Challenges of implementing Lagos tenancy law

Bamidele

In this piece, Bamidele Jonathan reviews the challenges facing the implementation of tenancy law in Lagos State and suggest solutions

Introduction

Tenancy is as old as civilisation itself. It is part of all stages of civilisation – ancient, middle ages, industrial and technological eras. The scope of this article shall be limited to Nigerian tenancy in the post colonial era with special reference to Lagos State. It is the currently enacted new Tenancy Laws of Lagos State that moitivated the writing of this article as the contribution of the author to the laws.

Firstly, the Lagos State tenancy is in the spirit of 1979 constitution and an improvement on the Lagos State 1996 Rent Control Tribunal Edict. Section 17(2)(d) of 1979 constitution states that, “The state shall direct its policy towards ensuring that suitable and adequate shelter, food, water supply,… are provided for all citizens.”

Also the Lagos State 1996 Rent Control Tribunal Edict provides for “the establishment of rent tribunals for the determination and control of standard rent of residential premises and for other purposes…”

In addition to the fact that the new law is in line with the constitution, it is also an improvement of 1996 Rent Control Tribunal Edict as many areas of tenancy not addressed by RCTE were covered by the new law. For instance, security of tenure is better guaranteed; it frowns at forcible ejection of tenants; unreasonable rent and arbitrary increase of rent, as well as advance payment were addressed.

The unavailability of houses is still a major set back to the implementation of the law. It is a known fact that law alone cannot be required to increase the available housing stock; therefore concrete measures are required to address the housing crises – which is at the root of the problem of housing including the one that gave rise to the tenancy law.

The advancement of the 2011 law over that of 1996 RCTE goes beyond the items covered, it treated some major lapses of 1996 RCTE, which include:

• The new law makes provisions for the Magistrates’ and High Courts to entertain legal issues relating to tenancy. This is an improvement over the situation where Tribunal wass set up as provided for in 1996 RCTE. The setting up of the Tribunal for the purpose is a violation of Article 10 of the basic principle on the Independence of the Judiciary which states that any person without legal training cannot administer legal issues. The new trend will strengthen the capacity of the existing Magistrates and the High Court.

•The Tribunal members has no security of tenure because the Military Administrators could hire and fire them at will. Even the tenure of Military Administrators themselves are not guaranteed; how much more that of the Tribunal members. But the Magistrates and the Judges of High Court had secure tenure which could fast track issues being raised in legal issues.

•The six months given by the 1996 RCTE to tenants to look for alternative accommodation had been replaced by the normal legal process which can protect the interest of the tenants without jeopardising that of the landlords.

This article is to outline some lapses in this new law and those in the previous ones that were not covered also in the new law.

Some of the ste desire to see a perfect working tenancy laws and relationship by taking practical steps using one stone to kill many birds at once among which are:

• A tenancy relationship that will give an account for our housing stocks and updating the same regularly

• While the landlord are in possession of their property physically and economically, the government through this law should be legally controlling housing stock

• Using the mechanism of actualising this tenancy laws and relationship to bring the incidence of building failures into barest minimum

• To also enhance the workability of the New National Building Code.

•To put the professional in the built environment in practical and technical control of the field in place of the quacks who are currently in charge of the bulk of their practice.

The law’s loophole

Firstly, the core issue in housing is that of the stock which must be available before we talk of tenancy. Those who are involve in housing (at all levels) in Lagos State knows that the law cannot operate effectively in the present situation. A Lagos-based Lawyer, Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu (The Punch, Friday December 9, 2011) said the efficacy of the Law, as ambitious as it is, can only be predicated on a robust housing scheme. The way it is now, tenants are being caught between ambitious desire of government to mitigate the high tenancy rate and the reality of paucity of housing facilities in the State.”

The situation where demand is far higher than supply reduces the opportunity for legal claims by the accommodation seekers. This is because the landlord and their agents will push such aside in the presence of alternative tenants who are ready to pay any amount even when it is ridiculous.

