Historical And Political Evolution Of Nigeria From 1900-Present Day

Britain governed indirectly through the existing local institutions. Sir Frederick Lugard’s Indirect Rule worked well in the North and the West where Traditional rulers were already in place. It however, failed woefully in the East where there was no tradition of central governing authority. What the British did therefore, was to create artificial chiefs whom they called “Warrant chiefs”. Because of the alien authority so created in the East and because some of them were actually insignificant people, the warrant chiefs commanded little or no authority. People either ignored them or protested their rule. One of the upshots of this anomaly was the ‘Aba Riots’ of 1929, led by women who were protesting in the main, the imposition of tax by a warrant chief.

THE CLIFFORD CONSTITUTION OF 1922

The Governor of Nigeria at this time, Sir Hugh Clifford had earlier attacked the National Congress of British West Africa, a political party which was formed and led from the Gold Coast by Casely Hayford, for having sent a petition to the secretary of state for the Colonies in London. One of the agitations of the educated minority in Lagos and Calabar areas was for proper constitutional representation, and the petition was rejected by Lord Milner, the secretary of state. Clifford himself had attacked the National Congress of British West Africa as a whole, but he fully appreciated the need for reform and especially for increased participation of Nigerians in the government of their own country.

One of the political consequences of the Clifford Constitution was that the introduction of elective principle in the Legislative Council stimulated political activity, particularly in Lagos, which had three seats. Political parties and newspapers were founded, though some were short-lived due to personal rivalries and inadequate funding. That was the early stage of Nigerian nationalism. Herbert Macaulay founded the first Nigerian political party – Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) – and which won all the elections of 1923, 1928 and 1933.

The supremacy in Lagos of the NNDP was not challenged until the foundation in 1934 of the Lagos Youth Movement, which changed its name to Nigeria Youth Movement (NYM) in 1936. The NYM emerged from relative obscurity at the 1938 General Elections to challenge the NNDP and it became the predominant Nigerian party under Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s leadership, until he resigned from it on an internal issue of confidence in 1941, after which it faded away.

The impact of the Second World War (1945-1949) upon Nationalist movements in British West Africa was the same in all territories. The impact was threefold: military, psychological, and economic.

Large numbers of West African troops were recruited and saw military service in East Africa, in North Africa, and most particularly, in South East Asia. They were taught that they were fighting for freedom, and were promised good resettlement facilities when they returned home and were demobilized. However, West African units in South East Asia had been issued with pamphlets describing demobilization and resettlement procedures applicable to British troops being demobilized in the United Kingdom for when they got back to their own countries the West African troops were summarily discharged from the armed forces, and swelled the ranks of the unemployed.

During the war, the propaganda of the Allies had been based upon the concept of freedom (as indeed had Nazi propaganda directed at the colonies). The United States, as an ex-colony, took an aggressively anti-colonialist line from the time of the Atlantic Charter of the United Nations.

Finally, following war-time and post-war shortages and inflation, the price of imported goods went up, though the prices received by local producers for export did not go up like the same extent. This led to dissentient and a belief that the Colonial masses were the victims of imperialist and capitalist exploitation.

The impact of Azikiwe’s newspaper – West African Pilot – and other factors energized the quest for freedom. Such other factors were the impact of organized labour, student unionism and the invigorating balm offered by the independence of India in 1947.

THE RICHARDS CONSTITUTION OF 1946

Sir Arthur Richards (later Lord Milverton) submitted his Constitutional proposals to the secretary of state for the Colonies in December 1944. The proposals were of two main characteristics: the pursuit of self-determination and the development of regional separatism.

There was sweeping condemnation of the Richards Constitution by a plethora of protests, viz, the June 1945 general strike of organized labour spearheaded by the labour leader, Pa Michael Imoudu, the formation and activities of the Zikist Movement and the increasing impatience and radicalism of the youths. The new mood of the moment was captured by Ogedemgbe Macaulay (son of Herbert Macaulay) and Mallam Habib Abdallah. The younger Macaulay was reported to have argued that “if we tell the governor to come down, he will not; we must drag him down and take over.”

In a 1948 lecture titled “The Age of Positive Action”, Mallam Abdallah said:

“I hate the Union Jack with all my heart because it divides the people wherever it goes…it is a symbol of persecution, of domination, a symbol of exploitation… of brutality…we have passed the age of petition…age of resolution…the age of diplomacy. This is the age of action – plain, blunt and positive action.”

The Nationalist leaders were strongly opposed to the Richards Constitution as they claimed that it had been arbitrarily imposed upon them, since Richards himself had not consulted either the political leaders or public opinion in general.

THE MACPHERSON CONSTITUTION OF 1951

Sir John Macpherson took over from Sir Arthur Richards as Governor in April 1948. Macpherson attempted a rapprochement with the Nigerian Nationalists, thus securing their co-operation in a common effort towards self-government.

In the early part of his governorship, he carried out local government reforms which were intended to modernize and democratize local government structure of Southern Nigeria. He also set up a special commission, which included Dr. Azikiwe, to make recommendations on the ‘Nigerianization’ of the senior civil service. On 17th August 1948, Macpherson addressed the Legislative Council that “if it was the wish of the country” he was willing to make constitutional changes within three years.

Lengthy wrangling among the Nationalists led to constitutional reform with the feeling polarizing the three major parties based upon the three Regions then existing – the Action Group based on Yoruba support, the NCNC based upon Ibo support, and the NPC based upon Hausa/Fulani support, and thus establishing themselves as spokesmen of the three major tribal and regional interests.

The breakdown of the Macpherson Constitution – even though it represented a structure within which Nigerian political leaders could have worked out their political salvation had they wished on a basis of ‘Unity in Diversity’- its principal weakness lay in its failure to provide government at the center. For example, there was a determination of the relationships on the one hand between the political parties and on the other hand between Nigerian leaders and expatriate officials. A further constitutional impasse developed in the Federal House of Representatives as a result of the motion calling for, ‘as a primary political objective the attainment of self-government for Nigeria in 1956’ which was moved by chief Anthony Enahoro, an Action Group member, on March 31, 1953.

THE LYTTELTON CONSTITUTION 1954

The political atmosphere throughout Nigeria rapidly deteriorated into party and ethnic intolerance, as evinced, for example, by the Kano Riots of 1953. Accordingly, Mr. Oliver Lyttleton, the secretary of state, stated in the House of Commons on 31st May 1953 that, since it appeared impossible for Nigerians to work together effectively in a tightly knit federation, ‘Her majesty’s Government had regretfully decided that the Nigerian Constitution would have to be withdrawn to provide for greater regional autonomy and for the removal of powers of intervention by the center in matters which could, without detriment to other regions, be placed entirely within regional competence.’ He accordingly invited Nigerian leaders to come to London for a Constitutional Review. The Nigerian political leaders after some political bickering visited London from 30th July to 22nd August 1953 for the constitutional conference, reaching agreement on some major issues. It was agreed that the conference should meet again in Lagos in January 1954 to deal with other issues like proposals for revenue allocation to the Regions.

The Lyttleton Constitution succeeded in giving the Regional legislatures a high degree of legislative autonomy being able to make laws on subjects included in the ‘regional’ list and in the ‘concurrent’ list (in which a Federal law could over-ride the Regional law). The Lyttleton Constitution had visualized that the Regions would eventually become self-governing in all matters within their legislative competence, as a transitional stage towards full self-government for Nigeria as a whole. As a result of the London constitutional conference in May and June 1957 under the chairmanship of the then secretary of state, Mr. Lennox- Boyd, both Eastern and Western Regions became self-governing on 8th August, 1957 and, in March 1959, the Northern Region became self-governing.

THE LONDON CONFERENCE OF 1958

The fourth constitutional conference to be held in eight years took place in London in September and October 1958. Apart from some discussions of the position of minority in Nigeria, and the decision to hold a General Election for an enlarged House of Representatives in December 1959, the most important outcome of the conference was the decision that barring accidents, Nigeria should become independent on 1st October, 1960.

The general election having held in December 1959, no single party obtained an overall majority of the 312 seats in the new House of Representatives. The distribution of seats was as follows: Northern People’s Congress (NPC) 134, Nigerian Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) 89, and Action Group (AG) 73, while others had 16. It would thus have been possible for a coalition of the NCNC and the AG to command a working majority in the House, and discussions were held between the leaders to that effect. These negotiations broke down, partly owing to the hostility between the two parties and partly because of the fear that the Northern Government was based upon the two Southern parties only. In the end, the NPC and the NCNC formed a coalition government under Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. The AG, frustrated, became the official opposition. Dr. Azikiwe resigned his seat in the House and was appointed President of the newly established Senate.

Comment: the union between the NPC and the NCNC became a subject of life-long bitter feeling between Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe with the former believing that the latter’s political alignment with the NPC signified an unwarranted compromise and a sell-out.

THE INDEPENDENCE CONSTITUTION OF 1960

The first Constitution of an independent Nigeria was contained in the Nigerian (Constitution) Order in Council, 1960, which came into effect on 1st October, 1960. Note that in July 1960, the United Kingdom; Parliament had passed the Nigerian Independence Act, 1960, which made provision for the independence of all Nigeria except the British Cameroons.

The 1960 Independence Constitution contained some important provisions, as follows:

i. The Governor-General representing the Queen became constitutional Head of State, acting only on the advice of his ministers. The same applied to the Governors at the Regions.

ii. Judges of the Supreme and High Courts were to be appointed upon the advice of the Judicial Service Commission, made up of the existing Judges. They could only be dismissed on the recommendation of a Tribunal of Judges, confirmed by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

iii. Constitutional provision was made for Nigerian citizenship.

iv. A procedure for constitutional amendment hitherto the prerogative of the United Kingdom authorities was incorporated in the Constitution.

FROM 1960 – 1983

Nigeria having attained political independence on 1st October 1960, it must be admitted that hope and anxiety defined the first five years of self-rule. But hope soon petered out, as anxiety soon yielded way to tension, then to crises.

The Western Region Crisis of 1962

Within two years of independence, the emergency powers of the Federal Government had to be called into play, and it became the subject of considerable political acrimony. By declaring a state of emergency and supplanting the government of a Region was demonstrably so great as to raise the question of whether Nigeria was a true Federation at all.

The Western Region crisis which developed from a personality conflict between Chief Awolowo, the leader of the Action Group and his deputy, Chief S.L. Akintola, the Premier of Western Region and split the Action Group completely, resulted in the suspension of the Western Region Government by the Federal Government under its emergency powers. Having declared emergency rule the Federal Government appointed Senator Majekodumi, the Federal Minister of Health, as Administrator, with full powers as if he were himself the Western Region Government.

Meanwhile, Chief Awolowo and a group of his supporters were charged with treasonable felony and conspiracy to overthrow the Federal Government. After a lengthy trial, he was convicted and sentenced to ten years imprisonment. Chief Akintola was allowed to resume his premiership on 1st January, 1963, and up to the date of his assassination during the first military coup in January 1966, remained in office as leader of a new party, the Nigerian National Democratic Party.

The Mid-West State

On 23rd March 1962, the Federal Parliament approved a Constitutional amendment to provide for a fourth Region in Nigeria. The proposal was then approved by the legislatures of Eastern and Northern Regions, although rejected at the time by the Western legislature. A referendum was held in the area affected on 13th July 1963, which gave an overwhelming support to the creation of a new Region.

