by Terna Doki, Amina Alhassan, Abbas Jimoh & Prisca Ekokuje
Herewith is a list of the 20 most striking controversies which rocked Nigeria in 2014, with some of them being scandals in their own right. Some of the listed controversies will certainly spill into 2015, as they are still unfolding. By no means exhaustive, the list charts the most talked-about incidents that helped shape the past year for better or worse.
‘Missing’ $20 billion oil money (February 4)
After former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor (now Emir of Kano) Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi told the Senate Committee on Finance that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had yet to remit $20bn to government coffers, all hell was let loose. He, in October 2013, lit the fire in a letter to President Goodluck Jonathan, alleging that the NNPC failed to remit about $49.8 billion oil revenue into the Federation Account, saying the said money was missing and needed investigation. He had stated that the NNPC failed since 2012 to account for nearly $50 billion in crude oil sales that should, by law, have been remitted to government coffers through the CBN. Sanusi was dissatisfied with the explanations made by the NNPC authorities over the allegations though he acknowledged that Finance Minister Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala had made some explanations on its whereabouts.
FGN suspends former CBN governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi (February 20)
President Jonathan suspended Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as CBN governor, claiming that his tenure had been characterised by acts of financial recklessness and misconduct. The president said he was concerned about far-reaching irregularities under Malam Sanusi’s watch, which have distracted the apex bank away from the pursuit and achievement of its statutory mandate. Before his suspension, there had been plans for the ex-CBN governor to go on retirement leave but it was not to be. He however did not exit the financial stage without responding to the 35-count allegations against him by the Financial Reporting Council of Nigeria and the federal government.
Minister of Petroleum’s N10bn jet expenses (March)
Minister of Petroleum Diezani Alison-Madueke was accused of spending over N10 billion to charter and maintain private jets for her personal use. A resolution by the House of Representatives during plenary blew the cover on the scandal which accused her of spending N130 million monthly to maintain her private jets in two years. The initial accusations were based on suspicions surrounding the source of funding for one private jet, a Challenger 850, before the lawmakers reportedly uncovered another aircraft named Global Express XRS plane. However the NNPC, which Alison-Madueke supervises, denied the allegations, and stated that because oil and gas sector operations are often time-sensitive, it is a standard practice to utilise efficient means of transportation.
19 applicants killed at Immigration Service recruitment exercise (March 15)
Nineteen applicants were killed and scores injured at the 2014 Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS) recruitment exercise, a tragedy which occurred when 6.5 million people across the country (including the FCT) stormed various recruitment centres in the country for 4,000 positions. The applicants who had thronged venues of the exercise, mostly stadia, paid N1,000 as application fee. The federal government and the two chambers of the National Assembly constituted separate committees to probe the tragedy at the time, but the reports of the panels are yet to be made public. President Jonathan also promised automatic employment for those ‘certified injured’ and three slots for immediate family members of those killed, but there are court cases and protests by those affected and civil society organisations over the failure of the government to honour the promises made. Failure to sack Minister of Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, even after taking full responsibility for the tragedy remains controversial.
Abduction of schoolgirls from a Chibok school (April 14)
Insurgents infamously stormed a secondary school in Chibok, Borno State, where students were writing their final examinations and abducted over 200 girls. Security forces failed to immediately go after them. Later, leader of the Boko Haram sect, Abubakar Shekau, in a video claimed responsibility, jeering that some of the girls have been married off, while others converted to Islam. The abduction attracted national and international outrage, culminating in protests in some parts of Nigeria and around the world, made popular by the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. At least 56 of the abducted girls escaped on their own at various times, while the rest are believed to be held by the terrorists in Sambisa Forest. President Jonathan has vowed to have the girls released, but it is 243 days today since the outrageous kidnap.
