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By the People's Bishop Kenneth Obi

Pension packages for former governors of Nigerian states have long been a controversial subject. But because the figures have always been shrouded in secrecy, many Nigerians thought it shouldn’t be high enough to raise eyebrows.

Just recently, the immediate past governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, opened the veil on the amount. He was expressing his displeasure over the refusal of Bello Matawalle, his successor, to pay his outstanding allowance and pension.

In a letter dated October 17, 2019 addressed to the governor, Yari said he is entitled to N10 million monthly as an upkeep allowance, but that he has only been paid twice since he left the office.

Yari’s letter reads, “I wish to humbly draw your attention to the provision of the law on the above subject matter which was amended and assented to on the 23rd of March 2019,” he said.

“The law provides, among other entitlements of the Former Governor, a monthly upkeep allowance of Ten Million Naira (N10,000,000) only and a pension equivalent to the salary he was receiving while in office.

“Accordingly, you may wish to be informed that since the expiration of my tenure on the 29th of May, 2019. I was only paid the upkeep allowance twice June and July while my pension for the other months has not been paid.

“As the law provides, the pension and upkeep allowance is not in the category of privileges that can be truncated without any justifiable reason, hence, the need to request you to kindly direct the settlement of the total backlog of the pension and upkeep as provided by the law.

Looking beyond the surface of the grievance expressed in Yari’s letter, there’s an urgent need to review the financial responsibilities of states to former governors. In the case of Zamfara, which has had four governors since its establishment in 1996, this figure means that the state pays each of the past Governor's N120 million annually for upkeep. That is aside from their basic salaries, which would be about N2 million.

And for states like Rivers, which was established in 1967, and have 16 former Governor's, that would be billions of naira in obligated payments every year. It is just too much that, after taking complete care of political leaders while in office, we still have to spend huge public funds on them after leaving the office.

Yes, as ex-governors, they deserve a pension, but there’s no justification for the high amounts. Pension is completely different from a salary, in the labor world, and it should be the same way in government too.

We can only hope that our legislators will stand up to this, and stop this obvious misappropriation of public funds. Such funds could be easily channeled to other projects beneficial to the people. It’s a cycle that is unjust to citizens, and we mustn’t allow it to continue.

Following the burial of Mr Corruption March 23rd, 2019 let's pull the oxygen keeping Mr Corruption to be permanently dead for a Better Nigeria.

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The People's Bishop Kenneth Obi, Edo COGIC Prelate and Chairman, Citizens for Righteousness and Social Justice (CRJ), Imo State.
By the People's Bishop Kenneth Obi

The National Assembly and the Presidency have been working on a bill to criminalize hate speech across the country. This came barely a week after the Senate introduced another bill to regulate social media. One can only wonder if these leaders want to completely erode our freedom.

While people should truly not allow hate-filled conversations fueled by tribal or political sentiments, the Federal Government’s definition of hate speech has always been about ‘opposition or dissent.’ So, this bill means that whatever contradicts or criticizes the government may be considered hate speech.

The bill is backed by those who do not like to hear the inconvenient truth because it breaches Nigerians’ right to freedom of information.

The contemplation of such laws is in itself not just hate speech, but an abuse of the legislative process that will violate Nigerians’ constitutionally guaranteed right to Freedom of Speech.

More interesting is the fact that one of the senators sponsoring the social media bill, Elisha Abbo, was dragged over the internet this year after a video showing him assaulting a woman for no reason was made public online.

It is prudent to build upon the tolerance inherited from those years and not shrink the democratic space to satisfy personal and group interests. We must prioritize our challenges ahead of the whims and caprices of those who do not like to hear the inconvenient truth. Stop this folly and focus on issues that matter to Nigerians.

There are more important issues affecting the population. Police brutality; corruption, wrongful or false arrests; poor laws governing electricity use; vague or weak labour laws, especially in the private sector amongst other challenges affect the average Nigerian more than what is said on social media.

Instead of our legislators to aggressively chase a law that can toss us back into the military era, a better bill to sponsor and discuss would be the one that would protect the rights of the average Nigerian and improve the quality of his life.

Such legislation like the social media bill only make Nigeria a laughing stock in front of the world. We can’t boast to be in a democracy or a place where there is rule of law, with all these anomalies in place. If the National Assembly continues its anti-people legislation at this pace, we may end up as a fascist nation by 2023.

The lawmakers have to put a stop to these actions that only make a joke of our democracy. Nigerians don’t want an authoritarian government, not before, and definitely, not now.

Following the burial of Mr Corruption March 23rd, 2019 by Citizens for Righteousness and Social Justice (CRJ) which is the Best Way to Go fighting injustices and raising Anti Corruption Crusaders, pulling out the oxygen keeping Mr Corruption permanently dead for a Better Nigeria by enacting a bill that will make Corruption to carry death penalty in Nigeria and not a hate speech.

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The People's Bishop Kenneth Obi, Edo COGIC Prelate. Advocate of Humanity and Social Justice.

