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Need for caution in NCAA, banks, telco’s scuffle

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Need for caution in NCAA, banks, telco’s scuffle

The aviation sector regulator, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), last week, threatened to demolish 8,805 masts belonging to some banks and mobile telecommunications firm, Globacom. This, NCAA said, is because the banks and telcom firm are running their networks and providing interconnectivity to millions of subscribers without Aviation Height Clearance (AHC) Certificate, thereby jeopardising safety of air navigation. Even to a layman, NCAA’s planned action is a beguiled threat to the already fragile security of the country as the communication and networking infrastructure has come to bond so many things. We appreciate the fact that so far, in trying not to raise more dusts, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has approached the issue maturely by reporting the threat to the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).

The pronouncement on its own has generated reactions, not just from the telecom stakeholders, but members of the public, who also feel it would amount to effrontery of sort for such step to be taken without considering the wide ranging negative effect on the country’s security and socio-economic sphere in general.

While not attempting to play the role of an advocate for any of the parties involved in the matter, it is, however, very important to first recognise the fact that no matter how important an infrastructure is, including that of telecommunication, which is listed as critical national security infrastructure, the aviation safety rule of any nation must also not be compromised. As it stands globally, any structure, whether temporary or permanent, which has the potential to endanger aviation in navigable airspace, or has the potential to interfere with the operation of navigation or surveillance systems, is practically considered an obstacle.

What has indeed played out since the emergence of mobile telecommunication system in the country as far as right of way is concerned shows lack of planning and synergy in some respect as this is not the first time the telecom operators would be having problem with agencies and government over mast erection and laying of fibre optic cables.

As far back as 2004, telecommunications service providers have geared up for a big fight with Lagos State government over the state Infrastructure Maintenance and Regulatory Agency Bill. Even as recent as 2018, almost 15 years after GSM came into the country, Taraba State government, despite the raging insecurity in the state, still shut down some facilities belonging to the service providers over environ-mental impact assessment issues. Also, Kogi State recently shut down masts belonging to a telco. All of these show that it is either there are no standards for the facilities to thrive or that the telecom sector is seen as cash cow that must be milked at the slightest opportunity.

The fear that the threat currently poses to the nation is that while NCAA is empowered by law to ensure safety of the country’s airspace, its action, if not properly thought through, could ground the country to a halt and put the entire security architecture in danger and worsen already bad situation. Available report revealed that many of the masts have been allowed to stay in critical places in and around airports despite warnings from NCAA that they could cause accident.

This, we consider not so healthy, even though the aviation regulatory agency might have deliberately looked elsewhere while the rules were being flouted. Not a few believe that apart from the threat of unduly exposing the country to security risk as the action would trigger communication blackout, Federal Government’s financial inclusion target and emergence of high level cashless society would also be threatened as financial institutions depend mostly on the telecoms infrastructure to drive the process. No one is in conflict with NCAA’s power.

It derives its powers to demolish such objects blocking airways from the Nigeria Civil Aviation Regulations (NigCARS) Part 12.1.7.1.3.1 which stipulates that: “No person or organisation shall put up a structure (permanent or temporary) within the navigable airspace of Nigeria unless such a person or organisation is a holder of Aviation Height Clearance Certificate granted under this regulation.”

In all of this, however, the big question remains: Why did NCAA allow a situation to degenerate before blowing the whistle on the culprits? A mast is not erected in a few hours. So many things, from locating and identifying site to installation proper, which takes days or weeks, go into erecting one. Why wait till over 8,000 masts had been fully installed before asking the organisations concerned to come get clearance? Putting this question into proper perspective also gives credence to the position of Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) that NCAA is only trying to rake in funds from its latest threat.

In order not to be going back and forth over issues that should not result to major national crisis, we advise that synergy and proper planning should always guide the process from the beginning. Specifically, in the current dispensation, we call on NCAA and ALTON to put heads together and arrive at a common ground, so as to forestall any likely threat to the nation’s security and financial apparatus due to the planned decommissioning.

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Editorial

Merger, unbundling of federal ministries

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Merger, unbundling of federal ministries

When President Muhammadu Buhari assigned portfolios to ministers recently after their earlier screening by the Senate, one thing came out clearly: certain ministries were separated, just as some others were reintroduced.

For instance, the Ministry of Police Affairs was removed from the Ministry of Interior and it now stands alone. Aviation, which was hitherto subsumed under the Ministry of Transportation, has also been carved out. Interestingly, these two were full-fledged ministries before Buhari merged them.

The Ministry of Finance has been merged with Ministry of Budget and National Planning, while the president created Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, and Ministry of Special Duties and International Affairs.

So, the questions that necessarily arise are: why were these ministries merged in the first place? How was the decision to fuse them reached? How rigorous was the process? Was it a result of a kneejerk response reminiscent of the sort that led to the scrapping of History as a subject from Nigerian school curricula?

Howbeit, Buhari gave reasons for the detachment of Ministry of Police Affairs from Ministry of Interior, attributing it to the security challenges in the country.

