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Saving Nigeria’s dying textile industry

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Saving Nigeria’s dying textile industry

On assumption of office in June 2014, I indicated in my inaugural speech that one of my key objectives as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria is to build a people focused Central Bank. In addition to a focus on key macroeconomic concerns such as lower inflation and exchange rate stability, I believed that the Central Bank ought to play a more important role in supporting Nigeria’s economic development, given the constraints faced by rural farmers, SMES and manufacturing companies.

More importantly, we believe that CBN’s intervention which is aimed at import substitution will help in conserving scarce foreign exchange for Nigeria. As a result, under the leadership and support of President Muhammadu Buhari, we have placed considerable emphasis on addressing impediments to the growth of Nigeria’s agricultural and manufacturing sectors, as both sectors represent over 52% of Nigeria’s GDP.

If we are able to drive productivity gains in these sectors, it will undoubtedly translate to higher growth rate for the broader economy, result in increased rural incomes, and improvements in living standards for a majority of Nigerians.

The over 60 per cent drop in crude oil prices between 2015 and 2017 and its attendant effects on economic growth, inflation and our external reserves, provided further impetus on the need for the CBN to support measures that will drive productivity in critical sectors of the economy, while also weaning our economy from its reliance on proceeds from the sale of crude oil. As some of you are aware, in the 70’s and early 80’s, Nigeria was home to Africa’s largest textile industry, with over 180 textile mills in operation, this industry employed over 450,000 people.

The textile industry then, represented close to 25% of the workforce in the manufacturing sector. Beyond the jobs created in the factories, this industry was supported by the production of cotton by 600,000 local farmers across 30 of Nigeria’s 36 states, thousands of ginnery workers who processed the cotton from farmers, and a large number of distributors that sold the finished cloths to consumers.

The sector supported the clothing needs of the Nigerian populace, as our markets were filled with locally produced textiles from companies such as Kaduna Textiles Mill, United Textiles, Supertex Limited, International Textile Industry (I.T.I), Texlon, Enpee and Aswani Mills amongst several others.

The cloths produced in these factories were highly sought after not only in Nigeria, but in West Africa and indeed in Great Britain. At one point, our industries produced close to half of the cotton cloth in all of West Africa. It is no secret that the past 20 years have been very difficult for the cotton, textiles and garment sector. Farmers and processors have had to deal with low quality seeds, rising operating cost and weak sales due to high energy cost of running factories, smuggling of textile goods, and poor access to finance.

Smuggling of textiles goods alone is also estimated to cost the nation over $2.2 billion annually. Today, due to the unfortunate activities of smugglers and dumpers, most of the factories mentioned above have all stopped operations, as only 25 textile factories are operating today, and the workforce in Nigeria’s textile industry presently stands at less than 20,000 people.

In addition, a large proportion of our clothing materials are now being imported from China and countries in Europe. With a population of over 190 million people, Nigeria clearly stands out as a virgin market that must be tapped. If we are serious or determined in our drive to create jobs on a mass scale and reduce youth restiveness in Nigeria, the cotton, textiles and garments industry cannot be ignored.

Consequently, the current trend where all our textile materials are imported from abroad must stop. It also means that, we must all join hands to fight and destroy all attempts by unscrupulous persons and companies to continue to smuggle and dump textile and garments into Nigeria. In considering the role which this sector plays in our economic development, we must not just consider the fact of productivity but also, we must view the sector from the standpoint that their existence helps in sustaining the vitality of the neighborhoods in which they operate.

With the death of these industries, came a rise in unemployment, insecurity and other negative social vices. We must reverse this trend. In doing this, the CBN is currently gathering data about, and investigating the accounts of individuals and corporates currently involved in smuggling and dumping textile materials into Nigeria. This investigation is also being extended to the 42 other items restricted from FOREX in Nigeria. After our investigations, the names of these individuals and companies will be publicized and let me assure everyone that these individuals and companies will be blacklisted and all the banks in Nigeria shall be barred from conducting any banking business with the companies, their owners and top management .

Today, Nigeria currently spends about $4 billion annually on imported textiles and readymade clothing. With a projected population of over 190 million Nigerians, the needs of the domestic market are huge and varied, with immense prospects for growth of the domestic textile industries. One quick example that highlights the potential of this local market, includes the need to support provision of uniforms and clothing apparels for students, military and paramilitary officers as well as workers in the industrial sector. In addition, when we consider the amount spent on outfits for religious and social events such as weddings, naming and funeral ceremonies on a weekly basis, the potential market size is well over $4 billion.

The intervention we seek to undertake in the Cotton, Textile and Garment (CTG) sector beginning is holistic and it encompasses every node of the value chain. A national committee on revamping the Cotton, Textile and Garment sector which includes the CBN, Federal Ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development; Water Resources; Industry, Trade and Investment; and the governments of Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Gombe and Zamfara states, has been constituted to drive the initiative to achieve self-sufficiency in cotton production and textile material within a span of three years.

With the launch of the distribution of high yielding cotton seeds to farmers, we intend to change the narrative on the cotton and textile industry in Nigeria. In the past, insufficient cotton seeds had been identified as one of the biggest challenges facing cotton farmers.

With the provision of these seedlings to over 100,000 farmers cultivating over 200,000 hectares of farmland, along with extensive training on proper farming techniques, we expect to see production of high grade cotton lint at much improved yields of up to 4 tonnes per hectare, relative to current cultivation rates of less than one tonne per hectare. Also included in the package are fertilizer, pesticides and knapsack sprayers. The National Cotton Association of Nigeria is expected to ensure compliance of its members with the stipulated terms for the support that will be provided to farmers.

These measures will help to improve cotton production from 80,000 tonnes produced in 2018 to over 300,000 tonnes by 2020. In addition, under the Anchor Borrowers Programme, we intend to improve the linkage between cotton farmers and ginneries, by ensuring that ginneries are able to offtake the high-quality cotton produced by these farmers. So far 23 ginneries, spinners and several textile producing firms have been identified and we intend to support them in retooling their processing plants, while providing them with improved access to finance at single digit interest rate, in order to help sustain their operations and improve their production capacity.

The same support will be extended to the Yarn spinners and textile weavers and producers. We have held consultative meetings with state governments on ways to reduce the operational cost of running textile factories within their respective states. As a result, some state governments have indicated their interest in providing captive power plants in industrial areas where textile manufacturers operate, in order to enhance their productivity and reduce the operational cost of running their factories.

 

 

•Remarks by Emefiele, Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria at the distribution of seeds and other inputs to farmers in Katsina on April 6, 2019.

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Perspectives

Anthony Joshua, sports and patriotism

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Anthony Joshua, sports and patriotism

Success, a Nigerian axiom says, has many fathers but, failure is an orphan. In other words while many people will want to identify with a successful person, many will avoid a failure like a plague and won’t touch him with a long pole. The victory of Nigerianborn British boxer, Anthony Joshua (AJ) last week Saturday in Saudi Arabia against Mexican-born American boxer, Andy Ruiz Jr, has corroborated the above axiomatic expression on why people find it easy to identify with success especially successes recorded in sports. AJ’s victory resonated with a lot of Nigerians.

