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Editorial

Govt, unions and unfulfilled agreements

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The incessant strikes in the critical sectors of the nation’s economy should, as a matter of necessity, raise urgent concern, if the country is to make any appreciable impact in its quest for development. It is more worrisome that the Federal Government has found it extremely difficult to effectively address the root causes of strikes by various workers’ unions.

The question now is whether or not the government at all levels has been thoughtful enough to realise the incurable damage and negative impact this retrogressive practice has brought upon the nation’s physique and consciousness.

With this, it is believed that the government should be able to decipher appropriately the palpable paralysis suffered by the economy each time any arm of the workers’ unions embarked on job boycott.

The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) on January 17 declared a seven-day warning strike action, so also are members of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU), paralysing the system. NARD, through the President of the Association of Resident Doctors, Federal Neuro Psychiatric Hospital branch, Yaba, Lagos, Dr. Kenneth Uwajeh, said the strike was in response to the government insensitivity to the plight of doctors and patients in the country.

Just recently, workers in various health institutions in the country embarked on industrial action over welfare issues. Already, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is threatening to go on strike over salary cut of lecturers.

Without underscoring the level of losses incurred during such strikes, the government has in its characteristic manner continued to show defiant attitude towards workers’ strikes.

Despite the workers’ agitations for enhanced working condition and better remuneration, the government’s nonchalant attitude to implement agreements reached with the unions at separate levels to keep the system going, has remained the bane of the system.

Pitiably, if it is not the medical doctors or other health workers today, or the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), or its other subsidiary unions, it will be the turn of ASUU or its polytechnic counterpart, the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), and or the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) tomorrow. But, in the unfortunate scenario, the education sector has been the worst hit in this government’s shenanigans and orchestrated actions or inactions of the unions.

It is, however, sad that this socio-economic madness perverting the nation, has become like a festering sore, which over the years has continued without no concrete cure or right medication to stagnate the polity.

Expectedly, the failure of the federal and state governments to meet the workers’ demands will continually throw the system into rounds of darkness, as the government and workers failed to reach a compromise and fashion out some workable solutions to this crisis.

More importantly, strikes should not be the best option as alternative to dialogue, as being employed by the various workers’ unions in the government establishments, either in institutions of learning or civil service, as a means of agitation for workers’ demands.

As a nation and people, who crave for development, what precipitates strikes and its attendant losses to the socioeconomic development of the country should at most be a source of worry and concern to any discerning government.

For more than two decades now, the Federal Government and ASUU have been at one’s throat on the need to improve funding to the education sector and enhanced welfare of the lecturers, but nothing concrete has been achieved in this direction.

Not too long ago, the Federal Government named Mr. Wale Babalakin (SAN) as the chair of the Negotiation Committee to renegotiate the agreements with ASUU.

But, how long will the government continue to renegotiate agreements reached with the unions since 2009, without any feasible plans to implement them? It is laughable that in 2010, Ghanaian universities celebrated that the system had not in the last 15 years gone on strike for one day, even in the face of several challenges.

It is high time that Nigerian Government addressed the needs of our institutions to forestall incessant strikes in the system, while the workers’ unions should embrace civil approach and return normalcy to the polity. We believe that the Federal Government and workers’ unions must enter into workable agreements.

There is no basis reaching an agreement which cannot be implemented. The workers’ unions should also make reasonable demands.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Scot Sobers

    November 12, 2019 at 6:09 am

    very cool

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Editorial

CBN’s rare passion for textile sector

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CBN’s rare passion for textile sector

The economic policy direction of the current administration has its very harsh side; and it appears to be going on endlessly. But some of the policies being propelled to grow the economy are certainly with far-reaching and sustainable developmental indices.

Significantly, it is becoming obvious that steps taken by the Federal Government are beginning to impact heavily and positively on the future of the country’s economy.

Despite what appears like an endless privation, every action actually consolidates Federal Government’s quest for full scale self-reliance, job creation and economic growth.

This again was recently demonstrated by the Central Bank of Nigeria’s (CBN) revelation a fortnight ago that it had so far released N50 billion to stakeholders in the textile industry out of the N100 billion earmarked to revamp the sector.

Obviously, with such a gesture, the country, in a couple of months, may begin to witness a gradual return to the days when textile factories dotted the landscape.

While confirming the release of N19 billion for the same purpose, the CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, whose passion to see this project through has been limitless, took another landmark step to give impetus to President Muhammadu Buhari’s Executive Order 003, which compels both military and para-military bodies to source their official clothing locally.

The latest action is an offshoot or a continuation of promises made in the not-too-distant past when the governor shut access to foreign exchange against importers of textile materials and palm oil.

For the record, Nigeria’s textile industry in the past was the envy of the continent, but the profligacy that dominated past administrations sank a sector that once reigned as the highest employer of labour.

Then, Kaduna and Kano, down to Lagos in the South-West and Aba in the South-East boasted of textile mill factories that equally provided thousands of direct and indirect employment to residents in those locations. Sadly, those factories have either been taken over as mere warehouses or locked up with the equipment vandalised over the years.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, Nigeria was home to Africa’s largest textile industry, with over 180 textile mills in operations, which employed close to over 450,000 people. By today, if we had nurtured and encouraged the textile industry, that sector will be employing millions.

