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Sports need policy template under new minister

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Sports need policy template under new minister

President Muhammadu Buhari began his second term in office on May 29. There are high expectations in all spheres of Nigerian life that things should generally turn better. The first term recorded some hiccups as most of the ministers appointed by Buhari spent the entire term untouched. The former Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung, is one of those who served full term with Mr. President.

The question is: How was he able to impact the sport sector? But, the former sports ‘supremo’ gave himself excellent marks for the tenure, which many people in the sports scene believed was almost a disaster. It was instructive that Dalung mentioned the poor budgetary allocation to sports, which has been a problem also to his predecessors. We want to put it on record that Dalung, who as the longest sports minister in history, recorded so many crises under his watch. Many of the federations are in crises, including football, while the missing $150,000 of the Athletic Federation of Nigeria (AFN) is still a stain on his tenure. We hereby call on President Buhari to put a round peg in a round hole this time. The sports sector needs someone who is not new to sports. The new minister of sports should have the background, face and tenacity to drive the ministry and bring in corporate Nigeria to complement government’s efforts to boost sports.

A Nigerian with rich sports pedigree from any part of the country can do the job. There are many people who can do the job at the moment, but party affiliation is another issue entirely. We believe sport is a very wide area people overlook as mere recreation or a sector to keep fit and catch fun. We recall sadly that over the years, the Nigerian government has not taken sports sector seriously.

This can be explained in various ways, but the most important one is the leadership of sports. It is very ridiculous that the sports ministry, in most cases, has been given to whoever the president in power wants. Someone with a good background in heath is always named as minister of health, while someone with law background heads the judiciary and a person with sound background on education heads the education ministry.This has not been the case in sports in the past years and not a problem of the Buhari regime.

A former sports minister, the late Solomon Akiga, saw Falilat Ogunkoya, an Olympian and former track and field star, but referred to her as a wrestler. Another former minister saw six-time Olympian, Funke Oshonaike and failed to recognize her. The case of Chief Alex Akinyele is still very fresh in the memory. When he was named the head of the then National Sports Commission, he engaged about five people, mostly senior journalists, to educate him on sports. It is absurd that those who know little or nothing about sports find their way to head the Ministry of Sports. This happens often, but not so in other ministries.

It shows that government, over the years, do not care about what happens in the sport sector. If a prominent lawyer heads the ministry of justice, a reputable former athlete or noble administrator of sports should head the sports ministry. This is the right thing to do, but such has not been the case in over two decades.

The few exceptions are the appointment of Sani Ndanusa and Bolaji Abdullahi. Ndanusa was a former tennis federation boss before his appointment while Abdullahi has great knowledge of sports. Ndanusa did not do well and time was not enough for Abdullahi to execute his programmes.

We are convinced that there are many great Nigerians who can head the sports ministry and take the country’s sports to the next level. We acknowledge that President Buhari will have to follow the template of the party in the appointment of ministers. The other sectors are always manned by competent people in relevant fields.

The next sports minister should be somebody with relevant background good enough to make the numerous talents in Nigeria excel. We frown at the fact that there is no sports policy in the country for whoever is coming in to work with. We are however aware that there are various committees set up to produce documents in this regard. The next sports minister should be brave enough to implement one of the reports on sports policy so the sector can enjoy a new lease of life. Sports require planning and the next minister must be the one that will get sponsors to boost sports and be ready to plan with a policy template rather than bank on the raw talents of the athletes to attain success.

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Editorial

Addressing Nigeria’s unemployment challenge

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Addressing Nigeria’s unemployment challenge

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Editorial

Continental teams, NPFL and EPL

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Continental teams, NPFL and EPL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Editorial

Sowore: Saving Nigeria from dictatorship

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Sowore: Saving Nigeria from dictatorship

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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Editorial

Rape of varsity student: The soldiers must be prosecuted

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Rape of varsity student: The soldiers must be prosecuted

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Safeguarding Nigeria’s airports

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Safeguarding Nigeria’s airports

N

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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Police extortion, an invitation to anarchy

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Police extortion, an invitation to anarchy

Not too long ago, three policemen attached to Enugu State Police Command extorted N30,000 from a passenger, Valentine Chidi Nnanemere. Nnanemere’s ‘offence’: He was that he was found in ‘possession of a laptop computer.’ The policemen, operating in a vehicle with inscription “Urban Patrol,” initially demanded N500,000 from the passenger to free him. Nnanemere and others were travelling from Awka in Anambra State to Abuja in a Toyota Sienna belonging to First Anambra Company.

