In the third part of our score cards series, Johnchuks Onuanyim, Tunde Oyesina, Emnanuel Onani, Caleb Onwe and Deborah Ocheni provide their assessment of the activities in various ministries during President Muhammadu Buhari’s first term in office.
Udoma Udo Udoma (BUDGET AND NATIONAL PLANNING):
Four years of tortuous budget process
The Ministry of Budget and National Planning is entrusted with a distinct mandate of advising the Federal Government on national development and overall management of the national economy. It has provided a realistic budget for the country.
Headed by an astute lawyer and boardroom technocrat, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, the Budget and Planning Ministry in conjunction with the Finance Ministry has played a very significant role in the process of retrieving the economy from the grips of recession.
It initiated the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) designed to restore the economy to the path of sustainable and inclusive growth. The strategic objectives of the ERGP are restoring growth through macroeconomic stability and economic diversification, investing in our people particularly through improved human capital and socially inclusive policies and building a globally competitive economy through investments in infrastructure and by improving the business environment.
A number of strategies were identified to fast track the achievements of the ERGP objectives, namely: stabilizing the macroeconomic environment, achieving agriculture and food security, ensuring energy sufficiency, improving transportation infrastructure and driving industrialization by focusing on Small and Medium Scale enterprises (SMEs).
One of the kernels of ERGP was Focus Labs which identified 164 projects across the six geo-political zones with an investment potential of $22.5 billion and creation of 513,981 jobs by 2020.
Sadly though, as the ministry in charge of planning for the economy, it hasn’t been able to generate the number of jobs needed to reduce employment figures.
The unemployment figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) have remained scary and worrisome.
However, Udoma said the increase in the unemployment numbers is not because jobs have not been created by the Buhari Administration but that the rate of new job creations was lagging behind the rate of new entrants into the job market. He said that, as is generally known, employment growth usually slows down during a recession and takes some time to recover.
Fielding questions from journalists and members of the public during the 2019 Budget Proposals breakdown session in Abuja, Senator Udoma stated that an examination of the NBS numbers actually show that the Buhari administration has a positive net job creation record of 1,640,398.
This is exclusive of the 11.1 million persons that the NBS classifies as people who do some form of work but are considered to have worked too few hours to be officially considered as employed, he added. This means that many casual workers in farms might be amongst the 11.1 million workers who the NBS enumerators may have felt did not work for enough hours to be considered as employed; and agriculture is an area in which the Buhari Administration has made massive strides.
The minister was confident that as the economy continues on its upward trajectory, having come out of recession, the unemployment figures will come down.
However, one sore area the minister grappled with, was budgeting.
Hard as Udoma tried, he was unable to break budget jinx. In the past three years, every attempt by Udoma’s Budget and Planning Ministry to experiment with a December to January budget circle met a brick wall.
The budget delay, brickbats between the executive and legislative arms; accusations and counter accusations of budget padding on both sides remain the hallmark of the Budget and Planning Ministry in the last four years.
Udoma, has given another tentative date of 2020, when the Federal Government hopes to revert to the January to December budget cycle.
Everything about the process of budgeting in the past four years have been everything but normal.
From first stage, starting with the submission of the Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper to the National Assembly is never complied with on schedule.
The National Assembly is also guilty of not attending to the MTEF document on schedule.
Budget submission to the National Assembly by the Executive arm had been perpetually never on time. Budget defence by MDAs at the National Assembly has always been a horrendous exercise exceeding its scheduled time; its passage by the National Assembly and it return to the president for assent takes ages.
And when it does finally arrive at Aso Rock, it begins another journey at the villa, with President Buhari taking time to study the document. This has been the tortuous journey of every budget from 2016 till the current 2019 budget.
Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau (Interior)
Without doubt, the Ministry of Interior remains one of the most critical ministries, considering the fact that the internal security of the nation, rests squarely on its shoulders.
That informs why the ministry bears the burden of the supervision over the Nigeria Police, Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), Nigeria Prisons Service (NPS), as well as the Federal Fire Service (FFS).
It suffices to say that all the agencies under the Ministry of Interior are very critical to the sustenance of the country’s democratic experience.
For instance, while the Police remain the lead agency in internal security management, the NIS, on its part, is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that people, who enter the country, do so with valid documents, even as they continue manning the borders.
It is against the backdrop of these huge responsibilities, that the Minister of Interior, Lt-Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (rtd), could be seen as one of “the minister of interest” to the public.
Dambazau was the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) between 2008 and 2010.
Considering his former position, the appointment of the former 3-star general sometime in November, 2015, was seen as one of the well-thought out decisions of President Muhammadu Buhari.
However, over three years down the line, it will be difficult, as many have argued, to say that the former Army chief has substantially deployed his capacity and capability to bear on his position as minister.
Even “incurable optimists” seem to agree that there is a steady rise in crime and criminality across the country.
Rising incidents of kidnapping, armed banditry and robbery, herders-farmers clashes and the like, have continued to leave in their trails deaths, destruction and tears.
Recall that the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Mohammed Adamu had, during a meeting of the Northern Traditional Rulers’ Council, which held in Kaduna on April 30, provided a frightening figure of those killed in the first quarter of the year.
According to the IGP, between January and April 1, 071 people were killed in crime-related cases across the country, while 685 others were kidnapped.
It is, however, hoped that with intensified efforts by the Police and other “sister” security agencies, the tide will be turned against the enemies of the state – suspected kidnappers, armed bandits, armed robbers, and other perpetrators of violence.
Suleiman Adamu Kazaure (Water Resources)
The Ministry of Water Resources under the leadership of Engr. Suleiman Adamu can boast of the following achievements:
*The re-positioning of the 12 River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs) to enable the agencies carry out their core function of supporting all-year farming to boost food security, create jobs and serve as the key instrument for the diversification of the national economy.
* The launch of a Partnership for Expanded Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (PEWASH) expected to gulp over N150 billion.
He also launched the gazette on water use and license 2016 document, which seeks to address a lot of issues like protection, conservation, control, equitable development and maintenance of environmental integrity of the nation’s freshwater and non-freshwater, including its strategies for achieving set goals in the sector.
The document was later submitted to the National Assembly as the Water Bill and is still pending.
Another key achievement of the minister is the construction of the small water supply schemes in various states, which are expected to boost national access to potable water in Nigeria. The launch of a Partnership for Expanded Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (PEWASH) is expected to gulp over N150 billion and bring states and the federal and local governments together, towards improving access to potable water supply in the near future.
Engr. Adamu has also initiated a bilateral engagement to organise an international conference on Lake Chad, to draw international attention to the drastic drying up of the Lake Chad basin, in order to save the over 47 million people living around the lake who depend solely on it for farming, fishing, livestock production as well as water supply for drinking/sanitation.
The Minister has also audited the on-going water projects in the country. According to the ex-minister the technical audit of 117 abandoned water projects, was to help the ministry complete the viable ones.
Gbajabiamila’s peace mission to troubled states
nsurgency, banditry, killings and kidnappings, which spurred the decimation and displacement of the Nigerian population and the economy have always been of great concern to the Speaker of the House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila.