The erstwhile textile industry – which had companies such as United Textiles in Kaduna, Supertex Limited, Afprint, International Textile Industry (ITI), Texlon, Aba Textiles, Asaba Textile Mills Ltd, Enpee and Aswani Mills, amongst others contributed over 25 per cent of the workforce in the manufacturing sector. The industry was supported by the production of cotton by 600,000 local farmers across the country.

The death of the sector is quite lamentable in the sense that it was largely due to open conspiracy encouraged by government through unfavourable policies and large scale smuggling.

As at today, about 19 states in the country can conveniently grow cotton. Even when the sector boomed in the 60s and 70s, the operators never sourced raw material, which is mainly cotton, outside the country.

It was basically for this reason that the apex bank’s decision to place a complete ban on access to forex meant for all forms of textile material import and going ahead to direct dealers to desist from granting such importers access to same in any of their windows, was greeted with commendation and seen as a step to put an end to the excessive misuse of the country’s scarce foreign exchange.

Even though the apex bank’s decision might seem to be on the hardline to those who benefit from the detestable arrangement of the past, the fact remains that in a very short while, the gains of every policy will become obvious for all to see.

This has been evident from the position of body of Nigerian major industrialists, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), which said that local sourcing of raw materials by its members had increased significantly.

In effect, what the country suffers today is as a result of mismanagement of resources when it was available in abundance and sustaining same approach to governance even when it was no longer convenient to be committed into the greed of the past.

The CBN is primarily fulfilling its pledge to textile manufacturers to provide them with loans at single digits rate, to refit, retool and upgrade their factories in order to produce high quality textile materials for local and export market.

As earlier advised and should indeed be taken seriously, while the current step being taken by the Federal Government through the apex bank looks good enough to bring back the sector, it should, however, bear in mind that the textile policy that was prepared during the last administration should not be jettisoned as the entire value chain from farm to shop is captured there.

Besides the huge capital flight in an economy that has gone under due to excesses, job losses and closure of small and even large scale industries have also been a big problem to contend with.

As the apex bank delivers on its promise, we advise that the process should be closely monitored and beneficiaries guided so as to ensure that the expected result emerges.

Why we commend CBN for performing its role to ensure the economy bounces back, we also advise other government agencies to initiate programmes that will complement government’s effort to rebuild the country.

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Editorial

Bringing randy lecturers to justice

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Bringing randy lecturers to justice

T

he termination of appointment of eight lecturers of the Akwa Ibom State University over sexual harassment has brought to the fore the endemic nature of the menace.

 

 

 

Vice Chancellor of the institution, Prof. Eno Ibanga, last week, said that the lecturers were sacked for sexually harassing some female students and for extortion between 2015/2016 academic year and 2018/2019 session.

 

 

“The appointment of eight lecturers has been terminated by the university bordering on sexual harassment and extortion.

 

 

“As we speak, a notorious one is on ground and the person will not go scot free.

 

“Some of the cases are still in court. I swore to run an institution that can stand the test of time. We are doing the best to bring sanity to the institution,” Ibanga said.

 

 

We commend the university for this disciplinary action. Prof. Ibanga and the management of this institution should also ensure that the lecturers are duly prosecuted. It is not enough to terminate their appointment; they must face the wrath of the law. This will, no doubt, instil sanity among lecturers and students.

 

 

Just recently, the BBC did an expose on lecturers of the University of Lagos, Dr. Boniface Igbeneghu and Dr. Samuel Ladipo.

 

In one of the viral videos released by the broadcasting organisation following its investigation into sex escapades in the university, Dr. Igbeneghu was seen propositioning a BBC undercover reporter who posed as a 17-year-old admission seeker. He had invited the teenager to his office a number of times before delving into discussions of a very sexual nature with her.

 

The lecturer also made reference to the school’s guest house which was cynically christened ‘cold room’ where lecturers take young students for activities of a sexual nature. “Do you want me to kiss you? Switch off the light, lock the door and I will kiss you for a minute. That’s what they do in cold room,” Igbeneghu told the young lady.

 

The school authorities have since suspended both lecturers pending the outcome of investigation. The case of Igbeneghu is even more pathetic because he is a pastor of a well-known church. The church has also relieved him of his pastoral duties in the meantime. These are commendable steps.

 

 

However, it is worrisome that lecturers who are supposed to nurture and protect young and vulnerable female students have turned round to be their worst nightmares and predators. It is clear from the videos that what has come to the fore is just a tip of the iceberg. It will not be exaggerating to surmise that many lecturers are active participants in the cold room business.

 

 

It will also be stating the obvious to note that many students have had to spend extra years for refusal to accede to the amorous advances of lecturers in the past. Yet these are men who – by virtue of their high education – should know better. Men who should be able to exercise control and restraint, after all education is not just about learning; it is also about character. Unfortunately the latter aspect is seriously diminished in the conduct of these purveyors of sex-for-grades in universities.

 

 

There’s no doubt that some lazy female students deliberately go out of their way to entrap lecturers to award them unmerited grades, and this was a talking point in the latest BBC investigation. The case of Prof. Richard Akindele at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) underlines this aspect of the problem. The student not only sent suggestive WhatsApp chats to Prof. Akindele, she went as far as sending photos of her private part to the lecturer who has since been sacked from the employ of OAU after a panel found him guilty. He was equally found guilty by a court of law and jailed two years.

