CBN & Banking Charges in Nigeria – A Regulator gone Rogue? (PART 1) – By Dr Charles Omole

The exploitation of customers by their banks is a global phenomenon. In the USA, 6.5 percent of households are unbanked, meaning they don’t have a bank account at all. Half of those affected report it’s because the fees are too expensive. JPMorgan Chase, for instance, made $1.9 billion from overdraft charges alone in 2016. At some large regional banks, fees accounted for almost 40 percent of revenue that year, CNBC reports; U.S. consumers as a whole paid $34.3 billion in overdraft fees in 2017. In the West, the high costs associated with financial services from banking to borrowing eat away at many people’s incomes. So majority of the charges are for borrowing or unauthorised overdrafts.


Globally, banks love Fees and Charges. As a business model, the attraction is obvious. One $35 overdraft fee per year generates as much revenue as lending out $1000 at 3.5 percent for the year. The main difference in the proliferation of bank changes from Nation to Nation…n the Western economies is Regulation. Where the regulatory frameworks is strong, bank fees are controlled as in many EU countries. But in a place like America, where there is little regulation (Trump has even waived some that were to come into effect), Bank charges…are a major Revenue source for banks. But majority of the charges are customer habit contingent; unlike in Nigeria where you are charged multiple charges for doing basic banking without any borrowing involved.

Many Western consumers don’t know it’s possible to avoid overdraft fees entirely by managing their finances better. So in d West where borrowing is easily available, charges are also on d rise as more folks borrow. But in Nigeria where there is little mass lending going on, majority of d charges are compulsory & apply even to all.In many Western economies, Banks employ “trick-and-trap” fees by hiding them in the complicated terms of agreement that accompany many transactions, which effectively trick folks into unknowingly paying exorbitant costs & charges. So d bank charges rip off is a global phenomenon.


THE NIGERIAN FACTOR

What is iniquitous about Bank Charges in Nigeria however, is the compulsory nature of many of them; their many titles & how most of d charges apply regardless of your banking habits. You can deposit N1millon into a current account in Nigeria, don’t use the account at all but come back in 5yrs to meet Thousands has been deducted in numerous charges by the bank.

According to World Bank reports; up to 60% of Nigerians are unbanked. That is; they do not have bank accounts at all. Yet in Nigeria Bank charges represents as much as 75% of some Banks Revenue. In the USA, that is 20% on average, although it can be as high as 40% in some regional banks. Instead of earning money by borrowing and lending money to the real economy, banks in Nigeria simply turn to fees & charges to boost profits; with the acquiescence and even encouragement of d CBN.


CBN is headed by a Banker who is sympathetic to his constituency (commercial banks) & their need for more profit. Hence even d restrictions imposed by Sanusi that reduced d burden of charges have been reversed by Emefiele


SYMPATHY WITH D BANKS – THEIR HIGH COST OF DOING BUSINESS

Banks will understandably argue they have a huge cost to cover if they are to operate successfully in Nigeria. While Nigeria needs 60,000 ATMs to serve the everyday cash needs of Nigerians, there are only about 18,000 ATMs across the country all owned by banks. So, to ensure the machines keep working fine maintenance is outsourced to companies such as Inlaks Computers, Computer Warehouse Group (CWG), NCR, and others. These companies are paid a fixed fee for the maintenance of each machine which may range from N200,000 to N550,000 per ATM. These cost pressures led to Banks successfully lobbying the CBN to allow ATM Charges under Emefiele.

According to sources; GTBank pays the vendor in charge of its ATMs N250,000 per machine per year while UBA pays about N280,000 per ATM per year. Diamond Bank pays over N300,000 per ATM per year to ensure the machines are in good condition. GTBank has at least 1,165 ATMs across Nigeria, which means it spends at least N291.3 million on maintaining the machines annually, while UBA’s 1,750 machines means it spends at least N490 million on maintenance. Diamond Bank could be spending as much as N350 million on maintenance of its ATMs per year. The banks feel customers need to help offset these costs through charges. This is a fair expectation.


