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RELIGION AND HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN NIGERIA

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By: Ademola Orunbon

More than before, contemporary Nigerian society has been beset with religious conflicts that have threatened to tear the fabric of the country’s unity. To a large extent, one can say that Nigeria of the past boasted of religious flexibility and tolerance for many years. However, recently, it seems to have been shelved as gruesome stories relating to religion rear their ugly heads frequently, causing loss of lives. One can say that a curious feature of today Nigerian society is religious intolerance, most especially in the Northern and the Middle Belt regions of the country.

Religious fanaticism in the Northern part of Nigeria has been hidebound and its spread is unbridled. Religious violence has been unleashed on many innocent citizens of this country, that one wonders if Nigeria is truly a secular country which gives room for religious freedom. There is palpable apprehension among the citizens due to the Boko Haram insurgencies in the different parts of the Northern region. For over seven years, cities like Maiduguri, Bauchi, Damaturu and Gombe have being bedeviled with fear due to the Boko Haram insurgencies. Religious intolerance prevails in the country and this is an abuse of human rights.

Religious intolerance usually originates from the perceived superiority of one religion over the others. In simple terms, religious intolerance or fanaticism is the inability of an adherent of a particular religion to acknowledge, accommodate and accept the right of others to live by another faith different from his own. Invariably, such attitude is connected to the conviction that one’s religion is the only divinely ordained path to spiritual enlightenment and immorality in heaven. Consequently, a religious fanatic believes strongly that his religion is unquestionably superior to other religions. It is good to point out that being zealous for one’s religion is commendable and is to be expected, but where such zeal is wrongly channeled, it becomes dangerous for the life of the community and it is an abuse of human rights. There is no disputing in the fact that the problem of religious violence casts a serious doubt to the stability order of the country. This is because without doubt, the country has recorded very bizarre experience in the domain of religious violence.

The high rate of killings due to religious intolerance in many parts of the country is worrisome. A great concern at this alarming phenomenon is informed by the recent slaughter of Rev. Lawani Andimi which was attacked by Boko Haram at Michika in Adamawa state, though he was declared missing, later he appeared in a Video released by Boko Haram on 5th of January, in which he pleaded with authorities to secure his release. The terrorists had demanded a ransom of 2million Euros and were offered N50million, which they rejected before beheading the cleric. Indeed, the insurgents had the effrontery to call the wife of the slain Pastor that they will kill her husband on Saturday, but they delayed until Monday. The governments need to inhibit the superfluous of this religious intolerance and chauvinism among the people of this country. There is also another story of an evangelist, Mr. Akinyemi Oladapo, a known soul winner in the Southwest who was brutally attacked for his role in converting many Muslims to Christianity. It was reported that luck ran out for Oladapo when he became the spiritual father for one Mr. Mobolaji Akingbade, the son of a popular Islamic scholar. He ran away to Abeokuta where he was attacked by some unknown assailants reminding him that he has no hiding place in the country. Since then, he has never been seen again. What is so special in converting a Muslim to Christian, the Qur’an 2:256, it stated that “there is no compulsion in Religion. Why now killing ourselves in the name of religion and we need not to fight ourselves for the course of any religious.

We should not forget in jiffy too the extrajudicial murder of a 75-year-old woman, Mrs. Bridget Agbaheme, a Christian and trader at Kofar Wambai market, in Kano, who was beaten to death by irate youths after accusing her of blasphemy against Islam and also Mrs. Eunice Elisha of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Kubwa, Abuja, who was killed recently for preaching. Before Nigerians could comprehend the motive behind such barbarity, another Christian and carpenter at Kakuri area of Kaduna metropolis, Mr. Emmanuel Francis was mobbed and stabbed severally by some Muslim youths for failing to observe the Ramadan fast. Definitely, such primitive acts do not present Nigeria in positive light before the international community. Legal opinions have it that, while the above examples may be considered criminal acts, they are largely considered to have religious undertones. There is no denying the fact that many people now see the country as hostage to religious extremism.