 

 

While we believe that such students should be held to account in some way, we however insist that the balance of the power relations between lecturers and students is so heavily tipped in favour of the former such that a much higher sense of responsibility is naturally expected from them. Unfortunately, some of these people have failed this test abysmally. It is bothersome that lecturers who should know the overall implication of lowering academic standards – and sex-for-grades is one manifestation – are caught in this shameless conundrum.

 

We insist that the law must be followed to its logical conclusion in the UNILAG cases. Igbenegbu and Ladipo should not be shielded from having their day in court. We also emphasise the need for managements of higher institutions to do more to fish out bad eggs among their teaching staff and exclude them from the system.

 

 

In this regard we want to commend the management of the University of Ibadan for inaugurating a committee in the aftermath of the BBC investigation to probe claims of sexual misconduct in the institution.

We recommend this course of action to all higher institutions.

 

We also call on the Senate to expedite action on the Bill for an Act to Prevent, Prohibit and Redress Sexual Harassment of Students in Tertiary Educational Institutions and for other matters connected therewith 2019.

 

 

The bill proposes maximum of 14 years’ jail term, with a minimum of 5 years, without an option of fine for any educator who commits sexual offences in tertiary institutions.

 

 

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Editorial

Insurgency: When military, gov opt for prayer warriors

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Insurgency:  When military, gov opt for prayer  warriors

President Muhammadu Buhari came into office in 2015 with a promise to among other things deal with insecurity across the country. At the time he came in, the country’s major problem was centred around the Boko Haram insurgents that ravaged the North-East and pockets of other vices such as kidnap for ransom, armed robbery and other similar ones.

Before the end of his first term in office, Buhari, his service chiefs and ministers were upbeat, thumping their chests that Boko Haram has been defeated or downgraded by the military. By their arguments, Boko Haram no longer held any territory in Borno State or anywhere in the North-East, where the insurgents had hoisted a flag and claimed ownership to some local governments pre-2015 elections.

But in the last couple of weeks, certain developments in the polity now seem to question the validity of the government’s claim.

First, at the House of Representatives, Hon. Ahmadu Jaha, representing Chibok/Damboa/Gwoza Federal Constituency of Borno State, told a stunned House that the insurgents are still in control of eight out of the 10 local government areas in Borno North Senatorial District.

Jaha said that a number of communities in Borno State and other parts of the North-East were still under the occupation of Boko Haram.

Another incident that is as worrying as Jaha’s claims is the revelation that Borno Governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum, entered into an arrangement with 30 residents of Makkah in Saudi Arabia, who will on permanent basis, offer daily ‘Dawaf’ (circumambulation of the holy Ka’aba). The prayer warriors are to offer prayers for the return and sustenance of peace in Borno State and the rest of Nigeria.

The state government stated that the 30 persons, all Nigerians from Borno, Katsina, Zamfara, Kano and parts of the North-West, “have for tens of years devoted themselves to spending hours at the Ka’aba every day for the purpose of worship.”

The state government added that the move was part of the multi-dimensional approach towards defeating the insurgents. Other approaches included support for the Nigerian Armed Forces, aggressive mass recruitment and equipping of more counter-insurgency volunteers into the Civilian JTF, hunters and vigilantes, among others. It is instructive that the governor went personally to meet the prayer warriors in Saudi Arabia for that purpose.

But if those were not enough reasons to be alarmed, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, added another horrifying dimension to the already depressing situation when he organised a seminar on spiritual warfare against insurgents in Abuja recently.

Although, he was more concerned with the re-orientation of youths in the crisis areas toward neutralizing the ideologies of the insurgents, the tag of spiritual warfare raised curiosity on the subject of the seminar. We find it absurd that the COAS, after five years in office, having battled the insurgents and claimed victory, is now resorting to spiritual warfare in overpowering them.    

Speaking at the seminar tagged, “Countering Insurgency and Violent Extremism in Nigeria through Spiritual Warfare”, Buratai charged the Service’s clerics across formations, to take up the gauntlet in that regard.

He said: “It is easier to defeat Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists than their ideology because, while we degrade the terrorists and their havens, the narrative of the ideology grows the group.”

We are worried that the people saddled with the task of defeating the insurgents are rather capitulating, bringing extraneous theories to the fight against insurgents.

We have also seen that governors of some northern states have engaged in dialogue with bandits in their communities, with a view to resolving the matters amicably.

We are worried that the government seem to have run short of ideas and is now accepting any offer that run contrary to engagements with the bandits and insurgents.

Rather than treat the matter as criminal as it deserves, our government and even the armed forces are resorting to soft measures to deal with brutes, who have no room for such pampering.

Of course, it is an open secret that the bandits and insurgents cannot be trusted as witnessed in Niger State last week.

In Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State, fresh attacks by bandits left about one 1,200 residents homeless.

The Niger State Governor, Abubakar Sani Bello, had few weeks ago pardoned and released about 30 bandits, who have been terrorising parts of the state. He had signed a peace agreement with the bandits. They reneged.

We are totally displeased with the resort to mundane approach in the fight against the insurgents. We wonder why spiritual warfare, use of prayer warriors and even negotiation with bandits have become important at this point when the government had claimed victory over the insurgents.

We see the new approaches as a surrender by the government to the stubbornness of the insurgents.