I doubt if the fight generated the same anxiety, frenzy and the aftermath celebration it received in Nigeria in Britain. Immediately after AJ’s victory, Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora took to the social media to celebrate the boxer’s victory. For me, I knew about the victory on social media. Nigerian politicians including President Muhammadu Buhari immediately sent congratulatory messages to media houses to celebrate our “man’s victory.” Some of them spoke about the “Nigerian fighting spirit.”

AJ is now being used as prayer point by some Nigerians, who now spoke about the possibility of rising again after initial fall- a veiled reference to how AJ defeated the same man who beat him a few months ago. Even Globacom, the Nigerian-own communication outfit, quickly brought back the AJ advert on our television stations.

The said advert for obvious reasons was put in abeyance after Ruiz defeated AJ in their first bout held in the US. However, a friend brought another dimension to the celebration of AJ’s victory when he queried AJ’s patriotism and allegiance to Nigeria in return for the love shown to him by Nigerians. The said friend recalled that after America’s national anthem was sung to acknowledge Ruiz’s country, the pugilist requested that the national anthem of Mexico should be sung, a request, which showed that Ruiz still identified with his root and he wondered why AJ did not do the same with Nigeria’s national anthem. This is about sports and patrotism.

The argument about sports and patrotism is not new. It generated a lot of debate in 2007 at the close of the World Athletic Championships in Doha, the United Arab Emirates (UAE). At the championships three Nigerians: Christine Ohuruogu, Francis Obikwelu and Phillip Idowu competed for European countries. While Nigeria’s closest shot at winning a medal was a fourth position at the 100-metre final, Ohuruogu gave the United Kingdom a gold medal in the women’s 400m. This was one of the finest hour for the UK at the athletic events.

Many Nigerians had wished the lady won the event for Nigeria. Nigeria was not alone in this sporting brain drain. There were other countries, which suffered a similar fate at the championships. It was an eye opener that while athletes who were born abroad but of African parentage were refusing to represent African states, Africans finest were also leaving the continent for greener pastures abroad. This development then stirred up a debate on whether patriotism matters in the economics of sports.

While some analysts argued that defection of African athletes to foreign countries was a vestige of colonialism, others opined that there was nothing wrong if athletes sell their talents to other countries for economic reason and to guarantee a secured future. At the 2003 World Athletic Championships, a Kenyan athlete, changed his name from Stephen Cherono to Said Saaeed Shaheen and represented Qatar at the championship.

He went ahead to win the 3,000 Steeplechase for the oil- rich country, thereby giving Qatar its first medal at the global event. Qatar appreciated Shaheen with $1 million. But prior to that historic feat, he was being paid $1,000 monthly stipend for switching allegiance from Kenya to Qatar. If he had won the medal for Kenya, would the African country have paid him what Qatar gave him for bringing smile to the faces of Qataris? Perhaps, he would have been given a national honour and maybe the president’s handshake which won’t bring food to his table or enable him to train abroad.

After Shaheen’s exploit and reward resonated in the sport world in 2003, the BBC’s Africa Live Programme asked: “Why is Africa losing its best to the West and does patriotism matter in sports?” Listeners of the programme were asked to respond through e-mail and should include their telephone numbers. Of interest was the position canvassed by a Nigerian who resided in the UK and identified him or herself simply as UE. The said anonymous Nigerian email read: “Patriotism? What patriotism? Who can blame these young men and women for deserting Africa, given that in virtually all cases, these are kids from very poor families who have struggled to achieve success, inspite of the obstacles placed in their ways by those who likes to be called our leaders? Just imagine yourself in this situation: You were born into a family without the necessary ‘connection.'”

You went to a school where the teachers were not properly trained. You probably never had a book of your own. At home, food was not to be taken for granted. You relocated to the city in search of elusive job, only to end up in a much worse situation than before.

Within the same city, you are tormented daily by the children of government’s ministers who shamelessly exhibited their parents’ stolen wealth -your own wealth. Sports became the only way out. Would you be proud to represent a country that denied you so much in life? This, in my view, is stretching the meaning of patriotism too far.” Like the anonymous Nigerian, I am of the view that Africa is the architect of its athletes’ defection since most of the countries on the continent lack a well defined and consistent sports policies. Where policies are formulated, they either pay lip service to them or are left to gather dust on the shelve.

Besides, the issue of corruption will always come in. For instance, what has Nigeria done with the recommendations of the Sam Ogbemudia-led sports committee of the Vision 2010 and that of the late Emeka Omeruah panel that probed Nigeria’s dismal outing at the Athens 2004 Olympics Games? Next year is another Olympic year, are we good to go or want to rely on luck and prayers to have champions at the Tokyo games in 2020? Apart from corruption, nepotism and archaic bureaucracy, most African countries lack state-of-art facilities and where facilities are available, they suffer from poor maintenance culture, which soon become derelict. In an interview with the BBC in 2006, Nigerian Olusoji Fasuba, who was then the fastest man in Africa had this to say on why African athletes would continue to represent other countries outside the continent: “The situation in the country (Nigeria) does not favour athletes to prepare well for competitions.

There’s no training grants for us to train overseas, and when grants come, they are very small. You don’t see big private companies sponsor Nigerian athletes like is done in other parts of the world. The private companies are not helping sports at all in Nigeria.”

The then Technical Director of the Athletic Federation of Nigeria, Sunday Bada, who represented Nigeria as an athlete, corroborated what Fasuba said. Bada had said: “Fasuba is right about the poor welfare of Nigerian athletes. We all know that Nigeria does not treat its athletes well.” If AJ had remained in Nigeria, the chances are high that he wouldn’t have attained his full potential. What are Nigeria’s contributions to his successful career. We only like to reap from where we didn’t sow. How many of our politicians who are now eager to congratulate AJ called and identified with him when he lost his belts? AJ’s dream would have been killed with the Nigerian factors the way we killed those of Davidson Andeh and Obisia Nwakpa.

The mistake made by Nwakpa wouldn’t have happened if he had plied his trade in the UK or U.S. How can a boxer who was preparing for a world title match overfeed himself with food and overshoot his weight category and had to reduce his weight on the same day he was to fight Saoul Mamby in Lagos? He would have been well guided not to fall into such unprofessional conduct. The poor boxer had to shed weight in the morning of his world title fight if he was to face the American world champion same day.

By the time Nwakpa stepped into the ring, he was exhausted already. AJ is patriotic enough by identifying with Africa and Nigeria. He wears a tattoo of Africa map, which has the map of Nigeria inserted in it. There had been many occasions where he came into the ring with Nigeria’s green-white-green flag or display our flag after his fight. And on the night he reclaimed his title, he was ushered into the ring with Fela Anikulapo’s song: ‘Water no get enemy.’ This must have been at the request of the boxer as a way of identifying with Nigeria. I join millions of Nigeria to take my hat off to AJ, the “Sagamite” boy. AJ I hail o!

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Perspectives

$30bn loan: Will the outcome be different this time?

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$30bn loan: Will the outcome be different this time?

In recent weeks, one of the major news topics has been the Federal Government’s plan to increase the nation’s debt profile by borrowing close to $30 billion – $29.96billion to be precise.

