AMCON amendment law is unconstitutional

Attorney Chuma Uwechia takes on an aspect of AMCON amendment law dealing with property seizures that he argues as unconstitutional.

AMCON amendment law is unconstitutional

Chuma Uwechia

Chuma Uwechia, Esq, a New York-based Attorney, is admitted to both the United States Supreme Court and the Nigerian Supreme Court. He is the author of two Nigerian law books.

Before the National Assembly enacted the AMCON Amendment Act 2019 (“AMCON Act”), some legislators warned about the seeming constitutional challenges in the bill. And they are right because the Act abridged and deprived individuals of their civil liberties. It is also overly broad for ensnaring innocent directors who are not ordinarily debtors under company law, or any known commercial practice. In an attempt to solve the endemic issue of non-performing bank loans, the legislature trampled on the fundamental civil rights of citizens to enact the Act.

The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) (the “Constitution”) rests on seven basic principles; popular sovereignty, limited government, separation of powers, federalism, checks and balances, republicanism, and individual rights. As it confers power on the three arms of government, it equally protects individual civil liberties guaranteed to the citizens against government actions. Admittedly, constitutional democracy is still a fledging experiment in Nigeria and the mindset of government officials is yet to be completely weaned from the autocratic tendencies cultivated and associated with the long era of military rule. This article will address in substance the constitutionality of sections 49 (1) & 50 (1) of the AMCON Act vis-à-vis the provision of Sections 34, 36, 37, 43 and 44 of the Constitution, as there is no known existing court decision or commentaries on these grounds.

Fundamental Rights

Chapter IV: Fundamental Rights in the Constitution exists to protect the liberties of individuals. It protects the right to dignity of person (S.34), privacy of citizens, their homes (S.37), right to own immovable property (S.43), protection from expropriation (S.44.1), free speech, the right to due process and fair hearing (S.36), the right to counsel, and the right to be free from inhuman or degrading treatment (S.34.1.a), just to name a few.

These inalienable rights are regarded as being granted by the Creator, not by government, and more specifically, government cannot take those from you, except when you commit a felony and are convicted by a just process. If the executive through any act or the legislature through any bill tries to deprive an individual of one of those constitutional rights, even if for a very short length of time, the courts have inherent jurisdiction under section 6 of the Constitution to intervene and safeguard those rights.

Fair Hearing

Fair hearing concerns the procedures that the government must follow before it deprives an individual of his life, liberty or property, which entail at minimum: (a) notice, (b) an opportunity to be heard and (c) an impartial tribunal. The key question is, what procedures satisfy fair hearing in the context of the AMCON Act? An analysis of the germane sections of the Act will provide an objective answer.

The new section 49 (1) (vide section 15) AMCON Act provides that – “Where the Corporation has reasonable cause to believe that a debtor or debtor company is the bona fide owner of any movable or immovable property, it may apply to the court, before, or at the time of filing of action for debt recovery or other like action or at any time after the filing of action, and before or after service of the originating process by which such action is commenced on the debtor or debtor company, by motion ex-parte for an interlocutory order granting possession of the property to the Corporation pending the hearing and determination of the debt recovery or other action to abide the decision in such action.”

While the new section 50 (1) (vide section 16) AMCON Act specifically provides that – “Where the Corporation has reasonable cause to believe that a debtor or debtor company has funds in any account with any eligible financial institution, it may apply to the court, before, or at the time of filing of action for debt recovery or other like action or at any time after the filing of action, and before or after service of the originating process by which such action is commenced on the debtor or debtor company, by motion ex-parte for an interlocutory order freezing the debtor or debtor company’s account.”

“Debtor or debtor company” is defined by the AMCON Act 2010 to mean any borrower, beneficiary of an eligible bank asset and includes a guarantor of a debtor, guarantor or director of a debtor company. But the 2019 amendment specifically restricted that definition to the liquidation and winding up under sections 51, 52 and 53. Consequently, the definition of debtor or debtor company for the rest of the Act is left undefined making the Act unconstitutionally vague and ambiguous.

Generally, an ex parte interlocutory order is used to preserve the status quo before a hearing on notice in matters of urgency. See the case of Nathaniel Adedamola Kotoye V Central Bank of Nigeria & Ors (SC. 118/1988) [1989] NGSC 44 (3 February 1989). Nnaemeka-Agu, J.S.C., explained that the paramount objective is to do justice to the parties, otherwise, it will run counter to the letters and spirit of section 33 of the Constitution of 1979 (now section 36 of the Constitution 1999 italics mine) and ought not be entertained. He also opined that the right to apply to set aside an order after it has been made can never be an equal right with hearing him before the order is made. There is a duty to preserve and protect the right of the parties before the court.

But sections 49 (1) and 50 (1) seeks to grant possession of moveable and immovable properties of a debtor or debtor company to AMCON without hearing the other side. The order of possession prescribed by the Act will do the opposite and upend the status quo. It gives the right to assert ownership and control over the properties to AMCON, after taking it away from the rightful owners in violation of the fundamental rights protection in sections 34, 36, 37, 43 and 44 of the Constitution. Since a debtor has been rightly or wrongly defined to encompass directors of the debtor company without more, this means that the personal dwelling residences of directors and other properties fall under such ex parte order for possession. Consequently, directors can be and are unceremoniously ejected from their homes and properties, and rendered homeless; while all their bank accounts in all financial institutions in Nigeria are frozen. Thus, their means of livelihood are impromptu removed, leaving them in an incredible disadvantage/limbo regarding funds to procure alternative temporary living arrangement and right to employ counsel, and subjects them to inhuman and degrading treatment contrary to their constitutional rights; all without being heard.

The way out

Meanwhile, the Constitution which is the superior law of the land protects directors personal right to property, dignity, privacy, fair hearing, and freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment. Since the goal of the ex parte interlocutory order is to preserve the properties and maintain the status quo, an interlocutory restraining order rather than a possessory order, will suffice, pending the hearing and determination of interlocutory motion on notice. The grant of ex parte possessory order undermines the independence and impartiality of the tribunal required in section 36 of the Constitution.

The issue really is not whether the constitution allows for pre-action steps in judicial proceedings, as has been wrongly framed by some appellate judges. It is rightly whether the procedures satisfy chapter IV – Fundamental Rights clause in the Constitution. The wrong issues were formulated in the case of American Specifications Autos Ltd. & Anor. V. AMCON Appeal, NO CA/L/66/2013 2017) LCN/10198(CA) quoting 7-Up Bottling Company Ltd. & Ors V. Abiola and Sons Nigeria Ltd. SC.191/1989. The cases did not analyze Sections 49 and 50 of the AMCON Act together with sections 34, 36, 37, 43 and 44 of the Constitution to determine the constitutional validity.