 

At about 10a.m. on the fateful day, the policemen, who mounted a checkpoint, flagged down the vehicle around Opi Junction, Nsukka and ordered all the passengers to disembark for a search. But when they did not find anything incriminating with any of the passengers, the policemen decided to apprehend Nnanemere because a laptop computer was found in his bag.

 

They reportedly tagged him a Yahoo boy (Internet fraudster) and decided to take him to the station, for a check of his laptop and phones. Nnanemere denied being a Yahoo boy and showed them an identification card indicating that he works as a translator with TY-FIYATA

 

. But the policemen would hear none of that. “…They took me to EFCC Junction, Independence Layout. On the way, they told me that it was better I settled them if not I would spend more. They asked me to give them N500,000. After much begging, we ended at N30,000.

 

They took me to a bank in Enugu, where I withdrew N40,000. I gave them N30,000,” Nnanemere said. Thankfully, the three policemen, who arrested Nnanemere and collected N30,000 from him have been fished out.

 

They were arrested by the Officer-in- Charge (OC) of Urban Patrol, Enugu Police Command, Mr. Oko Emmanuel. They have also been made to refund his money. They even added N10,000 to the money. The OC reportedly mandated the policemen to call Nnanemere, apologise to him and collect his account number for the refund. However, we urge the police hierarchy to mete out appropriate punishment on the three erring policemen.

 

It is apparent that after escaping from the claws of the criminals parading as policemen and getting a refund, Nnanemere is no longer interested in pursuing the case. But what further evidence do the police authorities need beyond the confession of the culprits. Policemen continue to perpetrate atrocities, which they were employed in the first place to prevent, because of the belief that they can always wriggle out without consequences. This explains why three policemen attached to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Lagos, seized the documents of a man going for a visa interview at the United States of America Embassy at Walter Carrington, Lagos Island.

 

The policemen delayed the victim for about 15 minutes. He was forced to transfer N35,000 to a bank account before his documents were released to him. The victim, who in his Twitter handle gave his name simply as Mistayemi, said he just alighted from a tricycle not too far from the United States Embassy, when the three policemen accosted him. He was about to enter the embassy premises when the policemen ordered him to stop. He brought out his identity card and introduced himself to them, but despite that, the policemen still delayed him. He said: “…Intermittently, I kept checking my wristwatch to remind them of my interview appointment at the embassy. “When one of the policemen saw my countenance, he said ‘I know how important the interview is to you.’

 

 

He then called me aside and asked me ‘how much do you have with you there?’ I told him I had just N2,000 with me. He said: ‘I wouldn’t want to jeopardise your appointment that is why you have to bring out better money, for the sake of the appointment.’

 

“I asked for a bank account from him, he then gave me an account, where I transferred N35,000 into. To my surprise, the recipient of the money is a lady.” While the policemen who “robbed” Nnanemere of his N30,000 have been identified and made to refund the money, the police authorities in Lagos have not said anything about those who collected N35,000 from Mistayemi. We demand an urgent probe into the policemen who fleeced Mistayemi. When caught, they should face the stiffest of punishments to serve as deterrent to other like minds in the force. To do anything less is to embolden the bad eggs in the Police to commit even worse atrocities, which would in turn make the force to lose the last vestige of respect it currently enjoys from the public. The calamity, which would befall a nation whose police have lost the respect and trust of the citizens, can only be imagined than experienced.

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Raising capital base of insurance firms

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Raising capital base of insurance firms

Barely one year after the truncated reclassification initiative mooted by the insurance industry regulator, National Insurance Commission (NAICOM), stakeholders and close observers were again jolted into unbelief a fortnight ago following another directive for the sector to recapitalise. Although the new directive did not give the operators the same trepidation the reclassification order did, it is, however, obvious since the pronouncement that majority of the underwriters were certainly not prepared for it any time soon.

