Hon. Abdulrazak Namdas represents Mayo Belwa/Ganye/Jada/Toungo Federal Constituency of Adamawa State on the platform of APC and was the spokesperson of the House of Representatives in the 8th Assembly. He is the Chairman of the House Ad Hoc Committee that investigated the crisis in Edo State House of Assembly. He speaks to PHILIP NYAM on the allegations of complicity against the committee and other issues
What is your impression about the about the list of ministerial nominees released by President Muhammadu Buhari?
It is a welcome development especially with the return of some old ministers who performed well in the first term. The president, before sending this list to the Senate said he wants to work with the people he knows. I am okay with the list of ministerial nominees. At least, some of the ranking ministers who did well in the first term have been re-nominated, meaning that they will lead in driving the next level agenda. I think we should give Mr. President a chance with his choice of ministers. He know who is best fit to drive his policy thrust of improving the economy, fighting corruption and putting to an end the insecurity in the country.
You chaired the Ad-Hoc Committee that investigated the Edo State House of Assembly crisis, whose recommendations, the House has adopted. But the Speaker of the State Assembly has alleged that your committee was compromised…
It is true I chaired the ad-hoc investigative team that visited the Edo State House of Assembly. I have laid my report and it is now the House document. It is no longer my report. I really would not want to dwell on this matter. But the person you said alleged is an interested party and he is said to be the Speaker.
But our report says there is no Speaker. So if I respond to his allegations, it will mean I am speaking against the report. To me, this is just a distraction. However, to answer you clearly, we were not sponsored by the APC National Chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
The Speaker also alleged that the chartered flight the committee used was paid for by the APC Chairman and they have facts to prove it…
I think we should leave this matter at this level because if it were coming from a different person, I would have responded. But it is about the person that we investigated and I believe Nigerians are not interested in that now. We actually went to Benin on a flight but it was not paid for by Oshiomhole.
In fact, we were warned not to enter (Edo) Benin. We had to talk to the governor who allayed our fears and asked us to come. In spite of that, we decided that we must not pass the night in Benin and therefore flew in and out of the town. Our security is paramount because we needed to be alive to talk to the people we were going to meet.
I want Nigerians to appreciate that we have laid our report. But let me say that Section 91 of the 1999 Constitution as amended has provided that no state assembly should have more than 40 members. As big as Lagos and Kano are, they cannot have more than 40 members. Kano has 44 local governments, but cannot have more than 40 members. As small as Bayelsa is with eight local governments, it must produce nothing less than 24 members in the state assembly. Now, in Edo State House of Assembly, there are 24 members. So, when you have eight members out of the 24 taking the oath, it is in order because it is one third. But when you have an inauguration in the night and exclude others, and then there are decisions that must require two third of the Assembly to pass and eight is not the two third of 24.
So, when an issue arises today that requires the approval of the State Assembly, where will they get the two thirds? They cannot get it. And unfortunately, the warring factions are holding tight to their positions. This is a House that is entirely peopled by APC lawmakers and it will not cost anything to do the right thing. Okay, if 60 or 70 lawmakers enter the chambers in the House of Representatives and elect a Speaker based on one third, will Nigerians say that is right? I have heard a lot of commentators complained that we direct the governor; we did not direct him, we urged the governor to reissue a proclamation. Some people have argued that a proclamation is not issued twice; but I also ask the question, did the constitution provide that it should be issued once? And Parliaments all over the world use conventions where there is no clear provision of the law.
Every lawyer knows what I am talking about. If you are to issue a proclamation and the constitution did not state clearly that it should be given time, but since 1999 all proclamations carry time, you are also bound to state the time. Because of you evade the issue of time and run to the court for protection, people will not see it as being honest. So, it is not everything that the law will capture. I want Nigerians to understand that this arm of government is independent and must not be tele-guided by the executive. Both arms of government are to work together, but independently.
Recently, you were honoured by a church and in this age where religious intolerance has taken the front row in the hearts of not a few Nigerians; how were you so recognised as a Muslim?
Honestly speaking, I come from a background where in the environment I grew up, even in the same family we have both Christians and Muslims. I am a Muslim but I have relations who are Christians. I also have friends who cut across the religious divide. I do not discriminate based on religious leaning, but I respect people’s religious views and beliefs. Even before I joined politics, I honoured invitations from churches and now as a politician, I attend church programmes when I am invited. And we even celebrate Christmas together. So, whenever the church comes to me for assistance, I do assist and if the Muslims too come to me do same. So, the church has recognised this.
So, what would be your advice to the adherents of these two religions, giving your experience?
Sometimes politicians try to use religion to cause confusion. Some people may not even be religious but sometimes once you mention that this person is of a particular faith, you are likely to get blind supporters. And when there is a fight and they say one person is a member of particular religion there is the tendency that people will queue behind the person.
But you will realise that most the politicians who have been talking about religion, when they eventually win elections, they forget about the religion. How many of us are truly using the religion to get close to God?
I just pray that the Nigerian electorates should refuse to be used by anybody in the name of religion to cause crisis or destroy others for selfish reasons. If you are a Christian and feel that this man cannot deliver, forget about religion and go for the person that is competent. If you are a Muslim and this man that you are supporting and dying for is not good enough to represent you, look for someone that is competent and can deliver to support.
Sadly, sometimes these people who use religion to divide others are not what they claim to be, because a true Christian or Muslim will not seek to kill or harm an innocent human being. My advice to Nigerians is that religion is a good thing but that should not cause rivalry among us. Let us always look for people that will help the society grow instead of using religion as a yardstick to identify competent people. Let us be looking at people’s capacities and not the religion they practice because most of us do not even practice what our religions preach.
You were in the race for Speaker until the APC zoned the position to South-West and you withdrew to support Hon. Gbajabiamila. Looking back at the last one month, would you say you made a good decision?
Well, I think fairly enough, I will say I am not disappointed so far. Leadership is about perception. For now, things have not been fully put in place; for example, standing committees of the House are yet to be constituted. Even though we are just starting, the leadership is able to carry along members from the opposition parties: that joint task, which the speaker’s campaign was anchored on, has not been jettisoned. It is our prayer that the leadership should continue in this manner so that we can jointly protect the independence of the legislature.
The leadership of PDP, the main opposition party has criticised the manner Speaker Gbajabiamila handled the issue of minority leadership in the House. The grouse of the party is that the Speaker recognised the list submitted by the minority caucus and disregarded the one from its National Chairman.
You see the issue is that PDP being an opposition party will always attempt to discredit the leadership of the House. But I want to say that we are parliamentarians and the House rules are clear on the election of leaders whether minority or majority. We agree that the party can guide the various caucuses in the House, but it is the members of the caucus that are expected to elect their leaders and not the party.
As a member of the 9th House, I have seen a copy of the letter written and signed by the majority of members of the minority caucus in the House electing Hon. Ndudi Elumelu and other leaders. So, the party (PDP) has to respect the House rules and the decision of the members of the minority parties. Elumelu is of the PDP and not the APC and he is going to protect the interest of the PDP and not the interest of APC. So, there is no point fighting over this matter.
Let me give you an example, when we were to elect our own Majority Leader, there was serious concern because it was zoned to the North-West, specifically Kano. And you know that we have very respected and ranking APC members from Kano. So, whoever you choose from Kano can function very well as the Majority Leader.
But we had two highly qualified members; the current leader, Hon. Garba Alhassan Ado Doguwa and Comrade Aminu Suleiman contesting neck to neck for the position. It was a fierce contest, and we were going to cast our votes and some even cast their votes. It was we members of the caucus that voted and not the APC that imposed our leaders on us. We resolved the tense situation among ourselves.
The APC promised Nigerians “Next Level” after its first term of “change”. But it took a while for President Buhari to submit the names of his ministers to the Senate. Won’t this delay affect the implementation of the “Next Level” agenda?
I believe we will deliver. As we speak today, there are permanent secretaries in place who are functioning very well. And don’t forget that this is a president that is ranking. He has studied the first four years and he wants to improve on that. Nobody would want to fail. So, he is taking his time and like the Senate President assured, the list will soon be out. I know we Nigerians are used to the belief that if you are sworn in on Monday, you should submit ministerial list on Tuesday. That is quite nice.
But every leader has his own style on how he wants to administer the nation. Remember that this is a president that is very experienced; he was there as a military Head of State and he is coming back for a second term as a civilian president.
Many Nigerians are also apprehensive that nothing much is heard about the implementation of the 2019 budget, while we are already in the second half of the year. Is this good for our economy?
Let us appreciate the fact that in the 8tth Assembly, the budget was passed very late. And this administration is saying we will do our best to return to the January to December budget circle. The 2019 budget was passed around April, May and we are not yet in August. But there are releases for critical projects, which we are expecting. But we have resolved that if the president comes up with the budget proposal early, we will pass the budget before end of December.