The Mid-West Region, formed out the non-Yoruba areas of Western Region, came into existence on the 12th August 1963. It received a Constitution on 9th January 1964 similar to that of Western Region, after having been administered under the aegis of the Federal Government for the first six months.

How Nigeria Became a Republic

Proposals for the transformation of Nigeria into a Republic were drawn up by the Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, in consultation with the Regional Premiers and presented to the delegates of all the political parties at the Constitutional Conference held in Lagos on the 25th and 26th July 1963. The Conference agreed that Nigeria should become a Federal Republic within the Commonwealth on 1st October 1963. It was decided that the first president should be Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, previously the Governor-General of the Federation, and that subsequent Presidents should be elected for a period of five years at a time by the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives sitting together.

The Republican Constitution of 1963

The new Constitution incorporated the decisions of the Constitutional Conference, and was passed into law by the Federal Parliament on 19th September 1963. It came into effect on 1st October 1963. The Republican Constitution was titled “The 1963 Constitution (Act No. 20 of 1963) and it was a lengthy document running into twelve chapters with numerous sections. One very significant section of the 1963 Constitution was Section 157 which named Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe as President of the Republic with effect from the date of commencement of the Constitution. It must be noted that the 1963 Constitution was Federal, Republican, Written and Rigid.

The Breakdown of Law and Order

The Western Region was already politically divided since the rift between Awolowo and Akintola in 1962, lived through a period of increasing political tension during the Federal General Election Campaign of 1964. This political tension was not given a chance to subside after the election, owing partly to the charges and counter-charges of illicit practices during the election. A fresh wave of election fever which was stimulated by the knowledge that the Regional General Election was bound to take place during 1965, and rumors had it that the election might take place as early as April 1965, but in the event Chief Akintola concealed his intentions, thus allowing the fever to continue, until the announcement that the date had been fixed for the autumn of 1965.

The Regional electoral results were announced by the Regional Electoral Commission, and showed an overwhelming majority for Chief Akintola’s NNDP. In reaction, the Action Group immediately declared that in fact their acting leader, Alhaji Adegbenro, had won the election and was therefore the lawful Premier, but the courts ruled that Chief Akintola retained the Premiership. The Action Group had alleged that the elections had been ‘rigged’ and they were supported in a statement made by the chairman of the Electoral Commission.

Political dissension and violence between the two parties increased to such a point that by the end of December 1965, the Nigerian police force, seriously undermanned and physically exhausted from the strain of a year or more of violence in the Region, found itself losing its grip on the situation and unable to guarantee the maintenance of law and order. [This was a period the political violence in the Region was euphemistically nick-named “operation wetice” during which political hooligans and arsonists poured petrol on political opponents and burnt them alive, including their houses and other material possessions].

EMERGENCE OF MILITARY GOVERNMENT IN NIGERIA

As a result of the deteriorating situation in Western Region coupled with the impotence of the police to contain the widespread violence from the end of December 1965 to the middle of January 1966 during which gangs of hooligans erected road blocks on the main roads between Lagos and Ibadan.

Still in the grip of its fatal indecision, the Federal Government did not act. In the early hours of Saturday, 15th January 1966, drastic action for which the situation called and with which the Federal Government had not responded, was taken. Troops under the command of Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu assassinated Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Premier of Northern Nigeria and killed a number of senior army officers who were not willing to support their actions. Other troops assassinated Chief Akintola, the Premier of Western Nigeria, and kidnapped his deputy, Chief Fani-Kayode. Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa and Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, the Federal Minister of Finance, were also kidnapped in Laos, and a preventive guard was put on the residences of the Eastern Nigeria Ministers. The bodies of Abubakar and Okotie-Eboh were not found until 21st January, until which time their fate remained unknown.

The remaining members of the Federal Council of Ministers met on 15th January, announced that an army mutiny had taken place, and stated that the General Officer Commanding, Major General J.T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi (who had succeeded Major-General Sir Charles Welby-Everard less than a year previously) remained completely loyal to the Federal Government.

The next day, Sunday, 16th January, the President of the Senate, Dr. Nwafor Orizu, who was Acting President of Nigeria in the absence overseas on sick leave of Dr. Azikiwe, broadcast to the nation announcing that the Council of Ministers had advised him to hand over the powers of government to Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi.

Immediately on assuming power, Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi in a broadcast to the people of Nigeria, stated that he had set up a military government and promulgated the first Decrees to suspend those Sections of the Constitution making provisions for the President of the Republic, Prime Minister, Council of Ministers, Parliament, Regional Governors, Regional Premiers, Regional Executive Councils, and Regional Assemblies. Aguiyi-Ironsi made it clear that the ‘primary objective of the military government was to re-establish law and order, and to reactivate the Civil administration. Its longer term objectives were to eradicate tribalism and regionalism in any shape or form and to lead a unified Nigeria towards the adoption of a new civilian constitution.

Military Governors were appointed for each of the Regions, with Aguiyi-Ironsi as Supreme Commander and Head of the Military Government.

A study group had been set up on 21st March 1966 under Chief Rotimi Williams to make recommendations for a unitary form of government. After serious rioting by Northerners against Southerners (in particular Ibos) in the North because Northerners feared that the proposed unitary form of government was designed to subject them to Southern domination, the army once again intervened in July 1966. Northern troops seized General Aguiyi-Ironsi in Ibadan, together with his host, Lt-Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi, military Governor of the West, and assassinated both of them. This sad event occurred on 29th July 1966.

After a period of confusion, in which the country was leaderless, Lt-Colonel Yakubu Gowon, a Christian Northerner from Angas ethnic group (in present day Plateau State), although not the most senior officer in the army, proved to be the only leader to whom the troops would rally. He thus became the Head of the Federal Military Government.

The first step taken by the new Gowon administration was to reverse Ironsi’s decision to establish a unitary form of government. The interim was to allay Northern fears of Southern (and in particular Ibo) domination, since Ironsi had surrounded himself with Ibo advisors, within his six months in office. The new Gowon regime pacified the people of the West and the Mid-West by releasing Chief Awolowo and Chief Enahoro, and by convening a Conference, which was to include representatives from all the regions, to draft a new Federal Constitution.

The new administration, however, ran into difficulties immediately, as the Military Governor of the Eastern Region Lt-Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu (an Ibo) bitter about the massacre of his people in the North, refused to come to Lagos unless his safety would be guaranteed. The Supreme Miltary Council met in Lagos from 14th to 16th October, 1966, with Lt-Colonel Ojukwu absenting himself as he had not been given a guarantee of personal safety. There was majority support at the conference for the creation of more states in Nigeria, and that a plebiscite should take place to determine the wishes of the people.

Aburi Meeting and Subsequent Secession of the East from Nigeria

Since Ojukwu and Gowon could not see eye-to-eye with each other on the various problems confronting the country as a whole, with particular reference to the Eastern question, a committee of Western Nigeria Obas and Chiefs led by Chief Awolowo, started a round of talks with regional leaders in an attempt to solve the problem of continued Federation. The Eastern leaders persisted in their refusal to sit down to talk, and the result was that the committee had to abandon its efforts in mid-November.

The National Liberation Council in Ghana tried in December 1966, to mediate between Gowon and the military governors in the Regions, including Ojukwu. The meeting took place in Aburi, Ghana, on 4th and 5th January 1967. After the Aburi meeting, all parties returned to Nigeria convinced that a worthwhile agreement had been reached, however, Ojukwu’s interpretation of the meaning of agreement differed from those of the other participants. (It should be noted that it had generally been agreed at the Aburi meeting that each regional governor should be given the power of veto over any decision of the Supreme Military Council which might affect this, as they felt it seriously undermined the power of the Federal Military Government).

A decree published by the Federal Military Government on 17th March, purporting to implement the Aburi agreement made secession illegal and empowered the SMC to take over the powers of government in any region where it had declared a state of emergency.

On 31st March, Ojukwu published an edict, the effect of which was to ascribe to the Regional Government all revenues (Oil royalties, etc.) which had previously been ascribable to the Federal Military Government. On 18th April 1967, he took over Federal installations on Eastern soil, including the railways, posts, and Telecommunications, etc.

On 27th May, 1967, Ojukwu secured an overwhelming vote in the 300 – member Regional Consultative Assembly authorizing him to proclaim the Region’s independence as the ‘Republic of Biafra’ at the earliest possible date. The next day, Gowon declared a state of emergency throughout Nigeria, assumed full powers as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, and promulgated a decree dividing Nigeria into twelve states. The former Northern Region was divided into six states and the Eastern Region into three. The Mid-West became one state, while the Western Region minus Colony Province became the new Western State. The Colony Province joined the former Federal Territory of Lagos to become Lagos State.

Ojukwu announced that the decree dismembering Eastern Region would not be implemented and proclaimed the Republic of Biafra on 30th May, 1967. In reaction, Gowon denounced this as an act of rebellion, imposed financial and economic sanctions on the territory and ordered general mobilization.

CIVIL WAR

As a result of frontier clashes between Ojukwu’s forces and those of Gowon, Ojukwu threatened total war on 30th June, 1967 if Nigeria entered his territory. This resulted in Gowon dismissing Ojukwu both as a military governor and as an army officer. The invasion of the East by the Federal forces started on July 6th, 1967. The collapse of Biafra’s side came suddenly; it was signaled in a broadcast by Ojukwu on 11th January 1970, announcing that he was handing over power to his deputy Major-General Phillip-Effiong and that ‘his presence outside Biafra was vital in the search for an early and honorable end to the Civil war.’ Effiong the next day ordered the ‘orderly disengagement’ of his troops and a delegation was ready to negotiate a peace settlement with the Federal authorities. By 14th January, Federal troops had occupied the whole of the territory, and the next day, Lt-Colonel Effiong (he reversed to his substantive rank in the Nigerian army) formally surrendered in Lagos.

The military government of Gowon lasted nine years from, from 1966 to 1975, when he was overthrown, while on an official trip to Uganda, by General Murtala Muhammed. One of the major reasons for Gowon’s overthrow was that he over-stayed in power without any clear objectives about setting the time-frame to hand over power to a civilian administration over which he severally reneged.

General Muhammed himself was toppled in a coup after only six months in power on 13th February 1976, by Lt-Colonel Buka Dimka. Following the assassination of General Muhammed, the mantle of leadership fell on the then Brigadier Olusegun Obasanjo who was immediate deputy of General Muhammed. Obasanjo piloted the affairs of Nigeria and conducted a General Election, in which an elected Executive civilian President in the person of Alhaji Shehu Shagari became President of Nigeria, on the platform of the National Party of Nigeria, on 1st October, 1979.

Shagari ruled Nigeria for four years and massive ineptitude and political corruption were the order of the day. It was indeed a testy period in Nigeria’s chequered history as the ‘years of the Locusts’ really entered the center-stage in Nigeria’s political scene.

The Era of Tunde Idiagbon and Muhammadu Buhari

Shagari’s regime was boted out on 31st December, 1983 by the duo of Brigadier Tunde Idiagbo and Major-General Muhammadu Buhari who rode into the system with great promise. They wore long faces and tried to whip everybody into line. They made ‘disciplie’ their watch word and didn’t miss any opportunity to boast that they were in charge. But after sixteen months in the saddle, they were kicked out to the immediate joy of many (in August 1985).

