New York Diary

NYC

I finally got to see the great, great city of New York. Five previous visits to the USA but no time at all spent in the Big Apple. It was a very short stay, which was just as well, given how expensive everything was, and this is a recollection of some of my impressions, before the memories become too hazy.

Coming to America

Because I can be cheesy like that, and musical like that, planning for the trip meant that I remembered all the signature New York City songs – Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York”, Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind”, Jay Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind”. All great songs, which unfortunately don’t prepare you for the ugliness that is the JFK airport. Sheeeeesh! Heathrow Terminal 5, take a big bow!

JFK1

Of course, it didn’t help that the immigration queue was over 2 hours long (after a 7 hour flight!) but the murals/relief sculptures we had to stare at the whole time got uglier and uglier with each passing minute.

This won’t be a whiny article however, fear not. The airport was the low-point of the trip. Everything else was exceptional. Oh, and like Akeem, I was in Queens, but only briefly.

AnSinQueens

Concrete Jungle

In Nigeria, we have the running gag about first timers in Lagos counting bridges. In New York, they probably have one about first-timers spraining their necks , craning, looking at all the sky scrapers. And these aren’t hideous monstrosities, no. They all manage to be unique yet complement each other in the most, well, complementary way. Taking random walks, I’d inevitably come across something iconic or historic every few blocks. Transportation was however a little awkward.

NYC Skyscrapers

Taxis are expensive. I don’t have Uber (which I saw really work for users in NYC). So I had to do the subway. In London, each subway line has a different colour and fairly distinct name – circle line (yellow), district line (green), central (red) line, etc. In New York, their lines have numbers and letters, many of which share colours. The 2 and 3 (both red), the 4 and 5 (both green), the P, Q and R (all yellow), very confusing especially when one has to switch lines. Native New Yorkers tell you how it’s all cool though.

NYC Subway

Striking though, was how these buildings, the various iconic bridges across the Hudson and the subway system all started in the early 1900s. The technology isn’t new or esoteric. Yet back home in Naija…

Brotherhood of Man

One evening, my wanderings took me into Washington Square Park, at about 10 pm. This isn’t about me getting mugged, sorry to disappoint. I heard a guitar and some singing and, being a guitar boy, followed the sound. I found 2 guys playing, one with an acoustic bass, the other with a regular 6-string, with a cluster of about 5 or 6 people sitting or standing around them. They were singing “Jumping Jack Flash”, a song I only know because of the eponymous Whoopi Goldberg movie from way back. Suddenly, somebody joined the band, with a tambourine and another person brought out shakers. Now we had percussions.

Then we started doing Beatles songs and that was when things really got going. In the middle of “Love Me Do”, we had 5 people come up and join in with the vocals, harmonising like they’d all been in rehearsals all week. Next thing, somebody shows up with a harmonica and for me, it was simply the coolest thing ever. Random strangers, mostly, getting together under the clear night sky making fantastic music.

The next day, having lunch with Siddhartha Mitter and my cousin Seyi, I got a little history lesson about how Washington Square Park used to be the hub for artsy types and how if it was 40/50 years ago, I could have run into Bob Dylan or Buddy Holly before they became famous. With NYU buying up most of the neighbouring property and Manhattan becoming more expensive than the average struggling artist can afford, the park is no longer the talent incubator it used to be.

DSLR Congress

If Canon, Sony or Nikkon are being publicly traded, you should buy shares in those companies. The sheer magnitude of people carrying expensive photography equipment about was staggering. (*strokes own Sony DSLR lovingly*)

Homeward Bound

I won’t dwell too much on the airport security queues heading out but given that other countries do these same checks with the same amount of rigour and seriousness, the TSA could probably do a bit better. Yes, NYC bears the scars of 9/11 (I stumbled onto ground zero too, by the way) but the airport experience was very subpar.

On the flip side, I have never had a more expeditious exit from the Muritala Mohammed International Airport than I did on this trip. Nigerian Immigrations still employ 2 different officers to put the one stamp on it (*rolls eyes*) but baggage was out pronto and Customs were courteously on point. Change, eh?

Let It Go – Wenger Sings

Are you a parent who’s been made to watch Frozen 78 times, and counting? Are you also an Arsenal fan? Did you nearly cry when Cesc Fabregas moved to Chelsea (because we had Ozil)? Do you groan every time he assists a goal?

Then this video is for you. Enjoy.