We are of the view that government cannot abandon its core responsibility of rooting out the bandits and insurgents on alters of spiritual warfare or engagement of clerics to pray against Boko Haram. It is cowardly and has no place in modern warfare. We suggest that the government should see the fight as one that must be won through the military, whom we have spent billions of Dollars in equipping. Anything short of that is an undeserving injustice to Nigerians.

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Editorial

Olympics: U-23 team in tricky quest for football ticket

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F

ootball-loving Nigerians are yet to come to terms with the sad ouster of the country’s national women’s team, the Super Falcons, from the football event of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. It was Cote d’Ivoire that edged Nigeria out courtesy of a crucial away goal scored in the 1-1 draw recorded in Lagos after a goalless affair in Abidjan in the first leg of the qualifiers. The last has not been heard about the administrative issue that led to the ouster. The last time the female team attended the games was at Beijing in 2008.

 

Incidentally, Cote d’Ivoire male team for the Olympics will play in same group with Nigeria as the African qualifiers for the event starts this weekend in Egypt. In a seemingly tough group, the country’s U-23 team also has Zambia and South Africa to contend in the battle for semifinal ticket in Group B of the tournament at the Al Salam Stadium. Hosts Egypt are in Group A that also has Ghana, Cameroon and Mali with matches billed for the Cairo International Stadium.

Nigeria’s first match of the campaign is against Cote d’Ivoire on Sunday, November 9.

 

The top three teams at the eight-nation age grade football event will win tickets to represent Africa in the Men’s Football Tournament of the forthcoming 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

 

We do not want our male team to go the way of the female especially with the rich pedigree of teams going to Cairo for the tournament. We make bold to say the competition will be tough.

 

However, the important aspect of the setting is the fact that the players should be future senior national team stars, so, the authorities and Eagles handler, Gernot Rohr, should monitor the proceedings very well. As the country battle for the Olympic ticket, there should be a deliberate effort to look at the players that could break into the Super Eagles in the next one year and be part of the next World Cup campaign for the country.

 

It is important to state that the U-23 team is the most delicate to handle because it involves players trying to start a career in clubs abroad. Most of the best legs are abroad and might not be available to feature in the tournament. For example, Victor Osimhen who is on fire for Lille currently in France and high flying Samuel Chukwueze, who is also doing great in Villareal of Spain are not part of the team to Cairo since FIFA is yet to recognize Olympic Games football. We believe this is a setback because some other players within the range could not make the cut as well due to club engagements.

 

We recall that in the past, Samson Siasia on two occasions for the Beijing 2008 Games and Brazil 2016 Olympics football event, built his African qualifier teams round home-based players who are available for long camping and he was successful winning silver and bronze at the games.

 

This time, Imama Amakapabo, handler of the team, was able to get foreign-based players to travel to Cairo but the fear is the understanding and cohesion expected in the team. He named players like team captain Azubuike Okechukwu (Turkey), defenders Anthony Izuchukwu (Turkey), Sincere Seth (Turkey) and Olisah Ndah (Remo Stars), midfielders Kelechi Nwakali (Spain), Muyiwa Olabiran (Turkey) and Ndifreke Effiong (Norway), and forwards Taiwo Awoniyi (Germany) and Orji Okwonkwo (Italy) in his final list of 21 players to defend the U-23 Africa Cup. We ask, do these players have enough time to blend and understand one another? Are they good enough to handle the opposition in Egypt and deliver the ticket to Tokyo?

 

The handlers need to adopt a strategy that to get early goals and defend well because the three teams in Group B have better training period than Nigeria. There should be means of getting the best from the individual talents in the team as well.

The male team has failed in the past when the handler, Austin Eguavoen, relied on pros but they failed to turn up for the qualifiers and his last-minute efforts were not enough.

 

Picking a ticket to Tokyo Games football event won’t be easy because there is no hiding place for Nigeria as defending champions of the event.

An event that has Cote d’Ivore, Mali, Ghana, Cameroon and South Africa on parade will be tough.We charge the NFF to give the team all the motivation they need to excel in Egypt. The Tokyo Games could produce next generation of Super Eagles stars and the qualifiers billed to start on November 9 should be taken seriously in the interest of football development in the country.

 

We believe transition of players from U-23 to the Super Eagles should not be difficult as any player in that range is ripe enough for the national team. Rohr and the NFF should take the qualifiers seriously to create healthy competition in the Super Eagles.

 

Amakapabo has an opportunity to warm himself to the hearts of Nigerians after failing to book a ticket to the finals of AFCON with the home-based National team. We believe failure in Cairo could crumble his coaching career and so he must get it right.

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Editorial

Absurd removal of Kogi Deputy Governor

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Absurd removal of Kogi Deputy Governor

The Kogi State House of Assembly few weeks ago ignored all known norms to impeach the Deputy Governor of the state, Simon Achuba. Achuba, before his removal from office had had a running battle with the state governor, Yahaya Bello, over issues of governance. The outspoken ex-deputy governor paid the price for his opposition to the style of governance of the governor.

He was impeached following the submission of a report of a committee set up by the state chief judge, Justice Nadir Ajana, to investigate allegations of gross misconduct against the former deputy governor.

Although the committee did not find Achuba guilty of any of the allegations, which were deemed unproven, the assembly went ahead to remove Achuba to the chagrin of many. 