Impeachment of Murtala Nyako as Adamawa State governor (June 28)
Former governor Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State stirred trouble when he decided to dump the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for the opposition All Progressives’ Congress (APC). He was one of the seven PDP governors that angrily staged a walk-out on the national leader of the party, President Goodluck Jonathan, during a special national convention of the party in Abuja over party leadership crisis. After defecting to the APC, Nyako became critical of his former party and the Jonathan administration. Angered, the Presidency and PDP national leadership allegedly instigated the PDP-dominated 25-member Adamawa State House of Assembly to commence impeachment proceedings against him and his deputy, Bala James Ngilari. On June 28, 2014, the house slammed 20-count charges of gross misconduct and misappropriation of funds on Nyako and a panel set up by the state chief judge, found him guilty of all the charges. Eventually, 18 out of 25 lawmakers signed his impeachment while compelling his deputy to resign.
Sanusi emerges Emir of Kano (June 9)
The intrigues, politics and horse-trading that eventually culminated in the appointment of former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, as the 57th Emir of Kano didn’t pass without incident in the state. The whole nation was at a standstill as everyone anxiously awaited the announcement of the new emir. Saturday afternoon, word went out that Sanusi Ado Bayero had been chosen unanimously as the new emir. Even Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, tweeted the decision early Sunday morning and congratulated Bayero but the state governor on the other hand would not accept that verdict. He allegedly pressured the kingmakers even as the state government issued a public denial that Bayero had been chosen. When the kingmakers announced Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as the new emir, a protest by Ciroma’s supporters broke out. They took to the streets and marched towards Government House but security operatives calmed them down. Other controversies would follow, like the fact that even after he had been given his staff of office and appointment letter, the new emir was still reported to be receiving guests and well-wishers in the Government House, instead of his palace.
Ebola disease descends on Nigeria (July 20)
American-Liberian, Patrick Sawyer arrived Lagos from Monrovia and it was reported that he looked “terribly ill” and was subjected to medical examination in a private hospital in Lagos. His confirmatory test results for Ebola infection were still pending and it eventually proved that Sawyer had Ebola. Former Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, broke the news at a world press conference in Abuja. A lot followed, including burials anywhere in the country requiring a mandatory death certificate. Nigeria’s request for an experimental drug was turned down. Several Ebola cure claims ranging from consumption of bitter kola to salt water surfaced and fizzled out. In the end, Nigeria confirmed a total of 19 cases, of whom seven died and 12 survived, hailed as heroes. The country effectively contained the virus, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared it Ebola-free 42 days after the country’s last infectious contact with a confirmed or suspected case. The struggle lasted exactly 93 days.
DHQ Spokesman announces ‘rescue’ of Chibok girls (16 April)
Director of Defence Information, Major-General Chris Olukolade, announced the rescue of “all 129 girls” except eight. The very next day, he retracted the statement to the collective chagrin of Nigerians and the international community. Fast-forward to July, Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, said the Nigerian military had discovered where the schoolgirls were being kept, but that they would not use force to rescue them. Badeh was quoted to have said: “The good news for the girls is that we know where they are but we cannot tell you, we cannot come and tell you military secrets here. Just leave us alone, we are working, we will get the girls back.” But like it was earlier mentioned, it is 243 days today with zero progress on the matter.
Boko Haram announces own ‘Caliphate’ (August 24)
Boko Haram boldly attacked and captured swathes of territory, renaming them in the process and declaring them part of a ‘Caliphate’. Mubi in Adamawa State was renamed ‘Madinatul Islam’ while Gwoza in Borno was renamed ‘Darul Hikma.’ Captured towns include Banki, Marte, Konduga, Gambaru Ngala, Dikwa, Bama, Gwoza and Lassa towns in Borno State. In Adamawa States, towns captured include Mubi, Michika, Madagali, Gombi and Hong while in Yobe, Bara and Buni-Yadi towns were captured. Some of them, however, have been recaptured by Nigerian military forces.
