Early each morning, a crowd gathers outside Ahmad Isah’s radio studio in Nigeria’s capital Abuja hoping to share their problems over the airwaves.
For those waiting — men and women, young and old — Isah’s Brekete Family show offers a rare chance try to hold officials to account in a country where rampant graft and abuses of the justice system often frustrate citizens.
The lucky few who Isah picks each day get to make themselves heard on issues ranging from their struggles against the authorities to medical needs and requests for financial assistance. The others will have to come back another time.
“My goal is to give a voice to the voiceless, facilitate arbitration, expose wrongdoings and force those in power to respect rights,” says Isah. “The inspiration is about justice, kindness, and support to humanity.”
Nicknamed the ‘Ordinary President’, Isah begins his live show on Human Rights radio with a call and response in pidgin, the language widely spoken in Nigeria, to get his audience fired up.
Teacher Winifred Ogah has come to try to get some redress after she says a local court wrongly auctioned off her car for failing to pay rent on her house.
“I believe that the justice you get here, you can’t get it outside,” she said. “I have been listening to the programme and was encouraged by how other people’s problems were being resolved.”
Rights groups in Africa’s most populous nation often complain of a culture of impunity, where the wealthy easily skew the system in their favour and officials rarely have to answer for their misdeeds.
“The voices of the masses in Nigeria are usually unheard because they don’t have the financial muscle or connections to be able to project their views especially when in need of justice,” says Daniel Soe tan, from the Goodwill Ambassadors of Nigeria civil society organisation. He is a regular listener to Isa’s show and lauds it for “helping to project the voices of ordinary people” in a way that makes it difficult for officials to ignore.
“When these issues are projected, it attracts the attention of the authorities to attend to their plights,” Soe tan said. “It is a forum that allows people to speak because if they are left with authorities alone, there can be bureaucracies and attempts to silence them.”
Human Rights radio has been on air since 2006 and while Isah did not give precise audience figures he insisted it even had listeners outside Nigeria. They first need to depose to an affidavit at the High Court in Nigeria in which they swear they are telling the truth.
‘Nothing is working’
It is not easy taking on the powerful interests deeply entrenched at every level of Nigeria’s federal, regional and local governments. But Isah insists the radio show’s combative style has had concrete results bringing officials to book.
“Some of them see us as a threat. They don’t like us. We have exposed several corruption cases that other people are afraid to go close to,” he said. “There is injustice everywhere, the government is not accountable, and there is no justice for the poor, bad roads, terrible hospitals. Nothing is working in this country.”
Over 44 per cent of Nigeria’s roughly 190 million people are estimated to live in extreme poverty and that fraction is expected to grow as the population expands.
The show also looks to give financial assistance to those in need with support from the MacArthur Foundation and its own fund-raising. One of the beneficiaries Luis Kinta said the radio had raised two million naira to boost his shoemaking business.
“I came here without knowing anyone. The good thing is that ordinary president assists without knowing the tribe, religious and affinity of those he supports,” he said.
But the major focus for Isah remains on trying to get redress for those wronged by Nigeria’s abusive officials — and the flow of hopefuls bringing cases to him shows no sign of slowing.
“The justice system is only for the rich, not for the poor, So this is why we need this kind of journalism in this country,” he said. “I will never give up.”
Board of Governors agree to independent probe of AfDB President, Adesina
The ethics committee of the continental bank, headed by Takuji Yano, had in its report last month cleared Adesina of all sixteen counts saying he was was not guilty of all the charges but the United States remained unconvinced.
After weeks of review and consultation, the Bureau of Board of Governors of the African Development Bank Group has bowed to US pressure and approved an independent investigation of the allegations against the President of the Bank, Akinwumi Adesina.
“Based on the views of some Governors on the matter and the need to carry every Governor along in resolving it, the Bureau agrees to authorize an Independent Review of the Report of the Ethics Committee of the Boards of Directors relative to the allegations considered by the Ethics Committee and the submissions made by the President of the Bank Group thereto in the interest of due process”, a communique from the Board of Governors said Thursday.
The decision, taken at the meeting of the Bureau on Thursday regarding the whistle-blowers’ complaints against Adesina, is in deference to the demand by the U.S. government that a fresh and in-depth investigation be conducted into the allegations against Adesina using an independent investigator, Premium Times, a Nigerian daily reported having access to the resolution on Friday.
On May 5, the ethics committee of the continental bank, headed by Takuji Yano, said in its report that Adesina was not guilty on all counts.
Yano is a Japanese executive director charged with the responsibility of investigating allegations by some concerned employees against the Bank’s president.
The committee described the allegations that Adesina violated the code of conduct of the institution as “spurious and unfounded”.
Regardless, the United States government expressed “deep reservations about the integrity of the committee’s process” and called for a fresh “in-depth investigation of the allegations.”
– Why fresh probe is required –
At the end of its meeting Thursday, the Bureau of Board of Governors issued a communique, agreeing with the U.S and authorizing an independent review of the ethic committee’s report.
