Wednesday, April 20, 2016


Imagine having your farmland overrun by armed marauders, who set their Cattle loose to decimate your property and destroy the crops you have labored so hard to plant! Imagine that these invaders not only destroy your farmland, but also injure you with machetes and kill the people in your community! Imagine they also rape women, before retreating into the bush! Or imagine that not only did they do all these; but they also kidnapped you! If you’re like me, by now, your mind would have started trying real hard to shut out these images! But sadly, this is the reality for several Nigerians! And I am not talking about Boko Haram when I refer to these invaders…I’m referring to another group which is just as dangerous- the Fulani Herdsmen!
 Now, except you’ve been living under a rock for a while now- no offence- you’ve most likely heard about the Olu Falae abduction, the Agatu massacre, and the Enugu 76. These 3 events- and many more- are all connected by one unique strand- invasion by Fulani Herdsmen!
Late last year, renowned politician and elder statesman, Chief Olu Falae, was abducted from his country home in Ilado, Ogun State. His farm workers had previously had run-ins with Fulani herders who let their Cattle run amok on Falae’s farm (as they usually do elsewhere). And finally, on that fateful day- which coincidentally also happened to be Falae’s 77th birthday- the herdsmen struck again! They shot into the air on arrival, injured workers, beat the elderly statesman, before carting him away. It would take the payment of a 5million naira ransom, before Falae was released. But sadly, Falae’s ordeal at the hands of the herdsmen did not end with that episode. They struck again just this month; and this time, they killed his security operative, and dumped the dead body in a pool of water, several kilometers away from Falae’s farm!
Sometime this year, 8 communities in Agatu LGA of Benue State were also attacked by invading Fulani Herdsmen. About 500 people were killed, while 10,000 were displaced from their homes. Benue has been a strategic location for the Fulani Herdsmen onslaught because of its riverine communities and unique vegetation. 17 of the 23 LGA’s in the state have been attacked at some point by the Herdsmen; and cumulatively, the death toll from these combined attacks has been placed at thousands, with about 100,000 displaced collectively!
In February 2016, the herdsmen struck in Uzo-Uwani LGA of Enugu State, killing 2 siblings, injuring villagers with machetes, and burning down houses and other property. 30 herdsmen reportedly attacked the community with AK 47’s and machetes; before disappearing into the bush after carrying out their brazen attack!
Irked by the increasing destruction of farmlands by the Cattle of these herdsmen, another community in Enugu State- Ugwuneshi- rose up to protest. After repeated pleas to the herdsmen fell on deaf ears, and their livestock continued to run amok, the residents rose up and protested. But alas, 76 of them were abruptly arrested and detained by military men! It would take outcries from several quarters of the nation, before they would be released!
The Fulani Herdsmen have also struck in Taraba this month; invading 2 villages, killing 40 people, and burning houses!
Now, these are just a few of the countless cases of carnage and mayhem inflicted on various communities by so-called Fulani Herdsmen. There seems to be no end in sight to this madness!
The Fulani’s have historically been a Nomadic people- they still are. They move their Cattle from one place to another, seeking lush grounds for grazing. It is thus not uncommon, to find them in places outside of their natural habitat i.e. the North. But the fact that it is common place, does not make it appropriate; especially when the herders carry out atrocities as they go searching for healthy feeding grounds for their livestock. As you may have noticed already from the various case points highlighted above, their reign of terror extends to all parts of the federation- north, middle-belt, east, west, even south-south. No zone is left untouched, as long as there are farmlands to be devoured- even without permission!
As the uproar against the activities of the Fulani Herdsmen gathered steam, it was reported that a Grazing Reserve Commission Bill, was being pushed forward in the Senate. Actually, a certain Senator Zainab Kure had proposed the bill in the 7th Senate. The bill is actually called the Fulani National Grazing Reserve Bill; and it seeks to establish a Grazing Commission- as if we don’t have enough Commissions already- and allot grazing fields to these herders, in all 36 states of the federation. These reserves and stock routes would have been (forcefully) taken from Nigerian farmers across the 36 states. Now, for all intents and purposes, this bill was shouted down in various quarters- even though it had some support from the north. CAN, OPC, various state governments, cried out against the bill. It would be wrong for the Government to force Nigerians to hand over their land, even if they are paid for! And judging by the erratic nature of these herders, they would simply encroach on an un-allotted piece of property, after decimating whatever land they are given (If indeed the bill sails through). The passage of such a bill would amount to an abuse of the Fundamental Human Rights of citizens, to own property! It is a good thing that there has been a sustained collective uproar against it! The Federal Government has instead been advised to set up ranches in partnership with the Cattle owners, as is obtainable in other parts of the civilized world.
But beyond ranches, I also believe that if justice is to be served, the evil must be tackled from its root. Who are the owners of these Cattle? They certainly don’t belong to the herders who carry them from place to place; and who are the culprits in these abominable acts of sabotage. No. these Cattle belong to rich men and women- the mostly unknown elite. I believe that a national database showing Cattle owners in Nigeria should be kept, on a state-by-state basis. When a criminal herder is apprehended, his owner should also be made to answer for his crimes. Maybe that way, they would be more likely to discourage their herders from criminal behaviors! These Cattle-owning elites cannot claim to be without blame. If not, how can you explain how a common Cattle herder would be in possession of a weapon such as an AK-47 and a double-barrel? Where did he get the money to purchase it? Or is he a licensed security operative?
The IGP, Solomon Arase, has recently vowed to clamp down on any herdsman found bearing sophisticated weaponry. But knowing Nigeria, one can easily say that this is simply “rhetoric in the heat of the moment”! But I say if we are serious about ending this madness, we have to trace these killers; trace their bosses (the Cattle owners), and make them account for the actions of their “paid workmen” (the Cattle herdsmen)!
Nigeria stands at a very delicate moment in its history. Ethnic divisions which are so palpable, threaten to tear our nation apart. We do not need more sources of agitation to fan the embers of these divisions! The ‘loud silence’ of the Federal Government seemingly amounts to complicity, because the President is coincidentally a Fulani man himself, who also owns Cattle! He must show himself unbiased, by speaking up against these atrocities, and acting to stop them! Ranches are certainly much needed; but right now, we also need justice! And that means ordering the Police Force (beyond lip service) to fish out these miscreants and prosecute them; not staying silent when communities are ransacked by marauding herdsmen; and ensuring that the FG (working through the State Governors), keeps an eye on the Cattle owners- and that includes the President himself!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

