The Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike has lately been in the news for what looks like his radical stance against the Value Added Tax (VAT), which has always been a contentious and, matte-of-factly, a legal issue between states and the Federal Government of Nigeria. Governor Wike, in his argument, prayed that Rivers States should be legally backed to keep taxes derivable internally instead of the current practice which gives low tax-generating states, especially of the Northern part of the country right to share even a largest chunk of tax coming from the oil-rich Southern states.
And because of the temperament of the nation, as regards calls for restructure, of course, championed by Southern states, Governor Wike has emerged a hero of sorts, being applauded for his courage to take the bull by the horn by dragging the federal government to a Federal High Court in Port-Harcourt. On August 10, precisely, the court ruled that the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) should stop collection of VAT and personal income tax in Rivers State. And the excited Governor Wike wasted no time in appending his signature on what is now known as VAT Law No. 4 of 2021 on August 19.
Expectedly, the FIRS headed for the Court of Appeal against the ruling and that redress has yielded fruit as the court ruled that the status quo be maintained in favour of that tax-collecting federal parastatal. While I don’t want to pre-empt the final outcome of this legal bout between the two levels of government, I am, however, craving a situation whereby states would pocket 50% of VAT which they generate with 50% shared between the FGN and states, according to population and number of local government councils.
I am making this proposition with every sense of patriotism and desire to have oneness of this country retained, despite this deafening call for its dismemberment like this cry for the Oduduwa Republic. There is no doubt that some socio-political issues in Nigeria, especially as witnessed in the past few years when herdsmen, kidnappers and bandits seem to have invaded the country, have made calls for outright balkanisation of Nigeria inevitable. But, again, I am one of those who would still want to look for other options to keep this matrimony consummated by Sir Lord Lugard in 1914. A one Nigeria is more desirable and viable than fragmented entities which would need to start all over again to catch up among comity of nations in the international community.
Topmost among the options in my mind in this regard is the much debated restructuring to end the daily cry of marginalization by Southern states of the federation. It has to be clarified and explained to Northern states that restructuring is not a synonym of secession, which the nation unfortunately experienced between 1967 and 1970. No! Restructuring is an attempt to reflect on issues which have caused apprehension and eventual stagnation to the polity and how to address those issues to the benefits of federating states.
I have observed with a keen interest that one of the major problems we have in this country is that we appear to derive joy in avoiding a round table talk where we ought to express our grievances freely and seek solutions, hence this increased suspicion among the states. For instance, gory incidents in Benue and Plateau States should have been nipped in the bud if we were a nation which respected power of dialogue until things get out of hands.
But, despite that experience, I am saying it that it is not too late to bring all stakeholders to table to engage in frank discussions to restore a sustainable peace to these two states in particular.
Even though it is often said that nation-building is not an easy task, I am of view that it is not a rocket science; it is achievable if our leaders are purposeful, patriotic and genuinely desirous of peace and development. After we have seen weakness of the unitary system of government, which is masquerade as the federal model, it is high time we practised a true federalism in which federating units (states) are more constitutionally empowered to enjoy a high level of autonomy on concurrent and residual lists, while the central government is left with exclusive lists.
In other words, we will have stronger units and weaker centre, meaning that states will no longer run to Abuja for monthly allocation but rather remit some funds to Abuja. What this proposition also means is that the Nigerian 1999 Constitution (as amended) would be abrogated because of its unitary nature handed down to us by the military regime. If the truth must be told, the current constitution is lopsided and much more favourable to the North at the expense of Southern states who paradoxically lay the golden egg upon which the whole nation feed.
Instead of the Northern states to develop cold feet, a restructured Nigeria will open windows of opportunities to them, in terms of economic transformations of their untapped natural and human resources, especially with their population. I am familiar with almost all parts of the upper Niger and huge potentials which God deposited therein. But their permanent reliance on oil revenue, among others generated from Southern states, has been counter-productive to their capacity to grow their home economies to level of self-reliance.
This arrangement is not sustainable in the 21st Century and in face of this increased tempo of agitation in the country. By the time they subject themselves to restructure with an open mind and preparedness to help themselves, they will certainly realized that they are also equally blessed with all they need to achieve development and attract foreign direct investors.