Insecurity is ravaging the nation and former President Olusegun Obasanjo recently addressed a letter to President Buhari proffering solutions on how to tackle the unfortunate development. What’s your perspective on the letter?
For me, I believe that we need to do something more drastic about the insecurity because every day you wake up, it is either bandits killing people, herdsmen attacks, kidnappers, armed robbers and so on. It is my wish that the president would rid the nation of these problems. But I will appeal to Nigerians not to be stereotype and tag some ethnic groups as evil.
In every ethnic group, there are good and bad people, so when we label an entire ethnic group as criminals or terrorists because a few people are involved in these criminalities, we will not be doing well to our image as a people. So, a high ranking statesman like the former president should avoid making such provocative statements.
It is true that we have a crisis of insecurity on our hands that require the attention of all stakeholders, but we must avoid labeling. If the Tiv and Jukun are fighting, we should not conclude that the Tivs are always notorious or the Jukuns are always riotous, because there are very good Jukun and Tiv people. Let us single out the criminal elements and leave out where they come from.
We, in the parliament should also see how we can assist the executive in tackling this problem. It is even embarrassing for the elected officials to be going about in bullet proof cars for fear of being attacked, when the electorate have no cover. Some elected officials operate from hotel rooms because of the insecurity. All these are embarrassing. So, all of us especially the politicians; let us support the president in order to end this insecurity.
As divisive as we have become, when it comes to sports, especially football, we seem to be united. What’s your impression of the just concluded African Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt?
I think this is one area Nigeria needs to explore and harness. When Ahmed Musa used to score, nobody cared to know whether he is northerner or southerner. Now that Odion Ighalo is scoring, nobody is asking where he is from.
We should as leaders ask ourselves these questions. We, therefore, need to copy from Nigerians and make this country great. But let me tell you, as far as we do not refrain from ethnic and religious sentiments, we have a long way to go. Even from the same village where people speak the same language, we still have these unhealthy divisions.
Unfortunately, this is growing by the day. You see people come out in the public and claim to be speaking against these ills but behind the scene, they do different things entirely. But in football, the target is to score and win for Nigeria, nobody cares to know whether that foot that scored is an Ibo foot or a Tiv foot or a Hausa foot.
Commuting through hell
Since Monday September 2, when a section of the Ogun River Bridge on Lagos – Ibadan Expressway was partially closed to traffic due to construction work going – on on the corridor, motorists and commuters have been passing through hell. This is as a result of traffic gridlock on the stretch between Arepo and Berger Bus stop, Lagos. JOHNSON AYANTUNJI reports
or most residents of Second Lagos border towns on Lagos – Ibadan Expressway, the fear of commuting on the high way, is the beginning of wisdom.
Since Monday, September 2, when the contractors handling the reconstruction of the busiest highway in West Africa, diverted the inward traffic on the Ogun River Bridge to the outward bound traffic at Kara, border between Lagos State and Ogun States, commuters on this corridor and travelers coming in and out of the centre of excellence, have been passing through hell.
A journey of less than 20 minutes now takes between 3 and 4 hours. This reaches a peak during the rush hours when those who work in Lagos but reside around Arepo, Magboro, Mowe and Sagamu are going to work or coming back home.
For most of them they spend nothing less than 6 to 8 hours in the gridlock. Since the first day of the last week of November, Sunday to be precise, it has been hellish. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Friday, when this report was being put together, were the worst hit.
The scorching sun did not make things easier. Those who had no functional air conditions in their vehicles were sweating and soaked to their inner wears, as the doors of their vehicles were opened to let in air.
In order to beat the traffic, most of the residents on this axis, have devised means of doing so. It is either they wake up at dawn or relocate to areas far removed from the axis. They spend most of the working days with friends, come home during weekend and go back Sunday afternoon. Others have abandoned their homes and taken temporary residents with friends and loved ones. Those who have no alternative go through it and it is taking a toll on their health.
“My health is failing,” said a middle aged civil servant with the Lagos State government.
Our source who spoke with Sunday Telegraph on condition of anonymity said she is considering throwing in the towel. “I cannot die before my time. I may resign my appointment with the Lagos State government soon,” our source who has put in 25 years of service said.
An intern with an engineering consulting firm in Yaba, who lives in Mowe with his parents have moved in to stay with a family friend in Ikeja.
The undergraduate of the Yaba College of Technology said he decided to relocate as he almost lost his placement.
“I decided to move to Ikeja due to the stress of waking up early to go to work and get back home late.
“Besides, it costs me more to commute between Mowe and Yaba. Before the partial closure of the road, I spent an average of N1, 500 daily to go to work and get back home. But now I have to part with N3, 000. In some cases you do not even get the vehicle, especially when you are going back home.
“The final straw that broke the Carmel’s back was when I left home one Monday morning at 5am and did not get to Yaba until 10:00. The HR (Human Resources) manager did not take it kindly with me. I was 2 and half hours late. I decided to lend myself some sense by opting to stay with a friend in Ikeja.”
Sunday Telegraph’s reporter who decided to have a “taste” of the action shares his experience.
“We encountered the traffic immediately after Arepo junction @ 12:30pm. Between there and office of the defunct Compass, a total of 15 vehicles had broken down, due to malfunctions arising from engine overheating. Some motorists turn the situation into joke, just to relief themselves of the stress.
“We are in it again. It is only those not familiar with the route that it is a surprise to,” the driver of the commercial bus in which I was commuting in between Mowe and Berger, said. If you get information that your wife has been delivered of a baby, the naming rite would have been over before you get there”, he teased and every one burst into a loud laughter.
For those of them who do not have sense of humour, the nightmare turns to frustration. Those who lack discipline and jump from one lane to the other, incur the wrath of fellow drivers. In the process of forcing their way through bash one another and this further compounds the situation. The driver of the bashed vehicles gets down. It leads to arguments on who was right or wrong.
Besides, uniform men and bullion van drivers ignore traffic rules and drive against traffic. Others seeing them join them and in the process the whole place is blocked as on coming vehicles have no place to pass.
For those trading in petty things such as water, soft drinks, snacks and the likes, it was an opportunity to make brisk business. For instance a bottle of table water which normally goes for N50:00 is sold for N100:00. Okada (motor cycle) operators charged between N400 and N500:00 from the bridge to Berger. In most cases they pick two passengers.
“I make between N8, 000 and N10, 000 before noon, whenever there is traffic gridlock on the Long Bridge,” a motorcycle operator called Abu, gleefully told Sunday Telegraph.
But this gambit comes at a price. Some have lost their limbs as a result of the Okada rider plying “One Way”, as driving against traffic is called.
A resident of Arepo told a national newspaper that her neighbour and friend, is currently on admission at the popular Igbobi National Orthopedic Hospital, Lagos.
According to her two days after she noticed the absence and silence of her friend, she decided to call her cell phone only for her to respond that she was on admission at Igbobi and that one of her limbs had been amputated as a result of head on collision which the motorcycle she chartered from Arepo to Berger had with an oncoming vehicle at the OPIC junction before the Ogun River Bridge.
For commercial bus drivers, the popular saying that one man’s meet is another man’s poison hold true. While the commercial motorcycle operators are smiling to the bank, they are making less money. “The number of trips I make per day between Sagamu and Ketu – Ikosi has reduced greatly. On a normal day I make between five and seven trips per day, hardly do I make three whenever there is a gridlock,” a driver who identified himself as Lati.
What are the efforts being put in place to ameliorate the suffering of the commuters with the Christmas and New year’s festivities coming? Lagos Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Hygenous Omeje said the contractors Julius Berger, will suspend work till January 20, before they will resume work.
“In between, the closed roads will be opened to traffic,” he explained on a television programme during the week. He enjoined motorists to obey traffic rule by observing speed limits as well as not driving against traffic as doing so will impede the free flow of traffic.
He said further: “We enjoin motorists and commuters to exercise patience. The roads are being reconstructed and expanded from three to five lanes. We will all enjoy it thereafter. It is the sacrifice we need to make.”
A mobile police officer swore he would never travel on the road again. “Nothing will make me come to this side again until I hear on the radio that the road has been opened to traffic. Even if I am on official duty, I will pass through here early in the morning,” he lamented as he wiped away sweat which had accumulated on his brow.
Most journalists living around the axis and work in Lagos have reduced the number of days they come to work from six to three days in a week. “I work from home and send my stories to my editor,” a reporter who did not want his name in print said.
For some it is not just sitting on end in the traffic. Some have robbers who rob in the traffics to contend with.