But is imposing over a dozen charges & fees on each customer, along with commonly witnessed terrible service the right solution? I believe the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of banks and to the detriment of the customers.

In 2018, Net fee and commission income made up about 27% of GTBank’s 9-month profit declared, 48.52% of Zenith Bank’s profit and 82.7% of UBA’s profit. The fees and commission income by the banks were derived from account maintenance fees, fees from electronic banking channels, ATM charges, commission from LCs,remittances fees, card-based fees, fees from brokerage commission, among others.


So there is a credible case for some charges by d banks. What is not acceptable is d LONG LIST of these charges & their ever increasing numbers, on top of very poor customer service experiences.


RIP-OFF CHARGES

According to Punch; Between January and June 2019, four leading banks generated N24.3bn from account maintenance charged on their customers’ accounts. This is an increase of about 19.18 per cent from N20.39bn generated in the corresponding period in 2018. The Senate had in 2018 called on the Central Bank of Nigeria to suspend the deduction of card maintenance fee; but the charges still apply.

Banks are acting like a cartel and not following CBN guideline and the regulator is wilfully blind to the rip-off of customers. E.g, CBN guidelines prescribed that d rate chargeable by a bank for ‘Current Account Maintenance Fee’ (CAMF) is negotiable with a customer subject to a max of N1.00 per mille. This means; no bank is allowed to make this charge without first, negotiating with the customer.


POSSIBLE ACTIONABLE CLAIM?

The CBN guidelines places the burden on the banks. It is their responsibility to call the attention of their customers for negotiation of this fee. But that never happens in most cases. Most Customers are just charged this fee. Many may have an actionable case against their banks if the fee has not been negotiated with you. You can start by writing to your bank that they have breached CBN guidelines by not negotiating the CAMF with you and hence you demand a refund. Copy CBN in your complaint.


If enough people do this, something will give. Sadly, d silence of the CBN has emboldened the banks to misbehave and cheat customers. This must stop. Only pro-active steps from the customers will force action from CBN.

Most Nigerians are not aware of these negotiable charges as stipulated in the CBN guideline and banks are therefore taking advantage of it. This actionable claim will apply to all charges that is classified as ‘Negotiable’ in the CBN guidelines for which you have been charged without negotiation.
So it will affect each person differently. But a class action suit may be worth pursuing as this is a wholesale breach of CBN guidelines by all the banks. CBN should be given the first opportunity for redress by a massive citizens petition against the banks to the regulator.; failure after which a test case can be instituted.

ROLE OF CBN – CBN should Consider stopping Fixing of Bank Charges Centrally.

In its Banking charges guideline, CBN has 3 categories of instruction to banks on charges for services. These are:

  1. Negotiable,
  2. Set Fixed Charges Amount and
  3. Maximum/Minimum allowable charge
    So ATM withdrawal fee and Card Maintenance fee are Fixed amounts set by the CBN for all banks. Charge for special clearing of cheque is left as “Negotiable” by CBN for each bank to decide. And for others services, CBN says banks can charge UP TO a given limit.This is too much central control in my view; especially when CBN has wilfully refused to penalise and stop the rip-off habits of the banks.

Nigerian banks have now relied on fees to grow profit, often encouraged by CBN. As I have shown above; Charges are not new in the banking industry worldwide, but regulators role is to act to ensure fair competition that see customers choose service providers that offer the best value. It may be time for CBN to step back from this command and control approach. Banks can become more innovative in their product offerings if they know that the quality of products and services they offer will determine how many customers they get and how much they are able to charge. But with CBN creating charges by fiat, Banks realised they can charge that amount regardless of their service quality. So where is the incentive to compete and do better if you are able to charge the same as everyone else, even with a poor quality of service?