“Working with the state governments also, we intend to improve the equipping of the Police Force with advanced technology and equipment that can facilitate their work. To drive this, I recently created a full-fledged Ministry of Police Affairs,” Buhari said.

Security challenges in the country, even in 2015, had already assumed an alarming dimension and proving intractable for government to handle. The sanguinary campaign of Boko Haram in the North-East was at its worst, with swathes of the country’s territory captured by the terrorist group. Communal crisis, herder/farmers’ clashes were almost routine. Kidnapping for ransom, armed robbery and other forms of criminal activities were rampant, making it imperative for the Ministry of Police Affairs to stand alone. So, the president’s reasons are a bit curious.

The subsuming of the aviation ministry under the larger transportation ministry by Buhari in 2015 was similarly a curious decision. From the First Republic, aviation had always been on its own, reflective of the importance of air travel to modern economies.

By far the most curious of these decisions was the fusion of works, housing and power into one ministry. These are three very important ministries that require huge amount of work. Saddling one minister with the responsibility of overseeing these ministries, no matter how brilliant that person is, was asking too much. Their fusion, to say the least, was ill-advised and the last four years only served to underline the futility of that merger decision.

It is evident that certain ministries deserve to be on their own because of their strategic nature, but we have continued to tinker and engage in trial and error. This predilection to tinker, which is not something that started today, is shocking, because these are matters where we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. More mature democracies have shown the way; all we need to do is copy with some variations to suit our peculiar needs. These inconsistencies and flip flop do not in any way show us as a serious people.

But now that power had been removed from the other two ministries, it is expected that electricity generation and distribution will improve correspondingly. Also, the fact that the ministry now has two ministers should make this dream more realisable.

However, Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, stated recently that the problem is one of a lack of capacity on the part of the electricity distribution companies (DisCos), suggesting that Nigerians might not enjoy stable electricity in the near future.

Osinbajo said: “Despite all the availability of about 8,000MW of generation and 7,000MW of transmission capacity, the lack of infrastructure to absorb and deliver grid power to end-users on the part of DisCos has largely restricted generation to an average of about 4,000MW and sometimes even falling below 4,000MW.

It is evident that despite all the efforts that have been put in to expand the grid, the structure of the market today cannot deliver on government’s promises to provide power for domestic and industrial use. A substantial change of strategy is necessary. There is clearly a need for a change of strategy. What we have done in the past has taken us to a point where there is clearly a change of strategy.”

Given the above scenario, we want to appeal to government to take action in regards to the problem of infrastructural deficiency of the DisCos. The DisCos must be made to urgently sort out their capacity problem, otherwise the reason for removing the power ministry from the erstwhile behemoth will be defeated.

However, we commend government for finally realising the unwieldiness of the ministry and unbundling it. We also note the decision to reintroduce police affairs and aviation as stand-alone ministries, and hope that the country reaps the benefit of such decisions.

We also hope that the fusion of the Ministry of Finance with the Ministry of Budget and National Planning will engender effective delivery of services. These two ministries are critical in the running of government.

It is our believe that this will be the last time government will engage in these needless periodic mergers and subsequent unbundling that have been part of the country’s ministerial history.

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Nigeria, U.S.’ rift over visa fee

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Nigeria, U.S.’ rift over visa fee

The United States recently announced a hike in the fees for Nigerians applying for various categories of visas effective from Thursday, August 29, 2019.

The new visa regime, which came three months after the U.S. cancelled the dropbox system for Nigerian visa applicants, will apply to all Nigerians applying for visa worldwide.

In the revised schedule, Nigerians applying for tourism, student and business visas will pay both the non-immigrant visa application fee of N59,200 and an additional fee of $110 (N40,700), thereby bringing the sum of visa fee to N99,900. However, Nigerian applicants who are denied visas would not need to pay the new $110 (N40,700).

The Public Affairs Section of U.S. Embassy in Abuja said the increased visa fee was done based on the principle of reciprocity and designed to eliminate the cost difference between what U.S. citizens pay to obtain Nigerian visas and what Nigerians pay to obtain U.S. visa.

The embassy said that the U.S. law requires that visa fees and validity periods are based on the treatment accorded U.S. citizens by foreign governments. Under the principle of reciprocity, when a foreign government imposes additional visa fees on U.S. citizens, the United States will impose reciprocal fees on citizens of that country for similar types of visas.

According to the U.S. Embassy, the increment was done after talks with Nigerian government on the need to reduce visa cost for U.S. citizens to Nigeria broke down.

Barely 48 hours after U.S. announced the hike in its visa fees, the Federal Government of Nigeria announced an immediate reduction in visa fees payable by U.S. citizens seeking to travel to Nigeria. By the reduction, U.S. citizens are now to pay $150, as against the $180 for procuring visas to Nigeria.

The action, which was taken by the Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, was seen in many circles as a pre-emptive one aimed at forestalling a possible diplomatic row between both countries. The ministry acknowledged that there were engagements with the United States Embassy on the issue and, in the aftermath, a committee was set up to conduct due diligence in line with extant policy on reciprocity of visa fees.