 

BARbaric Grading System

Olanrewaju Adesola Onadeko Esq, DG Nigerian Law School

Olanrewaju Adesola Onadeko Esq, DG Nigerian Law School

First of all, there wasn’t a 71% fail rate at the last Bar Finals. The Council of Legal Education has provided a comprehensive breakdown of the results here. The truth is closer to a 50/50 split. Given that this rumoured fail rate was what led to the outcry and a call from several corners for the grading system at the Nigerian Law School to be reviewed, perhaps that should simply be the end of the matter.

 

However, as a corollary to the argument that high failure rates warrant a review of the system (or perhaps in conflation of the issues), there have also been arguments against the grading system that is supposedly used for the Nigerian Bar exams. I am tempted to call the system an urban legend because you won’t find it written anywhere. However, several tutors at the various law school campuses over the years have explained that a student’s final grade is usually the lowest score in any of the 6 exams written to qualify. In simpler terms, if the student is graded a 1st Class in 5 papers but scores a Pass in the 6th, the School will award him a Pass degree certificate. Allegedly. But we will assume that is the case for the purpose of this discussion.

 

Many have argued that this system is unfair, including my learned friend Orji Uka, here. I disagree, for the reasons that follow.

 

The sum of most of the disagreement seems to be that the system is unfair because it is unfair. How can it be fair to grade a student on the basis of his worst paper? Others have gone on to say that an average grading system is more reflective of the student’s ability, and that no other jurisdiction appears to grade law school students the Nigeria does. Mr. Uka’s article also echoes the sentiment that the exams put way too much pressure on students, with many not replicating the good grades they got at university (I dispute that, by the way).

 

Well, boo frickin’ hoo!

 

My take is that it’s a professional exam, for a profession in which people’s lives and futures are in your hands, where competence is the difference between a conviction for murder and one for unlawful homicide. I’d rather view the grading system as a quality assurance method for employers, separating the cream of the cream from the rest. If the system truly exists, then everyone who’s ever gotten a first class certificate at the Law School deserves immense respect. I also had a boss, Senior Advocate, who used to admonish “you’re only as good as your last mistake”. The real world is unforgiving and mistakes can be costly.

 

Secondly, again assuming the system exists, I don’t understand how a system that has been defined by a body of professionals and applied uniformly to the vast majority of the professional body can be unfair. Who is it unfair to? All law students past and present, those who passed and otherwise? At any rate, everyone learns about the grading system very early into the session, most even before the session resumes. You knew what you were signing up for.

 

Thirdly, the Council of Legal Education publishes a compendium of past questions and model answers. This is the most legal “expo” in the world!!! I bet very few of the foreign jurisdictions we’re comparing ourselves to do this. Furthermore, a large majority of the questions are repeated year on year. If you start with the compendium early enough, attend your classes and take notes, it should take sickness or personal tragedy to throw you completely off your game.

 

Fourthly, I do not think that the system disrupts university results to any degree of significance. I am fairly confident that most that leave the Law School with a first class were awarded either a first or a 2:1 at university. There are also some 2:2 university graduates that earn a 2:1 at Law School. However, very few 2:2s if any go on to earn firsts at Law School. I would say, from the evidence from my set and those immediately preceding and following, that people generally maintain their university standards at the Law School.

 

Fifth, the truth is that many get to the Law School and either lose their way, or think that university methods will work for them one last time. At university, there is the fallback of continuous assessment to rely on – and your exam would only count for 60% of your final grade. So, many could afford to leave studying until the month before exams. Anyone who tries this at the Law School is destined to fail. The work is more voluminous at the latter and the exams are stacked 6 days in a row. You simply cannot afford to leave serious studying till late, trysts at Amudolak Hotel notwithstanding. *Bwari Campus people know what I’m talking about.*

 

Finally, as long as we’re having a conversation, we might also want to talk about the standard of [legal] education in Nigeria. The reason why lawyers used to be called “The Law” with reverence , was because lawyers were renowned for speaking and writing proper English all the time, being widely read and knowledgeable, possessing impeccable manners and noble carriage, they were discreet and generally being better than allayou… (apologies to DavidO).

 

This is clearly no longer the case. When I was at the Law School, the civil procedure lecturer told how they had also included grammar in the marking scheme for the previous year, but had to ditch it because of it’s impact on pass rates. I would later find out that she was not exaggerating. Letters come in from the law offices of the more boisterous senior lawyers, and you simply wonder. I see many of my colleagues on social media trading barbs and descending into roforofo with other people online. These are all not good enough.

