Crackdown on corrupt leaders to continue, says Jonathan

PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan has declared a result-oriented anti-corruption crusade, acceptable electoral reform and stable power supply as the irreducible minimum factors for gauging the performance of his administration
He said the ongoing anti-corruption crusade would be vigorously pursued to ensure that all leaders linked with financial misconduct and other forms of abuse of office are brought to book.
Jonathan, who stated this yesterday assured that his administration would deliver on electoral reform, explaining that all winners in the 2011 general elections at all levels of government would emerge from a honest and transparent electoral process.
He said only free and fair elections would enable such leaders to exercise legitimate authority over the people, adding that “every valid vote of the electorate will count in the 2011 elections.”
Jonathan stated this during the opening session of the ongoing regional conference of Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management (CAPAM) in Abuja.
And if the achievement of credible elections would reshape the polity, elected representatives and other political office holders must not after election be allowed to change their political parties without first resigning and getting fresh mandate on the basis of their new platforms, former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, has said.
Anyaoku, a founding member of CAPAM, who also spoke at the event, appealed to the National Assembly now reviewing the Electoral Act and the nation’s constitution not to allow political party holders move around aimlessly.
Jonathan said because the entire world expects credible elections from Nigeria, his administration was determined to ensure that the votes of the people count in the 2011 polls.
“Let me assure you that we shall neither fail our nation nor our admirers all over the world who are counting on us to make a significant difference. Another area of challenge that we are currently addressing is inadequacy of critical infrastructure, the most compelling being epileptic power supply. This is important to stimulate economic growth, ensure poverty reduction and employment generation as well as enhance competitiveness. The third priority concern is anti-corruption, based on the existing policy of zero tolerance for corruption to ensure that all offenders are appropriately sanctioned within the ambit of the rule of law and observance of due process.
“The Commonwealth has contributed immensely to the attainment of global peace and harmony through the untiring efforts of several key players, including Commonwealth Heads of Government. It has always been guided by certain fundamental values, principles and norms, which have evolved over the years. These enduring values and principles have reaffirmed subsequently through a number of declarations by Commonwealth Heads of Government. There was a renewed commitment to participatory democracy, characterised by free and fair elections, representative legislative, an independent judiciary, a well-trained public service, a transparent and an accountable public accounts system,” he said.
The President said the appropriateness of the theme of this conference, “Good governance, accountability and trust” is apt because it seeks to create a veritable platform for engaging with leaders at the political, bureaucratic and technocratic spheres in order to reawaken them to their responsibility in taking their nations forward to higher realm of socio-economic transformation. It is universally acknowledged that without good governance there can be neither accountability nor trust. Indeed, government has been described as a trust committed by all. There can be no good government without good public sector institutions with a critical mass of public servants who are irrevocably committed to the promotion of the common good.”
The Head of the Service of the Federation (HOSF), Mr. Stephen Oronsaye said efforts had been intensified to regain the trust the citizenry had in their leaders, particularly the political class.
He said the public service must therefore mobilise the required policy intelligence to ensure that it earns the trust of the people and help the state to record quick wins in the war against poverty and disease, despite the worrying prognosis by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank that Africa’s chances of achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are bleak.
To Anyaoku, those who represent Nigerians in the National Assembly, state assemblies and local councils as well as political office holders at the three tiers of government must be freely, fairly and credibly elected by the electorate.
“We are now looking at the President to see that the leading personnel of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), especially the chairman and commissioners are people of acknowledged integrity and non-political partnership, who can ensure that the entire electoral process including, in particular the compilation and timely display of the electoral register, and the logistic arrangement for voting, are transparent and correctly effected.
“There is the challenge of tackling corruption and its pervasive effect on all the institutions and instruments of governance, and reducing the role of money in our electoral process, elections should not be for only the super rich.
“There should be reasonable limits to the financial contributions to and deposits by candidates as well as how much they can spend on electoral campaigns,” he said.
Anyaoku, who stressed the role of political leaders in public policy formulation, said it is the responsibility of the civil service “to execute such policies with efficiency, and to do so with high moral fibre.”
He asserted that the civil service remains an inextricable and indispensable part of the government, adding that because it plays a very critical role in the state, its disposition should go beyond technical competence, effectiveness, and efficiency.
The disposition of the civil service, according to Anyaoku, must include moral competence and humility. “In the early years of Nigeria’ independence, the country could boast of a federal civil service that compared well with the civil service in any part of the world.
“Today, the Nigerian civil service has lost not only its earlier attributes of competence and efficiency, but also the tradition of your obedient servant which used to be how letters from members of the civil service were concluded. Our civil service while attending to the citizens seems now to manifest the attitude of doing them a favour.”