Further, the dictum that “if the supreme court can dispose of an application under S. 213 (4) of the 1979 Constitution, without oral hearing of the application, then I see nothing wrong or unconstitutional for a trial court to deal with an ex-parte motion under its rule,” is flawed. A Supreme Court judgement based only on review of the record and briefs from the lower court proceedings, adequately considers the facts and legal arguments to satisfy fair hearing.

In the persuasive case of United States v. James Daniel Good Real Property, 510 U.S. 43 (1993), the United States Supreme court ruled that the practice of ex parte seizure creates an unacceptable risk of error, since the proceeding affords little or no protection to an innocent owner, who may not be deprived of his property. That there is no pressing governmental legitimate interest at stake requiring prompt action, because real property cannot abscond. That a court can secure and prevent the property from being sold through measures less intrusive than seizure, such as restraining order and lis pendens notice to prevent the property’s sale. Since a claimant is already entitled to a hearing before final judgment, postponing seizure until after an adversary hearing creates no significant administrative burden compared to the injury occasioned by erroneous seizure.

Courts in the United State are guided by “the ancient view that ‘a man’s home is his castle’ into which ‘not even a king may enter’,” because it is protected by the constitution. Southern Bell Tel. and Tel. Co. v. Hamm, 306 S.C. 70, 409 S.E.2d 775, 780 (1991), citing Rowan v. United States Post Office Department, 397 U.S. 728, 90 S.Ct. 1484, 25 L.Ed.2d 736 (1969). People have strong attachments to their home, in part, because it is the one space where they reign sovereign. There is something offensive about being ordered out of one’s home without an opportunity to be heard.

Overboard, overinclusive

Further, the AMCON Act is overbroad and overinclusive in bringing all directors of a debtor company within its definition of debtors, as it negatively ensnared directors who are not ordinarily debtors under the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2020 as amended (“CAMA”) or any known civilized commercial practice. It is the settled law that directors of limited liability company cannot be held personally liable for corporate business debts, except in certain circumstances where they provide personal guarantee, stand surety or for fraud under section 290 (c) of CAMA where it is acceptable to lift the veil of incorporation. And even in those limited instances, ejecting them from their immovable properties, no matter how temporary, must be pursuant to a final judgement. The right to one’s home is subject to significant constitutional protection. Being ordered out of one’s home on an ex parte basis deprives one of the privacy and security of his home without being heard. Only an ex parte restraining order prohibiting the transfer of assets can meet the constitutional justice of the case, especially where the immovable asset is not the subject matter of the lawsuit. The effect of entrenching the Fundamental Rights chapter in the Constitution is that it overrides all contrary provisions in any law of the land, be they substantive or adjectival.

It is vital to distinguish the Supreme Court cases of Nathaniel Adedamola Kotoye V Central Bank of Nigeria & Ors (SC. 118/1988) [1989] NGSC 44 (3 February 1989) and 7-Up Bottling Company Ltd. & Ors v. Abiola and Sons Nigeria Ltd. SC.191/1989, since the interlocutory orders of possession were against the company’s assets in receivership and not against the personal immovable properties of directors.

The appeal court confirmed in Jumbo V AMCON & Others (2020) LCN/14278 (CA) that the Constitution is the highest law and that Section 36 (1) of the Constitution of Nigeria is superior to the AMCON Amendment Act 2019, accordingly, all rules of court and substantive law which run counter to or are inconsistent with this enabling provision of the Constitution are, ipso facto, null and void to the extent of the inconsistency. See also Josco Ag. Global Resources Ltd & Anor v. AMCON (2018) LPELR-45637(CA) confirming the supremacy of the Constitution over AMCON Act. Note that the appeal courts did not analyze Sections 49 and 50 of the AMCON Act together with sections 34, 36, 37, 43 and 44 of the Constitution to determine the constitutional validity.

The role of courts

Lastly, courts have an inherent power under section 6 of the Constitution to ensure proper and effective administration of justice, and safeguard civil rights so that the streams of justice will remain pure and unpolluted. Accordingly, where a motion is made ex parte under the Act, the court may make, or refuse to make the order sought, or may grant an order to show cause why the order sought should not be made, or may direct the motion to be made on notice to the parties to be affected thereby.

Clearly, parts of the AMCON ACT are repugnant to the Nigerian Constitution.

10 rules in Finance Act 2021 that impact businesses

If you own or manage a business in Nigeria, there are 10 new rules in the amended Finance Act that will impact your business. They relate to taxes, levies and rules that came into force on 1January 2022.

The amended law radically alters various existing tax laws. Significantly affected are a new excise tax on non-alcoholic beverages and a higher rate of education tax. The Act also introduces payment special levies for Science & Engineering, and forced contribution to a Police Fund.

10 rules in finance act 2021
FIRS Chairman Nami

Here is a summary of the top 10 changes in the amended Finance Act 2021

1. Capital Gains Tax

Government charges 10% of the proceeds for individuals and corporations that dispose shares worth N100 million and above. However, the tax is waived for proceeds that are reinvested to buy shares in any Nigerian company.

2. Education Tax

Education Tax is slightly adjusted upwards. Companies hitherto paid 2% of their assessed profits as Education Tax. However, beginning from 1 January 2022, they will pay 2.5% of their assessable profits for this Tax.

3. Corporate Income Tax

Companies engaged in educational activities are now captured into the tax net. They will henceforth pay corporate income tax notwithstanding whether such activities are of a “public character.”

4. Science & Engineerng Tax

Similarly, some companies are targeted to pay a Science and Engineering Levy of 0.25% of their profits before tax. Affected companies are those in banking, mobile telecommunication, ICT, aviation, maritime, and oil & gas with turnover of N100m and above.

5. Police Levy

The Nigerian Police Trust Fund Levy is now in force. FIRS is therefore empowered to assess, collect and enforce the payment. The tax was introduced in 2019 and the levy is 0.005% of net profit of companies operating in Nigeria.

6. Duty on Non-alcoholic Drinks

Government imposed a tax on non- alcoholic drinks. Government now collects Excise Duty of N10 per litre on non-alcoholic, carbonated and sweetened beverages. There are fears that this could lead to an increase in the retail price of products by up to 5% with lower end products bearing higher burden.

7. Minimum Tax Rate:

A taxpayer may choose to reduce minimum tax rate from 0.5% to 0.25% of turnover (less franked investment income) within any two accounting periods between 1 Jan 2019 and 31 Dec 2021.