 

To conclude, I do not think a year of an unusually high failure rate should warrant revamping the whole system. I think the students should look inwards and urge anyone who is convinced they could not have failed to recall their scripts. If you go back to the statistics released by the Council of Legal Education, I think the fact that the bulk of the failures came from those taking either one paper or the entire exam again, supports my point of view.

 

Plateful of Odd

 

 

In 2012, I started the most oddball thing ever – I started taking pictures of vanity plates and posting them in an album on Facebook. It started pretty randomly but I knew I wasn’t totally nuts when people not only commented on the pictures but sent me a couple of the more interesting ones they had come across as well.

Here’s the collection to date. Picture quality varies depending on the phone, the windscreen and how stable the car was at the time. Hope you enjoy. Seemed apt to share on Lagos State’s #NoHornDay.

14424_10152246260265061_1640988683_n 19183_10152446419940061_1250678331_n 163426_10150349164905061_5372801_n 163945_10150353803255061_3943654_n 165641_10150360252350061_605348_n 166802_10150349157945061_1851029_n 167193_10150353984935061_71760_n 167994_10150384049580061_6570285_n 180825_10150381393375061_144500_n 183596_10150420098265061_857793_n 183779_10150420098795061_1239840_n 184610_10150420098655061_3278258_n 188564_10150420097750061_2878802_n 190003_10150420098430061_2067376_n 190149_10150420097195061_2687654_n 190674_10150420097955061_7126854_n 198080_10150420097640061_1874821_n 206871_10150554548650061_5648786_n 207453_10150554548170061_4780864_n 207509_10150554546905061_4546448_n 207852_10150554546535061_5608502_n Bz_-yORIgAAjmIe.jpg-large208386_10150554547470061_1306549_n 208736_10150554549075061_7941186_n 217190_10150554550305061_504181_n 221685_10150554553040061_1368738_n 224107_10150556782015061_5628632_n 270469_10152246262485061_1426004274_n 297709_10150934691155061_854066307_n 300326_10150813543960061_1118927358_n 302952_10150788398925061_6133482_n 317107_10150806405185061_246745844_n 319694_10150936526495061_914679676_n 379108_10150946739020061_904706327_n 425183_10151357761655061_1721452379_n 480969_10152294105155061_651940504_n 486262_10152253664320061_1193122444_n 559483_10153499011690061_1282304564_n 599197_10152246346050061_1154725183_n 1380648_10153499018130061_1145553040_n 1393698_10153499009870061_713619982_n 1396042_10153499016815061_1034531588_n 1451537_10153593986110061_1423558473_n 1452306_10153499015980061_1931052051_n 1463035_10153499017400061_1671092000_n 1466124_10153499013260061_998495476_n 1796601_10153894149280061_2115375433_n 1797950_10154704655095061_8092707928085191939_n 10253856_10154186143520061_2334113748046928077_n 10310620_10154200487230061_6624420687971387841_n 10672243_10154697234310061_5870700106772308141_n 10702169_10154756605545061_6791914685027988625_n

 

 

Hopeless Nation, Hopeful People: Commentary From South Sudan

In an earlier post today, I remarked, with regard to levels of certainty about Nigeria’s “nearing implosion that –

People talk about getting [tourist] visas for everyone in their family and all, but (1) I don’t think the usually congested route to MMIA would suddenly open up for us to flee sedately if that day of crisis came; and (2) that still sounds like their hedging, meaning either that they/we do not really think things are that bad, or that this almost-certain catastrophe is not quite certain to happen.

A reader with the benefit of similar experience in South Sudan posted a comment directly relevant to this and has given me permission to reproduce the comment in full, below. What is clear is that escaping will not be as simple as booking a ticket and taking a leisurely drive to the airport.

____________________________________

Many people are quite clueless about what it takes to evacuate their families. They assume that because they can afford between 1-3 international holidays a year a UK/US visa will somehow get them out of here if shit hits the fan. I lived in South Sudan the last few years and from practical experience, this is how it works.
Living abroad is expensive and we don’t want to pack up and leave until we are absolutely sure, besides someone has to work to fund the hasty exit. So no one ever knows/ wants to believe that shit will hit the fan until it does. The people who know already have their families tucked away somewhere safe and can afford to keep them there indefinitely. Commercial flights will stop running. Expats and diplomats will be the first out. Then the truly wealthy. Then non-nationals. We will not be able to go online and book tickets and then trot off to pay at the banks. Cash will be the only language spoken and even then, given our population there will probably not be enough private exorbitantly priced planes to get us out. We will be forced to leave most of our belongings behind.

Shit will get real when there’s no petrol cos the army needs it all. No work, no salary. No banks. No electricity. No food to buy even if you have money. Massive inflation.