Babangida’s Era

General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, popularly called IBB, came in August 1985, with a winning smile. Like others before him, he started well. It took almost all his eight-year reign for his hidden agenda to become apparent. By then, Nigerians had been made to swallow the bitter pill of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) in which the country’s per capita income of about $1200 of the eighties plummeted to $250. The General turned Nigeria into a political laboratory, as he banned and unbanned politicians, endlessly tinkering with the process. The greatest political crisis that Babangida bequeathed to the country was the annulment of the Presidential Election victory won by Chief M.K.O. Abiola on June 12th, 1993 and for reasons best known to him, the country was given the June 12 crisis. Babangida stepped aside and strung together an interim government that was later declared illegal by the courts.

The Era of Sani Abacha

One of the upshots of that crisis was the emergence of General Sani Abacha, the dictator who for five years squeezed the country to submission. Abacha, it was who jailed Abiola, the winner of the elections, for daring to his many detention camps, closed down media houses, hanged activists and sent his killer squads after opposition figures. Nigerians lived in fear and misery. During this period, Nigeria waded through its darkest phase in history.

The Era of Abdulsalam Abubakar

When Abacha passed on, General Abdulsalam Abubakar came in 1988, managed a fair transition, and set the country up on the path of dreams and hope. On May 29, 1999, a new day dawned when Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was sworn in as the President, having won the General Elections under the People Democratic Party (PDP), for a four year term which terminated in year 2003.

Again, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo mounted the saddle again for a second term as Nigeria’s elected civilian President after having won the 2003 General Elections under the platform of People Democratic Party. He entered his second term as President on May 29th, 2007, when the baton fell on late President Musa Yar’Adua. Yar’Adua, following a protracted illness, died on May 5th, 2009.

The Era of Goodluck Jonathan

The era of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan became the substantive President after his boss, President Musa Yar’Adua died in 2009. After a successful primary election of his Party, the PDP, Jonathan was thrown up as the flag bearer and Presidential candidate for the 2011 General Elections to which he finally won in a landslide on April 16, 2011. He was sworn in as President of Nigeria on May 29, 2011.

Anthony O. Okeleke holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) History, from the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. He has excellent knowledge of African History.

The History of Government and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms

Let’s take a look at several thousand years of governmental disarmament of the populace. Of course all the while, the rulers, their guards and armies remained armed.

The Founders of America were educated in the classic written histories of our civilization. In fact President Adams and Jefferson among others, studied in numerous languages; Latin, Greek, French, Italian, and Hebrew to name a few of the dozens of languages they read in.

Thomas Jefferson, the most prolific reader of books and letter writer of the Founders, kept copies of all his letters to and from his correspondents. His personal library was so extensive that it is the foundation of our Library of Congress. His letters have been assembled, typed and bound into large volumes. The result is far larger than a couple of sets of encyclopedias. His letters of correspondence were even in several languages. The copies of his own letters were made with a manual copy machine comprised of two pens; one he wrote with and the other pen, via a unique mechanical arrangement, made an identical copy of his letter on another piece of paper. It is thought that as much as 80% of his correspondence was lost in fires and later with careless storage of his effects by others.

Jefferson studied and wrote dictionaries for a couple of dozen previously unwritten and thus uncodified languages — especially 18 languages of the various tribes of the American Indians. His fluency in other languages (some say he was fluent in all written languages in print at the time of his life) allowed him and interested him in the study of the non-written languages of the Amerinds. Amerind was the general term used to describe the American Indians by Anthropologists until recently; the term was indeed meant to separate native American Indians from the natives of India.

It was NOT unusual that those educated in this country in the 1600s and 1700s were educated in several languages. The histories, philosophies, music, mathematics and classics of all known cultures were not only studied but were debated over smoke and alcohol following the dinner hour each evening in educated households. The discussions held in Colonial America between friends regarding such subjects has been replaced in our country today by debates over sports, movie stars, sexual activities and current propaganda which we call the evening news.

The English were most helpful in this as were the French and Italians and MANY books were available. Japanese, Chinese, Icelandic, Dutch, and the several dialects of Scandinavia as well as Russia were a part of evening discussions among the learned of this colony.

What they learned was that the entire history of government was a history of tyranny — and that that tyranny was formed and fomented upon the populace as a result of a division in education. The haves and have-nots of education are far more a problem than in the subject of finance. It is this knowledge that led our Founders to emphasize education for all our citizens. The masses of the past were able to be more easily subjected to tyranny as a result of and due to lack of education, lack of freedom of communication, and in the final gasp, the lack of a fully armed citizenry.

Tyrants have always first disarmed the public, let us studiously notice that our Founders, all of whom were fond of being armed wherever they went, did not mention a type of arms and certainly not guns in the Constitution or it’s attendant Bill of Individual Rights.

Let’s take a look at the history of disarmament and the resultant tyranny.

LONG STICKS: Sticks were the predictably first weapon taken from the people; the staff was taken from the populace by the more powerful (and deadlier) leaders. That protective stick — the staff or the shorter scepter — is still a recognized symbol of sovereignty. And the staff, just a stout stick about shoulder to head high, is still a formidable weapon. Even the cane, a shorter staff, is a good weapon and has been outlawed at times (Ireland still outlaws canes). The ancient French had a formidable form of fighting based on the cane (and kicking) by the name of Savate — so did the Britts although those refined Britts often refrained from kicking and often loaded that cane with a sword. Many Britts still look upon the cane and it’s cousin a stout defensive umbrella as a symbol of the elite. Many of the older gentry are still constantly armed with a cane or umbrella, no matter if gimpiness or inclement weather cause any other need of them.

CLUBS: Let’s go back earlier again to the time of the staff and stick as weapons. As our distant and ancient ancestors congregated even more into herds and clans, the stronger took dominion even more over the weak, the sick and the old. Those strong ones took on a more official leadership role — another one of the first acts of disarmament was to take the shorter CLUBS away from the populace. This club — the scepter — remains as a symbol of sovereignty (supreme rule and power). A big headed club was a formidable weapon even against the staff and thus the populace had to be disarmed of both. Even today many Sovereigns hold the STAFF AND SCEPTER of RULE as a symbol of power.

SYMBOLS OF SOVEREIGNTY: Weapons have always been symbols of sovereignty, power, and personal choice, of personal defense and personal responsibility for ones own condition. Serfs, peons, slaves and the bovine populace of modern America; some call them “sheeple” are not allowed to be self-determined nor to keep and bear arms — in all of history this is the practice. In America we formed a country based on personal sovereignty — that is the right to rule oneself; a unique idea in all the world and in all of history. Thus although we are creeping ever down into a tyranny similar to what we fought against in the late 1700’s — with the citizenry being disarmed in every way possible — we do not allow our “leaders” to carry a staff or scepter as a symbol of that “leadership”.

KNIVES were man’s most basic tool that elevated him from other animals. Even monkeys use sticks and clubs — but not knives. Knives, especially the double edged dagger or the larger short sword were and are also symbols of sovereignty. In the ancient texts, even in some of the later cave pictographs and the earliest Egyptian depictions — knives of many sizes and short swords symbolized the Kings and Sovereigns who determined and directed the lives and livelihood of the lower populace according to the Sovereign’s will.

Weapons have always been a symbol of sovereignty and those without weapons are always the subjects, the serfs and the vassals of those with the arms and power over them. In feudal England there were numerous laws about the length of knife that a serf might own. At one time the longest blade allowed was less than four inches at times even shorter. In most of America today there is a law against a knife of four inches or more. In our schools there is a law against any knife or illegal weapon such as nail clippers, nail files or even tweezers. No I am not kidding.

At one time no knife longer than two inches was allowed for any reason to English or Chinese subjects. There were times when all knives were forbidden to the unworthy ones below the Royalty and their guards.

SWORDS: In later, but still pre-Christian years — in Egypt, Rome, Greece, England, Africa, China and virtually all civilized countries elsewhere — that formidable weapon the sword and even any large knife were taken from the populace and legal ownership was reserved only for Royalty.

The almost prehistoric legend of King Arthur is bound to the symbol of the Sovereignty of the Sword — Excalibur. Something that is not well discussed anymore is that the child Arthur was not legally allowed to own a sword. It was the nobility that came and tried to extract the sword from the stone but none could. So it was that Arthur was one of the serfs who then rose to lead the English. Excalibur by the way means Ex (coming out of) the Calibur (the mold or container) — an interesting double meaning for the sword that came out of the stone that contained it is also Ex (without) Calibur (peer or equal). So Excalibur, perhaps the worlds most universally well known individual weapon was a symbol of Freedom (from containment and imprisonment even by stone) and also a symbol of Power without peer or equal.

In many nations the sword is still a powerful symbol of sovereignty. In England, Knighthood is still bestowed by touching the person with the holy sword of the Queen or King. Romans were forbidden to own a sword unless in the service of the State as Citizens (a Roman Citizen was a person who had sworn first allegiance to the Roman Emperor and thus was allowed certain rights and privileges such as a knife, sword and staff).

Non-Citizens, even lower soldiers were denied swords except when actually fighting in some periods of Roman and Greek history. When not fighting a war with a sword the swords were kept in the armory away from the people.

CHRISTIANS WERE NOT ALLOWED SWORDS: Christians did not grant first allegiance to Rome, but to Christ and God. Thus they were not citizens and not allowed swords. At the time that Jesus the Christ told his disciple to sell his purse and get a sword — that was a crime against the State… a felony in today’s terms.

BOW AND ARROW: The bow and arrow were and are a symbol of power and sovereignty too. In ancient Rome, Egypt, England, China and other countries only Royalty and the protectors of royalty were allowed to own or use or even touch a bow and arrow. Archery was for the elite only.

The semi-mythical story of Robin Hood was about a minor Nobleman who illegally armed the common man of his area with bows and arrows in defiance of Royal Law. Then they had the audacity to live in Sherwood Forest, owned by the king and shoot and eat the king’s deer — instead of starving to death. It was for this that Robin was deemed a criminal and a hoodlum, that is Robin the hood, and later came to act the part more fully.

Robin Hood as a symbolic and partially true story as well as the earlier Arthurian legend symbolized war against tyranny, illegal personal armament and liberty for the low-man. Archery, in the time of Robin of Lockesly, was denied the serfs as was meat. Hunting the royal deer — for the State owned all land and animals was a felony with punishment being death.

It was not so much that Robin stole from the rich and gave to the poor as it was that he fought tyranny and championed liberty. He symbolized what we now know as guerrilla warfare. His “Merry Men” besting the King’s men at every turn. The bow and arrow is often depicted as a symbol of sovereignty in all the ancient countries and governments in the earliest pictures and writing. In fact in America today we see the symbolic power of the arrow displayed in our national symbol. The symbol of our country is that “noble” hunter, scavenger, murderer — the eagle and in it’s claws are the arrows of sovereignty.

THE PISTOL AND THE RIFLE: These are two of the symbols of sovereignty today. In America these were reserved to the people first, as an individual liberty guaranteed by the Bill of rights, by our Founding Fathers who were all historians of world culture.

These founding scholars determined that we should have first the freedom to communicate and secondly, that is the Second Amendment, the right to protect that right of free and open communication with the RIGHT TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS. As historians the Founders were well aware that arms change and nowhere in the Constitution of America are guns mentioned for good reason; weapons and symbols of sovereignty change.

The people of America by our Constitution are deemed the Sovereigns here and the government our dangerous and unreliable servant. However lack of education in classic literature, lack of education in social history, miseducation in our schools and press as well as a lack of education in how to think — have left us with an uninformed and unthinking populace that is being slowly disarmed from the weapons of our Founders — the pistol and the rifle.

