LEGAL REVIEW OF THE SAME SEX MARRIAGE (PROHIBITION) ACT 2014

Ikenna Okonkwo:

This brilliant piece by Barrister Uzochi Uriel Okoroma (@UzoUriel) should serve as a sort of prequel to my latest post.

Originally posted on Anabagail:

Since news of the enactment of the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act 2014, (which people loosely refer to as the ‘Anti-gay bill’) broke; both Nigerians and the International community have been reacting to the veracity or otherwise of this piece of Legislation. Whilst some have hailed it as timely, and a reflection of the wishes of the Nigerian people, others have given it the stick, describing it as unconstitutional, draconian and suppressive.

This writer will not bother with the reasons adduced by both camps for and against the Act, but will attempt a legal review of the Legislation with a view to highlighting its provisions and the misconceptions that have trialed same.

As stated above, opponents of the Act have posited that it violates some constitutionally guaranteed rights as enshrined in Chapter 5 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended); but they however fail to…

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The Anti-Gay Marriage Bill: The Unpleasant Answers

President Goodluck Jonathan recently gave his assent to the Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, 2013 [SSMPA] – which had been passed by the legislature as far back as November 2011. The bill has been met with either overwhelming praise or disappointment depending on where you stand. Nonetheless, as both sides have been advancing apologies to protect their stand, I have observed a number fallacies that I wish to refute here.

Going by the conversations, comments, blog posts and editorials in the past week, since the law was passed, I noticed that the critiques of the SSMPA hinge their opposition to this law on certain fundamental assumptions. In many cases, their defence was presented with a “take it or leave it” attitude.  This unfortunately, portrays anyone with a contrary view as a hypocrite, bigot, illiterate or lunatic. On the side of the divide, some supporters of the SSMPA hinge their praise on a poor foundation. Some simply regurgitate religious precepts that are neither properly explained nor understood. Others make an appeal to culture and customs or simply that we are just not ready for such a seismic shift as accepting homosexuality.

Consequently, this piece aims at tackling the assumptions made by the pro-gay rights advocates and in the process base the argument against on the firmer grounds on which religious precepts and most customs are knowingly or unknowingly based.

Tolerance

The first assumption to deal with is the understanding of the concept of tolerance. At the centre of most arguments on homosexuality and gay rights is the differing understanding of what it means to tolerate. There is a clash between the classical and what I would call the contemporary understanding of tolerance.

In the classic understanding, tolerance is based on the assertion that in the matter at hand there is an objective truth. Hence if I am going to tolerate someone, I first assert that I am right and the other person is wrong. I also assert that the other person is wrong in something that isn’t trivial, but something that actually matters. What I therefore tolerate is the person and not his view or idea. This means that in spite of asserting that the other person is wrong, I still respect him as a human being and do not deny him his rights as a person. It also means that I also afford him the right to argue his case in public, allowing for civil debate.

In the contemporary understanding of tolerance, to assert that one’s view is right or true and the other persons view is false or wrong is intolerant in itself. This view is based on an idea that truth, especially moral truth, is relative to the individual or to the cultural circumstance (moral relativism). Apart from the fact that moral relativism is self-refuting this idea of tolerance actually stifles debate and leads to intolerance of dissent as absolute objective assertions are struck out as intolerant.

Natural vs. Unnatural

Fundamental to the pro-gay rights viewpoint is the assertion that homosexuality is a natural and normal phenomena that we have to come to terms with. The evidence put forward for this among others is that, for many people, these tendencies are not voluntarily cultivated; that homosexual behaviour has been observed in diverse cultures throughout human history; or that homosexual behaviour has been observed in other animals (1,500 species according to one study).

These arguments show an erroneous understanding of what it means to be natural. What is natural is not the same thing as what happens or as what normally happens. When we talk about nature, we answer the question of what a particular thing IS and what a particular this IS FOR. The question of whether homosexual attraction is natural is therefore determined by what human sexuality IS and IS FOR in the first place.

