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Editorial

It’s time for action, Mr. President

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It’s time for action, Mr. President

Now that the inauguration had been done following February 23 Presidential election which returned President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term in office, it is time to turn to the serious issue of governance. The President must hit the ground running, he must constitute his cabinet quickly.

It is unclear whether he will still keep faith with his old ministers or will appoint new ones but what is clear however is that during valedictory for the erstwhile ministers, Buhari had only words of praise for them. He told them to be proud of being part of his administration. Although too much shouldn’t be read into this unqualified pass mark, the belief is rife that many of the ex-ministers will likely return. And this is a sore point with many observers of the Buhari administration in the last four years. A cursory assessment of many of the ex-ministers will reveal a below average performance.

This makes it imperative for new faces to be brought into the Federal Executive Council (FEC). It goes without saying that injecting fresh blood into the FEC is likely to energise government business; so Buhari will do well to give this a serious thought. However, the critical point is to make up his cabinet quickly. The unusually long time he took to pick his ministers in his first term, to say the least, not only slowed down government business, it also provided detractors ready fodder for criticism.

Unfortunately, a surface reading of the situation doesn’t suggest that things will be different this time. The upshot of this is that speculation is widespread in the country regarding those the president will pick to help him actualise his dream for Nigeria in the next four years and the time frame he will carry out this important task. However, we want to implore the president to have a broad view of this duty. He can’t afford to limit himself to only those he knows. He must scour the world for competent compatriots who can help him deliver dividends of democracy to longsuffering Nigerians who have kept faith with him. And this must be done without prejudice to party, ethnic or religious considerations.

Thankfully, Nigeria is blessed with men and women of proven competence and integrity and the responsibility lies with the president to find them wherever they may be in the world and bring them in. Thankfully, Buhari is not unaware of this as he alluded to in his Democracy Day speech on June 12.

The president said: “Over the next four years, we are committed to assembling a strong team of Nigerians and allies to implement our transformative plans and proposals. We will see significant focus, resource and, where necessary reform, in tertiary and technical education to reposition Nigeria’s workforce for the modern technological age. “We will accelerate investments in primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare programmes, interventions and infrastructure as well as in upgrading of our medical personnel to stem the flight of our best-trained people…

My optimism about Nigeria’s future is unshaken and Nigeria’s role in the world as an emerging economic force is without a doubt.” We agree totally with these inspiring words from the president and hope that he matches actions with words in the weeks, months and years ahead. We also want to emphasise the fact that Buhari has a rare chance to heal Nigeria and put it firmly on the path of national unity and cohesion.

The electioneering preceding the general election were divisive and conflict-ridden. The belligerent posture of politicians was obvious to even the most casual observer of the Nigerian political space and fears were expressed not only from within but by the international community.

Now that that phase is in the past, President Buhari must begin the arduous task of healing and bringing the people together irrespective of tribe, religion or party affiliations. In this regard, we must point out the view in many quarters that the president didn’t particularly play the role of a unifier with distinction in his first term in office. A significant segment of the population didn’t feel Buhari performed to expectation as far as rallying the country in one direction was concerned.

This was particularly obvious in his appointments. Appointments to key positions in government were heavily skewed in favour of one section of the country – the North. And since the president is from that part, the natural feeling was that the president was biased towards his section. It is difficult to discountenance the argument of those who took this view as the evidence was overwhelming. So, Buhari must be completely detribalised in his appointments and actions this time.

Finally, President Buhari is in a privileged position to change the fortunes of Nigerians and take them to the next level as he has promised repeatedly. But in achieving this task, there is the need to focus on the future without a distracting and undue fixation on the past. The time to blame the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), government party since the return to democracy in 1999, is over. This is the time for action, Mr. President.

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Editorial

Need for fewer, stronger political parties

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Need for fewer, stronger political parties

Not too long ago, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced its desire to prune down the number of political parties in the country. Currently, there are 91 political parties, which took part in the 2019 general election. Of the lot, only the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) made any substantial showing in the polls. A few other parties also got some seats. But in all, of the 91 political parties, not more than six won anything in the 2019 elections.

Thus, INEC is now considering seeking a constitutional amendment for registration and deregistration of political parties. INEC’s concerns now are the ‘dormant and commercial platforms’ with little or no visible structures and presence in the states. According to INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, the present framework for the registration of political parties is inadequate to guarantee the registration of qualitative, membership driven and ideologically propelled political parties. He also stated that some parties were mere platforms for hire and have no visible presence in most states of the federation.

While we sympathise with INEC on the onerous journey of establishing order in the multitude of political parties, we cannot fail to state that the move is in order. We believe that political parties should be ideologically based and have the desire to win elections even at the ward level. Much as we acknowledge that every group is entitled to its views and dreams as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution, we object to the idea of forming political parties for the purpose of racketeering and endorsement of major political parties during elections. We recall that in the just concluded 2019 elections, most of the 91 political parties were only engaged in the endorsement of the APC and PDP at the national and state levels.

The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) was made up of about 30 political parties, which endorsed the candidacy of the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Some of the other over 70 political parties that fielded candidates for the election did not go beyond having their names on the ballot papers as the election was strictly between President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar of the PDP.

In some states of the federation also, there were more than 60 candidates for the governorship elections, with many not gathering up to 1,000 votes. As INEC pointed out, beyond the briefcase and the names on INEC register, most of the political parties have no structure, presence or activity to show that they are in existence.