First Lady Patience Jonathan publicly doubts Chibok girls’ abduction (May 5)
First lady Patience Jonathan at a second enlarged stakeholders’ meeting on the abducted schoolgirls openly burst into tears, instantly spawning an internet meme and widely-circulated video in which she kept repeating “There is God o.’” Mrs. Jonathan had requested Hajiya Nana Shettima, wife of Borno State governor to chair the committee which sought clarification on conflicting issues on the matter. Mrs. Shettima however did attend the second meeting, to which Mrs. Jonathan complained bitterly. One of the most memorable parts of the video – as well as its lowest point – probably remains when Mrs. Jonathan infamously asked the Chibok school’s principal in halting Pidgin English: “Na only you waka come?”
Thugs’ invasion of Ekiti courts (Sept 2014)
In September 2014, political thugs in Ekiti State violently stormed court sessions in separate instances and disrupted proceedings. They beat up judiciary staff as well as a presiding judge, whose clothes were reportedly torn in the process. The high court was hearing the case challenging the eligibility of the then governor-elect, Mr. Ayodele Fayose of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), to contest the June 21 governorship election, which he won. The invasion was prompted by refusal of the presiding judge, Justice Olusegun Ogunyemi to grant an application to set aside an order abridging the time for Fayose to file his defence in the case brought before the court by a member of a socio-cultural group called ‘Ekiti-11.’ The judge had adjourned the court briefly and as he prepared to return for further hearing of the matter, irate youths besieged the court. On the third day after the first incident, another set of hoodlums violently attacked another Ekiti high court presided over by Justice J.O Adeyeye while his court was hearing an application filed by Ekiti State chapter of the APC. This prompted the Chief Judge, Justice A.S. Daramola, to order immediate closure of all courts in the state. The Ekiti State Commissioner for Justice, Mr Wale Fapohunda, blamed Governor-elect Fayose for the assault, saying he was accompanied to the court premises by a retinue of political thugs. Fayose denied involvement.
IGP withdraws Tambuwal’s security over defection to APC (Oct 30)
The Inspector-General of Police (then in acting capacity) Mr. Suleiman Abba ordered the withdrawal of policemen attached to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, two days after he defected to the opposition APC from the PDP.The IGP said since Tambuwal had defected, he could no longer enjoy the privilege of police protection. The Department of State Services (DSS) followed suit. Mr. Abba on November 26 when he appeared before the House Committee on Police Affairs was adamant and refused to recognise Tambuwal as the Speaker of the House of Reps, insisting it would be “subjudice” for him to address him as such, as long as the matter was in court. Members of the committee were angry and staged a walk-out.
FG announces slump in oil prices (November 17)
Federal government on the 17th of November announced austerity measures aimed at cushioning its impact on the economy due to the decline in the price of crude oil in the international market. Crude oil prices dropped to $77.76 per barrel, some cents below the $78 benchmark earlier proposed to the National Assembly for the 2015 budget. Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala explained that the austerity measures would see Nigerians paying tax on luxury goods and a reduction in public expenditures and international travels by public servants.
Botched arms deals in South Africa (Sept 2014)
In September, a chartered Bombadier Challenger 600 plane with two Nigerians and an Israeli national onboard ferried $9.3 million to South Africa allegedly for the purchase of arms. But upon landing at the Lanseria International Airport, northwest of Johannesburg, the cargo (money) was apprehended by the South Africa Revenue Service (SARS) which claimed it was smuggled funds. It said the money was not declared and the amount was way beyond “the prescribed legal limit” approved by laws of the country. The president Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsajafor, admitted ownership of the jet but said: “I leased the aircraft on August 2, 2014 to a company to run it. It was the leasee that entered into an agreement with the people who carried out the transfer of funds. Having leased the aircraft to the Green Coast Produce Company Limited, any transaction undertaken with the aircraft can no longer be attached to me.” Again, four weeks later, South Africa’s Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) seized another $5.7 million meant for another arms deal. The NPA ordered the funds frozen in the bank for allegedly being proceeds of illegal transactions. The controversy is ongoing.