“This morning (Tuesday) around 5am, a man was dragged out of his car and dumped in the water under the bridge. We were watching from a distance as nobody could go near to rescue him for fear of falling victim. It was after the Policemen on patrol came that we were able to pass through,” a man who called on radio traffic narrated.
But the Commandant of the Rapid Response Squad(RRS) an arm of the Lagos Police Command, Deputy Commissioner of Police(DCP) Olatunji Disu, said they are doing something about it. “I do not want to say much on the situation on the Long Bridge. We are aware and very soon, the fruits will be visible for all,” he explained.
“It is not only on Kara Bridge, even those who rob in traffic whenever there is a traffic hold up, will be stopped,” he added.
In the meantime, the commuters are passing through hell.
Sen. Nnachi: Electronic voting will eliminate rigging, killings
Senator Michael Ama Nnachi represents Ebonyi South on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) in the Senate, and he is the Vice Chairman, Senate Committees on Poverty Alleviation and Air Force. In this interview with CHUKWU DAVID, he reacts to the outcome of the governorship election in Kogi and Bayelsa states, and other political issues in the country
When the Senate was considering the Electoral Act Amendment Bill for second reading, you urged your colleagues that electronic transmission of votes should be included. What’s your reason for taking the position?
Nigeria is part of the global world. Today, every country is going ahead of Nigeria; they are all moving towards electronic transmission of election results. Of course, you know that if we do electronic transmission, the idea of killing and the rest will stop because even at your own polling unit, you already know what you have, and then you know who is winning. If you are losing, you congratulate your opponent; if you are winning, your opponent will congratulate you because he is fully aware that there is no rigging for me or any other process of manipulating the figures. Even in the 8th Assembly, they passed the bill on electronic transmission but it is still before the President for assent. This means that the electronic transmission of election results is a good idea.
In the Senate we don’t talk of party; we talk of the party which we represent, we talk of our senatorial zones which we represent. And if we have to represent the masses, we have to do what will make the masses to have confidence in us. I think that the masses will follow anything that will bring peace in Nigeria, and not to face one person or one party or one location. Electronic transmission of election results is what will save Nigeria from all these troubles because even if you are in your farm, you can vote and go back to your farm. It mustn’t be done on Saturday. Elections shouldn’t be a source of public holiday. If we start electronic voting, we can vote from Monday to Saturday, and by so doing, everybody, every voter already knows that his/her vote will count. So, by the time the electoral body comes out with the figures, everybody will be sure that the result is the true reflection of their decisions but what we are currently doing is that we have a full day paralyzed, no business, killing the economy of the nation, and at the end we are not doing the correct thing. So, for me, electronic voting is the way to go.
Don’t you think that electronic voting is very expensive and Nigeria may not afford it for now?
It might look expensive from the beginning but in the long run, you will discover that it is cheaper. For me, anything that will eliminate rigging, violence and killing is the cheapest thing we should do.
There is the tendency that those who are benefiting from the absence of electronic transmission will kick against its inclusion in the Electoral Act. What’s your take on this?
Of course, human beings must reason differently. They might think that way but those you have mentioned, what is their percentage in the over 200 million Nigerians? People must always kick against anything that is not in their favour.
I said it on the floor of the Senate; it’s a natural tendency that when it favours you, you dance. Tomorrow it might favour another person and the person will dance. However, let’s look beyond our personal interests and make laws for Nigeria and Nigerians so that everybody will have a common platform. If you lose you hug your opponent; if you win you also hug your opponent.
And you will see that simple inclusion in government will be there because after killing and the rest, you won’t even have that relationship to say, ‘come, you were in this party but I want to work with you because of your expertise.’ But if we have a good electoral process that enshrines peace, if you win, you may call the other person in the other party, and say, come let’s move ahead with the country and forget what happened.
Another thing is that we must reduce the number of political parties. For me, it’s very funny to have the number of political parties we have today. Yes, Gani Fawehinmi used the Constitution to secure multi-party system for the country. He talked of freedom of association and all that but the system is not helping us. That idea shouldn’t be applicable when it comes to political situation. You can have freedom of association in other areas but the question is, at what limit is freedom of everything? Every freedom has a limit; so we should also limit the number of political parties in Nigeria. For me, we are looking funny in the eyes of the other nations. So, they should reduce the number of political parties.
What is your ideal number of political parties you want Nigeria to operate?
For participation, we can take seven. It will make people to participate. But ordinarily, Nigerian unity should have been what Ibrahim Babangida espoused when he was in power, which is two-party system. Maybe, independent candidates may be entrenched making it three. Two-party system is what will unite Nigeria. So, if you are qualified to stand as an independent candidate, there is no problem, you go. This is my take on the issue of the number of parties to operate in Nigeria.
If you go for three-party system, it will divide the country along ethnic lines of Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo. So, to avoid projecting and promoting tribal dichotomy, let’s go with two parties, so that even if two major ethnic groups grab the two, one major ethnic group will now spread into the two, and minorities will also be there. Then what do you get? Peace.
Is it correct to say that you are advocating for the establishment of a two-party system in Nigeria?
Of course, so that this idea of freedom of this or that as contained in the Constitution will stop, and when you raise the issue of going by multi-party structure, somebody will tell you that two-party system is in the Constitution.
Do you intend to sponsor a bill on this matter to give it legal backing?
It is already in the Electoral Act which has passed second reading. It is going for public hearing and a lot of people will come up with this idea and other ideas. So, there is no need for a separate bill on it. Whatever you have to contribute just bring it out at the hearing, and they will listen to you.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Caucus in the Senate has publicly rejected the Bayelsa and Kogi elections. As an individual, what’s your impression about those elections?
As far as we are concerned in Nigeria not just me, people are not happy with the elections in Kogi and Bayelsa, particularly Kogi. That is why when I was contributing on the floor of the Senate, I said that it disheartening for INEC to see an election that was marred by rigging, violence and killing and still went ahead to announce somebody a winner. So, INEC should be empowered to be able to determine which election is sufficiently compliant and what is not sufficiently compliant with election guidelines, and know when to pronounce a winner and when not to do so.
But this idea of trying to do arithmetic on their own: this is less than this or that and declare results based on such controversial circumstances or declare election inconclusive, for me is fraud. How many Youth Corps members died in Kogi before the woman leader? And as I am talking to you, the number of deaths is still increasing everyday in Kogi. Why is it that it was that Saturday they did that election that these people died; why didn’t they die yesterday? So, all of us know that it was election violence. Therefore, we should do something to reduce election violence in the country.
Let me tell you; President Muhammadu Buhari will definitely want to do what will keep Nigeria one and bring electoral process to what is acceptable. That is to say that if there is any document that will be presented before him that will bring electoral credibility, one Nigeria, I bet you, President Buhari will sign it.
Why didn’t he sign the previous Electoral Act amendment bill which contained these provisions you are talking about and was passed by the last assembly?
That was his first tenure. That’s point number one; number two, you know he is not the Attorney-General of the Federation.
What has that got to do with his failure to sign the bill when he is even the Commander-in-Chief?
As Commander-in-Chief, he is commanding soldiers to go and kill Boko Haram and not to take over the duties of those he has appointed to advise him. The Attorney-General is the one to advise him on whether to sign any document or not. They did it to Jonathan over the National Constitutional Conference. When they finished their report, the Attorney-General then told him not to sign certain areas of the report. And that’s why he didn’t sign it till he left. Was he not Commander-in-Chief?
Are you saying that the Attorney-General misadvised President Buhari, and that’s why he didn’t sign the Electoral Act amendment bill passed by the last National Assembly?
I will not use that word. I may say he did his work. If you are appointed by somebody, you will also give your advice. I don’t know the advice he gave but the blame should not be that the President refused to sign but the advice that the Attorney-General gave him may have been the reason he didn’t sign. And of course, they gave reason before the election why that thing was not signed. And I think, that is what the Ninth National Assembly should also look into, and look at the real reasons why he didn’t sign it, and do justice to them.
How do you see the idea of deploying soldiers for the conduct of elections in Nigeria?
It is wrong. But you saw the IGP telling that the police men who came to Kogi are fake police men; which means, constitutionally, the use of army is wrong. The use of the police close to the polling booth is also wrong. That was why, in defense of what he saw he said they were fake police.
Why has the National Assembly not come out publicly to condemn the use of soldiers in the conduct of elections in Nigeria?
Who told you that the National Assembly has not said anything? That is why this amendment is on the floor of the Senate. It has passed second reading and was committed to committee for public hearing. It’s not everything that you expect the National Assembly to carry microphone and be talking in the street.
Is there any clause in the Electoral Act which bars soldiers from participating in elections?
The Constitution bars them, not only the Electoral Act. They are not supposed to participate in elections.
Can you say that Nigerian soldiers are being abused by using them for wrong assignments?