We recall that in November 2002, late human rights activist and lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), had won a case at the Supreme Court against INEC, over the non-registration of his political association, the National Conscience Party (NCP).

That set the tone for the entry of all manners of associations into the system as political parties. In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court voided the guidelines used by INEC in the registration of parties. In a unanimous decision, the court voided 12 of the 13 guidelines used by INEC to register political parties, describing them as unconstitutional. Several years later, INEC under Prof. Attahiru Jega went on to deregister about 28 of such associations registered as political parties, when it felt that the parties were becoming unwieldy, dormant, with many just being portfolio political parties. Incidentally, that move was thwarted at the courts again, following a suit filed by Gani’s NCP and 27 other political parties, against their deregistration by INEC.

Justice Gabriel Kolawole of a Federal High Court in Abuja, in a ruling in 2013, faulted INEC on the deregistration, insisting that the Section 78(7) (i) and (ii) of the Electoral Act, 2010 which it relied on was not in consonance with the Nigerian Constitution.

That portion stated that, “the commission shall have power to de-register political parties on the following grounds: “(i) breach of any of the requirements for registration; and for failure to win a seat in the National or State Assembly election.”

Those two judgements formed the foundation for the latest dilemma facing INEC. But we believe it is time for INEC to work with the National Assembly, the presidency and other stakeholders to correct the errors which the courts spotted previously and ruled against the electoral body. Since they are constitutional issues, we believe that with proper liaisons, INEC should be able to push through the National Assembly, the amendment of the relevant portions of the Constitution to deal with the issue.

While we support multiparty system, we believe very strongly that having over 80 portfolio political parties, who add nothing to electioneering does not represent the ideal. The best election acknowledged worldwide in Nigeria took place on June 12, 1993 with just two political parties. We are of the view that fewer stronger political parties would serve the purpose of the country better.

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Editorial

Keeping the nation’s airports safe

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Keeping the nation’s airports safe

Nigeria, again, opened itself negatively to the global community on July 19, 2019 when a foreigner, precisely a Nigerien, was seen crawling out of an aircraft engine that was settling for take-off. The experience, which caught passengers and crew by surprise, no doubt, added to the myriad of embarrassing and episodic surprises the country has continued to export to the outside world.

All over the world, save for some third world countries, tight security is not just a priority for airports and borders but a commitment that is reinforced with all the primacy it deserves.

On several occasions, Nigeria has proven to be lacking in this respect due mainly to the leaders’ tendency to remain reactive on issues rather than taking necessary steps to prevent them. Although cases of incursions and stowaways are evident across the world, it is much more disheartening and incredulous down here that a country currently being ravaged by terrorists, and an assemblage of bandits here and there could afford to leave its airport security flanks open, up to the point of a total stranger finding his way into the engine of an aircraft.

The near tragic act played out by the culprit, Usman Adamu, on an Azman aircraft taxiing for take-off at the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos certainly made a mockery of the security apparatus at the nation’s airports, and not just that of Lagos alone.

Experience in the past few months, leaving aside what had happened in far past, had seriously exposed the underbelly of the porous airport security architecture, which urgently needs to be reappraised to meet new aviation challenges.

In the current climate of insecurity in Nigeria, it is unthinkable that airport security officials would go to sleep as to allow an unauthorised person did not only get into a supposedly restricted area but also climbed into the engine of an aircraft that is set to take off.

This is not the first time the country would be plied with issues like this, and no one has gone to jail or even sacked for it. In 2013 and 2014, the country witnessed about 17 security breaches and another in 2017, which was a most daring experience, wherein an aircraft that just landed was robbed while still taxiing on the runway.

The private jet carrying two top Nigerian musical artists, Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun aka “Wizkid” and Tiwa Savage from Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom State, was attacked and robbed while taxiing on Murtala Muhammed airport’s runway 18L.

The pilot, who noticed the cargo door opened by burglars, promptly notified the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) security, but the burglars had disappeared before FAAN officials could make it to the point where the attack took place. Although FAAN hurriedly handed indefinite suspension to the security officials on duty including the aviation security unit heads pending completion of ongoing investigation into the regrettable security infringement, it should in all seriousness ensure that those found culpable are not given another slap in the wrist.

If one could recall vividly, a similar incident happened at Benin airport a few years ago when a teenager did not only find his way into the landing gear compartment of Arik aircraft, but successfully, by divine mercy, flew inside it to Lagos. The boy was suspected to have sneaked into the aircraft’s wheel at the Benin-City airport. One intriguing aspect of the saga was the claim by Arik Air that the pilot that flew the aircraft had reported to the control tower in Benin- City moments before take-off that he noticed a boy in the bush about 200 – 300 meters at the end of runway.

However, as another reflection of the security officials’ lackadaisical attitude to issues of such magnitude, Arik Air quoted the control tower as telling the captain that they were sending security men to arrest the boy but eventually cleared the pilot for take-off even without seeing any trace of the boy. As at today, no word has been heard about anybody punished for that security breach.

It is becoming a thing of shame that even with the billions of naira said to have been spent in remodelling and refurbishing some of the airports a few years ago, high resolution Close Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras were not installed at the airports that practically share boundaries with local communities.

It is even more disingenuous on the part of FAAN to tell the world in this age and time that contract for perimeter fencing had just been awarded for airports that are over 20 years old. While we commend FAAN for suspending the security personnel on duty at the time of the last incident, we, however, advise they should be taught a lesson to serve as deterrent to others, not just aviation but other agencies of government.