It said that though the committee had concluded its assignment and submitted a report, the issuance of authorisation for implementation of its recommendations was delayed due to transition processes in the ministry. If these explanations were directed at appeasing the United States and dissuading it from giving effect to its new visa fee, the move failed, as the U.S. insisted on its planned action the following day.

This is quite unfortunate and should serve as a lesson to Nigeria. As the U.S. stated and Nigeria corroborated, there were discussions between both countries on how to ensure relative parity in their visa fees.

It is apparent that there was an agreement in principle for Nigeria to make the needed changes, but this move was unduly delayed. We learnt that 18 months after the review and consultations, the government of Nigeria failed to change its visa fee regime for U.S. applicants, which forced the U.S. Department of State to unleash the new reciprocity fees.

As it stands now, Nigeria has boxed itself into a corner because we failed to do the needful at the right time. What we could have resolved diplomatically and behind the scene, we have allowed to blow up in our face. If we could reduce the visa fees within 48 hours after the U.S. took its punitive action, what exactly held us back to take such a swift action long before now? Agreed that Nigeria held its general election earlier in the year and President Muhammadu Buhari did not inaugurate his cabinet until a few weeks ago, there is no excuse for delaying action on the visa fee, which has already been reviewed downwards during the last dispensation. The permanent secretary, Ministry of Interior, who took charge in the absence of a minister, is a top ranking bureaucrat, who should have known better and, perhaps, acted better on this matter.

We think that going forward, Nigeria’s Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Foreign Affairs need to be more sensitive to the dynamics of decent bilateral relations. Our officials who serve in these two strategic ministries must understand that they are not just dealing with people, but dealing with the international community, who expect to be treated according to international best practices. Nigerian Missions across the world are the windows through which foreign nationals and their home countries see Nigeria and what we stand for as a people.

In international relations and diplomacy, there is not just the principle of reciprocity, there is also the principle of pacta san savanda, which literally means that agreements, once reached, must be respected. Nigeria must, henceforth, learn to adhere to mutual agreements reached with other nations and avoid situations where our conduct portrays us as a people lacking discipline and dignity.

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Editorial

NFF and the Eagles of tomorrow

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NFF and the Eagles of tomorrow

 

W

hen teams file out for the 90 minutes game of football, many other off pitch factors play out to determine the outcome of the game. In fact, top football administrators all over the world agree that the better percentage of what guarantees a good result in football are off the pitch activities of the administrators and players.

We expect the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) to be up and doing in its relationship with the Super Eagles’ players and other national teams. The Federation must be able to win the trust of the players and officials in terms of welfare, remunerations and overall day-to-day affairs of the team. For example, it is shameful that the match bonus of the Super Eagles for their third place match at the Africa Nations Cup, which ended July in Egypt, is yet to be paid, while the U-23 technical crew members are being owed six months, just as Eagles coach, Gernot Rohr, is being owed two months salaries.

These, we say, are distractions that could affect the progress of football generally in the country, because when the principal actors are not happy, things are not likely to be in place for success.     

Last week Tuesday, as the Olympic Eagles were beating Sudan 5-0 at the Stephen Keshi Stadium, Asaba, the Super Eagles were also on duty in Dnipro for a friendly encounter against Ukraine.

These two games presented a very good picture of the future of football in Nigeria. In the U-23 match, Kelechi Nwakali and Taiwo Awoniyi were prominent names in the team that should have been in the Super Eagles. Others like skipper Azubuike Okechukwu, Fatai Gbadamosi, Onyeka Ogochukwu, Sunusi Ibrahim, Sunday Faleye and Stephen Odey are also very good and close to graduating to higher cadre.

Good enough, those in the Super Eagles are also players who are legitimately U-23 team players. Francis Uzohor, Samuel Chukwueze, Alex Iwobi, Samuel Kalu, Victor Osimhen, Josh Maja, Kelechi Iheanacho are within the U-23 team bracket.

The U-23 team players were a delight to watch with so much aggression and mobility. In Dnipro, we commend the quality displayed by the Super Eagles, it was indeed remarkable. The movements, energy, cohesion and skills exhibited were highly commendable as the Nigerian team played as if they were at home. It was not a surprise that the Eagles led 2-0 at half time in the match that eventually ended 2-2.

It was the first match of the Eagles after the Nations Cup competition where the country won bronze. We noted that Joe Aribo, a debutant from Rangers of Scotland, was outstanding. Chukwueze, Kalu, Osimhen and Iwobi also did well, but they recorded misses, which could have put the match beyond the home team, but we are aware that in friendly games, the results are of little significance.

Keeper Uzohor was also very brilliant. He made point blank saves and coordinated the defence well. On more than two occasions, he saved well-taken free-kicks to keep the Eagles in control of the encounter.

From all indications, the future is really bright for the Eagles with the crop of players coming up. It was good to see Oghenekaro Etebo withdraw to play Wilfred Ndidi’s role, while William Troost Ekong stood firm in the absence of Keneth Omeruo. Overall, a keen follower of the game would be happy with the display of the Eagles in the friendly encounter.

We commend the current board of the NFF for staging friendly games almost at every FIFA window. Against Ukraine, Gernot Rohr was poor as the team threw away two-goal lead due to his poor game management. Rohr and his technical team should have done better last week Tuesday.

