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Columnists

Imposters, uniforms and our collective awe

The uniform of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Police, and other Government Security Agencies have become so powerful, that they serve as a form of identification.

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FG deploys more military troops to Lagos to secure public assets

On a bright, sunny Tuesday morning in Lagos, Col. Saki Abdullahi (not real name), got into his personal car and hurried to the bank to sort out some issues with his account and perform some transactions. He was dressed immaculately in his well ironed and starched uniform and you could see your reflection in his well-polished shoes.

As he approached the gate of the New Generation Bank in Victoria Island, one of the Security Guards beckoned on him to open his boot for the usual search. Col. Saki knew the drill and with one touch of a knob near the seat, he flicked open the boot just as the guard walking past him noticed his uniform and rank.

The Guard immediately closed the boot with the briefest of glimpses into it and signaled for his colleague to open the gate. Col. Saki found this rather curious because, on previous visits to the same bank branch, he had been subjected to more scrutiny by the guards on duty.

He parked his car and walked towards the security doors that granted access into the banking hall. He was briskly saluted by the guard and when the door appeared to disallow him entry (on account of his car keys and belt), he was still given swift access. Generally, the Staff was all super courteous and helpful and he left the bank in next to no time.

On the drive back to his office, he had a call and he hesitated as he could not find his hands-free device, but the person on the other line was not someone he could ignore his call. So, he picked and put the phone to his ears and began a conversation. He got to a point and had to slow down in traffic. A Lagos State Traffic Official (LASTMA) who got in front of his car and attempted to stop him because he was on the phone and driving, took one look at him and moved on.

Then it dawned on him that the reason the LASTMA Official did not bother to approach him was the same reason the guards and bank staff were so nice to him. He was in his Army uniform and in Nigeria that confers a special status and privilege on the wearer.

All over the World, members of the Armed Forces, Police, and other Uniformed Government Security are accorded some form of respect and privilege. It is an unwritten rule borne out of respect for the sacrifices that they make daily for the rest of the citizenry to enjoy the most basic freedoms and security. These privileges however do not in any way place uniformed personnel above the laws of the land or above the rest of the civil populace.

The unbridled privileges and rights that years of Military rule have inadvertently conferred on Uniformed Personnel have created a class of citizens that cannot be questioned and led to a growing army of Impostors, fakes, and impersonating Uniformed Officers of the Law.

In Nigeria, it is a normal sight to see men of the Armed Forces beating up and molesting citizens for daring to wear camouflage clothing on the Streets, as this is deemed as an attempt to impersonate a member of the Armed Forces. Curiously, these outfits are readily available online, and wearing them in other parts of the developed world is not considered a crime or impersonation.

Section 110 (1) of the Criminal Code makes it unlawful for any person who is not serving in any of the Armed Forces in Nigeria to wear the uniform of the Armed Forces or any part of the uniform of such Forces, or any dress having the appearance or bearing any of the Regimental or other distinctive marks of such uniforms. Camouflage is a part of the military uniform and so it falls under this law.

So, the basic reason for outlawing the wearing of camouflage amongst civilians is security, but if we look at countries with the strongest armies in the world and the prevalence of citizens being allowed to wear camouflage and other dress articles associated with the military, we also notice crimes committed do not have a correlation with the wearing of uniforms. So, the real issue is not the uniform itself, but the access, privilege, power, and rights it confers on the wearer.

Just this past week, it was widely reported that 2 suspects were nabbed by the Oyo State western Security Network codenamed, Amotekun for producing and selling fake Amotekun uniforms. This was after 6 persons were arrested while posing as members of the Corps. Amotekun has launched just over a year ago on January 9, 2020, and already criminal groups are making counterfeit versions of its uniforms. So, you ask yourself, why would anyone want to buy counterfeit versions of Amotekun uniforms if not that they believe it’s a means to access power and riches that they would otherwise not be able to get if they were in civilian dress.

