By Sonala Olumhense…The revelation that the Nigeria military last December in Zaria buried 347 fellow nationals in a mass grave is shameful and scandalous.
As confirmed by the Kaduna State government, they were killed when soldiers opened fire on Shia Muslims they claimed had tried to assassinate the army chief.
The sect, members of Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky’s Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), denied the accusation. It has also said that hundreds more of its members are still missing.
It is painful to hear the Nigeria military’s attempt to justify the mass killing of hundreds of unarmed people, and now it also turns out they were also buried in an attempt to cover up the crime.
What is more regrettable is that this has happened under an All Progressives Congress government which arrived in Abuja last year flying the “change” banner.
Hopefully, the Muhammadu Buhari government understands this for what it is: the strongest challenge yet to his adoption of the democratic principle. He must insist on a full and unfettered investigation, and permit justice to take its course.
In the same week in which the Zaria mass burial came to light, the world marked two years of the abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls from Chibok. A Boko Haram video even emerged confirming that at least some of the girls to be alive.
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The government is said to be negotiation with the militants, or one of their factions, for the release of the girls, and it is hoped this sad ordeal will come to a happy end.
It is noteworthy that the government treated the BringBackOurGirls movement with such shabbiness during its scheduled Abuja march to mark the anniversary. BBOG is a small group, and it has never been violent or even aggressive. Why can’t Nigerians demonstrate peacefully, in expression of their constitutional rights, without elements of the government dressing up as if heading for Sambisa Forest?
There are those who consider President Buhari’s trip to China an amazing success: he went seeking a $2billion loan, only to be offered $6billion. While some would say that the gesture demonstrated the confidence of a major power in the Nigerian economy, the truth is that it was patronizing.
Nigeria did not need such a small favour from the Chinese in the first place, and they underlined our dilemmas by tripling our expectation. After nearly one year of the Buhari administration, the principal claim to authority of which is a war against corruption, the new China loan is a query of that quest, as there is a ton of money just waiting to be taken out of the hands of Nigerian looters and thrust into the national cause.
The other side of the question is the spaghetti-bowl of China loans obtained by Nigeria in the past few years that has not been scrutinized.
One of them is the 1300-kilometre Lagos-Calabar (LACA) Coastal Railway Project, a modern and model infrastructure designed to link 10 States of Nigeria, with trains running at up to 120 kilometers per hour, thereby providing an instant boost to the economy of the West African sub-region.
It is unfortunate that the legislative and executive arms of the government are currently arguing over LACA as if it were a new round of luxury 2017 Landcruiser SUVs for greedy Senators. The reality is that Nigeria signed the $11.97 billion contract (originally $13 billion in May 2014), with China’s CRCC in November 2014.
At this time, Nigerians ought to be talking about how far the project has gone, and how it will impact on their lives. It is the current kind of manufactured conflict that has littered Nigeria with tens of thousands of fatherless and motherless public projects.
What is good about the present time is that despite certain errors, the Buhari government is showing fidelity with projects it has inherited, including the Lagos-Kano rail, the 186 kilometre Abuja-Kaduna portion of which it will commission next month. One inspiring dimension concerns Transportation Minister Rotimi Amaechi, who is deeply motivated because his own rail project as Governor of Rivers State has not been taken up by his successor. Nigeria stands to benefit tremendously if Amaechi maintains his determination to complete the major transportation projects.
But wait: As the federal delegation returns to an electricity and fuel-challenged nation, what about the $20 billion agreement Nigeria signed with the Power Construction Corp. of China during President Goodluck Jonathan’s visit in July 2012 to produce 20,000 megawatts of electricity within one year?
Speaking of projects in need of completion, last week’s report by The Telegraph (UK) about Nigeria’s spending in the war against Boko Haram was in some respects offensive and irresponsible.
But it is also of concern.
The report spoke about “concerns over British aid” to Nigeria as well as American anger that $2.1 billion “given to the Nigerian military to tackle Boko Haram has not been properly accounted for.”
The Telegraph made it sound as if the $2.1 billion came to the Nigerian military from the United States, rather than being the former National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki investigation that is underway.
But the newspaper did even worse: it conveyed the impression that the $2.1b is all of Nigeria’s spending on Boko Haram.
Nonsense: There are billions and billions of dollars in Nigeria’s defence spending that are currently not being investigated, but ought to be. Nigerians don’t need lazy foreign journalists who don’t know the questions poking for answers in the dark.
“Hundreds of millions of pounds of British foreign aid given to Nigeria to help combat Boko Haram terrorists is instead being used to fund a witch-hunt against opposition politicians…Britain has committed to spending £860 million (N234 billion) in foreign aid to Nigeria to help support the country’s efforts to crush [the] Boko Haram terror group,” the paper said.
This is further proof of corruption fighting back, but the irony is the absence of the quality of anti-corruption offensive voter expect under Buhari, which would make clear what corruption is suiting up for. On balance, corruption is winning.
For those who have yet to hear, a Nigerian public official last week published excerpts from his assets declaration document.
Waziri Adio, the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), explained in a statement why public declaration is a duty.
“As we rightly seek new beginnings for our country, we need to reinsert and reassert the public in this transparency and accountability process by lifting the veil of secrecy from the declared assets of our public officers,” he said.
I congratulate Mr. Adio for his patriotic and courageous action. He reminds us we cannot reach a new ethical El Dorado by the same highway which took us to hell. Hopefully, helping to construct the new highway will be President Buhari’s appointees.
To be clear: keeping declarations secret comes from the “don’t-give-a-damn” playbook. As long as it is in force, a better Nigeria is a myth, no matter what anyone says.
Ripples Nigeria…without borders, without fears
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