No matter how the operators view it, it is instructive to say that the Federal Government, through NAICOM, has only done the needful as recapitalisation is what is ultimately needed at this time to strengthen a sector that has been performing below average over the last 50 years. For a sector that ordinarily should be the pillar of the nation’s economy, it is disheartening that for years, its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been nothing to write home about.

With a country like Nigeria that is endowed with huge human and natural resources, the fact that the nation’s insurance sector comes behind those of South Africa, Kenya, Algeria and even Ghana in terms of penetration is a poor testimony to how much the country’s potential has been largely compromised.

After the last recapitalisation exercise in 2007, financial experts had expected the sector to make progress by going through another round of the process especially since several factors have also weighed in on the economy. Rather than experiencing growth, recent statistics reveal that the industry has been carrying risks in trillions of naira while grossing premium income of less than N400 billion.

This obviously represents a time bomb waiting to explode in the event of very huge claims to be paid. Since the last recapitalisation, which moved the capital base from the initial N150 million, N200 million and N350 million to N2 billion, N3 billion, and N5 billion, for life, non-life and composite respectively, so many changes have been recorded in the economy.

For instance, a vehicle that cost N1 million in 2007 now cost close to N10 million or more. In the same vein, inflation has eaten deeply into other aspects of the economy while foreign exchange rate has, unprecedentedly, gone higher than ever experienced in the country. Amid these dynamics, underwriters chose to remain in their comfort zones, just getting by on a daily basis and contributing about 0.6 per cent to the GDP. Looking back at the reclassification approach that was abruptly shut down by fifth columnists in the industry, the insurers were expected to operate under a Tier- Based Minimum Solvency Capital (TBMSC) consisting of Tier-1, Tier-2 and Tier-3. Unlike the sweeping recapitalisation they are expected to go through this time around, the tier-based arrangement, which some of them are now begging to be reintroduced, was to strengthen the industry and also make it possible for all the operators to concentrate in areas of their strength so as not to run into crisis in the event of claims payment or underprice risks just to be seen as part of the system. According to the arrangement, composite insurance companies, which are now interested to play in the Tier 1 category are expected to increase their capitalisation from N5 billion to N15 billion, those interested in the same tier but operating Life insurance business are mandated to upgrade their capital base from N2 billion to N6 billion, while non-life insurers planning to play in this tier are expected to raise their capitalisation from N3 billion to N9 billion.

However, according to the new directive, life insurance operators are expected to shore up their paid up share capital from N2 billion to N8 billion; those into general business are to upgrade their capital to N10 billion from the current N3 billion level; those into composite business are to increase theirs from the current N5 billion level to N18 billion; while reinsurance operators should increase from the current N10 billion to N20 billion. One thing that is clear in the current effort at repositioning the sector is the fact that the Commissioner for Insurance, Mohammed Kari, must have consulted widely with the relevant government authorities before issuing out circulars to this effect. This became necessary so as not to be pulled down again as it happened last year.

Rather than key into initiatives and policies to boost the sector, the operators had long preferred to do things their own way, after which they get into manipulating annual financial transaction reports just to be seen as making progress while actually swimming in losses and sundry expenses.

As a matter of serious concern, the Federal Government had long before now called on the operators to up their games to enable them play in big ticket risks. Specifically, it is believed the latest exercise when completed by this time next year would lead to emergence of bigger and stronger players with enhanced capacity, restore public confidence, and also enhance the international competitiveness of local operators.

In view of the poor state of the sector, we align with the regulator to ensure that no amount of blackmail should again compel it to alter the new capital base programme in whatever form. We also believe it is time the Federal Government empowered the commission more to enable it exercise more authorities especially as regards implementation of certain aspects of the Insurance Act.