We also observed that the players were very active with the recent moves made by many of them to teams where they are guaranteed first team shirts.

It is important for NFF to discuss with Rohr, his assistants and the handlers of the U-23 team on how best to make the abundant talents count in the nearest future.

The likes of Osimhen, Chukwueze, Nwakali, Awoniyi and Aribo should explode in the next three years at the World Cup. It is difficult to believe this is a team that has lost two big names in Odion Ighalo and Mikel Obi.

The future is here. But, managing these players is very important. The coaches and NFF must be interested in the career moves of players and there must be a good relationship with handlers of their respective teams abroad.

There must be better efforts by the chieftains of the Federation in the administration of the Super Eagles. We believe these players are young and, if well managed, could bring back the country’s lost football glory. This is because about 70 per cent of the players can still be in the team in the next eight to 10 years. NFF will have to double effort to make the current Eagles rule Africa consistently and be among the best five in the world.

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Nigeria must fight the $9.6bn P&ID judgement debt

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Nigeria must fight the $9.6bn P&ID judgement debt

 

 

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hen the news of $9.6 billion (anticipatory and accrued interests) awarded against Nigeria by a British court for defaulting in a contract with Irish firm, Process and Industrial Developments Limited (P&ID), first surfaced, Nigerians were bewildered and shocked. The contract was to build a gas plant in the country.

But events since have shown that this may just be one of the biggest scams in the history of contract awards. The owner of the Irish firm, Michael Quinn, it has emerged actually stole the idea for the gas plant from former Nigeria Defence Minister and oil magnate, General Theophilus Danjuma.

 

 

It has also transpired that the $40 million that Quinn claimed to have spent on the deal was actually money belonging to the retired General. Those are the same funds that P&ID now wants to be compensated for after claiming default on the part of the Nigerian government. So, what exactly does P&ID want to be compensated for? A plant that was not built or $40 million they claimed to have spent which in truth didn’t belong to them?

 

 

It is interesting that P&ID can be accusing Nigeria of default in laying the pipes for the gas facility when there was nothing on whatsoever to show that the company had done anything to get the gas plant off the ground.

 

 

It is also clear that having worked in Nigeria for decades, Quinn and his co-travellers had come to know the Nigerian system so well and took advantage of the lapses so ruthlessly and totally. The deal it seems was designed to fail from the very beginning. That much is also getting clearer. Why was the case taken for arbitration in London? Was a clause inserted in the deal that arbitration, in case of a default, would be in Britain? If that was the case, nothing smacks more of a foreknowledge of evil intention.

 

 

Quinn founded P&ID in 2010 specifically to carry out his bid for the gas contract. And after two years of no action on the part of Nigerian government, P&ID decided to take the matter to arbitration in London for breach of contract.

However, it is instructive that the deal didn’t pass through the Federal Executive Council (FEC); that in itself is problematic. For a contract as big as that, not going through the FEC for approval is a red flag. Why was it not taken to the FEC? The Attorney General then, Michael Aondoakaa, had said the contract was not seen let alone discussed at FEC. The Petroleum Minister at that time, Rilwanu Lukman, it seems unilaterally approved a deal of that magnitude without recourse to the president. It should be noted, however, that the president at that time, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, was already grievously ill.

 

 

Aondoakaa said: “As the Attorney General, I should have known about the contract but the first time I heard about it was when I read it in the newspapers. A contract of that magnitude is not something you sign in an office, not even the President has the power to unilaterally approve such a contract without recourse to the Council (FEC).”

 

 

The former Justice Minister noted that he suspected that the contract was a product of corruption. He therefore called on the Federal Government to file corruption charges against the company and its Nigerian collaborators. He argued that if a case of fraud could be established, it would invalidate the judgement against Nigeria.

 

 

These are weighty claims by someone who should know and they must not be treated with levity by Nigerian government. Interestingly, the then Vice President, Goodluck Jonathan, who was later to inherit the contract debacle was not part of the decision-making process.

 

 

It transpired that P&ID agreed to a settlement of $850 million around May 2015, the twilight of Jonathan’s administration. Why was the payment not made by Jonathan? The reason for this refusal and that government’s handling of the whole saga will still have to be interrogated.

 

 

However, what is clear in all of this, is that the Nigerian system lends itself to easy manipulation by unscrupulous contractors and elements from everywhere and their local collaborators. But the country must find a way to strengthen its system such that this type of deal by P&ID never happens again.

 

 

That P&ID was purposely created for the sole aim of defrauding Nigeria, is becoming inescapable. To this effect, Nigeria must fight this case with everything at its disposal and it must do so with singular resolve. Nigeria should approach the Irish and British governments to find a satisfying solution to this debacle. There are many Irish and British companies in Nigeria, and these firms should provide a leverage for Nigeria to negotiate from a position of strength.

 

 

Although we cannot help but wonder why Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, didn’t do anything about the initial $850 million award, we agree with him when he said: “The Federal Government shall, therefore, vigorously defend her interest against the enforcement of the said judgement and take appropriate steps to institute Contract Implementation Compliance Policy in order to prevent such occurrence in the future.”