Anyone who wants a split (which would never be peaceful) does not realise how devastating war can be. How it feels to lose EVERYTHING. Nigeria has to work. We have to make it work.

———————————————-

Let us therefore not lose hope. And let us then do what we must to make the country work.

Hopeless Nation, Hopeful People

A question that’s plagued me since social media journalism and analysis attained near-mainstream popularity is: Why, if you’re so convinced that Nigeria is doomed, are you not hightailing your ass out of here? If the consensus from the emerging intelligentsia is that we’re on the brink of an apocalyptic implosion, should we not be doing everything in our power to ensure that we escape before the tribulations start?

 

People talk about getting [tourist] visas for everyone in their family and all, but (1) I don’t think the usually congested route to MMIA would suddenly open up for us to flee sedately if that day of crisis came; and (2) that still sounds like their hedging, meaning either that they/we do not really think things are that bad, or that this almost-certain catastrophe is not quite certain to happen.

 

Okay, fair enough, without boring you with the dismal indices with which you are already familiar, the prognosis does not look too good. But if we’re staying put, it’s either because we ‘ve decided we have nowhere else to go, or we secretly know (or hope) that things will get better. And even if we don’t believe things will get better, since we’re stuck, it’s probably in our best interests to make things get better. I mean, we’re stuck here anyway, so we do we have to lose?

 

In the midst of my musings, I have found some suggestions in music. And while the 2 songs I want to share are from the same “Save Nigeria” genre as Veno Marioghae’s Nigeria Go Survive, Kingley Bucknor’s Let’s Dave Nigeria, and King Sunny Ade’s Nigeria Yi Ti Gbogbo Wa Ni, these two songs have struck a different chord for me (yes, pun intended).

 

The first song is Ese Peter’s The Prayer.

 

 

Ese sings:

 

May all of your days be as bright as the sun

And all of your fears all fade with the dawn

And when the storms come, they will come like a flood

But not for long, no, not for long

 

May all of our children reach out to the wind

Find the magic, like kings and queens

And when the sky falls, it will fall like a war

But not for long, no, not for long

 

The second song, which resonates even more deeply for me, is Timi Dakolo’s Great Nation.

 

 

Timi sings about us taking a stand and healing our land. He sings further:

 

We’re all we have, we’ll defend our land

We believe in this nation, and we know we’ll get there

We’re all we have, we’ll defend our land

We believe in Nigeria and the promise she holds

And that one day we’ll shine like the sun

We’re a great nation

 

For me, these songs are different from the previous Save Nigeria songs because, rather than the usual do-your-part-and-I’ll-do-mine tack, they inspire hope. Now, it might seem a huge U-turn for this logic merchant to suddenly start peddling hope, but all will truly be lost once hope is lost. Nothing hopeless is worth fighting for. Of course, hope will not result in overnight changes to this system, but guess what? There will be no overnight changes anyway. They will take time and will require sustained pressure on government, as well as an ethical revolution on our part.

 

If we’re not running away, realising that “we’re all we have” and making the choice to “defend our land” sounds like a good alternative to me. You?

Presidential Media Chat: The Language Problem

The presidential media chat of the 4th of May 2014 was another opportunity for Nigerians to hear their president “unscripted”. As with most  media chats he has hosted since becoming president, yesterday’s also provided canon fodder for those looking for gaffes to fuel the next internet meme.

In his previous media chats, President Jonathan provided such timeless soundbites as “Stock market business is not a jackpot business”, “Wikileaks is just like a beer parlour gossip”, and “Libya is just like someone is carrying a pot of water on his head and it just fell and broke, GBOA.” When asked to comment on allegations of his wife being investigated for money laundering after reportedly being apprehended with $13million dollars at an airport, his response was “Have you seen $13m in cash? Is it something one person can carry? Can only you carry it?”

Last night, his response to a question on the claims by ousted CBN governor that $50billion in oil proceeds was unaccounted for, was first of all “Oil money gets missing in every administration.” Then, after some wiggling and wriggling, he concluded that “$50billion cannot be missing and America will not know. America will know. It is their money. Where will you keep $50billion dollars?” And this was after he relayed Sanusi’s claim that the money was missing from over 18 months’ proceeds.

There is the argument to be made, with some merit, that these expressions are unbecoming of the president of any country, not only from a language perspective, but also from one of logic. If one person cannot carry $13m in cash, how about 10 people? When last did Patience Jonathan travel without an entourage? And if never, what suggests she couldn’t have arranged one on the said occasion? $50billion, over 18 months, shared between several people is not a lump sum block of money waiting to be seen and known by America.