Therefore, the core issue is that housing stock needs to be increased to a level whereby there will be alternative for tenants. It is under such condition that the law will achieve the desired goals.

However, beyond legality, practical administrative step that can enhance the implementation of the new law is missing. In the same The Punch of Friday December 9, 2011 a tenant (Collins Duru) suggested that a task force should be put in place to ensure compliance with the law.

Furthermore, time constraints to go to courts or purse legality is readily not available to most accommodation seekers who may be workers. The employers will not have the time to give an employee to be pursuing legal matters at the expense of the time for work. How many tenants or accommodation seekers can even afford the legal fees or have the time to go to court if an exorbitant rent is demanded from them?

The way forward

First and foremost, there is the need to increase housing stock. The rate at which stock of houses increases cannot guarantee an increase in stock that is proportional to the actual housing needs. Many houses that are built by individuals take almost a life span and requires the bulk of their income. The alternative is to remain in the hand of the landlords whose only purpose building houses is to make profit on investment. The government’s housing schemes and houses provided by private developer are actually out of the reach of the needy ( especially for low-income class forming not less than 50 per cent of those who need house in Lagos). Therefore, the same landlords who are having the purchasing power buy over the new housing units for letting.

The lack of a promising and efficient mortgage system has excluded even the working class who can pay the mortgage from their salaries. Employers (first public and the organised private sector next) should take the lead in providing insurance coverage and as guarantor of the first home owner to get a house within the first five years of employment. It should be adopted as a policy. This is all the private sector in the business of building houses for sale needs to start off massive housing for the low and middle income class in fixed income structures. The government can reduce their involvement in actual construction to essential needs and basic social housing. The task will be of policy formulation, implementation and evaluation of the policy. The issue of mass housing should be encouraged by the government.

The government and the interested private sectors, especially the developers should be interested in financing such ventures that will lead to more social housing that will use 100 per cent local building materials. The cooperative housing should be further encouraged as this will cover, the low and middle income classes not in the employment of public or organised private sectors. All measures to activate a functional housing circle to increase the housing stock should be encouraged.

In addition to courts, the citizens mediation centres should be involved in settling issues related to this law. The existing task force in the zonal planning office or at the central planning office should be mobilised to get involved in this process by enforcing the National Building Code in the area of Certificate of Fitness for use and habitation. For a new house, a copy of this certificate should be pasted on the building which the task force will freely access. This same certificate should be renewed every five years. The tenants should be empowered to request for the current copy of this certificate pasted on the wall or should not pay rent to any landlord or agent. The tenants should report the same to the task force for action. Any house that is not having a pasted copy of this certificate should be warned twice and at the third time cause the house to be sealed off and such landlord and the tenants be charged to court for living in an unfit house. Any professional consultant that will sign a certificate of fitness that is false or the structure fails should be held responsible by the court of law for professional misconduct and for criminal offence.

Moreover, the issue of building failures will be reduced to barest minimum, as the consultants will be held responsible for every building under the Law. This will also empowered the government and its agencies to have a grip hold on premises under the Law beyond pre-construction and construction stage. Though these provisions are there in the National Building Code (section 13 (ii)) but it is high time it was put into use. It is called Building Condition Survey Report and Building Maintenance Manual which shall be the bases of renewal of the previous Certificate of Fitness every 5 years.

Finally the poor maintenance culture that Nigerians are known for will become a past as the structure must be in the minimum standard before consultants will put their signature on the Certificate of Fitness. These premises should be inspected once a year by the task force of the Code from the planning office without notice to the landlord and the tenants.

These suggestions if followed, will contribute to making the new tenancy more productive to serve its place in our society.

– Jonathan, an architect, writes from Lagos.

Margaret Thatcher: The One and Only

When Hillary Clinton recently announced that she will retire from politics after the 2012 U.S. Presidential elections, one of the most remarkable political careers of the modern era likely came to an end.