Of course. Sometimes politicians too cause them to come.
The race to 2023 presidency appears to have begun. The expectation is that a president of Igbo extraction will emerge in line with zoning principle. However, the South-West and even the North which is correctly occupying the Villa are also showing interest. What is your take on this?
You are an experienced journalist; you know that it has always been so till the last point of the election year. There has always been that struggle for who will produce the President of the country. But at the tail end of the election year, you will see that these are the people contesting. Sometimes, election is not like Mathematics that they tell you that one plus one is two. In politics, even in the last second, any decision can change.
So, I don’t even have a definite answer to what you are asking me now until when it is time for election. You know that politics is all about rumours, permutations and the rest. Again, let me draw your attention to the fact that this government is just five years old. So, why are we talking of something of 2023.
Right now, zoning is unconstitutional; would you want the idea of zoning presidency to be entrenched in the Constitution to end the uncertainty surrounding it?
Well, for me, zoning shouldn’t be a constitutional matter. I still believe that we should be able to choose the best not minding where that person comes from. If we keep talking about zoning, that is still going to be dividing us. But what I am saying is that those areas of the country that have occupied the Presidency can also allow their brothers from those areas that have not handled the Presidency to taste it with or without zoning.
How can this be achieved without a binding legal framework?
When Dr. Goodluck Jonathan came as a President, the issue of zoning was not considered. Still, people who want Nigeria to be one put him, after the tenure of Umaru Yar’Adua. When Olusegun Obasanjo came as a President in 1999, there was no issue of zoning. I know there must have been considerations like Chief MKO Abiola’s issue and the rest but that wasn’t the mood. When you talk of zoning, I laugh because even when Jonathan contested, northerners contested with him. Even when Buhari contested, southerners contested with him. So, what I am saying is that we should get to that level where the best should rule us and somebody that will never talk of South, East or West but Nigeria.
Lagos-Ibadan Expressway: FG to open Kara Bridge
he Federal Controller of Works, Lagos, Mr Adedamola Kuti, has said the barricade around Kara Bridge would be removed on Sunday to ease the traffic situation around that axis.
Kuti said on Saturday that construction work had been completed on that part of the road.
According to him, when the contractors return to the site in January, construction work will commence on the outbound-Lagos traffic side of the road.
“Now that inbound has been completed, we don’t want to start work on the outbound and leave it halfway, so we decided to open the road to commuters tomorrow, Sunday, so that people can move freely this Christmas,” Kuti said.
The contractor on section 1 of the road, Julius Berger, diverted both inbound and outbound traffic to one side of the road on September 2, when reconstruction of that part of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway commenced.
More communities embrace Terracares4Naija Project
he Terracares4Naija project aimed at feeding 10,000 Lagos residents across 10 communities has continued to gain traction since it was launched on October 11, 2019 in Lagos.
A project of TGI Distri Limited makers of Terra seasoning cubes, Big Bull Rice and other household products, the initiative is aimed at putting smiles on the faces of Lagosians especially in the vulnerable communities by feeding them with nutritious food prepared with home grown ingredients from TGI Group.
The programme which commenced with the feeding of 1000 residents in Agege to mark the United Nation’s World Food Day on October 16 has spread joy to more Lagos communities including Majidun in Ikorodu, Makoko in Yaba andIwaya also in Yaba. Each week the Terracares4Naija team moves to a community with music and food to engage the residents, provide an atmosphere of fun and give them food packs to take home.
According to the Marketing Manager TGI Distri Limited, Mr. Govind Agarwal the Teracares4Naija initiative is a way of reciprocating the love and acceptance of the people for Terra Seasoning cube since it was launched in April this year. “We appreciate the importance of good nutrition in growing a healthy community. So as a responsible corporate citizen, TGI Distri Limited through this project bringing Christmas closer and putting them in the mood for a great celebration of the yuletide,” said Mr. Agarwal.
A community leader at Majidun, Ikorodu, Mr. Biodun Ogunsanya called on other corporate organisations and wealthy individuals to emulate the gestures of TGI Distri Limited by assisting the government in the care of the poor and the underprivileged in the society as it will help in cushioning the economic hardship faced by millions of Nigerians in this class.
Also a resident of Apollo Street Maroko, Mrs Nwamaka Uchechukwu said the people of the area were appreciative of the gesture of TGI Distri Limited while calling on other corporate organisations to emulate the gesture by doing something for communities like Makoko.
The Terracares4Naija project continues till Christmas as more communities will be visited in the coming weeks.
Kano’s wheel of woes
They were meant to ease commuting in most parts of the country, especially in metropolis such as Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kano and other state capitals where they have become the most available means of transportation. Some state governors have turned it to means of getting votes, as tricycles have become means to empower teeming unemployed able bodied Nigerians. However, the tricycles have become nightmare to residents. MUHAMMAD KABIR reports how they have become a menace in Kano
They are called different names in different parts of the country. In Lagos it is called Keke Marwa (Marwa’s tricycle),Keke NAPEP is what they call it in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and most parts of the country being one of the major means of providing jobs for the teeming unemployed youths under the administration of former president Olusegun Obasanjo.
In Kano they call it “Yan adaidaita sahu masu titi (Masters of the road). It is not for nothing that the operators are given this moniker. No thanks to their recklessness, carelessness and absolute disregard for traffic rules and regulation and other road users. They are believed to be the highest on the roads as they are found plying every nook and crannies of Kano metropolis. Tricycles formally became means of transportation under the administration of Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, now a serving senator in the National Assembly.
It was with the view to bringing sanity to the transportation sector by providing easy, safe and free movements of residents, especially women, to minimize hardships and prevent them from mingling with the opposite sex in taxis, buses as well as motorcycles popularly called Achaba, after it was banned during the reign of his predecessor Musa Kwankwaso. A large number of the former operators of Achaba switched to tricycle, including under aged riders.
They were ignorant of traffic rules and regulations. They have become threat to safety and lives of other road users. Irrespective of where they are operating, they give little or no respect to other road users as in most cases, they claim rights of ways. They break traffic rules at will, ride against traffic, drop off and pick passengers anyhow. They are not only arrogant, they exhibit act of rudeness by blocking vehicles with their tricycles in total disregard for traffic rules. Children as old 15 years old are operators of the wheel of woes in Kano. Residents who are either victims of these harbingers of danger or have relations who have become victims have nothing good to say about them.
A man who identified himself simply as Ali shares his experience: “I witnessed an incidence where a boy of less than 14 years caused an accident through wrong parking where so many matured responsible people fell victims.
The most annoying thing is that he is a minor. Even though the boy pleaded guilty but would not be charged and convicted to face the consequences in a court of law because he is an underage.” A 400-Level student of Mass Communications Department, Bayero University Kano, said, “I used to disagree with people when they said that tricycle accidents are fatal because I love riding in them. This belief ended one Friday evening when my friend and I boarded a tricycle to go and buy some foodstuff.
“On our return journey, the operator of the tricycle, who was on high speed tried to overtake a vehicle, but suddenly ran into a stationary lorry parked opposite our school gate. Luckily, I was the only one that sustained a minor injury. My friend and the tricyclist ended up at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital.” Mrs Uchuwa Lawal, a resident of Sabon Gari has this to say: “In March, I boarded a tricycle in front of my house to Kantin Kwari market to buy some wrappers for my younger brother’s wedding. On alighting from the tricycle, I paid my fare and walked away, leaving behind my luggage. Until date I am still waiting for my luggage to be returned.”
In Kano, eight out of every 10 vehicles have in one way or the other become a vic-tim of the recklessness of the tricycle operators. “Almost all cars in Kano have indelible yellow mark (paint of tricycles) as a result of either intentional or unintentional collusion with tricycles,” said a Policeman who did not want his name in print because he is not authorized to speak to the press on this. It is because of this that the Kano Police Command not long ago read a riot act to the cycle operators who have turned the highways and the roads to racing tracks. The police alleged that the tricycle riders cause unnecessary and avoidable accidents and related inconveniences to road users.
The command’s spokesman, DSP Abdullahi Haruna, said the riders must have authentic tricycle registration plate numbers and KAROTA number affixed appropriately to the tricycles. He said: “Any person or persons seen carrying passengers on his side or riding without due identification marks would be arrested and prosecuted in court”. He noted that the decision was aimed at safeguarding the lives and properties of the good citizens of the state.
To underscore this, he said serious action would be taken on riders carrying passengers on either side of the road. The State Road Traffic Agency (KAROTA) is equally concerned with the heartache the operators give residents. As a way of curbing their excess, agency is mulling placing a ban on the use of tricycles as a means of transportation.
