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‘How many slots are you giving us?’, By Waziri Adio

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waziri adio

I had been in some meetings where those with oversight powers would start by aggressively picking holes in our performance, putting us on the defensive, only to end with: “we got information that you are employing. How many slots are you giving us?”

A major manifestation of our prebendal attitude to public office in Nigeria is the expectation that office holders must help themselves and others around them to jobs, contracts, and sundry favours. This expectation expands to include regular and hefty cash donations, obviously beyond what the salaries and allowances of the office holders could cover. It should be said that the idea of ‘bringing home the pork’ or the concept of patronage politics is not peculiar to our clime. But ours verges on the extreme, and in most cases amounts to a clear abuse of office.

To be sure, there are many laws and regulations aimed at preventing or limiting abuse of office. There is also the open and often-mouthed commitment by most citizens that government exists solely to advance the interests of the collective, not the narrow interests of the lucky few; that public officials should serve the public, and not themselves; that things should be done rightly, and everyone should be given a fair shake.

But these laws and regulations and open commitments are easily undermined and trumped by the prevailing and pervasive culture; one that sees public office as a conquered territory, where the conquerors are at liberty to treat themselves to the spoils of war, and be magnanimous enough to sprinkle the largesse either to those lucky to be close to them on account of kinship, religion or ethnicity or to those who contributed in cash or in kind to their victory. This prevailing culture explains why people hardly raise eyebrows when office holders evidently live beyond their means.


Public office has thus almost become a sure path to wealth for many in our society. Families, friends, and associates of different ilk also expect such wealth to rub off on them, as having one of their own in a position of power is their rare chance to partake in the ‘national cake’. It is their chance to ‘chop’. For most people, ...uring about doing the right thing collapses under the weight of the hidden commitment that they have a right to benefit from being proximate to a person of or in power.

Those who don’t help themselves or others are seen as either stupid, naïve, wicked, or selfish. Also, refusing to help others or to ‘be useful’, especially to patrons and to real or assumed constituents, could set a limit to how long office holders can hold on to the seats or how far they can go. So, layered into these dynamics is not just the nature of the expectations but also the potential costs of not meeting those expectations.

During my five-year stint as the head of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), I opted to tackle this deeply entrenched value system by starting with myself. My reasoning was that not favouring myself or those close to me would give me the moral right to insist on due process and help me secure the understanding, even if grudging, of others. I insisted that procurements and the few recruitments done must be carried out fairly, competitively, and transparently.

Steering clear of conflict of interests remains a big deal for me. I left a standing instruction that the office must never buy food or pastries from my wife who runs a bakery and a food business in Abuja, and that if anyone did, I would not approve the payment. Occasionally, I asked my wife to supply cakes, pastries, and food to the office to mark occasions such as the International Women’s Day or Christmas or the achievement of a major milestone like achieving Satisfactory Progress in EITI Validation. But I paid for these from my pocket, or it would be my wife’s contribution to my work.

It is important to state that these were not requests for their candidates to be given a fair chance to compete but to be favoured, for the process to be bent for them, or for their candidates to be employed without any process at all. The volume of the letters increased and replying to all of them would have been some work all by itself.

On a few occasions, someone that I know would apply for a contract or a job. While I could not stop them from applying, I did nothing to enhance or influence their chances. On such occasions, I would declare my conflict and recuse myself from the process. Of the few people employed under my watch, not one was from my state, my geo-political zone or of the same faith as me. Not that I deliberately stopped anyone from these groups though. But I did not deliberately go out of my way to smoothen the path for anyone either. The only person I had any sort of prior relationship with, who got employed while I was in NEITI, was my erstwhile special assistant, a Christian from Cross River State. He emerged through a competitive process, and I excused myself from the board’s committee that interviewed the candidates when it was his turn, to the surprise of other committee members.

This attitude did not stop many people from asking me to employ or give jobs or contracts to their candidates, constituents, or relatives. I received a steady stream of letters from members of the National Assembly, from presidential aides, traditional rulers and others introducing candidates for employment, even when there were no vacancies or any ongoing recruitment processes. The first of such letters came from a ranking traditional ruler from the South-West, introducing someone from the North-West for employment in NEITI.

I was mindful of the unemployment situation in the country, which most certainly pushes people to desperate lengths, but I also wondered if people actually got employed this way. On my part though, I ensured we replied to such letters promptly by saying that we were not recruiting at that time, and that they would be notified whenever there were positions to be filled. We also never failed to mention that such future recruitments would be done through an open, competitive process.