  • (Photo: Reuters)<br>Former British PM Margaret Thatcher.
(Photo: Reuters)
Former British PM Margaret Thatcher.
Assuming she adheres to her vow, she will likely never become the first female American president. Moreover, there are few, if any, prominent American women lawmakers who are expected to make a bid for the White House in 2016. Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s political future looks cloudy, while the governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley, has presidential aspirations, but she remains an untested long-shot.

It is indeed odd that the U.S., the world’s most advanced nation, has never had a female head-of-state. Many countries around the world – including Germany, Ukraine, India, PakistanIsrael and Thailand – have had women as leaders, some of whom have become iconic figures.

Moreover, the nation most similar culturally and linguistically to the U.S., Great Britain, has had one – and only one – woman Prime Minister.

Margaret Thatcher dominated British politics throughout the 1980s.

Thatcher became a British powerhouse and a global player during the era of Ronald Reagan. However, given her strident conservative views; opposition to trade unions during a period of endemic strikes and high unemployment; tough stance against the Soviet Union; controversial statements on immigration during a period of racial unrest in Britain; and severe cuts in social spending; the “Iron Lady” made as many enemies as supporters.

Thatcher remains a highly polarizing figure in Britain and elsewhere. Even some members of her Conservative Party were uncomfortable with her views, personality and policies. Still, she remains the only woman British Prime Minister.

Thatcher’s profile was recently raised again by the release of a new movie starring Meryl Streep in the role of the formidable woman.

International Business Times spoke to an expert on British politics to discuss the phenomenon and legacy of Margaret Thatcher.
Dr. Victoria Honeyman is a lecturer in British Politics at Leeds University, UK.

IB TIMES: Margaret Thatcher was the first female British Prime Minister, but so far the only one. Do you think her controversial term in office and strident personality has hurt the chances of other British women from rising to the top of UK politics? Or did she inspire a new generation of British females to pursue senior politics?

HONEYMAN: I don’t think it has particularly damaged the prospects of [British] women in politics, nor has she particularly helped it. Thatcher was often accused of acting “like a man” in politics and therefore betraying the feminist movement. Therefore, other female politicians are no more linked to Thatcher than a male politician would be to any other random male politician.
Thatcher’s politics, not her gender, that were far more likely to inspire or upset people.

IB TIMES: What made Thatcher stand out to the point where she led the rough and tumble world of Tory politics?
HONEYMAN: Like all politicians, the attributes which led her to the top were ambition, expertise and cold-blooded determination. Thatcher was able to split opinion and inspire loyalty amongst her supporters, as well as inspiring hatred amongst her enemies. In addition, Thatcher was lucky in that many of her political opponents missed their own chances of leadership.

IB TIMES: Is Thatcher an ”icon” to the current Tory party, or do they seek to distance themselves from her now?

HONEYMAN: A bit of both, depending on who you talk to. Thatcher is a toxic brand to many in Britain and therefore the party have distanced themselves from her. However, to another sizeable portion of the electorate, Thatcher is a political hero, as reflected by the desire of former Labour Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s to meet with her early in their leadership.
Therefore, the current Conservative Party cannot distance themselves too much from Thatcher. It is a tricky tightrope to walk on.

IB TIMES: What percent of the Members of Parliament in the UK are women? Are we seeing this figure climb?

HONEYMAN: I think it is currently just over 20 percent. There have been a number of initiatives since the early 1990s amongst the three main parties [Labour, Conservative, Liberal-Democrat] to increase the number of women in Parliament, but these have tended to have only limited, and rather short-term, success.

IB TIMES: Does the Labour Party feel “embarrassed” that they’ve never had a female candidate for PM, given that they’re supposed to be the “progressive” party”?

HONEYMAN: There is no evidence to suggest this. They have had a female Deputy Leader in the form of Harriet Harman. Prior to 1997, the key thing for the Labour Party was winning a general election, then maintaining their position in government, not the gender of their leader.

IB TIMES: What British women, if any, might be considered future PM material?

HONEYMAN: It is impossible to say. When asked – while serving as Education Minister under former Prime Minister Edward Heath — Thatcher herself said she didn’t expect to see a female Prime Minister in her own lifetime.
Politics is a game of twists and turns and therefore it is impossible to mark someone for greatness with any certainty.