Managing Director of KAROTA Dr. Baffa Babba Dan Agundi hinted that the state government is planning to ban the use of commercial tricycle operators by the end of the year. Agundi who made this known said the agency is mandated with the responsibility of sanitising the activities of commercial tricycle operators. According to him, the agency has been receiving a lot more complaints from members of the public than it bargained for on the unbecoming and unruly conduct of commercial tricycle operators.
To this extent, he disclosed that the state government is contemplating either banning the commercial tricycle operators or introducing a new policy toward sensitising activities of commercial tricycle operators. He explained the State government may introduce Bus Transport Rapid System (BRT) in order to ease the movement of goods and services in the state. Also, Dan Agundi, said that about 10 cases of alleged Physical assault against KAROTA men are pending before the Kano state Police Command, explaining that many others were charged to court for prosecution. He urged motorists in the state to always abide by the traffic rules and regulations of the agency, adding that KAROTA was established by law to enforce the traffic rules and regulations in the state.
A chance to own properties at zero cost
From inception, property World Africa Network (PWAN Homes) has never left anyone in doubt about its innovative and leadership prowess, in the business of helping people own their property with ease.
This was the assertion at the gathering of stakeholder in Nigeria’s real estate market who appraised PWAN’s contributions to the sprawling real estate marketing sector in the country, recently. The company, founded in 2013 and nurtured by Dr. Augustine Onwumere and his wife, Dr. Jayne, had commenced operation from a bear parlor located at Okun Ado, one of the developing communities on the Lekki Area of Lagos. Initially it was a way for the couple, who was at the time struggling to get out of their own financial distress.
However, they recognised the immense potentials that trading on landed properties hold for millions of other Nigerians who are overwhelmed with varying needs. Faith smiled on the Onwumere when their hard work, focus, and passion to helping others own a home yielded doublepronged positive results. The couple created the first company ever to employ network marketing strategy to market real estate products. The initiative which employs independent marketers known as consultants has not only enables many Nigerians own property they can call their own, through installment payment. PWAN also scored the bull’s eyes having given thousands of unemployed youths a chance to earn legitimate income and become millionaires from selling properties.
“What we started in real estate is phenomenal. We actually started business in 2013, recruiting and training people through seminars. We give them free training on landed title documents, how to make sales both online and offline. So it attracted people first because of the kind of commission we pay. And when any marketer meets the target that we set, he or she gets a car and travel abroad,” Dr. Onwumere related to new set of entrants at a recent recruitment session. According to him, PWAN and its over 16 subsidiaries has over 40,000 independent marketers, doing business in over 11 states in Nigeria.
“We are running this business as an empowerment organisation, it is no longer a business for me and my wife to eat, drive cars or anything like that. It is now about how many Nigerians can we empower. We are the highest; we are the first and the best,” the PWAN boss asserted.
Speaking at a seminar ahead of the group’s promo and exhibition, Dr. Onwumere reiterated that PWAN is more than ever committed to making home ownership effortless as possible. “We are also not in a hurry to relinquish our leadership and innovative roles in the bourgeoning real sector.
“To this end, we are rolling out a new regime of incentives for the benefit of our esteemed stakeholders, associates and property prospectors as a special end of year package,” he disclosed. Prominent among the incentives, is a unique chance for some lucky people to own their own property at zero cost, would be unveiled at PWAN’s property exhibition and promo gifts slated for November 29 –December 1, at its Okun Ad, Lekki, corporate headquarters.
The Managing Director, PWAN Group, Dr Afam Okonkwo explained; “The will also be raffle draws for several plots of land by some of the companies, which make it possible for some people to get their own properties at zero cost.” Incidentally, each subsidiary of PWAN Group will be on ground with different incentives for just anyone who comes around to explore.
He added; “Like the mission of PWAN group says; we discover affordable lands in the fast developing areas, make known to you and also show you how you can make money and build your own house.” And that is not all; as there will be other raffle draws which will enable many people go home with several household properties such as television sets, fridges, washing machines, gas cookers, generating sets etc. Other incentives include an all-expense paid ship cruise from Dubai on the jewel of the Sea, and a chance for property prospectors to get introduced to mortgage facilities with flexible payment plan up to 15 years under the group’s buy and build estate.
The Group Managing Director, Dr. Jayn Onwumere assured that PWAN Group has been instrumental to people owning properties since the company simplified house ownership process seven years ago, adding “We have help over 10,000 people become landlord without any issue.”
According to Dr. Onwumere, each of PWAN’s exclusive estates houses aesthetic structures that guarantee maximum comfort for all to savour.
Abdullahi: If we don’t curb hate speech, it will destroy Nigeria
A bill seeking to check the prevalence of hate speech with death by hanging has triggered a lot of controversy on Nigeria. In this interview, sponsor of the bill and Deputy Senate Whip, Sen. Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi tells ONWUKA NZESHI that the uproar over the bill is more misplaced as the issue hate speech had grown into a monster
The Anti Hate Speech bill has generated so much controversy and we would like to know your reaction to this development?
When this bill was read for the first time on the floor of the hallowed chambers, I was indisposed but some people reported mischievously that I deliberately did not come to the chamber that day because I know how controversial the bill is and, therefore, I was trying to avoid the backlash that would follow it.
I’m not a coward. I’m a Nigerian, a full-blown Nigerian and a very patriotic and good Nigerian for that matter. So I have no reason to shy away from my responsibility neither do I have any reason to abdicate my responsibility. I just feel I should make this clarification that this bill has been read for the first time and by the grace of God, at the auspicious time, very soon, I hope to go to the chamber to lead the debate for the bill to be read the second time. I am sure that given the pedigree of my other 108 colleagues in the Senate chamber, I expect nothing but a very robust debate on this bill.
Why did you choose to sponsor such a controversial bill?
Like you will recall, in the 8th Senate, I actually sponsored that same bill. Unknown to many people, I did not pursue the bill at that time because by the time I was going to consider it for a debate and second reading, the political atmosphere was already getting charged and I recall my own thinking and very rightly so that the atmosphere was not right for even debating the subject matter because at the end of the day we will be missing the point. So that was why I did not pursue it. But to God be the glory, I came back to the 9th Senate and decided that the bill should be brought back.
If the bill was shut down last time what makes you think it will succeed this time?
I can tell you that the bill was neither shut down nor withdrawn. I told you that I read the mood of the time and did not go for a second reason because politics had crept in, the atmosphere was charged. But by the grace of God, I am back and I can tell you that the basic reasons which motivated me to sponsor the bill at that time are still present with us. Nothing has changed.
In fact, if anything, hate speech is increasing by the day and that is why I felt I still believe in the cause and that is why I have introduced the bill again. This time round, I started early so that whatever it is, we will have ample time, devoid of politics, to look at these issues dispassionately. I believe that this issue has a lot to do with life and it is not something you toy with or talk about casually. It is a serious matter because I know that there are people who are victims of this hate speech. Like I said, the subject of hate speech is assuming a life of its own and I believe we must check it before it destroys our country.
How have you been managing the public outcry over this bill?
Now, between the days the bill was read for the first time and today, I have listened very carefully and attentively to all the comments on the bill. I have also read copiously the criticisms, analysis and all the things people have been writing about this bill. I appreciate that we are in a democracy and all the commentaries are actually a demonstration that there is freedom of speech and people are free to comment on issues. It is part of the beauty of democracy.
Beyond that, I will also say that the commentaries being made can be categorised into the good, the bad, the ugly and the very ugly. I don’t have problems with anybody making commentaries on the bill because like I said earlier, this is a democracy and people have right to say whatever they want to say about anything.
But, what I want to say is that in introducing this bill, I did that altruistically. I have no other motive than to respond to the constitutional mandate given to me to participate in the process of law making for order and good governance of our nation. I am aware that when you look at issues which you in your own reckoning require some legislation; they must be issues that conform with the objectives that the constitution itself sets for you, which is to ensure order and good governance. So for me, the issue of hate speech is not new even though the commentaries I’ve seen were by many people who have never read the bill and they said so even in their commentaries.
Many highly respected Nigerians have not read the bill but they’ve gone ahead to still make commentaries and analysis. Therefore, I just want to clear the air on some of the issues people have raised. This bill was introduced by my humble self. I want to say that those who think that this bill is sponsored by any other interests in this country are wrong. This bill has nothing to do with ethnicity, religion, political affiliation or geo-politics. It is about bringing succour to many of our citizens who have been victims of so many crises, resulting in deaths. We have had so many crises across this country and in all instances; research has shown that the precursor of all the violence is hate speech anchored on religion and ethnicity.
The question to ask is: Why must innocent people lose their lives to crisis that they were not part of? Usually, the crisis erupts simply because someone made a statement somewhere and some other people decide to take the laws into their own hands, associate you with the faultiness in the matter and you become a victim of that particular situation.
