Corruption is a societal ill. So is terrorism. Negotiation and mediation are means of controlling societal ills and misunderstanding. But corruption has become systemic in Nigeria for reasons that are not far-fetched. Following General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida’s 1985 coup, he empaneled in 1986 a 17-man Political Bureau chaired by Professor J. Samuel Cookie ‘to review Nigeria’s political history and identify the basic problems which have led to our failure in the past and suggest ways of resolving and coping with these problems.’
More than 27,000 memoranda were received from Nigerians by the Bureau. In the final report of the Political Bureau submitted in March 1987 to the military government of President Babangida, corruption and indiscipline was not only identified as the bane of the Nigerian society but its origin was dated back to 1967. The year 1967 is synonymous with the Yakubu Gowonian military era. Thus, indiscipline and corruption began with the military governments in Nigeria. Money was not Nigeria’s problem, and according to General Yakubu Gowon, it is how to spend it that was the major headache, hence one foundation for institutional corruption.
In this regard, how do we explain the recidivist character of indiscipline and corruption to the extent that Nigeria has to be described in 2016 by a British Prime Minister, David Cameron, as fantastically corrupt? The fantastic character of corruption in Nigeria is more critical at the level of negotiations with bandits and terrorists, a situation that raises questions about techniques of negotiation, especially at the institutional level. For instance, only elected people can answer the title of ‘President’ in general diplomatic practice, but General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (IBB) who came to power by a coup d’état made it clear that he should be addressed as a president. This generated much controversy and as a way of compromise, intellectuals opted to qualify IBB’s presidency by adding ‘military’ to it, that is, ‘military president.’ This is one of the manifestations of the techniques of institutional corruption.
Without any whiff of doubt, various techniques have been adopted to fraudulently sustain corruption despite the establishment of many institutions to combat the societal ills. As the ICPC, EFCC, and the Code of Conduct Bureau are working tooth and nail to prevent and sanction various societal ills, the response of the Nigerian political elite, who are actually politico-economic saboteurs, has been very interesting, particularly because the techniques are happily condoned. And most unfortunately, however, various concepts are used to confuse the public. They talk about mediating the misunderstanding between the Government and the terrorists. Has there really being a true mediation process in the spirit of international law?
Mediation in International Practice
Mediation is one of the peaceful means of resolving inter-state disputes provided for in Article 33 of the United Nations Charter: Good Offices, Arbitrage, Conciliation, Diplomacy, judicial settlement, inquiry, regionalism, direct negotiations, etc. Mediation is a technique of negotiation generally initiated by a third party. All these methods are aimed at peacemaking but their operational principles vary from one another. For instance, the diplomatic method is essentially about negotiation in which there is no use of force. The negotiations can be direct or indirect. Generally, this method is adopted when the misunderstanding is still at the level of a crisis and not when it has reached the level of a conflict.
As for the Conciliation method, it is derived from inquiry in which the inquirers are empowered by convention. Signatories to the convention accept ab initio to submit their disputes to a conciliation commission, implying that the conciliation becomes obligatory. A party to the dispute can ask the commission to hear the dispute or ask for inquiry into the dispute. In this regard, the powers of the Conciliation Commission are not limited to the examination of the facts. They extend to the examination of the dispute in all its ramifications before proffering an enduring solutions to the dispute.
Additionally, conciliation is guided by two principles: collegiality and permanency. Membership of a Conciliation Commission is three but generally five. It is not established ad hoc for every dispute that arises, but established well in advance by convention. Conciliation method is not for resolving conflicts of law that require the application of legal rules but for resolution of conflict of interests. And more importantly, the conciliation process is of a political nature and not jurisdictional because the solution proffered does not have any force of law for the warring parties.
In the same vein, the method of arbitrage has its own regulations. International arbitrage is for the resolution of disputes between and among States by judges agreed to by the disputants. Besides, a member in dispute must consent to the jurisdictional competence of the arbitral court put in place based on their own choice. In this regard, Article 37 of the First Convention of The Hague of 18 October 1907 on peaceful resolution of international conflicts, provided a simple definition of arbitrage as follows: ‘l’arbitrage international a pour objet le règlement des litiges entre les Etats par des juges de leur choix et sur la base du respect du droit,’ meaning ‘international arbitrage is aimed at the resolution of disputes between States by judges of their choice on the basis of rule of war.’ Thus, there is no material differentiation between judicial settlement and arbitrage.