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Editorial

As Buhari inaugurates his cabinet

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As Buhari inaugurates his cabinet

The Senate, last week, cleared the 43 ministerial nominees submitted to it by President Muhammadu Buhari. With the clearance of the ministers-designate after a threeday screening exercise at the Senate, the stage is now set for the president to inaugurate his cabinet with the hope that they would help him fulfil his next level mantra in his second term. Of the 43 ministers-designate, 13 were reappointed by the president.

They served in his first term cabinet while the remaining 30 are new faces in the saddle. Those confirmed included Dr. Uche Ogah (Abia), Mohammed Musa Bello (Adamawa), Godswill Akpabio (Akwa Ibom), Dr. Chris Ngige (Anambra), Sharon Ikeazor (Anambra), Adamu Adamu (Bauchi), Maryam Katagum (Bauchi), Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa), George Akume (Benue) and Mustapha Baba Shehuri (Borno). Others are Goddy Jedy-Agba (Cross River), Festus Keyamo (Delta), Ogbonnaya Onu (Ebonyi), Osagie Ehinare (Edo), Clement Agba (Edo), Adeniyi Adebayo (Ekiti), Geoffrey Onyeama (Enugu), Ali Pantami (Gombe), and Emeka Nwajuba (Imo). Also included are Sulaiman Adamu (Jigawa), Zainab Ahmed (Kaduna), Dr. Muhammad Mahmud (Kaduna), Hadi Sirika (Katsina), Abubakar Malami (Kebbi), Sabo Nanono (Kano), Maj-Gen. Bashir Saleh (Kano), Ramatu Tijani (Kogi), Lai Mohammed (Kwara) and Gbemisola Saraki (Kwara).

There are also on the list Adeleke Mamora (Lagos), Babatunde Fashola (Lagos), Zubairu Dada (Niger), Olamilekan Adegbite (Ogun), Tayo Alasoadura (Ondo), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Sunday Dare (Oyo), Paulen Tallen (Plateau), Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Mohammed Maigeri Dengaji (Sokoto), Saleh Momoh (Taraba), Abubakar Aliyu (Yobe) and Sadiya Umar Farouk (Zamfara). While announcing the confirmation of the ministerial nominees, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, had charged them to hit the ground running. Lawan said it was important that they move fast on assumption of office in order to fast-track the process of revamping the country’s ailing economy. It was expected that Buhari would inaugurate his ministers last week following the confirmation and assign them portfolios. But that did not happen.

It is being anticipated that the president would swear in the ministers and assign them with portfolios either this week or next. But that is just the beginning of a long journey towards making what remains of the Buhari presidency a memorable one for Nigerians. In the last four years, the president and his cabinet members have engaged in so much motion without movement, puffing and huffing, blaming the past governments of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the woes of the nation and the apparent failure of the Buhari administration to lift off the ground. Nigeria is today faced with the same problems it was battling when the president assumed office in 2015.

Having spent four years in the saddle, Nigerians do not expect the president and his ministers to still dwell on the misdeeds of PDP for 16 years. Rather, Nigerians expect a new vigour, seriousness and speed at resolving the problems of the country. The problems are legion. They range from the general insecurity in the land to poor infrastructure, poor electricity, bad economy to waning trust in government, widening ethnic divide and the general state of hopelessness across the country. There is also the low confidence of investors, religious intolerance and similar issues.

There is no doubt that Nigeria is badly divided along ethnic and religious lines today than ever before. These are issues that require the attention of ministers, as the president cannot tackle them alone. For instance, the new minister of interior would need to look at the influx of aliens into the country through the porous borders.

He would also need to check the leaky borders that are giving room to banditry, mass murders, cattle rustling and all sorts of violence that have not been witnessed in the country before. The new minister of defence may also need to look at the security architecture of the country with a view to curtailing the general insecurity in the country. For nearly five years now, Buhari has worked with the same service chiefs across all the military set up. Are their methods still effective? Is there any need for change? What new methods would need to be introduced to make the country safe for everyone? What of infrastructure – the roads, rails, airports and similar issues? Today, Nigerians groan under the weight of bad roads across the country.