Our government and our people both have forgotten history and ignored it; thus each are destined to repeat it. Our people will be enslaved gradually by a tyrannical government as has always been the case — none of us know how long it will take, but there have been no exceptions in the history of this world.

And later those in government will be removed — quite likely in a deadly and bloody manner by those slaves of the state when one or a few rise up as leaders. As Thomas Jefferson advised us… Liberty must be frequently fertilized by the blood of tyrants and the people who would defy them or it dies.

Pistols and Guns are a symbol of personal sovereignty in America as nowhere else in the world. We should be looking to even more modern weaponry if we could afford it. However the best disarmament of the populace that has ever been done is here in America where only the government can afford the most powerful of the modern weapons of war… tanks, rockets, bombs, planes and all the computerized intelligence and record keeping to keep the people down.

In our Founders time the individually sovereign citizen had better weapons than the governments armies and that was the way they planned our country to continue… with the populace heavily armed against tyrants within and without our nation. It was always the intention that Sovereign individuals would be armed with the latest and the best of arms and that the army, in time of war, would gather what they could of men and weapons to defend our nation when need be.

Civilization has never been tame nor safe; however as observed over time, a well armed citizenry, where everyone is suspect of being always armed and dangerous — that society is certainly a far more polite society.

What Is Drop Shipping? What Wholesale Suppliers Can You Trust? Comparisons and Tips

Drop Shipping for the Socially Uninclined and Wholesale Discount Hounds

What is Drop Shipping? Well, this form of online retailing is when you list an item, on eBay or Amazon for example, without having the product in inventory. You generally work with a wholesaler, advertise their product at retail price, and when a customer purchases the aforementioned item, you order the product. Usually and profitably you purchase the item from a wholesaler at a discounted price. At this point the wholesaler, usually for free, ships the neatly packaged, new and impeccable, item directly to your buyer. You are essentially Walmart, with less less fluorescent lights and better fashion taste. You have no overhead, no risk, and no inventory except virtually. Best of all, you never even have to exhume your old printer from the basement to print postage labels. It sounds illegal but its not, and technically not even unethical. Retail stores do it. You spend the time researching and advertising, surely it is only fair you that you get your cut of the profits. The wholesaler is happy as his sales skyrocket and your customer is happy as they receive a professionally packaged brand new item directly to their door. You are happy as you slowly watch that $100 you had put away for that trip to the casino turn into $1000 virtually in a couple weeks. Jackpot. Even Uncle Sam’s happy as money changes hands in the “Hoover Dam” of economy boosting donations we call taxes. So why the stigma?

Well for starters it sounds rather felonious don’t you think? Drop shipping. Or you may call it Arbitrage, which is just as chilling. Can’t we call it something nice like “Stay At Home Retailing For Moms, Agoriphobic Persons, or Socially Handicapped”? Its a long name but less likely to arouse suspicion on a resume that you excelled as a previous drug mule. (I have aspergers. Thus I am allowed to reference social inabilities. I was the awkward one who didn’t cry at the end of Titanic at 9, and have the social grace of a former biker-gang member turned military coach.) The other reason that it has such stigma is that it seems like trickery. If you can find such good prices online for these products shouldn’t your buyer be aware of, and have the ability to use, these sources too? Well, they do, and they can. Then they would gleefully spend countless hours doing their own research, communicating with a wholesaler and managing to weed through the false advertising in order to buy one product. Nobodies going to do that for just one item. These good deals don’t just fall into your lap, and you as a Wholesaler/Consumer liaison have that duty. That is why you get paid.

Any profession involves work, be it physical, mental or technological. Think of K-mart. Would you become enraged if you discovered they paid only $10 for that tablet you are buying for $150? No, because you have neither the space or the finances to order 4382 of them at a time. (Mild exaggeration.) So imagine yourself as K-mart, without employees, or a fluorescent light filled electricity bill equivalent to the cost of your home. Also you will be much smaller scale. But equally, if not more so, deserving of compensation for your brilliant ideas and hound-like abilities to sniff out a bargain.

But don’t be fooled there are cons to this situation, and you do need a source of capital to start. How much capital you begin with ultimately determines how far in over your head will inevitably get, the first time you get excited at the opportunities that lie ahead. We all do it. I did. I got caught up in the hype of selling amazon gift cards via email on eBay for twice their worth, which is the going rate. Come on, I should have realized the only reason someone pays twice its value for an amazon gift card is for money laundering a hijacked account and cashing it out. Stupid, stupid me.

First I will get into wholesale product suppliers. I’m really not an advocate of Drop Shipping Online Services as, in my humble opinion, they are the key reason we all do that “in over your head” face plant the first time around. You want to start with one item at a time and develop a consumer relationship with one provider at a time, even if that means stalking their product page for a month. When I search the internet for corporate services and whole sale source providers, I often see the same company masquerading under different titles. They all want to sell you solid gold at about 10 cents a gram. Something’s wrong in that scenario, and even I knew that, the one who thought Gift Cards were just hard to find in some areas where they just fly off the shelf and sell out. See I’ve signed up with these companies, and in exception for a few, I found them all to be at least retail priced. Some were even more costly than retail and usually swimming in fees. How might one identify such sites? Well they aren’t rolling the dice when picking out their HTML Template, if you know what I mean. If you look closely their sites all have the same generic design and products, usually only changing in color scheme and price. Here is a list of some Drop Shipping friendly wholesalers that I trust, with reasonable prices. Let’s start with:

Jewelry

14k.co Drop Ship Program

Just provide a few personal information snippets and you’re good to go with their program, if you must settle for a program. But you don’t even have to enlist in their program to benefit from their prices, which are already very reasonable in my opinion. If you are a Gold connoisseur then you’ll be able to sniff out their specific items that are perfect candidates. I won’t tell you which ones because then I won’t have a monopoly on it, and trust me its hard to find a product that 100 people before you haven’t already broadcasted all over eBay. I prefer independent sourcing and I believe, in my experience, if you brag about your opportunity it becomes a national opportunity. That is when you learn your “Jackpot” just got split with 20,000 other winners.

Sarraf.com Jewelry

By far, Sarraf simply has the cheapest chains and solid gold jewelry you can find retail online, plus free shipping. They’re not even paying me to say that. I just know from months of scouring at 3am for the cheapest Gold Hollow Figaro, without a merchant account, you won’t find gold jewelry cheaper. No account is required to purchase from them and I’ve never seen them run out of stock. They’re selections, explanations of various chain styles and sizes, and straightforward browsing style really makes me feel secure. If I had an online fireplace to cozy up to, with a hot cup of “No Gimmicks” hot cocoa, Sarraf would be my home. (You didn’t know an E-commerce Article could be so packed full of cheesy metaphors, did you? Well now you know.)

Groupon

Wait, don’t write me off on your list of credible sources of information just yet. It sounds weird, I know. Isn’t Groupon for finding cheap movie tickets? Or last minute, “I forgot our anniversary and went to the casino last night”, cheap dinner deals? Well not only does Groupon constantly have smoking wholesale type deals on solid gold, but they also tell you exactly what they have left in stock along with how many have been bought. With that knowledge combined with their countdown style end times of each promotion, I’ve had some good success with Groupon-to-eBay auction arbitrage. I mean, they have had, virtually for months now, 6mm solid 14k stud earrings for 9.99. If you can’t make a profit from that price, K-mart is disappointed in you, and I don’t know if you will ever be welcomed at the Hoover Dam, not even for a peek. I once spotted a Groupon deal for a name brand watch that goes for $159 dollars elsewhere, for $19.99.

Other Merchandise

Aliexpress.com

Aliexpress is basically Alibaba, except it’s not an app on your phone. I’m not going to get into details, primarily because I can’t really figure it all out myself. I think by now its pretty clear from my my various Casino related metaphors that I like to indulge in a little gambling every now and again-next-week. And in my opinion this site could be a Jackpot or a face-plant, depending on your ability to stay strong under pressure and sales tactics. From what I can gather, having navigated the paths of purchasing an item once or twice, its a collection of wholesalers who have their own stores. They have minimum buying requirements and separate pricing. Its noteworthy that the pricing that they have on the site may be totally different then what they have in actuality, and they don’t mind a little bit of bartering.

If you download the Alibaba app you can make requests and receive quotes at which point you contact the seller and work out a deal. Alibaba wholesalers can be very, shall we say, persistent. But they can also be tricky. Personally, I tend to explore other avenues since I work with jewelry, and apparently nobody is monitoring the requirements for listing something as “Solid 14k Gold”. That turns my “No Gimmicks” Hot Chocolate ice cold, I’m afraid. Although for something like electronics, you’re welcome, I just pointed you towards your new paradise. Be free and buy as many.10 cent cellphone covers as your heart desires. Just make sure you know the merchandise you’re selling well, and investigate the seller

eBay-to-eBay Arbitrage

eBay itself offers you the opportunity to have more than one account, the technical reason is so that your buyers can’t peruse your sources thus rendering you obsolete. So even eBay to eBay drop shipping is possible, although you have to keep a keen eye on your product and ultimately increase your shipping time by double, as no eBay seller is going to ship to a random address. And, lets face it, understanding and patience is a foreign concept on eBay. It’s a bit like Day-Before-Christmas shopping, but with more blackmail and threats because no one has to look you in the eye. It’s not for the easily virtually intimidated, nor is it for the digital doormats. My advice is to opt for sellers with expedited shipping in the US, and watch their stock closely. Most importantly, remember that people aren’t all honest, and if your “Genuine” item turns out to be fake a long drawn out process of return-refund-return-refund-report ensues. Ultimately you will have to exhume that old printer after all, and probably lose your e-commerce appetite. At the very least, your long sought after eBay reputation will be smudged. Check the sellers reviews. If all 349 of them are from the same buyer in the last 2 weeks, and they opened they’re account a month ago, don’t do it. They will be shut down in a week or two I promise you.

Doba

Doba is by far the most popular Drop Shipping Source Provider, and one that you might consider, if you want to jump headfirst in large quantities. But regardless of the advertising, no source ships first and gets paid later. You need to have the capital to buy the product and then wait the time it takes for your buyers PayPal transaction to settle into your account to get paid. Period. And companies like Doba offer free trials but ultimately charge a monthly or yearly fee. The benefits are being informed of stock supply and help with integration into your website if you aren’t going the eBay way, thus saving you the hassle of being on ‘Stock-watch”. They also supply you with up to date photos, but these are the same photos they have supplied to 300 other sellers so you must know how to stand out. Besides the point, the unbeatable truth of the trade is, unless you have a credit card, you need to have the means to buy the product.

Everything I saw on Doba during my free trial I was able to find elsewhere, sometimes cheaper. But for companies to go with, its the most reputable company. And if that’s your hot cup of “Safety Cocoa” then give them a try and at least browse their supply. It will probably be slow to start, eventually leading to bigger profits, but you will come out on top. You will profit, one unbranded Bluetooth speaker at a time.

To summarize my comparisons list, I find it the most effective to stick with one product you know well, scour the internet yourself, and find an amazing deal. I prefer talking with the wholesaler directly. Usually they ship free and swiftly and there’s no hidden fees. Just go with your gut and stick with what you know. The most important thing is to watch stock. And you will do something silly at some point. You will get excited and accidentally face-plant yourself off eBay for life. (In actuality, they are very understanding I’d like to note, and very forgiving too. This is coming from an accidental accessory to “Who Know’s What” that still sells on eBay). This brings me to the potential pitfalls of this trade.

