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The legends of Aso Rock

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The legends of Aso Rock

 

 

President Muhammadu Buhari’s second tenure began with a low-key inauguration at the Eagle Square in Abuja, a scenario that decidedly flowed from the President’s persona of prudence. His kitchen cabinet’s counsel must have also been contributory.

 

The observance of June 12 maiden Democracy Day edition drew from the same spirit. Unlike in 2015 when he ascended the throne with pomp and ceremony, Buhari, this time round, quietly jumped on the governance wagon; adjusted and readjusted himself in the driver’s seat, for another four-year ride, in a perceived attitude of sombreness. The canonization of June 12 as Democracy Day is the most significant indication of seriousness yet that the second tenure holds better and greater promises.

 

The shape, texture and content of the administration in the next four years will depend solely on the President, his devotion and gravitas. Buhari assured that he would be firmer, hinting at a tougher four years ahead.

 

If he has to be radical in his policies and decisions to be able to consolidate on the achievements of the first tenure and sustain the nation on the promised next level, he would be in apple-pie order. The administration is Buhari’s. The bucks stop with him.

 

Therefore he receives the accolades and also takes the flak. This is why he must remain prudent and unsentimental in constituting his cabinet and appointing other administration officials, knowing fully this is his constitutionally-circumscribed final tenure.

 

Indeed, many positives should be reasonably expected from an administration that is on the next level. Buhari requires his administration officials’ support to forcefully pursue his programmes and policies, especially the anti-corruption crusade that has largely differentiated it from the previous administrations. In the past four years, the change mantra powering his electioneering in 2015, had been deployed in the administration of the political economy.

 

In review, the first tenure was an admixture of successes and failures. There were yawning gaps between expectations and fulfilment, particularly in the prosecution of the anti-graft agenda.

 

The critical agenda, which was the Unique Selling Point (USP) of the administration, got bogged down by internal philosophical contradictions and thus stood the anti-graft war precariously on quicksand. Within those contradictions, a good number of administration officials were fingered in precedent grafts while some were allegedly enmeshed in subsequent grafts. But to be sure, Buhari’s individuality provided the impetus that galvanised and sustained the anti-corruption crusade in the past four years amid charges of perceived selectivity.

 

The body language of the President and his utterances in recent times indicate there will be a change of strategy in the anti-graft war. The war will be intensified in terms of commitment and prosecutorial push. A holistic approach in prosecuting the anti-corruption war is overdue.

 

If Buhari   must create the existential legend, he must be revolutionary or radical in the anti-graft crusade. Corrupt administration officials must be dealt with. The President must cause toes – big or small – to be stepped on in the crusade. The good thing is that no one is greater or bigger than the nation and the President.

 

That makes Buhari the ultimate suzerain in the fight against corruption. He has all it takes, deploying the instrumentality of the anti-graft agencies and the complementarity of the Judiciary to rein in elements in the public and private sectors to embrace proper conduct, accountability and due process in socio-political and economic interactions. Indeed, if Buhari succeeds in building strong institutional mechanisms to check corruption in government, he would have built a very strong legacy for posterity to judge him by.

 

The point is that the effects produced by the President’s persona in the past four years have been inadequate. Much more is needed to create a new wave of concrete and result-oriented anti-graft war that enjoys both national and international approbation.

 

The converse will hold as long as grand conspiratorial alliances by compromised political elite who purportedly fought back in a  bid to undermine the agenda and render the commitment invested in the agenda nugatory is allowed to dominate the atmospherics and define the nuances of administrative architecture henceforth. But for Buhari, Nigeria would have been subjected to an unrestrained global appreciation on the antediluvian platform of official heist that had characterized the previous administrations before his.

 

He thus presents a clear anti-corruption base on which to be appraised and judged in 2023, whether positively or negatively, depending on how well he is able to walk his talk in institutionalizing the anti-graft war. But I have a hunch the President will largely succeed.

 

The problem, however, is if the succeeding administration will be able to continue from where he stops. He has the duty to search for a strong successor on the All Progressives Congress (APC) platform to continue the crusade. However, whether or not there is continuity, Buhari would have become a legend of sorts. He would have defined his eon with the enormity of his personal contempt for financial corruption.

 

It will be more significant if administration officials emulate his character of financial discipline. That will quicken the process of integration of financial discipline and anti-graft spirit in government. Officials become obligated to inculcate it in the governed as a matter of deliberate policy.

 

The anti-graft spirit thus typifies the philosophical underpinning of the administration. I believe Buhari now has adequate security reports and information about the characters and capacities of human resources in his party and those around him. He will therefore be properly guided in constituting a strong team or cabinet.

 

The final decisions on those that make up the team rest with him regardless of the weight of the bodies of evidence that favour or disfavour possible choices. However, personal considerations may outweigh official reports that discount chances of possible choices.

 

Solid loyalty and unwavering commitment are important. For his personal aides, beginning from the Chief of Staff to the aide at the lowest rung of the ladder, the President should rest assured that he cannot be betrayed and that his wellbeing and success are topmost priorities in the overall agenda or scheme of governance.

 

The measure of Mr. Abba Kyari’s stewardship as Chief of Staff in the past four years would be dependent on his reappointment.

 

A decision to reappoint him will largely indicate the President was satisfied with his performance while dropping him may approximate a loss of confidence in his ability.

 

Kyari, said to have been highly recommended to Buhari for the job in 2015 by his (the President’s) uncle, Alhaji Mamman Daura, according to reports, performed his job with distinction and commitment, demonstrating the ability and conscientiousness to shed pressures from the President. He was in the first tenure, the cannon fodder as well as a stabilizing and uniting force in Aso Rock. All conflicting security and political interests as well as contending forces dissolved in the vortex of Kyari’s administrative legerdemain.

 

He has also, like Buhari, created a legend that resonates in the polity. Yet, given the strategic nature of his office, he maintained his inscrutability and taciturnity, despite the salacious claims and allegations woven around him.

 

Though a media influencer, he refrained from joining issues with perceived foes in the media. He was able to insulate the President and himself against avoidable and sustained media attacks by his taciturn and apolitical disposition.

 

Without a doubt, Kyari was providentially Buhari’s Man Friday. He enjoyed the President’s confidence and that of the equally inscrutable force(s) that nominated him for the job. But the next few days will determine whether he still enjoys that confidence. lOjeifo, an Abuja-based journalist, writes via ojwonderngr@ yahoo.com

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Sex predators: Is castration the answer?

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Sex predators: Is castration the answer?

The increasing cases of rape and defiling of little children in Ekiti require urgent attention. The amendment being sought may include imprisonment and medical castration of offenders, among others not stipulated in the existing law – Erelu Bisi Fayemi, First Lady, Ekiti State.

T

he human mind works in a mysterious way that confirms that man is more than the Matter that Marxists say it is. Man, truly, has a spiritual essence. A Marxist lecturer, a professor, was driving up North and, out of nowhere, thoughts of a secondary school classmate of his flashed through his mind. Since they left school decades ago, he had had no contact with or had cause to think of this classmate. He quickly perished the thought and continued on his trip. Not long afterwards, his car developed a fault and all efforts by the ubiquitous “road-side mechanics” to kick it back to life failed. He was advised to tow the vehicle to a nearby city where he was assured a mechanic workshop there would fix the problem. Getting there, he filled the job card and was ushered into the Manager’s Officer. Lo and behold, seated right behind the desk was his classmate whose thought had run through his mind a while ago! Was he stunned? Why the thought of this guy a while ago? Happenstance or was that God at work?

Days ago, Peter Abelard’s name suddenly crossed my mind and I immediately began to ruminate on some of his thoughts that I had read decades ago at Ife. I could never have thought that Erelu Bisi Fayemi, wife of the governor of Ekiti State, was going to make the quotes cited above a week after. Thanks for Google; I had no difficulty refreshing my mind on Abelard (1079 – 1142), French, born the eldest son of lesser nobility in La Pallet in Brittany. At one and same time a logician, ethicist, philosopher, and theologian; he was a leading thinker of the middle ages. He has been described as the pre-eminent philosopher of the 12th Century and, perhaps, the greatest logician of the middle ages. He was equally famous as a poet and composer and was ranked one of the most pre-eminent theologians of his day. In all areas, Abelard was brilliant, innovative and controversial. He was described as a genius. He knew it and made no apologies. His vast knowledge, wit, charm and even arrogance drew a generation of Europe’s fine minds in Paris to learn from him.