The Speaker, even as a first-term member in 2003, vowed not to rest until he contributes his modest quota towards lasting solutions to these inimical challenges. That was the reason behind his drive for people-centered legislation and policies, which he took on as a challenge, with a conviction to give it an added drive, if he ever found himself in the position to drive decisions making.
Few among the bills targeted at the generality of Nigerians irrespective of gender, ethnic or religious affiliation include: Bill to penalize airlines over cancellation of flights (2013), Constitution alteration bill to accommodate States and community policing (2018), Estimated Billing Bill (8th Assembly), Bill to criminalize late/non-payment of wages (2019), Electric Power Sector Reform Act (Amendment Bill 2019) and Physically Challenged (Empowerment) Bill (2019).
On assumption of office as the Speaker of the 9th House, Gbajabiamila found it imperative to make the plight of the common man a priority, and this, among other reasons, accounted for the fact-finding and on-the-spot assessment visits to areas affected by insurgency, banditry and other crimes that have displaced people from their homes, while dislocating their economy and that of their states.
He began the peace tour from Zamfara State on July 14, 2019, and followed it up with another one to Borno State on July 30, less than three days after bomb blasts that claimed more than 60 lives. Why take on this enormous task despite the physical security risk involved, coupled with the knowledge that the resolutions and recommendations emanating from the Legislature are advisory and not binding on the Executive?
In Gusau, the Zamfara State capital, the Speaker told the gathering, which had in attendance Governor Bello Matawalle, the state cabinet, traditional rulers, factions of insurgents groups and displaced persons that: “All the years that many of us have been in the House of Representatives, we bring up issues concerning security and insecurity in Nigeria and other parts of Nigeria, Zamfara inclusive.”
He said: “We argue these issues, we debate these issues, and we come up with resolutions that we feel might help in resolving the issues. But alas! Over the years, all these frantic efforts end on the rinky-dink. Our arguments, our debates are based on what we read on newspaper reports, what we see on television and what we hear. They are not based on actual assessment on the ground. They are not based on the interaction with the stakeholders that are here today. Since seeing is believing, we decided, for the first time in the history of this nation that the House of Representatives would be here with the presiding officers to get the real facts based on-ground assessment, not on hearsay, not on newspapers report, not on TV reports, but from interaction, interfacing with stakeholders and having a proper assessment of what is happening in Zamfara State. With the view of going back to the National Assembly, the seat of power, and getting government intervention and making recommendations based on that assessment to government.”
The trip was not a jamboree. With the determination to take the message back to Mr. President, Gbajabiamila was equally resolute to secure commitments from all the stakeholders that peace should be given a chance for the benefit of the people and the development of the State so ravaged by insurgency. “What we’re going to be talking about is solutions and where the government can intervene. How do we move forward? I believe it’s a question of doing the right thing, at the right time. First and foremost, resettlement, allowing everybody to live in peace,” the Speaker assured.
One of the solutions, the Speaker said, is to develop the three Senatorial Districts in the state alongside the state government, “So, here’s the deal, for me on my part and on the part of the House of Representatives, we shall give you and devote sizable amount of resources to the Senatorial District in Zamfara State for peace. We will ensure that we deploy security forces which are needed to cater for the citizens of Zamfara State. Without security forces, we’re not going to achieve much; the ratio of security men to citizens not just in Zamfara state, everywhere in Nigeria does not come close to international best practices.
“I speak on behalf of the House, having discussed with the leadership of the Senate, I took my time to inform the President about this trip. He’s aware that I’m coming here. So I stand here as a symbol of authority, not just for the House but for the government. The President is fully in support. He’s concerned. He is committed to peace for those of you who know him. He’s committed to peace, he is committed to finding lasting solutions to the problems of banditry or whatever we face and not just here in Zamfara State but in other parts of Nigeria. Maybe Zamfara State will be a case study or test run, but this is going to be extended to every other part in Nigeria,” the Speaker said.
The high point of the visit was the release of six hostage victims to the Speaker by repentant bandit leaders. He also made a contribution of trailer loads of food materials to the affected victims.
In less than three days after the last bomb blast in Maiduguri that claimed more than 60 lives, and despite the risk, the Speaker saw no reason to defer his peace reconciliation trip to Maiduguri. In the afternoon of Tuesday 30th of last month, Gbajabiamila and his colleagues were in Maiduguri, the state capital of Borno to assess the extent of the damages hauled on the once very peaceful State.
Accompanied by the Minority Leader Ndudi Elumelu, Chief Whip Muhammad Monguno and others, the Speaker expressed his concern over the plight of the future generations languishing in the various internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps across the Northeast region, saying, “It is our responsibility as a government to make sure that the almost 42,000 that inhabit this camp are gradually reduced and resettled back to their families and their homes in a no-too-distant future. We are here to give encouragement on the little succor we can as government and to see what we can do using the instrumentality of the law to make sure that issues that concern internally displaced persons.”
Besides speaking the mind of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Speaker assured that laws that would comprehensively address the security challenges facing the country would be put in place. “As a National Assembly, and as a government, it is important that we deal with that situation. That’s why we’re here today to make sure that all is well. All can never be well if anybody is living in a camp; to make sure that as best as possible, government plays its role in making sure the welfare of those who are in camps is taken care of. Constitutionally, the primary purpose of government is the security and welfare of its people. These are our people, and we must make sure that they’re well taken care of. If you see me, if you see the House, then you see the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I want you to take it away. I stand here as the Speaker of the House, but we’re one government. The president is aware that I’m here. We’re one government, and we speak with one voice. Whatever is comes under my voice, is coming from Mr. President.”
For Speaker Gbajabiamila, this is just the beginning of the several interventions that the 9th House under his leadership would come up with to better the lives of Nigerians.
Dele Anofi is an aide on Print Media to Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila
Sanwo-Olu, Obasa and the battle against cancer in Lagos
ne negative about Nigeria is the fact that the country lacks effective data-bases that could be relied on for policy and development purposes. Almost all that is done is built on estimation. Thus, it would not be out of place to peg its population at 170 million currently.
And, based on this estimation, the World Health Organisation (WHO) believes that the country should have 170 centres for cancer, that dreaded ailment that continues to take a toll on various parts of the world. But how many are in existence? Again, how affordable are its treatment, especially in a country filled with indigents and high dependants on government?
Some of these thoughts may have prodded Rt. Hon. Mudashiru Obasa, the Speaker of the Lagos House of Assembly, to come up with the State’s Cancer Research Institute Law passed in 2017 and aimed at not just making Lagos another first in such efforts among states, but also making sufferers feel the impact of government through subsidized and affordable medical care.
It is believed that an estimated 80,000 people die annually in Nigeria from the different forms of cancer and the situation could be worse by 2030. Streamlining this down to Lagos with a huge population hovering between 23 million and 24 million, becoming pro-active in this regard will not be a waste.
