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OPINION

The Morality Question!

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By Dakuku Peterside *

There is unarguably a progressive value erosion in our country. This is happening increasingly, and there is no hope of it abating soon. This cankerworm is significantly influenced by westernisation and globalisation but with the shared responsibility of local catalysts like collapsed family systems, near extinction of communal oversight and accountability, abdication of moral reinforcement by religious centres, failure of governmental institutions and a skewed education curriculum that pays little attention to proper moral education and developing cultural personality identity.

 

The social-moral code which governs how individuals behave in a community setting has literarily collapsed in most of our communities. Religious morality has been subdued by a craving for wealth and fanaticism not founded on love, truth, or honour. The elevation of money or accumulation of pecuniary wealth in the public space has become Machiavellian as the “end that justifies the means”. The ‘get rich quick syndrome’ is normalised. The effect of this malaise is evident to all; we see it, feel it, and analyse it, but beyond that, what do we do?

 

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The most critical to my mind is the moral dimension of our public affairs. The decay is evident on a national scale. This is not to say that the other dimensions of our moral decadence are less critical. This column will, however, focus on the morality governing the conduct of public affairs, which needs to be more relevant. The decay is growing at a rate similar to our advancement as a country and the extent of our globalisation. It is as though the more advanced and interconnected we are with the rest of the world, the more immoral we become. Some recent manifestations of the decay in our public morality standards will help us appreciate the extent of the decay.

 

Historically, Nigeria has often witnessed corruption scandals of fantastical proportions at different times that have shown our decline from morality, as my friend Dr Lasisi Olagunju captured in his recent column “The History of scandals”. Each succeeding corruption scandal and sleaze makes the last one look like a child’s play in comparison, both in the audacity of maleficence and the amount of money involved. In the 1970s, Nigerians witnessed the “cement armada” scandal when the military government issued import licences to companies to import vast amounts of cement to build military infrastructure. The corruption in the cement price, the quantity supplied was far less than paid for, the demurrage paid for real and imagined ships carrying cement at the Nigerian ports, and the local and international court cases that ensued left a sour taste in our collective mouths.

 

The 1980s were marred with the infamous “rice scandal”; the government spent over $4b to import rice to feed a hungry nation. The rice was nowhere to be found, the monies grew wings and flew into thin airs, and Nigerians and the international community marvelled at our leaders’ sheer level of wickedness and moral bankruptcy.

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In recent times, Nigerians have seen the abdication of moral responsibility by those charged with handling our public affairs in favour of self-interest and material gain. You remember the Dasuki-gate. Billions of Dollars meant for combating terrorism and insecurity cannot be accounted for, and the same insecurity has ravaged our communities. You remember the billion-dollar fuel subsidy scam of the 2000s and its sad, lurid details. In this democracy, people collected subsidy payments for petrol vessels that had never come here or existed and falsified the amount of petrol supplied. A few well-connected Nigerians got away with murder in the subsidy scandal.

 

Most recently, there was the Senator Ningi Budget padding scandal of the National Assembly. The presidency presented a budget of about N27.5 trillion to our National Assembly, but controversy has trailed the budget with no solid explanation as to what happened. The story of magical ubiquitous solar lights and boreholes still haunts the integrity of the budget. This budget manipulation allegation is a moral question for the National Assembly. It has brought issues of transparency, abuse of power, the conflict between public interest and personal interest, and issues of fairness and equity to public attention. These issues raise questions about whether our National Assembly has any moral responsibility.

 

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The most disturbing aspect of these scandals is that we do not learn lessons from them, and most perpetrators go unpunished. Nigerians are used to that and expect little accountability and responsibility from our leaders. Impunity reigns supreme, and things have fallen apart. Moral responsibility is an excellent sign of leadership, but this is vanishing in Nigeria. No leader ever takes responsibility for either failure of oversight or being complicit in a failure of the system to compensate morally for the pain associated with such failures.

 

No one resigns, apologises, or cares about the people, the victims. The reward for corruption in Nigeria is that perpetrators are given better opportunities to ply their trade. They are valuable to the corrupt system that requires the stealing of public funds to prop it up. Nigerians are used to hearing the names of people they believe should be in jail in new juicy appointments. In comparison, in Egypt, the transport minister, Hisham Arafat, resigned on moral grounds in late February 2019 after a deadly train crash in Cairo killed at least 25 people and left 50 others injured. Please understand that the Minister was not driving the ill-fated train. But he resigned on moral grounds.