The People's Bishop Kenneth Obi, Edo COGIC Prelate and Chairman, Citizens for Righteousness and Social Justice (CRJ) Imo State._
By the People's Bishop Kenneth Obi

Earlier in August, the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) beamed a searchlight on some members of the National Assembly over the utilisation of funds for constituency projects. Senators Godswill Akpabio and Isa Misau were at the centre of that petition.

While that was an excellent move, mismanagement of public funds needs to be taken more seriously than this. If we decide to wait for petitions before we checkmate the excesses of many lawmakers, such funds will continue ending up in their pocket.

Corroborating this, the Executive Director of Divine Era Development & Social Rights Initiative (DEDASRI), Oge Enwelum, said civil society organisations (CSOs) are all calling for the establishment of such panel.

She narrated how, during a recent community constituency project tracking conducted by the ICPC in partnership the CSOs, what they could count as constituency projects did not justify the huge expenditure.

She said: “During the field visits, we discovered a lot of abandoned projects across the state and also in other states where the ICPC works. So, we designed this particular programm to bring onboard communities to participate in taking ownership and monitoring constituency projects in their area. We discovered during the visits that the people didn’t have the idea of what constituency projects are all about.

“Once a project comes to their communities, they take it that it is a favour from the representatives; they don’t know that the projects are Federal Government money and they feel they don’t have any stake about that particular project.”

According to Enwelum, they were shocked by a discovery in one of the senatorial zones of Enugu State, where the senator allegedly locked up materials meant for constituency projects in his compound for almost a year, stressing that the intervention saw to their distribution.

She also lamented that, in siting constituency projects, community needs were not taken into account, adding that the engagement would enable communities to demand accountability from their representatives as well as tackle those social norms that promote corruption.

There’s only enough that the community can do. They can’t know when funds for constituency projects were disbursed, except when the lawmakers tell them. So, watchdogs like the ICPC and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) have significant roles to play in ensuring that these funds are put to good use.

They should set up a joint panel to track the funds from the point of disbursement to execution. It should date back to previous National Assemblies, and ensure that each lawmaker explains how the funds were utilized. And when they couldn’t, they should all cough out the funds.

Following the burial of Mr Corruption March 23rd, 2019 Citizens for Righteousness and Social Justice (CRJ) is calling for the masses of Nigeria to wake up from Slumbering and demand accountability from there constituencies leadership to end suffering and smiling in Nigeria.

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_The People's Bishop Kenneth Obi, Edo COGIC Prelate and Chairman, Citizens for Righteousness and Social Justice (CRJ) Imo State.

By the People's Bishop Kenneth Obi

The African division of the BBC has released its special report on lecturers who demand sex from their students in exchange for marks, causing an uproar on social media and the internet in general.

Although the report was supposed to be on universities in West Africa- it is not clear if there is more, even though it appears that there were more than two lecturers implicated in this report– only two universities featured in the investigation: the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and the University of Ghana. 

Of course, some mischievous elements would soon rise up to say that the number is too small to establish the prevalence of this menace in tertiary institutions in these countries. Thankfully, we have the OAU, ABU Zaria and FUOYE cases to fling their lies back to their faces very quickly.

As reiterated over and over again, this is not the first time allegations of sexual abuse of students by lecturers would come up. It has been an issue for years, and after the OAU sex-scandal case, we have had more people speak up against this practice. 

So, it is interesting that we are still hearing of new cases. Even more interesting is the fact that to date, Nigeria’s Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has not released any official statement about this crime, neither has it publicly announced guidelines to checking and punishing this menace.

The universities, and by extension, lecturers, are just as complicit as their overall governing body. With all the complaints made, no public Nigerian tertiary institution has made efforts to protect its female students by creating a special office for this purpose and campaigns to enlighten the vulnerable. 

Sexual harassment by lecturers is not discussed publicly, as though it were a taboo none of them had dared to break yet. Instead, we keep hearing about cultism as though it were the only crime on campuses.

The BBC report on this menace is laudable, and it is further proof that our schools need to take more proactive actions to end it. But sadly, it will not happen now or any time soon. 

Dr. Boniface Igbeneghu and Dr. Paul Kwame Butakor will definitely be slashed by the sword of Damocles that calmly rested above their heads in the offices they occupied and which they refused to see and acknowledge. But will there be any efforts to ensure that a Dr. Boniface or Dr. Paul does not rise up again in our tertiary institutions? It seems highly unlikely.

In the end, the real change will come from us- people on the outside who were victims once or knew others who were victims. People who had to deal with the helplessness of being powerless in the face of what seemed at the time as absolute authority. 

That is the only way we can get the change we want in our tertiary institutions because relying on our lecturers to effect these changes is like waiting for the emergence of the blue moon.

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*CRJ is the best way to go fighting Corruption and Injustice in an immoral World.*

_The People's Bishop Kenneth Obi, Edo COGIC Prelate and Chairman, Citizens for Righteousness and Social Justice (CRJ), Imo State._