On the biological level it is clear that physiologically and morphologically the sexual organs are designed for the purpose of generation of offspring. On the human level ( we see that human sexuality has the added characteristic of the difference and complementarity of the man and woman necessary for uniting them and the proper upbringing of the children that sexuality is ordered towards. Homosexual tendencies and attractions are therefore unnatural and disordered as they are unable both biologically and on the human level to achieve the purpose of human sexuality. Even though those tendencies may be innate, voluntary or involuntary, even though they may be common among people or found in other animals, by the mere fact of being contrary to the purpose of human sexuality they are therefore disordered with sexual acts stemming from those tendencies wrong. Take blindness for example. Some people are born blind, some were made blind by accident or by carelessness or by others. Blindness has been with us throughout history and in different cultures. Many other animals have blind individuals. Does that make blindness natural?

Human Rights

That leads me to the question of rights. Gay advocacy is typically presented as granting rights to gay people just as every other human beings. The question is: what are human rights? Since being human is not defined as being of a certain race, or having a particular sexual orientation, gays have the same human rights as every other person. A right that has to be defended. The wording of some parts of the current anti-gay marriage bill actually give reasons to worry whether the human rights of gay persons concerned will not be encroached upon. And given the sad state of law enforcement in Nigeria those fears are legitimate. But again we are referring to rights for gays not because they are gay, but because they are PEOPLE.

The concept of rights also implies certain duties. That I have certain human rights also implies that I have the duty to respect the rights of other persons, whether or not we are the same or different. Not being willing (as a criminal) or not being able (as someone insane) to carry out those duties would warrant that some of my rights be curtailed by a legitimate authority. There are also other rights which are given to certain persons by virtue of being able or being charged to carry out certain duties. Persons in authority have certain rights that do not belong to the general public.

Understanding the nature of human sexuality, it is only logical that only those who can make proper use of sexuality that can be granted certain rights on that basis. Therefore as a same-sex couple cannot perform the duties that flow naturally from human sexuality they do not have the right to the institution of marriage. Going back to the analogy of blindness. Even though a blind man has equal rights with those who can see, he cannot be granted the right to drive a car or control traffic like other people with sight for the mere fact of not being capable of carrying out the duties required by these roles. Thus, denying the blind the right to drive is neither discriminatory nor a limitation of their freedom but merely an act of common sense.

The Fallacy of Labels

Gay rights advocates confuse the issue by convoluting rights that flow from human sexuality with basic human rights. This is manifested in the idea of gay people identifying themselves primarily on the basis of their sexual preference. It is absurd to describe oneself as gay or straight. Every person is first a human being who may have certain tendencies, some of which may be disordered. These tendencies do not define a person and therefore do not determine wjether he  or she deserves human rights or not.  When this fundamental error is made, the denial of marriage or the refusal sanction of homosexual behaviour is then seen a denial of human rights. As Hilary Clinton put it ‘gay rights are human rights’.

A lot can be said and has been said about the law. But one thing is clear. We have to ask the right questions about whether the homosexual conditions are natural or disordered and whether they deserve certain rights on that basis. The answers are there. Though they are unpleasant.

NAPE 2013: Thoughts on Nigerian Oil

I was at the 31st  edition of the National Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE) annual conference and exhibition which held from the 10th-14th November . This was my first experience  of this largest gathering of Nigerian geoscientists related to the Petroleum Industry and it was an opportunity to feel the pulse of the Nigerian oil industry as well as meet old classmates and acquaintances. 

The conference theme -Stimulating Exploration and Reserves Growth in a Maturing Basin- was indicative of what is on the mind of those involved as well as observers of the Nigerian industry. The Nigerian oil industry has been shrinking. It is an open secret that the major international oil companies (IOCs) are divesting their (especially onshore) assets. More alarmingly exploration activity in frontier areas (Deepwater Niger Delta, Benin Basin and the inland basins) have waned. Among the IOC staff there’s a certain tension and insecurity as divesting implies downsizing (Shell for instance plans to cut 70% of staff ). Added to this is the significant drop in Nigerian oil production related to insecurity and oil theft and the concurrent growth and emergence of competitors in West (Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia), Central (Angola, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea) and East (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania nad Mozambique) Africa. There certainly were many points to ponder.

The seriousness of the situation was not lost on the Keynote speaker Elijah White Jr. the Vice President (Geosciences) of Exxonmobil Production company who did not mince words on where the solution lies and the danger for Nigeria if the solution is not applied as soon as possible. In his short but very revealing address he spoke first about the phenomenal growth in US oil production due to the contribution  of unconventional sources of petroleum by the fracking process. The US will by 2015 become the largest producer of oil and by 2030 become a net exporter of oil. Worldwide demand for oil will continue to grow with China and India growing to become major consumers.