The law, as passed by the Lagos Assembly, provides for researches concerning the ‘Big C’ and other related issues. It also provides for “latest and advanced technological diagnostic instruments for the treatment of the disease and those close to it. This would, in a way, reduce dependence on medical tourism which, in a way, affects the state’s economy. The law also tends to fully move for the improvement of state hospitals where such care would be given as classic professionalism from the caregivers. Would such an opportunity help reduce unemployment?
While the answer remains obvious, the real picture should be how it would enhance the already sustained great relationship between the government and the people. Section 4 of the law talks about a board for the institute peopled with a chairman who ‘shall’ be an oncologist, two medical practitioners, a representative each from the WHO, the Department for International Development (DFID), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID, an experience nurse, a clinical pharmacist, a cancer survivor with integrity, a representative from complementary alternative medicine practice and a medical director.
“The institute shall appoint such number of professional and non-professional staff including reputable and competent consultants in the medical field and allied development services for the purpose of effectively discharging its functions under this law,” states section 27(1) of the law with 35 sections passed by Akinwunmi Ambode on February 8, 2018.
While sections 9 to 12 of the bill talk about the functions of the board, section 13 makes it mandatory for a cancer registry and screening centre to be opened in all the local government areas of the state to provide primary attention to those diagnosed with the ailment, carry out a referral of such patients to a state-owned tertiary healthcare facility and collate data relating to the ailment.
Among a list of assistants to be carried out by the institute, its tasks include conducting researches, investigations, experiments and studies relating to the cause, prevention and treatment of cancer; carrying our enlightenment campaigns on the disease; collaborating with related agencies in and outside the country; providing medical assistance to patience.
One very interesting part of the law sees government’s practical commitment to the protection of lives and ensuring that the governed are satisfied. It stipulates in section 15: “A cancer patient admitted or being treated in any state-owned tertiary institution or medical centre shall have the payment for the treatment and drugs subsidized through endowment fund or grants allocated for this purpose.” True to professionalism, the law emphasizes that keeping the identities of patients secret, except for authorized purposes. It also kicks against stigmatization of victims.
To ensure that the institute stands the test of time, the law makes provision for a council to oversee its operations and monitor implementation of government policies as it relates to cancer. The council is further expected to monitor outbreak of infectious diseases and formulate policies for the institute.
In her assessment of the bill sponsored by Obasa, a Lagos resident, Bilkis Ogunnub, noted in an opinion piece published by The Punch that “in Nigeria, breast and cervical cancers are the commonest ones diagnosed in women, while prostate cancer remains the often diagnosed for men. And like other developing countries, cancer remains a public health challenge in Nigeria where approximately 10,000 people die and 250,000 new cases are reported annually.”
“But this disease that can affect male and female of all ages does not just appear out of nowhere; it has definite causes that can be corrected if the body has enough time, and if actions are taken to change the body’s internal environment to one that creates health while at the same time attacking cancerous cells and tumour by exploiting their weaknesses,” she adds.
Ogunnub notes that cancer is a curable disease that should not be allowed to terminate life, but must be detected early enough.
Ogunnub is not the only Lagosian who has commended Speaker Obasa for coming up with this heart-warming law. There is no doubting the fact that the executive and the legislature in Lagos are marching towards a greater and more inhabitable state. There is also no doubt that Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu will look at this bill favourably and make Lagos proud.
Jide Babafemi, an analyst and resident of Lagos, writes from Ikorodu
The other side of BBNaija
First things first, I am a late convert to Big Brother Naija reality TV show. I started watching the show this year having followed, passively, the previous editions on social media platforms which can be relied upon to be unreliable in rendering the true picture of things. The other admission I want to make is that my interest in Big Brother Naija or BBNaija – to use the circumcised version of its name – is to stay in tune with the current flow of trend, so I can have something to talk about whenever a conversation about it occurs when socializing.
I am usually embarrassed at being unaware of what is hip or not. In my second week of watching the show, the religious group, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), called on the government to ban BBNaija, claiming it promotes moral debauchery among “our children”.
The group, obviously, believes the show is of no value. Its position (which I respect but disagree with) was supported by a segment of the population but was derided by those who derive entertainment and other values from the show. It is basic that the show’s soar-away popularity, year after year, is based on the perceived value it delivers to its fans, participants (housemates, as they are called) and other interested parties. I will get to that later.
Positions like MURIC’s have been canvassed in the media, most recently by Mr. Olusegun Runsewe, Director-General of the National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC). Runsewe, according to a report in the PUNCH, disclosed that the Federal Government is planning to produce a counter- BBN show, which will promote Nigerian culture and ideals – whatever those are – in collaboration with a pay television operator. I believe this is a fantastic idea, one that should deliver a show of another hue.
I hope it happens soon, giving us variety and an opportunity to gauge its appeal and most importantly, its high production standards. That part of Runsewe’s proposition is the way to go, not that of people seeking to make their ideas of entertainment, culture and morality into a constitution for the rest of humanity. I understand that tastes differ and as such, a show like BBNaija would be seen through a prism of divergent perspectives.
It is normal to watch the show and have different perspectives but to demand a ban on the basis that the show is wholly un-Nigerian is a position I cannot agree with. Those who complain that the running edition of BBNaija is anti-Nigerian culture, I believe, have seen only what they want or have been conditioned to see on the show. Should they take their blinkers off for a minute, they would see that the show is exposing some of the housemates to Nigerian culture.
Through the show, Khafi, Ike and Mike, all of whom came in from the diaspora, are having firsthand experience of the Nigerian culture. Similarly, the cultural tasks to which housemates are assigned expose them huge diversity of Nigeria’s cultural heritage.
The coronation of Seyi, the in-house “Tor Tiv”, which was one of the tasks assigned to the housemates recently, is a demonstration of this. It was clear that prior to the task, many of the housemates had little or no knowledge of the culture of the Tiv people of Benue State. Some also knew next to nothing about prominent historical and traditional figures such as Queen Moremi, Queen Amina, the Emir of Kano and the Obi of Onitsha.
The unfamiliarity of some of the housemates with such figures has been addressed through such tasks. In addition, cohabiting with people from different backgrounds for the duration of the show, I believe, has the potential to aid housemates’ understanding of people of other cultural backgrounds, especially at a time when ethnic division is rife. In addition to this, the housemates get exposed to new things through the various endurance and creative tasks assigned to them. These test their physical and mental capabilities.
The last edition of the show caused a firestorm because it was shot in South Africa. This year, the house is situated in Lagos, with an overwhelming percentage of the production crew and providers of logistical services being Nigerians. The contribution of the show to the economic well-being as well as creative growth of those involved cannot be dismissed. For the housemates, there are other socio-economic benefits. The overall winner gets a prize totaling N60million, including a Sports Utility Vehicle.
BBNaija also offers a platform for fame within a very short time; a springboard to other things they may wish to do. Joe, who spent two weeks before he was evicted from the current edition of the show, had ample opportunity to show his skills in painting, calligraphy and drama.