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Editorial

Fighting security challenges with technology

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Insecurity is probably at its peak 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 gangraped 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 sociocultural 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 rul-ers 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

Restriction on herdsmen in South-East

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Restriction on herdsmen in South-East

The governors of the five states in the South-East rose from a meeting last Saturday and announced a ban on herdsmen moving around with AK-47 rifles and machetes in the geo-political zone.

The pronouncement, which was made by the Chairman, South-East Governors Forum, Dave Umahi, while briefing reporters after the forum’s meeting in Enugu, also came with the desire of the governors to seek an audience with President Muhammadu Buhari and security chiefs over security issues affecting the zone.

The meeting, where the decision was taken, was attended by governors of Ebonyi, Anambra, Imo and Enugu states and the deputy governor of Abia State.

The governors said meeting Buhari and the security chiefs would help reduce tension in the zone.

Umahi said: “We have banned herders who move around with AK-47 and machetes and we want the security agencies to enforce the order.

“We also agreed that we have to put measures in place to restrain movement of herdsmen and their cattle from one state to another, which is a source and point of conflict with the natives and farmers.”

Incidentally, the governors denied being the brains behind Operation Python Dance in the region in 2017.

We commend the governors for their definitive stand on the menace of herdsmen in the region. The decision could not have been taken at a better time, considering that of recent, suspected herders, kidnappers and other crime-minded people, some Igbo inclusive, have been moving unrestrained in the zone.

The meeting was held in Enugu, the political capital of the South-East. Instructively, Enugu State itself has, of recent, been the hotbed of nefarious activities of the criminal herders and their accomplices. More than any other state in the South-East, Enugu has borne the ignominious burden of the activities of bandits, criminal herders and kidnappers.

Quite recently, two priests of the Catholic Church were kidnapped and murdered in cold blood. The tension generated by the killings and other high profile kidnap cases in the zone are still running.

We believe that it is left for Buhari and the security chiefs to help the governors enforce the ban in order to arrest what is turning out to be an embarrassment to the governors and their region.

That becomes imperative considering the new threat offered by members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and their allies in the region.

Just recently, a former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, was molested and attacked in Germany, where he had gone to celebrate the traditional new yam festival with the Igbo community in Nuremberg. Ekweremadu’s attackers wondered why he travelled to Germany for a yam festival when his people were being killed, maimed and women raped.

Since then, IPOB has issued different threats to the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the governors and other prominent Igbo sons and daughters not to venture out of the country for any reason or risk being attacked. The IPOB threat, pedestrian as it may seem, has raised the ante of apprehension in the region, with many wondering who would be the next victim of attack or molestation.

We do not subscribe to the modus being applied by IPOB and its co-travellers. Neither do we believe that their threat is to be taken seriously enough to restrict Igbo leaders from travelling.

But we are worried that the governors of the region may have, at last, sensed the panic among the people in arriving at the decision. There is no gainsaying the fact that the threat posed by a few individual IPOB members abroad might even be stronger at home.

We believe that the governors of the region might be rushing to save an ugly situation from degenerating further.

One thing is certain. From the South-East to the South-West, South-South to the North-West, North-East to North-Central, many are not pleased with the security situation in the country. The manner of expressing the displeasure differs in approach and utterances.

Governor of Katsina State, Aminu Masari, had cried out about bandits overrunning his state. Currently, both the governors of Zamfara – Bello Matawalle – and Katsina are negotiating with bandits to achieve peace in their states.

The South-East governors have chosen not to negotiate. They have also chosen to be bold in confronting their monster. We believe that they are not only trying to solve the insecurity problem, but also to preserve themselves and be seen by the people to be proactive in solving the insecurity problems. We are however of the view that the ban would be limited to herders that bear arms alone. In the first instance, herders have been in the region for decades. But the arrival of those bearing arms changed the relationship.

There is therefore the need for the governors to ensure proper enforcement of the order in the five states of the region. Much as there is the need to keep South Easterners happy with their governors, there is also the need to recognise that the constitution of Nigeria allows for free movement of citizens across all states. The ban must not be used to victimise innocent herders who go about in search of their daily bread with their cattle. We also call on security agencies to help the governors maintain sanity in their domains. Anything short of that could make the governors themselves and prominent Igbo leaders endangered species in their homes.

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Editorial

No to selective rewards, reception of athletes

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No to selective rewards, reception of athletes

In every sphere of human endeavours, it is always good to strive for equal treatment of people in a society. Administrators in politics and every area of human life make efforts to give equal treatment to people. In cases where attention gets to one person or the other, it has to be marginal and there should be a good reason for it.

In sports, recent trends have shown that athletes are not being treated equally in terms of remunerations and rewards.

Sad enough, we observed that some individual athletes excel in various ways but they are not rewarded as expected or celebrated by the ministry or the Federal Government. For example, wrestler Odunayo Adekuoroye has been very consistent in the past two years. She has won many global events including about four this year alone. In her category in wrestling, she is Number 3 in the world. It also means she is a medal prospect in the sport at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.

