10042019 - Politicians, traditional rulers aiding bandits — DEFENCE MINISTER

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The sense and foolishness of

Onnoghen’s acceptance of defeat

ABOUT a week ago, the

suspended Chief Justice of

Nigeria, Mr. Walter Onnoghen,

finally handed in his resignation

to President Muhammadu Buhari.

Embattled and harassed in a

manner only he could probably

explain, Mr. Onnoghen’s

resignation hopefully now closes

the book on one of the most

shameful episodes in the history of

the Nigerian bench.

It is important to underline the

blight the Onnoghen trial

constitutes on the bench as

opposed to the bar that many

senior lawyers, so-called inner bar,

among other hawkers of justice,

have turned into a space for giving

corruption an agreeable odour.

Days after the resignation was

reported in the media, the

Presidency was yet to acknowledge

receipt of Onnoghen’s letter.

Femi Adesina, presidential

spokesperson, could not confirm

if the president had received the

suspended CJN’s resignation

letter. Like most Nigerians, he had

said he only read about the

resignation online.

It would seem like the Presidency

or, indeed the president, is taking

his time responding to Onnoghen.

It is yet anybody’s guess what may

be the final outcome of the former

(guess he can now be referred to in

such terms) CJN’s resignation.

Nigerians have divided views

about the trial of Onnoghen, right

from when accusations were first

hurled at him for failing to declare

his assets as is expected of public

officers of his status.

Now he has reportedly resigned,

opinions have been bitterly divided

about the wisdom or foolishness

of the CJN’s latest step. While there

are those who think he has taken

the only honourable step open to

him, others believe he waited too

long to offer his resignation. For

this latter group, Onnoghen’s

pussyfooting already did a lot of

damage and all he is now likely or

wants to achieve with his

resignation is nothing but to fight

fire in order to mitigate the harsh

consequences of his initial refusal

to resign.

Nothing would satisfy this group

of Nigerians than the law taking

its natural course. Some go further

to demand that Buhari reject

Onnoghen’s resignation and

simply sack him. They believe Mr.

Onnoghen ought to have resigned

the moment he had admitted in

writing that he did not file, as

demanded by the law, his asset

declaration form.

For Onnoghen’s sympathisers,

there was nothing he could have

done to appease those bent on

shaming him out of office. They

hinged their argument on Buhari’s

apparent preference for Nigerians

from his part of the country or

religion for appointment into

important public office. Their

distrust of Buhari was nowhere

helped by recent revelations

during Onnoghen’s trial at the

Code of Conduct Tribunal that

suggested assets attributed to the

CJN were grossly exaggerated.

Nigerians learned, for example,

that the CJN owned nothing close

to the 55 houses attributed to him.

He owned no more than five,

Nigerians would learn. His

decision to fight the accusation

against him might look wise if only

for the reason that it gave him the

opportunity to clear his name.

However, it would appear that he

Onnoghen's

decision to fight

the accusation

against him might

look wise if only

for the reason that

it gave him the

opportunity to

clear his name

was bound to lose the fight,

whether he resigned immediately

or he remained to clear his name

as those sympathetic to him would

interpret his decision to stay-put

in the wake of the accusation

against him.

Resigning immediately would

have saved him the embarrassment

of a trial. Although, others would

have interpreted that differently:

as acceptance of guilt. His kith

and kin in the South-South,

Vanguard, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 10, 201931

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particularly the governors, that

had urged him not to resign would

have blamed him for being too

squeamish and hasty. Right or left,

front or back, Onnoghen was a

piece of dead meat.

A government that was not

already determined on the course

it would follow would not have

allowed the kind of open

accusation that spawned the

public shaming and media

lynching of the CJN that the

Economic and Financial Crimes

Commission more or less

superintended. This should have

been more than enough hint for

Onnoghen to know that his time

was up.

That is, as soon as Onnoghen

realised that Buhari does not want

him as his CJN, a position long

made clear by the president’s

failure to confirm his appointment

and reinforced by Buhari allowing

the EFCC to move against him (he

could have quietly demanded his

resignation), then Onnoghen

ought to have resigned. Not

because he was guilty or anything

else.

It was just sufficient that he did

not enjoy the confidence of the

president. This is a lesson our

public officers must learn or suffer

a similar fate like Walter

Onnoghen. Once you do not have

your boss’s confidence, resign! But

Onnoghen was blind to or unable

to read the writing on the wall and

so exposed himself to the obloquy

that became his lot. He gave his

accusers the opportunity to dig up

dirt on him.

It cannot be clear that the

infraction that eventually

consumed Onnoghen was the

reason Buhari had been slow to

confirm him as CJN. Nigerians

must remember that long after he

came into office as Acting CJN,

Buhari would not elevate

Onnoghen to the substantive status

of CJN. Onnoghen would only be

made CJN when Buhari was on his

medical leave in the United

Kingdom and Yemi Osinbajo

presided as Acting President.

Onnoghen was, therefore, Vice

President Yemi Osinbajo’s

appointee as CJN, not President

Muhammadu Buhari’s.

This fact that points to Buhari’s

lack of interest in Onnoghen also

undermines anything his

government may want to say as to

why it shoved him out of office. It

makes the accusation against him

and his trial look like the antics of

a government working to a

predetermined answer. Yes, the

Buhari administration was never

disposed to the former CJN for

reasons best known to it.

There is hardly any doubt that

Buhari never wanted Onnoghen as

Nigeria’s CJN. There is hardly any

doubt also that Onnoghen has

skeletons, perhaps not as scary as

has been made out, in his closet.