FG announces ‘ceasefire deal’ with Boko Haram (October 17)
On October 17, the federal government announced a ceasefire deal with Boko Haram, sparking hope that the insurgents would release the 276 abducted schoolgirls. It was announced by the Chief of Defence Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh, who said: “A ceasefire agreement has been concluded between the federal government and Boko Haram.” The President’s Principal Secretary, Hassan Tukur, told BBC Focus on Africa that an agreement to end hostilities had been reached after talks with the violent group. Tukur said Boko Haram announced a unilateral ceasefire on Thursday and the government had responded. He said the sect assured that they have the girls unharmed and that they would release them. However, violence by the sect seems to have escalated, with a video of leader Shekau vehemently denying a ceasefire of any sort.
Boko Haram sacks Chief of Defence Staff’s country home (Oct 30)
Boko Haram intensified raids on communities in Adamawa State and eventually captured Mubi, the second-largest commercial town in the state. The terrorists attacked the 234 Nigerian Army Battalion, burnt down the police station and broke into Mubi prison, freeing inmates. The insurgents also hoisted their flag at the palace of the emir, having a field day looting and burning. Vintim, a community in Mubi and country home of the Chief of Defence Staff, Alex Badeh, was captured and occupied by the insurgents. The incident provoked outrage from some Nigerians who called for his resignation, which he controversially rejected.
Synagogue building collapse in Lagos (September 12)
A guest house on the premises of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) founded by Pastor TB Joshua in Lagos State collapsed on September 12, 2014. At the time, hundreds of worshippers, most of them South Africans who converged for the annual Signs and Wonders service organised by the church, were present. Pastor Joshua controversially blamed the incident, which killed nearly 118 worshipers, on an unidentified aircraft, which hovered atop the building several times before the collapse. But the Lagos State government said the multi-storey building was not constructed on approved specifications, and that owner of the property had developed it beyond the approved plan. It set up a coroner inquest into the collapsed building. However, Pastor Joshua was reluctant to appear to testify and approached the courts twice in efforts to stop the inquest. The investigation is still in progress.
Lawmakers scale National Assembly gates (November 20)
Chaos broke out at the National Assembly when members were summoned from recess to consider President Goodluck Jonathan’s request for the extension of emergency rule in the troubled north-east, but the police attempted to stop House of Reps’ speaker, Aminu Tambuwal and other lawmakers from gaining entry into the assembly chambers. This action compelled the legislators who were locked out to scale the gates to access the complex. The “no entry” order created pandemonium and chaos, as cops tear-gassed lawmakers, staff and visitors. Police spokesman Emmanuel Ojukwu controversially claimed in a statement that the police were acting on ‘intelligence reports’ of a likely invasion of the House of Reps by hoodlums.
Court discharges Nyanya bomb blast mastermind (Nov 24)
On April 14, a bus station in Nyanya, a surbub of Abuja, was bombed by suspected terrorists. At least 74 people were killed, scores injured and property worth millions of naira destroyed. However, the suspected mastermind of the blast, an army deserter, Aminu Sadiq Ogwuche, reportedly escaped to Sudan. He was a student of Arabic Language at the International University of Africa, Khartoum. The federal government declared him wanted along with others, and through the efforts of Interpol, the Nigeria Police and the Department of State Security Services (DSS), Ogwuche was arrested in Sudan.
Upon extradition to Nigeria on July 15, the Inspector General of Police filed charges of terrorism against Ogwuche at a federal high court in Abuja. But the case suffered several adjournments due to failure of the police to produce the accused, who had been in DSS custody since he was extradited.
The case suffered as the police and the DSS bickered over who had the right to prosecute the suspect. Consequently, Justice Adeniyi Ademola struck out the charges November 24, on grounds of want of diligent prosecution. But the suspect has remained in the custody of the DSS. His decision was compelled by the absence of the legal representative of the IGP in court. The ruling sparked nationwide outrage.
But on December 5, 2014, Ogwuche through an application brought before a federal high court in Abuja by his counsel NureniJimoh is claiming N100 million as damages over his prolonged detention without trial.The court has invited the Attorney General of the Federation to address the constitutional issues raised by Ogwuche challenging alleging violation of his fundamental rights. The case comes up on December 17 for hearing.