Health and fitness news

Resting heart rate as simple biomarker

A large study has found that a rise in resting heart rate over a decade may indicate an increased risk of death from coronary artery disease.

Norwegian researchers studied 30,000 healthy men and women 20 and older, checking heart rates at intervals 10 years apart. The scientists followed the subjects through 2008, recording the number of deaths from coronary heart disease. The results were published Dec. 21 in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

Compared with those whose heart rates remained stable at 70 beats per minute or less, those whose rates increased to 85 or more were almost twice as likely to die of heart disease. For those with resting rates between 70 and 85 beats per minute at the first test, an increase to greater than 85 was associated with an 80 per cent increase in death rate.

There was no direct decrease in heart disease risk with decreasing resting heart rate, but among the 7,000 people whose heart rates had decreased from between 70 and 85 to below 70 beats a minute, risk for death from any cause was reduced by 40 per cent.

The subjects were completely healthy at both measurements, said Ulrik Wisloff of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. “So resting heart rate is a simple, cost-free and strong biomarker that should be monitored regularly.”

Trace elements and pancreatic cancer risk
A new study has found that high bodily levels of the trace elements nickel and selenium may be associated with reduced risk for pancreatic cancer, and that high levels of arsenic, cadmium and lead may increase the risk.

The study, published online Dec. 19 in the journal Gut, included 118 pancreatic cancer patients and 399 patients with other diagnoses at several hospitals in Spain. Researchers analyzed toenail samples with plasma mass spectrometry, a highly sensitive technique for detecting trace elements.

After controlling for age, sex, smoking, diabetes and other factors, the scientists found that the subjects with the highest levels of arsenic were at twice the risk for pancreatic cancer, compared with those with the lowest concentrations. Those with high levels of cadmium were at three times the risk for pancreatic cancer, while those with the highest levels of lead were at six times the risk.

Those with the highest levels of nickel and selenium, on the other hand, were at significantly lower risk for pancreatic cancer.

Nuria Malats, an epidemiologist at the Spanish National Cancer Research Center and the senior author of the new study, said it was the first to provide these kinds of results with trace elements, and that it did not mean that people should take dietary supplements.

4 Vitamins that strengthen older brains

Higher blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B, vitamin C, vitamin D and vitamin E are associated with better mental functioning in the elderly, a new study has found.

Researchers measured blood levels of these nutrients in 104 men and women, whose average age was 87. The scientists also performed brain scans to determine brain volume and administered six commonly used tests of mental functioning. The study is in the Jan. 24 issue of Neurology.

After controlling for age, sex, blood pressure, body mass index and other factors, the researchers found that people with the highest blood levels of the four vitamins scored higher on the cognitive tests and had larger brain volume than those with the lowest levels.

Omega-3 levels were linked to better cognitive functioning and to healthier blood vessels in the brain, but not to higher brain volume, which suggests that these beneficial fats may improve cognition by a different means.

Higher blood levels of trans fats, on the other hand, were significantly associated with impaired mental ability and smaller brain volume.

New York Times Service.

One nation, conflicting interests

Good

WE  writes that the nationwide strike that followed the Federal Government’s removal of petroleum subsidy might have exposed Nigeria as a country of divergent opinions

Second Republic is dead, but the memories of some actions of the politicians and political parties that played active roles during the ill-fated democracy would not be forgotten in a hurry. The slogan of the ruling party then, the National Party of Nigeria was: One Nation, One Destiny.”

However, the last strike and protests called by the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress, which was supported by the civil society groups, may have shown that Nigerians, though in one nation, have their different destinies. Agreeably, majority of the people would have thought that the protests, which were occasioned by the removal of subsidy on petrol, would be resisted by people from the six-geo political zones of the country. Such thought, according to Emeka Kalu, an engineer, was further fueled with the fact that Nigerians, no matter their status, region or tribe, patronise the same market to purchase  goods. “After all, a musician waxed a record, in which he said this,” Kalu further explained.