These are things, aided by the exposure via BBNaija, which will fetch him gigs in the creative space. Many housemates in previous editions benefited from similar opportunities provided by the show. Ebuka Obi-Uchendu, who was on BBNaija Season 1, kicked on from there to become one of the most sought-after comperes in the country. He is currently host of the show.
Bisola Aiyeola, an actress and singer, has become a celebrity in her own right, featuring in a series of commercials. Also, Cynthia Nwadiora (a.k.a. Cee- Cee) and Tobi Bakre from BBNaija Season 3 are experiencing an upward trajectory in their careers, with both individuals securing roles in Nollywood and appointed as ambassadors for various local and international brands. I cannot dismiss the concerns of those who view the show as somewhat sexually explicit, but I think parents and guardians are the ones with the responsibility to ensure their wards watch age-appropriate television content.
Prelaunch, MultiChoice, organizers of the show, repeatedly informed viewers that BBNaija is rated 18. This was succinctly emphasized by Mrs. Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi, wife of the Ekiti State governor, in a recent article about the show. “In the interest of protecting our collective human rights, those calling for the scrapping of BBN should take it easy.
We cannot mount surveillance over what is appropriate for consenting adults to watch. The show is rated 18 and people should learn how to operate the Parental Guidance controls on their televisions. If we go down this road, one day some people will call for the banning of all those indigenous Africa Magic Movie channels full of witches, Juju men and the like.
Then we will have a full blown war on our hands,” she wrote. Furthermore, in acknowledgement that there might be sensual activities on the show, the organisers have taken the necessary preventive steps to ensure that explicit scenes are not broadcast live on television. By choice, I did not watch for many years until now. The freedom to choose not to watch, I am certain, has not been taken from anyone. Promoting the idea that steamy content is available only on television, as many seem to do, is one I cannot understand. The internet is a trove of this all year round. So what do we do? Ban the internet?
•Dike, a public affairs analyst, writes from Lagos
Wadume: Wicked soldiers, gallant policemen
Every photo tells a story so is the photo of the re-arrest of the alleged kidnapper kingpin, Alh. Hamis Bala aka Wadume. In the photo below used by most major newspapers on their covers on Wednesday, there are four men in it. Three of them are policemen while the man who is sandwiched between the two of the policemen is Wadume, the suspect.
The policeman on the right of the suspect beams with a smile on his face. The smile, I believe, was not as a result of the barrage of flashes coming from the cameras of photojournalists. It is a smile of victory, and contentment that the chase for Wadume has come to a glorious end. Or better still, the triumph of good over evil.
The policeman on the left of the suspect, however, wears a stern look. Perhaps, to depict the seriousness of the situation. The said policeman who places his right arm on Wadume’s shoulder, also points the index finger of his left hand towards the chest of the suspect . This nonverbal gesture could be interpreted to mean: ‘Yes, we got him!.’ Yet, the policeman behind Wadume flashes the victory sign with his fingers.
Yes, it’s a worthwhile victory for the Nigeria Police Force, a victory that has brought out the gallantry of its men and shamed the men of the Nigerian Army as wicked,liars and perhaps criminals in this Wadume saga, who have no reason to wear the green Army uniform of the Nigerian Army.
Re-arresting Wadume has confirmed that criminals can only hide, they cannot run from the long arms of the law. It has also corroborated the axiom that everyday is for the thief but one day is for the owner. Expectedly, Wadume wears a forlorn look, the look of a man who will soon face the consequences of his actions. It’s not surprising that he has been singing like a bird since he was caught. Such men don’t like to go down alone, especially if they have accomplices, those who feathered their criminal nest while they were into crime and criminality. Without prejudice to the outcome of the ongoing investigation, there is no point wasting time on the matter again. Justice must be done on time.
We needlessly lost three of our best investigators to this saga. We lost gallant policemen in a premeditated attack allegedly spearheaded by a Captain who is allegedly on the payroll of Wadume. What a shame! We have erroneously assumed for too long that it is only among the police that we can find bad eggs. But we now know better. The humiliating manner in which the policemen were killed is nauseating and those who carried out such despicable act deserve no mercy.
They have murdered sleep and don’t deserve the comfort of their beds again. Years of military rule have relegated the police to lowest rung of the ladder among military and para-military groups in Nigeria. Right from training school, the policemen are regarded as worthless and when they are on the job, they are treated with disdain even by the government. This could be one of the reasons they release their pent-up emotions on hapless citizens at times.
The worst military barracks will compete favourably with the best police barracks. The average soldier goes about with a sense of superiority and sees the average policeman as a “bloody civilian.” Our policemen had suffered in the hands of our soldiers in the past without any consequences borne by those soldiers who always believe that might is right. From the video that went viral showing how the policemen were killed, it’s safe to conclude that the gallant policemen were premeditatedly killed by the wicked soldiers acting on the instruction of their officer.
Even while flashing their identity cards to reveal their true identities and while begging that their lives should be spared, they were shot at close range and killed in a humiliating way. One of the policemen even defecated on his body after he was shot. What a painful way to die. The civilians who took part in this show of shame should not be spared either.
They were part of this conspiratorial gangup and should bear the consequences of their actions as well. When people who are supposed to cooperate and forge a comonn front see one another as competitors, sad things like the Ibi killings are bound to happen. Now that Wadume is in the custody of the police, it is in the interest of the police that nothing untoward must happen to him. The police now have a big catch hitherto freed by the soldiers and I expect them to guard him jealously.
Not all policemen can be trusted with his custody. The pendulum of public opinion is still swinging in favour of the police as far as this saga is concerned. In this instance, the police are good but the soldiers are bad. So, the police cannot afford to squander this goodwill they are enjoying for now Wadume being alive will reveal how the plot against those gallant policemen was planned and executed.
Who are those that are on the payroll of the suspect? How much did Wadume pay to ensure the soldiers foribly freed him after he was arrested by the police? This is the only way we can ensure justice is done to the memories of the slain policemen and it will encourage others. We need gallant policemen and members of the armed forces now more than ever before in view of the ernomous security challenges facing the country at the moment.
With the re-arrest of Wadume, it is no longer a case of ‘unknon’ soldiers. Nigerians are already aware that a Captain allegedly gave the order to the soldiers to kill the policemen. So, identifying the men who actually pulled the trigger should not be difficult. They should be named and shamed. In a matter of days, we need to see faces of these wicked men. Our gallant policemen should not die in vain. They died so that we can be free from kidnappers and bandits. They could have compromised when they got Wadume.
But they chose a part of honour and needlessly paid with their lives. They could have toed the same path with those soldiers who lack modicum of honour in them. It is given that they will be given decent burials befitting of the gallant policemen they were. But the police must ensure that the families they left behind do not suffer so that the gallant policemen will not be turning in their graves.
For Wadume and his co-travellers, they should bear full consequences of their actions even if more superior officers either from the army or police directly or indirectly knew one or two things about how these courageous policemen were killed, they should not be spared. Nobody involved in this show of shame should be spared.