 

One of the most striking features of contemporary Nigerian politics and politicians is that paradoxically, political rhetoric is increasingly moralistic while the actual ability of public officials to achieve moral ends is in decline. Our public officials see only shades of grey and operate in a world of contradictions, extreme selfishness, greed, deceit and double-speak. The moral corruption of our democratic process contributes substantially to a moral breakdown in all areas of society. Nigeria’s societal moral values, which govern the conduct of politics, business, and government, have often been corrupted. A society’s moral values define what people see as acceptable behaviour for themselves, what they believe behaviours they exhibit that others will approve of or not and what society collectively accepts or rejects as acceptable behaviour by individuals.

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The various crises engulfing the contemporary Nigerian state manifest the breakdown of morality in almost all spheres of the country. The gruesome murder of 16 military personnel last Thursday while responding to a distress call during a communal crisis between the Okuoma and Okoloba communities in Delta State is a product of the failure of morals in the communities. The fact that youths who control both money and firepower in our communities no longer have respect for constituted authority and community elders indicates how low we have gone in morals. Our military, which we should revere for protecting us, has come under attack by the same people it is protecting. Daily, we are bombarded with stories of how our military personnel are dying at the hands of fellow Nigerians – bandits, terrorists, secessionists and now village vigilante groups. This is absurd and shows how low we have come as a society.

 

Chinua Achebe argued that a functioning, robust democracy requires a healthy, educated, participatory followership and an educated, morally grounded leadership. We do not have either morally grounded leadership or healthy, educated, participatory followership. It is little wonder our democracy has failed to rise in leaps and bounds. The importance of cultivating a solid moral foundation, both as individuals, politicians, and public officials and as a community, should be a priority programme. We must halt the drift, review our current modus operandi, look back into the pressures that have destroyed our public moral standards and values, and seek to rebuild our society based on meritocracy, fairness, and selflessness. We must focus on moral reinforcement rather than materialism.

 

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The decline of moral values in our communities, particularly in politics and public life, should be a central concern. Politics does not rise or fall on the private righteousness of leaders. Leaders’ self-interest should always be tempered by moral conscience.  We need to strengthen the guardrails of National morality such as  the Judiciary  , ICPC, EFCC and the Code of Conduct Bureau . We must effectively  demand moral uprightness from public officials and celebrate those who uphold such high moral and ethical standards. We should have more role models of people with merit and resounding accomplishments. We must bring back the mantra that morality and hard work are worthy virtues and celebrate successful Nigerians in sports, art, music, science and technology, academia, business and entrepreneurship, and public leaders who shine as beacons of hope for a better, morally stable, and scandal-free society, where men and women of goodwill and conscience will thrive for the benefit of humanity.

  • Dr Dakuku is a Public Sector Turnaround Expert , leadership coach,Public Policy Analyst and Columnist 
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OPINION

EFCC, Naira Abuse And The Real Anti-Corruption War

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EFCC Operatives

By Emeka Alex Duru*

It is becoming clear that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), is not looking back in its battle against abuse of the national currency, the Naira. Or so it seems! Two quick moves by the commission within the month, indicate that it perhaps, means business in this regard.

On Wednesday, two days ago, EFCC arraigned a businessman and socialite, Pascal Okechukwu, popularly known as Cubana Chief Priest, before a Lagos court on three counts bordering on abuse of naira, by allegedly spraying and tampering with the nation’s currency at a social event.

According to EFCC, Okechukwu had on February 13, 2024, at Eko Hotel, within the jurisdiction of the court, while dancing during a social event, tampered with funds in the denomination of N500 notes, by spraying the same for two hours, and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 21(1) of the Central Bank Act 2007.

The commission also alleged that sometime in 2020, during a social event in Lagos, Cubana Chief Priest tampered with funds in the denomination of N500, by spraying the same for two hours.

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In Count 3, EFCC alleged: “That you, Okechukwu Pascal, sometime in January 2024, in Lagos during a social event, tampered with funds in the denomination of N500 (Five Hundred Naira) issued by the Central Bank of Nigeria by spraying the same and you thereby committed an offence, contrary to and punishable under Section 21(1) of the Central Bank Act 2007.”

