Nigeria Matters

People Of This Nation: Grieved By Government, Gratified By God

I believe that our government contributes nothing of value to all of us here. No matter what political party is in control; PDP or whatsoever, like a leech or a tick, government attaches itself to the body of freedom and feeds on the life-giving blood of that body, while imparting the Lyme disease of corruption, fear, pestilence and war. Finally, that decaying host/body of freedom and liberty is totally destroyed by the parasite called government.

People of a wicked and criminal nature are drawn, sponsored, equipped and rigged in, to rule us, resulting to the stench of government as the flies were to the manure. Even those of integrity who engage in service to the State find themselves administered and controlled by those who are wicked and criminal. They eventually learn that if one is to advance in this government service, they must take on the characteristics of their leaders.

I am also a proud Africa, suffice to say Nigerian – born and bred. I revel in the writings of Chinua Achebe, Professor Wole Soyinka, a brother, Okey Ndiribe and Ms Funke, but thanks to my demised father, Late Chief Levi Arizona-Ogwu who lived into his destined year and an insatiable thirst for history, I know that the fledgling government of this nation was just as cruel and wicked as any other. The government of this nation, born, as we believe, to the parents,’ self-determination and liberty, was nothing but coercion, violence and force wearing a butternut uniform.

I offer as partial evidence the plight of a patriot, those listed in the 1960 census as a farmer, a husband and a father, who owned not one slave. I can’t say whether theses statement were drawn to the service of his new country by a devotion to self-determination or whether he sought glory on the field of battle since the first attempt, in mid-1962, was canceled after much controversy and allegations … No claims were made regarding the accuracy of Nigeria Census History. There is nothing to be found in his available history to indicate either.

On 31 March 2008, Mr. David Amusa, correspondent of the independent daily “National Mirror” in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, in the Niger-delta area, was severely beaten by a detachment of about 20 policemen while on assignment to cover the announcement of a local council election conducted on 29 March. Amusa was among several journalists invited by the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RSIEC) to its secretariat to cover the announcement of the result of local council elections. In response to the RSIEC invitation, Amusa went to the offices of its secretariat, located on Abba Road, but he was accosted at the gate to the secretariat by a policeman who tried to prevent him from entering the premises. He had presented his identity card to an official of RSIEC who cleared him to enter the premises, but the policeman insisted that he should not enter. While trying to explain to the policemen why he should be allowed to pass, other policemen who were initially watching from a distance came and pounced on him, beating him all over his body with their batons and the butts of their guns. Lawson Heyford, chairman of the Correspondent Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Rivers State, and other journalists rushed to the scene to rescue Amusa, who had begun bleeding profusely and gasping for breath. Amusa was taken to a hospital in Port Harcourt where he was admitted for treatment.

There were other Nigerians suffering the same plight. Many of them were called “Tories” by the “state security agents” and were often times shot on sight. Cash rewards were offered for their apprehension, living or as a cold corpse. Despite Nigeria’s progress on democratic reforms, Nigerian police routinely commit brutal acts of torture that have endured since the country’s era of military rule. Across Nigeria, both senior and lower-level police officers routinely commit or order the torture and mistreatment of criminal suspects. Most victims were arrested within the context of an aggressive government campaign against common crime and were tortured to obtain confessions. They were tortured in local and state police stations across Nigeria, often in interrogation rooms especially equipped for the purpose.

Most victims were arrested within the context of an aggressive government campaign against common crime and were tortured to obtain confessions. They were tortured in local and state police stations across Nigeria, often in interrogation rooms especially equipped for the purpose. Forms of torture documented by Human Rights Watch include the tying of arms and legs behind the body, suspension by hands and legs from the ceiling, severe beatings with metal or wooden objects, spraying of tear gas in the eyes, shooting in the foot or leg, raping female detainees, and using pliers or electric shocks on the penis.

In addition, witnesses reported that dozens of suspects died as a result of their injuries; others were summarily executed in police custody. One of my reporting ordeals was like that. They handcuffed me and tied me with my hands behind my knees, a wooden rod behind my knees, and hung me from hooks on the wall, like goal posts. Then they started beating me. They got a broomstick hair [bristle] and inserted it into my penis until there was blood coming out. Then they put tear gas powder in a cloth and tied it round my eyes. They said they were going to shoot me unless I admitted I was a spy. This went on for four hours.

Police torture in this nation is often socially accepted because it has been common for so long. A culture of impunity has protected the perpetrators. When victims and others have tried to attain accountability they have faced harassment, intimidation and obstruction by the police.