The blood of those killed including two civilians will continue to cry until justice is done. We don’t need too much ceremony before we finally end this saga. I forsee that a lot of lies will be told in the days ahead. Some dogs will be given bad names just to desperately justify why they deserve to be hanged. The Army will fight back. But painstaking efforts should be made to separate the wheat from the chaff. To avoid a recurrence, we also need to know if our policemen still go for such high profile operations without making necessary preparations that will limit their risk to exposure and dangers.
‘Nigerian leaders lack capacity to sustain peace’
The National President of Igboezue International in Nigeria and the Diaspora, Chief Pius Okoye speaks with OKEGWO KENECHUKWU on sundry issues.
What is your view on the state of the nation?
The Nigerian nation is already at crossroads and the only solution strongly canvassed by Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora is restructuring. It is our strong view and contention that the leadership of the country lacks the capacity to sustain the peace and unity. So the answer is restructuring and nothing else.
Do you agree with South East governors on the establishment of forest guards to checkmate the excesses of herdsmen?
It is a welcome development if actualised with concrete ideas and principles backed by law. However, Ndigbo should also think beyond that, and make sure they are ready at any point in time to defend themselves. The issue of herdsmen attack would no longer be tolerated. We have had enough of bloodshed of innocent citizens in their own father land. Igboezue as a cultural organisation condemned in its entirety the killings of the Enugu Catholic priests, lecturers, raping of our women, etc. I am therefore, calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently set up a powerful panel of inquiry to unravel the recent killing in the zone. Members of the National Assembly from the zone should not have any excuse to give if the Federal Government fails to address the menace of these herdsmen terrorising our communities. They should wake up from their slumber and address these ugly developments.
Do you think the arrest of Omoyele Sowore would stop the #Revolution Now protests?
In any organised society, peaceful protests are allowed. It is a way of expressing anger. I think what was wrong is the name #Revolution Now. And as a politician who expressed interest to contest election into the office of the president, the APC government sees it as an affront on the part of the leader to overthrow the government in power. However, we condemn outright the arrest and detention of Sowore. He is a Nigerian and has his fundamental right to a peaceful protest
There is tension over the alleged killings of three police officers in Taraba State by soldiers. How do you see this incident?
I am sad, my heart bleeds. This nation is sitting on a keg of gun powder and it might soon explode. The entire thing is like a set up. The authorities of the Nigerian Army should not fail to tell Nigerians the truth. Nigerians demands justice in this incident. The perpetrators and the kidnap kingpin must face the full weight of the law otherwise Nigerians should see it as a confederacy. We commend the Chief of Staff for rising to the challenge. We are watching and until we get to the root of this incident there should be no sacred cows. The police should resort to dialogue in this trying period rather than confrontation.
Do you think the Buhari administration is capable of completing the 2nd Niger Bridge as promised?
Let me use this opportunity to thank the present administration for the massive work going on at the 2nd Niger Bridge project. This is one federal project in the South East geo-political zone that had been politicised by the past leadership of this country. The Igboezu International will ever remain grateful to President Buhari for that singular project. He is also constructing the Enugu–Onitsha expressway and according to report one of the service lane of the project is nearing completion.
Dr. Julius Ibukun Agboola: His life, works
The cloud busted with heavy rain on August 15th, 2016, when my friend and beloved brother, Julius Ibukun Agboola, succumbed to the cold hands of death. Lagos and the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, where he breathes his last was engulfed by floods precipitated by torrential rainfall.
The irony is that he was the ultimate herald of humankind’s eternal battle with the devastating effect of climate change on the coastal urban cities like Lagos. His prescient essay along with other scholars on the theme “Vulnerability, Resilience and Transformation of Urban Areas in the Coastal Megacity Lagos: Findings of Local Assessments and a Household Survey in Highly Exposed Areas,” exemplifies his insight and erudition. To say that Julius was a genius is simply inadequate to describe the breadth of his polymathic talents and interests. Indeed, he was unquestionably a rising star in the marine science world.
Julius Ibukun Agboola was born on the 28th of January 1972 in Kano, Nigeria, to Isaac and Comfort Agboola. He lived as child with his teacher-parents and his elder brother at 32 Middle Road, Sabon Gari area of Kano before soldering work took his dad to Lagos. Despite his father’s desire for Julius to enter into a medical career, it seems Julius’s curious mind had developed a fascination with the aquatic early in life. Acquiring the nickname “IBK” from his friends and class mates. Julius appeared restless during early education at Imoye High School, Mile Two, Lagos, Nigeria. Julius rarely paid attention to his studies at this time. He was in the middle of his class. However, the defining moment for Julius was an encounter he had with Professor Peter Okebukola in his early days as an undergraduate student of Fisheries and Aquatic Science at the Lagos State University, LASU. He engaged him and turned out to be Julius’s greatest inspiration for the academia. He further obtained two Masters’ degree (M. Sc. Fisheries science 2000 and MSc. Environmental Resource Management 2005) from the same university respectively before proceeding on a scholarship to Hokkaido University, Japan where he completed his PhD in Marine biogeochemistry in 2009 on Professor Peter Okebukola’s recommendation.
Marine Science contributions
Dr. Julius Ibukun Agboola (January 28th, 1972, to 15th August 2016) was one of the foremost leading academic giants on marine biogeochemistry and coastal management in Africa. He was a recipient of several awards which include the Japanese Government Scholarship Award, Global Centre of Excellence (GCOE) university travel award and United Nations Postdoctoral fellowship Award amongst others.
Julius Agboola, who was a member of American Geophysical Union (AGU) and Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO) was a Fulbright scholar who won lots of grants, awards and scholarship to travel 28 countries within 10 years conducting researches, speaking at conferences and seminars on global environmental change and also working with other professionals, physicists, engineers, and IT specialists on the development of innovative submersible spectrofluorometer sensor at the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable development.
With over seventy (70) scientific publications to his credit, Julius Ibukun Agboola, the author of the book “Relevant Perspectives In Global Environmental Change” was also the principal investigator, research team leader and overall Co-lead of one of the most significant scientific Belmont forum funding project on Transformation and Resilience on Urban coasts (TRUC) where the vulnerabilities of five major cities (New York, London, Tokyo, Kolkata and Lagos) to flooding and rising adverse climate change were revealed.
He was a Marine Environmental Scientist, an Ecosystem and Resource Management Specialist and an experienced University Senior Lecturer. As one of the scientific steering member committees of Future Earth Coast, an international research agency, he concluded his Postdoctoral Fellowship programme with the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU IAS), having worked and conducted research with the UNU IAS Operating Unit Ishikawa/ Kanazawa on Marine Governance and Coastal Management and Satoumi related studies. He also lectured and conducted researches at the Department of Fisheries and the Centre for Environment and Science Education (CESE), Lagos State University, Lagos, Nigeria before he proceeded to the University of Lagos, Department of Marine Science where he was a senior lecturer and won the award for the Most friendly lecturer in the department before his demise.