It was on the 20th January, 2020, that the so-called Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), an offshoot of the Boko Haram terrorists group, released a Video showing the execution of Ropvil Daciya Dalep, a 22-years-old Christian student from Plateau State, Nigeria, by minor. Rapvil Daciya was from Jing village in Pankshin Local Government Area of Plateau who was studying Biology at the University of Maiduguri. He was kidnapped on January 9 in Borno State along with other two students one of whom was a 20-years-old Zoology student from Plateau, Lilian Daniel Gyang, while they were returning to the University after the Christmas. The video shows Dalep calmly kneeling down while a masked child stands behind him wielding a pistol. Before shooting Ropvil, the under-aged child, obviously acting on instruction, chanted in Arabic, and then spoke in Hausa. Indeed, it was pathetic to have killed a person in such cruel manners by human being. What a life?

Nigeria, like many other countries, is a secular country going by her Constitution. A quick look at the 1999 Amended Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria shows that in Section 38 (1) and also Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Right, state that: “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.” Furthermore, Section 10 of the same Constitution states: “the Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State religion.” It therefore bears restating that the Constitution guarantees freedom of worship and no one should be victimized for their beliefs. The multiple religions in the country give every citizen the right opportunity to choose which faith is convenient. Therefore, freedom of faith must be defended at all cost, even when those in authority are not convenient with it.

Religious intolerance poses a great threat to human rights. Human rights apply to all irrespective of color, gender, sex, religion, health status, dress, socio-economic status, etc. This threat is not simply because of the specific acts of fundamentalist groups which may be recognized as concrete violations of human rights standards; the real threat comes from the political aims or the political project that is at the heart of fundamentalisms, which is essentially to transform the way identities are ascribed and negotiated. The human rights question is about us having rights as human beings. The fundamentalist claim is very different: it is about ascribing humanity on the basis of a certain religious claim which has to be legitimated by certain authorities, and which in turn lays down a whole set of other obligations and subject relationships with self and others to a certain kind of regime.

Right to religious freedom is based on the inherent dignity of the human person created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:27), even in the Qur’an 2:256, it stated that “there is no compulsion in Religion, recent report of forcing Leah Sharibu to Islam and marriage too, is Unislamic, barbaric and therefore stand condemned. In the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, it is explicitly affirmed that the recognition of the dignity and the rights of the human person is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace, and that disregard and contempt for them are acts of barbarousness that offend the conscience of humankind. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council in Dignitatis Humanae, the Declaration on Religious Liberty, teach that the right of the individual and of communities to social and civil freedom in religious matters carries with it the right “to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.”

The acts of insecurity in the country was brought about the concept of (Amotekun) in the Southwestern region of the country, so as to complement the mainstream security agencies in the country, though, it was not a duplication or replacement for the Nigerian Police but it will give our people confidence that they are being looked after by those they elected into office. The insecurity of lives and property in recent times was the main reason behind the formation of the security outfits; we should remember that it was in the context of the unfortunate development that South westerners lost the daughter of Pa Reuben Fasoranti, the leader of Afenifere. That was why the governors in the South West Zone flagged-off the operations of the Western Nigeria Security Network (Amotekun), to strengthen and complement the mainstream security agencies in the country without any hidden agenda, contrary to some unscrupulous speculations by ethnics group. This launching of this Amotekun will reduce or abate the killing of innocent people whether for rituals, religious intolerance or political reasons in the Southwestern part of the country. 

And conflict is a great predicament in any human society, and most times, it is predictable. In fact, history indicates that conflict is an on-going process in human relations and may occur within and among groups and communities. In the case of Nigeria, the frequency of religious conflicts in the northern part till date has left adverse effects on the socio-economic polity of the people. In the course of these conflicts, Christians have at a certain time, taken up weapons to counter the attack from the Muslims, claiming to do so in self-defense. We really need advocacy for ethical principles such as the common solidarity of humanity by origin, forgiveness and tolerance that could engender cordiality and understanding rather than sustained hostility and suspicion in Christian-Muslim relation in Nigeria.