The EFCC had on April 5, 2024, secured the conviction of controversial cross-dresser, Idris Okuneye, also known as Bobrisky, on similar charges for which he was sentenced to six-month imprisonment on Friday, April 12, 2024. The judge, Abimbola Awogboro, imposed the sentence after the 31-year-old socialite pleaded guilty to the alleged offences.

Earlier in February, a Federal High Court in Lagos had convicted an actress, Oluwadarasimi Omoseyin, of spraying and stepping on new naira notes at a wedding in Lagos.

Ms Omoseyin was apprehended on February 1, following the viral circulation of a video clip showing her spraying new Naira notes at a wedding in Lekki, Lagos State, on January 28. On February 2, the trial judge, Chukwujekwu Aneke, sentenced Ms. Omoseyin to six months imprisonment, but with the option of a N300,000 fine.

Many celebrities, according to the EFCC, are facing investigations and will soon be prosecuted for Naira abuse. We must commend the commission for waging the battle against abuse of the Naira.

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A country’s currency is its legal tender; its store of value, unit of account, and medium of exchange. It is a major tool in transactions by its nationals and residents. In the absence of money, the transactions would become inefficient, and the economy would not be able to produce. By extension, the currency counts among the indexes of national security of a country. How a country treats its currency goes a long way in determining how others see it and its citizens.

Over time, the Naira has been an object of abuse by Nigerians, especially of low value and fleeting identities. Careless spraying of the Naira or even trampling on it, has become an easy path for upstarts to announce their arrival in social circles. If proper analysis is done on the rising incidences of kidnapping, cyber fraud and the get-quick tendencies among the youths, flaunting of the Naira at public functions, will have some blame for the odious acts.

The desire to be celebrated has led many into crimes. It is nearly impossible for anyone who has struggled and toyed to make his or her money to flaunt or spray it in a meaningless fashion. Every effort at safeguarding the value and essence of the Naira should therefore be lauded.

But then, there is the greater task ahead for the EFCC. That is the real war against graft and other acts of corruption. Incidentally, that was even why the commission was established.  Established under the Economic And Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004, EFCC has among other functions to investigate all financial crimes including advance fee fraud, money laundering, counterfeiting, illegal charge transfers, futures market fraud, fraudulent encashment of negotiable instruments, computer credit fraud and contract scam.

It is also empowered to examine and investigate all reported cases of economic and financial crimes to identify individuals, corporate bodies or groups involved. It can also identify, trace, freeze, confiscate or seize proceeds derived from terrorist activities, economic and financial crime-related offences or the properties the value of which corresponds to such proceeds.

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Given the initial success of the Commission in reining in advance fee criminals and scammers, it was generally seen as a bold move in tackling crime and other misdemeanours that had dented the nation’s image locally and abroad.

With time however, especially, due to the closeness of the leadership of the organisation to successive administrations and the willingness to be used in executing vindictive wars of any seating president, EFCC gradually began to be seen as an instrument of blackmail and intimidation by the government. The agency began to lose steam.

The result is that Nigeria is still rated among the countries with high levels of corruption. By the 2023 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released by Transparency International (TI) in January this year, Nigeria ranked 145 among 180 countries surveyed. The EFCC had on its own, in 2015, admitted that about $20 trillion had been stolen from the national treasury by leaders who had access to the nation’s money between 1960 and 2005. That figure must have been exceeded over time.

Some of the perpetrators of the heinous acts against the country and their cronies are still in the government houses at the state or federal level or other agencies. The opacity and dirty deals in the oils sector, also portray Nigeria as a country that is neck-deep in corruption.

It is therefore not enough for the EFCC to go about raking in petty thieves, internet fraudsters or those abusing the Naira at social functions while leaving out the brains behind huge crimes. For the anti-corruption war to have meaning and be convincing, it must be comprehensive and encompassing.

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The EFCC may have done well in securing a conviction for those trifling with the Naira. But leaving the real thieves roam freely, casts doubt on the genuineness of its anti-corruption war.