Nigerian senator marries girl of 13

A Nigerian senator has come under fire for marrying an Egyptian girl who is alleged to be 36 years his junior.

Sani Ahmed Yerima, 49, is said to have paid $100,000 as dowry for the 13-year-old girl.

But he has defended his decision to marry a fourth wife as the prospect of being prosecuted looms.

“The Prophet Mohammed married at the age of nine, therefore any Muslim who marries a girl of nine years and above, is following the teachings of the Prophet,” Yerima told News Agency.

“If there’s anybody who’ll tell me that what you did contradicts Islam, I ‘ll submit – and I’ll do whatever they ask me to do.”

Nigerian human rights organizations say Yerima has broken the law and have called for his immediate arrest.

“”If you have a law that says you cannot marry a 13-year-old. If you have a law that says you cannot marry a-15-year old, then why on God’s green earth, will a guy who is a senator, who makes laws, violate or break that same law. It’s because he thinks the law is not applicable to him,” said one rights group official.

Yerima’s problems have been compounded by the fact that the wedding took place in the capital Abuja, where it is illegal to marry under the age of 18.

But in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north, weddings of underage people do not often cause controversy as many northern states have refused to recognize the law making marriage for people under 18 illegal.

They say that ban is against the teachings of Islam.


Britain gives Ethiopia $6.4 mln for child nutrition

Britain will give Ethiopia $6.4 million to feed and treat 80,000 severely malnourished children across the huge Horn of Africa country, the U.N children’s agency UNICEF said on Monday.

The agency says it still needs another $14.7 million for emergency feeding Ethiopia this year.

The Ethiopian government says 6.2 million people will need emergency food this year. Another 7 million Ethiopians are on a long-running food-for-work scheme.



Moroccan human rights groups are to appeal against the sentence imposed on a woman at the centre of a high-profile abuse case, saying it was too lenient.

The judge’s wife was given three years in jail for torturing her 11-year-old maid, Zineb Chetite.

The court heard medical reports listing how the girl had at times been burnt with oil and an iron, had had her head shaved and was beaten with a stick.

The case has highlighted the plight of maids in Morocco and abroad.

Details of the woman’s name have not been released, although she is known to be from an affluent family and the wife of a Moroccan judge.

Reports say she was sentenced to three-years in prison and fined 100,000 dirhams ($13,000; £8,150) for the torture and abuse of the young domestic servant.Several human rights organisations say they are to appeal against the sentence on behalf of the estimated 80,000 child workers in Morocco, who are forced into such work by their families because of poverty.

“The sentence does not reflect the scale of the atrocities committed, because the little girl was locked up in a cellar,” says Najia Adib of Don’t Touch My Children.

“We’re going to appeal because we feel the victim’s childhood was stolen.”

Zineb Chetite had to be taken to hospital earlier this year after a series of abuses, which included being burnt, beaten and suffering injuries to her genitalia, medical reports say.

The head of the Moroccan Human Rights Centre, Dr Khaled al-Sharqawi, told the BBC that the sentence was lenient as the court had not taken into consideration the maid’s age, and the fact she was a defenceless child away from home.

The group is also demanding that the woman’s husband be charged with abuse. It says he was spared legal action because of his position.

In September, a number of Moroccan non-governmental organisations appealed to the government to implement changes to the law, to prevent children younger than 15 from being employed as domestic servants.



The global economic crisis will help push 100 million people into poverty this year through lost jobs and lower earnings, leaving one sixth of the world’s population living in hunger, a U.N. agency said on Friday. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) forecast the number of people living in hunger would reach a record high of 1.02 billion this year, exacerbated by persistently high prices for staples following the food crisis of 2006-2008.

FOODNot only will the global slowdown destroy livelihoods in the developing world — where almost all of the world’s hungry live — it will reduce aid spending from wealthy countries by around a quarter, just when it is most needed, the FAO warned. “The silent hunger crisis … poses a serious risk for world peace and security,” said FAO Director General Jacques Diouf. “We urgently need to forge a broad consensus on the total and rapid eradication of hunger.”