CASHLESS MADNESS – New Cash Deposit & Withdrawal Charges

The newly announced charges for cash deposits over N500K is ill advised. Many will simply refuse to engage with the formal banking system as these charges are additional to the rips-off fees charged by the various banks.In an interview on Channels TV today, an INEC official confirmed that their analysis shows that 30% of Nigeria is not covered by any mobile signal. I suspect the true figure may be more than that. So how do you go cashless in those blackspot areas.Even in Lagos, there are failures all the time of POS machines due to signal problems.

So CBN is putting the cart before the horse. And this shows lack of joined-up policy formulation. Before this sort of policy is announced, CBN should have worked with applicable govt depts to confirm when we can have a nationwide reliable mobile data coverage and then use that as a guide as to when its policy will come into effect. CBN cannot continue to act as though it is a country by itself and that it can act in isolation of contending and dependent realities in other areas of our national life. This new Charges should be scrapped until such a time that d infrastructure exist to provide reliable alternatives.


Too much stick by CBN is killing interest in d banking sector by many Nigerians; a bit of carrot is long overdue.Nowhere in the world has a national cashless policy ever been successfully deployed simply through Sticks and Penalties like CBN is doing. Adoption tend to be driven by incentives, Carrots and inducements. By winning hearts and minds. Maybe it is time CBN try this angle.


WHAT ARE POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS?- So what should happen now?

  1. CBN should scrap this new cash deposit charges
  2. CBN should withdraw d centrally imposed charges & allow banks to compete for business with their charges.
  3. CBN should become a more muscular Regulator by focusing on fairness of fees and any unfair competition practices by the banks.
  4. With BVN, opening a bank account should be made much easier than it is at the moment. With only 40% of Nigerians engaged in the formal banking system, Banks can make more profit by expanding their customer base rather than continuing to bleed dry the few they have. The Banking sector should introduce, SAME-DAY account opening service for Savings account that will allow people to get onboard the banking system.
  5. CBN should force banks to introduce an easy Industry-wide account transfer service as existing in many countries. This will make opening new account easier and the obligation will be on the bank you are leaving to transfer all your regular payments etc to the new bank account.
    This easy account-switching system will encourage competition as customers will find it easier to move their business elsewhere.
  6. CBN should provide annual league table of Banks based on customer complaints and satisfaction.
    This will incentify banks to do better to avoid being at the bottom of the table year after year.
  7. CBN should now adopt more of a Carrot approach to change behaviour instead of the confrontational stick it beats Nigerians with all the time.
    This is the only way the 60% of Unbanked Nigerians can be encouraged to join the formal economy.
  8. CBN should be more collaborative with other areas of govt in its action. This lone ranger, top down commando style must change.

If reforms are not implemented quickly, more Nigerians will move away from using the Banking system (except when they have no choice). This will reduce the net of customers using the services of banks even further below the 40% of Nigerians currently estimated as having bank accounts.
As I always say; these are my personal perspectives. You are entitled to agree or disagree. I wish the CBN well as it reinvent itself as the true and fair regulator of the Banking sector. The current impunity by the banks must end.

Written By

Dr Charles Omole

Download a copy of the CBN guideline

Why Nigeria Must Avoid Another Civil War | By Dele Momodu

Fellow Nigerians, I have decided to write on this topic today because of the dangerous giddiness I observe in many of our young ones today, especially on social media. I have no doubt that many of them love our country so passionately but are disappointed in how messy things have been. Many have struggled to go to school hoping to find something meaningful to do thereafter but no such luck. Many have become frustrated and despondent and desperate in the process. The resultant effect naturally is deep seated resentment and anger. But I read somewhere that “anger beclouds reasoning” more often than not. Someone needs to plead with those who think war is a tea party to perish the thought. It is not a game and to fit it into language which our youths of today will probably understand, it is not a video game. No matter how angry we were in our younger days, (and I was a pioneer JAMBITE in 1978, some 41 odd years ago), we tried hard to avoid bloodshed even when security forces fired at us, as they still do till this day. And compared to war, such confrontations are child’s play!