The plan was unfolded last Thursday when President Muhammadu Buhari re-sent the $29.96bn 2016-2018 external borrowing plan to the Senate for its consideration and approval.

He made the request a day after the International Monetary Fund warned Nigeria against rising debts. The Debt Management Office (DMO) has said out of Nigeria’s total debt profile of N25.7trillion as of June 2019, external borrowing accounts for about 32 per cent, while the 68 per cent is domestic.

Incidentally, the President’s original financial plan was approved by the Federal Executive Council in August 2016 and sent to the 8th Assembly in September 2016.

But the leadership of the federal parliament, led by Senator Bukola Saraki and Yakubu Dogara, invariably rejected the request in November 2016.

However, with a more pliable Assembly in place, the President has decided to make a fresh attempt by asking the new Assembly to approve plans to borrow the amount abroad to fund critical projects spanning across the mining, power, health, agricultural, water and educational sectors.

In the letter sent to the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, President Buhari said: “Specifically, the Senate is invited to note that: While I had transmitted the 2016-2018 External Borrowing Plan to the 8th National Assembly in September, 2016, this plan was not approved in its entirety by the Legislature.

“Only the Federal Government’s Emergency projects for the North East, (Four (4) States’ projects and one (1) China Exam Bank Assisted Railway Modernisation Projects for Lagos – Ibadan Segment) were approved, out of a total of thirty-nine (39) projects.

“The outstanding projects in the plan that were not approved by the Legislature are, nevertheless, critical to the delivery of the government’s policies and programmes relating to power, mining, roads, agriculture, health, water and educational sectors.

“These outstanding projects are well advanced in terms of their preparation, consistent with the 2016 Debt Sustainability Analysis undertaken by the Debt Management Office and were approved by the Federal Executive Council in August 2016 under the 2016 – 2018 External Borrowing Plan.”

Acutely aware of the likely resistance the request will face from various strata of the society, the government also stepped up its charm offensive getting various ministers and public officials to point out the positives in government’s decision to borrow more money.

Like every government around the globe, the Nigerian government is desperately seeking to get an infusion of cash in order to be able to carry out many of the promises it made when courting the peoples’ votes.

Unfortunately, unlike most governments, the experience of our own leaves a lot to be desired especially when it comes to proper utilisation of the nation’s commonwealth for the collective good of the citizenry.

The DMO has put Nigeria’s total debt profile at N25.7trillion as of June this year.

But can we in all honestly beat our chests and say we have felt the impact of the colossal debt either through enhanced health care, roads, electricity and so on? The answer will be an outstanding no!

And herein lies the problem facing government – scepticism that the fresh loans will go the way of all the previous ones.

This government has said during the administration of the now opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) more than $20 billion was spent on the power sector. And while there has been some improvement overall it is hard for people to believe that the little improvement they are enjoying came at that staggering price.

Or is it roads?

Those living along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway have been finding it tough commuting between their homes and their offices, since work commenced fully on the nation’s busiest highway some two years ago. 

Amazingly, this same road that was conceived, built and completed during the 43-month regime of then Military Head of State, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (he commissioned it in August 1978), is still undergoing rehabilitation, more than 12 years after Obasanjo (who was elected civilian president in 1999) re-awarded the contract for its renovation!

We have now been told that the work on the nation’s first and busiest expressway will not be completed till 2021.

The billion naira question is, so, where exactly has all the money that have been voted for roads gone to? If the monies were actually used for what they were cited for, then the roads will not be as bad as they are right now all over the federation.

Incidentally, while government is borrowing money; it is also seeking ways of generating more money domestically to beef up its coffers.

It has gone on to introduce a number of measures to make this possible some of which include the introduction of N50 POS charge and the raising of Valued Added Tax (VAT) from 5% to 7.5% from next year, which government says will bring in more money into their coffers.

However, despite all these various ways of enhancing their revenue base; government and our political class are yet to show any sign or commitment towards contributing their own quota by reducing their own expenditure in the form of salaries, allowances and other perks of office like cars, planes and so on.

Instead our elected members, who have steadfastly refused to revisit the issue of their humungous salaries, went ahead to increase its budget from N125 billion to N128billion in the 2020 Appropriation Bill it passed recently.

It is clear that under the present arrangement our representatives in the National Assembly are likely to go ahead to approve the President’s request despite quite a sizable number of people not being too comfortable with the borrowing plan.

But then maybe a miracle may happen and we will get our political leaders and government officials turning a new leaf and putting the money to good use just like Pastor Tunde Bakare suggested way back in 2014.

“Nothing stops us from having six Dubai in the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria if we have thinkers; if we have men who know how to think through and who can pre-engineer the whole process in a short while.

“Dubai, once upon a time, came to Nigeria to borrow money. Once upon a time for three years, we paid the whole civil service fee of Trinidad and Tobago. There would be no Angola today if Nigeria did not sow a seed of $30 million.

“We have made other people rule and now I challenge the people today to rise up. Let the best, the brightest, the fittest and the most competent accept responsibility and let’s put the thinkers into power,” counselled the Founder of the Latter Rain Assembly Church.

Over to you Nigerians.

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Perspectives

Elements of degenerating generation in your marital relationship

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Elements of degenerating generation in your marital relationship

major challenge in the world today is that people think more on the side of evil and feel less. People’s consciences have been deliberately killed and or suppressed in the quest for self aggrandizement, fame, power and money.

We are in times when celebrities for instance, use the social media to run down one another and break marital relationships, just to get more famous. The values that our grandfathers and grandmothers protected such as the sanctity of human life, sex and love for neighbour have been serially subdued by the transiting set of parents. The mass media has in recent times, been awash with news of parents having sex with children and blood relatives having sexual intercourse with one another. Adults now rape innocent kids kept under their care. How did this generation degenerate to this level of absurdity?

We are in a generation where parents are addicted to pornography and pornographic materials and their children have grown to see and perceive this lifestyle as an acceptable way of life. Parents have through their indulgence in fraud, lies and other vices, made nonsense of the teachings given to younger people regarding hard work, focus and positive character. Criminals have become role models for children. What a degenerating generation!

A few decades ago, religion, morality and society to a large extent, shared the same moral values and served as standards for measuring individual character. So, their custodians were the mentors and role models that guided younger people. Today, many custodians of religion have lost their respect and status because they violated character standards that they ought to propagate. This has negatively affected respect for morals and societal values. Nigerian children, teenagers and youths are now in need of role models on the side of positive and developmental reason.

Immorality is now widely encouraged for teenagers in the name of young people embracing civilization and the effort to make people happy and do entertainment. Many young people that are supposed to be under parentage have become parents without plans for those they are parenting. The result is increase in the rate of destitution, prostitution, child abuse and other crimes.

It is the drop in the quality of individual character over the years, that has produced drop in quality of goods and services in most parts of the world. It is the drop in the quality of your love for your neighbor that makes you produce fake drugs that kill people, houses that now collapse on families because of poor quality materials used for building them, and so on.

Degenerating generation explains why many young people no longer feel safe to approach certain clerics for counsel especially as it affects marital relationship. The degenerating generation stares you and I right in the face. The trend is however, not supposed to surprise a born again Christian because if those things don’t happen, it would mean that what Jesus said in Matthew 24 and some other Bible projections on signs of the last days are lies. You and I know that God cannot lie.