Philosophically, Abelard is best known as the father of nominalism. For contemporary philosophers, nominalism is most closely associated with the problem of universals but is actually a much broader metaphysical system. Abelard formulated what is now recognised as a central nominalist tenet: Only particulars exist. It is from Abelard’s claim that only words (nomen) are universal that nominalism gets its name. His pride or arrogance triggered a lot of jealousy in others and caused him so much grief and troubles but, perhaps, the greatest disaster of his life was self-inflicted: His love affairs with Heloise. About 1116, Abelard began an affair with Heloise, his student and niece of Fulbert, the canon of Notre Dame. She was to become one of the great minds of the 12th Century in her own right and theirs was the great tragic love story of the middle ages. They fell in love, had a child, secretly married, and exchanged a series of letters that have become the stuff of legends. Unfortunately, they kept their marriage a secret from Fulbert, Heloise’s uncle, who thereafter exercised the traditional right of aggrieved families in such cases and had Abelard castrated. Yes, Abelard got castrated!

The aggrieved parent of a child who was defiled recently demanded the castration of the vile predator. Readers of this column would also have read about my niece whose four-year-old daughter was defiled by the driver of the school bus conveying the toddler to school in Osogbo, Osun State. I would need Erelu Bisi to tell the quote above to Governor Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State. Erelu Bisi should also please enlist her Osun State counterpart into the war against paedophiles and vile sex predators running rampant all over the country – and not only in Ekiti.

Back to Abelard! His foibles, hubris and academic excellence apart, I also far back then took interest in the polemics that set the thoughts of Abelard apart from those of, say, Anselm of Canterbury, St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Thomas of Aquinas. Not one given to unquestioning submission, Abelard posited that he asked questions so he could believe: “The key to wisdom”, he said, “is constant and frequent questioning, for by doubting we are led to question and by questioning we arrive at the truth…The beginning of wisdom is found in doubting; by doubting we come to the question, and by seeking we may come upon the truth… It is by doubting that we come to investigate, and by investigating that we recognize the truth” Abelard’s “Sic” and “Non” (“Yes” and “No”), a collection of 158 controversial theological questions and compiled writings from authorities, some for “Yes” and some for “No”, posits that readers should be able to dissolve the apparent conflict between authorities and come to understand the answers to the questions posed through rational discussion.

No doubt, Abelard preceded Martin Luther whose 95 theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences pasted on the door of the church in Wittenberg, Saxony and addressed to the Archbishop of Mainz, dated 31st October, 1517, sparked off the Reformation that effectively liberated Christendom. The freedoms, liberties, and fundamental rights that we enjoy today had their roots in ages and personalities past.     

Regrettably, these rights are viciously on assault these days by sex predators. Rape is on the increase. Paedophiles are on rage. The impunity of these vicious elements is fuelled by the complicity of the law and duplicity of those in authority. Miffed, Erelu Bisi has advocated more stringent penalties, including castration of the beasts in human skins. I agree no less! Your head is on your neck, Ma’am! Castration as suggested by Erelu Bisi is not new or strangely out of place as Abelard’s example above shows. In the olden days, our palaces in the South-West had a retinue of the castrated called eunuchs, who kept the harem of the Obas. They were castrated so they would not “eat” Kabiyesi’s “yams” kept in their custody. Still, there is the saying that you cannot but find bastards in a big palace! I wouldn’t know whether the practice of eunuchs is still in place in our palaces today.

Society has been viciously assaulted by cases of sex-for-marks in our institutions of higher learning and the stalking of innocent students by predator-lecturers. At one end of the pole are randy and shameless lecturers who, like Abelard, would not mind sleeping with their students, negating the adage that elephants do not eat the grass under their frame. At the other end of the stick, sadly, are indolent, lazy, and indulgent students grovelling for marks and enticing debased lecturers not worthy of their academic gown. Both were there in our days on campus decades ago but operated in hushed voices. Today, however, they do their thing with impunity. When you add this moral laxity to the other paucities that whack the Ivory Tower, we shall have only appearance and no substance left in due course. While it is alright to punish randy lecturers, we will be making a grievous mistake if we allow their consenting liaisons to go scot-free. Except both are brought to book, the scourge will not be extirpated.

On January 15, 2019, the four-year old daughter of my niece was defiled by the driver of the school bus driving her from school. It was her second day in that school and the school – Charleston Group of Schools, Kelebe, Osogbo. My niece had just relocated from Ibadan back to Osogbo and the wife of the proprietor, one Mrs. Eniola Badmus Adeyemi, had been her acquaintance. The accused is one Oyelakin Oluwatomisin. He was arrested and sent to Ilesa prisons. The case, however, has (deliberately?) suffered diligent prosecution, with adjournments ad nauseam. Promises to move the case to the High Court have not been fulfilled. The magistrate had since granted the accused bail and he comes to court with his gang harassing, threatening, intimidating, insulting, taunting, tormenting and traumatising my hapless niece. Surely, it is not “Ileri Oluwa” that vile paedophiles be allowed to roam the streets of Osogbo free. The case comes up again on Monday, 21st October and the victims would wish public-spirited citizens and advocacy groups come to their aid by mounting pressure on the powers-that-be. No matter how highly politically-wired the accused and his godfathers are, justice will be served, God willing!                 
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NFF should look inward to get young players for the Super Eagles rather than scouting for ready-made players from England. NFF wanted to reap where they did not sow! – Gordon Chika Nnorom, Umukabia.

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2020: Budget of consolidated suffering

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2020: Budget of consolidated suffering

By 2020, Nigeria was projected some 11 years ago to become one of the 20 largest global economies in the world. When the projection was made in 2009 during the tenure of late President Umaru Yar’Adua, Nigeria was ranked number 30th largest economy in terms of its GDP size. Nigeria, which has been in the wilderness of darkness could only boast of 3,500 megawatts at that time. Till date, despite huge investments in the power sector, we are still oscillating between 4,000 and 6,000 megawatts depending on who is presenting the data. Government apologists are quick to remind us that power generation has increased remarkably in the last two years but the same government has budgeted N9 billion for generators purchase and maintenance in several government agencies. While the Yar’Adua government set up the National Council on Vision 2020 to ensure that the expectations and objectives are followed through, there seems to be less work done to actually realise the gains of this noble agenda.

The National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) was put in place as a launch pad for the actualisation of some of the key targets of this vision. Succeeding governments have come up with one idea or the other to drive the initiative. The energy sector which is key to jump-starting a productive economy has remained in its low ebb, with accusing fingers pointing in the direction of funds misappropriation, regime after regime. Within the last five years, unemployment figures have grown in a geometric proportion while job losses have become the icing on the cake. Whilst the Buhari-led Federal Government declares its avowed commitment to fighting corruption and making a lot of recoveries, the irony is that Nigeria and Nigerians are growing poorer and poorer by the day. Government has continued to complain of declining revenue, even when Professor Itsay Sagay says over N1 trillion was recovered within the last one year as an eloquent testimony to the anti-corruption crusade of the current government. Why the monies recovered are not apparently adding up to the figures remain a subject of curiosity.

Amid a plethora of issues begging for governmental intervention, government spokespersons are insisting that borrowing is the way to go since there is shortfall in national revenue to execute a considerable percentage of its annual budget. By 2020, when it would be 11 solid years since the official endorsement of the Vision 2020, on 1st October, 2009, Nigeria will still be encumbered by series of developmental challenges that have refused to go away. Presently, there is a huge gap in infrastructural development across the country. The roads are in bad shape, rendering mobility and commerce difficult to flourish. The education sector is suffering kwashiorkor as a result of poor funding in the area of infrastructure, learning and research. A paltry N48 billion budget in the 2020 budget year is a far cry from UNESCO benchmark. Given the huge challenges in the education sector, with incessant strike action by trade unions and its affiliate bodies, the education sector is presently traumatised. Added to this is the gloomy economy that has not shown any sign of recovery despite cooked up figures to whet the appetite of those in government as though we are making progress.

As if that is not debilitating enough, the unwholesome activities of kidnappers, armed bandits, armed robbery and other crimes, have had untoward impact on the wellbeing of the populace. The environment of insecurity that has become a perennial slur on the economic landscape has affected investment in remarkable measures. Rather than make a realistic budget estimates that would make us to cut our clothes according to our size, government is making budgetary projection that is almost dead on arrival. The projection of 2.180 mbpd on the oil front is undoubtedly ambitious, especially at a time when OPEC oil quota is hovering around 1.8 to 1.77mbpd. As if that was not enough, the oil price benchmark of $57 dollar per barrel is also uncertain. Rather than generate estimates that would seem positive on the outlook, government ought to set benchmark that would appear plausible and almost predictable. That Iran and the United States are presently in a muscle-flexing altercation which has raised oil price to $60 or $61 per barrel is not enough to sing hallelujah song. In a sector where Nigeria’s influence is not water-tight, over-shooting OPEC quota in budgetary estimation is a joke taken too far.