Perilous Face-Planting Potentials

Well you ignored all my advice and you went on your merry way only to find yourself in a bind because you listed your product exactly as the supplier had it listed. Now your buyer is angry because you claimed to have an “Impressive” men’s bracelet chain that ended up being.5mm and nearly microscopic. Now refund them their money, slap your own hand and don’t do it again. No matter how the wholesaler describes the product, you are the one responsible. So you must know size, inches, centimeters, materials, wattage, capacity, compatibility and everything there is to know about the product. Shake it off. It’s just one sale.

In the beginning I had a couple harrowing situations where an auction ended and my supplier was out of supply, leaving me scrambling. I was scouring Etsy and Poshmark for an exact pair of Dolce and Gabannas. At times getting my tush saved by other eBay sellers or Bonanza. Even the local Craigslist was my knight in shining armor when this Distressed Damsel had dug herself into a whole by not doing her homework. Most of all you want your customer to be happy and also protect yourself! Follow the 5D rule. “Don’t Do Digital Dumb Dumb”. Send everything via snail mail, (well, have your supplier snail mail for you, you’re too busy being a retail superstar in your own home to mess with postal problems).

Don’t ever, and I mean EVER, I beg of you, sign up for a shopping line of credit to obtain your merchandise. These sites will pose as credit cards for the credit challenged but they are lines of credit for their online outlet only. You WILL NOT PROFIT EVER. Their prices are so beyond retail that Movie Theater Concession Stands are speechless with admiration. Not only that but there is interest, fees, and application fees. Plus sending email fees, emailing emails to email you fees, and fees for the metaphorical tissues to wipe your e-commerce tears when you drown financially. I’m not going to point any FINGERS at any particular place, but they always say no money down and promise a guaranteed credit limit of way more than anyone with your credit score should be allowed. What they mean is a credit line of 150 dollars, which may buy you a set of silverware, and 50 of that goes towards your initial fee. Then as a proud new member, all that you receive at this point is the joy of browsing. Once you go to buy your silverware there is a 35 dollar down payment leaving you with about 60 something to spend. Oh shoot, with the shipping costs of 33 dollars you can only afford a pair of socks. These socks will ruin you, and possibly anyone associated with you, for life when it comes to credit and you won’t be able to get a secured prepaid collateral payday loan without uproars of laughter. Don’t do it. If they say no credit check, no employment check, and no down payment they mean they’ve ruined people. They’ve pillaged enough swarms of people to be confident that they can ruin someone as high risk as your neighbor. The neighbor who hid his car in your garage to prevent repossession, and asked you to pretend to be his boss if rent-a-center calls. That kind of confidence is trouble my friend.

You know how they say “If it fits it ships” for USPS drop boxes? (This is for you who have to unfortunately deal with some shipping). Well it doesn’t ship if you have to shove, is my unfortunate experience. In fact just avoid the drop boxes for USPS altogether. Out of the 30 or so times I’ve used them, only about 10 items didn’t end up in the Bermuda Triangle called the “Dead Mail Center” in Atlanta. This is a facility that is fictitious I’m convinced, as they have no number or e-mail and you will never get your item back. It’s just gone. I like to think these prodigal items are being distributed amongst the poor, but they are probably just sitting in a pile somewhere. And nobody but you and your buyer cares, so if you use eBay get that nifty pay-as-you-go insurance application, it’ll save you in the long run.

The last pitfall will be brief, due to embarrassment factor, and it also has to do with the unfortunate jungle of shipping etiquette. I know there are new eBay sellers out there this will help, and I know I’m not the only one who has ever done this. So when you go to actually pay for postage through eBay of course you want to pick the cheapest option. And as you mindlessly peruse your methods you see the cheapest option. But be aware, Media Mail is not just a catchy name for Cheap Shipping, it actually needs to be Media related. And they will know. And you will feel like I do telling this story right now. Again, slap your hand, and don’t do it again.

Well that’s my take on the ever more popular method of Drop Shipping, a profitable yet pitfall riddled minefield. But it’s a whole new world of opportunity for those of you who are picking up the pieces of their credit like I was, (I’ll turn the FINGER around for a moment), and don’t have much capital to start a business. So if you’re like me, and the thought of seeing another human being is something you could live without, it’s enticing. If the end of the movie “The Notebook” seemed technically endearing in theory, but not personally identifiable and everyone must be told, then yes drop shipping is for you. And on a side note if you said yes to that last part, maybe you have aspergers. I’d look into that, but that’s just my opinion.

May your wholesale hunting be fruitful, and your face-plants and perils be few, as you journey onward in finding your home business niche. If you are hungry for success you will find it, just keep your eyes open and your wallet will grow fatter. Watch out Wal-mart.

All of my reference are merely my own personal opinions and true experiences from either my own trial and error, or extensive research. I am not affiliated, paid or endorsed by any of the aforementioned companies or persons.

Understanding Securities, Fraud Charges and Defense

Financial fraud is a serious crime. It assumes even greater proportions if it involves fraudulent practices in the stock markets. Any criminal charge is a serious matter – and you need to find legal counsel for active defense immediately. However, before you talk to a lawyer, here is a quick look at the details regarding securities fraud.

What constitutes securities fraud? Use of any deceptive means in buying, selling or trading in securities is within this category of white-collar crimes. It may be falsifying a record or securities trading on it based on insider information – if the intention is to defraud, it is a crime.

Which actions may be termed as this? Here are the broad categories.

Falsification of information regarding a company, or its securities, to investors, with the intention to defraud them

Manipulation of accounting records regarding a company, its assets and liabilities, with the intention to defraud investors

Insider trading, i.e. buying, selling or trading in securities based on nonpublic information

What are the laws in this regard? State laws in this regard varies; however, the prominent federal laws in this regard are –

• The Securities Act of 1933 – directives regarding the issuance of company securities
• The Securities Exchange Act of 1934 – directives regarding the monitoring of the industry by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
• The Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) of 2002 – directives regarding the enhanced standards of buying, selling or trading in public companies’ securities

Who enforces these laws? Primarily, it is the task of the SEC to monitor the industry and enforce the laws in case of any violation. Legal actions may initiate from a government agency or a private investor. The SEC conducts the investigation and prepares the case.

In most cases, when you face such a criminal charge, the SEC has completed its investigation and prepared prosecution. You need to get a criminal lawyer immediately to avoid losing any more time.

What penalties does a conviction imply? Conviction of such a crime means serious penalties. The SEC and the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) imposes hefty fines for such crimes. If it is grouped as felony, you may face also face imprisonment for a period of up to 20 years.

Apart from the penalties you may face, there is also the criminal record, which seriously jeopardizes your chances of getting a finance related job. Only a qualified and experienced lawyer has the necessary knowledge and expertise to investigate the matter, accumulate the evidence, analyze the facts, and prepare for defense.

Your Credit Report – Who Uses it and What Do They Look For?

Access to your Credit Report is limited. A consumer reporting agency may provide information about you only to people with a valid need as determined by the FCRA, usually to consider an application with a creditor, insurer, employer, landlord or other business. Your score is a quick snapshot that may be used when credit decisions are made. Creditors may also obtain your full credit report to access more detailed information to aid their decision on your level of risk.

1. Housing

A. Rental – Landlords access your credit report and look particularly for the following:

1. Collections

2. Old unpaid bills that are unresolved and carry a long time rating of 5-9

3. Evictions or you owe any Property Management money

4. Bankruptcy in the last 3 years – It is OK as long as it is declared. If not declared on the rental

application it is denied for falsifying the application.

5. Credit Score is not important, but they have a credit default level they use

B. Buying a house

C. Mortgage

D. Refinance

2. Automobile

A. Purchase – Your credit score will determine your interest rate

B. Lease – Your credit score will determine eligibility for a lease program

3. Employment

A. Can you be bonded?

B. Prospective employers use your credit rating to gauge your sense of responsibility

C. Do you owe a landlord money at prior residence

D. Eviction

E. Conviction of misdemeanor or felony

F. Credit

4. Insurance – May effect your policy available and/or your premiums

A. Auto

B. Home

C. Renters

5. Interest Rates increase with the lower scores

A. Loans

B. Mortgage/Refinance

C. Credit Lines/ Credit Cards

D. Banks – Credit Extension, Review, or Collection

6. Credit Card Approval

A. Existing Credit Cards – Cards in good standing can adjust their interest rate based upon other agency bad reports.

B. Application for new credit card

C. Apartment Store Credit card

7. Other Financed Purchases-approval and interest rate

A. Store Purchases on credit

B. Cell Phone contracts

C. Recreational Membership Contracts

GET YOUR CREDIT REPORT AND CHECK IT TODAY! SEE WHO IS LOOKING! Make corrections to all inaccurate data. Be sure you like what they see.

Joining the Military With a Felony or Misdemeanor

Joining the military is an involved process regardless of your background. Stacks and stacks of paperwork are necessary just to get you in the door, much less qualified for a security clearance. Most people with a substantial criminal history find themselves dealing with a bit more paperwork than those without a record, but many are able to join in spite of it.

The question, “can I get into without a spotless legal history?” is straightforward enough, but the answer is a bit more involved. To put it simply, it goes something like “it depends.” The military expends plenty of time trying to filter through its possible candidates, in the interest of keeping a distinct standard of morality and character. Does that necessarily suggest that an individual with a record can’t get join? Definitely not. It just means that your success in starting your time in service mostly depends on the nature and variety of those charges, court action taken, and possibly a waiver to get you in the door. On the flip side, it almost goes without saying that a large number of repeated offenses, and certain crimes will just invalidate you from getting into the Armed Forces almost instantly.

With regard to security clearances, however, the stakes are inclined to increase somewhat. The U.S. goes to great measures to make sure that its interests and pursuits are safeguarded and seen by people not only with clean histories, but also clean credit scores. The rationale here is also pretty simple. Envision being in debt, but also having access to extremely sensitive data. Then sometime down the line, you’re contacted by an individual who might be proposing you money in exchange for specifications, data, and information you’re accustomed to seeing all day everyday, causing you lose sight of its significance. Between being hard pressed for money, given your finances and a degraded perception of the information you have access to, it can easily be a recipe for disaster.

Credit rating aside, felonies and misdemeanors are quite a concern when it comes to landing a military occupation with a security clearance. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules stating which set of conditions let you to get this job or that. It’s often treated on a case by case basis.

The best course of action is to simply discuss your concerns with your recruiter. All the things outlined regarding your previous experiences is privileged information and will be kept between you and the guys trying to get you signed up. Of course, certain thing such as thinking about committing suicide, confessing to any type of child abuse are issues that recruiters are obligated to report. Otherwise, details exchanged will be maintained in strict confidence. Talking about past offenses candidly moves the process along a great deal more smoothly. It’s substantially better that past crimes are talked about in a pre-entrance environment than a Federal background check, which is bound to happen sooner than later. In addition to a pre-screening with a recruiter, you’ll also undergo an evaluation at the Military Entrance and Processing Station (MEPS).