To make this more convenient and viable for the states, I also want to propose a six-region structure in which states are collapsed into regions, a kind of return to what we had in the First Republic Nigeria when each of the then three regions was developing at its own pace, consequently setting stage for healthy rivalry on development of each region. Isn’t it ironical that physical developments, which were recorded in those days of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello and Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, are still evidential and, in fact, in use till today after 50 years?
There is no need to panic in both parts of the country; what we require at this chapter of our history is understanding and willingness to move this nation forward from the current backwardness. Nigeria ought to have outgrown challenges we are facing today. But I am happy by the results being won against bandits and Boko Haram; this is a sign of a possible new Nigeria which lies ahead, even before the general elections in 2023.
Understanding Ebun Adegboruwa’s self-adulation, inconsistencies on Lagos panel’s illogical verdict
The report of the Lagos State Panel of Inquiry and Restitution, which was submitted, last Monday, to Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu has continued to generate mixed reactions from residents and those with vested interests outside the State.
It is not unexpected that the recommendations of the panel, led by Justice Dorcas Okuwobi, have been trailed by strong statements of support and condemnation by those who, prior to the panel’s final verdict, had locked in protracted arguments to validate or invalidate alleged carnage at the Lekki Toll Gate on October 20, 2020.
Of course, this vexed issue returned to be a dominant topic of debate, despite the latitude of time allotted to the panel to probe into the incident at the toll gate and produce a believable evidence. The report turned in by the panel, sadly, has invoked another round of controversies and brought out more puzzles than answers to claim a massacre.
However, this is not the crux of this piece. Rather, it is the disturbing outburst of a member of the panel, who has been on a binge of self-adulation and pathetic display of self-glorification, speaking from both sides of the mouth as though, he is a Praetorian Guard for the law and morality. In all, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa has consistently displayed inconsistencies in his attempts to whip up sentiments, setting aside the basic principle of the law, which is evidence and going for emotions and sentiments.
Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN!
No doubt, Adegboruwa is a sound and venerated star in the legal galaxy. His nomination and eventual enlistment into the panel raised people’s hopes and expectations, given his pedigree in human rights activism. But the legal practitioner failed woefully to prove his mettle and support evidence-based report.
That the report of the panel is being torn apart by surfeit of inconsistencies by people whose hopes were dashed by the sloppiness of the panel to establish a massacre are beginning to question Adegboruwa’s professional integrity.
To begin with, since Monday when the panel submitted its report, Adegboruwa had issued series of scathing, yet contradictory statements to railroad Lagos State government into adopting the blemished report which many now describe as “predetermined conclusions”.
The statements are a face-saving attempt by the petulant lawyer to cover for his professional negligence after the reality dawned on him that people would question the panel members for a report saturated with fundamental errors and unsubstantiated claims.
Less than an hour after Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Governor of Lagos, received the report, Adegboruwa released a statement on his social media page, threatening to reveal the content of the panel submission should the Governor make an attempt to cover-up.
“I will…keep observing the turn of events and at the appropriate time, one may be forced to state the FULL contents of the report if the promises made are not fulfilled. I can NEVER and will NEVER subscribe to anything that would amount to covering up the report of the Panel,” Adegboruwa wrote.
For any discerning person, that statement came across as hasty and preemptive. Ironically, Adegboruwa, in the same statement, attested that the Governor did not interfere throughout the period of the panel sitting. Why the inconsistencies? In one breath, you doubted the integrity of the Government to do the right thing, in another applauded the Governor for his uprightness.
If the Panel members had been accorded such indisputable latitude to be independent, why then would Adegboruwa insinuate and subtly accuse the Government of an attempt to cover up? This is highly offensive.
Let’s now look at the gross display of professional ineptitude by the Senior Advocate of Nigeria when he said in his first press release via his Facebook page that Government should just release the recommendations of the flawed panel report without mindful of an existing law backing the setting up of such panel.
Ebun wrote: “It is my view that Lagos State having appeared before the Panel as a party, having tendered documents before the Panel and led witnesses to take a position on the Incident of the Lekki Toll Gate, it will be unfair and improper for Lagos State to be a judge in its own cause, by seeking to review the report of the Panel. However, the Governor explained to me that this would only be done to enable the government implement the findings and recommendations of the Panel and not to tamper with it or mutilate it. I believe His Excellency.”
But Ebun clearly forgot to read the provisions of the Tribunal Law 2015 in arriving at his conclusion on the Judicial Panel of Inquiry on Restitution for Victims of SARS Related Abuses and Other Matters.