To protect your marital relationship from negative influence of this degenerating generation, what you should do is to remove and or avoid the elements such as unfaithfulness, fraud, deceit, impatience, carnal competition and so on.

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).

If you are a guy or lady that goes around, deceiving the opposite sex that you will marry them, without any intention to do so, you belong to the degenerating generation and this element will rob off on your marital relationship and eventually cause failure.

If you insist that you will have sexual intercourse with somebody without marrying the person, you are of this degenerating generation and a successful marital relationship in future is dicey. You are impatient.

If you perceive your spouse as an economic competitor rather than a life partner, you have the element of this degenerating generation and your marriage is in danger. If you have sexual intercourse with your spouse in the presence of your children, you belong to the degenerating generation. If you do not see anything wrong in discussing on social media, details of your sexual relationship with your legally married spouse, you belong to the degenerating generation.

If as a single person, you are solely depending on the social media as your means of hooking up with a reliable life partner, you belong to the degenerating generation. If you believe in online marriage, getting wedded in absentia and being in a marriage without any physical contact with your partner, you belong to the degenerating generation. This element is a time bomb and success of such marriage is not guaranteed.

If you truly intend to have a successful marital relationship, you need to remove every element of a degenerating generation from your orientations, beliefs, lifestyles and relationships.

Begin with a sober reflection on this scripture: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).

If you do not allow Jesus Christ to posses and control your life, premarital and marital relationship, the influence of the present degenerating generation will poison or consume the relationship, leaving you in a sorrowful state. May this not be your portion in Jesus name.

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Perspectives

When the heart comes under ‘’attack’’!

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When the heart comes under ‘’attack’’!

The scene

The Speaker of a State House of Assembly in the South western part of the country suddenly slumped and died some months ago.  It was gathered that he reportedly drove himself from his office at the State House of Assembly Complex, to his official lodge (a short distance away) on Thursday evening. But on his way, he was said to have felt uncomfortable, which made him to drive to a Specialist Hospital, where he was said to have been given some drugs. He reportedly drove back home and was fine till Friday morning when the attack occurred, autopsy conducted was said to have confirmed the diagnosis of a Heart attack.

What it is

A heart attack (myocardial infarction or MI) is a serious medical emergency in which the supply of blood to the heart is suddenly blocked, usually by a blood clot. It happens when a blood vessel in the heart suddenly becomes blocked. Blood vessels carry blood and oxygen. When a blood vessel in the heart gets blocked, blood cannot get to a part of the heart. This part of the heart does not get enough oxygen. This is called ischemia. When the heart muscle becomes ischemic (does not get enough blood and oxygen), the ischemia often causes chest pain. This is called Angina Pectoris. If the ischemia lasts long enough, the heart muscle that is not getting enough oxygen dies. This is called an infarction. “Myocardial infarction” means “infarction (muscle death) in the heart muscle.”

Causes

A heart attack occurs when one or more of the coronary arteries become blocked. Over time, a coronary artery can narrow from the buildup of various substances, including cholesterol (atherosclerosis). This condition, known as coronary artery disease, causes most heart attacks.

During a heart attack, one of these plaques can rupture and spill cholesterol and other substances into the bloodstream. A blood clot forms at the site of the rupture. If large enough, the clot can completely block the flow of blood through the coronary artery.

Another cause of a heart attack is a spasm of a coronary artery that shuts down blood flow to part of the heart muscle. Use of tobacco and of illicit drugs, such as cocaine, can cause a life-threatening spasm. A heart attack can also occur due to a tear in the heart artery (spontaneous coronary artery dissection).

Factors that put one at risk

Certain factors contribute to the unwanted buildup of fatty deposits (atherosclerosis) that narrows arteries throughout the body. You can improve or eliminate many of these risk factors to reduce your chances of having a first or subsequent heart attack.

Heart attack risk factors include:

Age. Men age 45 or older and women age 55 or older are more likely to have a heart attack than are younger men and women.

Tobacco. Smoking and long-term exposure to second hand smoke increase the risk of a heart attack.

High blood pressure. Over time, high blood pressure can damage arteries that feed the heart by accelerating atherosclerosis. High blood pressure that occurs with obesity, smoking, high cholesterol or diabetes increases your risk even more.

High blood cholesterol or triglyceride levels. A high level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol) is most likely to narrow arteries. A high level of triglycerides, a type of blood fat related to diet, also raises the risk of heart attack. However, a high level of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) lowers the risk of heart attack.

Diabetes. Insulin, a hormone secreted by your pancreas, allows the body to use glucose, a form of sugar. Having diabetes — not producing enough insulin or not responding to insulin properly — causes the body’s blood sugar levels to rise. Diabetes, especially uncontrolled, increases the risk of a heart attack.

Family history of heart attack. If your siblings, parents or grandparents have had early heart attacks (by age 55 for male relatives and by age 65 for female relatives), you may be at increased risk.

Lack of physical activity. An inactive lifestyle contributes to high blood cholesterol levels and obesity. People who get regular aerobic exercise have better cardiovascular fitness, which decreases their overall risk of heart attack. Exercise is also beneficial in lowering high blood pressure.

Obesity. Obesity is associated with high blood cholesterol levels, high triglyceride levels, high blood pressure and diabetes. Losing just 10 percent of your body weight can lower this risk, however.

Stress. You may respond to stress in ways that can increase your risk of a heart attack.

Illegal drug use. Using stimulant drugs, such as cocaine or amphetamines, can trigger a spasm of your coronary arteries that can cause a heart attack.

A history of preeclampsia. This condition causes high blood pressure during pregnancy and increases the lifetime risk of heart disease.

A history of an autoimmune condition, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. Conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other autoimmune conditions can increase the risk of having a heart attack.

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Opinions

Garba Shehu has gone beyond his boundaries

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Garba Shehu has gone beyond his boundaries

Nigeria’s development is hinged on the ability of public officials to execute their mandates professionally, and to be shining examples in their various areas of endeavour. It is not a good sign when officials abandoned their responsibility and start clutching at straws.

As spokesperson of the President, Garba Shehu has the onerous responsibility of managing the image of the President and all the good works that he is executing in the country. Rather than face this responsibility squarely, he has shifted his loyalty from the President to others who have no stake in the compact that the President signed with Nigerians on May 29, 2015 and 2019.

To make matters worse, Mr. Shehu has presented himself to these people as a willing tool and executioner of their antics, from the corridors of power even to the level of interfering with the family affairs of the President. This should not be so. The blatant meddling in the affairs of a First Lady of a country is a continuation of the prodigal actions of those that he serves. We all remember that the chief proponent appropriated to himself and his family a part of the Presidential Villa, where he stayed for almost four years and when the time came for him to leave, he orchestrated and invaded my family’s privacy through a video circulated by Mamman’s Daughter, Fatima, the public was given the impression that on arrival into the country I was locked out of the villa by Mr. President. Garba Shehu as Villa spokesperson, knew the truth and had the responsibility to set the records straight, but because his allegiance is somewhere else and his loyalty misplaced, he deliberately refused to clear the air and speak for the President who appointed him in the first place. Consequently, his action has shown a complete breakdown of trust between the First Family and him.