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He talked about the worrying trend in the Nigerian oil industry with production unstable and exploration (especially in deepwater areas) dropping significantly. This has led to leveling out in the growth of our oil reserves. All this is coupled with the exploration successes in Angola (gradually catching up to Nigeria in production and size of proven reserves) and more recently Ghana. The bottom line is that we have competitors; and with 95% export earnings and 40% of government revenue still coming from oil,  a heavy shock will have serious effects on our economy.

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chart (2)

Why is this a worrying trend? Almost everyone sitting in that hall knew the answer, but he said it anyway: an uncertain investment climate. He spoke of how a stable fiscal environment and government policy led to the successes in Angola and growth in non conventional production in the US. His conclusion was that a “stable fiscal and regulatory regime” with “globally competitive terms” as well as access to low-cost resources will lead to “secure competitive supplies and economic growth.”

At that point it the address you could hear the murmurs of agreement and the whispers of ‘PIB’. It is clear that investors are waiting for the passage of the long overdue ( last government major government decision on policy in for the oil industry was passed in 1993!) Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB). I strained my neck at that point to see if the special guest of honour and Honourable Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Allison-Madueke had arrived and was listening. Sadly she did not show nor did she send a representative or an apology (I hear this is a very common occurrence).  Mr Elijah White was probably also disappointed.

The message was clear. Something needs to be done remedy the Nigerian oil industry. Whether the government has the sufficient will to push reform is another question. With the level and the scale of corruption it wouldn’t be surprising that many profiting from the status quo would fight reform.

Speaking about this to some friends outside the oil industry the opinion was that maybe the shock of a crash might be the only thing capable of cleaning up the oil industry. If we realize that revenues from the oil industry are certainly not infinite then and only then will we be forced to focus on other largely neglected resources which would benefit a larger number of Nigerians rather than only a privileged (and currently insecure) few lucky to work for an IOC.

These are certainly interesting times for the country. I just downloaded a copy of the PIB and have started going through the (very long) document. We are not as secure as we want to believe. The onus certainly lies on our government to do the needful. 

Solar Eclipse of November 2013

Annular Eclipse of May 10 2013. ©Wikipedia

Annular Eclipse of May 10 2013. ©Wikipedia

In about a few hours, observers in Nigeria will experience a partial eclipse of the Sun.  The eclipse actually what is known as a hybrid Eclipse. A hybrid eclipse occurs when a Solar eclipse is seen as Total and Annular at the same time. A total eclipse occurs when the silhouette of the Moon completely obscures the Sun, allowing the much fainter solar corona to be visible. In an Annular eclipse the Sun and Moon are exactly in line, but the apparent size of the Moon is smaller than that of the Sun. Hence the Sun appears as a very bright ring, or annulus, surrounding the dark disk of the Moon. Usually the path of totality where a full (total or Annular) eclipse occurs is at best a narrow path with totality lasting about 2 minutes. On a much larger area observers get to see a partial eclipse.

In todays eclipse, totality will be visible from the northern Atlantic Ocean (east of Florida) to Africa (Gabon ( where it makes landfall), R. Congo, DR Congo, Uganda, South Sudan,Kenya, Ethiopia). It will be partial throughout Nigeria. Viewing times and duration depends on the location with duration of eclipse shortening the further one is from the path of totality. Here are a list of viewing times from a number of locations in Nigeria.

SE2013Nov03H

Orthographic Map with Technical information on the Eclipse of November 3rd 2013 © NASA

Lagos 12:48-4:00pm

Abuja 1:03-4:03pm

Ibadan: 12:50pm-3:49pm

Benin: 12:56-4;04pm

Onitsha: 1:00-4:06pm

Enugu: 1:02-4:06pm

Nsukka: 1:02-4:06pm

PH: 1:01-4:07pm

Calabar: 1:06-4:09pm

Kaduna 1:01-4:01pm

Kano 1:05-4:00pm

Maiduguri 1:20-4:07pm

Sokoto 12:54-3:52pm

A nice Google info Map is available from NASA showing the times of the eclipse for whatever location.

