‘STOP THE KILLINGS NOW!’ ADEGBORUWA TELLS BUHARI

BY EBUN-OLU ADEGBORUWA, SAN

In the course of last week, both Chambers of the National Assembly took up the issue of failing security across the land. Whilst the Senate asked that the service chiefs be sacked, the House of Representatives interacted with the security agencies. It is now clear to all and sundry, at least from the comments and contributions of lawmakers across party lines, that Nigeria is approaching a failed state. The pogrom going on in Southern Kaduna presently is totally unacceptable. In a programme that I monitored on television recently, a presidential aide was challenged to take a drive around his constituency without security patrol if indeed he feels Nigeria is safe enough. The worsening security situation across the land should be a cause for concern to all of us. The President has a duty to act fast, as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria.

Nigeria became a State formally in 1960, with sovereign powers transferred from the British colonialists to the representatives of the people. By law however, section 2 (1) of the 1999 Constitution states that “Nigeria is one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign state to be known by the name of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”, and by section 2 (2) thereof, “Nigeria shall be a Federation consisting of states and a Federal Capital Territory”. So, in the real sense of the word, Nigeria is created as a sovereign state consisting of federating units. Fair enough, the same Constitution that created the Nigerian Federation also specified the kind of powers that it should exercise and the functions it should perform, for its citizens. In this regard, Chapter 2 of the self-same Constitution, comes to bear. I will limit myself for this discourse however, to section 14 of the Constitution.

Under and by virtue of section 14 (2) (a), “sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through this Constitution, derives ALL its powers and authority” (emphasis supplied). In very simple terms therefore, the sovereignty attached to the entity known as the Federal Republic of Nigeria, resides in the people of Nigeria. In essence, all our leaders hold power in trust for the people of Nigeria and they cannot go on acting as if it is the other way round. To break it down more, there is no President who should claim to be in power, there is no Governor who should assert any authority and there should be no legislative house or even a court of law, that should rule over and above the people and be lording policies and decisions over them. Power belongs to the people, pure and simple. The fact that the people of Africa and especially Nigeria, have been living in the opposite of civility and modernisation, whereby those elected into office by the people turn around to arrogate power to themselves, cannot be an excuse to obfuscate this simple truth.

Now to section 14 (2) (b) of the Constitution, wherein it is stated expressly and without equivocation, that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.” A community interpretation of section 14 (2) (a) and (b) respectively will show clearly that the Nigerian State was created for the people of Nigeria, that the focus of the entity called Nigeria is the people and that the target of power and existence of that Federation, is the people. It is good therefore, to sound it loud and clear, that the very existence of government, the totality of the exercise of power, by all and sundry, is for the security and welfare of the people and anything outside this, anything done that cannot achieve this, means a failure of governance. Pure and simple.

According to the learned authors of Merriam-Webster Dictionary, SECURITY means: “(a) freedom from danger (safety); (b) freedom from fear or anxiety; … something that secures, protection or measures taken to guard against espionage or sabotage, crime, attack, or escape.” The priority of security in governance is better illustrated by section 4 of the Police Act, wherein it is stated that the police shall be “… employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, the preservation of law and order, the protection of life and property and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which they are directly charged, and shall perform such military duties within or outside Nigeria as may be required of them by, or under the authority of this or any other Act.” What stands out in this section is the phrase “protection of lives and property”. Now, let us match this with certain data recently released by the Inspector-General of Police himself.

At the quarterly Northern Traditional Rulers’ Council meeting held in Kaduna in, 2019, the then Inspector-General of Police stated that in the first quarter of 2019 alone, 1,071 persons lost their lives in crime-related cases across the country. He stated further that between January and April 2019 alone, 685 persons were kidnapped. Amnesty International has a higher figure of deaths and casualties. In 2018, it was estimated that about 6, 562 persons died from crime-related cases whilst generally, an estimate of about 13,000 persons are said to have died from the insurgency going on in the land, whilst about 1.1m people have been displaced thereby. Just in one year! This is surely frightening, to the extent that no one can claim to sleep with the two eyes closed, any longer. It may well be that the government is taking all necessary steps to contain the rising spate of insecurity across Nigeria, but this remains to be seen by all and sundry, in terms of security and safety, in the real sense of the word. The summary now would seem to be that the government has not been able to rise up to the challenges posed by insecurity. The death rate is climbing everyday.

Now to welfare, since the two main points of governance are security and welfare. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines WELFARE as “the state of doing well, especially in respect to good fortune, happiness, well-being, or prosperity.” Are we doing well as a people, presently? Are we enjoying some form of good fortune economically? Is the well-being of the people of this nation improving in any form at all? Are we happy, with the state of things in Nigeria? Is there prosperity in the land? Without any doubt whatsoever, suicide cases have increased, the economic power of the people has dwindled considerably and virtually everyone now depends on handouts from the government, as private businesses are all struggling to survive, in the absence of basic infrastructure, especially power supply. I have no doubt in my mind that the true testimony across the land is that the majority of the people are suffering indeed. I see it in the text messages that I receive every now and then, for financial assistance, I read it in the news daily, of how many States in the Federation are owing their workers salaries, for several months and how the ordinary people are just living from hand to mouth, barely eking out a living, just surviving and tagging along. Companies are closing down, on account of COVID 19 and there is palpable suffering across the land.