Even if war must come as the very last resort, there must be a method to madness. War should never be fought for the sake of war. One must ask the pertinent questions: what are we fighting for, the objectives; who is leading the war and will they come out on the battlefield with members of their own family or send others out as Guinea pigs; what guarantees have we that even if we win, which cannot ever be guaranteed, we can win with minimum collateral costs and damages? That is why we have what is called a pyrrhic victory, a victory so devastating and debilitating that it might as well have been a defeat! And in a civil war, there is ultimately no victor or vanquished because the protagonists all bear the scars for a very long time. Those who participated in and survived the Nigerian civil war will tell you of the emotional pain, anguish and torture that they still suffer till today alongside the physical injuries and wounds. We have examples of other wars fought across the globe and we know their outcomes. Even where victory has been proclaimed in some of them, we feel the aftershocks and aftermath much later on and wonder why, if it was all so in vain, we ever got involved in the process.

True, war is sometimes unavoidable, but I don’t think Nigeria or Nigerians can afford, or survive another round of a bloody civil war. Of course, it is not just the fact that such a war is likely to lead to the disintegration of the country, because some people will claim that this is what they want in any event, it is  the nature of the disintegration that must be feared and avoided. We have become too divided along ethnic lines that we may need to create tens and tens of nations out of present-day Nigeria. Each of the so-called majority tribes in Nigeria have their own local internecine battles being fought with the minority ethnic groups. Just as some majority tribes insist they want to secede or break away because they cannot stand other tribes lording it over them, so also the smaller clans which will have become bigger groups in a vastly reduced sub-region will complain about the overlordship of the new majority tribe in any new nation.  Our people are never satisfied or content. There will always be room and avenue for complaints. It is therefore not going to be as simple as many of those calling for war think to conceptualise the numerous nations that will be birthed by a war-ravaged Nigeria.  

I have been privileged to read voraciously about the history of wars globally. What pains me the most is that after the insanity that started every war calms down, the antagonists would usually sit down across a table, and dialogue with one another having agreed to a conversation they had rejected out of hand in the past, in their collective stupidity. Many of them would later come back to preach about the importance of unity after wasting so many innocent lives, but never the lives of those close to them. Those ones are usually ensconced in safety in far-away climes. 

Apart from reading, I have travelled through several war-torn zones and saw first-hand the vestiges of mutually acquired suspicion and the destruction and calamity that ensued following the seeming intractable disputes that had led to the field of battle. I was in Sierra Leone in 2001 and visited Port Loko and Mange, towns or villages that were ravaged and devastated by the war that raged with so much venom that hands and arms were amputated by whether you were wearing long sleeves or short sleeves. I wondered what on earth could have led to such meanness, wickedness and evil. I also travelled to Liberia where, again, I visited our soldiers who controlled ten of the 15 counties in the country, at the time. The story was quite similar to that of Sierra Leone. No compassion, no sympathy, no empathy. There was looting, raping and murder all in the name and disguise of war. Evildoers in these countries took refuge under the umbrella of war to unleash their bestial nature on poor unsuspecting citizens who despite their pleas and entreaties were massacred in their thousands with great mirth and debauchery accompanying the sickening killings and rapes.

I have also travelled to Rwanda many times in the last couple of years and can authoritatively confirm that no country should ever experience such a pogrom or genocide for any reason. The carnage, bloodbath and ethnic cleansing that I heard about seemed to come out of stories one reads in novels and fantasies only that I saw and met those who had been unfortunate to be victims of a macabre example of man’s inhumanity to man.   

I’m particularly worried that many of those shouting war, war, war in Nigeria hardly know the meaning of it. My visits to the Kigali Genocide Memorial convinced me that we are playing with naked fire. I see too many similarities to how the conflagration started in Rwanda. Before the two main rivals in the ethnic jingoism knew what was happening, they had started a war that wasted too many lives. I passed through that museum again some days ago and still had tears in my eyes. I ran into many Nigerians and wished they will all go back as Peace Ambassadors having witnessed the harm and suffering that a war of attrition such as that being espoused by some of our youths and aged elders can bring.