8. Offshore Company Turnover & VAT.

FIRS assesses tax on turnover of foreign digital companies involved in transmitting, emitting, or receiving signals, sounds, messages, images or data of any kind including e-commerce, app stores, and online adverts. Such companies must charge, collect and remit VAT to FIRS.

9. Federal Tax Administration

FIRS has sole responsibility to administer, collect, account and enforce payment of taxes and levies due to the Federation, the Federal Government and any of its agencies except otherwise authorized.

10. Power to Borrow

All tiers of government are now empowered to borrow for “critical reforms of significant national impact” in addition to capital expenditure and human development.

10 rules in amended Finance Act

On the fuel subsidy matter, again

Chido Nwakanma re-examines the credibility of fantastic tales our public officials intermittently weave to deceive on the fuel subsidy matter.

On the fuel subsidy matter

The Federal Government is preparing to “remove the subsidy” on the prices of petroleum products. Note that the message is no longer about “deregulation of the downstream oil and gas sector”, as was the mantra some months ago. The PMB administration no longer waffles about punishing citizens of Nigeria.

So, I looked at the matter again. This column addressed it two years ago. The facts have not changed. Okay, there have been some changes.

The federal government has taken more loans of doubtful applications. What did they do with so much money in loans?

Ten years after the national uproar over hikes in the price of an essential item, Nigerians are back to the same spot and preparing to repeat. Citizens agitate over the double whammy of increases in the pump price of petroleum products and the electricity tariff. More significantly, there is a communication challenge.

Unlike ten years ago, the Federal Government is sparse with information. Checking the feedback on various channels will take a while for that message to communicate.

It is currently a tangled web. “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice deceiving!”. (Sir Walter Scott, 1808). Many citizens are disbelieving of the numerous reasons that supposedly informed these actions. The government itself skirts around it.
The truth will bring clarity and make the messaging more credible. The fuel price increment is a tax! It was a tax in 2012 and led to the establishment of SURE-P. It was a tax in 2015 when the new Buhari government raised fuel prices. It took the admission of Lai Mohammed then that the government needed more money to douse the tension.

The energy tariff increments come five years late. The Federal Government is now under pressure from its poor handling of finances and external funders to do what the Jonathan and Buhari governments failed to do since 2015. Why are they not admitting and saying so? The truth will set the nation free, cause some anger, and change the narrative positively to a solution orientation.

Déjà vu. The rest of this article recalls the scenario in January 2012 when I wrote on the matter. The title was “Carving on rotten wood in fuel subsidy communication.”

“The uproar over the increase in fuel price imposed on Nigerian citizens by the Federal Government has raised questions about what communication took place or its effectiveness. While the Federal Government has released much information, communication has yet to happen, hence the breakdown and descent into riots and strikes.

Reform efforts come under change communication. The United Nations and its agencies call them development communication; they emphasise integrating strategic communication in development efforts. All communication seeks to influence the behaviour of target audiences, but it is even more imperative in communicating change or reform, such as the removal of fuel subsidies.

Because change communication aims to achieve stakeholder buy-in through strategic engagement, experts assert that it is not enough to disseminate information, educate or raise awareness about an issue. It requires understanding the perceived or actual barriers the people see to adopting the change, listening to their feedback and responding appropriately.

Managers of the communication effort on subsidy removal face many challenges in the message, the platforms for message delivery and the choice of delivery. These have been the areas where they have also made mistakes.

The message concerning the removal of subsidies is garbled. Government officials speak of removing subsidies and deregulation in the same breath as if they are the same thing. There is also talk of increasing revenue for the government to enable infrastructure provision. There is yet another message about fighting corruption. What is the real news?

Beyond the content is the question of message delivery. This message has no owner. Sundry groups have taken over the newspapers and airwaves, supposedly selling the notice of removal of oil subsidy as part of the Jonathan Transformation Agenda. The President himself took responsibility for the message that forms a key plank of his reform only after generating negative responses. There is no central spokesperson for the government, and no main message, with up to five spokespersons: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Diezani Alison-Madueke, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, and Labaran Maku. Atedo Peterside weighs in on behalf of a committee. Reuben Abati has advisedly stayed off messaging on the matter given his anti-removal advocacy in his earlier capacity as an ordinary citizen.

Then there is the matter of messaging platforms. The government and its agencies are losing out on the social media platform, and this has turned out to be one of the main playing fields for stakeholder engagement on the fuel subsidy matter. Active publics on the issue are utilising these platforms to devastating effect. Note that the social media platform is a double-edged sword. In the absence of regulation, users deploy it to both excellent and obnoxious ends, thus requiring active monitoring and engagement.

All of which leads to the matter of message credibility. Unfortunately for the government, what it did on January 1 reinforced citizens’ scepticism about deregulation. History shows that deregulation for Nigerian governments has always meant only one thing: fuel price increase, with promises of benefits but no delivery of the securities. The Federal Government made no effort whatsoever to show any difference in its approach or objective, even when government officials admit its lack of credibility. They followed the same script. The government thus played into the existing mass sentiment or general social consensus that sees only price increase and hardship in deregulation.

The Christopher Kolade Committee, for instance, reprises the Petroleum Trust Fund, save that in the case of PTF General Sani Abacha admitted that the price increase was nothing but a fuel tax from which government would make additional income. In the period between broaching the issue of removal of subsidy and actual implementation, also, opponents have successfully cast doubt on the integrity of the government’s claim as to the actual cost of Nigeria’s PMS and justification for an increase. No one has addressed those doubts at all!

Communication scholars identify various publics concerning any issue: non-publics, latent, aware and active publics. Non-publics are those for whom the issue at hand has virtually no effect. Latent publics have no awareness of their connection; aware publics understand the importance of the case to them but have not acted, while active publics are doing something about it.

Therefore, the critical issue is that communication of the subsidy removal lacks credibility with stakeholders other than the government. It has the challenge of ensuring that government opponents do not convert all the different publics to active publics against the government’s stance on the issue.

The government’s communication managers need to go back to the drawing board to clarify the message, messenger, delivery mechanisms, and platforms. As the Chinese say, it is an incredibly tricky challenge because you cannot carve on rotten wood. The fuel subsidy matter in Nigeria has taken the form of rotten wood.

First published on September 20, 2020

Nigeria created forex-earning opportunities in 2021

I got a funny stare when I suggested to a group that Nigeria created five forex-earning opportunities in 2022. Policy successes. My friends thought I had gone bonkers because I went further to say that building on the policy successes will earn Nigeria more foreign exchange.