The minimum wage challenge on the home-front is another pain in the neck of government. The Buhari presidency played politics with workers by agreeing on a N30,000 minimum wage before the elections, ostensibly to shore up support and votes from workers across the country. Rather than implement, governors have been complaining of lack of funds to hit the ground running. Labour is spoiling for strike action to pressurise government to honour its own side of the bargain. There are states that are still owing several months of salaries, some pay negotiated percentage, while others appear helpless in their effort to generate increased internally generated revenue (IGR). With Federal Government’s decision to increase the Value Added Tax (VAT), which will mean more money for the states at the expense of the people, the mere fact that it is an item in the 2020 budget raises more posers to analysts. The VAT law has to be tinkered with if this increment is to take effect, but the constraint according to some analysts is that it is like taxing an already impoverished citizens. It is another way to consolidate their sufferings. When government ought to create the enabling environment for businesses to thrive, it is making effort to take from the already down and out Nigerians, whose means of livelihood is tellingly affected by por economic realities.

When the Buhari presidency came up with the Social Investment Programmes in 2016 in response to finding quick-fix solution to poverty, suffering and deprivation, and lifting the poorly poor away from poverty, it budgeted N500 billion into the scheme. The following year, the budget remained at N500 billion and it dropped to N350 billion in the succeeding year. In the 2020 budget, it is now pegged at N38 billion, a far cry from its earlier 2016 budget. That means, those Nigerians who have been captured in government’s N5,000 monthly stipend will surely suffer in 2020. It will also mean that the school feeding programme which the government touted to be one of its legacy projects will also suffer. And those who have been captured in that supply chain will also be out of circulation. It is yet to be seen how this budget that proposes 20% capital expenditure, with N2.45 trillion debt servicing can actually launch the country on the path to economic recovery. While government apologists are raking up figures to justify the viability of the 2020 budget, it is left to be seen what investment N100 billion can attract in the defence and security portfolios, under a regime of insurgency and armed banditry. A deficit figure of N2.8 trillion is a clear indication of economic disaster, waiting to happen.

I had thought that with the announcement of the members of the Economic Advisory Council, that the President would create the opportunity for a robust synergy with the Budget and Planning Ministry in critically analysing the budget and taking informed position on it before it was hurriedly presented. This is a time that we need some level of uncommon approach to budgeting to get the figures right as well as the projections than the rush to impress the public on quick submission of budget. The ministers that were recently sworn in, needed time to study the books, make informed contributions before setting out to churn out a budget that could provide the right therapy for the economic ailments that confront us. Aside from the unrealistic nature of the budget, the complaint about lack of resources to fund the budget is another kettle of fish altogether.

Only on 1st October, 2019, the president told an already befuddled nation of N600 billion capital release to carry out capital projects. This is happening at the last quarter of the year. What baffles some observers is not the pronouncement, but that whether the government will be able to reflate the economy with such promised fund. That promised N600 billion represents 22% of the budgeted estimate in the 2019 budget, an indication that the 2020 budget may follow similar pattern of poor funding.

In an era when Nigerians are already groaning under the negative spell of poor budgetary implementation, with over 100 million amongst the world’s poorest, an unrealistic budget will be addition burden on the citizens. Government ought to cut down on its excesses and overheads. There is no justifiable reason why for example, the president will approve six Special Assistants and Special Advisers to an office that is not known to law; office of the First Lady. Government can also cut down on some items like president’s haircut, domestic travels, foreign travels, purchase and maintenance of generators and entertainment in the Villa. A dire situation that we find ourselves requires a serious austerity approach to cut down on wastes. This is the way to go in order to bail out Nigerians from their present economic predicament.

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2020 budget proposals

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2020 budget proposals

O

n Tuesday October 8, 2019 President Muhammadu Buhari presented to a joint session of the National Assembly (NASS) the details of the 2020 Budget which is named; ‘Budget of Sustaining Growth and Job Creation.’ The first thing that struck someone is to ask what level of growth we are sustaining. At a projected growth of 2.9 per cent which is still below our purported population growth of about 3 per cent we are still a long way from the desired level of growth which ideally should be in the range of 6 to 9 per cent if commensurate impact is to be made on the prevalent levels of unemployment with the need for rapid poverty alleviation. The aggregate expenditure for the 2020 Budget is now N10.33 trillion at some point in time this total expenditure was almost a moving target.

 

There are immediately two remarkable takeaways from the budget presentation. One was the good spirit, the banter and camaraderie atmosphere that hallmarked the budget presentation contrary to the rancour, recrimination and bad spirit that was the case last year. In fact one must also quickly add the heckling, shouting, name calling and general demeaning behaviour. The other remarkable development surrounding the presentation of the budget was the timing of the presentation. For the first time in a long while we witnessed budget presentation not in December or early January but actually in October! You would have to pinch yourself to confirm that you are not living in dream land.

 

The President had repeatedly assured all that cared to listen that he would harmonize the budget year with the calendar year. And he is now all set to deliver on this promise and he pulls this off and we are able to sustain it, we must then put this down as one of the legacies which this President had bequeathed to this country. What happened in the past was very shameful and rather unbecoming for a country the calibre of Nigeria; the reputed largest economy in Africa. In reality there was no ascertainable budget year as budget implementation commenced whenever the budget was approved which in reality was often in the second half of the year which situation not only projected us as unserious but made particularly capital budget implementation a nightmare and largely accounted for the lack of commensurate growth of the economy. Little wonder unemployment became a veritable growth sector with the consequent rise in social crimes.

 

We are now poised to realise the January to December budget year as all stakeholders have demonstrated their resolve for this to happen leveraging on the existing cordial relationship between the Executive and the Legislature. The NASS has closed plenary sessions to now work in relevant committees to interact with the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) for speedily presentation and approval of their respective budgets and so bye to the previous, often heard name calling and posturing with the Legislature claiming that their work was being delayed because government agencies have refused to attend to defend their budgets.

 

But we have been on record with the recommendation that we could dispense with this unnecessary aspect of the budget approval process. It is a duplication and an abuse of due process for accepted best practice in reporting. Those agencies do not report to the NASS and have prior made their submissions to the Executive which approved them after due defense before inclusion in packaging of the national budget. And the experience has been that this is the window which is seized to arm twist the agencies to make provisions for third parties in their budget. So we invite the President to use his good offices and leverage on the existing cordial relationship to expunge this stage in the budget approval process going forward.

 

A growth rate of 2.9 per cent has been assumed. Whether this is attainable is in the womb of the future. A growth rate of 2.02% has been reported as recorded in the first half of 2019. With early passage of the budget so implementation could commence early and with the aggressive revenue drive now mounted, there is good expectation that an improvement in growth rate is well on the cards. What remains certain is that we must devise a means to record far higher growth rates close to a range of 6 to 9 per cent if the economy is going to get out of the woods, jobs created and poverty alleviated in not distant future. And this goal is not farfetched with consistent disciplined and focused implementation of the policies and programmes in the budgets. There will also be the need to plug all leakages to minimize misappropriations. The instruction in the budget that all workers must be registered on integrated payroll and personal information is therefore a move in the desired direction.

 

The assumptions in the budget appear mostly realistic. An oil benchmark of $57 per barrel has been used with a daily production level of 2.18 million barrels per day (mbpd). Oil price we have been informed averaged $67 last year with a daily production level of 1.86 million as at end June 2019. Therefor for this benchmark it is certain that we have erred on the side of caution. It must be recalled that the Executive submission was at $55 dpb and it was the Legislature that hiked the price up to the existing $57 with comments being now made to the effect that this price should be further increased during the review; the legislature should take over the budget from the executive as the allocation to capital expenditure is not adequate to facilitate the level of growth required to jumpstart the economy for the much awaited growth in job opportunities. We caution against such sentiments as it could contaminate the good relationship we have so far celebrated. The responsibility for budget preparation remains exclusively that of the Executive. The foreign exchange rate of N305 to the dollar assumed in the budget is cautionary as this is the base exchange rate and therefore exchange rate above this rate would be a bonus as it generates greater dollar inflows. But with the newly inaugurated Economic Advisory Council, this rate might not survive for too long.