While growing up in Lagos in the early ’80s, uniformed personnel boarded public transportation and were exempted from paying fares. This was done as a form of respect and appreciation (especially after the Civil War), but the sight of uniformed personnel wearing just an article of clothing in the uniform e.g., the Cap, T-Shirt or Pants on a weekend private outing just to avoid paying their fare has become embarrassing. Once Commercial Drivers put uniformed personnel in the front seat of their vehicle, they are emboldened to break all the traffic rules including driving against traffic (One Way Driving).

The uniform of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Police, and other Government Security Agencies have become so powerful, that they serve as a form of identification. You are not allowed to request to see the identification card of anyone in uniform, to do so can lead to physical intimidation.

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The Military High Command has done its best in recent years to improve military and civilian interaction and to create lines of communication for the civil populace to report incidents of misconduct. These actions have led to a manifest improvement in the civility of interactions between the two sides.

During the last nationwide #EndSARS protests, an Airforce Officer was lauded by all for the manner he was able to calm down the protesters and ensured there was no destruction of property and no loss of lives.

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As we continue on the journey of nationhood, we have to decide as a people what form our respect and the privileges, we accord our men and women in uniform should take.

As we mark Armed Forces Remembrance Day and the sacrifices of our Fallen Heroes, we owe it a duty to discuss how we honor them, while maintaining the rule of law across the board and the dignity of the rest of the civil populace.

‘Long live the Armed Forces, Long Live The Federal Republic of Nigeria’

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Columnists

Currency deregulation and finding the true value of the Naira

Why does a government borrowing heavily choose to subsidize the dollar?

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A colleague said to me, “it’s uncanny how your Central Bank’s policy on Foreign Exchange is similar to that of Zimbabwe of 2008”.

I had to go check what Zimbabwe did and where it led them to.  Zimbabwe. after a bout of hyperinflation, abandoned its currency. Nigeria’s current arrangement may get us there.

It is a good time to own a BDC. BDC licenses can cost as much as N15m now. The same license cost about N3m some years ago. Why has it gone up? A BDC can generate a weekly return of N1.3-1.4m just on a $50k bid.  Most people can live on that. With a spread of N65 on a dollar: official at 410 and parallel at 475, why do you have to sweat?

So what is the impact of this? A long run destruction of the economy, a higher subsidy than calculated on petrol and a significant market distortion. A distortion that profits less than 1% of the population and sending a higher number into poverty.

READ: FG rejects IMF’s advice to devalue the naira

With, until recently, accretion to reserves impaired by low crude prices and low volumes, there is a rapid depletion of the country’s reserves. Why does a government borrowing heavily choose to subsidize the dollar?

The answer is corruption. Corruption played out supported by perceptions of what could happen to the middle class if the Naira were allowed to float. Nigerians tend to politicize the exchange rates. It’s for them a sign of economic management. Governments in power have that awareness. It’s part of the play in sustaining corruption.

The future is bleak. The external reserves shed over a $1billion in the last few weeks. Nigeria is consuming the present and the future. There is really nothing to show for the years of interventions. With the ongoing challenges in security and rising poverty, the destination is going to be a crash.

It is time for market unification. It is time for Nigeria to move to find the true value of the Naira. It must stop the corruption in the markets.

 

Written by Demola Adigun

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Columnists

Tinted windows: A quest for privacy and our collective need to be safe

There is an urgent need to balance out the need for privacy/comfort for vehicle owners and the overall security of the society.

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It is 6:30 pm on a cold harmattan smothered evening on Oregun Road in Lagos, and Sola was driving his friend’s car as they headed for an evening hangout. Fred, the owner of the car is sitting in the front seat as Sola attempts to make a U-turn just before the exit into Opebi Link Road when a commercial motorcyclist (Okada) comes speeding on the driver’s side.

In the ensuing crash, the Okada rider was sent flying into the air and his bike slid into the middle of the road. As is normal in Lagos, a large crowd had gathered taking pictures and generally being a nuisance and when they saw the occupants of the car were all young men, the assumption being that they were drunk and that was the cause of the accident.