So, what did we achieve and where, someone asked with a hint of disdain.

We are always quick to write the country off, as we constantly promote our doomsday predictions. To appreciate the policy successes of 2021, one must go beyond the gloomy headlines and see the opportunities in the areas of world trade, local exports, aviation, fintech, and taxation of offshore transactions. They began to pay attention when I said that opportunities stand to boost the earnings of the average Nigerian.

Before we examine where Nigeria created forex-earning opportunities, however, let me offer a caveat. The possibility of exploiting the opportunities is quite low, given that 2022 is a pre-election year. It is therefore not out of place to project that our leaders may likely not focus on sustaining these gains. It does not matter that this would have been a good way to prepare for their various dates with history. All we can at this moment is to emphasize the opportunities, before they launch into political gamesmanship.

The WTO opportunity

Nigeria created one of her first forex-earning opportunitied with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala at the World Trade Organization (WTO). We should be grateful to US President Joe Biden for giving an executive nod to the candidacy of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Without it, her fate would have been in the balance, or sealed in favour of a non-African candidate. However, President Muhammadu Buhari and gets the credit for making her become a factor in US presidential decision-making.

On 1 March 2020, Okonjo-Iweala took office as first black, African and woman to head the World Trade Organisation. What’s the opportunity that her election presents? She has promised to support Nigeria’s export promotion efforts with WTO technical assistance and capacity building. The goal is to improve on quality of our export products. Quality is a major reason why Nigeria fails to export enough to break our near-total dependence on a single product. Who will engage with the WTO to ensure Nigeria erases this quality gap to broaden access to international markets? And ultimately improve our export earnings?

There’s another thing that improves the potential to build on this 2021 diplomatic success. Her WTO seat completes a triangle of technical and financial opportunity for Nigeria in three key organisations. With Dr. Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria should exploit the opportunity to improve on the quality of her export goods. With Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, she stands to benefit from opportunities to boost local agriculture and manufacturing efforts, including for export. With Prof. Benedict Oramah, she will get a listening ear at the Afreximbank for export of goods and services.

Vaccine production

The second area where Nigeria created forex-earning opportunities is also in the area of exports. This is an opportunity uncovered by the current Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic exposed how countries in vaccine research and production boost foreign exchange earnings. In 2020, the global vaccine export market was valued at $187 billion. COVID-19 vaccines accounted for 73 percent of the total haul. Nigeria joined other vaccine consumption nations to foot this $187b bill through vaccine imports. We didn’t have the money to finance it and so once again went borrowing. Today, the country draws down on a $400 million World Bank facility to purchase, ship and locally distribute Covid-19 vaccines. This, in addition to the $92.5 million government withdrew from her reserves to fund the first imports.

The way to reduce this prohibitive cost is for Nigeria to become a production hub for vaccines, following the lead of the African Union on the matter. Have we lost the opportunity? It is hard to tell. The European Union is working with South Africa, Rwanda and Senegal to set up regional vaccine manufacturing hubs in Africa while Nigeria “remains in consideration.” Let’s just leave it said that if care is not taken, Nigeria will miss out on an opportunity.

This is a subject I shall return to, next week.

The Aviation opportunity

The third area where Nigeria created forex-earning opportunities is in aviation diplomacy. However, to exploit the opportunity will tax the creativity and ingenuity of hardworking Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, and his team. Will they sustain and consolidate on diplomatic successes recorded in 2021 to improve foreign exchange earnings?

To consolidate on the gains requires that they understand and interpret the numbers that gave us those fiplomatic victories. As I argued in Behind Our Recent Diplomatic Victories (16 December), the numbers are an eye-opener. They show that, within first six months of 2021, an average of 7,500 passengers patronized our five international airports daily. “This number is big enough to fill 21 jets every day, an incredible 147 flights per week…”

The numbers however do not work for Nigeria. Nigerian carriers account for less than a dozen of this number, less than 10 percent. We try to make up, to get a piece of the passenger traffic pie, through exorbitant airport charges. But this is of no concern to foreign airlines. They simply pass on the cost to our local travelers in form of premium fares on regular routes. It’s a case of heads we lose and tails they win.

Senator Sirika and his team therefore need to work out the cost-benefit of three policy options. They can continue to promote high local service charges as is the practice. They can also continue push the idea of floating a national flag carrier. And they can equally support local airline to upgrade to first-class flight services to compete with foreign airlines. The best policy option is one that saves foreign exchange and simultaneously attracts taxable international passenger dollars to Nigeria.

FinTech opportunity

The fourth area where Nigeria created forex-earning opportunities is in FinTech. While policymakers shuttled the globe hunting for loans to finance our capital expenditure, something big was happening behind their backs. Foreign investors came in and poured huge investment funds into local fintech startups and going concerns. Last year, Nigerian tech companies including Opay Nigeria ($400m), PayStack ($200m), Flutterwave ($170m) pursued and secured almost $1.0 billion in funding. The funds were to expand their operations in Nigeria and to the rest of Africa. This was in addition to extra investment dollars introduced by older telecom companies such as MTN. Innovation and creativity in the sector have not gone to sleep and many more are getting set to go on fund-raising rounds.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo believes the sector can be further expanded when the fintech are coupled to the Nigerian exchange (NGEX). And I agree. It will be a win-win for local investors to benefit from the profits in the sector. It will encourage more funding for local startups. And it will result in more tax harvests for government. So what policy is being pursued to help the sector grow?

Off-shore tax opportunity

Speaking of tax, the fifth opportunity is particularly heartwarming for this column. Three days after our suggestion to government on how to approach the Twitter ban matter (The Tax that Twitter Owes, 24 June 2020), the office of the vice president ran with the ideas in our essay. The office released a statement on 27 June promising that Nigeria was going to collect “taxes on the Nigerian income of global tech giants with significant economic presence here, even if they have not established an office or permanent establishment and are currently not paying taxes in Nigeria.” Subsequently, the widely promoted meeting between Government and Twitter managers was aborted. In its place, we now have in place a policy that improves Nigeria’s foreign earning potential this year.

Our country stands in a unique position to build on 2021 policy successes by harnessing potential African and world resources to break the oil-dependency syndrome. Year 2021 created this opportunity. How do we harness these opportunities in a pre-election year? One way is for President Buhari, to constitute and empower within the next two months a number of public-private sector teams of committed experts and policy analysts to attend to each opportunity while politicians engage in their electioneering gamesmanship. Otherwise the momentum may be lost in 2024 when a new set of policy makers will see their way through to engage in serious governance.

Happy New Year.