Hospice Fraud – A Review For Employees, Whistleblowers, Attorneys, Lawyers and Law Firms

Hospice fraud in South Carolina and the United States is an increasing problem as the number of hospice patients has exploded over the past few years. From 2004 to 2008, the number of patients receiving hospice care in the United States grew almost 40% to nearly 1.5 million, and of the 2.5 million people who died in 2008, nearly one million were hospice patients. The overwhelming majority of people receiving hospice care receive federal benefits from the federal government through the Medicare or Medicaid programs. The health care providers who provide hospice services traditionally enroll in the Medicare and Medicaid programs in order to qualify to receive payments under these government programs for services rendered to Medicare and Medicaid eligible patients.

While most hospice health care organizations provide appropriate and ethical treatment for their hospice patients, because hospice eligibility under Medicare and Medicaid involves clinical judgments which may result in the payments of large sums of money from the federal government, there are tremendous opportunities for fraudulent practices and false billing claims by unscrupulous hospice care providers. As recent federal hospice fraud enforcement actions have demonstrated, the number of health care companies and individuals who are willing to try to defraud the Medicare and Medicaid hospice benefits programs is on the rise.

A recent example of hospice fraud involving a South Carolina hospice is Southern Care, Inc., a hospice company that in 2009 paid $24.7 million to settle an FCA case. The defendant operated hospices in 14 other states, too, including Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. The alleged frauds were that patients were not eligible for hospice, to wit, were not terminally ill, lack of documentation of terminal illnesses, and that the company marketed to potential patients with the promise of free medications, supplies, and the provision of home health aides. Southern Care also entered into a 5-year Corporate Integrity Agreement with the OIG as part of the settlement. The qui tam relators received almost $5 million.

Understanding the Consequences of Hospice Fraud and Whistleblower Actions

U.S. and South Carolina consumers, including hospice patients and their family members, and health care employees who are employed in the hospice industry, as well as their SC lawyers and attorneys, should familiarize themselves with the basics of the hospice care industry, hospice eligibility under the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and hospice fraud schemes that have developed across the country. Consumers need to protect themselves from unethical hospice providers, and hospice employees need to guard against knowingly or unwittingly participating in health care fraud against the federal government because they may subject themselves to administrative sanctions, including lengthy exclusions from working in an organization which receives federal funds, enormous civil monetary penalties and fines, and criminal sanctions, including incarceration. When a hospice employee discovers fraudulent conduct involving Medicare or Medicaid billings or claims, the employee should not participate in such behavior, and it is imperative that the unlawful conduct be reported to law enforcement and/or regulatory authorities. Not only does reporting such fraudulent Medicare or Medicaid practices shield the hospice employee from exposure to the foregoing administrative, civil and criminal sanctions, but hospice fraud whistleblowers may benefit financially under the reward provisions of the federal False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-3732, by bringing false claims suits, also known as qui tam or whistleblower suits, against their employers on behalf of the United States.

Types of Hospice Care Services

Hospice care is a type of health care service for patients who are terminally ill. Hospices also provide support services for the families of terminally ill patients. This care includes physical care and counseling. Hospice care is normally provided by a public agency or private company approved by Medicare and Medicaid. Hospice care is available for all age groups, including children, adults, and the elderly who are in the final stages of life. The purpose of hospice is to provide care for the terminally ill patient and his or her family and not to cure the terminal illness.

If a patient qualifies for hospice care, the patient can receive medical and support services, including nursing care, medical social services, doctor services, counseling, homemaker services, and other types of services. The hospice patient will have a team of doctors, nurses, home health aides, social workers, counselors and trained volunteers to help the patient and his or her family members cope with the symptoms and consequences of the terminal illness. While many hospice patients and their families can receive hospice care in the comfort of their home, if the hospice patient’s condition deteriorates, the patient can be transferred to a hospice facility, hospital, or nursing home to receive hospice care.

Hospice Care Statistics

The number of days that a patient receives hospice care is often referenced as the “length of stay” or “length of service.” The length of service is dependent on a number of different factors, including but not limited to, the type and stage of the disease, the quality of and access to health care providers before the hospice referral, and the timing of the hospice referral. In 2008, the median length of stay for hospice patients was about 21 days, the average length of stay was about 69 days, almost 35% of hospice patients died or were discharged within 7 days of the hospice referral, and only about 12% of hospice patients survived longer than 180 days.

Most hospice care patients receive hospice care in private homes (40%). Other locations where hospice services are provided are nursing homes (22%), residential facilities (6%), hospice inpatient facilities (21%), and acute care hospitals (10%). Hospice patients are generally the elderly, and hospice age group percentages are 34 years or less (1%), 35 – 64 years (16%), 65 – 74 years (16%), 75 – 84 years (29%), and over 85 years (38%). As for the terminal illness resulting in a hospice referral, cancer is the diagnosis for almost 40% of hospice patients, followed by debility unspecified (15%), heart disease (12%), dementia (11%), lung disease (8%), stroke (4%) and kidney disease (3%). Medicare pays the great majority of hospice care expenses (84%), followed by private insurance (8%), Medicaid (5%), charity care (1%) and self pay (1%).

As of 2008, there were approximately 4,700 locations which were providing hospice care in the United States, which represented about a 50% increase over ten years. There were about 3,700 companies and organizations which were providing hospice services in the United States. About half of the hospice care providers in the United States are for-profit organizations, and about half are non-profit organizations.
General Overview of the Medicare and Medicaid Programs

In 1965, Congress established the Medicare Program to provide health insurance for the elderly and disabled. Payments from the Medicare Program arise from the Medicare Trust fund, which is funded by government contributions and through payroll deductions from American workers. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), previously known as the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA), is the federal agency within the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that administers the Medicare program and works in partnership with state governments to administer Medicaid.

In 2007, CMS reorganized its ten geography-based field offices to a Consortia structure based on the agency’s key lines of business: Medicare health plans, Medicare financial management, Medicare fee for service operations, Medicaid and children’s health, survey & certification and quality improvement. The CMS consortia consist of the following:

• Consortium for Medicare Health Plans Operations
• Consortium for Financial Management and Fee for Service Operations
• Consortium for Medicaid and Children’s Health Operations
• Consortium for Quality Improvement and Survey & Certification Operations

Each consortium is led by a Consortium Administrator (CA) who serves as the CMS’s national focal point in the field for their business line. Each CA is responsible for consistent implementation of CMS programs, policy and guidance across all ten regions for matters pertaining to their business line. In addition to responsibility for a business line, each CA also serves as the Agency’s senior management official for two or three Regional Offices (ROs), representing the CMS Administrator in external matters and overseeing administrative operations.

Much of the daily administration and operation of the Medicare Program is managed through private insurance companies that contract with the Government. These private insurance companies, sometimes called “Medicare Carriers” or “Fiscal Intermediaries,” are charged with and responsible for accepting Medicare claims, determining coverage, and making payments from the Medicare Trust Fund. These carriers, including Palmetto Government Benefits Administrators (hereinafter “PGBA”), a division of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Carolina, operate pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1395h and 1395u and rely on the good faith and truthful representations of health care providers when processing claims.

Over the past forty years, the Medicare Program has enabled the elderly and disabled to obtain necessary medical services from medical providers throughout the United States. Critical to the success of the Medicare Program is the fundamental concept that health care providers accurately and honestly submit claims and bills to the Medicare Trust Fund only for those medical treatments or services that are legitimate, reasonable and medically necessary, in full compliance with all laws, regulations, rules, and conditions of participation, and, further, that medical providers not take advantage of their elderly and disabled patients.

The Medicaid Program is available only to certain low-income individuals and families who must meet eligibility requirements set forth by federal and state law. Each state sets its own guidelines regarding eligibility and services. Although administered by individual states, the Medicaid Program is funded primarily by the federal government. Medicaid does not pay money to patients; rather, it sends payments directly to the patient’s health care providers. Like Medicare, the Medicaid Program depends on health care providers to accurately and honestly submit claims and bills to program administrators only for those medical treatments or services that are legitimate, reasonable and medically necessary, in full compliance with all laws, regulations, rules, and conditions of participation, and, further, that medical providers not take advantage of their indigent patients.

Medicare & Medicaid Hospice Laws Which Affect SC Hospices

Hospice fraud occurs when hospice organizations, by and through their employees, agents and owners, knowingly violate the terms and conditions of the applicable Medicare and Medicaid hospice statutes, regulations, rules and conditions of participation. In order to be able to recognize hospice fraud, hospices, hospice patients, hospice employees and their attorneys and lawyers must know the Medicare laws and requirements relating to hospice care benefits.

Medicare’s two main sources of authorization for hospice benefits are found in the Social Security Act and the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. The statutory provisions are primarily found at 42 U.S.C. §§ 1395d, 1395e, 1395f(a)(7), 1395x(d)(d), and 1395y, and the regulatory provisions are found at 42 C.F.R. Part 418.

To be eligible for Medicare benefits for hospice care, the patient must be eligible for Medicare Part A and be terminally ill. 42 C.F.R. § 418.20. Terminal illness is established when “the individual has a medical prognosis that his or her life expectancy is 6 months or less if the illness runs its normal course.” 42 C.F.R. § 418.3; 42 U.S.C. § 1395x(d)(d)(3). The patient’s physician and the medical director of the hospice must certify in writing that the patient is “terminally ill.” 42 U.S.C. § 1395f(a)(7); 42 C.F.R. § 418.20. After a patient’s initial certification, Medicare provides for two ninety-day benefit periods followed by an unlimited number of sixty-day benefit periods. 42 U.S.C. § 1395d(a)(4). At the end of each ninety- or sixty-day period, the patient can be re-certified only if at that time he or she has less than six months to live if the illness runs its normal course. 42 U.S.C. § 1395f(a)(7)(A). The written certification and re-certifications must be maintained in the patient’s medical records. 42 C.F.R. § 418.23. A written plan of care must be established for each patient setting forth the types of hospice care services the patient is scheduled to receive, 42 U.S.C. § 1395f(a)(7)(B), and the hospice care has to be provided in accordance with such plan of care. 42 U.S.C. § 1395f(a)(7)(C); 42 C.F.R. § 418.56. Clinical records for each hospice patient must be maintained by the hospice, including plan of care, assessments, clinical notes, signed notice of election, patient responses to medication and therapy, physician certifications and re-certifications, outcome data, advance directives and physician orders. 42 C.F.R. § 418.104.

The hospice must obtain a written notice of election from the patient to elect to receive Medicare hospice benefits. 42 C.F.R. § 418.24. Importantly, once a patient has elected to receive hospice care benefits, the patient waives Medicare benefits for curative treatment for the terminal disease upon which is the admitting diagnosis. 42 C.F.R. § 418.24(d).

The hospice must designate an Interdisciplinary Group (IDG) or groups composed of individuals who work together to meet the physical, medical, psychosocial, emotional, and spiritual needs of the hospice patients and families facing terminal illness and bereavement. 42 C.F.R. § 418.56. The IDG members must provide the care and services offered by the hospice, and the group, in its entirety, must supervise the care and services. A registered nurse that is a member of the IDG must be designated to provide coordination of care and to ensure continuous assessment of each patient’s and family’s needs and implementation of the interdisciplinary plan of care. The interdisciplinary group must include, but is not limited to, the following qualified and competent professionals: (i) A doctor of medicine or osteopathy (who is an employee or under contract with the hospice); (ii) A registered nurse; (iii) A social worker; and, (iv) A pastoral or other counselor. 42 C.F.R. § 418.56.