The FAO said “substantial and sustained remedial actions” were required to reach the U.N. Millennium goal of halving the number of hungry people to under 420 million by 2015. Whereas good progress was made in reducing chronic hunger in the 1980s and the first half of the 1990s, it has been steadily on the rise for the past decade, the FAO said.

The global economic crisis left little scope for developing countries to adapt — through currency depreciation or borrowing from international capital markets — because it was hitting all parts of the world at the same time, the report said. Foreign investment in the developing world is expected to fall by nearly one third, while cash remittances from overseas could fall by around 8 percent, reversing years of steady increases, the FAO said in a report. The urban poor will be the hardest hit, due to job losses, but food pressure will also mount in rural areas as millions of migrants return to the countryside.



MADONAMadonna has won her appeal to adopt a second child from Malawi, the country’s highest court has ruled. The star was appealing against an earlier decision in April that she could not adopt Chifundo “Mercy” James, aged four. Judge Esmie Chondo ruled out the adoption saying prospective parents had to be resident in Malawi for 18 months.

The rule was waived in 2006 when Madonna adopted a boy, David, from the southern African state. Mercy has been living in an orphanage since her 18-year-old mother died shortly after giving birth. The 50-year-old entertainer also has two biological children – Lourdes, 12, and Rocco, aged eight.



To coin a phrase, teach a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it. ‘Please brother lap me (Carry me)’ a big eyed young boy appealed to me at the busy Oshodi bus stop this morning. Unfortunately I denied his request. I asked him to sit down next to me. ‘Pelumi’ that’s the boy’s name. A primary 5 student at St Francis primary school, Maryland in Lagos was on his way to school; sadly without the luxury of a school bus, worse still, no transport fare. He was on his way to school-hitch hiking.

Transport fares have more than doubled in Lagos following 3 weeks of fuel shortage. The time was 8.43 A.M, more than half an hour after the first school period had began. I asked Pelumi if this was usual. His response was disheartening. Every morning ‘uncle please lap me’ had become the bus ticket to school. The only difference today was his guardian had upset him, so without her usual hand to steer him through the traffic and her better accustomed pleading voice to ease accessing a ‘ticket’ on time, he had ‘vamoosed’ from home.

I offered Pelumi a counselling lesson on the consequences of vamoosing from his guardian. The sober lad looked at me nodding his clean shaven head. ‘But she hadn’t given me any money for food’. I look down at his lap, a withered black polythene bag held his breakfast and lunch for the day-two buns, alarmingly insufficient for pre-lunch snack. Pelumi’s is an orphan looked after by his grandmother; his surrogate parent’s income comes from petty trading, hardly enough to cater for the family. I sat still picturing living on hand-outs from childhood up-until adulthood- Rembrandt couldn’t have done a bleaker portrait. The young lad had waited at the bus stop for more than an hour before help came his way. The average Lagos resident is sadly and rapidly towing the frugal line of no charity-years of insecurity, neglect and debilitating economic conditions and superstition have dried many bowels of mercy-awoof (freebies) is sought after earnestly like the golden fleece. It’s suspicion first before consideration.

I paid for his lunch and watched him disembark from the bus; he waved over and over again, as he walked gingerly to school. I envied his enthusiasm and prayed for more blissful days for young head. Mathematics and dictation he said were his favourite subjects in school. But then I shuddered when I realised that it was indeed a thin line between juvenile delinquency and public school education in Nigeria. I don’t mean to sound pessimistic but think of the many children who flood bus-stops without transport fares, who go hungry to school. How many of us spoilt brats have cried all day long, sulking because someone forgot lunch box and water bottles were filled with water instead of coke. With no incentive and motivation, hunger and unending hitch hiking would buoy Nigeria’s 10 million children out of school population.

Lagos state is doing a momentous job in providing free Universal basic education. But it wouldn’t be too much in aping the philosophy of the Scandinavia that thrived in the 19th century-for if you feed the hungry then 90% of the job’s been taken care of. Let’s start feeding the children again, let’s give them the dignity of a bus seat for it wouldn’t be wise to let these cookies crumble uneaten