And perhaps most importantly is mediation about which we are more concerned in discussing government’s negotiations with the terrorists. Mediation approach is particularly important in the conduct and management of international disputes, especially in terms of its frequent adoption as a choice by warring parties. For instance, in addressing the dispute between Turquie and the Concert of European Powers, Article 8 of the Treaty of Paris, done on 30 March 1856 established a preliminary mediation principle to be complied with by all the signatories. In also addressing the disagreements over the territories of Congo Basin, Article 2 of the General Act of Berlin of 26 February 1885 imposed mediation as a first desideratum. And true enough, Articles 2-8 of the 18 October 1907 which were a direct reflection of the provisions of the 29 July 1899 Convention, also insisted on adoption of mediation method for containing disputes as a first step. In this regard, whether mediation has a spontaneous character or it is solicited, the outcome of any mediation exercise is necessarily advisory and not obligatory. The main purpose of mediation is to seek an amicable solution before the use of arms.
It is important to also note at this juncture the existence of Special Mediation, which is also referred to as Bilateral Mediation, the origin of which is traceable to Article 8 of the Initiative of the American Delegation. In other words, the disputing parties nominate third parties to represent and negotiate on their behalf in the absence of agreement between the disputing parties. More interestingly, there is also the Pan-American Convention of Buenos Aires of 23 December 1936 which made it possible to appoint an eminent citizen from a list of pre-established names of people (two nominees from each Member State in America).
Grosso modo, unlike in the case of Good Offices in which the third parties seeking peace do not participate in the peace negotiations or do withdraw from the process immediately the disputing parties accept to discuss, mediators necessarily take active part in negotiations. In this regard, to what extent can we talk about mediation in the matter of the dispute between the Government of Nigeria and the jihadist terrorists and the Boko Haram insurgents? Mediation in international practice is an exercise between sovereign states. In the context of the saga in Nigeria, the terrorists and the Boko Haram are basically armed bandits. They are not sovereign states in whatever manner they are looked at. Consequently, is it right to talk about mediation? In fact, going by the Pan-American Convention of Buenos Aires of 23 December 1936, who is the eminent Nigerian appointed to negotiate with the terrorists and armed bandits on behalf of the Government and people of Nigeria?
Alex Enumah of ThisDay reported on 13 September 2022 of the arrest of Tukur Mamu by the Department of State Services (DSS) in Egypt on his way to a terrorist Summit. Tukur Mamu and Sheik Gumi have been negotiating with the terrorists but information on whose behalf the negotiations have taken place has not been made clear. So have the terms of the mediation not been made clear. What has been made clear is that Tukur Mamu has been negotiating on behalf of the detained Abuja-Kaduna Train kidnapped victims and that he is part of an international terrorist work. Based on this the DSS has gone to court seeking a ruling to allow for his detention for sixty days and to enable further investigations in the first instance.
As ThisDay reports have it, Tukur Mamu ‘was intercepted by the Nigerian foreign partners at Cairo, Egypt, on September 6, 2022, while on his way to Saudi Arabia for a clandestine meeting with commanders and top leaders of terrorists organisations across the globe.’ On his deportation to Nigeria, ‘a duly signed search warrant was executed in his residence and office at No. 4 Ali Ladan street, Sabon Kawo GRA and No. 14 Mamona Road, Anguwan Sarki, Kaduna State and various exhibits and items to establish his complicity with terrorists were recovered.’
As good as the interception of Tukur Mamu might have been, it does not really mean much in terms of nipping terrorism in the bud. There are Boko Haram agents and terrorists in government. There is nothing to suggest any true intention of Government to fight the Boko Haram. The various dimensions of techniques of corruption in Nigeria make it difficult to have an enduring solution to the problem of insecurity in Nigeria. Nigeria is truly fantastically corrupt because many Nigerians have also chosen to be flagrantly and fantastically dishonest by acquiescence in the conduct and management of public affairs.
Techniques of Institutional Corruption
The provision of conflicting policy instruments is a major technique of corruption generation. The controversy between the Police Service Commission (PSC) and the Police force leadership over the recruitment of constables is a good case in point. The PSC placed an advert asking for applications for recruitment into the 2022 constables’ programme in its website but the police force authorities, in a counter-statement, told interested applicants to discard the PSC notice in the belief that only the Police Force has the sole responsibility for recruitment process.