The communique, signed by the Chairperson of the Bureau of the Boards of Governors, Niale Kaba, reads,
“The Bureau reiterates that it agrees that the Ethics Committee of the Boards of
Directors performed its role on this matter in accordance with the applicable rule under Resolution B/BG/2008/11 of the Board of Governors.
“The Bureau also reiterates that the Chairperson of the Bureau of the Board of
Governors performed her role in accepting the findings of the Ethics Committee in accordance with the said Resolution.
“However, based on the views of some Governors on the matter and the need to carry every Governor along in resolving it, the Bureau agrees to authorize an Independent Review of the Report of the Ethics Committee of the Boards of Directors relative to the allegations considered by the Ethics Committee and the submissions made by the President of the Bank Group thereto in the interest of due process.
“The Independent Review shall be conducted by a neutral high calibre individual with unquestionable experience, high international reputation and integrity within a short time period of not more than two to four weeks maximum, taking the Bank Group’s electoral calendar into account.
“The Bureau agrees that, within a three to six month period and following the independent review of the Ethics Committee Report, an independent comprehensive review of the implementation of the Bank Group’s Whistle-Blowing and Complaints Handling Policy should be conducted with a view to ensuring that the Policy is properly implemented, and revising it where necessary, to avoid situations of this nature in the future.”
The AfDB President is yet to react to the latest decisions by the Board of Governors. But he has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.
On a visit to President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, Mr Adesina, a former Nigerian Minister for Agriculture, said the 16 allegations raised against him were trumped up, “and without facts, evidence, and documents, as required by the rules and regulations of the bank.”
He added that the Ethics Committee of the bank cleared him of all the allegations, and that calls for a fresh investigation by the United States of America, were against the rules.
“My defence ran into 250 pages, and not a single line was faulted or questioned,” he said.
“The law says that report of the Ethics Committee should be transmitted to the Chairman of Governors of the bank. It was done, and the governors upheld the recommendations.
“That was the end of the matter, according to the rules. It was only if I was culpable that a fresh investigation could be launched.
“I was exonerated, and any other investigation would amount to bending the rules of the bank, to arrive at a predetermined conclusion.”
While stressing that the motive was to soil his name, and that of the bank, the AfDB President said he was proud to be Nigerian, and thanked President Buhari for his unflinching support.
Nigeria is the largest shareholder of the African Development Bank with 9.1 percent shares.
– Allegations against Adesina –
In its petition, the concerned staff accused Mr Adesina of 20 breaches of the bank’s code of conduct, including “unethical conduct, private gain, an impediment to efficiency, preferential treatment, and involvement in political activities.”
The group, which noted their allegations were in line with AfDB’s whistle-blowing policy, said these activities adversely affected the confidence and integrity of the bank.
Nigeria, Adesina’s home country, had last week countered the US by insisting that such a request for an independent investigation could not be granted by the Board of Governors as AfDB’s corporate governance code contains no such provision for an external “independent outside investigator”.
Nigerian authorities then began lobbying for Adesina after receiving satisfactory intelligence briefing that the AfDB president was the victim of a witch-hunt by the Americans.
“The call for an independent investigation of the president is outside of the laid down rules, procedures and governing system of the bank and its articles as it relates to the code of conduct on ethics for the president,” Zainab Ahmed, Nigeria’s Finance minister wrote in a letter to AfDB’s Board of Governors where it denounced the plans to circumvent the bank’s internal procedures.
Ahmed asked the AfDB to “uphold the rule of law and respect the governance systems of the bank” and if there was need for improvement, it should be done according to laid down procedure. She then highlighted all Adesina’s projects and achievements which she noted did not warrant such an attack on his career.
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, in a letter to former African presidents also canvassed support for Adesina, saying he had taken the bank to a great height since he took the position in the last five years.
Adesina, “has actively positioned (AfDB) as an effective global institution ranked fourth globally in terms of transparency among 45 multilateral and bilateral institutions,” Obasanjo wrote to 13 former heads of state including Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, Hailemariam Desalegn of Ethiopia and Ellen Sirleaf-Johnson of Liberia.
The U.S. became a member of the African Development Fund in 1976 and of the African Development Bank in 1983. Also, its bilateral cooperation with the bank has been strengthened through cooperation agreements.
Nigeria reopens economy, worship centres as flights resume June 21
A News Central investigation showed that the government had barely no choice than to drastically reopen the economy as most Nigerians were already violating the lockdown measures and the police seemed to have lost control of enforcement.
The Nigerian government on Monday further announced the relaxing of Covid-19 lockdown that has shuttered the economy for more than two months.
Under the phase two reopening, the ban on the banking sector, religious gatherings and closure of markets were lifted with the earlier national curfew revised between 10pm to 4am, the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 announced Monday at a briefing in the capital, Abuja.