So as far as I am concerned, the main import of bringing this bill is to make sure that the issue of people being victims as a result of hate speech is put in check. Life cannot be bought in the market and every life matters.
Has anyone directly attacked you over this bill?
Over the past 10 days or so since the bill was read, I’ve received all kinds of messages including threats. But I’m not bothered about them because I believe that in all of this, if I receive one commendation, it gladdens my heart. Indeed, I did receive many commendations but one stood out. He said: ‘There is so much hate in this country. We must check it.’ So all hope is not lost. I’m happy we are having this conversation but let’s have the conversation as responsible citizens. Whatever anybody would say, if you’ve never been a victim or your loved one has never been a victim, then you have the luxury of making statements anyhow as far as this subject matter is concerned. But I bet you, if you meet those who have lost their loved ones arising from violence due to ethnicity or religious intolerance and the likes, I don’t think that they will be smiling with you when you tell them that hate speech is none sense.
Don’t you think this bill is a threat to freedom of speech?
I know people have said the bill is designed to prevent free speech but nothing can be farther from the truth. We are guided by the Constitution which has 11 fundamental rights spelt out in it. Section 33 talks about right to life which means that if you are not alive, how do you enjoy free speech? Those who are killed, can they be talking about free speech? The Constitution says everybody is equal and that is why we don’t support discrimination. This bill talks about discrimination on the grounds of religion and ethnicity. If Nigeria must be one then we must respect each other no matter our differences.
I want to debunk the views of all the naysayers, the haters and those who do not wish to see good things happening in this country; I mean those who want to associate whatever we do with the fault lines of ethnicity and religion. I want to debunk their negative thinking and let them know that Nigeria has so much goodness in it and those who are on the different divides of our fault lines have had course to work together and are still working together for the goodness of this country.
Why did you propose death by hanging as penalty?
I appreciate the fact that the major concern of most Nigerians is the penalty of death by hanging contained in the bill. When you bring a bill and it is read the first time, it is just a proposal that will go through debates and public hearing. Like we all know, at the stage of debate, the Senate will look at the basic principles behind the bill as well as the merits and demerits of the proposal. For example we would determine if hate speech is a problem in this country. Do we need to legislate on it? It is when you go for public hearing that those who have seen the content of the bill can pick on the areas they agree or do not and offer suggestions and recommendations. All of this is taken into consideration and at the end of the day; we come out with something that is implementable and acceptable to all Nigerians.
Until and unless this is done, I want to say very clearly that there are so many people who have jumped the gun. In their own imagination, they have jumped to the conclusion that the proposed law is draconian.
So for those who are already shouting and even going to the extreme of using words that are by every definition, hate speech itself, let them be guided. We want to build a country that we can all have confidence in as citizens.
I’ve read very good submissions from very eminent Nigerians, those in the academics, industries, civil society, traditional institutions and even religious leaders.
In all the things they have said, one beautiful thing that runs through them is the fact that we are all united against hate and all forms of discrimination and everybody is concerned with the subject of death. Nobody wants to see death being unleashed on anybody and I think that is very fundamental. I am happy we are having this conversation.
Some critics of this bill have said that it is an unnecessary duplication of other existing laws. What is your response to this view?
Like I said, I introduced this bill because that subject of hate speech is assuming a life of its own and I believe we must check it. Yes, I’ve heard some people saying that there are laws against libel, slander and defamation, therefore what we are doing is duplication. Let me tell you that those issues do not fall under hate speech. They do not. Slander does not. Hate speech is hate speech, it’s borne out of hatred, and it’s tied down to something that will definitely reach the very foundation of your emotion. If these existing laws you’re talking about were actually made to address hate speech, how come that over the past 10 to 15 years research has shown that violence attributable to hate speech has been on the increase in Nigeria.
In all these years, nobody has been brought to book. In spite of all the communal clashes, ethnic clashes and religious clashes, not even one person has been brought to book. So you can see that hate speech is a different ball game entirely. When I come to debate this matter, we would provide details of the matter.
We are going to provide additional definition after the debate. Hate speech is when you deliberately incite somebody on the basis of making a statement targeting at getting violent reactions from certain religious or ethnic groups. Hate speech must be hateful which means something that is deep, spoken deliberately to make another person angry, or to debase the person or dehumanise him or her.
There are signs that the executive arm of government is not comfortable with your bill and has even disowned it. What are you going to do if the bill is not signed into law?
Whether they sign or they don’t sign should not prevent me from doing my duty as a legislator. It is very important that we get these things correctly because the angle you are bringing it, that is how you guys introduce crisis and conflict between the executive and the legislature and it is bad. It is bad. The point I am making is that at this stage, the opinion of the executive does not count; we have to do our job. I belong to the legislative arm of government and whatever it is, we will do our own part and let the executive do their own part.
At any rate, I stand to be corrected that the executive has made any official statement on this matter. It was a minister who made the comment you’re referring to and she did that in her own personal capacity. How does that amount to the executive disowning the bill? So, please let’s get these things correctly. I don’t want us to trivialise this issue. We shouldn’t do that because I am doing this with the utmost sense of responsibility. Life, like I said, has no spare. It is not even sold in the market so you cannot even talk about tokunbo life and original life. There is no market for it.
What is your position on speculations that this bill is designed to silence Nigerians and pave way for a third term agenda?
The assumption by some people who think the bill is a ploy to give the current president a third term is laughable and it is a shame on those holding such views because I don’t see how that is related
If anything, I have seen studies conducted where the issues of violence were catalogued, particularly electoral violence and hate speech featured prominently as a major cause. This clearly shows that if we allow hate speech to fester, it means we won’t get good governance and it would also be difficult to fight corruption.
Why did you propose death penalty for hate speech and you’ve not thought of such a penalty for corruption among public officials?
There are already plenty laws to tackle corruption and there are still being brought to fight it. If I have not thought about it, there is nothing in this wide world that is preventing you from coming up with such a bill on corruption and giving it to us in the parliament. But what is bothering me is what I have introduced as a bill.
I also want to let you know that many of the top corruption cases in this country have been frustrated because we also align it with the fault lines of ethnicity and religion. Once a person is arrested for alleged corruption, Nigerians will begin to interpret it in different ways. ‘Oh, it’s because he’s a Christian. Oh, it’s because he’s a Muslim. Oh, it’s because he’s Yoruba. Oh, it’s because he is Ibo and oh, it’s because he’s Hausa.’ We do this, forgetting about the crime the person has committed. So, where do we go from here?
As far as I am concerned, we have a duty and there is no one single solution that we can proffer that will serve as a panacea to the problems of Nigeria. But does that mean that we are not going to make efforts? We have to make efforts because over the years, hate speech has increasingly assumed a life of its own. It is not new or peculiar to Nigeria. Different countries are exploring different ways of tackling hate speech in their countries. For us in Nigeria, the trigger for hate speech is our fault lines of ethnicity and religion. In other countries such as the United States and Germany, it might be race.
Some Nigerians say you are chasing shadows with this bill. Don’t you think so?
Well, the shadow has become a monster. Yes, we thought we were chasing shadows but finally, we’ve now seen that it is a monster and not a shadow.
Solving Apapa gridlock through in land waterways
Stakeholders gathered in Onitsha recently to deliberate on how the inland water ways which dot the country could be put to use and reduce the pressure on highways and the carnage occasioned by dilapidated roads. OKEY MADUFORO captured all that transpired when the new Managing Director Nigeria Inland Water ways (NIWA) Chief George Moghalu visited Onitsha Port on facility tour
Importers and business men in Nigeria have continued to tell tales of woe following the challenges they face in transporting goods to its respective destinations. Goods that berth at the Apapa and other international ports in the country most of the time do not reach the end users due to the deplorable state of the Nigeria’s Federal High Ways.
Mr. Pius Nwokoye is an importer who deals in building materials and his colleague Mr. Kaodilinye Festus is a motor Spare Parts dealer. In the last two years they have been facing litigations as a result of loan facilities they took from commercial banks and are yet to liquidate.
“I took the loan to import and deliver to three of my customers last year but the goods had problems along the Lagos – Shagamu Express way. “One of the trucks carrying my forty feet container fell down and crashed into a ditch and I lost half of the contents.”
“The banks took me to court for not paying back the loan and my customers could not get the full consignment they requested for. I had to sell one of my lands at 33 Road Onitsha to at least service the loan and the court granted me my prayers that I should be given some time to pay off the debt”, Nwokoye lamented. Kaodilinye Festus had a more bitter experience when his container got stuck along Benin 0 Ore highway as the truck spent one week before it was dragged out of the deep gully. But before then, some miscreants had stormed the area at night and made away with some of the goods as the location had no presence of security operatives. “I could not believe what I saw on that day. The driver claimed that he was attacked by the thieves with a machete and he ran for his life, hence giving the urchins enough space and time to operate and I lost over N7 million as a result of that”, he said.