 

 

The challenge on the expenditure side of the budget is real. With recurrent expenditure of about 70 per cent of total expenditure, there is not much scope to rapidly grow the economy. It is unfortunate that the relative balance between capital and revenue expenditure with all the gains made to redress these relative rates in favour of capital expenditure in the recent past would now seem to have been lost. The creation of five new ministries; power, aviation, special duties and international affair, police affairs, and humanitarian affairs, disaster management and social development definitely has compounded the situation. Also the provision for the new minimum wage and enhancement of the salaries and wages of the Police and armed forces have also added to the problem. The capital budget at N2.14 trillion against a debt service provision of N2.45 trillion higher than the capital budget illustrates the extent of fiscal sustainability dilemma confronting the country. It has also been estimated that above 60% of revenue inflow is now used to service debts and therefore the challenge of growing revenue could not have been more pressing and urgent. It is in this context that the proposed increase in VAT rate must be accommodated by all even if we must note that VAT rates in Nigeria are the lowest when compared with rates elsewhere in the world.

 

 

Sectorial capital allocations have presented some challenges. An allocation to education of N48 billion even if there is the consideration of an additional allocation of N112 billion to Universal Basic Education would seem to be inadequate considering the importance of education for the future prosperity of the country. The economy of the future is the one that leverages on automation, robotics and artificial intelligence and no longer on the extractive sector. Also an allocation to the health sector of N46 billion offends all protocols which the country has subscribed to in this respect as it represents a far lower percentage allocation. But we must observe that in these matters there are no quick fixes. We must for now be content with achieving a measure of progress with the implementation of the budget to build on that as we make gradual progress while we offer supplications for the possibility of the realization of the harmonization of the budget and calendar year now staring us on the face.

λDr. Chizea, an economist, writes from Lagos.

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Prolonged ‘single and searching’ (2)

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Prolonged ‘single and searching’ (2)

Making the right choice of a life partner is the foundation of a successful marital life every adult desires to live. Last week, I listed three major factors that are considered to be responsible for the stagnated relationship status of many mature single women. They are: high-mindedness, desperation for instant marriage proposal, and lack of vision to know their ordained roles as life partners to their would-be husbands. I treated high-mindedness leaving the remaining two for this week.

Glossing over basic relationship issues often lead to confusion and inertia at some crucial moments in one’s life. Therefore, making a good and lasting choice depends largely on the G-factor (God-factor) as no human approach can guarantee absolute success. I always advise that the best time to pray is before searching for partners.

In the scriptures, Abraham’s servant prayed as he set out in search of a life partner for his master’s son, Isaac. His prayer point was that God should lead his way or direct his footsteps to the right woman that would meet his expectations and prescribed qualities. G-factor played out and his prayer was answered in perfect accuracy. Likewise, everyone in need of a life partner should pray ahead for God’s leading. The connection could occur through social meetings, online platforms, matchmaking or personal contact.

Back to the narrative, the craze for instant marriage proposal is a circumstance that several mature single women have created for themselves. Starting a relationship from friendship has become inconsequential to them. They allude to their age as the reason while claiming there’s no time to waste on friendship, whereas their hurried stance is another unsuspecting route to a prolonged single and searching status.

Befriending a man would afford the woman the privilege of knowing him better. Refusal to allow friendship before going into marriage is a catalyst for eventual failure. Men, like some women do, could pretend in order to win over a woman especially those who are desperate for the wedding rings only to dump the women after satisfying their urges. Desperate women do ignore wise counsel to their own hurt. They are blinded to glaring deception and fantasy. They feel ‘wiser’ than everybody else by disregarding opinions that seem not in sync with theirs.

The idea of “marriage or nothing” often prolong their journey to nowhere. It makes them vulnerable to all manner of manipulations from men. Sometimes they throw caution into the winds by becoming cheaply available to undeserving men who pretend to be husbands-in-waiting. They fall in lust with men that simply lash on their desperation through the Greek offer of marriage proposal which is actually a fluke. There’s no better alternative to going through friendship regardless of your age and how you are connected. It is not every short-cut that leads to the right way.

I want to believe that women’s lack of vision to know who they truly are and their ordained roles as life partners to their would-be husbands also account for making the wrong choices. I’m aware of the role and duties God assigned to the man in a marriage. I’m also in the know of what God says concerning the woman as a blessing and helper to her man but putting on the toga of a beggarly or needy helper to her husband has done more discredit to her.

Interestingly, God created some women to rule and dominate. They are leaders, pillars of support to their family members, they feed, provide and care for their people starting from their immediate environment. Such women are often referred to as Proverb 31 kind of women. Such calibre of women are in political, business, social or religious spotlights. They excel greatly as captain of industries, eminent scholars, experts in rare fields and professional consultants to global brands or international organisations.

This class of women earn big. They are accomplished and hugely successful in their careers. In all of this, they are still wifely to the core. They are the pride of their men and families. They exude enviable image of spousal grandeur to the admiration of everyone in the society. Although the man is obliged to provide for the needs of his household being the head of his wife, leader of his home, the defender and protector of everyone under his custody, yet, he needs his wife to ‘help’ him actualise his God-given roles and duties. There’s a huge difference between a woman who is a breadwinner and a woman who is helping or supporting her man when things are rough. They are not the same thing and I think it is the woman in the latter category that are often being misrepresented by some folks.

There are people who had wanted to achieve some goals or some levels of comfort for themselves before they get married but their efforts were not so fruitful; but shortly after they got married, things began to look brighter and easier for them. In a matter of months or a few years, they have surpassed their envisaged projections. That’s part of the double portion blessing attainable in a compatible and settled home.

With the look of things, today’s mature single women don’t seem to be patient enough in their quest for companions or life partners that they will build life together. It is either the man is “already made” to qualify him for a “deal” or “no deal” at all if he’s not there yet. I wish that many of them could face the reality and admit the need for a review of their perception and approach to relationship in their quest for new marital fulfilment. I wish them well.

Re: Prolonged ‘Single and Searching’

Dear West,

Your article: “Prolonged ‘Single and Searching’” is just another masterpiece. This is an eye-opener to them (women) if only they will hear. I pray one day I will have the opportunity to meet with you and narrate in details the ordeals I suffered in the hands of these women. (Na long tory no be matter for phone or message.) More power to your elbow Michael West. Thank you sir and well done. – Charles, Satellite Town, Lagos.

These men, many are uneducated. They never bothered to go to school. Their spoken and written English is beyond apology. How do you want a woman to marry such? You know you have to live with such a fellow and present him as a husband. Another category of men are those who refuse to work. I use the word “refuse” because there’s a job for everyone. Men do menial jobs abroad but feel too big here to do whatever job that would empower him to put food on the table. Many ladies are the breadwinners in the name of answering “Mrs.” – Liz, Lagos.

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Cameron, Jonathan and Chibok girls

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Cameron, Jonathan and Chibok girls

“The most serious failure of leadership is the failure to foresee” – Robert k. Greenleaf

Charleston Parker, the author of the book, ‘One Soul Many Faces’, admonished us to ‘quit believing in lies and to always search for the truth’. That is exactly what I urge us all to do as we chew what two former leaders, former Prime Minister of Britain David Cameron and former President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan are presenting to us as part of their testimonial in leadership.

One interesting thing about leadership is that what you failed to do would continue to hurt you especially if it’s something you had the power and influence to do but didn’t. In Nigeria today all those who directly or indirectly failed to act for the rescue of Chibok girls from their abductors will have their conscience to contend with the rest of their lives.

Since last week two former World leaders have been on each other’s neck for actions they failed woefully to take when they were in power. Cameron and Jonathan have been taking on themselves over their criminal inactions over the rescue of the 276 Chibok schoolgirls who were abducted from their school by Boko Haram terrorists’ sect in April 2014. As the two former leaders struggle with their ethics over their roles in one of the known global shame and international conspiracy of silence, they have each been stating their case in the public domain seeking to buy sympathy which they really don’t deserve.

Strikingly, the two former leaders have a lot in common. The duo lost power because of their constricted understanding of the politics of their various countries. The pair failed in their governance to take utmost advantage of their incumbency when it mattered most. The British Prime Minister soon after winning election lost his mandate for failing to gauge properly the mood of his country over their interests in the European Union. He could not read the disposition of Britons correctly and took for granted that since they just voted him into office his own interest was going to sway their thinking. It did not happen like that and he lost his position as majority of his nationals voted to exit the European Union against his own interest of staying. The Brexit group worked harder and had their way in the end. The Prime Minister was evidently forlorn as he misread his people and overrated his own influence. His Nigerian counterpart Jonathan even after six years in office as President and having acquired enough experience at the corridor of power, from deputy governor to governor, to Vice President and then President still remained provisional, timid and one who was evidently intimidated enough to lose his mandate cheaply.

As the two leaders state their positions publicly concerning the agonizing Chibok girls’ issue, one thing is clear; they are all thrifty with the truth.