Big Man Impunity

Nigeria created forex-earning opportunities
CP Odumosu

There is a great debate over whether a police commissioner has the right to arrest and detain private security officials in a private estate who asked that his host permit them to admit the top cop.

Some of the arguments are self-serving, quoting non-existent laws that allow the police unrestricted access to private property. But this is simply nonsense. Even when someone is suspected to have committed a crime, police cannot enter the house or search it WITHOUT a warrant.

How then can we suggest that a Commissioner of Police can forcibly enter a gated community where no crime is being committed without conforming to the rules of entry in that estate? And that the Commissioner can arrest and detain those manning the gates for daring to ask (whether rudely or courteously) that he follows the rules that his prospective host and his neighbors agreed on?

As someone has suggested, the community or the people he detained can sue the police boss so that we will know exactly what our laws say about “big man impunity” in Nigeria.

Igbos are Stingy with Tithes?

Nigeria created forex-earning opportunities
Pastor Fatoyinbo

Igbos are stingy with their tithes, according to the lead pastor of the Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA) in Abuja.

“The Igbo believe in God. It takes God for an Igbo guy to give. They have a large heart, but they believe you shouldn’t work their mind. Igbos are 90 percent Christians but no megachurch. You need to tear backgrounds to enter some testimonies. No Church with a Yoruba pastor takes more Igbo songs than COZA. Hustle is a curse! Are you a hustler? Some people find it hard to give because they hustled to get that money. In the name of Jesus, the hustle has ceased in your life”.

What should we make of this? It’s clear that Pastor Biodun wants to trend, if this statement credited to him is true. He’s been in the shadows for some time now. Well for your information, man of god, it’s not only Igbos that recognize a scam when they see one. All discerning Nigerians do.


Margery Okadigbo replaces Ararume as NNPC Board Chair

Former Senator Margery Okadigbo replaces Chief Ifeanyi Ararume as NNPC Board Chair in a surprise presidency announcement today, 5 January.

Dame Margery is widow of late Senate President, Dr. Chuba Okadigbo. Similarly, she represented Anambra North in the Senate between 2012 and 2015.

Presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina announced members of the newly constituted board in a statement.

Serving alongside Mrs. Okadigbo on the new board are NNPC Chief Executive, Mele Kyari, and Corporation’s Chief Financial Officer, Umar Ajiya.

Others members of the Board selected to represent regional political interests are as follows:

Dr. Tajudeen UmarNorth East
Lami AhmedNorth Central
Mohammed LawalNorth West
Henry Obih South East
Constance MarshalSouth South
Chief Pius AkinyelureSouth West

Chief Ararume is the only one dropped from a prior list of Board members announced on 24 September 2021.

Mr Adesina’s statement was silent on what prompted the presidency to upgrade Mrs. Okadigbo and throw Chief Ararume out.

Last year, Adesina himself stoutly defended Ararume as Board chair and dismissed those who criticized his choice.

He described Ararume, also a former Senator, as an “influential politician, shrewd businessman and budding egghead.”

His choice for the chairmanship, Adesina said, “satisfies the basic parameters of quality, soundness, suitability and, perhaps, political net worth, sagacity and knowledge.”

Other board appointments

Mr Adesina also today announced Executive Commissioners to regulate upstream, midstream and downstream operations.

The Executive Commissioners of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission are

Isa Modibo*Adamawa Board Chairman
Gbenga Komolafe*OndoCEO
Rose Ndong*PlateauExploration and Acreage Management
Hassan Gambo*AdamawaFinance and Accounts
Dr Nuhu HabibKanoDevelopment & Production
Dr Kelechi OfoegbuImoEconomic Regulations and Strategic Planning
Captain Tonlagha JohnDeltaHealth, Safety, Environment and Community
Jide Adeola KogiCorporate Services and Administration
*appointed in 2021

Commissioners for the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority include

Idaere Ogan*RiversBoard Chairman
Sarki Auwalu*KanoCEO
Ogbugo Ukoha*AbiaExecutive Director, Downstream Systems, Storage and Retailing Infrastructure
Abiodun Adeniji*LagosExecutive Director, Finance and Account
Francis OgareeRiversExecutive Director, Hydrocarbon Processing
Mustapha LamordeAdamawa Executive Director, Health, Safety, Environment and Community
Mansur KuliyaKanoExecutive Director, Midstream and Downstream Gas Infrastructure Fund
Bashir SadiqSokotoExecutive Director, Corporate Services and Administration
Dr Zainab GobirKwaraExecutive Director, Economic Regulations and Strategic Planning
* Appointed in 2021

For Midstream and Downstream Infrastructure Fund, the new Council Members are

Effiong AbiaAkwa Ibom
Bobboi Ahmed Adamawa
Abdullahi Bukar Katsina

Margery Okadigbo replaces Ararume

Naming Imo terrorist sponsors: Why Uzodinma backpedaled

Governor Hope Uzodimna blames politicians and media for decision to back away from naming sponsors of terrorist activities in Imo.

Politicians and the media “created unnecessary tension” over the statement, he explained.

“Many politicians have latched on that statement to cause problems in the state. Even the media, both mainstream and social, did not help matters,” he complained

Uzodinma also said he realized that naming Imo terrorist sponsors will “interfere” with police investigations.

“Instead of naming them I will allow security agencies who are already investigating those identified to finish their job.

“Naming them would jeopardize the work of security agencies who are already doing a great job.”

The Governor had boasted that he knew the sponsors of terrorist activities in Imo State and was going to expose them.

He promised to use an Imo Stakeholders meeting which took place in Owerri yesterday to make the earthshaking announcement.

Okorocha, a headache

Instead, he turned around to name his predecessor, now Senator Rochas Okorocha, as a “big headache”.

Of all the former governors, only Okorocha refuses to give him elbow room to operate as Governor, he complained.

“We have many former governors in the state. We have former governors Achike Udenwa, Ikedi Ohakim, Emeka Ihedioha and Rochas Okorocha.

“But Rochas Okorocha has failed to recognise that he is a former governor.

Uzodinma then pulled the age rank on Okorocha and demanded respect on that score.

“Rochas Okorocha is my younger brother. I am older than him and today I am the governor. He should recognize that fact and accord me that respect.”

Senator Okorocha has accused the Governor of instigating the arrest of his son-in-law, Chief Uche Nwosu, at a church service.

Nwosu was attending a thanksgiving service to commemorate the burial of his mother when a band of policemen shot into the church and abducted him.

The senator also claims that the governor habitually persecutes him and members of his family.