It is important to state that these were not requests for their candidates to be given a fair chance to compete but to be favoured, for the process to be bent for them, or for their candidates to be employed without any process at all. The volume of the letters increased and replying to all of them would have been some work all by itself. I used to promptly minute on the letters to the appropriate departments, just for their information. However, I made a few exemptions for accepting candidates for NYSC and internship postings, but not for jobs. Even the exemptions did not apply to anyone personally known to me.

But it is not seen as unusual or unexpected for public officials, especially CEOs, to employ their relatives and others from their clans, communities, states, or tribes. Even some who are not CEOs manage to wangle such. In some instances, it is easy to know where the head of or the most powerful person in an organisation is from based on the state with the highest number of staff in the organisation or the language or the dialect mostly spoken as if it is the official language. In fact, one of the warped metrics for measuring the performance of public officials in their communities is the number of ‘their people’ that they employed.

Apart from violating the tenets of conflict of interests and advantaging those already privileged, this and other preferential approaches to recruitment invariably create a lopsided workforce, reduce the faith of young people in their country, and shut out the best and brightest where they are sorely needed. As the head of NEITI, I had relatives and siblings looking for jobs, not to speak of friends and others. The most I could do was to point them at opportunities or provide them with financial support.

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The fact that you choose not to bend the system for your relatives and friends would not discourage others from pressing you to employ their own friends and relatives though. In fact, some of those making requests could be quite daring. I remember one of the traditional rulers of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) mounting vigil at our office gate in Asokoro with the full paraphernalia of office. He drove straight after me into the compound. I had been out in the official car, so it was difficult to claim that I was not in the office or that I was in a meeting. So, I had to see him.

There were occasions when my explanation of our tight financial situation and the need to follow due process fell on deaf ears. Those seeking favours would promise to talk to higher ups in government to get our budget increased and released in full so that we could employ more people, especially their candidates.

He started out speaking to me in Hausa (many people do so because of my first name), and when he realised that I was Yoruba, he switched to impeccable Yoruba. He came to hand-deliver letters that he had sent earlier with CVs of his subjects that must be employed in NEITI. I respectfully explained our situation to him and promised to inform him anytime there was an opening. He sounded impressed by my explanation. I saw him off to his car, half-prostrated in respect for him, and even waited till his car left.

There were occasions when my explanation of our tight financial situation and the need to follow due process fell on deaf ears. Those seeking favours would promise to talk to higher ups in government to get our budget increased and released in full so that we could employ more people, especially their candidates. Since these were things that would happen in the future, and which I knew were likely not going to happen, I would often play along, as arguing with such people would have been a waste of time anyway. There were also those who took it upon themselves to advise me to employ my own people, as ‘that is what everyone does.’ It was made clear to me that if you don’t help your own people, you would be reminded of it when you need them in the future, possibly if you are seeking elective office. A cleric once told me that I should assist people of the same faith because “this is Nigeria, everyone assists their own.”

I remember vividly an encounter with the chairman of a National Assembly committee who had sent for me. Based on prior encounters, I knew there had to be something. I went to see him with one of the directors to make sure I had a witness. Before we could finish exchanging pleasantries, he brought out an envelope and called in a man who had been waiting in the outer part of his office before our arrival.

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“I know how much I put in your last budget for your audit,” he stated, matter-of-factly. “This is the man that will do the audit and here is his proposal. Go and work it out with him.”

This was the budget before I assumed office and luckily for me, the contract had been awarded. I disclosed this to him, adding that the procurement of the NEITI auditors was an extended, open process that would be difficult for anyone to control. The only thing I could do was to get our team to explain the process to his candidate so that he could submit a competitive bid in the future. He grudgingly accepted.

I developed different ways of handling these requests, from offering to visit VIPs who would have requested to see me, through painting a very grim but truthful picture of our financial situation in ways that would evoke pity, to taking time to explain why we had to do things in an open and transparent way or promising to help in other ways or when things improved. But I guess it also helped that there was nothing they could use to force my hands. Abuja is a very small place with little secrets. If I had been helping myself and those close to me, they would have gotten a whiff of it and there could have been investigations, especially from those with oversight powers, to put me on the spot and possibly to extract concessions out of me.

I had been in some meetings where those with oversight powers would start by aggressively picking holes in our performance, putting us on the defensive, only to end with: “we got information that you are employing. How many slots are you giving us?”

Waziri Adio is the erstwhile Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI).

This is an edited excerpt from The Arc of the Possible, his memoir that will be on sale from December 1.

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Our helicopter did not crash – Police

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By Christopher Oji 

The Nigeria Police high command has denied reports making rounds that one of its Bell 429 5NMDA helicopters flying from Abuja to Bauchi on Wednesday crash-landed. 