President Jonathan remains liable for his poor, sluggish and regrettable response to the Chibok girl’s issue. This certainly will continue to hurt him the rest of his life. For Cameron he knows that he is not sincere in his book. What he failed or refused to say in the book is that he and his friend President Barrack Obama of the United States were engrossed in their ungodly desire to push gay to the rest of the World and forgot to do Godly things. Many anti-gay crusaders believe providentially that both Hilary Clinton and Cameron lost their ambition because of their inordinate drive on gay.

The former Prime Minister concealed the fact in his book that what was determining how they related with any nation particularly in Africa was on how receptive they were to the gay project. The refusal of President Jonathan to buy into it meant he was not going to enjoy any harmonious relationship with America, United Kingdom and their allies. Everything then was made to frustrate the administration including refusing to sell weapons to fight the insurgence.

If there was no other motive, nearly 300 schoolgirls were abducted by international criminals and United Kingdom looked away because the President of the country did not cooperate. As strategic as United Kingdom is to Nigeria and the Commonwealth nations can the former Prime Minister say that looking away from saving lives was the best option for a leader of his status?

The truth remains that if Cameron and Obama had used the same zeal and energy with which they tried to push their gay project to the rest of the World in containing insurgency in Nigeria, even Boko Haram would not have grown wings as they turned out. If really Jonathan wrote Cameron and Obama concerning Boko Haram why didn’t he acknowledge it in his book?

It’s this type of half-truths as contained in the Cameron’s book that led to the vexatious allegation even from some Muslim leaders in Nigeria that President Jonathan engineered the coming of Boko Haram as a strategy to multiply confusion in the polity to enable him remain in office.

When Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry came to Nigeria and embarked on a divisive mission of meeting with governors of only Muslim dominant states in Sokoto and arranged similar meeting few days later in Washington, it was all intended to undermine Jonathan for his obstinate stand on gay matter. Just like Cameron, Obama’s memoir is going to contain a lot of fallacies concerning Africa where his unconscionable gay drive beclouded his vision of the continent notwithstanding that he is of African origin. 

There has been too much had I known in this Chibok girls’ issue which began like a hoax in the morning of April 15, 2014. Everybody including security agencies that were trained never to take any issue for granted failed the girls. Their political leaders especially the then Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima also failed the girls disregarding the counsel of the then Minister of State for Education now Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike who advisedly directed the relocation of the school as examination centre based on intelligence report.

As the World continued dillydallying five years after, 112 of these girls are still missing and those who should have made the difference by doing what they were supposed to do but failed are busy struggling to extricate themselves of the muddle, this is an unfortunate fallout.

The administration that won election riding on the back of being the one to crush Boko Haram and release the girls has themselves worsened the situation by their insincere approach and apparent incapacity to copy with the matter. The situation of these girls certainly will distress Cameron and Jonathan a lot especially as insurgence under the watch of successive regime has grown from terrorism to hyper kidnapping and banditry.

Killings and bloodletting under President Muhammadu Buhari has become unprecedented only comparable to the 30-month-old civil war in the country from 1967 to 1970.

What international observers desire to see in any memoir of Cameron, Jonathan and Obama concerning Chibok girls is remorse and acceptance of failure in providing the needful leadership at the time. Cameron’s book therefore fell below par in intellectual corridor. No book hoping to enjoy a place among eggheads should be frugal with the facts of the matter under discussion. Cameron would have made more sense if he had recorded the Chibok issue as one of the draw backs of his era instead of looking for escape route in then President Jonathan’s own weakness for which he has been punished politically. In rounding off this discourse therefore I find Bill Gates’ counsel very handy that “it’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”

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Abraham, Tomori: Reaping where we did not sow?

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Abraham, Tomori: Reaping where we did not sow?

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huge tragedy befell Nigerian soccer lovers last week when Tammy Abraham and Fikayo Tomori, two promising Chelsea footballers, pledged their allegiance to England instead of Nigeria. It did not come as a surprise, though, because the youngsters had hesitated to accept offers to play for Nigeria and had patiently waited to see if England would come for them. With their present form for Chelsea, they had been hopeful that would be the case. Now they have been called up to the Three Lions’ senior team, they have happily obliged, ditching the Super Eagles in the process. Our only claim to the boys is that their parent(s) were Nigerians; nothing more! England, on the other hand, has a robust claim, the boys having been born/lived virtually their life abroad as well as having played for England at youth levels. They had also been products of the youth academy of foreign lands, something that is absent here, despite that we have heard of the importance of youth academies to the growth of football worldwide and despite that we, too, have parroted the need to toe a similarly line. As is characteristic of us not only in sports but also in other spheres of life, we seldom walk the talk.

 

 

Now we are left to whine and bellyache after suffering a disappointment only the most optimistic had failed to see coming our way. Now we comfort ourselves with such statements as “No one is greater than Nigeria”; “We cannot beg anyone to play for Nigeria”; “Nigeria has better players…” Sentiments! And I laugh! Had the boys pledged their loyalty to Nigeria, we would have been grinning from ear to ear. Had that happened, I would not have been surprised if any of Lai Mohammed, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu had issued a press statement congratulating the boys and soccer-loving Nigerians and claiming it as one of the “achievements” of APC/Buhari! Let’s stop bad-mouthing the boys; instead, we should wish them well in the choice they have made – and learn useful lessons to stem the tide of our sportspeople ditching us for other lands. It has happened again and again.

 

Remember sprinter Obikwelu? He ditched us for Spain and won an Olympic silver medal competing for his adopted country. The list is endless. Every now and then the media throws up new names of Nigerians switching nationality in sports. Why? Better facilities elsewhere to enhance their development. So, athletes that would have struggled here suddenly take advantage of such world-class facilities to horn their talents and skills and become world beaters. Better incentives from their adopted countries, unlike here where they beg and beg to no avail for peanuts to enhance mediocre preparations for events. Better technical know-how and expertise from coaching staff, which makes a world of difference as technology has taken over from raw talents in today’s world of sports. Better professionalism and commitment to duty by coaching staff, unlike here where everything is always reduced to politics and sentiments. Better commitment to training schedule unlike here where fire-brigade approach is the order of the day.

 

So, it is not that athletes elsewhere are better than ours but for the advantages stated above, which they enjoy abroad but which their counterparts who pledge their future to Nigeria lack. It is instructive that most of the athletes doing this country proud at the moment are foreign-based, be they footballers or athletes. Gone were the days when we produced world-class home-based sportsmen and women. Now, we struggle over those made ready by foreign systems. We failed to meet even our own expectations at the just-concluded World Athletics meet at Doha for reasons itemised above. Administrative lapses and incompetence; and disunity among the rank-and-file also reared their ugly heads at Doha, reducing the fabled giant of Africa to a minnow while Kenya, as always, made the continent proud, coming second behind almighty USA.         

 

 

Abraham and Tomori are just two out of millions of young Nigerians who, any day, will choose other countries ahead of Nigeria. Even adults are voting with their feet every day in search of greener pastures! According to latest statistics, three million Nigerians were added to the circle of the desperately poor within the last six months, further cementing our pole position as the poverty capital of the world. So, it is unimaginable to expect that those who stand at an advantage, being citizens of “better” countries, so to say, would choose Nigeria over and above such countries. Let’s work to make our own country a good place and not a shithole, as President Donald Trump has described it. A lot of happenings in the country, especially Executive lawlessness and blood-letting run riot, give us bad image. Our leaders do not inspire confidence. And we often want to reap where we had not sown. Rather than run after ready-made stars, let us take interest in these boys – and girls – while they are still fledgling. Be a part of their success story and not just an opportunist. Rather than cry over spilled milk, there are many more Abraham and Tomori out there waiting for our proactive action.

 

 

Apart from the fact that we didn’t sow into the lads, how can we expect them to go against their gaffe, Frank Lampard, who, himself, had been skipper of the English team? Naturally, Lampard would want the lads to play for England and strengthen the team. It also makes his Chelsea management duties easier for him. Many a times, footballers go to represent their country and come back injured and the burden becomes that of their foreign team and its management. Our athletes have complained ad nauseam of being left to the elements when they most expected the country and our sports administrators to rally round them. It would have been suicidal for the boys to go against the “advice” of their gaffe. For one, after God, the coach had been instrumental to their meteoric rise in the pecking order at Chelsea and from what we have seen about players in the big leagues, coaches make or mar. They make or ruin the career of players. Many a good player had gone against the coach’s advice only to find themselves shoved aside – and that had been it!