The duo of Festus and Nwokoye are just a few of the countless business men and women who have continued to experience the horror which Nigerian highways have become. Apparently government’s efforts at reconstructing the country’s high ways is yielding positive results though the predicament of Nigeria’s business community deepens. In the last one month, there have been incidents of petrol tanker fire in Lagos and in the South East; especially Anambra State and they left on their trail, pathetic and horrifying experience of tears, sorrow and death. The fall of those tankers have been traced to the pitiable state of the Nigerian Highways and incidentally commuters do not have any other alternative but the dilapidated roads.
The lamentations of the South East and South-south businessmen were well captured when the new Managing Director of National Inland Water Ways Authority (NIWA) Chief George Moghalu came on a facility and fact finding tour of the Onitsha River Port, Anambra State,. Ven Chris Orajekwe who spoke at the stakeholders meeting with Moghalu said: “We wonder what has happened to the water transportation sector. In other countries of the world their water ways are busy with commercial activities. But here in Nigeria it is a different ball game. All these cases of trucks and other vehicles getting stuck on their way, is not helping our economy and people lose millions of Naira and even precious lives due to the absence of an alternative means of transportation.
“With a good water transport system one can go to Abuja through our water ways and get to Lokoja and the complete the rest of the journey to Abuja on road”. Anambra State chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Chief Basil Ejidike noted that the economy of the country is not getting the required boost do to what he called the dormancy of the country’s water ways and its inland ports. “When you understudy commercial towns that house the inland ports, you will discover that they are not growing. You can imagine the multiplier effect on the micro and macro economics of these towns if our water ways are working optimally”.
The Obi of Onitsha during Moghalu’s courtesy’s visit to his palace could not hide his displeasure over the fate of Onitsha the commercial hub of sub Saharan Africa. “Most people who do business in Onitsha are not resident in Onitsha because of poor basic amenities that encourage trade and commerce.
Should we have a working water ways with functional inland ports Onitsha will not be like this. It would also create jobs for our youths and expand economic opportunities in the South East. It is my hope and strong belief that with your appointment as the Managing Director of NIWA things would get a lot better” he said. For Chief Moghalu it is a call of duty in salvaging the fate of our water ways.
According to him; “I share the same sentiment with you, for example our Inland Waterways is about 10,000 kilometers as we speak and slightly over three thousand is navigable all year round and our waterways is accessible across twenty eight states which means we have water access to about 28 states.
So what we need to do is to develop the water transportation routes, once we do that, there is a lot of advantage that come with it, it is not only the cheapest but also one of the safest and again if I may say, it will reduce pressure on our roads because most of our roads you will agree with me are not designed to carry the weight they are carrying and unless we reduce this weight, we will continue having this problem.
You and I know today that the Apapa gridlock that we have been suffering over the years is like a recurrent decimal and the only way to address it is through water transportation. If the waterways are open today, I can assure you that over 50% of the cargo that goes to Apapa wharf can as well go to the hinterland because we have a River Port in Baro, Onitsha, and we have jetties across the country up to Yauri and up to Lake Chad.
So if we open our waterways for all year navigation, I can assure you that the gridlock in Apapa will become history.
“Naturally like any other serious business, it is capital intensive, because it is not only capital dredging but we also have to do maintenance dredging to make sure that the channels are all year round navigable, we clear it and make sure there are no wrecks and any blockages and also clear water hyacinth and dredge them so that we can achieve the needed depth for barges and small vessels to move all year round.
So what we need actually first of all, is governmental support, then the will, before we talk about the funds if there is the will to make this work, it will generate commitment. “We have room for Public Private Partnership (PPP) what you must understand also is that we have to show the way and the private sector will key in.
Government has to initiate the process, government has to create the enabling environment and Government has to show that it works. “I am confident the moment we do the basic things, the needful and what we are supposed to do, the private sector will be asking us to be part of what we are doing.”
The Coordinator Children of Farmers Club, Prince Chris Okwuosa added a new impetus to the need to improve on the country’s water ways. “We have a creek at Ogbaru-Uli-Ihiala- Ndoni water ways that cuts across Imo, Anambra and Rivers States. It passes through Idemili-Akwu – Ukwu Ozubulu to Ose akwa down to Oguta and Nnodni in Rivers States. “The Agro- technocrat village is being developed along that creek and if the water ways are well developed it would improve the ecotourism in the area both in transportation and one can travel through seven states in the federation comfortably”. Similarly former Imo State Governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim noted that the South East is not land locked.
“Igbo land is not land locked at all and the coastal lines of Oguta and Ogbaru are sure link to the world and that was what I tried to develop before I left office and I urge the respective governors of the South East to cue into this idea for posterity” he said.
It is expected that Chief George Moghalu is at home with the challenges of the waterways and the inland ports in the country and should the powers that be create the necessary enablers for NIWA to be turned around.
Onyejeocha putting smiles on faces of Isuikwuato, Umunneochi constituents
It is often said that health is wealth. The significance of good health as a decider of the other indices of development and wellbeing cannot be overlooked. Little wonder it tops the priority of most government programmes. Obviously, the development and progress of any community or family depend on it.
It is therefore not surprising that House of Representatives member, Nkiruka Onyejeocha brought a free medical programme to her constituents. The ill health of citizens is compounded by the pervasive excruciating poverty so any leader who provides free medical service to the people would have endeared himself indelibly in their hearts. Lawmaker Onyejeocha (APC) is the Deputy Chief Whip of the Green Chambers and member representing Isuikwuato/Umunneochi Federal Constituency, Abia State.
She recognizes the peculiar challenges of her constituency as rural local government areas and embarks on projects and programmes that have direct impact on them. Little wonder she has consistently won the election to represent them since 2007. Since she became a federal lawmaker, Onyejeocha has organized yearly free medical outreach for her people every June. This is in addition to the scholarship scheme to indigent students and employment for her people. She was at home to personally supervise the free medical outreach.
The outreach cut across all ages. The old and the young benefited and both sexes. During an interaction with journalists in her country home, Isuochi, during this year’s medical outreach, Onyejeocha said: “I organise free medical every June. But we discover that there are many diagnosed with one sickness or the other who could not complete treatment until October. That is why we continue until they are all attended to.” The fourth term House of Representatives member said she was impressed with the turn out for the programme.
She said about 50 patients had surgeries on the first day, while 48 had their s the following day. In order to preserve the items and equip- ment for the medical outreach, which she lamented, were either damaged or vandalized by the next medical session, Onyejeocha built a facility named after her grandmother, Madam Suzana Mba Health Center, at Isuochi, her home town. She said the challenge the programme had was, among others, convenient and secure venue as a result of which she had to provide fresh facilities and equipment every year.
“Each time we had the outreach, the facilities and equipment are vandalized. The result is that every year we will need to provide everything again from the scratch. That is why I decided that the best thing will be to build a permanent medical facility, that’s why I built this.”
The outreach, this year, was a huge success. Hundreds benefited from the surgery and treatment of other ailments. At the Madam Suzan Mba Health Center on the Amuda-Umuaku Road, beneficiaries lined up for medical attention for the number days the outreach lasted. One of the beneficiaries who identified himself simply as Mr. Eke said he underwent surgery in the eye the previous day for what doctors described as tenebrous. Eke said: “The surgery on my eye yesterday, was a success.
It’s free indeed with drugs. I’m grateful to her.” Also, Okereke Chukwudike Bennett, a medical laboratory scientist and one of the over 30 medical personnel attending to the patients, said that by the second day 50 patients had been attended to while 48 others benefited the previous day, while many were still seated waiting to be attended to.
“In all, it has been a successful outreach, no casualty, no death,” Okereke said. Okereke further disclosed that over 30 medical personnel including doctors, nurses and medical laboratory scientists handled different ailments. With the modern facility built and equipped with state of the art equipment and quality drugs, the health needs of the people of Isuochi would have been permanently solved through the magnanimity of their representative, Lady Nkiruka Onyejeocha.
Amosun: Any restructuring must guarantee indivisibility of Nigeria
Senator Ibikunle Amosun is a former Governor of Ogun State. He is now representing Ogun Central Senatorial District in the Senate. He recently addressed the media in Abuja on his motion, calling for diversification of the economy through Agric and Solid Minerals sectors. He also speaks on his bill seeking to establish South West Development Commission, among others. CHUKWU DAVID was there and reports
You sponsored a motion on the floor of the Senate on Thursday, which you titled: “The need for continuous implementation of policy reforms for the diversification of the Nigerian economy through the Agricultural and Solid Minerals Sectors”. What is the background and motive of this proposal?