Today, most of the world’s major conflicts are as a result of religious intolerance that has been left to fester into uncontrollable spiral of violence. We must restate that religious belief is fundamental to many human identities. It is part of the ways in which human beings experience the world around them. Hence all have the right to enjoy freedom to choose which religion that one is convenient with.

Orunbon, a journalist and public affairs analyst, wrote in from Abeokuta, Ogun state, Nigeria

Can be reached via: orunbonibrahimademola@gmail.com or 08034493944 or 08029301122

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ZENITH BANK REAFFIRMS MARKET LEADERSHIP AS PAT CROSSES N200BILLION MARK

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In a clear show of its resilience and market leadership, Zenith Bank has announced an impressive result for the year ended December 31, 2019, with profit after tax (PAT) of N208.8 billion, achieving the feat as the first Nigerian Bank to cross the N200 billion mark.

According to the bank’s audited financial results for the 2019 financial year released in Lagos on Friday, profit after tax rose by 8% to N208.8 billion from the N193 billion recorded in the previous year.

The Group also recorded a growth in gross earnings of 5% rising to N662.3 billion from N630.3 billion reported in the previous year. This growth was driven by the 29% increase in non-interest income from N179.9 billion in 2018 to N231.1 billion in 2019. Fees on electronic products continues to grow significantly with a 108% Year on Year (YoY) growth from N20.4 billion in 2018 to N42.5 billion in the current year. This is a validation of the bank’s retail transformation strategy which continues to deliver impressive results.

Profit before tax also increased by 5% growing from N232 billion to N243 billion in the current year, arising from topline growth and continued focus on cost optimisation strategies. Cost-to-income ratio moderated from 49.3% to 48.8%.

The drive for cheaper retail deposits coupled with the low interest yield environment helped reduce the cost of funding from 3.1% to 3.0%. However this also affected net interest margin which reduced from 8.9% to 8.2% in the current year due to re-pricing of interest bearing assets. Although returns on equity and assets held steady YoY at 23.8% and 3.4% respectively, the Group still delivered an improved Earnings per Share (EPS) which grew 8% from N6.15 to N6.65 in the current year.

The Group increased its share of the market as it secured increased customer deposits across the corporate and retail space as deposits grew by 15% to close at N4.26 trillion. Total assets also increased by 7% from N5.96 trillion to N6.35 trillion. The Group created new viable risk assets as gross loans grew by 22% from N2.016 trillion to N2.462 trillion. This was executed prudently at a low cost of risk of 1.1% and a significant reduction in the non-performing loan ratio from 4.98% to 4.30%. Prudential ratios such as liquidity and capital adequacy ratios also remained above regulatory thresholds at 57.3% and 22.0% respectively.

In demonstration of its commitment to its shareholders, the bank has announced a proposed final dividend pay-out of N2.50 per share, bringing the total dividend to N2.80 per share.

In 2020, the Group remains strategically positioned to capture the opportunities in the corporate and retail segments, while efficiently managing costs and expanding further its retail franchise employing digital assets and innovation.

Consistent with this superlative performance and in recognition of its track record of excellent performance, Zenith Bank was voted as the Best Commercial Bank in Nigeria 2019 by the World Finance and the Most Valuable Banking Brand in Nigeria 2019 by The Banker. The Bank was also recognized as Bank of the Year and Best Bank in Retail Banking at the 2019 BusinessDay Banks and Other Financial Institutions (BOFI) Awards, and was ranked as the Best Digital Bank in Nigeria 2019 by Agusto & Co. Most recently, the Bank emerged as the Bank of the Decade (People’s Choice) at the Thisday Awards 2020.