Aruna Quadri is also consistent in table tennis. He has won African title and excelled at ITTF circuits such that he is number 19 in the world according to the latest rankings of the highest table tennis body in the world.

Adekuoroye and Quadri deserve commendation from the very top for their exploits for the country in the past two years in their respective disciplines. They are also quiet achievers that get results without controversy.

We call on the new Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Mr. Sunday Dare, to look into this because there should be a system to deal with rewards across all sports plus football to further motivate athletes to perform much better in various sports disciplines.

It is important to state that the issue of policy has been a big subject in the sports sector due to poor planning and other strange ways things evolve in the sporting arena. There is no template to execute various administrative aspects in sports. The federations and athletes are not sure of attending competitions outside the country no matter how important and they have no guarantee on what the government will give them after performing well at international meets. At the just concluded African Games, it was great that the ministry of sports maintained a system that started few years back by rewarding athletes for medals won in Morocco. A cash reward of $3,000 was given out to every gold medallist, $2,000 for silver winners and $1,500 for bronze medallists. Also, gold medallists in team events got $6,000, bronze got $4,500. 

However, we frown at the fact that there is no standard way of dealing with athletes and this is so sad and could be counter-productive. Some of the country’s top athletes are feeling so unwanted to the extent of threatening to switch allegiance to other countries. Some of them believe the country is not worth the stress of putting up a good performance. For example, the grants for elite athletes did not get to them until shortly before the just concluded African Games while some received it during the competition in Morocco and, in fact, some are yet to get the grants. Those who received were given $3,000 instead of the $5,000 they were promised.

We commend the sports ministry for the instant cash reward of the athletes in Morocco but it would have been perfect to ensure they had a dinner with President Muhammadu Buhari shortly after arrival. If they are not going to be given further cash rewards, there should be words of encouragement from the number one citizen to further motivate the athletes for future performances.

We make bold to say some athletes work hard to excel at competitions simply because they look forward to getting a presidential handshake someday. If money or rewards come, it could be a bonus but many athletes cherish having a dinner with the President in Aso Rock. This is fast becoming a thing of the past because it was not done for the Team Nigeria contingent after placing overall second in Morocco.

Another big setback was the neglect of the national women’s basketball team, D’Tigress, who were in Senegal last month and they defeated all teams including the host Senegal in the final to retain the AfroBasket title. It was a big feat because the AfroBasket title is equivalent to African Nations Cup trophy in football. It was a shock that the victorious ladies were not taken to Aso Rock for a reception with the President. Clearly, this cannot happen to football. Same happened to the Super Falcons after winning the AWCON title. If the Super Eagles lift AFCON trophy, it is likely that the team moves straight to Aso Rock after arrival.

We insist that there should be equal appreciation for our athletes and national teams. If football gets huge attention, at least other sports should not be treated with disdain. We charge Sunday Dare to deal with this situation and create a template for reward system in sports.

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Editorial

Unbundling and merger of ministries

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Unbundling and merger of ministries

W

hen President Muhammadu Buhari assigned portfolios to ministers recently after their earlier screening by the Senate, one thing came out clearly: certain ministries were separated, just as some others were reintroduced.

 

 

For instance, the Ministry of Police Affairs was removed from the Ministry of Interior and it now stands alone. Aviation, which was hitherto subsumed under the Ministry of Transportation, has also been carved out. Interestingly, these two were full-fledged ministries before Buhari merged them.

 

 

The Ministry of Finance has been merged with Ministry of Budget and National Planning, while the president created Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, and Ministry of Special Duties and International Affairs.

 

 

So, the questions that necessarily arise are: why were these ministries merged in the first place? How was the decision to fuse them reached? How rigorous was the process? Was it a result of a kneejerk response reminiscent of the sort that led to the scrapping of History as a subject from Nigerian school curricula?

 

 

Howbeit, Buhari gave reasons for the detachment of Ministry of Police Affairs from Ministry of Interior, attributing it to the security challenges in the country.

 

 

“Working with the state governments also, we intend to improve the equipping of the Police Force with advanced technology and equipment that can facilitate their work. To drive this, I recently created a full-fledged Ministry of Police Affairs,” Buhari said.

 

 

Security challenges in the country, even in 2015, had already assumed an alarming dimension and proving intractable for government to handle. The sanguinary campaign of Boko Haram in the North-East was at its worst, with swathes of the country’s territory captured by the terrorist group. Communal crisis, herder/farmers’ clashes were almost routine. Kidnapping for ransom, armed robbery and other forms of criminal activities were rampant, making it imperative for the Ministry of Police Affairs to stand alone. So, the president’s reasons are a bit curious.

 

 

The subsuming of the aviation ministry under the larger transportation ministry by Buhari in 2015 was similarly a curious decision. From the First Republic, aviation had always been on its own, reflective of the importance of air travel to modern economies.

 

 

By far the most curious of these decisions was the fusion of works, housing and power into one ministry. These are three very important ministries that require huge amount of work. Saddling one minister with the responsibility of overseeing these ministries, no matter how brilliant that person is, was asking too much. Their fusion, to say the least, was ill-advised and the last four years only served to underline the futility of that merger decision.