 

 

So, head or tail, it made sense for the lads to listen to their coach. It makes sense for them to pick English over Nigeria. For the sake of their career at club and country level, I dare to say that they have made the right choice – at least, as far as human wisdom can carry us. The other side of the coin, however, is that more often than not, such players usually are not more than fringe players for their adopted countries. Conversely, those who choose their home country may have more playing time, especially in a Nigerian team that relies on big names and foreign talents than a foreign team where racism and knack for form are still potent factors. Mitchel Obi was almost a tourist at the last African Cup of Nations! Even if England drops our lads after just one game, it has effectively denied us their use forever! Weakening a likely opposition is also part of the game!

 

 

Two more points must, however, be made. One: That the boys could make more money playing for England than playing for Nigeria. Who can easily discountenance the primacy of money in human affairs! Two: Team mates sabotaging the best efforts of high-riding colleagues in the Nigerian team had been rife in the past. Hear one of such foreign stars: “It was most unfortunate because I noticed that most of the players, when they asked me to go to the right, I will go there but the ball will go to the left and if they asked me to go to the left, the ball will go to the right.” Which true professional will hear this and still want to play in such a national team? Wasn’t that how Rashidi Yekini was reportedly made a pariah by his team mates after he was said to have “selfishly” celebrated his – and Nigeria’s – first World Cup goal at USA ’94? More professionalism in our sports will encourage more of our foreign talents to vote Nigeria.     

 

 

FEEDBACK

 

RE: Nigeria at 59: I am so sorry!

 

Good piece! Thank you! – Pastor Victor Okechukwu Esobe.

 

It is a betrayal of our collective sensibility. Come to think of it, how can we come out of this cul-de-sac? Can this man-child ever walk? Who did this to us – the British! – Uba Igwe, Badagry.

Don’t be sorry! Play your role by promoting and mentoring youths on their political, constitutional and fundamental human rights, as well as campaigning for INEC to conduct local government elections to bring governance closer to the grassroots. Followers also have roles to play. – Feyiseyan Akeeb Kareem; Ogwashi-Ukwu. 

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Minimum wage, maximum trouble

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Minimum wage, maximum trouble

woke up yesterday morning to run through the enormous space of the social media to catch a glimpse of what was trending. There were so many issues that caught my attention, but the particular piece written by Kunle Oyatomi from the State of Osun, entitled “Acknowledging what’s good, won’t diminish us” caught my fancy in the most bizarre manner. He had wondered aloud why civil servants in Osun State did not show animated appreciation for the “unexpected” salary that was paid on Friday, the 4th October, 2019 especially as many of them would have to pay school fees for their children.

Lamenting the deafening silence that pervaded the atmospheric polymer of Osun State, without any animated response, Oyatomi had observed that such behaviour was unbefitting of Osun people. I read over and over again to ascertain if indeed this piece of insult emanated from a seasoned journalist of Oyatomi’s configuration, but because I saw the piece in an online platform, I sort of believed it is authentic. I am still at sea in trying to rationalise why Oyatomi would expect workers in Osun State to celebrate and rejoice in ostentatious animation, the payment of their entitlements by way of salaries on the 4th of another month, when in fact it should be paid on the 25th of the due month.

This is the bane of Nigeria’s present predicament. I can understand Oyatomi’s pains when you juxtapose his present position to what obtained during Rauf Aregbesola’s tenure when workers were owed over two years of their salaries and entitlements. Even with bailout, I doubt if the present taciturn government has been able to liquidate the inherited backlog of salary arrears foisted on the state by his predecessor. In a game of collegiate symphony of guilt, complaints are never heard, it is usually a family affair. Oyatomi captured the scenario very eloquently when he said “it was “unexpected” because, payment of salaries has become a sacrilege in Osun State hence he expected the civil servants to celebrate, in animated fashion, to the “uncommon display of magnanimity” by a government that is manacled by delayed allocation, to have paid the workers’ salaries on the 4th October. That was like a ninth day wonder, a comet kind of, an oasis in the famished desert of work but no pay, that Osun State has notoriously become. In the fullness of that era of abandonment of the workers, former Governor Aregbesola still enjoyed helicopter’s ride each time he needed to visit nearby states of Ondo, Edo and Lagos.

Government business did not stop. He was still able to carry out some capital projects even when the workers became permanent debtors by no ordinary design of their own.

With the ugly scenario in some states that have become notorious debtors to their civil servants, one could understand the rigmarole that has attended the promised minimum wage by the Federal Government. Before the 2019 Presidential election, the talk about increasing the minimum wage from N18,000 to N30,000 gained traction, expectedly so for its vote catching theme. Not long, the deals were brokered and sealed. After elections, tongues have started wagging as to the delay in implementation. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) are already warming up for another strike. What would be the plight of some states that couldn’t pay N18,000 minimum wage and now being compelled to pay N30,000 new minimum wage? Where will the money come from? If at some point in the history of some states, civil servants were owed 30 months salary arrears under an N18,000 minimum wage regime, what would happen when the new N30,000 applies?

No doubt, we do have problem with salary regime in Nigeria. And our skewed federalism accounts for why so much disconnection exists within the system. Having equal or uniform minimum wage is first and foremost an antithesis to the letters and spirit of federalism. States are not equally yoked, hence states should be able to determine what they are able to pay their workers based on their allocations or resources. This way, it won’t be a huge burden defraying monthly salary payment. They should also be able to decipher the volume of their workforce. How many civil servants do states require to execute their policies and programmes? Often times, the services of consultants are sought after as a stop gap measure to the human capital inefficiency of the average civil servant. Often times, it amounts to waste because the huge expenditure on consultants could be applied judiciously to train and re-train civil servants in specific skills needed to drive governance across the states. Added to this, are the litany of needless commitments that states Chief Executives often undertake. Overheads are sometimes bogus. Security votes are often mind-boggling, yet they are drawn fully, even when they complain of delayed and poor monthly allocation.

Governors can cut down on some of these sub-heads to save money for salary payment and make room for better appreciation of the problems confronting state government and salary matters. The population of civil servants in some states is often too large, thus creating room for redundancy and inertia. When you visit some federal or state ministries, for want of what to do, civil servants engage in petty trading around their offices. In some cases, businesses thrive as though you are within a shopping complex. I am sure the situation in some states will be worse especially in an era when salary has become as scarce as gold or diamond to an average civil servant. States need to look inwards to generate ideas and measures that would increase their internally generated revenue (IGR). By capturing more people into their tax net, the possibility of increasing their IGR will also be high. Rather than wait in a beggarly fashion for the monthly allocation from the Federal Government, states should device ways and means of ensuring a holistic appraisal of opportunities that could up their drive for additional revenue that could cater for specific needs of the state. That way, the insufficient revenue from the monthly allocation will help to augment whatever they receive internally.

It is difficult to actually ascertain what money is adequate and sufficient enough to help drive their developmental initiatives. What should be of primary concern is for states Chief Executives to be prudent in the management and application of scarce resources. Once accountability is not guaranteed in the management of resources, you are likely going to see misplaced priorities. Opportunity cost rather than opportunity lost should be applied to deal with situations where projects are prioritised to bring the best out of every bad situation, to guarantee value for money in government business. “Acknowledging what is good, won’t diminish us” in the words of Kunle Oyatomi, should be to the extent that permanent measures are put in place to sustain a regime of prompt payment of salaries rather than waiting for civil servants to clap for a month’s salary payment when there are legion of arrears yet to be attended to.

Governors must cut down on their overheads and Duty Tour Allowances (DTA). In as much as they expect some level of understanding from the civil servants, they too must be ready to show a high degree of sacrifice by eliminating waste and unnecessary expenses that easily derail budgetary estimates during implementation.

Governors must stop the lamentation by generating ideas and initiatives that could put more money on the table to cater for growing needs of the people. This new minimum wage must commence immediately in the states in such assured manner to guarantee workers solidarity and enhanced welfare. If in an era of hyper-inflationary trend, one expects workers to jubilate and celebrate for paying a month’s salary of the old minimum wage regime, it demands further interrogation why the new standards are not applied across board. It will make more meaning to workers if the governors announce the commencement of the payment of the new salary structure than this present effort of wanting to celebrate old wine in new bottle.    

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‘The whole is only as great as the sum of its parts’

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‘The whole is only as great as the sum of its parts’

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s we celebrate our 59th Independence Anniversary, there is no time more fitting than this to reflect on some of the issues that concern our country the most and especially the topic of this lecture which is, “The Whole Is Only As Great As The Sum Of Its Parts.”

 

The story of our nation so far from the crisis in the First Republic, the coups, a brutal civil war, through the decades of military rule, and through the democratization of 1999, has at every juncture, tested our resilience as a united nation.