Mr. Shehu was privy and part of the plan and its execution and he was shocked when he realized that I had publicized my return to Nigeria on October 12, 2019 and cleared the air on the many rumours that took over social media, a job he was supposed to do but kept mute to cause more confusion and instability for his principal and his family.

Shehu then vented his anger on the National Television Authority (NTA) Management, insisting that the media crew to my office must be sacked. He succeeded in getting them suspended for doing their job. I had to intervene to save the innocent staff from losing their means of livelihood by involving the Department of State Services (DSS) in order to ascertain roles played by key actors in the saga.

It is at this late hour that I recall, sadly, that it was the same Garba Shehu who claimed that the government will not allow office of the First Lady to run.  He was later to confirm to one of my aides that he was instructed to say so by Mamman Daura and not the President. This antic attracted the anger of Nigerian women. He didn’t realise the fact that First Lady’s office is a tradition which has become an institution.

Today, even without a budget, I am able to run my humanitarian programmes.

In saner climes, Garba Shehu would have resigned immediately after going beyond his boundaries and powers.

Garba Shehu needs to understand that this kind of behaviour will no longer be tolerated.

The latest of his antics was to wage a war on the first family through an orchestrated media campaign of calumny by sponsoring pseudo accounts to write and defame my children and myself.

Based on Garba Shehu’s misguided sense of loyalty and inability to stay true and loyal to one person or group, it has become apparent that all trust has broken down between him and my family due to the many embarrassments he has caused the Presidency and the first family. We all have families to consider in our actions and therefore it is in the best interest of all concerned for Garba Shehu to take the advice of the authority, given to him sometimes in the first week of November, 2019.

•Aisha Buhari is the First Lady, Federal Republic of Nigeria. The statement was issued on Wednesday, 11th December, 2019

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New Kano emirate councils and raving opposition

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New Kano emirate councils and raving opposition

History was made in Kano last week when Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje submitted to the will of the people and signed into law, the bill that gave full legal backing to the establishment of Bichi, Rano, Gaya and Karaye Emirates in the state, a development that elicited joy and excitement among the people who have longed for a time like this when our rich cultural heritage would be reformed and expanded, to pave way for development and improved cultural tourism.

Though the good people of Kano State appreciated this uncommon step taken by Governor Ganduje, few self-serving individuals have gone to town spreading falsehood in their attempt to instigate the people against the creation of four new emirates which followed due process. Unknown to them, Governor Ganduje did a thorough home work by consulting all stakeholders in the state before commencing the process of creating the Bichi, Rano, Gaya and Karaye emirates.

In their failed attempt to blackmail Governor Ganduje and Kano State government, shortly after the establishment of the new emirates, they sprang up a phantom group christened Advocates for United Kano, with the sole aim of fighting Governor Ganduje in the guise of Kano elders!

In as much as we have not heard of a group going by the name Advocates of United Kano, we believe that it is a committee of people with the collective interest of bringing down the administration Governor Ganduje, for reasons best known to them. Contrary to their personal views that ‘citizens of Kano State are against attempts at destroying their 1,000-year-old heritage,’ millions of Kano residents who understand the dynamism of change and its positive impact on development, have continued to express appreciation and gratitude to Governor Ganduje for taking this bold step which previous administrations could not do, perhaps, because of the over-bearing influence and interest of this very few people who believe Kano begins and ends with them. And still, while the people of Kano, whose interest Advocates for United Kano claim to promote, have not been told what that millennium heritage is all about, the gibbering elders still want us to believe that the new emirates have no history to tell.

These group of people, in their slumber, became unaware of the fact that we are living in the 21st century where civilization and socio-economic changes have taken the centre stage. Indeed, change remains the only consistent thing in life. We, as a people cannot be stagnant or move backward, while others are moving in pace with modernity.

For tradition to stand the test of time and move in the same pace with the global world, it must be fine-tuned and restructured in such a way that it can accommodate the development and socio-economic needs of the people. We cannot expect what is obtainable a thousand years ago to remain en vogue today. We must move on, we must be on the same page with the world of today.

Indeed, these are the same group of people who have closed their eyes and refused to appreciate the modest achievements being recorded by the Ganduje administration. We, therefore, challenge them to come up with facts on their claims that Kano people are complaining on the policies and programmes of the Ganduje administration of which they are even benefiting from. Instead of building empty castle in the sky, we appeal to the Advocates for United Kano to keep aside, whatever personal grievance they have against Governor Ganduje and contribute positively to the development of Kano State, because the four new emirates in Kano have come to stay. The process was very clear and in conformity with the law.

Similar to the ranting of the Advocates for United Kano, is a sponsored article published in a newspaper of Friday, December 6. The ill-conceived article entitled ‘Kano Emirate: the Dangers of playing politics with institutions,” was written by a serial attacker of Governor Ganduje, Jibrin Ibrahim. Apart from calling for breakdown of law and order in Kano, what dominated Jubrin’s article was the propagation of Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi’s prophesy of doom and his myopic opinion that the four new emirates were the pet projects of Governor Ganduje.

Recalling my reply to Jubrin’s ‘Open Letter To Governor Ganduje,’ of which he made reference to in his latest article, these emirates did not just emanate from Ganduje. They have been in existence and what Governor Ganduje did was to give them freedom as desired by the people.

Indeed, it is not only sad, but very unfortunate that somebody like Jibrin Ibrahim has become a mouthpiece for calls for breach of the peace and violence in Kano. Contrary to his claim that there is tension following the creation of the new emirates, residents and visitors to the ancient commercial city will attest to the fact that Kano has remained peaceful and tension-free, as it has been since the inception of Ganduje’s administration on May 29, 2015, and Kano will continue to maintain its rightful position as one of the most peaceful and violent-free states in the federation in recent times. Jibrin Ibrahim should come to terms with the realities because gone are the days when people like him use our hapless youths to cause violence, while their own children are studying abroad.

There is no gainsaying the fact the these new Emirates will add value to various youth empowerment programmes, free-education and compulsory basic and secondary education policy, scholarship programmes and various human development initiatives embarked upon by the Ganduje’s administration.

Jibrin Ibrahim should grapple with the fact that this is 21st century and Kano must move along with the tides of the times. The creation of new emirates in Kano should not be misconstrued as a move to ‘dismantle’ the Kano Emirate and its rich cultural heritage, rather, it is a well-articulated move to expand Kano cultural heritage and take development directly to the people. These new four Emirates of Bichi, Gaya, Rano and Karaye have come to stay. There is nothing Governor Ganduje can do now to revert it. This is a matter of law and due process. As a law-abiding leader and citizen, Governor Ganduje does not have the powers to revert the already created and established Emirates of Bichi, Karaye, Rano and Gaya.

Governor Ganduje has no personal grudges against the Emir of Kano, His Highness, Muhammad Sanusi II. He has continued to maintain a cordial relationship with him, and to demonstrate this in all sincerity, Governor Ganduje has graciously appointed the Emir of Kano as the chairman, Kano Council of Chiefs.