However, it may be that the language problem exceeds the logic obstacle. A PhD having challenges with either language or logic is something of an oxymoron, but here we are. I do not intend this to be disparaging but it appears that meanings frequently get lost in translation  when the President transits from the language he thinks in to the one he is required to speak in. It is a problem many multilingual people with unequal levels of fluency would face.

For instance, and this is probably an indictment on me, when I’m speaking in Yoruba, I find myself thinking or processing the conversation in English. Thus, sometimes, I am halfway through a “transliteration” before I correct myself and use the proper Yoruba phrases. For many native Yoruba speakers, it is the reason why you’d hear someone say “What did you carry in the exam/race” when asking for the person’s position – Ki l’o gbe?

It may be the reason why the President’s wife, tearful, lamented,”There is God o! There is God o!”, for either ‘God is real’ or ‘God sees all this’.

It may be why the President said, last week, “I  have lived three quarters of my life on earth” (and the other quarter on Mars, it was joked) when he meant that he had expended 3 quarters of his life expectancy. Or why he said, last night, when defending but not really defending MEND, “MEND are not terrorists…I’m not defending MEND because I’m from the Niger Delta”, when a clearer version was probably “Do not think that because I’m from the Niger Delta I’m defending MEND.” I do not know. I’m guessing.

Besides problems with translations and transliterations however, there are also issues with  his unique choice of words. “Every administration has missing oil money”; “Terrorism in Nigeria is because, well you know, if you want to attack the Black race, and Nigeria is the centre of the Black race…”; “They have advised me, I won’t say from where, that I shouldn’t attack Sambisa Forest, so that the Boko Haram won’t melt into the general populace…”; “We are the current champions, we hold the trophy, we hold the shield – let APC inform us who is the challenger…” all do leave a lot to be desired.

Many also complained about the very basic level of his illustrations. For example, to explain rebasing, he used a farming allegory about taking account of more produce than was previously customary. I thought it was a functional example, really, but this brings me to the wider issue of the general levels of education, reasoning and argument in Nigeria. The President is our everyman. He is the people in your neighbourhood, the people that you meet when you’re walking down the street; the people that you meet each day. Millions of us cannot write letters or emails without several lines of bad grammar, many cannot hold a rational argument (or any argument for that matter) without quickly descending into insults and ad hominems, and millions more are functionally illiterate. L’etat, c’est nous. Le President, c’est nous aussi.

We are unlikely to have an Obama/Cameronesque leader, in my opinion, until we become like the people that Obama and Cameron lead – in business, in national conscience, in political engagement and, most of all, in learning and literacy.

I suspect that the majority of the Nigerian people would have found last night’s media chat satisfactory. Or, at the very worst, the President’s performance did not affect his approval rating by too much. For people that would harp on eloquence and inspiring speech though, it must be said that the number one contender from those challenging the PDP for its trophy is not much better. So, will use of language really count when we go to the polls in February?

 

5 Reasons Why GEJ Should NOT Resign

IMG_20140501_110813

 

In the wake of 2 bombings in Nigeria’s capital Abuja, the second taking place barely three weeks after the first, some people have resorted to calling for President Jonathan to resign or, alternatively, for the National Assembly to commence impeachment proceedings against him. I  disagree. While it is true that scandal continues to follow scandal, bombing follows bombing and national morale is undoubtedly very low, I do not think the President’s resignation is required. Here are my reasons.

 

1. THIS IS A DEMOCRACY. If we truly believe in democracy and the need to build enduring democratic institutions, then, barring gross misconduct, we need to accept that we are stuck with whoever we elect for the duration of time prescribed by the constitution  for them to be in office. We don’t get to chop and change midstream if the person we elected turns out not quite as we expected. This is the reason why we must pay greater attention and commit to playing a greater part in the electoral process first. The earliest that GEJ should go, is May 2015, when everyone crying #GEJOut can test the popularity of their movement at the polls.

 

2. WHO’S NEXT IN LINE? If the President resigns or is impeached, Vice-President Namadi Sambo takes over. If they’re both impeached, Senate President David “telephones-are-not-for-the-masses” Mark becomes President. Forgive me for not being too enthused about either of these prospects. At any rate, how would this change anything, with elections less than a year away?

 

3. GEJ IS NOT THE SERVICE CHIEFS. These guys need to get a whole lot more of the blame than people are willing to allocate to them. GEJ is Commander-In-Chief but he’s not the head of the intelligence gathering or counter-insurgency combat teams. He isn’t personally manning check-points or patrolling the terror hotspots. His Generals and their troops are. If anyone should be resigning (and that’s a big “IF”), the service chiefs are probably better candidates.