However, Ebun made a quick turn around and called for the White Paper after the erudite lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria Abiodun Owonikoko appeared on Arise TV to set the record straight and reminded him of the legal necessity for the White Paper.
Another flip to Adegboruwa’s inconsistencies is seen here where he said ” it will be unfair and improper for Lagos State to be a judge in its own cause, by seeking to review the report of the Panel”. Same man later confessed his vested interest in Lekki Toll Plaza. He wrote:
“My principled struggles in respect of toll fee collection started way back from 2011, almost nine years before the Panel was inaugurated.”
The above then places huge moral burdens on Adegboruwa on the question of what qualifies him to serve in a committee on matters affecting the Lekki Toll Plaza if he felt as stated above that Lagos State Government should not review his flawed reports on the same Lekki Toll Gate, because it has interest in it. Ebun is simply inconsistent!
What about the oath of confidentiality sworn to by members of the Panel? The Lagos Lawyer breached that oath with his rush for media accolades and self-aggrandisement.
Also, the pugnacious lawyer, whom we expect not to be told the procedure of such exercise, made an indicting conclusion when he wrote: “Nigerians should demand for justice against all culprits who have been named in detail, in our report.” Is this to set the tone for the expected White Paper from Lagos Government?
Now that holes are daily being picked in the report, should Adegboruwa still be taken seriously as a lawyer?
The report was ‘leaked’ to the press on the same Monday by a member and less than an hour after Adegboruwa released his press statement! Adegboruwa, who apparently wanted to deflect attention away from himself as the culprit, quickly issued another statement (November 18), saying members of the panel were being vilified unjustly by those suspected to be government agents.
Must anyone work or have affiliation with the government to decipher the falsehood packaged as independent recommendations of the panel? Adegboruwa probably could not adequately dissect the disappointment of his admirers who expected him and other members of the panel to be thorough in their findings and submission.
As it is, the panel’s recommendations are not convincing enough to debunk the insinuation that the so-called “Lekki massacre” is nothing but a weaponised narrative being used to blackmail the government.
Given his strong ideological stance, Adegboruwa’s inclusion in the panel was well applauded and expected to stimulate unbiased inquiry and adherence to ethical standards throughout the sitting. But, Ebun was said to have been absent at the panel more than six months consecutively than the time he was present. Yet, he gleefully appended his signature to the conclusions of the panel he barely attended.
While offering weak explanation for his absent days, Adegboruwa claimed it was an understanding between him and the Governor upon his enlistment to be a part-time member at the sitting.
This argument punctured Adegboruwa’s sense of self-glorification which has been on the display, albeit pathetically, after the panel turned in the report last Monday. How sensible does it sound to Adegboruwa himself, that an absentee judge go all out to pontificate over a verdict he was not fully present in deciding?
Those who believe Adegboruwa betrayed the ethical standards of his calling and personal ideology are not necessarily saying that the legal practitioner has curried pecuniary gain; they are rather disappointed by the fact that the panel’s recommendations relied mostly on unsubstantiated narratives which time has exposed as tissue of lies. Yet the ‘respected’ lawyer appended his signature and deployed all his intellect to support, justify and make attempts to railroad the embarrassing claims into becoming content of the government’s White Paper.
We must also not lose sight of Adegboruwa’s attempts to railroad the Government into accepting the garbage he concocted into the failed report hook, line and sinker without interrogation by saying:
“I urge the government to focus on the findings and far-reaching recommendations contained in the report, in order to pursue the laudable objectives of setting up the Panel to achieve true healing and reconciliation, instead of seeking to demonize Panel members and their report or to evade responsibility.”
By every standard, this is an act of professional carelessness on the part of Adegboruwa and being haughty cannot make him to look like someone who has a mind of his own. He pledged to be thorough in the discharge of his duty at the panel, but his involvement has compounded our confusion rather than establishing the truth.
Finally, Adegboruwa should learn something from this exercise that the truth is constant. You cannot manufacture what did happen. It must have happened before you come forward to report it, with fact based evidence that it truly happened. Ebun should stop his ridiculous tirade in his attempts to cover up the mess he brought upon himself.