Regrettably, however, people being sponsored to spread falsehood on the creation of the new emirates are taking the issue personal, raining all sorts of abuses and casting aspersion on the integrity of the governor. The most unfortunate thing is that, one of the authors of such piece, whom I have known his style of writing, though on this not bold enough to ‘intellectually’ write under his name, a former editor and now a lecturer in one of the federal universities in the country, could go down so low to pretentiously make such derogatory comment. The exercise to me, is a matter of policy and should be seen and treated as such.

We urge the good people of Kano State to continue to remain law-abiding and resist any move by a person or group of persons to plunge the state into undue tension.

Governor Ganduje will continue to deliver on his mandated promise to take development to the nooks and crannies of our great Kano State, which is one of the reasons the four new Emirates were established.

•Shehu is the Commissioner for Information, Kano State

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FG should stop subjecting Sowore to media trial

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FG should stop subjecting Sowore to media trial

When Mr. Omoyele Sowore was arrested on August 2, 2019 the Department of State Services (DSS) accused him of engaging in terrorism activities. On the basis of the allegation the DSS obtained an order from the Hon. Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court to detain Sowore for 45 days in order to investigate his alleged terrorism activities. But at the end of the investigation he was not linked with terrorism in any material particular. Hence, he was not charged with any offence under the Terrorism Prevention Act, 2011 as amended.

The DSS also claimed in a sworn affidavit that Sowore had travelled to Dubai to collect millions of dollars to overthrow the Buhari administration. But when the DSS later found that Sowore has never travelled to Dubai or any part of the United Arab Emirates the monstrous allegation was jettisoned.

Even though the allegations of terrorism and treasonable felony against Sowore had collapsed like a pack of cards the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) engaged in a face saving measure by charging him and Olawale Bakare with treasonable felony for planning to organise public protests against the Buhari administration. Not sure that the charge of treasonable felony would succeed in the court the AGF proceeded to charge Sowore with cyber stalking for allegedly insulting President Buhari in a television interview and money laundering.

Meanwhile, the organisers of the public protests which were held in Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Cross River and Osun states were charged with unlawful assembly. The case filed in Ogun State has been dismissed while the defendants have been discharged following the no case submission of the defence counsel, Mr. Effiong Inibehe. The defendants in the other cases have been granted bail pending trial by the various Magistrate Courts. Having met the bail conditions they have regained their freedom.

But the orders of Justice Taiwo and Justice Ojukwu for the release of Sowore and Bakare were ignored with impunity by the DSS. Although the DSS complied with the court order for the release of Sowore and Bakare within 24 hours’ ultimatum its operatives turned round to manhandle Sowore in the well of the court and later rearrested him without any warrant of arrest. However, because of the  gravity of the charge pending at the Federal High Court, the Presiding Judge, the Hon. Justice Ojukwu had ordered the prosecutor to make available to the defendants the statements of all prosecution witnesses while the case was fixed for definite hearing on the 5th and 6th, December, 2019.

But on account of the refusal of the DSS to comply with the order of Justice Ojukwu for the release of Sowore and Bakare on bail the defendants were unable to prepare their case. As the DSS refused to comply with the order of court to produce the statements of the prosecution witnesses the case has been further adjourned to February 20, 2020 at the instance of the prosecution counsel. For wasting the precious time of the trial court the prosecutor was ordered to pay N100,000 costs to the defendants in accordance with section 296 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015. The prosecutor has since paid the said costs.

It is therefore embarrassing that the Federal Government which has found it difficult to prove its case in a competent court of law has resorted to the media trial of Sowore. Thus, in a press statement held on Sunday, December 8. 2019, a presidential spokesperson, Mr. Garba Shehu claimed that “Sowore called for a revolution to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nigeria.” In comparing Sowore with the Boko Haram sect, the Presidency said, “Nigeria is already dealing with an insurgency that has left millions of people displaced and desperate in the North-East region of the country. The Boko Haram militants, who are behind the violence, also fancy themselves to be fighting for some sort of revolution.” The link is a justification for the planned arraignment of Sowore for terrorism.

Since it is common knowledge that Sowore and Bakare are not among the well known merchants of violence and coup plotters that had successfully but illegally removed democratically elected governments in Nigeria we are not going to join issues with Mr. Garba Shehu over the highly contemptuous statements credited to him. But as a senior journalist Mr. Shehu ought to have known that it is highly unprofessional to subject a man who is held incommunicado to scurrilous attacks in the media. We are however convinced that Sowore will have a right of reply once the fundamental rights of the Nigerian people are restored.

Even though the Federal Government has failed to engage in the diligent prosecution of the serious case the Presidency has resorted to media trial while the charge of treasonable felony is allowed to hang menacingly on the heads of our clients. We are however not going to be tempted to join issues with the Presidency over a case that is pending before a properly constituted court of law. If the Presidency is so sure that our clients committed treasonable felony or any other offence whatsoever it should keep its powder dry and advise the prosecution to commence the trial without any further delay.

•Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), is a lawyer to Sowore.

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Nigeria’s crises and the road not taken

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Nigeria’s crises and the road not taken

Ngeria as a union is a bad marriage talked about by Leo Tolstoy in his classic work, Anna Karenina, considered the world’s greatest novel. Tolstoy had begun his story with this pithy statement: All happy marriages are alike but every unhappy marriage is unhappy after its own fashion. So, it has been with Nigeria.

The Royal Nigeria Company took control of Nigeria as its possession and went about trading and administering Nigeria as its property.

It is not necessary to recount the atrocities which this company in conjunction with the various British Consuls committed against African communities. They carried out military expeditions against communities, disposed rulers and exiled some of them. At the end, Britain revoked the charter to take back the direct control and administration of the areas now constituted Nigeria in 1900. Lord Lugard was appointed Governor of Niger Coast renamed Protectorate of Northern Nigeria while Oil Rivers and Lagos Colony and Protectorate were merged to form the Colony and Protectorate of Southern Nigeria. Lugard ruled Northern Nigeria until 1909 when he left but recalled in 1912 for the amalgamation of the two protectorates which he perfected in 1914.

Lord Lugard introduced indirect rule system as governance structure for Nigeria. It is not necessary to recite the racial slurs Lugard and his British Colonial Office officials assailed the other Nigerian tribes dismissing them as inferior to the Fulani who for conquering the Hausa City States and instituting Sokoto Caliphate they praised to high-heavens as possessing administrative genius having achieved ‘excellent administrative system’ over the Sokoto Caliphate. Sir Clifford who succeeded Lugard in 1919 introduced another Constitution in 1922 after he had condemned Lugard’s governance structure as having introduced over Nigeria an “untrammelled” autocratic system not seen anywhere else in British West Africa. Clifford tried to bend British Colonial Office not to adopt the ruling scheme introduced by Lugard but that effort earned him a rebuke as he was told that Lugard Scheme enjoyed Britain’s approval and that anybody not ready to follow Lugard Scheme would not be entrusted with the rulership of Nigeria. From then on, every British officer posted to Nigeria wisely adopted the Lugard Scheme for the rulership of Nigeria.