Despite Nigeria’s progress on democratic reforms, “Nigerian police routinely commit brutal acts of torture that have endured since the country’s era of military rule,” a new report by human rights groups released today claims to prove. More than 50 interviewees testified that they had been subjected to torture by Nigerian police recently. The absence of independent mechanisms to investigate police abuses and make referrals to the prosecutor has created a serious accountability vacuum, the group warns. “This has allowed the perpetrators to evade justice.” In recent years, not a single police officer has been successfully prosecuted for committing torture in Nigeria.

So what does Nigeria have to offer that is worth brutal attacks, kidnappings and death? Oil. Nigeria is actually the greatest producer of oil in all of Africa, and while the nation itself could be greatly benefiting from the natural resource, much of the revenue is going elsewhere. Obviously, the Niger Delta is rich in oil. Unfortunately for us, much of the revenue from the precious commodity is put into foreign hands. All we see brings about attackers typically taking foreign hostages in order to trade them for ransom or political influence.

While oil workers who run the multinational corporation’s facility and Nigerian troops who guard them live in air-conditioned comfort, the host community nearby manages without electricity, potable water, and health amenities. Yet we hear that the money being made from this oil is being used to develop other parts of Nigeria and making other people rich.

All across the Niger Delta – a 70,000 square kilometer region of rain forests, mangrove swamps, creeks, and rivers in southern Nigeria, where nearly all of the country’s 2.5 million barrels of daily oil exports are produced – the story is similar. Gas flares dot the landscape, denoting thousands of oil facilities in the midst of impoverished inhabitants who feel cheated out of the oil wealth produced in their land.

Over the past two decades, there has been a build up of anger among local people. The ethnic minorities who inhabit the delta accuse the bigger ethnic groups that dominate government of cornering the oil wealth to their detriment. This resentment has often manifested in angry protests by villagers, sabotage of oil installations, kidnapping of oil workers for ransom, and other forms of disruptive violence by a growing army of heavily armed militants in the region.

Whatever is necessary to be done to ensure law and order in this country, worth doing. Increases in political instability and corruption were not disconnected from Nigeria’s shift to having a natural resource-based economy. According to many studies and to some of the experts we met with in Lagos, in a natural-resource based economy, particularly in an oil-based economy, the government becomes less accountable to people, because the largest source of government revenue is not from taxes levied on the people but from oil exports.

As accountability decreases, corruption increases, and political instability becomes perpetual. This is an accurate depiction of Nigeria’s history. A series of coups and military governments marked the period after the Civil War, with only a brief period of civilian rule and peaceful transition of power. General Abacha, who came to power in 1993 was perhaps Nigeria’s most brutal dictator and also one of the most corrupt, stealing hundreds of millions of dollars in oil revenue that he deposited in Swiss bank accounts.

The Niger Delta is driven off-lane to become home to a very angry population that must endure oil spills and acid rain without deriving much benefit from the oil industry that thrives on their land. The Niger Delta residents also believe that they have been victimized because of the Ijaw ethnicity. The resentment of the federal government has helped transform the bunkering syndicates into something that more closely resembles a guerrilla insurgency. Once poorly armed, the insurgents now fight with heavy machine guns and shoulder-fired rockets, matching the firepower of the soldiers they oppose. Thanks to their firepower and innovative tactics, the insurgents often prevail in such confrontations.

However, the crisis in the Niger Delta is less military than it is political. The government is losing on the battlefield because it is so thoroughly corrupt. Provincial governors in the Delta often cooperate more with the insurgents than with the federal government. Officers up to the rank of admiral have been discharged for their role in vast bunkering enterprises.

Some women and young people were actually hung by the neck until they passed out. They were then revived and threatened with a repeat performance. One lady was tied in the door of her cabin and her infant placed in the snow right outside the cabin. She was told that when she told where the perpetrators were hiding, she would be allowed to get her infant but if she didn’t she could watch it die; all this from the representatives of a government purporting to be fighting for the right of self-determination and freedom.

Government can never resist the impulse to coerce and intimidate its citizens. The lure of power and money is just too strong and the will of most men, too weak. Even those governments founded on freedom will eventually succumb to this cancer. The government that evolved from the tyrant of 1990’s and the government of democracy in 1999 are prime examples. Governments by their very nature are evil. This cancer of evil eventually brings death and destruction to the people they govern. That death is, by nature, one of violence and upheaval. Ours is nearing that terminal stage.

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