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How Lagos govt flouted its own law in enforcing Okada ban

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On February 3, commuters in Lagos wore long faces as they came to terms with the impact of the state government’s decision to restrict the movement of commercial motorcycles (popularly called Okada) and their tricycle (Keke) counterparts from major roads and highways in the state.

Hundreds of people, stranded at bus stops, were forced to trek long distances in the absence of their usual means of transport.

The Lagos State government on February 1 began the enforcement of the Lagos State Transport Sector Reform Law 2018, banning the use of motorcycles and tricycles on major highways within the state.

What the law says
The Lagos State government, under the administration of former Governor Babatunde Fashola, enacted The Lagos Road Traffic Law in 2012 which, among other things, restricted the operations of commercial motorcycles in at least 492 roads across the state. Section 3(1) of the law stated that ‘No person shall ride, drive, or propel a cart, wheelbarrow, motorcycle or tricycle on any of the routes specified in Schedule II to this law.’

There were protests to the law, followed by a massive crackdownon commercial motorcyclists in the days and weeks that trailed the enactment of the law. However, a few years later, and with another election cycle – the general elections in 2015 – in the horizon, the enforcement of the 2012 law petered out.

In 2018, and in a bid to provide solution to the chaotic transportation system, the Lagos State House of Assembly passed the Transport Sector Reform Bill. The bill harmonised the Vehicle Inspection Office (offences and penalties), traffic offences and penalties, and the Lagos Bus Services Limited among others.

Three weeks later, Governor Akinwunmi Ambode signed the bill into law.

The new law has clear provisions aimed at maintaining sanity on Lagos roads and enhancing the safety of commuters. It also included punishments and fines applicable to various traffic offences.

In Section 15(1), it amended the earlier law thus: “Subject to the provisions of Section 46 of this Law, motorcycles above 200cc engine capacity are exempted from the restriction on the use of motorcycles on the state highways.”

According to Section 46(1) of the law, “As from the commencement of this Law, no person shall ride, drive or propel a motorcycle or tricycle on a major highway within the state.” It further says that any person who violates the law – the passenger is also culpable – is liable on conviction to three imprisonment and his motorcycle or tricycle forfeited to the state government.

What the lawyers say
A Lagos-based human rights lawyer, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, said the partial restriction on motorcycles and tricycles in some areas of Lagos state is in accordance with the extant traffic laws of the state.

“The law has been in force and what has just happened is the enforcement of the law,” said Mr Adegboruwa, a senior advocate of Nigeria.

Although the law exempted motorcycles with engine capacity of 200cc (cylinder capacity) and above from restriction, Mr Adegboruwa said there was no part of it that permits hailing bikes.

“In fact, these hailing-bike companies came after the law was promulgated, they are the ones contravening the law, it is not the law that is contravening them,” he said.

Another lawyer, Abdul Mahmud, said if the law as enacted by the Lagos State House of Assembly prevents the state government from implementing restriction around certain motorcycles with 200cc capacity, then there is a problem with the regulation.

“What we have is a state that enacts laws and goes ahead to break its own laws and this act does not show responsibility.”

Mr Mahmud said the traffic laws are very clear and that if one puts a motorcycle on the road, the law provides safety mechanisms such as riding with a helmet, not carrying more than one passenger and others.

He urged the transport unions to approach the courts and challenge the ban.

“It is irresponsible of any state government to ban the means of transport in a mega city like Lagos where the public transport system is almost non-existent.”

Another Lagos-based lawyer, Olukoya Ogungbeje, said the restriction is clearly illegal and constitutes an infringement on the constitution and also an infringement on the rights of the people concerned.

Mr Ogungbeje said since the law provided conditions for exemption, enforcing the law against those that have met the conditions is illegal.

“That restriction is a clear violation of the rights of Nigerians,” he said.