But what is this Lugard Scheme that must be followed by British colonial officers? The scheme was the feudal structure Lugard considered the ‘owners’ capable of being worthy allies who can be trusted with the rulership of Nigeria whether under colonial rule or even after cessation of British colonial rule as “friends.” These British intentions are contained in the declassified British Imperial Records now published by the University of London in 2001. Let us ignore the British intrigues and chicanery as legitimate goals sought by a country to control of another and now face the realities of turning Nigeria into liveable nation-state based on justice, equity and brotherhood.

Nationalist leaders did not know the British intentions as disclosed in the now declassified Imperial Records. Azikiwe operating from the background of the fact that Britain formed ‘one big’ political entity which afforded the people a wider field of play for the socio-economic development supported the creation of Nigeria as a modern nation. At the beginning, he and his NCNC manifesto supported the creation of states and federal system as the governance structure. Awolowo thought Nigeria an artificial creation which can be structured into a federal states. Ahmadu Bello and Tafawa Balewa were concerned with having a country in which their people would not be dominated by other tribes or at best in which their people would be assured of political control. The minority leaders scattered in the North, East and West of Nigeria wanted states created for them to avoid domination by majority tribes. But these fears were ignored. Of the nationalist leaders, it was Ahmadu Bello, Awolowo and the minority leaders that openly voiced out their fears of domination in Nigeria and openly asked for a constitutional arrangement that offered them freedom for self-determination.

As a result of constitutional and political crises between 1964 and 1967, Nigeria was plunged into military dictatorship that structured Nigeria to suit their individual whims and caprices. This structure is neither serving any tribes in Nigeria except this ruling caste and they have entrenched this system in a constitutional framework made impregnable to change.

As said earlier, even though this new constitutional framework serves only this caste of rulers and not any of the tribes of Nigeria as every Nigerian suffers the effects of this system in crimes, corruption, decayed social infrastructure and economic difficulties yet it is made to seem as if this system was the collective act of the far northern group of Hausa/Fulani because majority of the military rulers belonged to them.

It was against this background that the warnings made by Chiefs Edwin Clark and Alex Ogomudia at a lecture in Warri that Nigeria either restructure now or be killed by non-restructuring which warning has been rebuked by the presidency become relevant to this discourse. Nigeria is a poor student of history. Recall that immediately, after independence, Nigerians ethnic minorities in the North and Niger Delta revolted against Nigeria by making their areas in the then Northern and Eastern Regions ungovernable to the point that that the military had to be deployed in both areas to quench the fires of the revolts. Yet, the then political leaders did not listen and never took action to bring solution to the problem. And the solutions would just have been the simple but difficult action of creating Middle Belt and Cross River-Ogoja-Rivers States for the agitating minorities during the creation of Mid-West Region. But that action was not taken due to opposition by the leaders of the defunct Eastern and Northern Regions controlled by the majority tribes of Igbo and Hausa/Fulani. They only teamed up to create Midwest to weaken Awolowo politically.

But the road not taken all along was forcibly taken after series of crises especially the Western Region crises, the 1966 coups and Biafra secession which necessitated the creation of 12 States by General Yakubu Gowon in 1967 to break Eastern solidarity. Why should we always wait until there be a crisis threatening the existence of Nigeria before we act to make changes to Nigeria polity which changes are no more than that required to give the people a sense of belonging, freedom and fulfilment. Nothing stands to be gained by the sharp rebuke to General Ogomudia and Chief Clark’s warning as coming from “mindset of groups of citizens who are yet to accept democracy as a form of government” flies in the face of reality. Mallam Garba Shehu must know that Nigeria’s “democracy” is not a democracy founded on a constitution freely negotiated and agreed by the people. If the constitutional structure and the institutions were the product of the free-will of the people’s of Nigeria then Mallam Shehu would be justified in telling objectors and agitators that “changes to the country in structure, its systems, policy and politics must be abide by the norms of democracy.”

History is cyclical and its lessons inexorable and I think that General Ogomudia and Chief Clark were merely drawing attention to those lessons of history that appeal for peaceful change as opposed to violent change which we have seen in Nigeria and several political cultures of the world.

It is good listening to Chiefs Clark and Ogomudia and several other agitators who have been asking for a genuine platform for “healthy dialogue” that will truly lead to an autochthonous constitutional framework that ushers a genuine culture of democracy and freedom for all.

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2020 Budget: Lawan ignites hope in NASS, Nigeria

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2020 Budget: Lawan ignites hope in NASS, Nigeria

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he ninth Senate made history on Thursday, December 5, with the passage of the 2020 Appropriation Bill, thereby fulfilling the promise of the legislature to return the budget cycle to January – December period as it used to be.

 

Until few years after the return to democracy in 1999, Nigerians had become used to the January to December budget cycle such that individuals, businesses and corporations plan their activities in line with the cycle, but the ritual was distorted due largely to disagreement between the legislature and the executive, resulting in not only late presentation of the budget, but late passage and assent by the president.

 

 

The situation of late passage of the budget got to its peak during the 8th National Assembly particularly because of the uneasy relationship which resulted in incessant friction between the Presidency and the Bukola Saraki-led National Assembly.

 

 

The 2019 budget, for example, was presented to the National Assembly on December 19, 2018. It took the legislature a little over four months before it was passed into law on April 30, 2019 and assented to by the President on May 27, 2019. The injection of projects, particularly those to be executed in the constituencies of the lawmakers, was partly responsible for the delay. In exercise of their powers of appropriation as expressed in the 1999 Constitution in Section 80, Subsections 1-4, the legislators inserted their constituency projects into the budget. The President, on the other hand, kicked against the insertions, subjected the passed budget to almost a month of vetting to sort out the grey areas, thereby delaying presidential assent.

 

The resultant effect of development like this as we have seen with many budgets is the incalculable harm to the economy. Infrastructure projects, which catalyse economic development, suffer the most and as this happens, the welfare of the people take a plunge.

 

 

The passage of the 2020 budget by the Senate and House of Representatives on Thursday has however brought renewed hopes in the National Assembly and Nigeria. Upon assuming the mantle of leadership of the National Assembly, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, vowed to return the country to the January – December budget cycle. To achieve this, several parleys were held between the Presidency and principal officers of the National Assembly, the result of which culminated in the presentation of the budget on October 8.

 

 

The Senate President took it further by mandating the standing committees of the ninth Senate, with concurrence from the House of Representatives, to use the remaining period in the month of October to carry out the defence of the budget by various Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). Lawan’s resolve further received a boost with the directive by the President that all heads of MDAs must not travel out of the country until they have successfully defended their respective budget. The National Assembly Complex thus became a sort of Mecca as heads of the various MDAs trooped in to take turns. The various committees dutifully carried out their assignment, most times worked very late in the night and presented their reports to the Appropriation Committee, which in turn played its own role before the eventual presentation and subsequent passage of the budget by the Senate on December 5, 2019.

 

 

Before the passage of the 2020 budget, the Lawan-led National Assembly had already taken the initiative to ensure that the implementation of the budget does not go the way of previous ones. It is common knowledge that the budgets of previous years have witnessed abysmal performance and much of this is critically affected by the poor revenue inflow, especially as oil production and export remained below the budget estimates and the general performance of the economy impacting negatively on non-oil revenue. But desirous of significantly putting an end to this ugly trend, the Lawan-led Senate had before now passed three critical bills that would not only see to the generation of more revenues, but will also ensure that the process of implementing the budget, especially its capital components are fast-tracked and the desired results achieved.