Leader of the House, Hassan Bello Abdulahi, while announcing the decision of the House, said Achuba stands impeached after consideration of the report of the John Bayeshea committee submitted same day.

According to him, after the House received the report on a Friday, it deliberated on and arrived at the unanimous decision to remove the erstwhile deputy on the same day.

The seven-man committee headed by John Bayeshea (SAN) was set up in August following allegations of gross misconduct levelled against the Deputy Governor when he accused Governor Bello of withholding his salaries and imprest since 2017. The government denied the allegation.

Following his removal, the Chief Judge swore in Edward Onoja, Bello’s Chief of Staff, as substantive deputy governor of the state.

Achuba has since declared his impeachment as unconstitutional, saying that he will challenge it in court. The former deputy governor claimed that he was forcefully ejected from his official residence like a common criminal, despite his constitutional backing as deputy governor.

Although, the report of the committee went viral and showed that Achuba was cleared of the allegations of gross misconduct, the House Leader, Hassan Bello, accused the judicial panel of inquiry of compromise on the assignment giving them.

Bello said: “Based on the “Rule of Procedure” given to members of the panel, their assignment was a fact-finding one, and were not required to give any resolution.”

We are particularly worried with the impunity displayed by the House and the silence of relevant stakeholders to the brazen act. The Constitution of Nigeria (1999) gave clear guidelines on the process of removal of the deputy governors, governors, Vice President and even the President.

As ambiguous as the term gross misconduct is in the constitution, we are also aware that it stated that the person accused must be probed by the panel of inquiry and found guilty to be removed.

Section 188 of the 1999 Constitution deals with the removal process of such persons. It is instructive that subsections 7,8 and 9 of the section puts a conclusion on how the reports of such committee should be treated. It stated: “(7) A Panel appointed under this section shall – (a) have such powers and exercise its functions in accordance with such procedure as may be prescribed by the House of Assembly; and (b) within three months of its appointment, report its findings to the House of Assembly and (8) Where the Panel reports to the House of Assembly that the allegation has not been proved, no further proceedings shall be taken in respect of the matter.”

The provisions of the constitution are very clear on such processes. We are not only disturbed by the haste with which the assembly concluded its process and removed Achuba but also the fact that the report did not indict the former deputy governor. Thus, the House, if acting with clean conscience ought to have adhered to the provisions of subsection 8.

We are concerned that that some governors have turned their deputies, who were elected on the same ticket with them as mere houseboys, who must be whipped and punished for any act of dissention.

Since 1999, many governors, deputies have paid the price of illegality perpetrated through their various state assemblies.

It is more disturbing when state assemblies that are supposed to be checks on the executive, turn themselves into lap dogs of the same with all impunity. The Kogi assembly, obviously, was dancing to the tunes played from the state’s government house. We recall the case of Sunday Onyebuchi in Enugu State, who was impeached under Governor Sullivan Chime, for rearing chicken at the government house. That is how low state assemblies have sunk in a bid to please their executives.

We totally condemn the removal of Achuba on flimsy reasons, especially when the panel did not find him guilty. Perhaps, the folly of the house’s actions could be found in the House Leader Bello’s accusation of the panel of compromise.

We are also worried that the All Progressives Congress (APC), a party that claims puritan status, could look the other way while the evil was perpetrated. We cannot subscribe to the resort to self-help, which the Kogi example clearly is. We urge Achuba to head to court and enforce his rights. We must not allow this hard fought democracy to be reduced to a circus of clowns and egomaniacs, whose only wish is self-interest against state. We believe that the processes ought to be fair to all, not minding whose interest is hurt.

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Editorial

Addressing Nigeria’s growing debt

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Addressing Nigeria’s growing debt

The Debt Management Office (DMO), recently, declared that the Federal Government and 36 states of the federation incurred N25.7 trillion debt as at end of June 2019. Nigeria’s total domestic (N15,628,758.66) and foreign debt (N6,750,907.61) was put at N22.38 trillion by the DMO at the end of June 2018. This means that the country’s debt increased by N3.32 trillion in one year.

 

According to debt figures released by the DMO, the country’s total foreign debt stood at N8.32 trillion ($27.16 billion) while domestic debt was put at N17.38 trillion. Out of the total debt, the Federal Government alone owed N20.42 trillion, while the 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are owing N5.28 trillion.

 

DMO stated that the debt which rose by N3.32 trillion in one year was accounted for largely by domestic debt which grew by over N1.65 trillion, while external debt also increased by over N1.57 trillion during the same period. In the 2019 budget of the Federal Government, N2.254 trillion was set aside for debt servicing. As at June 2019, about N1.109 trillion had been spent on servicing debt. In the N10.33 trillion 2020 Budget recently submitted to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari, N2.45 trillion is for debt servicing.

 

While a section of the citizenry sees nothing wrong with the accumulating debt currently put at over N25.7 trillion, others are, however, worried that the rate at which the federal and state governments are burrowing into various credit facilities, the future of the country is consciously being mortgaged.

 

The fear being expressed is evident on the fact that considering the huge sum borrowed so far, there is actually no corresponding infrastructural development to measure up with it. This actually calls for concern as the Federal Government, especially under the current administration, has often make noise about borrowing to develop infrastructure. With major roads across the country in their unprecedented worse state, and nothing to write about electricity supply as well as other public institutions begging for attention, one is left with no choice to really question the specific areas the funds so far borrowed has been channelled into.