As told by the Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Muyiwa Adejobi, the PSC advertisement ‘has no connection with the Nigeria Police Force nor is it in tandem with the Police recruitment process and should be disregarded in its entirety.’ This counter statement prompted the PSC to step back to ‘give the Commission the time to settle its differences with the police authorities in the interest of the nation.’
Legally speaking, the PSC has the sole responsibility for recruitment and not the police force authorities because the Third Schedule of the Constitution, in its paragraph 30, Part 1, provides that ‘the Commission shall have powers to a) appoint persons to offices (other than the Office of the Inspector-General of Police) in the Nigeria Police Force; and b) dismiss and exercise the disciplinary control over persons holding any office referred to in sub-paragraph (a) of this paragraph.’
Additionally, in a Court of Appeal judgment on 30 September 2022, ‘Justice Peter Ige held that by the combined provisions of Section 153 subsection (10(m) Section 153 subsection (2) and Section 215 subsection (1)(b) of the constitution and paragraph 30, part 1 of the Third Schedule to the Constitution, as well as sections 6 and 24 of the Police Service Commission (Establishment) Act, the Police Service Commission is the sole statutory body exclusively empowered and responsible for the appointment, promotion, dismissal and exercise of disciplinary control over persons holding or aspiring to hold offices in the NPF except for the office of the IG.’ (“Buhari, resolve impasse over police recruitment,” The Punch editorial of 2nd September 2022). In spite of this judgment, the conflicting positions is yet to be laid to rest.
The NNPC is the epicenter of institutional corruption under the President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) administration which should be largely held responsible for both oil loss and oil theft in Nigeria. This is because PMB is not only the President but also the self-appointed Minister of Petroleum Resources, implying that he cannot claim ignorance of happenings in and under the NNPC, especially in terms of its responsibilities. In fact, PMB approved the appointment of the senior-level officers in the organisation. The first topmost twenty senior officers are all northerners. No reflection of the Federal Character Principle. It is visible nepotistic policies. Is the problem that of oil loss, oil theft, or institutional corruption? For us, it is undoubtedly institutional corruption. The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Colonel Hameed Ibrahim Ali (rtd) has challenged the NNPC Ltd over petroleum subsidy. As argued by the Customs boss, if the NNPC talks about sixty million litres of daily consumption and ninety-eight million litres are lifted daily from the depots,’ ‘the issue is not smuggling of petroleum’ but allowing the lifting of 98m litres per day. The NNPC does not have non-controversial figures on petroleum consumption. Every oil theft issue points to either remissness and actual involvement in sharp practices and the case of the MV Heroic Idun vessel is a reminder.
The MV Heroic Idun is a 336-metre long super tanker, a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) with International Maritime Organisation (IMO) number 9858058 which tried to load crude oil at the Akpo oilfield in Nigeria. Some reports have it that the tanker, which arrived at Total Safe Anchorage operated by the Akpo oil field at midnight loaded on 8th August 2022 on the basis of which the NNS Gongola ordered the vessel to sail to Bonny Fairway Buoy for further interrogation. The vessel did not have any approved papers to load but was still allowed to load. By the time the NNS Gongola was trying to attach the super tanker, the vessel’s agent directed that the Captain and the crew should not listen to any Nigerian directive, hence the vessel resisted any arrest. It altered its course towards Sao-Tome and Principe and then raised a false alarm to the International Maritime Bureau that it was under pirate attack after arrest in Equatorial Guinea.
What is noteworthy about the whole scenario is that the NNS Gongola not only had direct contact with the super tanker but also ordered it to come for further investigation. The vessel refused. Secondly, the vessel’s agent had the effrontery to tell the vessel’s captain not to listen to Nigerian authorities and the Captain flagrantly disregarded the Nigerian naval authorities. Thirdly, the vessel did not have any loading authority but was still allowed to load. Fourthly, no effort was made to engage in hot pursuit when the vessel opted to escape into the high seas. Fifthly, and perhaps most disturbingly, the same Nigerian naval authorities came out to tell Nigerians that the vessel did not load any crude oil. Habba! Nigerians need to be told what has happened thereafter. PMB and the NNPC cannot be muted on their roles in this oil hypocrisy.