It was probably based on such hypothesis that protesters trooped out in large number during the protests in some zones, while in others, sympathisers of government at the centre either stayed indoors or even organised their own protests to show support for the government.

Thus, in the whole of the South-West and the entire four zones in the northern part of the country, including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, the strike was described as total. Economic and social activities were paralyzed. Rallies were also held to denounce the government’s action. In Lagos, the rallies and the protests assumed a carnival-like dimension as musicians, actors and actresses mounted the stage to add colour to the demonstrations. The entertainers, who hitherto saw President Goodluck Jonathan as the messiah derided him by calling him unprintable names. The convener of Save Nigeria Group, who was also a vice-presidential candidate for the Congress for Progressive Change during the last presidential election, Pastor Tunde Bakare, was visible at the event. His overbearing presence at the rallies made the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Kingsley Kuku, to say that the protesters were members of Bakare’s Latter Rain Assembly Church.

Kuku and those who had such impression must have been stunned  when the Muslims leaders led their members to Ojota, venue of the rallies for their jumat prayers. After listening to the sermon, the Muslims, who were supported by their Christian brothers and sisters, then went on their knees, for prayers. In Gombe, Kano, Ilorin, Lokoja, Yola, the situation was almost the same: protesters trooped out in large number to register their displeasure over the government’s action.

But the residents of Bayelsa, the home State of the President, shunned civil society groups’ protest. The civil society groups under the aegis of Civil Liberties Organisation in the state had called for public protest and had even gone ahead to sensitise the public not to sit on the fence but to come out en masse to protest against the Federal Government’s policy, which they considered as “anti Nigerian people.”

While the leaders of the civil society groups in the state blamed the failure of the street protest to hold on the refusal of the police to grant them permit for the rally, a senior police source dismissed the claim as untrue, saying the command even deployed policemen to provide the civil society groups protection, which informed the presence of security operatives at take off point of the rally and other strategic locations in the state capital so as to prevent miscreants from hijacking the process. It was, however, learnt that the President’s men succeeded in infiltrating the rank of the anti subsidy removal camp and the result was the failure of residents to turn out for the rally.

It was not only in Bayelsa State, where ethnicity reason prevailed. The President’s fellow Ijaw man and a former militant, Asari Dokubo, who is from Rivers State, led a peaceful rally of a small crowd, threatening to defend the position of President Jonathan. He said if PENGASSAN carried out its threat to shut oil production, he would rally former militants to take over and ensure that PENGASSAN did not return. In the estimation of the former militant, the move by many Nigerians against the FG was meant to discriminate against the leadership of a helpless minority of Ijaw decent. He ((Dokubo) threatened to personally spearhead the region’s mass protest to defend their son from the arrogant northern majority whom he claimed wanted to make the country ungovernable.

Also, a coalition that called itself Deltans Occupy Niger Delta Resources, in a communiqué, said it would take its resources back, by all legal means available to it. The release signed by Ankios Briggs, President Agape Birthrights and convener of NDONDR reads, “Niger Delta and oil resources found in the Niger Delta belong to Niger Delta people. All resources found in any other region of Nigeria belong to the people of such region. We call on all our Niger Delta people, for the sake of our future to look to our nearest neighbours, the Igbo for immediate and strong alliance, to enable the Niger Delta nations and the Igbo nation to face the obvious change that will come to Nigeria, in strength, justice, brotherhood and truth. If Jonathan, a Niger Delta son, is not good enough to govern Nigeria, the oil in his Niger Delta is not good enough for Nigeria. If the Niger Delta people are not good enough to be part of good governance in Nigeria then our oil and gas of the Niger Delta peoples is not good enough for Nigeria.”

Some ex-militants, who were known to fight on the side of the people before carrots began to drop from the government table, also stormed Yenagoa and protested along the Major Chief Melford Okilo way in total support of the FG’s action.