We also advise that whatever has to be done as regards reinforcing security at the airports and other sensitive places be done quickly as the current spate of insecurity is becoming real and scary.

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Editorial

Amnesty for cattle rustlers, bandits

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Amnesty for cattle rustlers, bandits

Governors of the North- West geo-political zone recently granted amnesty to cattle rustlers and bandits who have been terrorising their states. This is part of measures geared towards restoring peace and reviving socio-economic activities in Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara and Katsina states.

 

The governors disclosed this in a communique read at the end of a one-day security and reconciliation meeting held in Katsina. The meeting had in attendance the governors, security agencies, vigilante and volunteer groups, as well as herdsmen and farmers.

 

In the communique, the governors resolved that henceforth, no member of a vigilante or volunteer group should attack or kill any herdsman, while the herdsmen and their families should be allowed to go about their normal businesses without molestation, provided they do not bear arms.

 

The bandits have been directed to surrender their weapons and immediately release all kidnapped persons in their custody. In addition, bandits who rustled animals from communities have been directed to return them to government or the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) immediately.

 

The governors also called for sacrifice and commitment to peace from all sides, pledging that the states would intensify efforts to provide necessities such as hospitals, schools and grazing reserves for the herders to make their lives more meaningful.

 

They expressed concern that herders were always roaming around with their animals, thereby exposing them to different kinds of hazards, which would be avoided when grazing reserves are created and the herders settle in one place in the zone.

 

 

It is interesting that these resolutions are coming from the governors who are constitutionally regarded as the Chief Security Officers (CSOs) in their respective states.

 

It is also instructive that these resolutions were adopted in the presence of the Inspector- General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, who has the primary responsibility for internal security through the maintenance of law and order across the country. We must commend these governors for taking this bold initiative, even though their intervention has been long overdue.

 

We observe with pains that this effort is coming after thousands of Nigerians have been slaughtered and despatched to their early graves as a result of the violent conflicts involving herdsmen, bandits and farmers, not only on the North-West but in other parts of Nigeria.

 

We think that these governors and other stakeholders ought to have risen to this challenge long before now rather than waiting until the crisis gets to their region. For several years, the North- West had looked on like spectators at a football match while these herders ravaged farmlands and forests in other parts of Nigeria.

 

 

In the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria, these herders and bandits turned their weapons against the host communities where they grazed their cattle.

 

They took over ancestral lands,   including sacred groves, sacked communities, killed the men and raped their wives and daughters, all in the name of seeking pasture and water for their cattle. One would have expected these governors to have spoken up on this conflict with as much frankness then as they have done now.

 

Beyond the moral questions surrounding this move, we wish to remind our dear governors that offering amnesty to a group of bandits is a very serious matter that goes beyond political rhetoric.

 

By implication, the governors have officially granted pardon to and forgiven these bandits who were either into cattle rustling or involved in the raiding of communities and killing of their inhabitants to take over their lands. It means that government has taken a common stand to forgive every wrongdoing and obliterate all legal encumbrances of these offences. In offering amnesty to the bandits, we must not forget that they operated much like the Boko Haram insurgents in the North- East, which has links with the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).

 

It is therefore important that those who declared the amnesty must think through it thoroughly to avoid sweeping the salient issues driving the conflict under the carpet. Banditry, cattle rustling and farmer-herder clashes in various communities are serious security issues that should be addressed from its roots before the amnesty can be meaningful and realistic.

 

Has the thorny issue of indigeneship and right to ownership of land, which is at the core of this conflict, been resolved? Has the involvement of these bandits in the vast goldmines of Zamfara been thoroughly investigated and resolved? What are the real terms of this amnesty? How many bandits are being targeted and where are they located? Who is mopping up the arms and where are these weapons likely to end up? Which of the security agencies is supervising the amnesty programme and what are the timelines? Are there provisions for disarmament, demobilisation, deradicalisation and re-integration of these armed groups into the society?

 

Are the grazing reserves, which the governors pledged to build for the roaming herders ready? Do we know the real identities of the people whom we propose to resettle in these grazing reserves? Our dear governors in the North-West must provide realistic answers to these posers before they can clink their glasses and toast to their latest discovery.

 

They would be operating in self-delusion if they believe that those declarations in their communique will do magic. They must go beyond the political theatrics and moral persuasions by looking beyond the surface of this turbulent water.

 

They must ensure that they worked closely with the security agencies or employed the services of private security experts to review the various security threats in the region and understand them properly. It is only then that they can design effective remedies to resolving them permanently

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Editorial

Late Samuel Okwaraji deserves better

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Late Samuel Okwaraji deserves better

In every area of human endeavour, planning is crucial to guarantee development and wellbeing of the citizenry. Over time, we have called on the Ministry of Sports to ensure there is a sports policy in the running of sports in the country. We are aware that many committees were set up in the past to fashion out the way forward for development in terms of preparation, participation, welfare of athletes and also the rewards system.

We can recall that the last of these committees set up by former sports minister Solomon Dalung was the Godwin Kienka-led Sports Reform Committee, which had very reputable Nigerians, including the former queen of the tracks, Mary Onyali, former Eagles skipper, Segun Odegbami and top administrator, Sam Ahmedu, as some of the members. We make bold to say there is no template for the operations and general administration of sports in the country over the years.