A Police patrol team on routine patrol arrived at the scene to forestall the breakdown of law and order and immediately moved the crowd away after pictures of the accident scene had been taken. The experienced Inspector who led the team noticed the windows of the car were dark and heavily tinted- with small holes cut into it to allow a limited view of the side mirrors. This limited the angle of view of the driver as he made the turn and thus the accident.

A very high percentage of accidents at turnings/ intersections in Nigeria are caused by poor visibility on the part of drivers in heavily tinted vehicles. The use of 5% tint (which is the darkest form of tint) is most prevalent in quasi security vehicles such as the Toyota Hilux in convoys and in vehicles owned by personnel of government security agencies.

Tinted windows are a fad amongst Nigerians and a status symbol especially for politicians and the wealthy. Tinted windows are basically two kinds: the factory tinted and the fit for purpose tints installed by the owner of the vehicle. Factory tinted windows have the tint coloured into the windows themselves and so it is not removable; while for the fit for purpose tint involves the use of a layer of film over the glass and it can be removed.

Some of the reasons for a window tint in a vehicle include a level of privacy for the occupants, protection from UV rays / the glare of the sun and to provide a look that is pleasing to the eye. Tints were initially only included in Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) because they do not come with a covered-up luggage area (Boot) and so the tint provided some sort of cover for the items in the Boot from prying eyes.

Factory tinted windows have a pigment inside of the glass themselves; while the purpose fit tints require the installation of a nylon film over the window that creates a tint in varying degrees. The degrees range from 50% which is the same as a factory tint, 35% which is a light and acceptable tint, 25% tint which is dark and acceptable in most instances and the 5% tint which is very dark and not acceptable in most instances.

Factory tint can be found on the rear windows of most new and fairly used SUVs and trucks. Tints are measured by the Visible Light Transmission Percentage (VLT%) in terms of the amount of light (UV rays that they allow into the Vehicle) and the 5% is the extreme of the spectrum with very little light coming through and thus it is very dark inside the vehicle especially at night, while the 50% is the very start of the spectrum with plenty light into the vehicle, thus it is bright).

In Nigeria, the Police determines and regulates the use of tints in vehicles and what is acceptable in the entire Federation. The Laws of the Federal Republic Nigeria places the onus and burden for the regulation of the use of tint in vehicles on the Nigeria Police both as a regulator and enforcer of the rules and procedures.

In the beginning, the Police only licensed vehicles with factory tinted windows, but in recent times the permit has been issued for non-factory tinted windows. According to the regulations, exemptions are issued for owners with a medical requirement for these types of tint for their vehicles and owners are required to provide evidence from government-owned hospitals for the permit to be issued.

Some of the reasons why window darkness is regulated include safety issue for vehicle occupant and other road users (i.e., you cannot see clearly enough especially at night and thus become a danger to yourself and other road users). Secondly, law enforcement officers need to be able to see the occupants of a vehicle at any point in time (this might be for purposes of a routine search or just so that occupants are visible in the event of harm being done to anyone inside the vehicle).

In absence of a clear scope from the Nigeria Police on the acceptable levels of tint, what we have in play in Nigeria is individuals opting for varying levels of tints based on their own desires, needs and their location. The existing laws have been widely ignored and this has led to the proliferation of some of the harshest degrees of tints in vehicles in Nigeria and profiteering by unscrupulous groups and individuals in the market for vehicle tints. Road users have been known to be subject of inducements from law enforcement officers especially on the highways between states in the federation.

There is an urgent need to balance out the need for privacy/comfort for vehicle owners and the overall security of the society. The Nigeria Police has on several occasions raised the alarm about the use of dark tinted vehicles by kidnappers and armed robbers. This led to the issuance of the Tint Permit which required a physical inspection of the vehicle and capturing of the biometrics of the owner.

The non-enforcement of the original policy and its dilution with all manner of exemptions have totally eroded the initial gains of the policy. On the Portal for the tint permit hosted on the website of the Nigerian Police, there is a clear notice to vehicle owners informing them that the permit is only issued for factory tinted vehicles and there is a need to enforce this provision if we are going to eliminate the dangerous levels of tints we presently have on our roads.

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While it is understandable that some individuals want to guard their privacy, public safety comes first.

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