Before then, some prominent people from the South-South also took sides with government on the matter and even alleged a plot to assassinate the President and some eminent persons in his administration. The Ijaw leaders, under the aegis of South-South Leaders’ Forum, led by Chief Edwin Clark, met with a resolve to queue behind Jonathan on the removal of fuel subsidy while they accused anti-subsidy promoters from other regions of the country of plotting the downfall of their kinsman.

It was however gathered that the people of the South-East were persuaded to stay-off the streets during the protests with the hope that Jonathan would hand over to an indigene of the zone in 2015.

A former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Prof. Tam David-West and the Action Congress of Nigeria however expressed their worry over the ethnicisation of the protests. David-West particularly said that it was wrong for some Ijaw leaders and persons from the Niger Delta to conclude that resistance against fuel subsidy removal was aimed at frustrating and possibly ousting President Jonathan. David-West, who described the fuel subsidy issue as a national one, reminded those who ascribed ethnic meaning to the strike, to recall that the President did not win the April 2011 election with only the votes from the Niger-Delta and the Ijaw. He said, “What they are doing is not good for the image of the President. Those protesting on the basis of ethnicity are merely interested in the money they can make from the president and also seeking relevance.  Jonathan is the president of Nigeria and not the Ijaw. Jonathan only got 24 per cent of his votes from the South-South. He is able to occupy Aso Rock because of the votes from other parts of Nigeria. There is a serious need for people to be circumspect at this critical moment.”

The Action Congress of Nigeria, in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, decried those reading ethnic meanings into the protests. The party said it was unfortunate that the President “that was purportedly given a pan-Nigeria mandate only a few months back is now being made to look more and more like a South-South President, who must be ‘protected’ by his ‘supporters and kinsmen’ against failed politicians from the other regions, forgetting that the same President won the last election because of the support of the other regions that are now been demonised.”

Bakare was particularly criticised for leading the protest in Lagos, and it was alleged that the protests he led were sponsored by some individuals. But the non-conformist cleric described the allegation as a misplaced propaganda, adding that it was not the first time that SNG would lead protests against unjust acts in the nation. He reminded Nigerians about the rallies the group staged to protest the denial of Jonathan the opportunity to act as President in 2010, when his late boss then, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua was terminally sick. But the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Prof. Rufai Alkali, said Bakare should no longer be looked at from the angle of being a pastor. “In the past, he belonged to SNG. Today as you know him in the political circle, he has ceased from being the Pastor he was because he was a vice- presidential candidate of CPC, that was defeated in the last general election by the PDP. He is a voice of CPC.” He said the PDP would not sit by and allow failed politicians misinforming innocent Nigerians.

 

Jonathan : Destroyer or saviour?

 

 

I AM sad and troubled for our nation. I just cannot sleep when I consider the amount of innocent blood that has been spilt in the 24 hours before I wrote this piece.

Kano, Bayelsa, Bauchi….it goes on and on. So much blood, so much hate, so much division and so much destruction. And at the end of it all, just in the space of one afternoon, Nigeria’s second largest city of Kano has been brutally raped and violated and no less than 260 innocent and defenceless Nigerians have been butchered mercilessly in broad daylight and are now lying dead in the mortuary or the cemetry.

Many bodies are still lying under the rubble undiscovered and unrecognised even in death. I am convinced that there is only one thing left for President Goodluck Jonathan to do if he wants to turn the tide of public opinion that is mounting against him and if he wants to save himself, save his government and save Nigeria.

He must find the courage to convene a Sovereign National Conference of the various nationalities that make up the geographical expression called Nigeria in which the terms and conditions of our continued union will be fully renegotiated. If he can do this quickly and if he can pull it off sucessfully his image will be redeeemed and his name will be carved  in gold in Nigerian history forever despite all that has happened in the last two years.

If he does not do this the islamist slaughter, the sectarian bloodshed and the inter-ethnic mayhem will just continue, his government will eventually fall and Nigeria may well break up in the process. Mark my words. Depending on the choice that he makes he will either be known as the saviour of Nigeria or her destroyer. May God guide our President and cause him to make the right choice.