What happens to Team A or Sports B might not be the case for Team D or Sports E depending on the mood of the minister or the purse of the ministry. August 12 marked 30 years after Eagles midfielder, Samuel Okwaraji, slumped and died on active service during the Nigeria/Angola match at the National Stadium, Lagos. Sadly, we observed that apart from the annual remembrance in the dailies, nothing concrete has been done to immortalize the fallen hero. The late player was noted for his patriotic zeal and commitment to national duty.

A doctor with the Eagles at the time, Dipo Odunuga, spoke about the patriotism of the player, which endeared him into the hearts of many Nigerians. Oduguga said: “He won’t collect ticket refund or match bonus from anyone.

I recall one day when his bonus was practically forced on him, he simply took the money and shared it to area boys at the hotel. “After his death, players became cautious by selecting games they will play to avoid such incident.

It was a time we were thinking his patriotic zeal would be imbibed by some other players but rather, players now feel the country is not worth dying for because nothing was done for Samuel (Okwaraji) despite dying on active service for his country.” And so it is indeed sad that nothing concrete has been done to truly immortalize Okwaraji and spur other players to give their all to the country.

The football federation should be able to do something tangible annually for a player who died on the pitch while playing for the country. The family, especially the mother should be taken care of while there should be a proper yearly activity to make the entire citizenry remember the fallen hero.

We insist that the disposition of the football authorities is not good for the current players who will easily conclude that the country is not worth dying for. No doubt, Okwaraji deserves better and the attitude of the federation must change on how best to immortalize fallen heroes and players who gave their all to the country in their active years.

Other examples are Keshi, who won the Nations Cup as player and coach and late Amodu Shaibu who qualified the country for two World Cups and made waves at club and national levels. The list is endless. If there is a template to follow in the administration of sports, the Okparaji situation would have been covered.

We also recall that many former Super Eagles players and prominent national athletes retired, but they are not celebrated, all because there is no policy for such. It was so bad that it was friends and corporate bodies that staged valedictory games for top players like Nwankwo Kanu, Austin Okocha, Taribo West and Joseph Yobo.

It was indeed bad that NFF and the Ministry of Sports had no input in these matches staged for the former internationals. Former Eagles skippers, Austin Eguavoen, Sunday Oliseh and goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, are yet to be so honoured. For Okwaraji, we believe the authorities should have been eager to make a statement after his death. Apart from the statue at the entrance of the National Stadium, Lagos, there is nothing to point at by the fans of the late player and his family. Going forward, we advise the football federation stage an annual event in Okwaraji’s name and ensure the event generate revenue, which goes to the family every year.

The Ministry of Sports can also initiate plans for government to use Okwaraji’s name to better the lots of some youths in the late player’s village. These, we believe, will make other players strive to work hard and sacrifice for Nigeria anytime they wear the national colours. We frown at the neglect of the Okwaraji’s family and the attitude of the authorities during his remembrance period. It could discourage current players from giving their all to the country on the pitch. It is not too late to make amends if the Football Federation and the ministry are serious about the issue.

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Editorial

South-West: Tackling insecurity with drones, CCTVs

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South-West: Tackling insecurity with drones, CCTVs

I

nsecurity is probably at its highest in the South-West no thanks to the violent attacks in almost all parts of the region.

 

 

Today, people are afraid to move from one part of the region to the other because of the fear of being attacked. Attacks come from different marauding gangs, particularly armed robbers and the most dreadful of all, kidnappers, who those survived their reprehensible activities have described as herdsmen.

 

 

In the last couple of months, kidnappers have become notorious in the South-West that the mere mention of their names usually strikes terror in the minds of many. People don’t just fear the kidnappers; the abductors earned it through tales of their deliberate wickedness to their victims, which many people reasonably believe to be part of a larger script.

 

 

Most of the times, gunmen would jump on a major road in broad daylight and start to shoot at oncoming vehicles to force motorists to stop. Through this process several people have been sent to their graves in their prime.

 

 

Those kidnapped are made to pass through hell while in the captivity of these depraves. Many women, including children, are tortured and gang-raped for several days. Many are permanently damaged as they could not survive their traumatic experience in the hands of their abductors. Men are not spared in the depravity.

 

 

Violence is not limited to the South-West states of Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun and Oyo. The North, especially the North-East, has in the last few years being in the throes of violence unleashed by the terror group, Boko Haram, while parts of the North-Central have been under attacks by the ubiquitous herdsmen. The bandits have killed and abducted several people in the North-West.

 

 

The upsurge in violence in the South-West, it is believed, is fallout of the continuous bloodletting in the North.

 

 

The violence in the South-West reached a crescendo with the recent murder of Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, daughter of Pa Reuben Fasoranti, the leader of pan-Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere.

The activities of these renegades seem to have overwhelmed the political leaders in the region. The governors in the South-West have failed, woefully, to respond appropriately to the challenge posed by activities of the murderers disguising as kidnappers.      

 

 

But the announcement by President Muhammadu Buhari recently that the Federal Government would deploy drones and Close Circuit Televisions (CCTVs) to monitor forests and tackle insecurity in South-West did not only come as a relief to the people, it also rekindled their hope.

 

 

The President spoke while playing host to traditional rulers from the South-West led by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, at the State House.

 

 

The President disclosed that he “will be issuing directives to the appropriate federal authorities to speedily approve licensing for states requesting the use of drones to monitor forests and other criminal hideouts.

“We also intend to install CCTVs on highways and other strategic locations so that activities in some of those hidden places can be exposed, more effectively monitored and open to actionable review.

 

 

 

“This administration will continue to do everything necessary to protect the lives of all Nigerians and ensure that every Nigerian in every state is safe, and that our people can live in peace and harmony, regardless of ethnicity, religion or region.”