“You cannot restrict people’s freedom of movement. If any law is at conflict with the constitution, that law will be declared null and void according to Section 1, sub-section 3.”

The bike-hailing business
To manoeuvre the law’s specification on the engine capacity of motorcycles allowed on the highways, bike-hailing companies launching in Lagos rolled out their operations with motorcycles above 200 cylinder capacity. The first to arrive was Max.Ng, around 2015, followed by Gokada, Safeboda, and O’Ride.

Ridwan Olalere, the Senior Director of Operations at O’Pay (O’Ride’s parent company), told PREMIUM TIMES that they ensured their riders complied with all government laws as well as traffic laws and all safety precautions.

“Our motorcycles are above 200cc capacity and the riders undergo training for two weeks before they are tested for riding,” Mr Olalere said.

“O’Pay is in conversations with the government and relevant stakeholders. We believe the Lagos State government will make the right decision by supporting businesses that have employed thousands of Nigerians and provided a solution for safe and secure transportation in the city.”

State government reacts
On Gokada’s website, the company states that ‘Unlike regular Okadas, Gokada bikes are all above 200cc. This means they are allowed to travel on all major roads, bridges, and highways.’

But Gboyega Akosile, the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, insisted that the government had not violated any part of the law.

“There were individuals that sat down at that time to write that law at that time based on the prevailing circumstance at the time,” said Mr Akosile.

“Based on circumstances that we find ourselves, the government also has a responsibility to make pronouncements especially in the interest of the safety of the people.”

When asked about the section of the law that exempted motorcycles with 200 cylinder capacity and above from the restriction, Mr Akosile said that part of the law was not meant for commercial motorcycles.

“We are not addressing non-commercials, those that use their motorcycles for dispatch are exempted. But commercial motorcycles are not exempted,” he said.

Mr Akosile said the pronouncement was carefully considered by the government with the help of an attorney general who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and other learned colleagues.

“No responsible government will fold its arms and watch a group of people come to Lagos with no means of livelihood than bring in Okada as they are coming in, thousands of them every day.”
Source: Premium Times

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With Buhari approving N268 billion for National Assembly, health, education suffer

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Aside from other unstated allowances that Nigerian federal lawmakers have allocated to themselves, a total of ₦268 billion has been earmarked for the National Assembly in this year’s budget.

This figure covers the legislature’s ₦128 billion recurrent expenditure; ₦100 billion Zonal Intervention/Constituency Projects; ₦1 billion for constitution review; ₦37 billion for the renovation of the National Assembly complex; and N2billion for the construction of National Assembly Library.

An analysis of the budget shows that approximately half of all that Nigeria plans to spend on health this year (₦463.7 billion) will go to the National Assembly. This means that for every ₦2 spent on Nigerians’ healthcare, ₦1 goes to the National Assembly.

It also means that the National Assembly gets about one-third of the total budget of the Ministry of Education (₦706.8 billion). This is the same for the ministry of works and housing which has a ₦343.5 billion budget.

But the legislators’ budget is about twice the money budgetted for each of the ministries of agriculture (₦183.1 billion), power (₦134.9 billion) and transport (₦134 billion) will go to the legislature.

National Assembly against health
Analysis of the 2020 budget by BudgIT shows that a total of ₦463.7 billion (4.37 per cent of this year’s budget) is meant for health. It means about ₦2,300 (or ₦6 per day) is all that has been budgeted for each of the 200 million Nigerians for everything medical in 2020.

Statutorily, the health sector should get more. Nigeria is a signatory to the 2001 Abuja Declaration, an agreement made by Nigeria and 19 other African countries in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, to commit 15 per cent of federal budgets to healthcare. While Botswana, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Niger, Rwanda, Togo and Zambia have all met the Abuja target, the closest Nigeria has come was the 5.95 per cent of 2012.

Nonetheless, further examination of this year’s allocation to health shows that 73 per cent of the ₦336.6 billion is for recurrent expenditure as against the ₦59.9 billion for capital projects.