When I first made this suggestion about the convening of a Sovereign National Conference on my facebook page many asked why it was that the government of President Olusegun Obasanjo, which I served, did not convene a Sovereign National Conference at that time and why I didn’t support such a course of action then. My answer to them was as follows. A few of us most certainly did push for a Sovereign National Conference when we were in power.

Some of us in that government, including Chief Akin Osuntokun, Professor Julius Ihonbere and a few others pushed for it very hard but you know very well that essentially President Olusegun Obasanjo is a conservative and he resisted it. As a matter of fact that is what qualified him and that is why he could be trusted with power and the job of President in 1999 by the northern power-brokers that brought him out of jail and put him there.

They knew that they could trust him not to let them down and not to do what they did not want. And what they did not want was a Sovereign National Conference because they saw it,wrongly in my view, as a precurser to a break-up of the country. The Yoruba nation, on the other hand, have been pushing for an SNC since 1993 and the June 12th annulment and many of our people were killed over the years in the pursuit of that noble cause.

Again when OBJ’s government was in power every single one of the six zones in the country endorsed the call for an SNC except for the north-west and the north-east.

That was four for it and two against it. Yet OBJ would still not do it. Instead he listened to the objections of the two core-northern zones and came up with that celebrated and famous quote that ”we cannot have two sovereigns at once” and that ” the Nigerian people have given their sovereingty to me through my mandate and I will not relinquish it to any conference”. Of course, some of us, including me, took him up on that publically and we disagreed with him openly.

My leader and my boss and the man that I still consider to be the father of our nation, President  Obasanjo, with the greatest respect, just didn’t get it then and perhaps he never will. We discussed this matter with him privately on many occassions and he resisted the idea but with the recent developments in our country I am sure that he wished that he had listened to us at that time.

When we joined his government in 2003 there were many of us who had been NADECO men who urged him to find the courage to call the SNC but the man regarded us as dangerous radicals and he felt that we just wanted to break up Nigeria. Well he was wrong, we were right and history has proved this to be so.

If we had had this ”sovereign” national conference long ago we would have had a better, stronger, restructured and more united Nigeria by now which would have been a true reflection of the will of the people. We would also have had either a true fedration or a confederation. We would not have still had what is in real terms essentially a unitary government with a Federal facade and we would not have still been busy killing ourselves over the little crumbs that we get from the federal table.

The reason that it was not so urgent when OBJ was in power, despite the fact that even then most Nigerians wanted it, was because religious and sectarian violence and ethnic and fratricidal butchery that we see today did not exist at that time.

Our government was able to contain the violence and threats of the Niger-Delta militias, the OPC, MASSOB, the Egbesu Boys, the Bakassi Boys, the Arewa Youth Congress and the core northern pro- sharia lobby through a firm and strong ”no-nonsense”-style of leadership and we did not have to deal with a vicious and extreemly violent, well-funded and well organised islamist sect with an Al Qaeda-style agenda like Boko Haram at the time.

Sadly, now we do and we are on the verge of a monuemental disaster and violent break up of the country. Worst still Boko Haram and those that secretly support, arm and fund them have made it clear that they are at war with the government, with the security agencies, with CAN, with christians and with muslims that do not share their extreemist views and or espouse their vicious brand of islam.

They have also said that they want a northern Nigeria which is free of christians, which is free of western education, which has an islamic fundamentalist/Taliban-style government and which practices full sharia law. They are not just demanding for this but they are also waging an open and terrible war and what is essentially a form of ethnic cleansing and genocide against a section of the people of northern Nigeria in order to achieve it. If we had a conference such demands could be put there peacefully assuming that is what the people of the core north really want. Other regions and zones also have their legitimate demands which should and would also be considered.

We either settle these fundamental issues by talking about it around a table at a Sovereign National Conference whose findings and resolutions would be binding on ALL our people or the consequence is better imagined.

By FEMI FANI-KAYODE was former minister of Aviation under ex-president  Obasanjo.