A News Central investigation showed that the government had barely no choice than to drastically reopen the economy as most Nigerians were violating the lockdown measures with the connivance of some sections of security agencies like the police who were mostly being bribed by commuters and drivers to pass through checkpoints on interstate highways despite the ban on interstate travel.
Most small businesses and worship centres in suburbs of state capitals including the nation’s capital, Abuja were also operating unhindered in what seemed like the authorities had lost control of the lockdown, residents said. The rule on compulsory use of facemask was also being violated as many refused to use such measures except after sighting policemen or local taskforce operatives.
Cabinet Secretary, Boss Mustapha who heads the Taskforce said President Muhammadu Buhari had also approved that domestic flights should resume on June 21 and directed airlines to take between 50 and 70 per cent of passengers on any flight.
The PTF said the aircraft of most airlines were currently being serviced in preparation for the June 21 resumption date for domestic flights.
– Local flights to resume –
Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika at the briefing also said the airfares of flights would be proportionate to the current global realities facing the aviation industry due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The modality of operations by airlines and the passenger numbers will certainly drop and the load factor will also drop. Only 50 or 70 per cent of the passengers should be taken. These are some of the things that we have been looking at”, Sirika announced.
Sirika said the three-week period between June 1 and the resumption date would enable operators to adhere to all the necessary industry regulations, without which they would not take to the skies after being dormant for some time.
“This is because aviation, unlike other sectors, is a highly regulated sector,” he said.
The minister said consultations had been on and would continue between the ministry and industry stakeholders on the best ways to operate profitably while at the same time ensuring the safety of travellers.
Sirika had earlier cautioned owners of private aircraft who had been in the habit of asking for permits to fly within the country despite the restrictions in place to desist, as the restrictions were still in place, except for those on essential services.
– Banks, markets reopen –
National Coordinator of the Presidential Taskforce on COVID-19, Dr. Aliyu Sani said the full reopening of the financial sector, restricted opening of worship centres will be granted by the 36 states and capital, Abuja subject to the PTF guidelines.
The announcement injected a new lease of life into big businesses and SMEs that had remained shut over the months.
Banks were given immediate clearance to operate fully. Hotels got the nod to reopen “but must observe all mandatory non-pharmaceutical intervention”.
“The goal of phase two over the next four weeks is to balance public safety with protecting livelihoods as well as allowing the full restoration of economic activities across the country”, Sani said.
“We are not opening places of worships across the board. We are saying that opening is conditional and it is based on these clear-cut guidelines and would only cover regular church and mosque services.
“The nationwide curfew will remain in place but the timing of this will be reduced to 10pm to 4am. The purpose of the curfew is to limit social interactions and therefore reduce the risk of transmission of the virus”, Dr Sani said.
The government also announced that “all interstate travels by individuals remain prohibited except for essential travels and the movement of goods and services. All restrictions on the free movement of goods and services is now removed in this phase.”
– Not yet uhuru on Covid-19 fight –
Despite the new relaxation of Covid-19 lockdown rules, the government said it was “still safer to stay at home and avoid crowds. The pandemic is not over in this country and the relaxation of some of the rules doesn’t mean that it is safer to go out. If you do not need to go out please continue to stay at home.”
“The mass gathering of more than 20 people outside of the work place or places of worship remains prohibited. In terms of general movement, persons may go out for work, go to buy necessary food and for exercise provided that they abide by the curfew hours”, officials announced.
Schools however remain closed as the federal authorities said they were yet to reach a decision on the matter but made some concessions.
“The Federal Ministry of Education has been instructed to work with school owners to prepare students that require exiting exams to allow them to take exams early in the next phase of the lifting of the lockdown”, PTF’s Sani said.
UN condemns use of IEDs against civilians in Libya
“UNSMIL strongly condemns these acts, which serve no military objective, provoke extreme fear among the population, and violate the rights of innocent civilians…,” the UN said.
The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) has condemned the use of improvised explosive devices against civilians in the southern part of Tripoli, as the armed conflict between the east-based army and the UN-backed government continues.
UNSMIL “is extremely concerned about reports that residents of the Ain Zara and Salahuddin areas of Tripoli have been killed or wounded by improvised explosive devices placed in or near their homes,” UNSMIL said in a statement Monday.
“UNSMIL strongly condemns these acts, which serve no military objective, provoke extreme fear among the population, and violate the rights of innocent civilians who must be protected under international humanitarian law,” the statement said.
UNSMIL called on all individuals to “seek information and heed security advice to stay away from areas that have not been declared safe to enter by a competent authority or items of unknown origin which may be explosive devices”.
UNSMIL also commended the search and clearance work by Libyan Police and Military Engineers, reaffirming its continued support to Libyan partners, communities, and stakeholders “who are working tirelessly to rid Libya of the threat of explosive remnant of war (ERW)”.
The UN-backed government’s forces accused the rival east-based army of planting mines before withdrawing from conflict areas in southern Tripoli.
Since April 2019, the east-based army has been leading a military campaign attempting to take over Tripoli and topple the UN-backed government.