  • Duru is the Editor, TheNiche Newspapers, Lagos (08054103327, nwaukpala@yahoo.com)            
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OPINION

Yahaya Bello, EFCC And Rule Of Law

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Bello

By Pelumi  Olajengbesi

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) stands as a cornerstone in upholding the rule of law and combating economic and financial crimes in Nigeria. Its unwavering commitment to investigating and prosecuting offenders has earned it commendation, fostering transparency and accountability in governance, even though there cannot be an institution without a challenge.

Despite facing institutional challenges, the EFCC’s track record of success has solidified its reputation as a formidable government agency, instilling a sense of propriety and caution among those in positions of political and economic influence.

However, recent events have generated concerns about the agency’s capability to function above interference, particularly in light of perceived political interference in its operations. A notable example is the recent stand-off between EFCC personnel and the immediate former Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello, highlighting the roles played by the Nigeria Police, the Court, and his successor, which underscores this concern.

The recent decision of the Kogi State High Court, purportedly restraining the EFCC from taking action against the former governor came as a rude shock, sparking widespread debate and scrutiny of the Nigerian legal system. Many citizens perceive this as an instance where certain individuals are seemingly placed above the rule of law, fueling media arguments and public discourse.

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While awaiting access to the Certified True Copy of the judgment for clarity, it’s crucial to affirm the EFCC’s statutory authority, akin to other law enforcement agencies, to investigate and prosecute individuals suspected of committing offences. Sections 6 and 7 of the EFCC Establishment Act unequivocally empower the Commission, with constitutional backing that cannot be overridden by the courts.

The Supreme Court in the case of Dr Joseph Nwobike SAN v. The Federal Republic of Nigeria held thus: “Having regard to sections 6, 7, 14-18 of the EFCC Establishment Act, particularly 6(b), 7(1)(a), 2(f), 13(2), the EFCC has powers to investigate, enforce, and prosecute offenders for any offence, whether under the Act or any statute, insofar as the offence relates to the Commission of economic and financial crimes.”

Similarly, in the case of Ewulo v. EFCC & ors., the Court of Appeals held as follows: “It is no longer in doubt that agencies vested with statutory powers to investigate crimes cannot be restrained or arm-twisted by litigation to prevent them from exercising their statutory powers. Once there is semblance of legal justification in the exercise of statutory powers, the courts must refrain from making orders that have the consequence of stupifying the proper exercise of statutory powers.”

From the above, it is clear beyond a doubt that the Commission cannot be restrained from carrying out its constitutional responsibilities. Any attempts by an individual or group to use the instrumentality of the law to obstruct, delay, and/or circumvent the Commission’s constitutional responsibilities are therefore unlawful.

While respecting citizens’ constitutional rights is crucial, courts lack the authority to impede law enforcement agencies from executing their duties, regardless of the individual’s status. Upholding the rule of law necessitates ensuring equal accountability and justice for all, without exceptions or undue influence.

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  • Olajengbesi Esq, Legal is Managing Partner at Law Corridor, Abuja
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OPINION

Shifting Urban Mobility Trends: Electric Scooter Ride Is The New Normal

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Electric scooter prototype

By Faheem Daha

Recent decades have seen unprecedented technological advancements. Modern devices and gadgets seep into our daily lives and replace outdated products effortlessly. Change is normal and a sign of liveliness. The bustling roads that were once a showcase for large vehicles are now witnessing a different scene. People today are more intrigued by restoring the environment to a healthy state. While it’s impossible to reset the environment in pristine condition. It will be still a success to conserve the environment at its present condition. It requires a lot of continuous effort, mindful practice choices and patience. Preferences of individuals are shaping the trends of urban mobility. Electric scooters are a popular trending product. Each passing day a new e-scooter is joining the fleet. The proliferation of electric scooters in the urban transportation grid is compelling authorities to focus on the development of dedicated infrastructure for these single-occupancy vehicles.

Key triggers behind the surge of electric scooters

The post-pandemic world is facing the aftershocks of COVID-19. Global inflation is one such impact. Unstable fuel prices and unreasonably high car prices are a limiting factor in owning a personalized vehicle. Although the US economy is largely based on credit obtaining a car on lease is easier than the rest of the world. Yet every car leaves massive air pollution. Eco-friendly people are aggressively heading to electric stores to hit the best deal. What could be more exciting than taking an independent ride that is cost-effective, convenient, and environmentally friendly? You just need to have a few hundred bucks in your pocket to hit the right deal. No worries if you are out of budget, companies like LIME and Bird are offering electric scooters on rental service. Another good news is some states in the USA offer relaxed policies and GOvernment incentives for switching to this eco-friendly vehicle.