It is important to note that one should on no condition view the eclipse with the unaided eye. Looking directly at the sun can cause permanent eye damage even after a few seconds of exposure. Viewing requires protection using glasses with special filters (eg Welders goggles) or indirectly (water in a bowl, pin hole).

Solar Eclipse are rare occurrences which happen in a particular place once or twice in a decade. It won’t be a bad idea, weather permitting to go out to see this one.

The Narratives of Nigeria’s Politico-Twitterati

Ikenna Okonkwo:

The Nigerian Twitterscape in the past week has been dominated by political issues and scandals that call to question the willingness of our leaders to pursue the change they preach. The conversation leave much to be desired still as many ‘tweeps’ are motivated by largely partisan interests which tend to colour the nature and the quality of the debate. Nwachukwu Egbunike analyses this phenomena in his latest article.

Originally posted on FEATHERS PROJECT:

By Nwachukwu Egbunike

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The streets of Nigeria’s Twitter are hot and harsh these days. The clash of the politico-twitterati on each side of the divide – opposition and the establishment – has been characterized with vile tweet-blood. Politico-Twitterati means those influential tweeps or overlords who are active partisan politicians. They differ from “political tweeps” (or political activists) who though they tweet on politics, owe no allegiance to any political party.

The narrative as expounded by each side of the divide can be grouped into two: disruptive narration (by the opposition) and confutative narration (by the establishment).

The Disruptive Narrative of the Opposition Politico-Twitterati

A casual observation of the handles of some opposition overlords shows that they thrive on rumours. It looks as though they patiently wait for any gaffe from government officials and then precipitate a twitterstorm. For instance take the “news” on the 53 gold plated…

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Exit, Voice And Loyalty: Aviation In Nigeria

Ikenna Okonkwo:

This is not the first time I’m reblogging FF here (and probably not the last). This article takes a detailed and learned (as usual) look at the Aviation industry in the wake of the concerns safety concerns and corruption scandals and looks at possible options for Nigerians.

Originally posted on Agùntáṣǫólò:

In December 2012, the great economist, Albert Otto Hirschman passed away. By all accounts, the man had lived a truly remarkable life and in April of this year, the Princeton Professor, Jeremy Adelman published a very well received biography of Hirschman – Worldly Philosopher: The Odyssey of Albert O. Hirschman. The book is 760 pages so if that’s not your cup of tea, it’s worth reading Malcolm Gladwell’s review of the book in the New Yorker. It’s a really good piece. Or your money back.

Hirschman lived all around the world and spoke Italian, French, German and English. He worked in Europe, Africa, America and South America and he wrote about 9 books and countless papers in his time.

Of all his books though, the most popular one was Exit, Voice and Loyalty. The book is about the 3 different responses people come up with to decline…

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ASUU Part Quatre: We Have An Agreement

Ikenna Okonkwo:

A breakdown of the 2009 ASUU agreement that is the bone of contention in the now 3 months long strike.
In the end it is all about allowances.

Originally posted on Agùntáṣǫólò:

Before you complain that Peter Jackson’s Lord of The Rings only had 3 parts, I have 2 words for you – The Hobbit.

First of all, shout out to the good man who dug up this agreement, scanned it and emailed it to me. As we say here in Blighty; you Sir, are the dog’s bollocks. Thank you.

I think the first thing that struck me about this agreement is how strong ASUU are as a union. I wonder how other unions will feel if they see the kind of stuff ASUU managed to extract from government. Part of the reason for this, in my opinion, is immediately obvious when you look at the list of the people who negotiated for both sides. While the ASUU delegation was led by its President and senior members, the government side was led by Gamaliel Onosode and some other Professors and ex Pro-Chancellors…

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From the Archives: To Develop Africa Needs God

I came across a letter I wrote to the guardian in 2009 which was in response to an opinion piece. It hasn’t found a way to my blog all this while and 4 years certainly won’t be too late for an article like this.

TO DEVELOP AFRICANS NEED GOD

Sir,

Leo Igwe’s article, ‘Africa needs Development, not God’ (The Guardian, 11th, March 2009 is a clear example of the intolerance and dogmatism commonly exhibited by Atheists or Humanists or Rationalist or whatever high-sounding name used to cloud their beliefs. Leo Igwe begins by citing an article by Matthew Parris in The Times online titled: ‘As an Atheist I truly believe that Africa needs God’. Anyone who has read the article would easily conclude that either Leo Igwe read only the title or he grossly misinterpreted it on purpose to advance his views.