 

Though the IMF welcomed the move by Nigeria to embark on more borrowing, it stressed that such funds be used for infrastructure and social spending even as it urged the country to broaden her tax base. During its meeting in September, the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) noted that the rising public debt was one of the factors hindering the nation’s growth prospects.

 

Today, most states are heavily indebted to banks and foreign institutions. Despite the semblance of a robust economy under Buhari administration, the decision to deliberately pile up debts under the guise of infrastructure development and economic stimulation is already creating an enormous milieu of uncertainty. While Nigerians actually believed that things were beginning to look up for the country especially with the rising foreign reserves, decelerating inflation and curtailed widespread corruption, the rising debt is casting doubt on the nation’s future.

 

 

The future of the country is obviously at stake if nothing is done urgently to cut down the rising debt profile, which the administration and a few others find very convenient to defend based on the simple fact that prevailing economic indices still allows for such projection.

 

Part of the feeble defence for this long-term entrapment remains the passionate attachment to sustainability even as the Federal Government has adopted a new debt management strategy, which has the objective of reducing the ratio of domestic debt in the portfolio, while the ratio of external debt increases – with a target of 60 per cent domestic and 40 per cent external. In spite of this defence and plans to raise funds through issuance of Eurobonds, the fact remains that accumulating huge debt within a period of four years calls to mind this administration’s right to question the credibility of its predecessor, which only had a liability of N7 trillion accumulated in four years. For an administration that came into power under the slogan of prudence and other cost cutting projections, it is indeed alarming that the sovereignty and future of the country is gradually being mortgaged by those who should know better.

 

While it is good enough to criticise former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration for borrowing to pay salaries, the indiscriminate approach in the current dispensation as regards borrowing to fund infrastructure which are not even there, is also becoming worrisome. Even while the dust raised by the current debt profile is yet to settle, the Federal Government still seeks more loans from both the World Bank and any other institution willing to offer.

 

While not ruling out borrowing to develop the economy, we, however, advise that caution should be applied and such development spread over time instead of piling up debts to get everything done at once. Rather than rush to do everything just to get the credit, institutions should be built to ensure that whoever takes over from the government of today continues from where it stops. We also believe it is time the government put into use whatever has been recovered from corrupt public office holders. We call on the state and federal governments to be cautious in their quest for more loans.

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Editorial

Leadership, not aid will lift Africa out of poverty

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Leadership, not aid will lift Africa out of poverty

Twenty six African presidents and prime ministers were in Japan, with the hope to get some aid or like the new lexicon, ‘partnership investment’ to boost their respective economies. The sad truth is that the results of this aid will be the same as always, more money and yet, no visible development.

There is no short cut to nation building and Africans need to understand that we are the only ones who can build our countries. I was a mentor at the 11th African Youth Governance and Convergence in Accra, Ghana, where the discussion was on ‘Partnerships for Youth Development: Key to Building Africa Beyond Aid.’ One major conclusion the young leaders agreed on is that Africa has to look beyond aid for growth and sustainable development. At the recently completed G7 summit, millions of dollars were committed to causes in Africa that in my humble opinion can be solved with the resources in the continent.

Aids are a great way to lift people out of a desperate situation, and there are still some phenomenal aid packages especially in the health and agricultural industries but beyond that, we must realise that times have changed. I also believe that we must understand that leadership and followership have a unique relationship.

For too long, African leaders have bossed their followers around, but this method will not yield any sustainable results. A leadership framework that addresses the functions of the citizens and aims to get everyone involved in the process is ideal. Once we achieve this, leaders will emerge from all areas, fostering progressive development in their communities and together, we can lift Africa out of poverty.

 

Adebayo Adeleke wrote from Lagos.

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Editorial

Dealing decisively with menace of sex-for-grades

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Dealing decisively with menace of sex-for-grades

T

he recent BBC expose on lecturers of the University of Lagos, Dr. Boniface Igbeneghu and Dr. Samuel Ladipo, sexually harassing a ‘student’ has once again highlighted in forceful relief the threat of this scourge in higher institutions.

In one of the viral videos released by the broadcasting organisation following its investigation into sex escapades in the university, Dr. Igbeneghu was seen propositioning a BBC undercover reporter who posed as a 17-year-old admission seeker. He had invited the teenager to his office a number of times before delving into discussions of a very sexual nature with her.

 

“Do you know that you are a very beautiful girl?” Igbeneghu asked. He continued: “Do you know that I am a pastor and I’m in my fifties. What will shock you is that even at my age now, if I want a girl of your age – a 17-year-old, all I need is to sweet tongue her and put some money in her hand and I’ll get her.”

 

The lecturer also made reference to the school’s guest house which was cynically christened ‘cold room’ where lecturers take young students for activities of a sexual nature. “Do you want me to kiss you? Switch off the light, lock the door and I will kiss you for a minute. That’s what they do in cold room,” Igbeneghu told the young lady.

 

The school authorities have since suspended both lecturers pending the outcome of investigation. The case of Igbeneghu is even more pathetic because he is a pastor of a well-known church. The church has also relieved him of his pastoral duties in the meantime. These are commendable steps.