In a statement by Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), CP Frank Mba, the police explained that the helicopter was involved in a controlled safe landing at the Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa International Airport, Bauchi.

“The aircraft did not crash, as being reported in some sections of the media, and none of the occupants sustained any injury whatsoever.

“All six on board, including the pilot and co-pilot, are in good condition.  

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“Similarly, the aircraft, which was flown by one of the best police pilots, was professionally safe-landed with minor damage on the rear rotor as a result of obstacle at the landing spot.

The incident occurred around 7:30pm (local time). The Inspector-General of Police, IGP Usman Alkali Baba, has commended the Police Air Wing for their professionalism in safe-landing the aircraft and averting any serious air mishap.

He further noted that the Nigeria Police Air Wing, with a fleet of one fixed-wing aircraft, a Citation jet and 13 helicopters, has got a strong history of air safety since its establishment in the year 1972.”

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Police arrest wife, 2 others for murder of Lagos hotelier 

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By Christopher Oji 

The Lagos State Police Command has arrested three persons in connection with the death of a popular hotelier, Mr. Femi Bakare Alaba, who was allegedly murdered last Monday by his wife. 

The deceased’s family had  returned from a trip from Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, before he was murdered in their house at 9, Finance Road, Maplewood Estate, Oko- Oba, Agege, Lagos.

The family had accused Alaba’s wife of using a hot pressing iron to burn the man while he was sleeping.

The police said three persons, including his wife, have been arrested in connection with the murder and that the  body has been deposited at Yaba Mainland Hospital’s morgue for autopsy. 

According to Lagos State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), CSP Adekunle Ajisebutu, “The deceased’s wife and three others have been arrested in connection with the suspected murder case. Meanwhile, the case has since been transferred to the State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence  Department, Panti, for diligent investigation on the order of the Commissioner of Police, CP Abiodun Alabi.”

A police source at the homicide section of  SCIID, said the woman was not cooperating with the police as she has refused to tell investigators on what really happened to her husband.

The police source who said there was more to the murder beyond the allegation that the deceased impregnated another woman as his family were alleging that their brother was questioning the paternity of two of her two out of their three kids.

“ We are investigating and there are many things we are trying to unrevel but they are not what I can tell you till further notice. For now, we are having his wife and two others who though are not cooperating with us,but they will soon open up”, the senior police officer said.

When  Alaba and his wife returned recently from a trip from Dubai,their house was a Mecca of sort as family members and friends thronged the premises to welcome them back home

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No one could envisage that danger loomed. In fact, if anyone had told them that the life of one of the couple would be abruptly cut short, the person would have been dismissed and tagged a prophet of doom. 

Those who visited them when they returned were not disappointed as they were well entertained and got one gift or the other .

The family was described as philanthropists as well as peace lovers that they were the envy of residents. The couple was loved and admired by all.

But in the morning of January 24, things took a dramatic turn to the amazement of all. The owner of the popular Bama Hotel was murdered by his wife of eight years. 

According to a source, Bama, as he is fondly called was allegedly roasted to death with a hot iron by his wife.

A resident, who identified himself simply as Emmanuel, said: “My brother, we are still in shock because the unexpected really happened. We were told that Bama’s wife discovered that another woman was pregnant for her husband and was embittered.

“She waited for the man to sleep and used hot iron to press his body and the man died out of severe pain. We are still baffled and surprised how the woman who we saw as easy-going would have the mind to kill her husband in his sleep.

“The deceased was the owner of Bama Hotel and Suite. He was a good man that we respected him a lot. The couple has three kids and they just returned from Dubai before the incident occurred.”

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Fire  razes 57 shops, properties in Niger 

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e1ad0963 1053397 just an illustration of how 3 libyans set nigerian on fire to die

From John Adams and Umar Yunusa Minna

An early morning fire yesterday razed no fewer than 57 shops, destroying  goods worth millions of naira  at  Mokwa main market in Mokwa local Government Area of Niger State.

The fire was said to have started at about 4:00am when the shops owners were at home.

A source close to the market, Abubakar Umar, said the inferno razed many shops and destroyed properties worth millions of naira as nobody or agency was on ground to put out the fire or salvage the goods. 

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According to him:” The fire  destroyed many shops in the market. The situation was very serious because there was no help coming from anywhere.The fire started around 4:00pm this morning and it was so serious that no body could go near it.

The hamattan weather  could not help the situation. We are grateful to God that no life was lost.

Adamu Usman, a  revenue officer of  Mokwa LG ,said that  about 57 shops were destroyed by the inferno.

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