 

 

The first among the three critical bills is the Deep Offshore and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contract Act (amendment) Bill, passed into law on October 15 with the expectation of making Nigeria richer by at least $1.5 billion in 2020. According to the Senate, the IOCs had failed to remit a total sum of N7 trillion ($21 billion) to the Federal Government in the last 26 years based on non-implementation of the PSC Act. This was even when the law provided for a review anytime the price of crude oil exceeds $20 per barrel or every 10 years since the passage of the law which successive government and the legislature failed to do until the coming of the ninth Senate.

 

 

It is therefore a landmark achievement by the ninth National Assembly as an additional injection of $1.5 billion to the national treasury in 2020 as a result of the amendment of the act can only mean one thing – more revenue for the provision of critical infrastructure across the country.

 

 

Next is the Finance Bill, 2019, presented alongside the 2020 Appropriation Bill to the joint session of the National Assembly. One of the key components of the amended bill is to increase government revenues through various measures part of which include widening the tax base for non-resident companies, increase in Value Added Tax (VAT) from 5% to 7.5% and removing the tax exemption granted for dividends or incomes received from companies charged under Petroleum Profits Tax Act.

 

 

Equally important is the passage of the amendment to the Public Procurement Act. According to Lawan, the “public procurement process in Nigeria has been a big bottleneck for some time probably since it was passed.” This is one reason why many projects earmarked for execution in a budget cycle are never achieved because of the processes involved, but as a result of the several provisions included in the amendment, the procurement process will become more simplified and easily achieved.

 

With the three critical bills put together and the return of the budget cycle from January-December, the road is now clearer to actualise the objectives of the 2020 budget with an early start and more revenues to implement infrastructure projects that will catalyse economic development and take Nigeria to the next level.

 

Senate President Lawan justified this in his remark after the passage of the 2020 appropriations bill when he said: “With the recent passage of landmark legislations such as the Production Sharing Contract (PSC) Act, Finance Bills & Public Procurement Bills by the National Assembly, the Executive arm of government is now sufficiently empowered to ensure successful implementation of the 2020 Budget.”

 

It is therefore safe to say that Senator Lawan has delivered on his promise of an early passage of the budget and by extension leading a National Assembly that works for Nigerians.

 

•Usman is a Special Assistant on New Media to the Senate President.

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Before SIWES goes into extinction

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Before SIWES goes into extinction

T

his column has hitherto been solely interested in issues pertaining to technology or technical matters. This is the reason it would remain restless till we as a nation desist from misplacing priorities with frivolities.

 

 

Today, our focus is on the Students’ Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES). The SIWES has conspicuously been on the decline for decades now that if drastic measure isn’t taken towards addressing the lingering anomaly, the scheme is liable to go into extinction in no distant time.

 

The SIWES is a skill acquisition initiative designed to expose and prepare students of universities, polytechnics, monotechnics as well as colleges of education for the industrial work situation they are likely to encounter after graduation.

 

 

It was initiated to be a planned and supervised training programme based on specific learning and career objectives and geared toward developing the occupational competencies of the participants. It is generic, cutting across over 60 programmes in the universities, over 40 in the polytechnics/monotechnics, and about 10 in the colleges of education.

 

It isn’t meant for a particular course of study or discipline, though it was introduced mainly for the sake of technically-inclined ones. Since inception, it is being reckoned to be an innovative phenomenon in human resources development in Nigeria.

 

While some institutions and disciplines permit SIWES’ duration for only three to six months, others go for up to one year. The programme, which permits the affected students to seek for Industrial Training (IT) or Teaching Practice (TP), as the case may be, in any establishment of their choice, has ab initio been a cause of concern to education and economic planners, particularly with respect to graduate employment and impact on the general societal development.

 

 

On the other hand, there are equally mixed feelings among education stakeholders concerning how much of the programme that is actually helpful to students’ academic performance and job readiness after graduation.

 

Whatever positive impact the SIWES has thus far created on the students’ wellbeing and the society at large, the truth is that the primary purpose for which the programme was implemented has recently been relegated to the background.

 

 

The prevalence of the inability of SIWES’ participants to secure employment after the programme, or even perform adequately if eventually employed, casts doubt on the continuing relevance of the programme to the contemporary industrial development drive in the Nigerian society. This obvious lapse isn’t unconnected with negligence and/or apathy on the part of the trainees, trainers, concerned institutions, and the government.

 

It’s noteworthy that most of these students dodge the programme. They prefer indulging in activities that would fetch them money to going for the technical knowledge. To this set of individuals, partaking in the industrial programme is simply a waste of time and energy.

 

In view of this misconception, when the programme is meant to take place, you would see them participating in all sorts of inconsequential menial jobs or even gambling and what have you just for the aim of raising some cash. This growing mentality of placing money before knowledge has contributed immensely in endangering the prospect of the laudable programme.

 

Those who bring out time to participate in the programme, are prone to one challenge or the other. It’s worth noting that greater percentage of the trainees is not paid by the establishments in which they are serving, not even stipend.

 

 

Hence, they would end up making use of their personal funds to service their transportation and accommodation fees. It’s more worrisome to realise that most of these trainees are overused by the firms. Rather than teaching them the needful, the supposed trainers would engage them in unnecessary activities, thereby making them lose interest in the actual training.

 

Worse still, most of the institutions involved don’t show any concern. They do not cough up time to supervise the students in their respective places of assignment. Ridiculously, in most cases, the schools would remain ignorant of where the students are undergoing the training till the duration of the programme elapses.

 

This particular loophole has over the years served as an advantage to those who never participated in the programme. In this case, during the SIWES defence, the affected student or anyone who have dodged the programme would claim to have undergone the training in any establishment of his/her choice, and the supposed supervisor would never bother to ascertain the truth.

 

Inter alia, funding of the SIWES hasn’t been encouraging in recent times. The Industrial Training Fund (ITF) – the body responsible in the day-to-day funding of the initiative – currently appears incapacitated, probably owing to lack of adequate allocation from the government and other financiers. Sometimes, the students would be deprived of the statutory allowance they are entitled to after the programme. Those who were lucky to receive theirs had to wait for a long time.

The SIWES is obviously yearning for resuscitation. The present apparent state of moribund experienced by the scheme can only be properly addressed by revisiting the extant Acts that bind it with a view to making amends where need be. Such step would enable every authority involved to start seeing the initiative as a priority towards the anticipated, or perhaps ongoing, economic diversification.

The said policy ought to categorically specify what is expected of the trainee, trainer, school, as well as the governments at all levels, as regards the sustenance of the scheme. Similarly, there’s need for an exclusive viable law enforcement agency that would penalise or prosecute any defaulter.

It’s indeed high time we revived this technical-oriented initiative whose motive truly means well for nation building. This can only be holistically actualised by changing all the flat tyres that have succeeded in crippling the journey so far.

Nevertheless, for these bad tyres to be duly expunged, we as a people must be prepared and ready to tell ourselves nothing but the gospel truth. Think about it!

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