who Sold Nigeria To The British For £865k In 1899?

This is the story of the first oil war, which was fought in the 19th century, in the area that became Nigeria.

All through the 19th century, palm oil was highly sought-after by the British, for use as an industrial lubricant for machinery. Remember that Britain was the world’s first industrialised nation, so they needed resources such as palm oil to maintain that.

Palm oil, of course, is a tropical plant, which is native to the Niger Delta. Malaysia’s dominance came a century later. By 1870, palm oil had replaced slaves as the main export of the Niger Delta, the area which was once known as the Slave Coast. At first, most of the trade in the oil palm was uncoordinated, with natives selling to those who gave them the best deals. Native chiefs such as former slave, Jaja of Opobo became immensely wealthy because of oil palm. With this wealth came influence.

However, among the Europeans, there was competition for who would get preferential access to the lucrative oil palm trade. In 1879, George Goldie formed the United African Company (UAC), which was modelled on the former East India Company. Goldie effectively took control of the Lower Niger River. By 1884, his company had 30 trading posts along the Lower Niger. This monopoly gave the British a strong hand against the French and Germans in the 1884 Berlin Conference. The British got the area that the UAC operated in, included in their sphere of influence after the Berlin Conference.

When the Brits got the terms they wanted from other Europeans, they began to deal with the African chiefs. Within two years of 1886, Goldie had signed treaties with tribal chiefs along the Benue and Niger Rivers whilst also penetrating inland. This move inland was against the spirit of verbal agreements that had been made to restrict the organisation’s activities to coastal regions.

Sir George Dashwood Taubman Goldie. Photo Sir Hubert von Herkomer

By 1886, the company name changed to The National Africa Company and was granted a royal charter (incorporated). The charter authorised the company to administer the Niger Delta and all lands around the banks of the Benue and Niger Rivers. Soon after, the company was again renamed. The new name was Royal Niger Company, which survives, as Unilever, till this day.

To local chiefs, the Royal Niger Company negotiators had pledged free trade in the region. Behind, they entered private contracts on their terms. Because the (deceitful) private contracts were often written in English and signed by the local chiefs, the British government enforced them. So for example, Jaja of Opobo, when he tried to export palm oil on his own, was forced into exile for “obstructing commerce”. As an aside, Jaja was “forgiven” in 1891 and allowed to return home, but he died on the way back, poisoned with a cup of tea.

Seeing what happened to Jaja, some other native rulers began to look more closely at the deals they were getting from the Royal Nigeria Company. One of such kingdoms was Nembe, whose king, Koko Mingi VIII, ascended the throne in 1889 after being a Christian schoolteacher. Koko Mingi VIII, King Koko for short, like most rulers in the yard, was faced with the Royal Nigeria Company encroachment. He also resented the monopoly enjoyed by the Royal Nigeria Company and tried to seek out favourable trading terms, with particularly the Germans in Kamerun (Cameroon).

By 1894, the Royal Nigeria Company increasingly dictated whom the natives could trade with, and denied them direct access to their former markets. In late 1894, King Koko renounced Christianity and tried to form an alliance with Bonny and Okpoma against the Royal Nigeria Company to take back the trade. This is significant because while Okpoma joined up, Bonny refused. A harbinger of the successful “divide and rule” tactic.

On 29 January 1895, King Koko led an attack on the Royal Niger Company’s headquarters, which was in Akassa in today’s Bayelsa state. The pre-dawn raid had more than a thousand men involved. King Koko’s attack succeeded in capturing the base. Losing 40 of his men, King Koko captured 60 white men as hostages, as well as a lot of goods, ammunition and a Maxim gun. Koko then attempted to negotiate a release of the hostages in exchange for being allowed to chose his trading partners. The British refused to negotiate with Koko, and he had forty of thehostages killed. A British report claimed that the Nembe people ate them. On 20 February 1895, Britain’s Royal Navy, under Admiral Bedford attacked Brass and burned it to the ground. Many Nembe people died and smallpox finished off a lot of others.

By April 1895, business had returned to “normal”, normal being the conditions that the British wanted, and King Koko was on the run. Brass was fined £500 by the British, £62,494 (NGN29 million) in today’s money, and the looted weapons were returned as well as the surviving prisoners. After a British Parliamentary Commission sat, King Koko was offered terms of settlement by the British, which he rejected and disappeared. The British promptly declared him an outlaw and offered a reward of £200 (£26,000; NGN12 million today) for him. He committed suicide in exile in 1898.

About that time, another “recalcitrant King”, the Oba of Benin, was run out of town. The pacification of the Lower Niger was well and truly underway. The immediate effect of the Brass Oil War was that public opinion in Britain turned against the Royal Nigeria Company, so its charter was revoked in 1899. Following the revoking of its charter, the Royal Niger Company sold its holdings to the British government for £865,000 (£108 million today). That amount, £46,407,250 (NGN  50,386,455,032,400, at today’s exchange rate) was effectively the price Britain paid, to buy the territory which was to become known as Nigeria.

Written By

Cheta Nwanze