 

 

A few days later, the Inspector-General of Police (IG), Mohammed Adamu, said the police would, in the next few days, deploy a special squad in the South-West to tackle kidnapping and other criminal activities.

The Deputy Inspector-General of Police (Operations), Abdulmajid Ali, who disclosed this during a visit to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State in Akure, said the main assignment of the squad was to curb crimes in the region.

 

 

He said the police were keen on making the country safe for everyone.

 

 

Drawing attention to the fact that the dynamics for safeguarding security keep changing, the President noted that government must adapt strategies to these challenges as well as adopt modern, technological and people-centred methods in achieving these goals.

 

 

The plan, as enunciated by the President, is commendable. Criminals have continued to embrace technology, so checking crimes requires deployment of modern technology. 

 

 

Provision of security for the citizens is a cardinal responsibility of any government. Any government that fails to provide adequate security will eventually lose the moral authority to govern. In this light, the Federal Government plan is a welcome development.

 

 

But the President failed to explain how the CCTV would be deployed in a vast area, especially highways, without electricity.

 

 

 

Again, the government has left the issue of insecurity in the South-West to linger for too long. It is a sad commentary on the nation’s efforts to ginger economic growth by attracting foreign investment when what investors read or see as they arrive the country is kidnapping on a daily basis.

 

 

However, it is often said, to be late is better than never. It is not too late.

We urge the government not to procrastinate again in decisively dealing with violent crimes in the South-West and all other parts of the country.

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Editorial

Addressing Nigeria’s unemployment challenge

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Addressing Nigeria’s unemployment challenge

A few days before leaving office, the immediate past Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, confirmed the looming threat about the country’s gradual slide into a higher realm of unemployment. The pronouncement coming from an insider within government circle speaks much about the reality on ground, a reality that other government officials would always want to deny or parry. Ngige’s outcry is not too far from the series of reports that had been churned out by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on the growing unemployment figure despite Federal Government’s claim to providing conducive environment for investment to thrive.

 

According to Ngige, the country’s unemployment rate could reach 33.5 per cent by 2020 from the current rate of 23.1 per cent. The threat is becoming alarming for the fact that in a dispensation where N18,000 (now N30,000) was the minimum wage the country had to contend with a rate as high as 23 per cent coupled with under-employment of 16.6 per cent as reported by the NBS. Prior to the current alarm, the NBS had stated that the number of persons in the labour market increased from 85.1 million in the third quarter of 2017 to 90.5 mil-lion in the third quarter of 2018. The total number of people classified as unemployed increased from 17.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2017 to 20.9 million in the third quarter of 2018.

 

 

Out of this 20.9 million person classified as unemployed as of the third quarter of 2018, the bureau said 11.1 million did under 20 hours a week to be officially classified as employed while 9.7 million did absolutely nothing.

 

The economically active or working-age population (15 – 64 years of age) increased from 111.1 million in Q3, 2017 to 115.5 million in Q3, 2018. The number of persons in the labour force (i.e. people who are able and willing to work) increased from 75.94 mil-lion in Q3 2015 to 80.66 million in Q3 2016 to 85.1 million in Q3, 2017 to 90.5 million in Q3, 2018. From the data, it is obvious that the scale of increase has been steady without any decline.

 

As issues bordering on the growing trend unfold, it further amplifies the failure of various government social intervention programmes since Nigeria gained independence targeted at reducing jobless-ness and eradicating poverty. Besides poor implementation of programmes, mismanagement of resources/ allocation has been identified as some of the factors responsible for growing joblessness. It is an irony that states in the Niger Delta region as at today holds the highest number of un-employed in the country.

 

The South-South has a total of 16.7 million (second-largest) labour force in the country and the highest unemployment rate of 32 per cent in third quarter of 2018. This represents about 5.38 million unemployed people in the region.

 

Further breakdown of the report shows that Akwa Ibom State recorded the highest unemployment rate of 37.7 per cent, followed by Rivers State with 36.4 per cent. Even more disheartening is the fact that from 1972 till date, about 14 different programmes to boost employment have been implemented with no noticeable result. They include the National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAFPP), implemented between 1972 and 1973.

 

There is also the National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), with the N-Power agenda, which is ultimately supposed to contribute to the creation of jobs for young Nigerians. Despite being on the agenda since 2017, and embedded in the National Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020, unemployment rate still remains on the increase, indicating high resilience against the intervention efforts.

 

The Nigerian film industry otherwise known as Nollywood is globally recognised as the third largest film industry in the world after United States’ Hollywood and Indian’s Bollywood. In 2016, it surprisingly contributed about 2.3 per cent, representing N239 billion to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Despite these potentials and the attraction it holds for teeming Nigerian youths, the Federal Government has done nothing other than slowing down the momentum the sector gathered during the previous administration when a whopping $200 million was set aside to encourage stakeholders in the sector.

 

Even though President Muhammadu Buhari made promises to the Nigerian creative industry during his presidential campaign, not much has been recorded in the area of encouragement for an industry with a very expansive value chain and has been surviving barely on the initiative of the founders and the zeal of youths who ply the trade to eke out a living with no support from government. Priority should be given to the sector.

 

To stem the tide of unemployment, we advise that the Federal Government redirect its priority to working on the nation’s infrastructure especially the power sec-tor to enable more people become self-employed. Besides encouraging youths in their lawful engagements, we advise that government should also intensify effort at combating the growing insecurity across the country so as to allow room for businesses to thrive.