Dr. Agboola’s research interests cover several aspects of global environmental change, including the biogeochemical cycle of carbon and nitrogen in coastal ecosystems, land-ocean interaction, primary productivity, biodiversity, and examining the gradients and responses of physical, chemical and biological components of the aquatic ecosystems to environmental change. Over the years, Dr Julius Agboola was able to develop excellent research aptitude, advanced interpersonal, communication and managerial skills.
He was also competent in the field of natural sciences where he worked independently and as part of a team to achieve project goals. His professional expertise was four-fold- teaching, research, consulting and management. It spanned several aspects of global environmental change, including biogeochemical cycles of carbon and nitrogen in aquatic systems in relation to phytoplankton biomass and productivity; linking land-use in watersheds to coastal ecosystem productivity/ degradation; coastal zones and biodiversity including mangroves and other wetlands; water resources and water quality management; examining the gradients and responses of physical, chemical and biological components of the aquatic ecosystems to environmental change; marine policy and, integrating social and biophysical issues for sustainability and climate change research. He was also competent in aquatic resource (fisheries) production and management.
He was involved in projects on Environmental Safeguards and Socio Impact Assessments, Ecosystem Services, Resilience and Vulnerability on Urban coasts, and Ecological Restoration. As a coastal biogeochemical scientist and an ecosystem and resource management specialist, Julius Ibukun Agboola enjoyed smooth interdisciplinary working relationship with social scientists in integrating social and biophysical issues for sustainability and climate change research in the ECOSMAG project of the Global Land Project (GLP), Sapporo Nodal Office, and research projects in analysing socio-ecological systems variation, governance and integrated management in coastal zones, and Environmental Impact Assessment and Audit studies at the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU IAS), Japan.
He had a budding interest in the application of GIS in coastal ecosystem dynamic studies, integrating social and biophysical issues for sustainability and climate change research. Julius was also a representative of Nigeria and West Africa and a plenary session speaker at the International Atomic Energy Agency Summit on Studying Ocean Acidification and its Effects on Marine Ecosystems held at Cape Town from 2nd November to 6th November 2015. He was able to initiate a partnership between Future Earth Coast (LOICZ) and the University of Lagos before his demise. Dr Julius Ibukun Agboola was also one of the guest speakers and conference panellist at Adaptation future Conference of Global Programme of Research on Climate change, Vulnerability, Impacts and Adaptation (PROVIA) organized by the European Commission (EU) and the Government of the Netherlands at Rotterdam in May 2016 with over 2, 000 participants from 103 countries in attendance.
Stephen Hawking said, “Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.” Julius was not all work. He was a devoted Christian with a great sense of humour and a lover of music. He played keyboard, guitar and drums in his spare time. At every International forum he made it a point of duty to attend music concerts. Julius was trilinguist —English, Hausa and Japanese. He was also a staunch supporter of human rights and devoted an innumerable amount of time and resources to orphanages and the less privileged, which he chose to do anonymously.
Julius Ibukun Agboola was a mentor to many and a father. Though his stay here on earth was brief, he did so much for humanity that generations yet unborn will live to benefit from the wealth of his contributions to knowledge. His works still serve as an academic and political treatise in national dailies and policy formulations in governmental parastatals. .
- Israel Tope Agboola writes from the UK.
When will we have strong institutions?
‘Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions’ –Former US President Barrack Obama, Ghana in 2009
Events that have unfolded across the country in recent time have further shown the decadence the nation is sliding into primarily because of our failure to build strong institutions as harped upon by former US President Barrack Obama some 10 years ago. Firstly let me take the most recent happening.
On Tuesday reports filtered in that operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had swooped on two homes belonging to the immediate past governor of Lagos State, Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, ostensibly as part of their investigations into an alleged financial malpractice running into the billions – N9.9billion to be exact.
A couple of weeks ago, the anti-graft agency said it was looking into an account belonging to Lagos State which was opened by the past administration and which some “suspicious” financial transactions had occurred. According to the EFCC some of the transactions had been linked to a close associate of the former governor. Of course predictably Ambode brushed aside whatever insinuations were being made insisting that he had nothing to hide and the account belonged to the state.
So Tuesday’s action was clearly a follow up on the investigation being conducted by the Commission into the affairs of the former administration, which only vacated the Government House, Alausa, Ikeja barely 90 days ago. However, on getting to the country home of the former Lagos State governor, the EFCC officials were, according to some versions of the report, allegedly prevented from carrying out their lawful duty by residents of the area! Even though they (EFCC operatives) were with a valid court order allowing them go into the house, people of Epe refused to allow them entry into the property.
Of course when the situation was becom- When will we have strong institutions? TS from the Sidelines 08050498544 (sms only) email@example.com 20 SATURDAY TELEGRAPH 24 august 2019 ing very heated with the people vehemently refusing to budge from their position, the EFCC operatives wisely made a hasty exit rather than insisting on carrying out their lawful duties – thus clearly adverting what could have turned into a bloodbath had they opted to use force. On that same day, a video clip emerged on the Internet, capturing EFCC’s operation at Ambode’s house in Epe.
The video shows scores of presumably Epe residents surrounding a minibus and a white pick-up van, with at least two armed personnel, parked in front of Ambode’s residence. Amid chaos, some of the residents attempted to open the vehicles without success. Moments later, one of the residents was heard shouting in Yoruba language: “burst their tyres.” As the commotion continued, the vehicles were forced to drive away with the armed officers shooting intermittently into the air. The back windscreen appeared broken.
While the action of the people (dubbed ‘hoodlums’ by the EFCC) is very condemnable, it also shows the way the populace now view government and its various agencies. In times past it would have been virtually unthinkable for citizens to dare a person lawfully employed to carry a weapon acutely aware of what fate befell him. But sadly because many government agencies have become willing tools for “ogas at the top”, or those in power, people have equally come to see them as being merely extensions of those who do not see eye-to-eye with their benefactors.
In the minds of many of those who stopped the EFCC operatives from carrying out their duty on Tuesday, they (EFCC) would not have done so had their “son” (Ambode) still been in the good books of the “powers that be”. And it was primarily for this reason that they denied the anti-graft agency entrance into the former governor’s compound.
Thankfully, Ambode quickly waded in and appealed to his “supporters” not to do anything rash. Ironically a comical side to the whole saga, which only exposed the shoddy manner of our government agencies in carrying out their statutory functions was exposed when the EFCC first denied that they had raided the former governor’s home only to back track a few hours later to admit they did and it was only after Ambode himself had said so. “This morning, operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission visited the Epe country home and Parkview, Ikoyi residence of Mr Akinwunmi Ambode, a former governor of Lagos State, with warrants to conduct a search. These searches were carried out extensively and the operatives left without any incident,” was the statement released by the former governor’s media aide, Habib Aruna. It was only after this that the EFCC in a late statement by its spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, said three operatives of the commission were allegedly injured during the operation.
The commission said the officers were injured by “hoodlums loyal to the ex-governor who also vandalised a white bus.” Uwujaren said: “The commission’s operatives were attacked and prevented from executing the search warrant in Epe by irate youths who injured three officers and damaged EFCC official vehicle.”