And while these amounts are subject to the finance ministry’s discretionary releases, only the Basic Health Care Funds, BHCF (₦44.5 billion), and the ₦22.7 billion for GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations), both statutory payments, have certainty of being released.

National Assembly against education
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Education for All Global Monitoring Report recommended in 2015 that between 15 and 20 per cent of government spending through national budgets should be for education in developing countries.

But the country’s ₦706.8 billion — which is almost about thrice the NASS budget — allocation to the sector is a paltry 6.6 per cent of this year’s budget.

With the recommended target not met, 69 per cent (₦490.3 billion) of the amount earmarked to the sector is for settling bills, paying of salaries and so on.

That aside, a significant cut of the capital spending of the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), which stands at ₦84.7 billion, is for a flurry of controversial projects that have the stamps of lawmakers on them.

The ministry of education will get statutory transfer of ₦131.7 billion. This is split between the Universal Basic Education (UBE) Commission Funds (N111.7billion) and University Fund pegged at ₦20 billion. That total is just N3.7billion more than the N128billion statutory allocation to the National Assembly.

National Assembly against agriculture
The National Assembly’s budget is also double that of the ministry of agriculture and rural development. Agriculture gets ₦183.1 billion, no fraction of which contains statutory funds.

By earmarking this, which is 1.7 per cent of a total budget ₦10.6 trillion, Nigeria again flouted the Maputo Declaration it signed in Mozambique in 2003 that it should give 10 per cent of its budget to agriculture. Were the 10 per cent agreement fulfilled, ₦1 trillion would be for agriculture this year. Nigeria has never complied with the terms of the declaration, two decades on.

Although unlike education and health, recurrent expenditure takes only 32 per cent (₦58.7 billion) of agriculture’s budget. The ministry’s ₦124.4 billion capital allocation has a slew of projects, some of which are for capacity-building programmes that the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) has said are impossible to track and always ended in the pockets of federal lawmakers.

For instance, the Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI), rather than see to the mitigation of post-harvest loss of crops in Nigeria, would construct “ICT centres” and provide “equipment in selected secondary schools in Lagos,” under the guise of constituency projects. It would repeat this same project three times this year, all at a total cost of ₦768 billion — first for ₦255 million, then ₦256 million and ₦257 million.

National Assembly against works and housing
Like agriculture, this ministry will spend 92 per cent of its budget on capital projects (₦315.6 billion), as against ₦28 billion for recurrent expenditure.

With its total allocation pegged at ₦343.5 billion, it has been found that FERMA, an agency under the works ministry, will get less to maintain federal roads when compared with the ₦37 billion to be used to renovate the National Assembly complex.

Both Godiya Akwashiki and Benjamin Kalu, respective spokespersons of both the Upper and Lower Chambers, on multiple occasions, declined to comment on this. But Bamidele Salam, a member of the House Committee on Works, said in an interview: “I feel this is unjustifiable in any way.”

Also, due to shortage of funds accruing to the ministry, it plans to build only 2383 homes, although the country needs to build 700,000 homes per year to bridge its 17 million housing deficit, as estimated by the World Bank.

National Assembly against transport
The transport ministry has a total budget of ₦134 billion, a large chunk — ₦121.4 billion — of which goes to capital projects. Only ₦12.6 billion (9 per cent) is for its recurrent expenditure.

Scaling this with NASS budget shows that not only will the ministry get exactly half of what the National Assembly will get, it has no allocation for statutory payments.

National Assembly against power
In the face of incessant collapse of the national grid, and various administration’s failed promises to bring stable electricity to the country, ₦134.9 billion is what the government intends to use to try and solve the challenges of power in the country this year. Of this, ₦129.1 billion (96 per cent) is for capital spending.

As it is for transport, apart from its budget being almost half of that of the NASS, the power ministry too has no statutory funds to its name.
Source: Premium Times

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