 

 

It is evident that certain ministries deserve to be on their own because of their strategic nature, but we have continued to tinker and engage in trial and error. This predilection to tinker, which is not something that started today, is shocking, because these are matters where we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. More mature democracies have shown the way; all we need to do is copy with some variations to suit our peculiar needs. These inconsistencies and flip flop do not in any way show us as a serious people.

 

 

But now that power had been removed from the other two ministries, it is expected that electricity generation and distribution will improve correspondingly. Also, the fact that the ministry now has two ministers should make this dream more realisable.

 

 

However, Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, stated recently that the problem is one of a lack of capacity on the part of the electricity distribution companies (DisCos), suggesting that Nigerians might not enjoy stable electricity in the near future.

 

 

Osinbajo said: “Despite all the availability of about 8,000MW of generation and 7,000MW of transmission capacity, the lack of infrastructure to absorb and deliver grid power to end-users on the part of DisCos has largely restricted generation to an average of about 4,000MW and sometimes even falling below 4,000MW.

 

 

It is evident that despite all the efforts that have been put in to expand the grid, the structure of the market today cannot deliver on government’s promises to provide power for domestic and industrial use. A substantial change of strategy is necessary. There is clearly a need for a change of strategy. What we have done in the past has taken us to a point where there is clearly a change of strategy.”

 

 

Given the above scenario, we want to appeal to government to take action in regards to the problem of infrastructural deficiency of the DisCos. The DisCos must be made to urgently sort out their capacity problem, otherwise the reason for removing the power ministry from the erstwhile behemoth will be defeated.

 

 

However, we commend government for finally realising the unwieldiness of the ministry and unbundling it. We also note the decision to reintroduce police affairs and aviation as stand-alone ministries, and hope that the country reaps the benefit of such decisions.

 

 

We also hope that the fusion of the Ministry of Finance with the Ministry of Budget and National Planning will engender effective delivery of services. These two ministries are critical in the running of government.

 

 

It is our believe that this will be the last time government will engage in these needless periodic mergers and subsequent unbundling that have been part of the country’s ministerial history.

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Editorial

Atiku Vs Buhari: All eyes on the judiciary

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Atiku Vs Buhari: All eyes on the judiciary

Any moment from now, the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Abuja will deliver its judgement on the petition filed by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, challenging the victory of President Muhammad Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the February 23, 2019 election.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had, on February 27, declared Buhari winner of the election, having polled a total of 15,191,847 votes to defeat his closest rival, Atiku, who polled a total of 11,262,978 votes. Not satisfied with the results declared by the electoral umpire, Atiku and his party had approached the tribunal to challenge the declaration on the ground that it did not reflect the popular will of the people of Nigeria.

In the petition filed by Atiku and PDP, the petitioners contended that they won the election, based on the results transmitted electronically from the polling stations across the country, allegedly to the central server of INEC in Abuja.

They therefore submitted that President Buhari was not validly elected by the majority of votes cast across the country. The petitioners also contended that the February 23 election, upon which INEC declared Buhari as winner, was invalid as it was marred by widespread violence, voter intimidation, massive vote buying and other forms of electoral malpractices against the provisions of the Electoral Act.

In addition, the petitioners submitted that Buhari was, at the time of the election, not qualified to contest the said election having failed to submit his academic qualification to the electoral body.

The petitioners prayed the tribunal to declare that Buhari was not duly elected and that he (Atiku) be declared as the validly elected candidate in the election. They also prayed for an order of the tribunal directing INEC to issue a certificate of return to Atiku or nullify the February 23 election and order a fresh poll. In a counter petition, Buhari and APC challenged the competence of the petitioners.

The respondents claimed that Atiku did not have the locus standi to even participate in the said presidential poll. The respondents submitted that Atiku is a Cameroonian, having been born on November 25, 1946, in Jada, Adamawa, in Northern Cameroon.

As such, he is a citizen of Cameroon and not a Nigerian by birth. They argued that the joint petition against Buhari and APC was incompetent as it was based on conjectures, while the reliefs sought were “vague, nebulous and lacking in specificity.”

Having presented their arguments before the tribunal and called a number of witnesses to buttress their positions, the ball is now in the court of the five-man panel to deliver its verdict.

The whole world is waiting because this is a case that has generated a lot of interests among Nigerians and members of the international community. The election was witnessed by many local and international Election Observation Missions, whose reports roundly condemned INEC for alleged lack of transparency and credibility of the processes leading to the election, collation of results and declaration of results.

Therefore, all eyes are on the panel to see how the learned justices will navigate through the convoluted arguments of both parties and arrive at a decision that will serve the interest of justice.

We think that this is a major litmus test for the judiciary in Nigeria, the third arm of government, which has constitutional powers to adjudicate in crucial matters of this nature.

In the last couple of years, the Nigerian judiciary had been under severe bombardment from the executive arm of government following allegations of corruption levelled against some of the judges. In the process, many of them have been removed, sometimes in controversial circumstances.