Institutional corruption is also most disturbing at the telecommunications and banking industries. In fact, it is more criminally. At the level of the telecommunications sector, I personally had encounters with the MTN and the Airtel. At the MTN, my line was suspended under the pretext of non-linkage of my NIN with the BVN. This was not true. I vehemently complained against such assumption. I was made to accept recapture and re-registration. That I did again. Five months after, the line was not still reactivated. Last week, I went back to insist that the problem must be addressed without which I would not leave their office.
Good discovery, the photograph of another user of my line was on the screen but my own data was clearly displayed by the side of the unknown photograph. The explanation was that someone might have used or tampered with my sim card. I told the MTN, if the hypothesis is to be tenable, it can only be the handiwork of an MTN staff. In short, a new sim card was given to me at a cost of N1000 (one thousand naira only). A fresh recapture was done. The issue of fraudulent picture did not arouse much concern until I got to Airtel office only to discover that another person’s photograph was inserted against my own data. I have a lot of unused data which, for reasons unknown, have been wiped off. The same reason of possible tampering with the sim card was raised. I will handle the issue of data legally and get whoever might have tampered with my data in light of the fact that my line is a post-paid contract line. The point of emphasis is the technique of public extortion that is quietly being practiced. Communications service providers consciously sell people’s lines the moment the line is not used even for two months. They disconnect legitimate owners and wait to find out if there will be complaints before they find excuses to escape. Technique of corruption per excellence.
In the banking sector, there is the case of the Guaranty Trust Bank and the issue of renewal of ATM card at the University of Lagos campus. An ATM card that had expired was presented to the bank for possible renewal. One thousand naira was paid for the re-issue and twenty-four hours of delay was given for collection. The Unilag student did not come to pick up the card the next 24 hours as required. He went thereafter only to be told that the card had been destroyed for non-appearance to collect the card within the stipulated time. Rankled by the development, the student opted to close his account with the GTB immediately for purportedly destroying a card that already carried his name and for non-preparedness to refund his one thousand naira.
A senior officer then came to intervene following a noisy altercation and a card that required 24 hours before issuance was given in less than twenty minutes to him. Was it the same card that had been purportedly destroyed or a newly made card that was given in twenty minutes to the student? Whatever is the case, this is a technique of institutional corruption in Nigeria, apart from deductions from customers’ accounts allegedly for various services that are not rendered or charging people for maintenance of cards that are not even possessed by bank customers. Even though the CBN issued a notice that all illegally deducted charges by any bank should be returned to the customers’ accounts, a survey by Premium Times in the FCT on 6 September 2018 has shown non-compliance with the CBN notice. In fact, there cases of deactivated ATM cards that are still charged for services to the same deactivated ATM card. It is only Nigerian banks that generally charge for international transfer of funds. In essence, institutional corruption is the tradition in Nigeria.
Estimated billing of electricity consumption is another expression of institutional corruption in Nigeria. The Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), noted in its Third Quarter Report 2021 released on Tuesday, July 19, 2022 that 57.07% of electricity consumers was still on estimated billing as at September 2021. But true. Estimated billing is an effective technique of institutional corruption because the billing is always estimated on the high side. Most times, there is no electricity supply, and yet, bills are still distributed to customers for settlement. Crimes unlimited but everyone is condoning them.
Institutional corruption is shamefully more glaring at the level of the Federal Government. Coincidentally and perhaps most unfortunately, the appointees of PMB are the ones generally involved in public embezzlement. PMB told Nigerians that he only appoints the people he knows well to public positions. There is nothing wrong with this policy but the people PMB knows well also recklessly loot the public treasury, meaning that something must be wrong. The case of the Accountant-General of the Federation is quite mind boggling. If the various governments of Nigeria since 1994 have not been fraudsters per excellence, how can a government collect financial deposits from the public in 1994 for possible allocations of houses and in 2022, none of the governments since then has bothered to deal with the issue? No houses built. No allocations and no refund of deposits. Economic saboteurs and those funding terrorists are also well known. But they are all untouchables under PMB whose policies are nepotistic. Consequently, for as long as the whole polity is predicated on dishonesty of purpose and policies of Fulanisation and Islamisation are pursued, insecurity cannot be arrested. Any mediation and arrest of negotiators with terrorists will be false in design and execution.