The other example I want to cite is the shooting of three policemen and a civilian in Ibi Local Government Area of Taraba State early this month by soldiers ostensibly at the behest of a captain who appeared to be in cohorts with the now recaptured suspected kidnap kingpin, Alhaji Hamisu Bala Wadume.
The incident happened on August 7 and rather than both the Force Headquarters and Army Headquarters immediately initiating a probe of the incident to find out what actually transpired, both government agencies were busy throwing brick backs at each other in effort to grab the moral high ground in the eyes of the general public. It took the intervention 24 hours later of the Commander-in-Chief, President Muhammadu Buhari to wade in and order an inquiry into the incident.
The President’s move, while commendable, however, only further exposed the weak nature of our institutions. Had proper structures, independent of the whims and caprices of those in power, been in place; then without waiting for the Commander-in-Chief’s directive, the protocol for handling such incidents would have immediately kicked in. Thus such agencies like the EFCC, ICPC, police and others are perceived to be unable to move against any influential person being given the green light to do so from superior powers.
Yet if it is someone without any clot in society such a person can be easily picked up without ruffling any feathers at the “top”. It is because of such things that people no longer trust them (government agencies) to carry out their functions free of being teleguided by the “powers-that-be”. And from all indications, the situation of our weak institutions is set to continue as those that have the ability to change the narrative by making such agencies truly independent are not willing too because they are often the greatest beneficiaries of the status quo. Sadly, unless something drastically changes, we will continue to have such incidences occurring on a regular basis with our nation only becoming the worse for it.
When ‘all your mates’ are married (part 2)
There is nothing happening to you that takes God by surprise. There are many people in worse situation that yours. Every situation is for a purpose. Most bad situations are from the devil but God permits them for a purpose. See Job chapter 1. So, your delay in getting married or having a child is not news to God. What you need to do is to trust and obey him and “pray without ceasing” (2nd Thessalonians 5:17). “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways, acknowledge him and he shall direct your path” (Proverbs 3:5-6). Above all, you must drop yourself. You imagine suicide when two things happen. The first is when you become too full of yourself. Jesus said: “If anyone will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
If you see more of yourself and less of God, you will give up at some point. If you see more of God and less of yourself, you will always draw fulfilment from God and his word (Mathew 5:8). Secondly, you imagine suicide when you buy the lie that everything about existence ends in this world.
So, when you are unable to achieve things like material wealth, marriage certificate and so on, or experience disappointment by a fellow mortal, you feel there is nothing else left. It is not true. There is life beyond the things and physical achievements you see in this world. There is eternity in heaven or hell, determined by your spirituality.
There are gifts of the Holy Spirit you can enjoy in Christ Jesus here on earth. They are riches in Christ Jesus that can even give you physical benefits and fulfilment. There are talents and skills that can never be taken away from you if you have them.
Their potency and existence are not determined by mortals in this world. You just have them and marriage has little or no role in determining their manifestation. Many single ladies are in courtship with the wrong guys because of fear. There are different kinds of fears.
The most prevalent are the fear of rejection and the fear of never getting married. Maybe you are entering or you entered a pre-marital relationship and you are fighting to keep it alive amidst abuse and pain you might be suffering.
Because you are afraid of breaking up, you have stayed in it despite the torture. To you, breaking up means you are not good enough for that your partner. You are now struggling to be accepted by your partner in spite of the flaws and weakness in his or her character.
If you are this person, Please do not dwell in a premarital relationship that is driven by fear of “all my mates are getting married and I fear I may never get married.” A major factor that the devil has used to steal the joy of many singles today is the four-word phrase: “What will people say?” Because of this phrase, you have become so restless, unhappy, depressed and discouraged because “all your mates are married and you are not. What will people say about this?” Don’t get desperate because of marriage.
There is somewhere you can draw strength and hope from-Jesus Christ. Negative desperation can lead to destruction. The truth is that you could display signs of desperation to get married without knowing it. When this happens, you begin to perspire.
When you perspire, with time, you begin to stink. Then, at that point, no guy or lady will be interested in premarital relationship with you, because no responsible and wise person wants to marry a stinking fellow. It is what happens inside of you that is displayed outwardly for people to see.
The displayed content inside, can overshadow physical appearance, beauty or attraction in the eyes of a responsible and wise guy or lady that beholds you. After assessing your exhibition or attitude, he or she cannot see any future in both of you being joined. This is why sometimes, you see a very beautiful lady that no guy is approaching for a premarital relationship. A brand new car with a bad engine cannot take you anywhere.
It is what you are inside, that carries you into successful relationship, and then, successful marital life. There are several symptoms of desperation. When as a lady, you keep your life under suspension because you are waiting for someone to marry you, you are desperate. As a single career lady, working class or business lady, the idea or suggestion of buying a car, a landed property or furthering your education comes. You respond: “No! Let me get a husband first.” You are desperate.
When you get jittery about your annual birthday party and instead of celebrating and appreciating God for keeping you alive and healthy, you cry (secretly or openly) on your birthday because somebody of the opposite sex has not come to marry you, you are desperate. Some even go silent about their birthdays that they initially cherished. The feeling is that what is my joy in celebrating birthdays as a single person when all my mates are married? My dear! Next time the devil or his agents attempt to mock you about marrying or not marrying someone, resist the devil and he will flee from you. If you give the devil attention, he will give you direction.
RUGA Settlement as a paradox for peace
One could understand the high tempo of discussion and emotion attached to the discussion of the government’s proposed Ruga Settlement initiative. Land, which is at the centre of discussion is an ancestral heritage and highly valued in this part of the world; and people will do anything to defend their homeland and heritage. Definitely, no one will willingly sit back and see his homeland invaded or forcefully taken over by another group in whatever guise. So the government should thread with caution.
It was expected that President Muhammadu Buhari’s wise step in suspending the Ruga Settlement initiative could at least temporarily restore peace in the polity but rather it has further heightened the discussion and raised it to a vexatious level of argument.
From the argument of supporters of the initiative, it shows that some people are deliberately trading and bandying falsehood to feather their nest. They prefer to remain bottled up in their position and refused to see the reasons people are ill disposed to the whole idea of Ruga.
Their postulations are so watery and ineffectual that you wonder the foundation of their argument in support of the project. The initiators of the project, the Federal Government, is convinced beyond every reasonable doubt that the project is the panacea to the frequent herders-farmers clashes that have left tales of anguish, destruction, losses, deaths and economic adversity in their trail. The government argues that with the Ruga Settlement in place, there will be no more perennial clashes between the herders and farmers, and the internal security of the country would have improved significantly.
There is no denying government’s right in pursuing measures that will improve the internal security of the country. After all, that is one of its fundamental responsibilities – guarantee of the safety of lives and properties of the populace. However, government in thinking of measures to improve internal security of the country must think her measure through, and engage the populace to ensure that everybody is on the same page. This is where the government failed woefully.
Government has not been able to convince the larger mass of the citizens of the desirability and peace prospect of Ruga to the nation. They did not do enough consultation or engagement with all the necessary stakeholders to explain the whole entailment of Ruga.