 

Regardless, we can testify that our economy has grown to become the biggest by GDP on the continent; we have produced world class professionals in medicine, law, the sciences and lately in digital technology.

 

Our young people are making real strides in disrupting industries in new and exciting ways especially with the use of technology. They have literarily stormed the international entertainment and fashion industry, our democracy, one of largest in the world has become more robust and vibrant, we have come a long way.

 

But something also about our “Nigerianness” is that we have never let our successes and good stories obscure the scale of the work that has to be done, to free the populace from poverty and its manifestations, to create wealth and opportunity for the majority of our citizens and to sustain our democracy and our commitment to democracy and the rule of law. To also emphasize that this country cannot grow if we are not able to deal with corruption.

 

But perhaps, the greatest struggle in our quest for collective progress is in the realm of hearts and minds of our people. For decades, our capacity to be our best selves, to manifest the most edifying aspects of our national character has been constrained by a perverse pessimism about our future. The chequered nature of our journey since independence has inflicted some loss of confidence in our psyche.

 

For many of our people, the overriding sentiment concerning Nigeria is one of hopelessness and resignation. I believe that our recovery as a people must begin in the domains of thought and the imagination, in a reappraisal of who we are as Nigerians. We have to confront the physical and psychological forces that foisted a self-limiting and defeatist perception of ourselves and our possibilities.

 

In order to do so, we must draw inspiration from the deep wells of our history. The founding fathers of our Republic – Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello, these three differed on many things but shared a clear belief in Nigeria’s boundless capacity as a united country. Regardless of their keen rivalry, they agreed on the crucial necessity of Nigeria staying united despite the many centrifugal pressures that buffeted our young nation at the time.

 

On this matter of unity, their differences were those of degree rather than category. Each of them occupied different niches on the spectrum of national integration, but they all shared the view that the ideal situation was one in which a united and prosperous Nigeria took its rightful place in the world as the most populous black nation on earth and as the foremost black power on earth.

 

In 1959, while addressing the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) at its 50th anniversary celebration in New York City, Nnamdi Azikiwe made these remarks at a time when our independence as a nation was a year away. Azikiwe said: “It will be, by a very large margin (Nigeria), the biggest state in Africa. It will be no vassal State depending for its existence on the sufferance of other powers. It will formulate its foreign policy and in its national interest, but it will not be neutral on any issue which affects either the destiny of people of African descent anywhere on this planet or the peace of the world. Sustained by its connection with the democratic world, and powerful through the number of its inhabitants and the extent of its resources, Nigeria will be a country of consequence, and I am convinced, a force in world affairs.”

 

In 1953, Ahmadu Bello had struck similar notes when he declared, “Whatever the Nigerians may say, the British people have done them a great service by bringing all the different communities of Nigeria together.” In early 1960, he also asserted that with independence, Nigeria would rise to become “first among equals in Africa.” Two years before, Chief Obafemi Awolowo had rallied his countrymen and invoked the grand destiny of the new republic when he said, “Let us cross the rubicon into independence and burn the boat. Nigeria is a noble purpose and a venture worth fighting for.”

 

From the foregoing, it is clear that the founding fathers were of one mind as far as Nigeria’s historic significance and destiny were concerned. They also recognized that her ability to fulfil her destiny was dependent on her continued unity.

I raise this issue to make a key point. Despite the various agitations, opinions and prognostications about Nigeria’s long-term future, I believe that the matter of Nigeria’s unity has been fundamentally settled. I believe that there is a broad consensus dating back to the convergence of the founding fathers that we are better together than apart.

It is my conviction that for the vast majority of our people, Nigeria is a reality that has come to stay and that separatism and disintegration hold no allure for most of us. Fifty years ago, when Nigeria was embroiled in a civil war, many people believed that the end had come for her. Instead, we were able to rebuild after the war and achieve a measure of reconciliation unparalleled in Africa and indeed, in world history. Obviously, we continue to work on promoting peace, tolerance and solidarity between our diverse peoples and this is the point. A nation constantly evolves and is always a work in progress.

 

While the question of national unity may have been settled, the issue of the living arrangements within this union remain the subject of vigorous disputation. This need not alarm us. Like the Americans, we must always strive towards “a more perfect union.” And part of this process requires us to constantly examine the way we live and subject it to rigorous debate. This is what it means to be a democracy. Indeed, in an ethnically and religiously diverse society such are ours, democracy will permit a plurality of perspectives to exist in creative tension. Our vigorous debates are part of that dynamic.

One way of framing this discourse is that during the first decade of our existence as an independent nation, the questions were around the durability of our unity and territorial integrity. Having answered these questions, the discourse has shifted to the issue of what kind of internal architecture can guarantee our collective progress and prosperity.

 

 

The challenges confronting us now are about strengthening internal coherence and cohesion. It is about moving from affirmations of unity to the achievement of synergy in which the sum of our strengths exceeds the totality of our constituent parts.

 

 

At this point, it would not be out of place to draw inspiration again from our founding fathers. While the three patriarchs had slightly differing ideas on what shape national unity would take, an unimpeachable point of convergence for them all was their agreement on the necessity of having strong subnational entities, whether as regions or states (as we describe them today), must be strong.

 

Indeed, it is permissible to say that all of the founding fathers were federalists. Each of them at one time or the other, had presided over regions which were strong subnational units.

 

Over the last five decades, our quest has been to strike the appropriate balance between a strong national authority and adequate subnational agency. In other words, how do we ensure that the Federal Government in its powers, does not render the states irrelevant? How do the states become so strengthened, autonomous that they are able to complement our development as a nation?

 

At first, we had three regions, then four. Then four regions were split into 12 states, which became 19 states and then 21 states, then 30 states and then finally 36 states and 774 Local Government Areas. Throughout this process, we have continued to search for the right configuration of jurisdictions in our three-tiered federal model.

 

The most important function of governments today is the creation of an environment that enables our citizens to realize their aspirations. In practical terms, this means that the most important role of government, asides from security which is fundamental, is creating wealth, jobs and opportunities.

 

Without a doubt, the most important transformative change we can make in Nigeria today is to lift the majority of our people out of deprivation by speedily creating wealth and opportunity leading to the eradication of poverty.

 

How? Nigeria is a Federation of 36 sub-national entities and a Federal Capital Territory. The people, the land, the businesses, the schools and healthcare facilities are all in the states. The only territory owned by the Federal Government is Abuja, everything else is in a geographical entity called a State.

 

The nation cannot be wealthy when its component parts, the states – are poor. The standard of living of the Federation depends on the standard of living of people who live in the states. In other words, the Federation can only be as rich as its richest state and as strong as its strongest state. Our national indices merely aggregate the realities of our weaknesses and strengths as present in all our constituent units. Consequently, we can only build a stronger and more prosperous nation by building stronger and more prosperous states.

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Tears, Sorrow, Blood: Lamentation for Nigeria at 59

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Tears, Sorrow, Blood: Lamentation for Nigeria at 59

 

 

INTRODUCTION

Tears, Sorrow, Blood, Pains, Pangs, Anger, Hunger, Melancholy, Dejection, Hopelessness, Haplessness, Disillusionment, Poverty, Ignorance, Termites and maggots eat up the national edifice. Chaos and anarchy reign supreme, Impunity triumphs, Irredentism, cronyism, clannishness and nepotism strut around like a proud peacock.

Corruption multiplies geometrically, ravaging the land. Nigeria is now the second most corrupt country in West  Africa and one of the 148 most corrupt in the world Rule of law is subsumed, human rights crushed Democracy is vanquished. Even basic civil liberties are suppressed and subjugated Judges are brutalised, humiliated and denigrated, for doing their jobs.

 

The Judiciary is weakened, traumatised, pauperised. The Legislators haemorrage the national purse with fantastic and indefensible out-of-the-world pay packets. The Executive acts imperiously, untrammelled, uncontrolled, like Louis X14 of France. The cabal holds the nation down by the jugular. Less than 20 people dictate the fate of 200 million Nigerians. There are no checks and balances. Absolutism, dictatorship, fascism, brutality, bestride our democratic space like a colossus.

 

 

Yet, the people, the Civil Society, remain docile, complicit, frightened and cowed. Mediocrity is enthroned in place of meritocracy. Hypocrisy, lies, revisionism, propaganda are elevated, celebrated and dressed in the false garb of truth and patriotism. Genuine criticism, dissent, opposition, plurality of views, are treated as treason, and at best as treasonable felony. Nigerians now murmur, rather than discuss freely. Soliloquy and monologue take the place of robust dialogue.