Impact of Electric scooters on the environment
Zero tailpipe emission
Conventional scooters draw power from combustion engines. On Average, a normal-sized motorcycle will add 0.18245kg of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere for every mile it covers. On the contrary electric scooters are surging in demand because of their zero to negligible tailpipe emissions. Thus conserving the air quality.

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Bye Bye to frustration
Traffic congestion is one of the primary reasons for underperforming individuals. Juggling for way among different vehicles is an uphill task. Electric scooters can now navigate you easily through dedicated bike lanes in no time. Individuals can save a lot of time and conserve their productivity for onsite work. Similarly, returning home frustration-free can restore the domestic environment. It sounds cliche but fresh and healthy individuals are likely to make healthier choices. Just like frustrated peeps resort to cigarettes and alcohol, mindful buddies prefer activities that are safe for them and the environment too.
Critiquing the e-scooters from procurement to production
There has been an ongoing debate regarding the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere while extracting the raw materials, establishing production units to final delivery of e-scooters in the market. There is no denying that extracting raw materials for e-scooters requires a significant amount of energy. Yet, the initial environmental cost is offset by the far-reaching benefits it brings to the environment. Additionally, companies are looking for ways to reuse and recycle electrical components that can be retrieved from discarded products. Practices to make the extraction and production process efficient are underway.

Lesser emissions from idling vehicles
Idling vehicles despite being stationery still impart a carbon footprint to the environment since the engine is running and fuel is burning. The slim structure of electric scooters is a big plus. Navigation through populous terrains is swift and trouble-free. The e-scooter rider is a blessing for the rider himself and other road fellows. Why? Because the compactness of this scooter plays a big role in reducing congestion we can have fewer idling vehicles. Because of electric scooters riders’ fuel of other cars is conserved along with air quality. Isn’t that great? But it does not mean that car drivers keep on polluting the air. They also owe their fair share towards the betterment of the environment.
Electric scooters boast active commutation
E-scooters enable riders to engage in healthy lifestyles without compromising their physical limitation. Elderly people with back and leg pain discourage the idea of the outdoors as walking and bicycling appear tedious to them. Electric scooters besides conserving the environment conserve precious moments too. Like healthy individuals, weak people can enjoy cool breezes, friend reunions and nature walks equally on their much-loved e-scooters.

First and Last-mile commute
Using public transportation is always referred to as an environmentally friendly and cost-effective solution. However, a gap always exists between transit points and destinations. E-scooters fill this gap impeccably. No need to pay extra bucks now. As electric scooters have immense portability, they easily fill the gap from your place to the transit station. And then to the final destination.

No parking hassle
Escooter riders enjoy the liberty of hassle-free parking. Identifying a reasonable parking spot for cars is painstaking. Contrary to this you can effortlessly park the e-scooter at the specified area near the actual destination

Convenience on the go
Demand for escooters is surging in urban traffic dynamics. They are ideal, particularly for short trips. With the help of different smartphone applications, you can avail the convenience of riding on the go. Simply locate available e-scooters in your surroundings using the app, unlock and tada there you go! No more need to wait for transport to arrive. Electric scooter rides liberate you from the worries of fuel charges, waiting times, and traffic jams along with better air to breathe in.

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There have been a lot of real-life stories advocating how electric scooters emerged as a real heroes. Be it a navigation through densely populated cities or becoming a travelling partner of environmental enthusiasts NANROBOT D6+2.0 never disappoints.

Electric scooters have challenges too
Like every product e-scooter industry has its challenges. Problems like vandalism. improper disposal and safety considerations have raised eyebrows. Public demand for a developed infrastructure is pressing the authorities whether to openly legalize vehicles or not. However, for every problem, there exists a solution. If e-scooter companies collaborate with local stakeholders and municipal authorities, there is a better chance that issues will be resolved.Reference link: https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/carbon-footprint-calculator/
https://www.escootersstores.com/pages/carbon-footprint-calculators
https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/what-is-a-carbon-footprint-how-to-measure-yours

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Faheem Daha, CEO of a pioneering electric scooter company in the USA, leads with a focus on sustainable urban mobility.

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