The Many Goofs Of Lai Mohammed

The Many Goofs Of Lai Mohammed

Ameh George

Over the years, the credibility and or integrity of information released by state actors as the official position of the government of the day have been on a steady decline the world over as most of the citizenry have come to associate same with an untrue picture or version of what is the reality as known in public space.

It would seem that the current Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, under the President Muhammadu Buhari administration has taken this widely held notion to a new notch as most Nigerians are now of the perception that almost every state information churned out by Mr. Mohammed would usually contain a greater degree of untruth to the point that not a few persons have come to view the minister as the “lying machine” of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, and indeed the Buhari government.

AljazirahNigeria recalls that on April 1, 2018, Lai Mohammed on behalf of the federal government released a highly controversial compendium of looters against every known jurisprudence. Nigeria’s main opposition Party, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, among many Nigerians widely condemned the move as being rather arbitrary and subjudice in view of the fact that some, if not all of those cases were already been investigated by the EFCC or were matters before the court of law. It would then seem unbecoming of a minister in Mr. Mohammed’s standing who is also a trained lawyer to come to that ebb in public perception and perhaps relations.

However, the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr. Lai Mohammed, in a statement credited to him and released to the media also criticised the opposition PDP for its reaction to what according to him is the initial phase of names of alleged looters which he released. The list by Mr. Mohammed contained 23 names.

The Federal Government has said the list of alleged looters which it released was based on verifiable facts, including the amount involved, the date the amount in question was collected and from where it was taken.

However, only last week, reprieve came the way of the National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, when a Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt ordered the Federal Government and the Minister to pay the sum of N20million damages in a defamation suit filed against them by the PDP Chairman.

The Chief Judge of Rivers State, Justice Adama Iyayi-Lamikanra, in a judgment delivered during a virtual court sitting, said Secondus successfully proved his case that the defendants jointly and severally defamed him by publishing his name on the looters’ list in 2018.

The PDP National Chairman’s name had featured in the March 2018 publication containing names of some Nigerians which the Minister of Information and Culture had claimed looted the country’s treasury. In protest, Secondus, through a pre-action letter by his lawyer, Emeka Etiaba (SAN), demanded the retraction of the publication as well as a payment of N1.5bn damages to him within 72 hours, failing which he threatened to go to court.

He later filed a libel suit marked PHC/1013/2018 against Mohammed and the Federal Government, urging the court to declare that the respondents defamed him by putting his name on the looters’ list.

The court on Thursday entered judgment in Secondus’ favour and awarded N20m in damages against the defendants.

The judge said, “The claimant’s case succeeds and the defendants are jointly and severally liable for the libelous publication made against the claimant. “The 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants shall publish a written apology in favour of the claimant in the newspaper of the 3rd defendant”.

The judge made “an order of injunction restraining the defendants whether by themselves, agents or privies from further publishing defamatory statements against the claimant”.

The fallout from the case is one of many indices that Mr. Mohammed ran foul as he obviously could not substantiate the allegation of looting.  It is along this line of thought and public perception of Mr. Mohammed that the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, while taking a swipe at the minister also recently urged the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, to withdraw his practicing license for allegedly bringing the profession into disrepute.

Mohammed had allegedly said that kidnapping and banditry were not federal offences. But the association told the Minster that commonsense and logic should have dictated to him that crimes were offences fundamentally against the Nigerian state, since the parts are inter-dependent with the whole.

In a statement made a few weeks ago, the National Coordinator of HURIWA, Emmanuel Onwubiko, accused the Minister of being clever by half, in his effort to justify the failure of President Muhammadu Buhari to end kidnapping and banditry, by shifting the onus of prosecution to the states.

According to the HURIWA National Coordinator, “Following persistent willful, mischievous and deceitful misinterpretation of sections of the nation’s criminal laws and the ground norm, just to justify the crass incompetence of his boss, Mohammed has been dragged to the NBA with a call on the professional body to debar the Minister for allegedly bringing the prestigious profession to irreparable disrepute.

“We put it to Mohammed that all crimes are first and foremost against the Nigerian state, in as much as there are federal and state jurisdictions and the constitution clearly delineated areas to be legislated upon by either the federal legislature, which is Exclusive List, and by both national and sub-national legislatures, which is the Concurrent Legislative List”.

He noted that Sections 214, 217, 218 of the Nigerian Constitution vest the command and control structures of the police and the armed forces in the hands of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. “These law enforcement agencies, along with the Department of State Services, DSS, National Intelligence Agency, NIA, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, are all under the federal control, but they are at the primacy of the prosecution of the criminal suspects, even at the state levels. So, Mr. Mohammed is wrong and he knew it, but only wanted to make headline of the dailies and not for public interest”, he added.

Onwubiko furthers that, it is pure mischief for the Minister for Information to deceive gullible Nigerians by arguing that kidnapping and banditry are not federal offences, when it is evident that crimes committed in Nigeria are fundamentally crimes against the Nigerian state, and since Nigeria is a federation, the constituent parts collaborate to achieve holistic prosecution of criminals who carry out crimes in the different constituent parts.

The Minister of Information and Culture has made several public statements which has variously been considered as gaffes and has drawn irk of many Nigerians. For example, he has been quoted to have made statements alluding to Nigeria being in safe hands despite the insecurity situation that pervades the nooks and crannies of the country. In 2018, Mr. Mohammed also said that the Boko Haram menace has been technically defeated in what many have considered a lame attempt to score the Buhari administration’s fight against the dreaded group above that of his predecessor, former president Goodluck Jonathan.

Other statements credited to Mr. Mohammed are that Nigeria is better today than it was in 2015. This was made against the backdrop of the rating of the country on its corruption perception index by Transparency International, TI, which places Nigeria on a scale of 149 over 180 with a score of 25 over 100 in its 2020 evaluation which was released in January. The Minister further stated that Nigeria’s rating was not a true reflection of the country’s anti-corruption agenda. Nigerians from various walks of life have also interpreted this as a goof on the part of Mr. Mohammed based on the contrariety of the facts on ground.

Recently also, the information minister has stated that the federal government has uncovered 476 online sites set up to fight the Buhari administration. Again, a lot of Nigerians have construed this as a mere distraction from the failure of the government to squarely address the untold socio-economic hardship and insecurity situation that is taking its toll on Nigerians and an attempt to shift the focus from the administration to its real or imagined enemies or detractors as the reason behind this failure of the government.

Regarding the recent #EndSARS Protest which engulfed the country’s socio-political space, Mr. Mohammed who was expected in his capacity as Minister of Information by a wide range of Nigerians to address the core issues that led up to the mass demonstration by mostly the Nigerian youths, being the indiscriminate and wanton brutality and extortion of citizens by the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, a unit of the Nigerian Police Force, and what steps the government has in place to correct the anomaly, he simply stated that the federal government will never again allow such demonstration to happen in Nigeria, meaning the government will do everything in its power to prevent and or stifle any attempt by the Nigerian people to express their displeasure over the actions of public officials such as the police.

Mr. Mohammed has also recently urged the media to set up a fact checking desk to stop the menace of fake news, on the contrary however, not a few Nigerians are of the opinion that the fact checking desk is rather to be on the Minister of Information as he is the chief harbinger of fake news in the country.

And despite campaigning for Nigerians to patronize “Made in Nigeria product”, Lai Mohammed in 2017 came short of doing that himself when in an interview with CNN’s Richard Quest, he was asked which country makes the best ‘jollof rice’ and he responded by saying Senegal. According to @Nwankpa_A a twitter user, “After now, Lai Mohammed will open the same mouth to tell us to patronize Nigerian products”.

Tags assigned to this article:

Translate »