Matthew Parris was not just writing about pumps installed by missionaries in Malawi, he was not just writing about the material aid brought to Africa by mission groups, which any charity with enough funds can bring and does bring. Matthew was talking about the interior rejuvenation, the change of mindset, the ‘spiritual transformation’ (in his words) which the missionaries bring along with their faith and whatever material care they may bring. The Christian view of the world -a world made by a God who is outside of and infinitely transcends it, and of Man, made in God’s image and therefore with a dignity that goes beyond blood, tribe or status- gives those who come in contact with it ‘a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world – a directness in their dealings with others – that seemed to be missing in traditional African life.’ Matthew concluded that ‘those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted. And […] it has to be supplanted by another.’

After all his huffing and puffing against religion and the mission schools -whose contribution to the forming of intellects in this country (including that of the ‘intellectuals’ of the Nigerian Humanist movement) cannot be brushed aside- what does Leo Igwe recommend? ‘The Good.’ Where would this ‘good’ come from if not from men? Moreover, if men were not good where would ‘good governance, good roads, good schools, colleges and universities’ come from? Christianity provides the means for –among other things- making men good. It is only when people are good that Africa would truly develop. Why is the western (European) civilization the most advanced? Underlying the advancement of the west is a culture, a worldview that is Christian. The west is where it is today because of Christianity.

Leo Igwe also recommends ‘humanism, skepticism, rationalism, positive atheism and free thought for Africa’.  History at least gives us salient examples of where such a world view would logically lead Africa to: the Despotic slavery of the Marxism of Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s china, the tragedy of Nazi Germany, the current anti-humanism that is Abortion and euthanasia, the anti-rationalism that is the so called ‘gay-rights’ movement. Is that what Leo Igwe (and the Nigerian Humanist Movement) wants for Africa? Tufiakawa!

 

Ikenna Okonkwo

Ibadan

Signs of confused activism

Ikenna Okonkwo:

There’s a lot of talk on the who, the what, and the why of Activism. Noel Ihebuzor weighs in on possible confusions.

Originally posted on visionvoiceandviews:

By

Noel A. Ihebuzor

Activism is now one of the fastest growing buzz and fancy words. It has style and appeal. It has class. Quite a number of persons on social media would immediately lay claims to be engaging in this highly rated practice either as a hobby or as a full time professional pursuit. But like all buzz words, the word activism “contains” a lot of fuzz. The fuzz arises because “activism” is gradually becoming a label that has been hijacked and is now being used to describe the activities of a variety of persons from genuine crusaders for social justice through to paid political party agents to social media demagogues. Confusion clearly abounds and an important step in wading through this confusion is to try to come up with a simple scheme that would enable a citizen to distinguish between genuine activism and fake activism. I call fake…

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In and Around the Rift: What are those Tubes?

One topic in Paleontology that no Geologist was likely to have missed in school was the study of Trace fossils or Ichnofossils: geological record of biological activity (burrows, tracks, trails, borings) rather than the remains of the organism itself. Apart from help us understand the behaviour of these ancient organisms that left them they also can be used to determine the kind of environmental conditions at the time of deposition of a sedimentary rock (Tidal, Beach, River etc.). Recognizing and describing trace fossils is therefore an important part of the description of rock outcrops.

By nature trace fossils are not as easily well preserved as body fossils and find one in good condition is always a surprise. In a sand quarry on the outskirts of Orlu town (Imo state) along the road from Urualla there are very well preserved Ophiomorpha burrows ( a name or Ichnotaxon  given to certain burrows interpreted to have been made in a nearshore environment).

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A niche within the sand showing remarkably well preserved burrows.

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Closer view showing the 3D detail of the burrows.

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Same as before… One cannot imagine these burrows to be 30+ million years old.

The sands are part of the Nanka Formation, deposited in a tidally influenced estuarine precursor of the current Niger Delta in the later part of the Eocene Epoch (56-33.9 million years ago) by probably Crustaceans.

These pictures were taken almost 2 years ago. Being a sand quarry they most like have been long destroyed. The quarrying would probably have exposed more of these well preserved burrows.

Now you know what Ophiomorpha burrows actually look like.