The present circumstance of Nigeria is that many people have become beggars of some sort. Even as businessmen and women, professionals and even as manufacturers, the bulk of the little profit margin is spent on infrastructure, whereby you are forced to generate your own electricity, provide your own water, build your own road, employ your own security, train your children in private schools or send them abroad, if they must excel, provide yourself health care if you must live, and may be buy your own car, if you must move around. It is that bad, that the government seemed to have shifted all its responsibilities to the citizens. And how exactly is anyone expected to survive in such hostile environment, where you spend most of your valuable time in traffic, you get home to sleep in intense heat and darkness and then you eventually manage to make it to the office the following day, only to be confronted with power outage, all day long, draining all human capacity, productivity and usefulness. Can we then say that we have a nation or that any form of governance is in place?

From all the above frightening scenarios, how do you then describe the entity created as Nigeria, if it is agreed that the two critical responsibilities of government are the security and welfare of the people? This piece became necessary as it would seem that those in authority do not well appreciate the enormity of the situation that we presently face in Nigeria or that state propaganda has so prospered and become the art of governance, that some of them are totally ensconced from the reality of present day Nigeria. Whereas I know that some well-meaning persons exist in authority presently, I verily believe that the time has now come, for some frank introspection that will translate into some genuine appreciation, of the debilitating welfare and security conditions of our people, if we are to say that there is governance at all. In the absence of that, the reasonable conclusion is that we are gradually moving to a failed state, as echoed by those legislators, who, very unfortunately, are themselves part and parcel of the failure of the state.

The President must act and act quickly, as time is running out on him. As an expert in security matters given his background as a military general, it is totally unacceptable that the President is unable to stem the rising tide of insecurity in the land, especially the terror of bandits, criminals and insurgents. How do we have leaders and we live like nomads, victims and aliens in our own country?

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CABLE TV PROFITEERING MUST CEASE NOW – ADEGBORUWA

By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN

In this article, leading human rights activist, By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN argues that cable television service providers must change their billing system to a more humane model, urging the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to wake up to its regulatory duties.

It was like a movie, watching the proceedings of the Ad Hoc Committee set up by the House of Representatives, to probe the hike of subscription rates by cable television service providers. The Chairman of the said Committee, Hon Unyime Idem, took me back to my Aluta days at Obafemi Awolowo University (Great Ife), roaring like a lion and reeling out the will of the people of Nigeria with such vehemence, on these shylock entities called cable television companies. The Committee had summoned the lameduck Nigeria Broadcasting Commission, NBC, which has for years unleashed a monopoly upon Nigerians, to milk us dry, without effective statutory regulation. NBC was asked to explain why DSTV and other cable service providers have blatantly and arrogantly refused to introduce pay as you view to their customers. For the avoidance of any doubt whatsoever, let me restate the status quo of this broadcasting brouhaha.

The cable television service providers force their customers into a monthly regime of subscription, irrespective of the conditions of viewing, the quality of the service or even its availability. So, you pay for DSTV in your house for a whole month or a whole year, you pay for DSTV in your office, you pay for DSTV in your village, you pay for DSTV in your guest house in Abuja or anywhere else you have some presence. The cable television company keeps collecting money for dormant viewing or no viewing and keeps smiling to the bank everyday, upon the sweat and suffering of its customers. Not being God with the capacity to be omnipresent, a human being can only be at a single location at a given time. Whilst your television in the office is off at night or anytime you are not there, you keep paying for viewing nothing; when you travel outside Nigeria or you are away from your house or your office, you keep servicing the empty apartment through monthly or yearly payment. When you happen to pop in and you are ready to watch the television just may be once in a month, it would suddenly go off, due to bad weather, poor connection, thunderstorm or common rainfall, but you have paid to the company and you must keep paying. Thus, the situation with many Nigerians is that we are forced to subsidize the greed of the cable television service providers, which profit from services not rendered and they are not willing to change, taking this as some kind of windfall.

“All people of good conscience must commend the House of Representatives for this bold initiative, while we urge the Senate to join the crusade to free us from this commercial exploitation. How many more years does DSTV require to recoup capital since these many decades of extortion? This must not be another flash in the pan, or the usual noise-making gathering, that will be swept under the dirty Nigerian carpet.”