The Medicare hospice regulations, at 42 C.F.R. § 418.200, summarize the requirements for hospice coverage in pertinent part as follows:

To be covered, hospice services must meet the following requirements. They must be reasonable and necessary for the palliation and management of the terminal illness as well as related conditions. The individual must elect hospice care in accordance with §418.24. A plan of care must be established and periodically reviewed by the attending physician, the medical director, and the interdisciplinary group of the hospice program as set forth in §418.56. That plan of care must be established before hospice care is provided. The services provided must be consistent with the plan of care. A certification that the individual is terminally ill must be completed as set forth in section §418.22.

The Social Security Act, at 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(a), limits Medicare hospice benefits, providing in pertinent part as follows: “Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, no payment may be made under part A or part B for any expenses incurred for items or services-… (C) in the case of hospice care, which are not reasonable and necessary for the palliation or management of terminal illness….” 42 C.F.R. § 418.50 (hospice care must be “reasonable and necessary for the palliation and management of terminal illness”). Palliative care is defined in the regulations as “patient and family-centered care that optimizes quality of life by anticipating, preventing, and treating suffering. Palliative care throughout the continuum of illness involves addressing physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual needs and to facilitate patient autonomy, access to information, and choice.” 42 C.F.R. § 418.3.

Medicare pays hospice agencies a daily rate for each day a beneficiary is enrolled in the hospice benefit and receives hospice care. The daily payments are made regardless of the amount of services furnished on a given day and are intended to cover costs that the hospice incurs in furnishing services identified in the patient’s plan of care. There are four levels of payments which are made based on the amount of care required to meet beneficiary and family needs. 42 C.F.R. § 418.302; CMS Hospice Fact Sheet, November 2009. These four levels, and the corresponding 2010 daily rates, are as follows: routine home care ($142.91); continuous home care ($834.10); inpatient respite care ($147.83); and, general inpatient care ($635.74).

The aggregate annual cap per patient in 2009 was $23,014.50. This cap is determined by adjusting the original hospice patient cap of $6,500, set in 1984, by the Consumer Price Index. See CMS Internet-Only Manual 100-04, chapter 11, section 80.2; 42 U.S.C. § 1395f(i); 42 C.F.R. § 418.309. The Medicare Claims Processing Manual, at Chapter 11 – Processing Hospice Claims, in Section 80.2, entitled “Cap on Overall Hospice Reimbursement,” provides in pertinent part as follows: “Any payments in excess of the cap must be refunded by the hospice.”

Hospice patients are responsible for Medicare co-insurance payments for drugs and respite care, and the hospice may charge the patient for these co-insurance payments. However, the co-insurance payments for drugs are limited to the lesser of $5 or 5% of the cost of the drugs to the hospice, and the co-insurance payments for respite care are generally 5% of the payment made by Medicare for such services. 42 C.F.R. § 418.400.

The Medicare and Medicaid programs require institutional health care providers, including hospice organizations, to file an enrollment application in order to qualify to receive the programs’ benefits. As part of these enrollment applications, the hospice providers certify that they will comply with Medicare and Medicaid laws, regulations, and program instructions, and further certify that they understand that payment of a claim by Medicare and Medicaid is conditioned upon the claim and underlying transaction complying with such program laws and requirements. The Medicare Enrollment Application which hospice providers must execute, Form CMS-855A, states in part as follows: “I agree to abide by the Medicare laws, regulations and program instructions that apply to this provider. The Medicare laws, regulations, and program instructions are available through the Medicare contractor. I understand that payment of a claim by Medicare is conditioned upon the claim and the underlying transaction complying with such laws, regulations, and program instructions (including, but not limited to, the Federal AKS and Stark laws), and on the provider’s compliance with all applicable conditions of participation in Medicare.”

Hospices are generally required to bill Medicare on a monthly basis. See the Medicare Claims Processing Manual, at Chapter 11 – Processing Hospice Claims, in Section 90 – Frequency of Billing. Hospices generally file their hospice Medicare claims with their Fiscal Intermediary or Medicare Carrier pursuant to the CMS Claims Manual Form CMS 1450 (sometime also called a Form UB-04 or Form UB-92), either in paper or electronic form. These claim forms contain representations and certifications which state in pertinent part that: (1) misrepresentations or falsifications of essential information may serve as the basis for civil monetary penalties and criminal convictions; (2) submission of the claim constitutes certification that the billing information is true, accurate and complete; (3) the submitter did not knowingly or recklessly disregard or misrepresent or conceal material facts; (4) all required physician certifications and re-certifications are on file; (5) all required patient signatures are on file; and, (6) for Medicaid purposes, the submitter understands that because payment and satisfaction of this claim will be from Federal and State funds, any false statements, documents, or concealment of a material fact are subject to prosecution under applicable Federal or State Laws.

Hospices must also file with CMS an annual cost and data report of Medicare payments received. 42 U.S.C. § 1395f(i)(3); 42 U.S.C. § 1395x(d)(d)(4). The annual hospice cost and data reports, Form CMS 1984-99, contain representations and certifications which state in pertinent part that: (1) misrepresentations or falsifications of information contained in the cost report may be punishable by criminal, civil and administrative actions, including fines and/or imprisonment; (2) if any services identified in the report were the product of a direct or indirect kickback or were otherwise illegal, then criminal, civil and administrative actions may result, including fines and/or imprisonment; (3) the report is a true, correct and complete statement prepared from the books and records of the provider in accordance with applicable instructions, except as noted; and, (4) the signing officer is familiar with the laws and regulations regarding the provision of health care services and that the services identified in this cost report were provided in compliance with such laws and regulations.

Hospice Anti-Fraud Enforcement Statutes

There are a number of federal criminal, civil and administrative enforcement provisions set forth in the Medicare statutes which are aimed at preventing fraudulent conduct, including hospice fraud, and which help maintain program integrity and compliance. Some of the more prominent enforcement provisions of the Medicare statutes include the following: 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7b (Criminal fraud and anti-kickback penalties); 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7a and 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-8 (Civil monetary penalties for fraud); 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7 (Administrative exclusions from participation in Medicare/Medicaid programs for fraud); 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-4 (Administrative subpoena power for the Comptroller General).

Other criminal enforcement provisions which are used to combat Medicare and Medicaid fraud, including hospice fraud, include the following: 18 U.S.C. § 1347 (General health care fraud criminal statute); 21 U.S.C. §§ 353, 333 (Prescription Drug Marketing Act); 18 U.S.C. § 669 (Theft or Embezzlement in Connection with Health Care); 18 U.S.C. § 1035 (False statements relating to Health Care); 18 U.S.C. § 2 (Aiding and Abetting); 18 U.S.C. § 3 (Accessory after the Fact); 18 U.S.C. § 4 (Misprision of a Felony); 18 U.S.C. § 286 (Conspiracy to defraud the Government with respect to Claims); 18 U.S.C. § 287 (False, Fictitious or Fraudulent Claims); 18 U.S.C. § 371 (Criminal Conspiracy); 18 U.S.C. § 1001 (False Statements); 18 U.S.C. § 1341 (Mail Fraud); 18 U.S.C. § 1343 (Wire Fraud); 18 U.S.C. § 1956 (Money Laundering); 18 U.S.C. § 1957 (Money Laundering); and, 18 U.S.C. § 1964 (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (“RICO”)).

The False Claims Act (FCA)

Hospice fraud whistleblowers may benefit financially under the reward provisions of the federal False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-3732, by bringing false claims suits, also known as qui tam or whistleblower suits, against their employers on behalf of the United States. The plaintiff in a hospice fraud whistleblower suit is also known as a relator. The most common FCA provisions upon which hospice fraud qui tam or whistleblower relators rely are found in 31 U.S.C. § 3729: (A) knowingly presents, or causes to be presented, a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval; (B) knowingly makes, uses, or causes to be made or used, a false record or statement material to a false or fraudulent claim; (C) conspires to commit a violation of subparagraph (A), (B), (D), (E), (F), or (G);…, and, (G) knowingly makes, uses, or causes to be made or used, a false record or statement material to an obligation to pay or transmit money or property to the Government, or knowingly conceals or knowingly and improperly avoids or decreases an obligation to pay or transmit money or property to the Government…. There is no requirement to prove specific intent to defraud. Rather, it is only necessary to prove actual knowledge of the false claims, false statements, or false records, or the defendant’s deliberate indifference or reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of the information. 31 U.S.C. § 3729(b).

The FCA anti-retaliation provision protects the hospice whistleblower from retaliation from the hospice when the employee (or a contractor) “is discharged, demoted, suspended, threatened, harassed, or in any other manner discriminated against in the terms and conditions of employment” for taking action to try to stop the fraudulent activity. 31 U.S.C. § 3730(h). A hospice employee’s relief includes reinstatement, 2 times the amount of back pay, interest on the back pay, and compensation for any special damages sustained as a result of the discrimination or retaliation, including litigation costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

A SC hospice fraud FCA whistleblower would initially file a disclosure statement, complaint and supporting documents with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Columbia, South Carolina, and the US Attorney General. After the disclosures are filed, a federal court complaint can be filed. The SC division where the frauds occurred, the relator’s residence, and the defendant residence, will determine which division the case will be assigned. There are eleven federal court divisions in South Carolina. Once the case has been filed, the government has 60 days to decide whether or not to intervene. During this time, federal government investigators located in South Carolina will investigate the claims. If the case involved Medicaid, SC Medicaid fraud unit investigators will likely become involved as well. If the government intervenes in the case, the U.S. Attorney for South Carolina is usually the lead attorney. If the government does not intervene, the relator’s SC attorney will prosecute the case. In South Carolina, expect a qui tam case to take one to two years to get to trial.

Tips on Recognizing Hospice Fraud Schemes

The HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) has issued Special Fraud Alerts for fraudulent and abusive practices of hospices. U.S. and South Carolina hospices, patients, hospice employees and whistleblowers, their attorneys and lawyers, should be familiar with these hospice fraud practices. Tips on recognizing hospice frauds in South Carolina and the U.S. are:

• A hospice offering free goods or goods at below market value to induce a nursing home to refer patients to the hospice.
• False representations in a hospice’s Medicare/Medicaid enrollment form.
• A hospice paying “room and board” payments to the nursing home in amounts in excess of what the nursing home would have received directly from Medicaid had the patient not been enrolled in the hospice.
• False statements in a hospice’s claim form (CMS Forms 1450, UB-04 or UB-92).
• A hospice falsely billing for services that were not reasonable or necessary for the palliation of the symptoms of a terminally ill patient.
• A hospice paying amounts to the nursing home for “additional” services that Medicaid considered included in its room and board payment to the hospice.
• A hospice paying above fair market value for “additional” non-core services which Medicaid does not consider to be included in its room and board payments to the nursing home.
• A hospice referring patients to a nursing home to induce the nursing home to refer its patients to the hospice.
•A hospice providing free (or below fair market value) care to nursing home patients, for whom the nursing home is receiving Medicare payment under the skilled nursing facility benefit, with the expectation that after the patient exhausts the skilled nursing facility benefit, the patient will receive hospice services from that hospice.
• A hospice providing staff at its expense to the nursing home to perform duties that otherwise would be performed by the nursing home.
• Incomplete or no written Plan of Care was established or reviewed at specific intervals.
• Plan of Care did not include an assessment of needs.
• Fraudulent statements in a hospice’s cost report to the government.
• Notice of Election was not obtained or was fraudulently obtained.
• RN supervisory visits were not made for home health aide services.
• Certification or Re-certification of terminal illness was not obtained or was fraudulently obtained.
• No Plan of care was included for bereavement services.
• Fraudulent billing for upcoded levels of hospice care.
• Hospice did not conduct a self-assessment of quality and care provided.
• Clinical records were not maintained for every patient.
• Interdisciplinary group did not review and update the plan of care for each patient.