Opinions have been divided as to whether the exercise was meant to purge the Temple of Justice of corrupt ministers or a calculated attempt to intimidate the judiciary and get the learned jurists to do the bidding of the executive.

As we count down to the zero hour, we wish to remind members of the tribunal that they have a date with history and it is in their own interest to be counted among those who stood on the path of truth and exhibited courage even in the face of apparent adversity. It is our expectation that the tribunal will stand firm and deliver a resounding judgement that resonates with truth, justice, fairness and equity. It must not fall to the lure of evading the facts of the case and relying on mere technicalities that neither serve the interest of justice nor enrich our jurisprudence on electoral matters on the long run.

We urge the panel to dispense justice equally and objectively to the petitioners and respondents, as well as the Nigerian electorate whose votes are at stake in this dispute.

They must remember that the electorate are looking up to the judiciary as the last hope of the common man. Above all, the tribunal must remember that the facts of this case are already in the public domain and the judiciary itself is on trial. We dare say that the judiciary will only acquit itself and redeem its battered image if it could dispense justice on this case, without fear or favour.

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Editorial

South Africa, xenophobia and Nigeria

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South Africa, xenophobia and Nigeria

 

For the past two weeks, Nigeria and Nigerians have been having it rough with South Africa and its people. That is ostensibly because of the xenophobic attacks that are currently ongoing in the South African country. Although not limited to Nigerians in South Africa, there is no doubt that for some years now, the relationship between the two countries has, at best, been frosty.

 

 

That is owing to the continued rivalry, which South Africa, its people and government have instituted against Nigeria.

 

From the economy to sports, travel to issues affecting Africa, South Africa has seen Nigeria as a major rival. Thus, if it is not an argument about the size of the economy, it would be about who dominates in sports or the destruction of Nigeria’s business interests in the country. The South African government has often hidden behind the fingers of economic domination by visitors and criminality of a few Nigerians to dent the image of Nigeria.

 

 

We recall that during the Goodluck Jonathan administration, the South African government had come up with the deportation of 125 Nigerians over claims that they visited the country with fake yellow fever vaccination cards. The move sparked a diplomatic row and the Jonathan government retaliated, deporting 84 South Africans in two days.

 

The then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Olugbenga Ashiru, had described the action of South Africa then as a xenophobic move. Nigeria, in addition to the deportation of South Africans, demanded an apology from the country. There were also other demands made by Nigeria.

 

 

Thus, Ibrahim Ibrahim, the South African deputy foreign minister, tendered an apology to Nigeria, just six days after that incident. But since then, nothing much has changed in the relationship of both countries. Different presidents have assumed office since then but the problem remains or continues to worsen.

 

The killings of Nigerians in South Africa are now almost a monthly occurrence.

 

Yet, the South African government appears incapable of saving the situation. We are however pleased that this time around, the Nigerian government has taken the matter very seriously with the demand for compensation, pulling out of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in that country, the sending of Special Envoy and most importantly, the planned recall of Nigeria’s ambassador to South Africa.

 

We hope that the relationship would not degenerate to the stage where Nigeria would be forced to severe ties with it. Already, South Africa has shut its embassies in Nigeria, with many of its companies and franchises in Nigeria closing shop over some reprisals here.

 

 

We do not support violence by mobs that we have seen in some parts of the country against South African interests in Nigeria. We do not also think that paying them back with what we abhor in their country is the right way to go. But we believe that time has come for Nigeria to assert to all African countries, its natural position as the number one country in Africa.

 

By its sheer population of almost 200 million people, Nigeria is the biggest country on the African continent. In the world, only China, India, United States of America, Indonesia, Pakistan, Brazil can boast of more humans on its surface than Nigeria. While these countries have used their population to an advantage overtime, Nigeria has not utilized its numerical advantage to optimum.

 

 

That is largely responsible for the migration of a large army of Nigerian youths to different parts of the world, South Africa inclusive. Be that as it may, the fact that Nigerians troop out to different parts of the world does not in any way detract the fact that Nigeria, by its mere population, is the biggest market in Africa. That is why MTN, for instance, a South African company has found Nigeria a veritable ground for business.

 

We can boast of what other African countries cannot. South Africa has a population of about 59 million, whereas in Nigeria alone, MTN has about 64 million customers. There are other South African firms, such as Shoprite, PEP, Stanbic IBTC, to name a few, which are flourishing in the large Nigerian market.

 

 

These business concerns have been left to do their businesses and prosper in Nigeria. We believe therefore that now is the time for the Nigerian government to spell it clearly for other African countries that they cannot be treating Nigeria as a leper. We are not oblivious of the fact that Nigeria has played the big brother role on the continent, by intervening positively in the lives of other countries, including ending of apartheid in South Africa.

 

But sadly, rather than getting a reciprocity of its goodness, the country is often scorned by smaller nations on the continent. We do not see why countries in the African Union would be treating Nigeria with so much disdain.

 

We insist that the Nigerian government should treat the South African issue with a stern example that Nigeria would not take any maltreatment of its citizens by any other country. We also need to shift our foreign policy from Afrocentric to Nigeria first. It is only in doing that, that we would be able to really assert our position as Africa’s most important country.

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