Renaming bandits as terrorists: Malami defends delay

Attorney-General Abubakar Malami on a television programme yesterday 4 January in Abuja defends government’s delay in renaming bandits as terrorists.

An Abuja high court on 26 November 2021 declared bandits, kidnappers and cattle rustlers as terrorists.

However, the Federal Government kept mute on the judgement, prompting a public outcry.

Yesterday on an NTA live programme, the Attorney-General defended the delay, saying government was following “international best practices”.

The process concludes when government publishing its declaration in its official journal known as the Government Gazette, Malami said.

“The process is on and will be concluded in a matter of days,” he said.

Critics compared the delay to the swift publication of a similar court declaration on the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

Military and security forces relied on the gazette to launch use of maximum force on unarmed youths.

Malami said Government initiated a similar process to gazette the declation and will conclude this “in a matter of days”.

“Government has a responsibility to act. Within the context of acting, you equally expected to operate within the confines of international best practices associated with engagement.

“One of such best practices is that you can only use maximum force on groups, individuals that are declared terrorists. That is where the application of the Terrorism Act comes in(to) place,” he said.

The Attorney-General drew similarities between government action on IPOB and its current posture on terrorists.

“…Nigeria acted, first by proscribing IPOB, taking into consideration the threats to lives and properties they have caused in the nation.

“Boko Haram was proscribed.

“The gazetting of a court order or judgement is a process. What matters fundamentally within the context of international convention is the judicial declaration and that has been obtained .

“The court has declared bandits, kidnappers, cattle rustlers as terrorists.

“What gives effect to such declaration is a judicial pronouncement. The gazette is a mere formality … and I believe within a matter of days, it will be concluded.”

Renaming bandits as terrorists – Malami defends government delay

A year of citizen awakening to save Nigeria

Prof Pat Utomi encourages us in a New Year message to arise and make 2022 a year of citizen awakening to save Nigeria.

A year of citizen awakening

The renowned Prof. Pat Utomi is chair of the NCF and self-describes as leader of the shadow government in Nigeria. This was his New Year message for Nigeria in 2022

By Pat Utomi

As we cross over from 2021 to 2022 there is much to thank God for in spite of a surge in COVID infections, inflation eating away the income of poor Nigerians just as global supply chain crisis and problems at the Ports were compounding the woes of manufacturers and traders ; and insecurity was making farming and food security the worry of the year.

In joining fellow compatriots in Thanksgiving, I would particularly like to pay tribute to the emergence in 2021 of an a new crop of patriots in politics and civil society who seem to have recognized a desperate need to Save Nigeria from challenges that have brought our dear country to the edge of a political and economic precipice.

Movements like NCFront, RNP, The New Fabian Society of the Concerned Professionals, and emerging coalitions of alternative track political parties have provided hope in a time of gloom and despair as the country goes borrowing everywhere with the unfortunate tag of the poverty capital of the world. The collaboration of these groups to deepen our democracy with the idea of a Shadow Government marks for me a call for national renewal.

There is no question as I reflect on this that 2022 is the year of citizen awakening to save Nigeria. The promise of Nigeria in 1960 was the promise of peace and prosperity for all of its people, though tribe and tongue may differ but in brotherhood they would stand to shine the light to lead Africa out of serfdom.

A year of citizen action

As we cross over I want to call out all patriots to recognize that 2022 is the year to stop sitting on the fence and take action. Nigeria can and must rise up again but it will take patriots and true citizens willing to take on the fight for a new Nigeria as freedom is not served a la carte but taken by a bold generation responsible and accountable to a future foretold.

The future foretold has been setback by bad politics and poor economics. But we must now say no to the entrepreneurs of politics who have brought shame to the arena of politics as service on which our founding fathers like Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Dr Michael Okpara, Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa and others, erected the foundation of our beloved country. If millions of us have to get on the streets in the manner of the Orange or Pink revolution. to make the dream of a more desirable Nigeria that Fela Durotoye often envisions in his motivational exercises then that we must do. We owe this duty of transforming Nigeria to our children because, in a sense we have been accomplices in the undoing of their future.

George Orwell declared long ago that those who elect corrupt politicians, impostors and thieves are not victims but accomplices. In allowing those who loot our treasuries and use the war chest to brag about being ready to be elected we are accomplices twice over and need to make reparation in committing to vanquishing of money politics.

How did we get here?

The sorry pass through which we got to this fork of the road where Sony Okososuns sang ‘Which way Nigeria’, the Quo Vadis challenge, took us from excesses in the struggle of independence era politicians to bring progress along ethnic nationality lines. This fanned violence that led to military intervention. With that intervention and Oil price blow outs came state capture and many of the negative dispositions of what I have often called the regrettable alchemy of Soldiers and Oil.

Thankfully, even in the most challenging of times we have had patriotic proddings to change course. General Olusegun Obassnjo offered this as head of state when he turned the state away from profligacy asking us to cut our coat according to our cloth and not our size; and in another era it took the political savvy of a General Ibrahim Babangida to build the political imagination that skillfully began to pull us away from suffocating Dirigisme to trusting markets, a phenomenon much understudied but which may have saved us from the fate of Venezuela.
But a collapse of culture, manifested in the loss of a sense of service in the political class, pervasive corruption, unimaginative policy choices and problem solving modes that derive from compassion towards the people, have brought us to today’s troubles.

To reverse these ugly trends that have brought us to the insecurity we now experience, the dreadful poverty of so many who should not be poor , and national self-doubt, we need to address several issues.

These include a reconstruction of some critical institutions like political parties, our national value system, including a stout statement for the dignity of the human person, the electoral process and building elite consensus on a national economic strategy.

A make or break year

Nothing that currently stresses us in Nigeria was not predicted from the trends of the choices we made. Whenever I go back and read my own writings I feel like a prophet. Yet I know that I do not have the gift of prophecy. Those same trends that enabled me predict today, 20 years ago, indicate to me that the current crisis is an existential one if the forces of the division, exclusion and self love that govern the moment are not met with the resolve of patriots.

I believe that Nigeria is worth dying for and that 2022 is the time for citizens to throw down the gauntlet and reclaim their country from corrupt and shameless politicians.

We must stop being complicit in our own ruination by either failing to stand up for right or refusing to participate.

As such we must all arise and say this country is ours and these few do or die politicians in pursuit of narrow self interest must not be allowed through exclusion of women, youth, intellectuals and more honest people to extinguish the light of the promise of Nigeria..

The starting point of the struggle of 2022 has to be the explosion of some myths that inoculate citizen action. These myths are reified into poor grasp of reality by limited processing capacity of some in the media and analysts desperate for stereotypes to simplify the world.