Recent Hospice Fraud Enforcement Cases

The DOJ and U.S. Attorney’s Offices have been active in enforcing hospice fraud cases.

In 2009, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals settled an FCA lawsuit by paying $1.8 million to the federal government. The defendant allegedly failed to obtain written certifications of terminal illness for a number of its patients.

In 2006, Odyssey Healthcare, a national hospice provider, paid $12.9 million to settle a qui tam suit for false claims under the FCA. The hospice fraud allegations were generally that Odyssey billed Medicare for providing hospice care to patients when they were not terminally ill and ineligible for Medicare hospice benefits. A Corporate Integrity Agreement was also a part of the settlement. The hospice fraud qui tam relator received $2.3 million for blowing the whistle on the defendant.

In 2005, Faith Hospice, Inc., settled claims an FCA claim for $600,000. The hospice fraud allegations were generally that Faith Hospice billed Medicare for providing hospice care to patients more than half of whom were not terminally ill.

In 2005, Home Hospice of North Texas settled an FCA claim for $500,000 regarding allegations of fraudulently billing Medicare for ineligible hospice patients.

In 2000, Michigan osteopath Donald Dreyfuss, who pleaded guilty to criminal fraud charges, including violation of the AKS for receiving illegal kickbacks from a hospice for recommending the hospice to the staff of his nursing home, settled an FCA suit for $2 million.

Conclusion

Hospice fraud is a growing problem in South Carolina and throughout the United States. South Carolina hospice patients, hospice employees, and their SC lawyers and attorneys, should be familiar with the basics of the hospice care industry, hospice eligibility under the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and typical hospice fraud schemes. Hospice organizations should take steps to ensure full compliance with Medicare/Medicaid hospice billing requirements to avoid hospice fraud allegations and FCA litigation.

Felonies and Bankruptcy

In our legal system, if you have been convicted of a felony, life can become more challenging because certain rights have been taken away from you. If you are facing financial difficulties, there are still legal options available to help you get out of debt and even if you have felonies on your record, you may still be able to secure the protection of bankruptcy as you get your finances back under your control.

Anyone can slip into debt, no matter their background or individual circumstances, and should have the same resources available to help them that everyone else is entitled to.

How Felonies Could Affect Bankruptcy Proceedings

When you file for bankruptcy, certain types of felonies could affect your eligibility for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy courts may appear hesitant to help you out because they may judge you based on your past record.

This is why it is extremely important to hire a skilled legal professional to represent you and defend your rights in court. An experienced attorney can help to show the courts that you are actually in need of financial protection under bankruptcy at this time in your life. You deserve to have your rights defended and be treated fairly by the legal system. The sooner you get help, the sooner you will be back on the road to recovery and financial stability. You deserve to be given a chance to put your life in order and reach your financial goals, no matter what your past may have held.

What’s the Difference Between Lehman Bros and Bear Stearns? Lehman’s CEO is on NY Fed Board

An earlier article by this author (“The Secret Bailout of JP Morgan”) summarized evidence presented by John Olagues, an expert in options trading, suggesting that JPMorgan, far from “rescuing” Bear Stearns, was actually its nemesis.[1] The faltering investment bank was brought down, not by “rumors,” but by insider trading based on a plan drawn up much earlier. The deal was a lucrative one for JPM, handing the Wall Street megabank $52 billion in loans from the Federal Reserve (meaning ultimately the U.S. taxpayer). So how did JPM get away with it? Olagues notes the highly suspicious fact that JPM’s CEO James Dimon sits on the Board of the New York Federal Reserve.

In his latest post, Olagues discusses the fate of Lehman Brothers, the nation’s fourth-largest investment bank and the next faltering bank expected to fail.[2] Unlike Bear Stearns, which got decimated by the JPM buyout using Federal Reserve money, Lehman Brothers is probably in line for a massive bailout from the Fed. At least, that’s what its CEO Richard Fuld seems to believe. The June 4, 2008 Financial Times of London quoted him as stating, “The Federal Reserve’s decision earlier this year to lend directly to investment banks should take questions about Lehman’s liquidity off the table.” Whether Lehman can come up with the “liquidity” to meet its debts is no longer an issue, because it expects to be feeding at the trough of the Federal Reserve, just as JPM did when it bought Bear Stearns at bargain-basement prices. The difference between the two “bailouts” is that Lehman Brothers, unlike Bear Stearns, will actually get the money. Why is Fuld so confident of this rescue operation? Olagues notes that Fuld, like Dimon (and unlike Bear CEO Alan Schwartz), sits on the Board of the New York Federal Reserve.

A conflict of interest? It certainly looks like it. Indeed, Olagues points to a statute defining this sort of self-dealing as a criminal offense. 18 U.S.C. Chapter 11, Section 208, makes it a felony punishable by up to 5 five years in prison for members of the Board of Directors of a Federal Reserve Bank to make decisions that benefit their own financial interests. That would undoubtedly apply here:

“Fuld, at last count, owns 1.9 million shares of Lehman . . . . Although Mr. Fuld sold over $320,000,000 worth of stock at near all time highs in 2006 and 2007, received through the premature exercise of his stock options, he still has value in his present holdings of approximately $100,000,000.”

Likewise, says Olagues, “James Dimon holds almost 3 million shares of J.P. Morgan stock worth over $120 million with taxes already paid and executive stock options equal in my estimate of another $70 million. His dispositions of stock equaled $140 million over the past few years.” Olagues adds:

“Fuld, like Jamie Dimon, was at the luncheon on March 11, 2008 with Bernanke, Rubin, CEO of Citigroup, Geithner, President of the New York FED, Thain of Merrill Lynch, and Schwarzman. Some claim that the meeting was about Bear Stearns and how to handle the situation.”

Needless to say, Bear CEO Schwartz was not invited to the luncheon. “Lehman Bros. is one of the original stock holders of the New York Federal Reserve Bank,” Olagues observes. “Bear Stears does not now have any ownership in the FED banks.”

The luncheon was held three days before the March 14 collapse of Bear Stearns stock that led to the bank’s demise. If the luncheon attendees were indeed discussing the Bear problem on March 11, testimony before the Senate Banking Committee in which the principals said they first heard of the problem on the evening of the thirteenth, says Olagues, was “less than truthful.”

The evidence at least warrants an investigation, but who is going to hold these self-dealing Federal Reserve Board members to account? New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, the former thorn in the side of the Wall Street bankers, has been summarily disposed of; and under the latest proposal of U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, the Federal Reserve itself will soon become the chief overseer and regulator of the banks. The Federal Reserve will regulate the Federal Reserve Boards, with their litany of private bank CEOs, a clear case of the fox guarding the henhouse.

Can Realtors Really Help Investors Find Buyers and Sellers?

Obviously realtors find buyers and sellers all the time, after all, that’s the only way they make a living. But, can they help real estate investors who have a different mind-set about buying and selling? Surprisingly, the answer is not a simple “Yes” because a better answer is actually “Possibly”.

Let’s first look at the differences between real estate investors and realtors – state licensed professionals who are required to uphold high standards of ethics but don’t always, take continuing education courses, either are or should be trained in selling, spend money to advertise, and maintain an office; but in the final analysis have no direct money invested in the properties they sell. They are most benefited by getting the highest possible price for a property for which they receive a larger commission. They make a modest living in most cases if the market helps them.

Investors, on the other hand, have some similarities but not many. Investors only need a driver’s license to do business, should uphold high standards of ethics but don’t always, take continuing educational courses because they want to, generally are not trained in selling since they are buyers, have overhead and expenses, but do not have to maintain an office, and in the final analysis they take the risk and burden of owning a property to make a profit. Investors must pay the lowest possible price for a property to make a profit, they are not guaranteed a commission as a realtor gets for a sale. The only guarantee for an investor is a learning experience – good, bad or ugly. Investors can make great livings even in the worst of market conditions.

Having set the stage for the differences between investors and realtors, let’s look at specific examples of properties where investors are generally involved:

1. Bank-owned properties (REOs) – the banks want a realtor to list these properties and take care of the resulting investor inquiries and offers. Agents have a field day with new listings as investors who are rehabbers or newbies swarm to get these deals and bid against themselves in a crazed frenzy. WARNING- if you use a buyer’s agent to make offers on REOs it is very unlikely you will get the deals. Simply put, the listing agent will not split the seller’s commission. This may offend buyers’ agents, “But even stipulating that you will not get the buyer’s commission from the seller’s side, doesn’t work most of the time.” Do yourself and your investor clients a favor and don’t bid for them. Have the investor pay you a buyer’s commission on the HUD-1 Statement. I suggest you only tell the closing agent after a contract has been signed by the seller (bank’s Asset Manager). Also, the last listing price on the MLS becomes a glass ceiling for the investor if he wants to wholesale it so don’t think you can just re-list it unless he does substantial repairs to it.

2. What about a MLS listed property in general? If it has been listed on the MLS more than five days, it becomes “price tainted” as the days on the market (“DOMs”) get larger and larger. Ultimately it is only for a retail buyer to buy it with conventional financing – not what your investor has in mind unless he bought it substantially lower. If the property has a price reduction it may be a buying opportunity, if the seller is really motivated. However, as always, any realtor can also see this update and be on it with a retail buyer. As a realtor you are better off to become an investor or partner with an investor to make more money on deals that are “pocket listings” or direct seller contracts with motivated sellers. Personally, I believe pocket listings are unethical for the seller could likely get a higher price in the open market and in some states these are a third degree felony for the buyer and the realtor.

3. As for Realtors finding buyers for investor properties, there is no doubt that the MLS is the spot for many retail buyers to find their dream homes. As investors selling wholesale properties, the benefit of the MLS is getting exposure to other investors searching for bargains. Usually these are newbies who believe what a realtor has told them about finding deals there. The frustration for the realtor comes when the investor doesn’t think it’s a deal and doesn’t’ buy it. Even worse is when it’s not a deal and the investor does buy it only to learn just how much money can be lost on a single deal. If it is such a deal, “Why don’t the realtors buy them?”,- basically because they don’t have the money (not successful enough or don’t understand doing “no money” deals) or they won’t take the market risk – both are opposite to investor thinking.

You may have gotten the idea that I am anti-realtor but that isn’t true at all. Some of my best friends are realtors because they’re also investors. It is in the best interest of any investor to spend some time before getting involved with a realtor so both parties understand how they will operate and what is expected of both parties. If the realtor “gets it” they will not want to chase listed properties for the investor, if the investor “gets it”, he will realize the realtor has no special ability that he doesn’t have and the realtor is handicapped by his license.

These comments and analysis represent my opinions only and are based solely on 34 years of investing experience and having worked with hundreds of realtors®. In general, realtors are hard working but disrespected individuals because their commissions are fully disclosed to the buyer/seller. Few other industries have this burden to answer to with sellers’ question of, “What am I paying for?” Realtors® have the ability to become great investors but the few who do generally drop their licenses because of unrealistic legal restrictions. This is not a reflection of any other investors’ opinions.