GUEST WRITER SERIES: (Nigeria: The Joke is on Us...and We Are All to Blame! Part 2)

Mbachu Obinna.


More recently the CBN introduced 2 different charges on certain bank transactions. The first called Accounts Maintenance Charge is a straightforward rebranding of a spurious charge of COT that was due to be phased out this year 2016. And when the awaited moment came, they did as they promised, the COT charge was indeed phased out but then an interesting thing happened. Voila! A new charge was introduced called, yes you guessed it - Accounts Maintenance Charge and it works exactly how COT used to work. It just has a different name so you can’t say that the CBN did not make good on its promise to end COT charges!

The second is a little less straightforward. In fact we have to go back to 2004. In the Stamp Duties Act of 2004, section 89(2) states: “every receipt given by any person in acknowledgement of goods purchased or services rendered should be denoted by an adhesive postage stamp worth N50 issued by NIPOST.”

Now for how this section of the Act comes into this story, we would have to endure a bit of background history.

School of Banking Honours (SBH) a private Institution with offices in Lagos on 74 Ogunnusi road at Ojodu Berger came up with this idea sometime around 2012 of a N50 stamping of bank transaction receipts in form of electronic money transfers and manual banking tellers with values of N1000 and above.

This incredible idea was then sold to the Federal government of the time under Goodluck Jonathan as an avenue for increased FG revenue.

SBH then obtained an MSA (Master Services Agent Agreement) from NIPOST to act as a paid agent in the collection of this revenue. All that was needed at this point was for the FG to mandate the CBN to issue a compliance circular to all commercial banks. This circular did not come until January 2016 as we know it.

On Oct 25, 2013 another entity emerged; KASMAL International Services Limited (Owned by Prince Buruji Kashamu) obtained a court order delivered by Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke mandating 22 commercial banks to remit to NIPOST via KASMAL international services Ltd, N50 as stamp duty on every eligible transaction. This judgement was based on (1.) The stamp duties act of 2004 (2.) the NIPOST act of 2004 and (3.) Federal Government of Nigeria Financial Regulations of 2009.
The 22 commercial banks have appealed this decision at the Federal Court of Appeal with a number of arguments, one of which is that the bank transactions relating to electronic funds transfer on behalf of its customers and teller deposits into its customers’ accounts cannot be described as receipts within the provisions of section 89 of the Stamp Duties Act.

Let us collectively attempt to comprehend the section of the act on which this charade hinges, as stated in the first paragraph of this piece. Thankfully, section 89 of the Stamp Duties Act is in clear enough English and we will not be needing the services of a lawyer to interpret it.

Nothing in this section remotely suggests charges on electronic money transfers and teller deposits. There is no mention of a minimum chargeable sum of N1000. It simply states that receipts for goods and services purchased and rendered must be duly stamped with an adhesive stamp worth N50, suggesting to us that the receipt in consideration here is a physical document—you cannot put an adhesive stamp on an e-receipt. When you deposit money into an account over the counter or make an electronic money transfer, it is just that—a transfer. It becomes a payment only if a goods and/or services are exchanged in which case it can be argued that the receipt for this transaction must be duly stamped and even then, only if a paper receipt is issued. In which case a stamp will be bought from NIPOST or an accredited stamp reseller, for this purpose. And it will have nothing, absolutely nothing to do with commercial banks as a whole. But somehow a group of very clever people together with a Federal High court Justice decided to simply assume this charge on all deposit transactions. This, I find to be incredible, absolutely incredible!

If you reading this and at this point you are not yet incensed, please accept my invitation. I hereby invite you to share in my anger.