 

4. RESIGNATION WOULD BE A(NOTHER) VICTORY FOR BOKO HARAM. Would it not be the greatest tragedy, a huge smear on our collective nationhood, for Boko Haram to be able to beat its chest and declare that they bombed our president out of office? At the end of the day, until he’s served out his term, he is our president; our number one citizen. A king defends his castle. It would be a shame on my family if an unruly neighbour could unseat my father from our homestead. I’m sure the same applies to most of us.

 

5. RESIGNATION WOULD ONLY SERVE THE ETHNIC SUPREMACISTS. There are some who believe the President of Nigeria cannot and should not come from one of its smallest minorities. Nigeria belongs to all Nigerians. I will be politically correct and end my 5th point on that note.

 

Times are dark and dire, though, and we need our president to be bold, brave, inspirational and communicative. Not a word from him so far on the 200+ missing school girls, or the most recent bombing. Even if it’s hot air, we need to hear that he’s with us, see him shed an Obama tear or two and just generally show some emotional intelligence. Step up, President Jonathan.

The Judgment Banning Tolling on the Lekki-Ikoyi Bridge

Image

On the 27th of March 2014, the Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos, held that “there was no existing law in Lagos State, permitting the collection of toll on the newly constructed Lekki-Ikoyi Suspension Bridge in Lagos.” Now, lawyers are usually wary about commenting on a judgment that they have not read in its entirety, but various newspapers quoted the judge’s ratio (i.e. the thinking behind the court’s ruling) extensively. This commentary will be based on the quoted excerpts and the provisions of the Lagos State Public Private Partnership Law of 2011.

 

The PPPL establishes an Office of Public Private Partnerships and gives it powers and responsibilities. It sets the framework for entering into Concession Agreements and states that they must be ratified by the House of Assembly before implementation. Good, so far? Okay then. Let us return to the court’s judgement briefly.

 

Justice Saidu is reported to have held as follows:

“The third respondent [i.e. the Attorney-General of Lagos State] tried to justify the collection of such toll in paragraph 26 of their counter affidavit, by stating that when the bridge is erected, its proceeds will be applied to the consolidated revenue fund of the LASG.

“The question now is, has the LASG made the appropriate law to enable her collect such toll on the bridge? The third respondent only cited sections 27, 28, and 29 of the Lagos State Public Private Partnership Law 2011 as making provision for the collection of revenue. There is nothing before me to show that the subject matter in this case was as a result of any Public Private Partnership law, to enable the law of 2011 be extended.”

 

–       (See more at: http://www.vanguardngr.com/2014/03/lekki-ikoyi-link-bridge-law-backs-tolling-says-court/#sthash.iy4mkUCe.dpuf)

 

The thrust of His Lordship’s judgement therefore appears to be that toll cannot be collected on the bridge pursuant to a provision in the PPPL because the bridge was constructed with funds from the public purse and is therefore not a PPP project.

 

Is this a correct position to hold? Does the title of a law limit the scope of the law? Let us examine the referenced sections of the PPPL and then discuss the rudiments of statutory interpretation.

 

Section 27: Notwithstanding the provisions of any Law [of Lagos State], the [Governing] Board [of the Office of PPP] may designate any public infrastructure or public asset, any road, bridge or highway within the State as public infrastructure[i] or public assets[ii] with respect to which user fee or toll shall be payable for the purpose of this Law subject to the approval of the House of Assembly.

 

Section 28: Notwithstanding the provisions of any Law, the Board may in the relevant concession or other agreement, authorise any person, in return for undertaking such obligations as may be specified in a concession or project agreement with respect to the design, construction, maintenance, operation, improvement or financing of public infrastructure or public assets, to enjoy specific rights as may be stated in the concession or project agreement including the right to levy, collect and retain service charges, user fees or tolls in respect of the use of the public infrastructure or public assets.

 

Section 29 is long and boring but can be summarised as providing for regulating tolls and conditions under which the public will access the infrastructure. You can view the full PPPL here.

 

In simpler English, section 27 says that regardless of what any other Lagos law says, the PPP Board has the power to designate public infrastructure or assets for tolling, subject to the approval of the state’s House of Assembly. Section 28 says that a person/company can be authorised to levy and collect tolls in return for fulfilling its (i.e. the authorised person’s) obligations under a concession agreement or other agreement, regardless of what any other law of Lagos State says.