We believe that it’s better late than never because as a country, we are not where we should be, but truly we are on the right path. And in order to complement the effort of the executive arm, we believe that we in the legislative arm should provide enabling environment by way of legislation to back all the policies that the executive is initiating. That’s why I came up with this motion on the need for us to strengthen the agricultural, mining and solid minerals sectors. You all know that in the 50s, 60s, 70s and probably early 80s, this was not the way Nigerian economy was. Indeed, many things that you see, infrastructural development, education, health system, name it, were all funded with the proceeds of agriculture and probably some of our solid minerals, but today, lo and behold those critical sectors that will ordinarily employ our people are being neglected. But thankfully, and I am not just saying it because we are all part of this administration, if you look at the statistics, you will know that things are improving. If you know where we are, the contribution of agriculture to GDP between 2015 and now is different.
In the area of solid minerals, we are not yet there at all, but I think that we are putting the right policies in place, and we think we should complement the efforts of the executive. In those days, you know there was groundnut pyramid and cotton in the North, Cocoa in the South. Look at what happened with our palm oil; look at what Malaysia did with it and look at where we are now. That’s why we believe that we must put the necessary legal framework or law in place to ginger and encourage more our executive arm.
Why do you think that Nigeria abandoned these former viable means of income and got to a point where it’s difficult for her to fund her annual budgets?
It’s good that we discovered oil but it has made us so lazy; we are just looking for the easy way out. There are so many nations that all they have is all these minerals and look at what they are doing. Look at Australia, look at South Africa and even United Kingdom, look at their miners. They are using the God-given resources to improve their economy and the lots of their people. Look at agriculture, how many people does the oil sector employ? Very insignificant. And look at millions of our youths who don’t have anything doing. Clearly, the middle class is collapsing, and if you look at our budget, people will think that ten point something trillion a big amount. But just covert it to dollar; you will be shocked that there are some companies, some conglomerates that make far more than that, and look at our budget as a nation. But we are not magicians and we cannot give what we don’t have. If you don’t have the necessary revenue, where will the money come from.
Today, we are talking about our infrastructures – roads, power sector, education sector, health sector- we need money for all of them. These are the critical areas that will give us the funds that we require. And beyond giving us the funds, they will employ our youths; it will create wealth. Look at the small and medium scale enterprises, how many of them can play in the petroleum sector but imagine the number of people that will be actively engaged in those two critical sectors of agriculture and solid minerals.
It think it is an idea that its time is long overdue, and I am happy that the President of the Senate mentioned that we are going to have a round table, am sure they will brief you on this. I think it will happen sometime in December and the Senate will officially brief you. I have to thank my colleagues, everybody supported the motion because they are all passionate to diversify our economy.
The long and short of this motion is the need to diversify our economy and move away from this monolithic economy that have been running, where everybody is depending on what the oil will give to us. So, am sure that by the time we look into those two critical sectors, agriculture and solid minerals Nigeria will have positive story to tell. And I want to envisage that in the next two to three years down the line, you will see our budget, may be it may be running to thirty to fifty trillion, once we have the necessary income to back it up.
You also introduced a bill seeking to establish South West Development Commission (SWDC). What is the motive behind it and don’t you think that it’s now like a competition among lawmakers from different geopolitical zones because there is NDDC for the South -South and the North-East Development Commission (NEDC); and the South-East is also demanding for their own commission?
The objective of the bill is obvious and very clear. In fact, you know the answer. it’s for the development of our people and our area. If a part of a whole is not well, automatically, that whole will not be well. So, every part of Nigeria needs to be developed. And if all of us develop, of course we will have a beautiful country that we will all be proud of. To that extent, this is not just my bill; it is for all of us. The bill is being co-sponsored by all of us from the South West. If you even look at the demography of Nigeria, if you look at the population of Nigeria, just look at how many are we from the South West, and I am saying this with all sense of responsibility, there is no part of Nigeria that is not important. All of us are important; everybody has something they are bringing on the table but you notice that there is no way the Nigeria nation can be described without prominent mention of those from the South West and what we contribute to Nigeria as a nation.
Look at Lagos for instance. Look at the contribution of Lagos to Nigeria as a nation. So, I think that they should be some kind of special status to Lagos but not to Lagos alone. Of course it happens in Ogun State. I also say this with all sense of responsibility. As at today, Ogun State is the industrial hub of Nigeria. There are some parts of Nigeria like the North-East, we know it very well. There is no sane person that will not want to support them particularly with the destruction that has happened there. We don’t want any place to be left behind. But in doing that, we should not be oblivious of the fact that we need to develop too. And that is why all of us from the South-West are bringing this bill. It was read for the first time on Thursday. It is not just because a similar commission is in the North-East, South-South or being proposed in the South -East, everybody should look out for how we can improve the wellbeing of our people.
From the way we are going, we may end up having six development commissions. Is it not better we go for restructuring rather than creating commissions, so that each region can have enough to address its developmental needs?
Well, these are questions that I know that at the appropriate time they will come to this place, and when they come, you will all know my position. But let me say this, yes am for restructuring but there is a caveat: I am speaking for myself now, any restructuring that we are going to do should be such that the indivisibility of Nigeria must be guaranteed. Once that is there, we can look at how we can do things better. I always say that there is no way a part can be bigger than a whole, if the whole is well put together. Yes, we can agree to look at the various areas of our country, with a viewing to improving on them but the indivisibility of Nigeria must be sacrosanct.
In your motion, one of your prayers talked about formalising the operations of illegal miners but a senator amended it to remove the word “illegal.” Does it mean that any private person engaged in mining is doing it illegally?
What my distinguished colleague you are referring to was saying is that we should encourage those people that want to mine and that we should simplify the process because he spoke with me. But this is admission of failure. Ordinarily, it’s good to say this is what I want to do but doing it illegally is not good. What we are trying to do is to stop or reduce to the barest minimum the activities of the illegal miners. I believe that once the process and procedures of mining is simplified, we will no longer have illegal miners.
You said earlier that one of the reasons why you are sponsoring the South-West Development Commission Bill is that if part of a whole is not well, then the whole is not well. You have been a governor, what do you think has made several parts of this country not to be well, of which you are now seeking remedy through legislation?
Of course, you know that the world itself is very dynamic just as human beings are very dynamic. I was here in 2003, and it wasn’t like this. The era of even before you are campaigning everybody is hearing what you are saying; it wasn’t like that. In 1999 when I joined politics, indeed when you leave one place for another place, the people there will not know whether you are coming or not, until when you get there. But it’s different now. Even before you leave for where you are going, everybody is posting it. So, to that extent, as we soldier on in our development as a nation, we will see need for us to improve on the way we do things; the way we put ourselves together, and the way we are as a nation. So, I don’t want to see it that this one is not good, that one is not good. Just see it that you want to improve from where we are at the moment.
Those who will come after us will probably look back and say what are they doing? This is the way we should do it. Look at what I observed while we were in chamber, I looked up to the gallery and saw that people were coming from Keffi and other places. I just asked myself, why can’t people just hop into the train from Abeokuta or Ijebu Ode or Illaro, where I come from and drop in Abuja and come to the National Assembly to come and observe what we are doing?
You notice that it is not that rampant for you to hear that these are people coming from Port Harcourt, Enugu and other far places. Do you know why? It’s because of infrastructural deficit. We have to agree with ourselves now. We have very huge infrastructural deficit. But it has been improving empirically and otherwise because you cannot develop without infrastructure. As we are here, if the AC is not working, everything will collapse immediately. So, we need infrastructure for any development to happen. And what are infrastructures, it’s not just the road; power, conducive environment, water and many others are the infrastructure are there. If they are not there, we will just be chasing shadow. The roads are not good. So, until we develop those things, whatever anybody wants to say, this was not how our infrastructure used to be. It’s now being improved upon; we are not there yet.
I admit there are very bad roads. Lagos-Abeokuta road is impassible but the same thing we are saying is impassible, now look at the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, it’s almost being fixed. Am sure by March 2020, to move from Lagos to Abeokuta may take just 50 minutes when it is finally finished. I was governor then and I know what happened. If you are going to Abuja Airport now for the first time, you can ride in your train and get to the airport. It has never happened. Now, it may be as if I am in London. So, when we are seeing some positive improvement, we should commend it.
Also, when we see areas where there is deficiency, we should be bold to say it too. I am here to tell you that we are not where we should be but we are creating the path to show that this is the way we should go. When I was here in 2003, immediately after the opening prayers in plenary, the media will be asked to go out. Today, the media men are there throughout. There is even a dedicated channel that relays what we are doing. So, there is an improvement in our system, and we are working towards having more improvement.
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