Nigerians now live like walking corpses, like the living dead. The common man and woman languish in abject penury. The middle class diminishes. Industries relocate to neighbouring countries .Massive disinvestment becomes the order of the day. Nigeria, once upon a time the biggest economy in Africa and the 3rd fastest growing in the world, is today the poverty capital of the world. Parents now sell their children to survive and the children do likewise. Husbands kidnap wives and wives husbands, for cheap ransom.

Insecurity becomes the order of the day. Boko Haram, herdsmen, kidnappers, armed robbers, hired assassins, control our highways, pathways and forest routes. Nigeria has been turned into a gruesome crimson field of bloodbath. There is mass suicide and homicide. Mass unemployment is the order of the day. Retrenchment becomes a norm. Education and certificates are racketeered. Children learn under uncovered roofs in rain, storm and sun, sitting on bare floor. Graduates roam the streets without jobs. Our beautiful daughters and sisters are sold into second slavery as sex objects.

Young able-bodied men take to kidnapping, armed robbery, internet scams and otokoto rituals. Money bags are celebrated, no matter the illicit sources of their wealth. The church and the mosque are complicit in this societal degeneration. Morals, ethics, values, recede into the abyss of historical oblivion. Prices of food have gone out of the roofs, leaving the poor prostrate and defeated. The tail now wags the dog, the leaders molest the people whose mandate they utilise. They laugh the people to scorn, exploit them, beat them, scourge them, impoverish them and misuse them. God, where, when, how and why did we find ourselves in this scandalous state of nadir, doldrums and national calamity?

 

Nigeria at 59!!! A woman still crawling, flat- breasted, misused, dehumanised and degraded. There will still be sunshine at the end of the storm. Yes, a silver lining on a dark cloudy sky. God help us.

THE $9 BILLION JUDGMENT DEBT THUNDER: IS NIGERIA IN A CUL-DE-SAC? (2)

 

INTRODUCTION

Last week, we delved into this recent thought provoking issue, wherein, we dealt extensively on the facts of the case and the former Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Michael Aondoakaa, SAN’s reaction to the issue. Today, we shall continue with our discourse, starting with Malami’s response to Aondoakaa’s statement.

MALAMI, SAN’S RESPONSE

 

Abubakar Malami, SAN, the Attorney General of Nigeria agrees in his reaction that: “The Arbitral Tribunal on 31st January 2017 rendered its Final Award against the Ministry of Petroleum Resources in the sum of US$6.597 Billion together with pre-award interest at the rate of 7% per annum effective from 20th March 2013 and post award interest at the same rate till date of payment.” He further agrees that:

“Upon the Award, P&ID commenced recognition and enforcement proceedings of the arbitration award against FGN in March 2018 in both the United Kingdom (“UK”) and the United States of America (the “United States”). In view of the huge arbitration award, the current administration took positive steps in challenging the award, thus, the FGN is duly represented in the proceedings in the United States and the UK by the foreign Law Firm of Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP.”

CENTRAL BANK OF NIGERIA (CBN)’S RESPONSE

The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, described the contract leading to the judgment as a “fraudulent contract” between the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and P&ID.

Emefiele noted that, contrary to its claims in the media, the foreign firm did not invest any money on the contract in Nigeria.

“As a foreign company, if you are investing either in a contract or a project in Nigeria, there are various options you will adopt in bringing in your investment.

“If you are bringing in capital, in which case you are bringing in the money, you will fill Form A and you will also collect a certificate of capital importation.

“If you are bringing in machine or assets to execute your contract, then in this case you will fill Form M and also collect a certificate of capital importation to prove that you actually brought in money.

“We have gone through our records, we do not have any information in our records to show that this company brought in one cent into this country and we have accordingly written to the Economic and Financial Crime Commission and the Intelligence Department of the Nigeria Police that are currently investigating this matter.”

Okay, we have heard the Nigerian government’s side of the story. But, is that what the law says?

 

NOW THIS

LEGAL ISSUES ARISING DISCOVERY OF “SILVER BULLET” TO SHOOT DOWN $9.6BN P&ID CLAIM AND PRIVATE INTERNATIONAL LAW

 

Suddenly, some Nigerians, especially of this government, laden with sentiments, have now said they have found a “silver bullet” to shoot down the $9.6billion world record claim against Nigeria’s assets by Irish company Process and Industrial Development (P&ID). The rock-solid defence, they claim, is contained in a UK law that gives immunity to Sovereign states.

 

UK’s State Immunity Act 1978 (the Act) bars UK courts from confiscating assets of a foreign state without the consent of that state, gives it a leeway in the matter.

The Act allows a written consent of a foreign state before the enforcement of a judgment which could lead to seizure of assets or freezing of accounts.

AND THIS

 

Proponents and supporters of this government claimed to have discovered a “silver bullet” to shut down the $9 billion debt. They rely on “Section 13(2) of the Act which provides that:(a) relief shall not be given against a State by way of injunction or order for specific performance or for the recovery of land or other property; and (b) the property of a State shall not be subject to any process for the enforcement of a judgment or arbitration award or, in an action in rem, for its arrest, detention or sale”.

 

They argue: “Pursuant to section 13 of the Act, state assets ‘shall not be subject to any process for the enforcement of a judgment or arbitration award or, in an action in rem, for [their] arrest, detention or sale’ unless the state has provided its written consent. For example, Gold Reserve Inc v. Venezuela [2016] EWHC 153 (Comm), finding that Venezuela had submitted to arbitration in writing by entering into a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) with Canada) or the assets in question are ‘in use or intended for use for commercial purposes’ (section 13(2)-(4)). These provisions apply in respect to states alone as defined in section 14 of the Act, and do not therefore extend to separate entities (see question 8).

 

“This provision is subject to sections 13(3) and 13(4) of the Act. Pursuant to section 13(3), a state may provide written consent to the grant of any relief against it. It follows that a state may consent to the grant of interim or injunctive relief against it; however, the mere submission to the jurisdiction of the UK courts does not constitute such consent.” (To be continued).

 

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK

 

“I think whether you’re having setbacks or not, the role of a leader is to always display a winning attitude.” (Colin Powell).

 

LAST LINE

 

I thank Nigerians for always keeping faith with the Sunday Sermon on the Mount of the Nigerian Project, by Chief Mike Ozekhome, SAN, OFR, FCIArb., Ph.D, LL.D. I enjoin you to look forward to next week’s treatise.

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Red-hot Osimhen on the march…

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Red-hot Osimhen on the march…

Eagles star ready to devour Amiens

 

 

Victor Osimhen rose above all heads to nod in Lille’s equaliser in their 2-1 loss to Chelsea in a UEFA Champions League game on Wednesday, and the youngster is expected to be in his devastating element when his side host Nimes in a Ligue 1 tie on Sunday.

The former golden Eaglets star has taken the French Championat by the storm since he arrived at the Metropolle last summer and now he has become one of the hottest prospects in Europe with his sublime showing against Chelsea on Wednesday night.

Lille sold the two players who masterminded the side’s strong finish last term; Nicolas Pepe headed to Arsenal while Rafael Leao joined AC Milan and many fans of the modest club feared the management might have committed a blunder by going for a less-fancied Nigerian as a replacement for the two stars in a season they would campaign in the Champions League.

However, Osimhen has now established himself as one of the finest youngsters around after netting six league goals in just seven matches and netted his first ever Champions League strike. Osimhen seems to have shrugged off poor start to life in Europe after failing to make the grade at the Budesliga side Wolfsburg who signed him following his incredible run in the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates which the Golden Eaglets of Nigeria won. A loan move to Belgian club Charleroi provided a platform for resurgence of his career after he netted 12 times in 25 appearances to become one of the most-sought after young players in Europe.

AC Milan, Everton and Lille were alerted to his talent and he eventually chose to join the French side after he was assured of a regular playing time. He hit the ground running as he announced his arrival with a stunning brace in their 2-1 win over Nantes in his first ever appearance for the club.

He has had a wonderful 100 percent home record; he has scored in all the matches he featured in front of their fans at the Metropolle and it remains to be seen if Nimes will stop the stunning run on Sunday. Although Lille lost to Chelsea, his overall contribution got everyone talking including the Blues’ legend and coach Frank Lampard who has predicted a bright future for the Nigerian. “In the preparation for this game, I have been watching his (Osimhen) performances for the season and now I know his story as well,” Lampard said after the game.

“He is fast; he has everything and I think it was tough for us to play against him so I wish him well. His story is great where he has come from, where he is now and it looks like a fantastic career ahead of him.” Just like Lampard, Nimes coach will have a sleepless night trying to figure out how to stop this menancingly devastating Nigerian.

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