 

However, it is worrisome that lecturers who are supposed to nurture and protect young and vulnerable female students have turned round to be their worst nightmares and predators. It is clear from the videos that what has come to the fore is just a tip of the iceberg. It will not be exaggerating to surmise that many lecturers are active participants in the cold room business.

 

 

It will also be stating the obvious to note that many students have had to spend extra years for refusal to accede to the amorous advances of lecturers in the past. Yet these are men who – by virtue of their high education – should know better. Men who should be able to exercise control and restraint, after all education is not just about learning; it is also about character. Unfortunately the latter aspect is seriously diminished in the conduct of these purveyors of sex-for-grades in universities.

There’s no doubt that some lazy female students deliberately go out of their way to entrap lecturers to award them unmerited grades, and this was a talking point in the latest BBC investigation. The case of Prof. Richard Akindele at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) underlines this aspect of the problem. The student not only sent suggestive WhatsApp chats to Prof. Akindele, she went as far as sending photos of her private part to the lecturer who has since being sacked from the employ of OAU after a panel found him guilty. He was equally found guilty by a court of law and jailed two years.

While we believe that such students should be held to account in some way, we however insist that the balance of the power relations between lecturers and students is so heavily tipped in favour of the former such that a much higher sense of responsibility is naturally expected from them. Unfortunately, some of these people have failed this test abysmally. It is bothersome that lecturers who should know the overall implication of lowering academic standards – and sex-for-grades is one manifestation – are caught in this shameless conundrum.

 

“Destroying any nation does not require the use of atomic bomb or the use of long range missiles. It only requires lowering the quality of education and allowing cheating in the examination by students.”

This quote at the entrance of a university in Uganda aptly captures the dangers of cheating in higher institutions of learning and the earlier this is realised and tackled decisively, the better for our country.

We insist that the law must be followed to its logical conclusion in the UNILAG cases. Igbenegbu and Ladipo should not be shielded from having their day in court. We also emphasise the need for managements of higher institutions to do more to fish out bad eggs among their teaching staff and exclude them from the system.

 

In this regard we want to commend the management of the University of Ibadan for inaugurating a committee in the aftermath of the BBC investigation to probe claims of sexual misconduct in the institution.

The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Idowu Olayinka, said among other things: “…In order to ensure that the university is proactive in preventing incidents of sexual misconducts, and be assured that the University of Ibadan is a safe space for staff and students, members of the university community are hereby notified that an ad-hoc committee has just been inaugurated by the vice-chancellor to, among others, investigate claims of sexual misconducts.”

We recommend this course of action to all higher institutions.

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Editorial

End torture chambers now

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End torture chambers now

I

t sounds incredulous, but disheartening and shocking, in this time, age and global development, to hear the atrocities being committed in Nigeria in the name of religion.

The gory tales emanating from torture chambers disguised as Islamic rehabilitation or correctional centres beat the imagination.

In less than a month, more than 1,000 Nigerians have been freed from such horror houses in the three states of Kaduna, Katsina and Kwara.

In September, about 500 people, mostly men and boys as young as five years old, were rescued from a building in the city of Kaduna.

The state police command said the victims were allegedly sexually abused and tortured.

The state Police Commissioner, Ali Janga, described the centre as a “house of torture and a place of human slavery”.

One of the victims, Bello Hamza, said: “I have spent three months here with chains on my legs.

“This is supposed to be an Islamic centre, but trying to run away from here attracts severe punishment; they tie people and hang them to the ceiling for that.”

In October, three other houses of horror were discovered and raided in Kaduna.

In one of the centres, about 147 victims were rescued after the security operatives, along with government officials, raided an illegal facility popularly known as Malam Niga’s Rehabilitation Centre.

Among the victims were 22 females, including four foreigners. The remaining were 125 males.

Also on October 22, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) raided two torture homes in Zaria in Zaria Local Government Area of Kaduna State.

The NSCDC said three persons died at one of the centres because of the unbearable condition of the home. At the centres, 11 inmates, men and children, whose ages range from 11 to 40, were rescued.

The Kaduna State Commissioner for Human Services and Social Development, Hafsat Baba, said some of the inmates were chained for eight years.

“They have been under torture. They were all in chains. We have to call a welder to remove the chains in their legs. Some of them have been in chains for eight years. They just removed the chains this afternoon,” she added.

Also, over 300 children and youths were rescued by the police from a mud house referred to as “reformation centre” at Sabon Gari area of Daura, Katsina State. The victims in the 40-year-old centre were also subjected to abuse, sexual assaults and serious tortures.

The state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Gambo Isa, said some of the victims, aged between 7 and 40 years old, were found in chains while others were handcuffed.

The victims had suffered health complications having being subjected to poor sanitation.

“This is something that has been the tradition in this side of the North. In a small room, you put over 300 people, and you say you are rehabilitating them. This is nothing like rehabilitation,” Isa added.

The Emir of Daura, Faruk Faruk, expressed shock at the discovery.

A few hours later, a Special Team from the Inspector General of Police raided another torture centre at Kofar Marusa area of Katsina State.

Keeping people in torture houses camouflaging as Quranic centres is not new or limited to a section of the country. In 2008, a similar discovery was made at an Islamic Teaching centre named Anakunmullahi Islamic Centre, Ibadan, Oyo State.

At the centre, inmates purportedly taken there for Islamic instructions were subjected to horrendous and traumatic torture by their supposed teachers.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who condemned the torture of Nigerians at the centres, commanded the police for raiding the centres.