A typical myth is that there are two major parties in Nigeria. That statement is fundamentally flawed and false. Neither of the two so called big parties, in their conduct, resembles the classic definition of a Political Party. At best they are election results hustle machines of clusters of power seekers .

Even as pale imitation of political parties they are not two but one. This is why crossing from one to the other is easy and can come up in several iterations in one political life.

Beginning of the end

When President Obassnjo tore up his PDP card it sang the nunc dimitis of that one. Just as when APC collected huge sums from its members as fees for forms for primaries that did not take place and members were requested to withdraw cases on the electoral abuse from courts with assurance of justice that never came. Even when APC governors hinted these fees would be refunded, nothing happened. Such pointed to a death of character in a party 419ing its own members and committing criminal acts recklessly with no apology.

We know that when character is lost all is lost. In those murky waters the APC died. Now it finds its President unable to sign democracy enhancing electoral laws for the fourth time and a convention that should be routine prove a difficult thing to arrange.

A great imperative of 2022 therefore must be the founding of one or two real political parties.

Allied to the myth of two dominant parties is that they control the votes.. Even the combination of free votes, induced and manufactured votes: through vote buying, thumb print manufactured votes, collation manipulation of votes which make them willing to bold face walking over the will of the people by refusing accent to electronic transmission of votes, fewer than a million votes, real and imagined, are cast to ‘elect’ the Governor of Lagos. Even at the level of total control in Lagos the number of those that voted for the incumbent in 2019 are fewer than those who voted for his predecessor in 2015.. Still, all the votes come to less than 10% of those eligible to vote.

As the Afrobarometer continuos polling provides evidence, our democracy is hemorrhaging and dying. We have a duty to fight to save it the way some of us who who matched for the end of Military rule committed to in the 1990s.

The tools of liberation

The tools of citizen response for the challenge of 2022 should, in my opinion, involve a massive commitment to Call Out; Recall; Litigate and March massively.

Earlier in 2021 I had said, while speaking to the Association of Professional Bodies of Nigeria, that the dignity of their profession takes a blow when a member of their body in government acts corruptly or incompetently. As such they should take the lead in calling out such a person.
Using technology to guage how constituents rate the performance of their elected officials, we plan to start Recalls of elected officials across the country. This may be the major feature of politics in 2022.

In 2022 we must implement a radical programme of calling out people who do wrong in office. People must litigate against institutions like INEC which in 2015 violated the laws in such ways as closing voters registration and other areas.

We need to assemble our best lawyers and litigate the many sources of injustice that make our system unstable by pushing the weak to despondency. Where power uses state capture to block progress we must call out the people unto the streets to protest of the scale of those in Ukraine during their struggle.
Beyond these initiatives to hold power accountable to the people all citizens have to massively recruit people currently none voters or activist to register to vote. If 12 million currently not registered to vote to register on a newcomer platform the game changer for Nigeria may just be knocking.

Leading the change

The idea of a shadow team of teams to provide practical accounting direction for the change we desire and develop policy options that an alternative leadership team can go to work with, without the long delay to put a government in place we saw in 2015 has proved a veritable organizing tool. Each MDA has a team that is a mix of experts, experienced leaders from politics or civil society and have two of the team act as spokesperson for team.

Personal Responsibility

I want to conclude by inviting all Nigerians to take personal responsibility for making the dream
we seek come alive. The Ghanaian High Life musician Ben Brako reminds us that a society in which the politicians are richer than its business men is one doomed to disaster. We know he is right and we know that the politicians and some civil servants are richer than the businessmen. So how do we avert looming disaster. Only in taking personall responsibility for the change we want to see.

Happy New Year.

Glimpses into Year 2022

We bring for your reading pleasure the following glimpses – observations reflections – into how year 2022 is shaping up.

Sam Amadi . Dike Chukwumerije . Nkem Denchukwu . Mike Asukwo . Ifeoma Malo

Reflections on the New Year 2022 – OUR ATTITUDES

Nothing will Change


Sam Amadi, former Chair of Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) is now Associate Professor of Law and and Director, Abuja School of Social and Political Thought


Nothing really will change in 2022.

God will remain faithful. Human beings will be largely foolish. Few will truly love to do the right and the wise things. Fewer still will be able to do the right and wise things. Because of this, things will not change that much.

Still, the righteous shall flourish like a garden in rainy season.

Reflections on the New Year 2022 – INTROSPECTION

Many things we don’t understand

dike chukwumerije writes buhari

Dike Chukwumerije is a Nigerian spoken word and performance poetry artist and an award-winning author.

Sometimes, being soft-hearted, soft-spoken, and willing to believe the best in others can make you appear a fool. But it is the foolish things of this world that God uses to confound the wisdom of the times. For if the solutions were known already, they would be deployed already. But even after centuries of exploring and researching and postulating and thinking, there are still many, many things about Earth that we know very little about. And that is just one planet – the one we live on – in an unimaginably vast Universe.

So, do not think that we are anywhere near exhausting the need for Faith as human beings. Too many paths we are standing on still lead through the Unknown. And you will find that in those dark spaces where the light of technology has not yet penetrated, Love – that capacity God put in all our hearts to smile in the face of our trials, to bear up, to persevere, to forgive and move on, even when we do not know tomorrow – shines through. Let nothing ever take it from you. For unlike an app you can download, use and delete whenever you wish, Love – like mountains, oceans, and the mighty Iroko – is from the more ancient sections of our world. You see? With these ones, you reap only if you have taken the time before to sow.

So, invest in books this year. Invest in your social network. Invest in your career and your business this year. But above all invest in your capacity to love. For while we are still looking for that eternally renewable source of energy to power our industries, we are not, in fact, without Power. You see? For, ultimately, this is still true. That the world around you is a manifestation of the world within you. So, turn those lights on in your heart. And shine.

Happy new year.

Reflections on the New Year 2022

Crazy Times. Wahala People


Nkem DenChukwu is a bonafide creative writer, an award-winning author and film producer, a woman whose strength is anchored on God, and a mother of four. 

While onboard to L.A from Oakland, an adult male kept removing his mask. One of the flight attendants kept reminding him to put it back on like he was a two year-old.

He was inconsiderate, senseless, selfish, and ignorant. He clearly lacked common sense. Before take-off, the lady sitting next to him nicely asked him if he was sick because he kept coughing without his mask on.

My eyes almost fell off in shock. I was panicked too! See wahala!

He said no.

While airborne, he removed his mask again a million times and he was asked again to put it back on a million times.