 

Bearing the foregoing in mind, was the judge correct to hold that public infrastructure and assets may only be designated for tolling under PPPs? I would respectfully disagree with the honourable judge for the reasons that follow.

 

1. Long Title: Laws generally have a long title at the beginning, as well as a short title at the end. Both are aids for interpreting laws. The short title of the law we’re considering is The Lagos State Public Private Partnership Law. This might lead readers to think the law only legislates on PPPs but I think the long title suggests otherwise – A Law To Provide For Public Private Partnerships, Establish the Office of Public Private Partnerships, Enhance Infrastructure and Service Development in Lagos State and for Connected Purposes. The purpose of the law is four-fold, one of which is enhancing infrastructure and service development in Lagos State. It is not solely concerned with PPPs. My learning friends at the Law School would probably support me if I went further to say that the phrase “and for connected purposes” is added to the long title of every law specifically to avoid being put in a straight-jacket as the Federal High Court did here.

 

2. Sections 27 & 28: Even if the law were held to only apply to PPPs, sections 27 & 28 begin with the words ‘notwithstanding the provisions of any Law’. This expression recognises that laws overlap each other in practice, even if this is not the intention of the House of Assembly; laws do not exist in isolation to each other. This means that unless expressly excluded (as done here), other laws can impact on the PPPL. The inference is also thus that unless sections 27 and 28 limited their application to PPPs, courts should not impute this restriction unless not to do so would lead to an absurdity.

 

3. Section 27, again: Section 27 gives the power to designate public infrastructure and public assets for tolling. ‘Public Infrastructure’ and ‘Public Assets’ as defined by the PPL (and reproduced below) have not been defined as assets/infrastructure that were built/developed under PPPs. Now, it might scare us to know that the government can wake up and decide to toll any public facility or amenity but ratification by the House of Assembly has been inserted as a check on the executive (we know they’re more often than not the rubber-stamp of the executive but the principle can’t be faulted).

 

MATTERS ARISING

The Lagos State Government has filed an appeal against the judgement, though it continues to collect tolls in the interim. Did they apply for a stay of execution and if yes, was it granted? [UPDATE: I’ve just been informed that the hearing for the application for a stay of execution is fixed for April 25. With Senior Advocates of Nigeria as Governor and Attorney-General, it is somewhat surprising that toll collection continues.] The lawyer who brought the action against the government claims to have been the target of assassins. We pray for his continued safety and well-being.

 

—————————————-

ENDNOTES

[i]Public Infrastructure is defined by the PPPL to include ‘public facilities and amenities including roads, bridges, highways, rail lines, water transportation facility, public water works, housing, electric power stations, hospitals, recreational parks, motor parks, waste disposal facility, amusement centres and any other infrastructure or amenities for public use.’

[ii]Public Asset is defined by the PPPL to include ‘the right of use of any property or economic opportunity of a public nature arising from the use of public property.’

The March RoundUp

 THE BIRTHDAY OF TEX

We start our roundup this month with the most awesome thing about March – one celebrated one’s birthday and commemorated the occasion with a limerick:

 

There once was a tweeter named Tex

His specialty was in the lex

On Ides minus 2

His birthday, woohoo!

So dig deep & pull out some cheques!

 

Sadly, no cheques yet. Maybe next year…

 

THE NATIONAL CONFERENCE

Nigeria’s controversial national conference started this month. After squabbling about religion, marginalisation, voting rules, respect for elders, the right to doze off without the press covering it AAAAAND receiving their first allowances of N1.4million each, it does not seem as if things will get moving for another week yet. Still, we celebrate some of the more famous delegates in the limericks below:

 

When Jimmy was head of the sports

His case shoulda gone to the courts

A great innovator

Showed a generator

When started, man, it teleports.

 

A cross-dressing fugitive man

Was impeached then forgiven and

Despite his disgrace

Will yet be the face

Of Bayelsa’s conferencing band

 

What really is two-thirds 19?

Is it 12 or is it 13?

Ol’Richie returns

To raise these concerns

When all the delegates convene

 

An ex-gov’ning husband of judge

In landmarking judicial sludge

Forever denied

The risk of being tried

An “elder statesman”, oh what fudge!

 

OOH LA LA!