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Editorial

Continental teams, NPFL and EPL

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Continental teams, NPFL and EPL

Continental football in Africa started at the weekend and Nigeria’s representatives were not impressive. Actually, it is fast becoming a regular scenario for the country’s flag bearers to flop in continental games. Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL) champion, Enyimba, suffered a 1-0 loss to Rahimo of Burkina Faso in their CAF Champions League first round game played on Saturday, while CAF Confederation Cup campaigners, Niger Tornadoes, also suffered a shock home defeat against little known Santoba Conakry of Guinea.

The match ended 2-1 in favour of the visitors. Issouf Zonon was the match winner for hosts Rahimo against the eight-time Nigeria champions, Enyimba. The Aba team must thank goalkeeper Theophilus Afelokhai who made top-class saves to maintain the one goal deficit.

Niger Tornadoes lost 2-1 at home to minnows from Guinea and will have to secure an away win to retain any chance of moving on in the competition. Meanwhile, the second Nigerian side playing in the Champions League, Kano Pillars, had to come from behind to beat Ghana’s Asante Kotoko 3-2. We believe the narrow win of Pillars in Kano is nothing to be proud of, because just one unreplied goal in Ghana will send the Nigerian representatives out. It means Pillars must be ready to score goals and avoid conceding many in Accra.

Enyimba will also have to dig deep to survive the Burkinabe in the return leg. They have to score one or more goals and avoid conceding in Aba. It was expected that the Aba Elephants will win home and away against the unknown team from Burkina Faso. Rangers, also competing in the Confederation Cup, will not play until August 23.

However, the alarm bell is sounding as the teams are already struggling. No thanks to the delay in the kick-off of the Nigeria Premier Football League (NPFL). We recall that Nigerian football authorities have been working towards making the game grow and also to align the football season with that of Europe.

The country’s model is the English Premier League and it is expected that many decisions and administrative steps should be taken in that regard to enable the players and all actors feel the impact of the EPL format also in the NPLF. EPL started at the weekend with interesting ties across various centres, but no action yet in NPFL. Last season, there was a deliberate attempt to blend the Nigerian league with that of Europe, especially EPL.

This informed the abridged league format, which sparked a row over the number of teams to be relegated and promoted from the lower cadre to the elite. Last week, the League Management Company (LMC) released the guide for the new season and September 20 was picked tentatively as the kickoff date. This is also subject to review and further shift.

The EPL starts this weekend, just like the Turkish and French leagues where many Eagles stars ply their trade. We totally condemn the decision of the LMC to start the domestic league so late such that players of continental teams are still battling for fitness.

Sadly, this has been the case over the years. The attempt of LMC to harmonize the country’s league with that of Europe has not worked so far. For example, two weeks after the end of the European season, the EPL fixtures and kick-off date of the 2019/2020 season were released and it did not change. This is what the organisers of Nigerian league should imbibe. The new Nigerian football season will begin with the orientation and induction of new clubs on August 20 or 21 and will be followed by the Super Cup between League champions, Enyimba of Aba and FA Cup winners, Kano Pillars, on September 7 or 8.

We decry the below-par performances in the CAF Champions League and the CAF Confederation Cup as the teams are now hanging dangerously on the continent. Some of these teams could crash out even before the kick-off of the football season and this is a sad commentary.

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) should work with the LMC to correct this anomaly and put the league in proper shape such that clubs on the continent would have started the season and the league form will help them in their continental campaign. There should be deliberate efforts to bring back sponsors to fund the league and also to take the matches back on television.

We are aware that the teeming fans of the game are anxious to see some of the domestic league players in the Super Eagles, but the template must be right in all ramifications: the welfare of the players, the facilities in the league centres, the salaries, among others. Some of the rules of the LMC should also be evaluated.

The laws aimed at checking hooliganism are not stringent enough to scare teams and players from engaging in acts of hooliganism. The league is the best yardstick to measure the standard of football in any country and the authorities should double efforts to make the harmonization work and improve the lots of the country’s domestic players.

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Editorial

Sowore: Saving Nigeria from dictatorship

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Sowore: Saving Nigeria from dictatorship

The Department of State Services (DSS) last week obtained an order from the court to detain the candidate of African Action Congress (AAC) in the February 23, 2019 presidential election, Omoyele Sowore, for 45 days. That was following his arrest over the plot for a mass protest against bad governance tagged #RevolutionNow.

 

 

Before that court order, Sowore had been in the custody of the DSS for about four days. What it means is that by the time Sowore would be brought to court again, following investigations by the DSS, he would have spent 49 days in detention for planning a protest, which the Federal Government has termed treasonable and a plot to forcefully overthrow a democratically elected government.

 

From the utterances of people in the presidency and their acolytes, only the ballot can remove a duly elected government by the people. It is instructive that Sowore had met with the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, before his latest foray into the revolution protest. We believe that might be the beginning of his problems really.

 

 

Otherwise, nothing could justify the arrest of the activist and publisher of online newspaper, Sahara Reporters, long before the protest lifted off the ground.

 

 

Last week also, the police and other security agencies had a hectic time, trying to quell the pockets of protests from members of the #RevolutionNow group and others, who had massed in Lagos, Abuja and other cities for the planned protest.

 

 

Perhaps, owing to the highhandedness employed by security agencies, the presidency was quick to declare that Nigerians did not join the protest. The presidency engaged in backslapping on the failure of the protest and stopped short of saying that the failure was a result of its own popularity and acceptance by Nigerians.