The National Broadcasting Commission Act is very clear, in terms of the powers vested upon the NBC to regulate the broadcasting industry in Nigeria, especially in section 2 thereof. The NBC is empowered to regulate and control the broadcasting industry, to investigate complaints regarding the contents of a broadcast and the conduct of broadcasting stations and upholding the principles of equity and fairness in broadcasting, etc. As you would well agree with me, the NBC has so far turned a blind eye to the exploitative tendencies of the cable television service providers, with scant regard for the onerous responsibility imposed upon it by law to ensure “strict adherence to the national laws, rules and regulations relating to the participation of foreign capital in relation to local capital in broadcasting”.Nigerians have before now protested, they have filed cases in court and they have written several complaints to the National Assembly, all to no avail, as the service providers have insisted on maximum profit, without regard for the satisfaction or plight of their customers. And the questions keep popping up all the time: why is there only one company in a country of about two hundred million people, providing cable television service? Why DSTV only? Why has NBC become so weak and dysfunctional to become totally incapable of protecting the people that it was set up to serve? When will the exploitation end? Why is it impossible to hold DSTV accountable to the same pay per view policy that the same company is implementing in its home country and indeed other African countries? So many questions indeed.

If your subscription to cable television expires, you are disconnected instantly and automatically, but when you renew it, you have to call customer service to get reconnected, going through all manner of manipulative regimes that may cause you days of inactive service despite payment which is already running. What has NBC done, to advocate for extension of viewing time to correspond to the period of inactive service after payment? How do you allow a company floated by private individuals for their own personal profit, to ride roughshod over a whole nation, rendering all of us helpless and exploited? During the initial life of GSM service providers in Nigeria, we heard all manner of stories and arguments why it was impossible to provide calls per second, until another network came on board and revolutionized GSM in Nigeria, thus freeing us from the commercial bondage. It is the same story with DSTV and other cable television service providers. Attempts have been made in the past to compete with DSTV and break its monopoly, through HITV and lately TSTV, all of which did not materialize. Why? Only NBC can answer that question successfully.

This was the scenario until June 25, 2020, when the House of Representatives through its Ad Hoc Committee gave a marching order to DSTV and other cable television service providers to begin the implementation of the pay per view policy immediately.There had been a debate on the floor of the House earlier, when Honourable Idem and other members took up this challenge. Let us go through the newsreport of the proceedings of the House:

“DSTV and other Direct-to-home service providers have deliberately refused to implement the pay as you go plan but rather charge users on a fixed monthly tariff plan, unlike what is obtained outside Nigeria.”

He also explained that Nigeria constitutes over 40% of the total subscribers of DSTV, adding that Nigerians do not get to use the monthly subscription due to one reason or another. Also speaking in support of the motion, Aminu Suleiman called for an end to the monopoly enjoyed by DSTV.

“I have attempted for over a year now to sponsor a motion on the inhuman treatment the DSTV is dishing out to TV watchers in Nigeria. I say that because it is not only in Kenya that DSTV is operating the Pay-As-You view. It is just an abuse and playing with the intelligence of Nigerians. And the monopoly they enjoy contributes to this fact. We will have to encourage NCC to unbundle the entire process and allow investors to come in. They are South African companies, and they don’t do this general viewing to the South African viewers.”

This was the background, when the cable television companies met with the Ad Hoc Committee of the House on June 25, 2020. The Committee did not mince words at all, as it thundered and roared, very loud and clear. The Committee Chairman, Honourable Idem, stated in no uncertain terms that there will be no way for the companies to maneuver the system this time around, as a decision had been taken already, to ensure pay per view. It is for the companies to go back and fine tune the process of implementation, he said. I was moved to tears watching the proceedings of the Committee. I mean this is why we elected them in the first place, or else why should we all become so helpless to continue to tolerate the insensitivity of just one company, for these many years? When there is a power outage and your television and cable network are not powered, you are still paying for viewing nothing! Come on DSTV, this profiteering must come to an end! It is sheer wickedness and economic witchcraft, to continue to insist on the regime of monthly subscription; indeed it is ungodly, especially when this is not the practice in the home country of your company, South Africa. How do we allow a foreign investor, in the name of recouping capital, to invade our land with a shylock policy that it would dare not implement in its own country? How do people take us for granted in this way, if not for the active collusion of our citizens who have been entrusted with power to regulate but have surrendered themselves to be regulated instead?

All people of good conscience must commend the House of Representatives for this bold initiative, while we urge the Senate to join the crusade to free us from this commercial exploitation. How many more years does DSTV require to recoup capital since these many decades of extortion? This must not be another flash in the pan, or the usual noise-making gathering, that will be swept under the dirty Nigerian carpet. No, we must follow up with this to ensure it is implemented to the letter. The NBC must wake up and assert its authority on behalf of the people of Nigeria, to implement the pay per view policy, by all means necessary. Our representatives in the National Assembly have spoken our minds and there is no further assurance than the words spoken at the proceedings of the Ad Hoc Committee of the House of Representatives. Enough is enough. Do I hear your loud voice in support, roaring like thunder!

Please send emails to citylawyermag@gmail.com. Copyright 2020 CITY LAWYER. All materials available on this Website are protected by copyright, trade mark and other proprietary and intellectual property laws. You may not use any of our intellectual property rights without our express written consent or attribution to www.citylawyermag.com. However, you are permitted to print or save to your individual PC, tablet or storage extracts from this Website for your own personal non-commercial use.