After being dubbed a specialist in failure by the Special Punk, Jose Mourinho, Gooners all over  the world licked their chomps in anticipation of the showdown between Arsenal and Chelsea. Like the protagonist in a Kung-Fu movie, we all expected Arsene Wenger to “take his revenge”. The prospect received additional spice because it was Arsen’s 1000th game in charge of Arsenal. Things didn’t quite play out as expected. In fact, Arsenal shipped 6 goals without reply that day, prompting Professeur Wenger to attempt dodging the post-match press conference. The following limerick, as salve for our North London wounds…

There once was a French coach named Wenger

In-club for a thousand game bender

Got stuffed by José

Well, hip hip hooray

Our specialist, legend forever

 

ROAD SAFETY REFORM MEETS ROADBLOCK

A learned colleague recently obtained a judgement from the Federal High Court, restraining the Federal Road Safety Corps from impounding cars that do not have the new number plates. You can read the story here. Unconstitutional and illegal. Does this mean that cars with the new plates are improperly registered? We cannot say. Will the FRSC adhere to the judgement? We’ll just have to wait and see. Will you get a refund for the unconstitutional and illegal number plates on your car? This limerick is for you.

It turns out our old number plates

Now don’t have expiry dates

But no reimbursement

Will come from the gov’ment

To those who had paid the new rates

 

“KORO” LAMENTS MARGINALISATION IN LAGOS

Senator Ambassador Honourable Musiliu Obanikoro was in the press twice this month. Luckily, we feature both events in our roundup. In one, he is reported as lamenting the dearth of “shonz of de shoil”, indigenes of Lagos, in the management of the State’s affairs. Perhaps Lagosians should have their own sovereign conference to resolve this matter…

It’s something that makes Koro bitter

How Aliens in Lagos now litter

The armchairs of power

Indigenes, this hour

Must rise to defend this bullshitter

 

Koro reportedly also played a role in the “did-he-didn’t-he” that followed reports of the resignation of the newly appointed defence minister (Koro is his junior minister, his expertise in defending, uhm, his fellow Lagosians coming in very useful here).  The minister, retired General Gusau, quickly denied news of his resignation, but something very clearly happened between the ministers and the joint chiefs as news of their reconciliation was roundly received with relief. In honour of the purported resignation however, the following –

Nigeria’s joint chiefs weren’t inclined

To meet with Gusau, how unkind

The head of defence

In pure common-sense

He picked up his pen & resigned

 

NATIONAL IMMIGRATION SERVICE [SHAM] RECRUITMENT TRAGEDY

In a truly heart-wrenching sequence of events, the National Immigration Service charged 6 million applicants N1000 each, so that it could invite 500,000 thousand of them to a test at various stadiums around the country, intending to offer only about 4,000 of them employment.  There were stampedes in almost each stadium, 19 people died and hundreds more were injured. Now, first question is, how the hell do the NIS, who have 2 people stamping each passport at the airports, need 4,000 more staff? Then, where did the Minister for the Interior, Comrade Abba Moro, find the nerve to come on television and blame the multiple stampedes on the “impatience” of the applicants? Then, our president, Goodluck Jonathan, incomprehensibly decides to award 3 employment slots to the families of those who died and automatic employment for everyone injured in the stampede. Unsurprisingly, he nearly caused another stampede at the National Hospital, with people feigning injury and clamouring to be put on the automatic employment list… [*deep, deep, breaths*]

 

A stampede as stamping HQ

Recruited for stampers brand new

Like dreams they were crushed

As applicants rushed

To 19, we now say adieu

 

A stampede, as stamping HQ

Recruited, but all went askew

500k tried

And then 19 died

The polity heated, a-stew.

 

The head of our troubled interior

In garbage from oral posterior

Has asked us to blame

The dead & now lame

And ignore his motives, ulterior

 

The head of our country has tried

In satire personified

To placate the mob

By giving a job

To families of seekers that died

 

Have u been maimed in a stampede?

Or just maimed, but still full of need?

Then go to Abuja

The gov’ment will give ya

A job as their penance for greed

 

May the souls of the departed rest in peace. May those whose negligence led to their deaths not receive the customary golden parachute and silver handshake from the federal employer.

 

AND IN INTERNATIONAL NEWS…

President Goodluck Jonathan went to Europe and informed his audience that corruption in Nigeria is blown out of proportion; things aren’t as bad as we know them to be… Okay, then.

Our country is full of distortion

Especially talking corruption

We exaggerate

Discombobulate

And blow it all out of proportion

 

… and Russia is giving the rest of the world its middle finger in Ukraine.

There oncce was a country, ‪#Crimea

Whose borders’ll now disappear

Cos Vladimir Putin

Is sticking the boot in

Regardless of ‪#Ukraine‘s despair

 

As they say in Russia, dasvidaniya! Until the next roundup.