 

 

But we are worried that a presidency led by President Muhammadu Buhari could term a planned protest an act of terrorism, treason and a plot to subvert the government.

 

 

We are not worried because we have the full contents of Sowore’s activities that occasioned his arrest by the DSS but because we know that since he entered the political fray since 2003, Buhari has been an advocate of revolution, mass protest and the sacking of bad government by the people. He has also been an advocate for the rejection of bad policies of successive governments, while he was in the opposition.

 

 

All through his candidacy that spanned from the All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP) through the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), Buhari continuously encouraged Nigerians to revolt against obnoxious and poor government policies.

 

 

He was seen then as a no nonsense retired Army General, who has joined the progressive rank and believed that the people should have a huge say in stopping   actions of bad governments. We recall that in 2011, for instance, Buhari had praised the people of Egypt for their role in the Arab Spring, which saw the back of then President Hosni Mubarak. Before then, Mubarak has been in power for about 30 years.

 

 

Buhari had also praised the Egyptian Army for allowing the will of the people to prevail. In June 2003, after losing the presidential election to Olusegun Obasanjo of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Buhari and supporters of the ANPP had organised a mass protest against the outcome of the April 19, 2003 presidential election in Abuja.

 

 

They were at the Court of Appeal, venue of the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal to witness the proceeding and later moved to the streets where they chanted slogans against the Obasanjo government. Similarly, the National Leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu, had on September 29, 2014, in a statement titled, ‘A Return to Decency’, also called for a revolution by the people. Tinubu had said:

 

 

“The longer they rule, the less benefit the people derive. Nigeria now needs a ‘common sense revolution,’ a revolution that calls forth a return to decency, probity, transparency of process and fairness in outcome.”

 

 

 

Although, defenders of Buhari and Tinubu could argue that both of them called for a revolution through the ballot box, we were not allowed the opportunity to hear the manner of revolution Sowore wanted from Nigerians.

 

 

Before he could even start the first rally, he was clamped into detention. We are aware that apart from Buhari and Tinubu, many other Nigerians have previously called for revolution, organized mass protests against sitting governments and also openly criticized sitting governments, including presidents and National Assembly members. The 2012 anti-fuel subsidy that crippled the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s government and Nigeria comes to mind.

 

 

Those calls and protests were taken in their strides, by their merit, since under democracy, people are entitled to their views. We do not have the information at the disposal of the DSS or the presidency on Sowore and his activities. But we are certain that under a democratic government, protests, street marches and speaking openly against a government are all parts of the ingredients of the system.

 

 

We do not in any way believe that Sowore has an army he is organizing to overthrow the government of the day. We do not see how his planned march amounted to treason and a plot to remove the government.

 

 

Rather, we believe that if his views are popular with Nigerians, then it is left for the government to adjust itself and know that Nigerians are not pleased.

 

By detaining Sowore, the government has again made a hero of him and given him more popularity than his protests would have given him. He is now a political prisoner, held by government for speaking out against perceived bad governance.

 

That, we believe, is not the way of democracy.

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Editorial

Rape of varsity student: The soldiers must be prosecuted

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Rape of varsity student: The soldiers must be prosecuted

Recently, some soldiers of the 32 Artillery Brigade of the Nigeria Army allegedly raped a 300-level student of the Department of Religious and African Studies, Adekunke Ajasin University (AAUA), Akungba Akoko.

The student was reported to be in company of other students and on their way home from the campus when the bus they were travelling in was stopped at a military checkpoint at Ikare Akoko in the Akoko North-East Local Government Area of Ondo State. The soldiers asked the hapless girl to disembark from the vehicle and took her to their mini-barrack where the sickening act took place.

It wasn’t until about an hour later that the student was released and she recounted her ordeal to fellow students. She was taken to the hospital for examination where it was confirmed that she was indeed raped. The matter was also reported at the police station.

This act is not only condemnable, it is inconceivable. How is it that soldiers who are supposed to protect innocent citizens turn around to brutalise, traumatise and rape the same citizens? Incidents like this naturally questions how we recruit people into the armed forces and the kind of people that get into such sensitive agencies.

People recruited into our security agencies cannot be the dregs of the earth. They cannot be those who, unable to secure employment elsewhere, see the military or the police as a last resort or refuge. In this regard, we must ensure that the screening process is such that the crooked timber of humanity is excluded from getting into such sensitive outfits.

We also want to emphasise in the strongest possible terms that the soldiers who perpetrated that most abhorrent act on an innocent student must be prosecuted and made to face the full wrath of the law. Anything short of this will be a travesty. Thankfully, it was reported that the soldiers involved in the rape case had been arrested by the Brigade Commander of the 32 Artillery Brigade of the Nigeria Army, Akure, Ondo State. While we commend this action, we want to add that this must be followed through to its logical conclusion.

The army authorities must ensure that the rotten eggs among them, who have continued to give the armed forces a bad name, are fished out and dealt with appropriately. In this regard, this case provides not only a test, but also an opportunity for the army to do something about its image, which, it must be said, has taken a battering in recent time. This is not a time to dissemble. This is not a time to try and protect its own. Indeed, it is a time for the army to do the right and proper thing. The soldiers concerned must be handed over to the police for proper investigation and prosecution to take place. We feel constrained to underline the importance of this because on August 9, the management of AAUA revealed that the army authorities are yet to hand over the suspects to the police and this is over two weeks after the incident took place.