A disturbing dimension into the case is that anybody, including family members, for whatever reason, no matter how flimsy, can be taken to any of the centres and be locked up for life.

For instance, disagreement within the family probably over sharing of property can earn anyone eternal damnation in the hell called correctional centre.

One of the victims, Abdullahi Ishola (30), from Osun State, rescued from one of the Kaduna torture chambers disclosed he was taken there by a family member.

Ishola is a National Diploma holder in Mass Communications from Ire Polytechnic in Osun State.

He said: “A family member just took me there and all of a sudden I found myself in chains. I was chained in the leg and hands and ever since then, I have been under unbearable inhuman treatment. I was beaten regularly and denied foods for several days.”

From tales of the victims, torture and sexual abuse are common to all the so-called reformation centres.

It is high time religious leaders across the country rose not only to condemn the practice but to put an immediate stop to the abuse of Nigerians in the name of religion.

We also call on government at all levels to protect the dignity of Nigerians in their own country.

It is not enough to discover and rescue innocent Nigerians from the torture centres, it is important that the operators are duly punished. We believe that diligent prosecution of operators of the torture centres and their collaborators will serve as deterrent to others. The action of the operators is a sin against humanity.

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Editorial

Executive, legislative parley on 2020 Budget

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Executive, legislative parley on 2020 Budget

P

resident Muhammadu Buhari, last week, presented the 2020 Appropriation Bill to the joint session of the National Assembly. The proposal, which is in the sum of N10.330 trillion, represents an 11 per cent increase when compared to the 2019 appropriation of N9.12 trillion. The proposal had a revenue projection of N8.155 trillion and a deficit of N2.18 trillion, which is 1.52 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

 

The key assumptions are the benchmark price of $57 per barrel of crude oil; daily oil production of 2.18 million barrels per day (mbpd) and an exchange rate of N305 to $1. The real GDP is expected to grow at 2.93 per cent, while inflation rate is projected at 10.81 per cent during the period covered by the proposal.

 

The budget was presented in accordance with the provisions of Section 81 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999. As prescribed by the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the budget presentation was preceded by the passage of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP) for 2020/2022 by the National Assembly. 

This is the fifth budget of the Buhari administration and the first in his second tenure.

 

We appreciate the apparent zeal of the administration to kick-start the budget process early in order to return to the January-December budget cycle. We have also observed the convivial atmosphere surrounding the process, which signals a new dawn in the relationship between the executive and legislative arms of the Federal Government in Nigeria. What used to be a cat and mouse game has become a steamy romance of two hitherto strange bedfellows.

 

In previous years, it was an open secret that the executive and the legislature were often at daggers drawn and both parties usually looked forward to budget presentation days with trepidation. We recall that throughout the life of the Eighth National Assembly, there was no love lost between the executive and the legislature because of the cracks that existed in the fold of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the ruling party. 

 

 

Today, both the executive and legislative have not only declared their willingness to work together, they have indeed displayed that spirit of collaboration given the speed at which the parliament commenced debates on the general principles of the money bill, preparatory to the defence of the specific allocations by the Heads of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the central government.

 

In order to avoid one of the pitfalls of the past where budget passage is delayed due to the absence of ministers, as well as heads of parastatals and agencies, President Buhari has directed the immediate suspension of international travels by all cabinet members and heads of government agencies so as to enable them to personally lead the process of budget defence at the National Assembly.

 

 

The suspension of such travels will enable these officials of the executive arm to provide the required information on the budget and ensure the timely passage of the 2020 Appropriation Bill. Furthermore, all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) have been directed to liaise with the relevant committees of the National Assembly for their schedules of budget defence.

For once in a long while, both the Presidency and the National Assembly are on the same page and vibrating at the same frequency.

However, we want to sound a note of warning to members of the National Assembly not to abdicate their constitutional responsibilities in the budget process. They must realise that by presenting the budget to them at a relatively early date, the ball is now in the court of the legislature. Already, economists, financial experts and even members of the National Assembly have expressed discomfort at some of the proposals for the various sectors. There is need for the parliament to deploy all the expertise available to it to ensure that the rough edges in the budget are smoothened.

 

Nigerians expect a speedy passage of the budget, but they also expect that the lawmakers would do due diligence on the document presented to them to avoid the lapses of the past years.

 

Successive budgets in Nigeria have been found to contain frivolous expenditure items, which some unknown bureaucrats usually insert into the document.

 

Some of these may include several durable items such as computers, photocopiers and other office furniture, which had been purchased the previous year. It might also come in the form of proposals for the purchase of kitchen utensils and cutleries or generators and cars, which were also purchased last year. 

 

These are grand seeds of corruption sown on a fertile ground. They would germinate and manifest as budget paddings as soon as the budget is passed and signed into law. The lawmakers must therefore endeavour to scrutinise the proposal before them thoroughly and with good conscience, knowing that they have a social contract with the people.

 

The budget is a serious document that points towards the direction the economy would take in the next one year. It is a fiscal compass that should guide us on reviving the economy, attracting investments, creating jobs and uplifting the standard of living of the average Nigeria. Unless this document achieves these basic goals, all the ceremonies surrounding it and the smooth relationship between the executive and the legislature would have been in vain and of no benefit to Nigerians.

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