Whatever people heard or knew about Ruga was what they could put together from discussions with other people or read online. There was no attempt on the part of the government to educate and enlighten the people on the project, and as such water down whatever wrong interpretations it could be given. Probably the government in her wisdom thought that it was not worthwhile discussing with the people on the project because they, the government, are the best thinkers for the people and know what is best for the people.
Or better still, the government may have assumed that the populace would oppose the initiative and so decided to roughshod it over the people. But unfortunately, the government miscalculated and undermined the resolve of the people to stand eyeball to eyeball to protect what is legitimately theirs. Again, it is overtly over optimistic of the government to think that Ruga has any chance of survival as a measure to resolve the herders- farmers conflict, given the background of criticism and rejection that had orchestrated the prior plan of government to build cattle colony for the herders, as another measure of avoiding the herders-farmers clash. To many Nigerians, Ruga is a baptismal name for cattle colony and does not offer any fresh idea.
This has been demonstrated in the backlash that has followed the proposed Ruga initiative. Nigerians vehemently stood their ground and said no to cattle colony; one is therefore at a loss on why the government thinks that it can drive Ruga through, knowing that there is no seemingly difference between the two. It is simply the government that is unnecessarily overheating the polity by doing the wrong things.
There is no way any right thinking government will think that this Ruga idea will fly. Government is being economical with the truth on the reason for establishing Ruga for the Fulani herders and their families. Definitely not motivated by the desire to effectively bridge the rancour and antagonism between the herders and the farmers. You cannot use a problem to solve a problem neither can you address a problem with even a more daring problem.
Ruga itself is a problem and so what level of peace is it expected to offer and achieve. Any measure that is designed to solve a problem must manifestly be seen to be sincere, unbiased, transparent, focus on the problem, offer workable options and be widely acceptable to the people. All these factors are unfortunately conspicuously missing in Ruga.
So tell me, what solution does it offer to the problem at hand? Any idea that confers superiority on one party over the others during a conflict cannot achieve peace; an idea that is ill-motivated cannot achieve peace, an idea that is clothed in nondescript cannot achieve peace, an idea that lacks legitimacy cannot achieve peace; an idea that is provocative and daring cannot achieve peace. Any idea that has the potency to set the nation in war path cannot achieve peace. Government needs to wear its thinking cap and come up with another explanation for Ruga.
Hinging the argument for Ruga on the peace window it offers to the incessant herders-farmers clashes is not tenable and cannot even convince a kindergarten pupil. Something tells me that even the government knew that the Ruga project will be dead on arrival but just wanted to fly a kite.
The government knows that there is no way the project will fly because nothing has been done differently to package, market and make it acceptable to Nigerians. Everything about the idea and conceptualization of the project is wrong.
Even the government is singing discordant tunes within themselves on the real intention of the project and where it is warehoused. They are finding it difficult to logically defend the project and situate it in its proper context.
They did not do their homework well and were ill prepared for the backlash that followed. That is why the project has received wide condemnation and rejection, and forced President Muhammadu Buhari to suspend it. Even the real beneficiaries of the project, Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association did claim that they were not consulted about the project. The association is not even convinced that the project will yield the desired peace between the herders and the farmers.
Let government know that the entire populace of this country want an end to the constant feud between the herders and the farmers because of the losses it brings to the society. There are workable and realistic options available to the government to achieve this much desired peace but the government does not want to listen.
She already has a fixated mind on what she wants to do but peace cannot be achieved from their position. The government needs to be open minded and amenable to citizens’ suggestions. They should be less sentimental and divest herself of any undue interest in finding lasting solution to the clashes. After all, herders-farmers clash predates this administration, and successive governments prior to this administration had existed and managed the clashes within the arm-bit of the law.
Why did the clashes assume a monumental dimension, effrontery and audacity under this administration? Nigerians are ready to work with the government to find a middle of the road approach to the herders-farmers clashes but the government must be willing to receive fresh and divergent ideas to solve this problem. Government does not have monopoly of knowledge. We all know that the Ruga project can never offer any window of peace and solution to the frequent herders and farmers clash because it was not originally designed to achieve peace.
- Iheanacho, a media consultant, writes from Lagos via emmaiheanacho@ yahoo.com
Nigerian Customs Service and smuggling
A few months ago, I was listening to a radio programme in which a group of smugglers had a very rough confrontation with men of Nigerian Customs Service. One of the smugglers alleged that the men of customs service were always after them in open market places and not in the border areas after they (smugglers) had successfully crossed the border with the smuggled goods.
That reminds me of the recommendations, we made to the Board of Customs Service in 1976. The Chairman of the then Nigerian Customs Service commissioned my boss, who directed me to do a research on smuggling in Nigeria and come with recommendations, within three months. The recommendations were implemented in 1978. About 95.5 per cent of our recommendations were injected into the service and many officers were relieved of their appointments. After several years of watching how men of Nigerian Customs Service and smugglers in the country wasted human lives and goods, I feel this is a battle neither of them can win. Therefore, the Federal Government and the Customs Service need proactive public relations attitudes.
The first question that comes to my mind: Do these smugglers know the damages they are doing to the economy and their own life too? I remember during that radio programme a lady smuggler claimed that she had no other job than smuggling.
That shows that smuggling is like drug addiction or alcoholism. A habit is always very hard to brake. The truth is that, most of the die-hard smugglers are known to some Customs men. It is only petty smugglers that are exposed. The high-brow smugglers are like the camel passing the eye of the needle. Like drug addicts, smugglers in Nige-ria need a total change of attitudes orientation and change of focus that would take them out of the belief that smuggling is the only job or work that can sustain their life.
During my research in 1976, I discovered that goods from Nigeria were also being smuggled out of the country. Cocoa from Western Region was being smuggled out of Nigeria through the Northern borders. There are other products made in Nigeria that are being smuggled out of Nigeria daily including petroleum products. Now that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is ready to finance farming in Nigeria, the Governor of CBN should now think of turning these rice smugglers to rice farmers.
This is a proposal, I think would change the attitudes of the smugglers of rice into the nation and they would become good citizens of the nation. The first job of Customs Service is to identify these smugglers and hold a stakeholders’ meeting or workshop for them with the attendance of Central Bank officials and Ministry of Commerce and Industries.
This class of people (smugglers) needs grants and not loan or cash finance, but technical inputs to sustain their operation as farmers. Those smugglers in the North can be turned to great cotton, rice and tomatoes farmers. To change the perception of smugglers is not a day’s job with constant and regular education from the Federal Government and Customs Service they would change with time. The Service is fighting a battle it cannot win with gun with smugglers.
Smuggling has become a religion and a religion is always very hard to defeat. Another area I would like the Comptroller General of Customs to focus on is the excise duties from industries operating in Nigeria. Many of these industries are short-changing the Federal Government in payment of excise duties. Not only smokers are likely to die young, smugglers too are likely to die young as they always put themselves into emotional rigour.
- Dr. Ajai writes from Lagos.
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