When we landed in L.A, he removed his mask, and the lady finally lost it. Oh boy! She gave him pieces of her mind. Not a piece! The man was speechless and put it back on.

Looking educated and very polished don’t mean you have common sense. The two flight attendants begged the lady to calm down. She was VERY angry. We all were too!

She took his photo.

When the door was opened, airport security came and escorted the inconsiderate man out of the plane. The woman too. We all stood/sat still, speechless, and only communicated with our eyes.

Na wa! Crazy times! Wahala people!

Btw – I wanted to fly the plane ? but they offered to take a shot of me like this, and I promised them a bowl of my signature Jollof rice, fried plantain, and stewed goat meat next time ?

It’s 2022! Don’t forget to reflect and give thanks because you can still feel your heartbeats too ?

Reflections on the New Year

No arrow for January


Mike Asukwo is a fine art graduate who majored in Sculpture. He is currently the Chief Editorial Artist at BusinessDay Media.

Selfishness unbound


Ifeoma Malo is a Nigerian lawyer working in international development. Her work focuses on clean energy technologies, and energy access and climate change mitigation and adaptation across Africa

It is a new year and there are a few things we should stop doing this year…. Like make it a part of your resolutions … I want to highlight two…

That’s how I turned into emergency church warden today at mass because people come to church and keep seats for their family and friends still in the shower at home. Mass starts at 8.30am and by 9.00am after the Gospel has been read— people are still keeping seats and preventing others from sitting there.

After the Gloria this morning, and seeing the umpteenth person about to be turned away from sitting on two reserved seats close to where we were seated —— my irritation got the better of me, and I intervened and made someone sit there. I then went outside to go get more people standing outside the church to fill up empty seats around me.

When I looked up because I felt I was disrupting the mass, I saw my parish priest smiling/laughing from the alter. Anyway I left immediately after mass so that those upset that their reserved seats were taken don’t beat me. They include the church wardens that were behaving like they don’t know their jobs.

Reserve seats all you want but if (in my own church) if you are not at mass by the Second Reading, please sit your butt at home. Or maybe stay outside the church. Don’t be inconveniencing the rest of the church with your tardiness.

Give the poor dignity

Similarly, it’s great to see a lot of outreach to orphanages and IDPs and hospitals and maternities during the Yuletide.

But I thought we agreed it’s not proper to take pictures of the occupants of these homes or health centers when we go? Please give them dignity. Don’t splash thier faces all over social media. If you must post pictures because you crowd sourced, kindly use the markers on your phone to completely blur out their faces only…

Let us try small this year. I come in peace…


Girl at the Traffic Lights

Girl at the traffic light
Lanre Idowu

Girl at the traffic lights is author LANRE IDOWU’s New Year profound prayer that we awaken to the responsibilities of citizenship in 2022.

Our eagerness to get home quickly and welcome the New Year with hymns and prayers was halted by the traffic lights at the junction of Adeola Odeku and Akin Adesola streets on Victoria Island. Time was 21.45 hours.

The car windows were wound up. As we waited for the green light to continue the journey, a young girl moved close to the driver’s side, soliciting.

Involuntarily, I moved my mask to cover my nose and mouth even with the car windows closed.

Our guest was not deterred. “Sorry Daddy,” she pleaded.
I pretended to not see her, so I kept my eyes fixed on the traffic lights, monitoring her with the corners of my left eye.

You never know with this people, I thought. They come with all tricks in the book to set you up for a sucker punch and I wasn’t falling for it in these dying hours of 2021.

But the girl, probably no more than seven, wasn’t done yet. “God will promotion you,” she declared. “Your children children go better well well.”

As I pondered on her quaint expressions, looking for loose Naira notes near the joystick, the green light came on, and I moved the car in the direction of home, unable to help the girl.

Thereafter, the traffic was light and nothing stood in our way until we got home twenty minutes after. What kept playing over in my mind was the girl’s eleven-word prayer.

God go promotion you. Your children children go better well well.”

Her opening apology of “Sorry Daddy,” indicates her sensitivity to disturbing my peace in the comfort of my space. The import of her prayer, “God go promotion you” was that God would uplift me. I would enjoy an improvement in my circumstances. Since I looked old enough to be a father and indeed a grandfather, her last statement was a prayer for my children and grandchildren that things would go well for them.

Nowhere did she outrightly ask me for alms, even as there was no denying her intention. Her approach subtly employed prayer, hoping that I would do the needful. As I headed home, I couldn’t help remembering the approach of girls of her age in another era, armed with the beggar’s bowl, moving in bands of twos, threes, and fours, soliciting with songs.

Involuntarily, I started humming one. Ba bi Allah, tori Olorun ba bi Allah, e bun mi toro, ba bi Allah. Asiri abo.

Ba bi Allah was a more direct plea for alms; a call for help with the persuasive appeal of music. It was a song rendered by itinerant beggars moving from home to home in the Lagos of the 1960s where traffic lights were not common sight. Appealing to our common humanity, it asked in the name of God for alms, indeed the odd three pence.

Then and now, street begging remains a reminder of the poverty in the land. And the unfinished work of deploying state and private resources to ridding the land of poverty enveloped, in this instance, in idle begging. It is a reminder that our people’s needs are largely rudimentary—food to keep body and soul together. It is what our politicians exploit to buy votes and under-develop the land. It is what conscienceless leaders in secular and religious groups utilize to take advantage of the weak.

Beyond the relatively sane and safe precincts of Victoria Island where the praying girl operated on 31st December 2021, many like her are exposed to grave dangers of being exploited in the name of begging to douse the hunger in their stomachs and those of their parents who usually lurk in the background.

So, as I review the past year this first day of the new year, I pray an expanded version of the little girl’s prayer at the traffic lights that this year will favour you.

May the Lord promote you above your current circumstances. May you enjoy an anointing of ease.

May doors of opportunity open for you and you be equipped to put them to effective use.

May you not be a disused rag in the hands of exploiters. May the Lord open your eyes to the deceit of those who promise heaven on earth but deliver hell as a living reality.

May you not be a mean exploiter yourself.

May the New Year favour you generationally.

May you be counted among the league of problem solvers in the land as you work assiduously to contain poverty in the land, knowing that the fewer the number of the poor, the higher the chances to enjoy peacefully from the sweat of your labour.

This new year, may you partner with the State and people of goodwill to take more people off the streets. And may you be assured of the Lord’s promise that “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy.”

Happy New Year! ?


Lanre idowu, Trustee of the Diamond Awards for Media Excellence Trust Fund, is a Veteran Journalist and Journalism Regulator.