Spotlight on Olayemi Olamiju, Africa’s prince of marketing and communications
*It’s an honor to speak with you today. Why don’t you give us some details about you and your story. How did you get to where you are today?*
– My name is Olayemi Olamiju Emmanuel, fondly referred to as the prince of marketing and communications. I am the last of four boys. I spent most of my childhood on the streets of Agege where I developed an interest in understanding people and their reactions to situations. This interest pushed me to apply for Psychology at the university of Lagos where I had my Bachelor’s Degree. My choice of discipline laid a foundation for my career in marketing and communications. My debut into marketing and communications was as a creative director at a 20 year old advertising agency. Despite being the youngest on the team, I was the lead. Many years later, I am proud to say that I am a seasoned marketing and communications experts with many brands’ success stories to my portfolio.
I’m sure your success has not come easily. What challenges have you had to overcome along the way?
– The first sets of challenges I ever faced was financial. My mom was a single parent so I didn’t grow up within a complete family structure. We had no accommodation so my brothers and I had to stay with different church members while she lived in the church. The instability associated with spending most of my childhood in the homes of other people was also one of the challenges that I faced early in life. As as result of the financial state of my family, I had to take on odd jobs throughout university. To be able to fund my education, pay fees, buy textbooks and also sustain myself, I took on jobs as a waiter and attendant at different events every weekend. All these I did with joy because I strongly believed in the future and where I was headed. I’m thankful for these experiences because it was the different encounters I had with people, the different situations I faced, that shaped me into the man that I am today. I’m not there yet and I know it keeps getting better. In addition to this, I believe in self accountability so I’d admit that when I started out on this path, it was difficult to stay disciplined. Discipline was one of the challenges I faced internally. Persevering and making sacrifices towards your greater cause isn’t an easy journey but as soon as I was able to hack that, it was easier to face the external challenges outside my control.
Let’s talk about the work you do. What do you specialize in and why should someone work with you over the competition?
– I am a trained marketing and communications expert with years of practical experience building brands. My goal is to ensure that African consumers access the right products and services that not only suits their needs but also makes their life better. If I were to define what I do in two words, I’d say Delivering Quality. Africans are relentless people with potentials and capacity to do anything regardless of any situation. Even though we add value to the world, we do not get enough products and services specifically made to solve our problems or help us thrive. My goal is to identify and create products that help build capacity. I help brands identify the opportunities that exist in the problem solving market and how they can leverage it to give Africans the quality products they deserve. From my years of experience studying the African consumers, the pattern remains the same. They just want to live a much easier life, when brands identify these everyday problems and provided a solution to it, they will not only win the consumers’ pockets but their hearts as well. What I do differently is bridge the gap between the African audience and products that make their lives easier, ultimately helping brands deliver quality while achieving their marketing goals. The impact I have made so far and am still making with brands and the African consumers is why I have been referred by many as the prince of marketing and communications.
What’s your best piece of advice for readers who desire to find success in their life?
– Keep adding value. Keep moving, keep evolving, keep growing. In every level or phase of your life, the ability to adapt will stand you out. And by evolving, it means you are becoming a key player, learning how to add value and tapping into opportunities. Every day, different opportunities that can be leveraged arise in every industry. Like tech for example, the new oil, when you keep evolving, you’re able to diversify and maintain your relevance, beyond sectors, beyond industries. When you keep evolving, you’re never left behind. And in a constantly evolving world, never ever be comfortable being an onlooker. Participate actively and positively, at all times.
Speaking of success, what does the word mean to you?
– Success to me is measured by how much impact I make. Success for me is knowing that there is someone out there who was inspired by me, by my story and what I do. Success is going to bed with the satisfaction of my impact on someone else. It could even be as simple as making someone smile or making the other person feel better. Success is knowing that by my actions, I have passed a baton of inspiration to the next person who in turn will pass his or hers to another person, creating a chain of unending positive impact in the world.
What’s next for you? *
– First, what’s next for me is to keep inspiring people. Doing the little things that I can for others within my little corner of the world, without expecting anything in return. We do not preach this enough but love is the most important thing. Helping people grow is my motto and that will always be the number one agenda on my list. In delivering quality through marketing and communications, I also intend to diversify my services and work with more local and international brands in the coming months, solving the problems of everyday Africans one at a time.
Finally, how can people connect with you if they want to learn more?
– I’m active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. On all my social media platforms, I am Olayemi Olamiju or @olayemiolamiju and always open to collaborations and mutually beneficial connections.
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