With a little wisdom on his part,

he could have avoided the roasting

that came with his being docked

and tried in a tribunal. Even if he

had survived the trial, he could

never have regained his moral

authority.

Which reason might not have

been too far from the thinking of

the National Judicial Council,

which only days before Onnoghen

offered his resignation,

recommended his retirement. This

is as good an outcome as could be

expected in the circumstance. A lot

of good things can still come the

way of Onnoghen should Buhari

choose to be “magnanimous” at

this time, forgive his previous

intransigence and accept his

resignation. This is face-saving

and offers closure. Much to be

preferred, if you ask me, to a

permanently ruined reputation.

Building collapse: Enough of political trumpery

By Tochukwu Ezukanma

ACCORDING to the Federal Minis

try of Power, Works and Housing, 54

buildings collapsed in Nigeria within a period

of five years (between 2012 and 2016).

This is an average of more than ten buildings

collapsing every year, which is by whatever

standard, unnervingly excessive. And

every building collapse leaves a trail of

woes: deaths, pains and sorrows, and emotional

and psychological wounds that may

take a long time to heal, if ever.

Recently, a three-storey building, still occupied

by businesses, residents and a primary

school, collapsed in Ita Faji area of

Lagos, killing 20 persons, many of them

primary school pupils. As usual, the tragedy

spawned emotive responses and solicitous

visits by high-level government officials.

In his response, President Muhammadu

Buhari expressed his distress and commiserated

with the affected families. The governor

of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode,

visited the site, lamented the tragedy, condoled

with the bereaved families, and ordered

the immediate demolition of all the

defective structures already marked for

demolition in Lagos State.

These visits and cogent remarks were

necessary and laudable. However, the

problem with the Nigeria power elite is not

in political posturing, and in display of

concerns, and making germane statements

for bereaved families in times of emergencies

and disasters.

It is also not in ordering investigations

and issuing of reports.

Their problem is in accountability. Public

accountability is borne out of a sense of

responsibility on the part of the governing

for the governed. The Nigerian power elite

are yet to realise that their legitimacy and

moral authority derive solely from the trust

reposed on them by the people, and that

once they betray this trust, they must resign.

The caving in of a fatally defective structure

on the innocent and unsuspecting, especially,

primary school students, was an

egregious betrayal of the public trust by

the Ambode administration, especially, the

Lagos State Building Control Agency, LAS-

BCA, that regulates building construction

and the state Ministry of Education that

allowed the continued operation of an illegal

primary school in that exceedingly

dilapidated building.

The fundamental reasons for building

collapse in Lagos State are the corruption

and professional negligence of the officials

of the LASBCA.

It is their statutory roles to monitor and

regulate building construction, and thus,

ensure that builders/developers strictly

complied with professional standards and

government guidelines and ordinances in

building construction; and to identify

structurally defective buildings and evacuate

and demolish them.

It is their failure to thoroughly carry out

their statutory duties that results in building

collapses in the state. They fail to do

their work because they are corrupt, and

are therefore, bribed by builders and landlords.

This allows the builders to use substandard

building materials, employ quacks

and circumvent building guidelines and

ordinances in the attempt to maximize profit.

It makes it possible for landlords to forestall

the evacuation and demolition of their

buildings already designated for demolition,

and thus, continue to collect rent from

them..

Public accountability demands that the

chairman of LASBCA and the state Commissioner

for Education take personal responsibilities

for the corruption and dereliction

of duties (of their subordinates) that

resulted to the Ita Faji disaster. In addition,

officials of LASBCA and the state education

ministry, that are, in any way, culpable

of acts of corruption and negligence

that resulted in that calamity and the continued

operation of an illegal primary

school in the collapsed building should be

arrested and prosecuted.

It will serve as a powerful deterrence to

future building collapses in Lagos, as the

officials and, by extension, every ministry

and agency will learn, the hard way, that

To continue this political

deception with an issue

that has resulted in the

death of so many is tantamount

to gambling with

human lives

they will be held responsible for their professional

misdeeds.

Disconcertingly, thus far, the state government

has not demonstrated any resolve

to hold anyone accountable. Already, officials

of LASBCA are looking for scapegoats.

They are blaming the landlords for

their inability to evacuate and demolish

unsafe buildings before they cave-in on

their occupants.

They claim the landlords refuse to vacate

structurally defective buildings

marked for demolition. But their protestations

ring hollow. LASBCA has both regulatory

and enforcement powers. It is empowered

by the law to forcibly evacuate

and demolish structures already designated

for demolition.

Governor Ambode has since inaugurated

a five-man panel to investigate the cause

of the collapse of the three-storey building.

The panel is to determine the level of

negligence on the part of the developer or

owner, role of the state government, and

then, make appropriate recommendations

and proffer remedial measures to stem

building collapse in the future.

So, despite the extremely high number

of building collapses in Lagos State, the

plethora of investigations that followed

them, and the reports that emanated from

these investigations, the State government

is yet to know the reasons for building collapse

and the remedy to it?

The reasons for building collapse in Lagos

State are obvious: corruption and professional

negligence, and its only remedy

is public accountability.

To set up an investigative panel to determine

what is already known is political

trumpery. It is political manipulation by a

grasping political class that is contemptuously

indifferent to the ever-increasing

plight of the masses and disdainful of the

life of the common man.

To continue this political deception with

an issue that has resulted in the death of so

many, and could result in even more deaths

is tantamount to gambling with human

lives.

•Ezukanma, a commentator on national

issues, wrote from Lagos.

C

M

Y

K

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