Nearer home, I have seen the effect that a mini war can have in the Ife-Modakeke crisis of the 1980’s. Close friends and families suddenly became sworn enemies. People used the opportunity to settle old scores. Young men were slain for apparently no reason.  Those who provided the guns and ammunition, the petrol and the lighters for the killings and arson that took place hid their closest and dearest from the blood-letting that ensued. When the dust settled the discerning members of both communities sat down to wonder what it was all about.  However, the damage had been done! Till this day, just as there is mutual distrust and suspicion amongst the various majority tribes of Nigeria, so also is there such distrust and suspicion between the Ifes and the Modakekes.

It is so disheartening that many of those controlling the appurtenances of power in our country today once fought for the unity of Nigeria during the civil war of 1967 to 1970. How come they have forgotten the monstrosity and monumental tragedy that befell Nigeria at that unfortunate moment? Why can’t these leaders realise that our country deserves better than to be governed in such petty manner as we now are doing? Why can’t they concentrate on the onerous tasks of nation building instead of nation wrecking? Nigeria is a great country that will become greater still if we stop fanning the ethnic embers and concentrate on building a thriving successful nation. Our diversity should be our strength and not a weakness or an albatross around our neck. Without any doubt, the price of peace is always cheaper than the cost of war. Anarchy will never lead to progress and development. It can only worsen or situation.

However, all the blame cannot be laid at the doorstep of our leaders, especially those in government. I see middle-aged people who were young people at the time, and were unfortunate childhood participants, actors or spectators in disaster that was the Nigerian civil war. This is because in reality, no region was spared. The civil war did not in fact begin in 1967, its genesis was in the mutiny and subsequent military putsch of January 1966. The January 1966 affair became a raging inferno once the retaliatory coup of July 1966 took place and given the egos and youthful exuberance of our military leaders at the time, it was no wonder that they committed to going down the slippery slope of war rather than discourse. One would have thought that with age and maturity, those leaders who are alive, and were active participants in the turmoil that embroiled Nigeria in those crazy days, would reflect and ensure that nothing of that nature ever occurs again in our country.  However, it is sad to see that some of them are in the forefront of the agitation for war as means of resolving what is after all a political issue.

The buck still stops at the table of our leaders, especially the President, Muhammadu Buhari. He needs to work harder at reassuring the nation that he means well for Nigeria and that he respects all Nigerians as equals no matter where they come from. For the moment and at this present time in our history, the President must not only recognise the existence and utility of all regions, regardless of their part in his electoral success, he must integrate them. It is not too difficult to do.  Our Constitution already provides the foundation for any determined leader to seize the moment and take the initiative. There is provision for Federal Character in most appointments and although this has sometimes been used to crown mediocrity over merit, in the hands of an astute manager, it can be used to assuage and heal old wounds and to kickstart the country’s journey towards living in harmony and unity.

I believe that we must learn to be tolerant towards each other. Some of the complaints about our leaders’ stem from the intolerance and impatience on both sides.  This is justified because of our history which our leaders have never properly addressed. At the same time, I also believe that our leaders must focus mainly on the real ills of our society especially poverty, education and unemployment. Dealing decisively with these matters will lead to our youths being more discerning and deciding not to be cannon fodder for anybody. There must come a time when it should not matter where successive Presidents come from or indeed whether they come from the same parts as their deputies. What should matter is merit and good governance. This can only be achieved when those leading us abandon the seeming toga of ethnic overlords that they are adorned with, when it is not their style or portion. This they can only do by transparently demonstrating that they are true nationalists and patriots and will treat all Nigerians the same irrespective of their ethnic backgrounds.

That is the future, our future, not war, secession or disintegration.

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.