Again, while we understand the need to have the army on the roads and highways at this most difficult time when the country is in the grip of insurgency, kidnapping, banditry and all manner of lawlessness, we must also advise that the deployment of soldiers to carry out normal police duties must be done with caution and high sense of responsibility. This is possibly the reason the management of AAUA called for the dismantling of the checkpoint in Ikare-Akoko and the soldiers moved to between Oba-Akoko and Ose, where kidnappings and robberies occur almost on a daily basis. Apparently, the soldiers are not busy where they are deployed; if they are fully engaged in battling crimes and criminals, they won’t have the time to be violating innocent young women.

However, it is also our belief that the school authorities have a role to play in all of this. Is it impossible for the institution to provide more accommodation for the students on campus? Building more hostels will drastically reduce the travelling to and from the campus that students engage in on a daily basis and decrease, if not eliminate, their exposure to criminals and evil soldiers, the sort that operate at the checkpoint at Ikare-Akoko.

Finally, we want to commend the student for having the courage to narrate her ordeal. Very often in such cases, victims refuse to talk about it for fear of stigmatisation. They keep the rape to themselves and do not seek help. This silence has the twin implication of not only damaging the victims for life, but also helping culprits go scot-free and even further emboldened to continue their despicable acts. We advise the young lady to seek professional therapy to deal with the trauma and sense of worthlessness that rape victims struggle with so that no long-lasting damage is done to her psyche.

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Editorial

Safeguarding Nigeria’s airports

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Safeguarding Nigeria’s airports

N

igeria, again, opened itself negatively to the global community on July 19, 2019 when a foreigner, precisely a Nigerien, was seen crawling out of an aircraft engine that was settling for take-off.

 

 

 

The experience, which caught passengers and crew by surprise, no doubt, added to the myriad of embarrassing and episodic surprises the country has continued to export to the outside world.

All over the world, save for some third world countries, tight security is not just a priority for airports and borders but a commitment that is reinforced with all the primacy it deserves.

 

On several occasions, Nigeria has proven to be lacking in this respect due mainly to the leaders’ tendency to remain reactive on issues rather than taking necessary steps to prevent them.

 

 

Although cases of incursions and stowaways are evident across the world, it is much more disheartening and incredulous down here that a country currently being ravaged by terrorists, and an assemblage of bandits here and there could afford to leave its airport security flanks open, up to the point of a total stranger finding his way into the engine of an aircraft.

 

 

The near tragic act played out by the culprit, Usman Adamu, on an Azman aircraft taxiing for take-off at the domestic wing of the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos certainly made a mockery of the security apparatus at the nation’s airports, and not just that of Lagos alone.

 

 

Experience in the past few months, leaving aside what had happened in far past, had seriously exposed the underbelly of the porous airport security architecture, which urgently needs to be reappraised to meet new aviation challenges.

 

 

In the current climate of insecurity in Nigeria, it is unthinkable that airport security officials would go to sleep as to allow an unauthorised person did not only get into a supposedly restricted area but also climbed into the engine of an aircraft that is set to take off.

This is not the first time the country would be plied with issues like this, and no one has gone to jail or even sacked for it. In 2013 and 2014, the country witnessed about 17 security breaches and another in 2017, which was a most daring experience, wherein an aircraft that just landed was robbed while still taxiing on the runway.

 

 

The private jet carrying two top Nigerian musical artists, Ayodeji Ibrahim Balogun aka “Wizkid” and Tiwa Savage from Uyo, the capital of Akwa Ibom State, was attacked and robbed while taxiing on Murtala Muhammed airport’s runway 18L.

 

 

The pilot, who noticed the cargo door opened by burglars, promptly notified the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) security, but the burglars had disappeared before FAAN officials could make it to the point where the attack took place.

 

 

Although FAAN hurriedly handed indefinite suspension to the security officials on duty including the aviation security unit heads pending completion of ongoing investigation into the regrettable security infringement, it should in all seriousness ensure that those found culpable are not given another slap in the wrist.

If one could recall vividly, a similar incident happened at Benin airport a few years ago when a teenager did not only find his way into the landing gear compartment of Arik aircraft, but successfully, by divine mercy, flew inside it to Lagos.

 

 

The boy was suspected to have sneaked into the aircraft’s wheel at the Benin-City airport. One intriguing aspect of the saga was the claim by Arik Air that the pilot that flew the aircraft had reported to the control tower in Benin-City moments before take-off that he noticed a boy in the bush about 200 – 300 meters at the end of runway.

 

 

However, as another reflection of the security officials’ lackadaisical attitude to issues of such magnitude, Arik Air quoted the control tower as telling the captain that they were sending security men to arrest the boy but eventually cleared the pilot for take-off even without seeing any trace of the boy. As at today, no word has been heard about anybody punished for that security breach.

 

 

It is becoming a thing of shame that even with the billions of naira said to have been spent in remodelling and refurbishing some of the airports a few years ago, high resolution Close Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras were not installed at the airports that practically share boundaries with local communities.

 

 

It is even more disingenuous on the part of FAAN to tell the world in this age and time that contract for perimeter fencing had just been awarded for airports that are over 20 years old.

 

 

While we commend FAAN for suspending the security personnel on duty at the time of the last incident, we, however, advise they should be taught a lesson to serve as deterrent to others, not just aviation but other agencies of government.

 

 

We also advise that whatever has to be done as regards reinforcing security at the airports and other sensitive places be done quickly as the current spate of insecurity is becoming real and scary.

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