The rails are almost non-existent. The airports are not in the best of shapes. These are areas that require urgent attention outside the perfunctory attendance of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meetings. We have pointed out that the problems are many. There are also the issues of strike by various unions across all strata of the country. Much as we acknowledge that four years is not enough to address all the problems of the country, we also know that if things remain the way they are at the end of President Buhari’s second term, his government would be rated as performing below average.

That is why whoever he assigns any portfolio would do well helping him at the speed of light to realize some of his plans. We do not believe that the current government does not have plans for the betterment of the country. It is the implementation that is the main issue. The ministers are meant to implement his vision to achieve the set goals. Nigerians are waiting.

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Editorial

Average Eagles stars in the new football season

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Average Eagles stars in the new football season

The European football season starts this weekend with an English Premier League (EPL) kick off match between Liverpool and newly-promoted Norwich. It is a Friday night EPL tie with other matches billed for Saturday and Sunday. The Sunday match between Manchester United and Chelsea is the star match of the first week. French and Turkish Leagues also open on Friday at various centres.

The Spanish La Liga starts on August 17 while the Italian Serie A starts on August 24. Eagles stars are expected to be on parade in these leagues but of concern to many Nigerians is how well are they performing in their respective teams. Before now, Nigerian players were the best African exports to the world. Top Super Eagles players played in prominent clubs with huge influence in their respective teams.

There are clear examples to support this. The late Rashidi Yekini was at Sporting Gijon, the late Stephen Keshi at Anderletch, Victor Ikpeba in Monaco, Daniel Amokachi in Club Brugge and Everton, Samson Siasia at Nantes, Nwankwo Kanu at Ajax and Arsenal, Sunday Oliseh at Juventus, Yakubu Aiyegbeni at Everton, Taribo West at Inter and AC Milan, Celestine Babayaro at Chelsea, Austin Okocha at Frankfurt and PSG and Joseph Yobo at Everton. The list is endless. We recall Aiyegbeni emerging highest scorer in almost every club he featured for in the English Premier League.

It was a time the stock of Nigeria’s players was really high and their worth was great. Other African countries looked at Nigeria as an example in football. Over the years, the pedigree has been lost with the emergence of Didier Drogba of Cote d’Ivoire, Samuel Eto’o of Cameroon, El-Hadji Diouf of Senegal, Fredrick Kanoute of Mali, Michael Essien of Ghana, etc. This also informs why Nigerian players have been missing out in the African Footballer of the Year awards in the past 20 years. Kanu was the last Nigerian to win the award in 1999. We expect Alex Iwobi to file out in the colours of Arsenal in the away tie against Newcastle.

The arrival of Nicolas Pepe could affect the playing time of Iwobi with the Gunners. Wilfred Ndidi is a sure bet for Leicester City while we expect Kelechi Iheanacho to fight his way back into the main team. Nigerian-born Tammy Abraham is to lead the attack line of Chelsea but the striker is yet to commit to the Eagles.

In Italy, Ola Aina of Torino FC and William Troost-Ekong of Udinese FC are the country’s ambassadors in the top flight. In Spain, Samuel Chukwueze of Villareal, Kenneth Omeruo of CD Leganes and Moses Simon of Levante are the Eagles on parade while Turkey, fast becoming the base of most Nigerian players, will see Abdullahi Shehu of Bursaspor FC, Chidozie Awaziem of Caykur Rizespor and Henry Onyekuru of Galatasaray SK in action together with Skipper Mikel Obi of Trabzonspor who recently bowed out of international duty.

Victor Oshimen is in France at Lille with Samuel Kalu plays for Girondins Bordeaux while Paul Onuachu is in Denmak with FC Midtjyland. We charge these players to up their games in the new season and maintain a starting role for their respective clubs. They should also learn to do things accordingly like their colleagues in their respective teams.

Cote d’Ivoire’s Nicolas Pepe on Thursday joined Arsenal in a club record £72 million move while his compatriot Wilfred Zaha is also a hot commodity with Everton offering £56 million for his signature. Salah, Mane and Mahrez are almost untouchables because any club seeking their signatures must be ready to break the bank. At the end of last season, there were talks about big clubs looking in the direction of Ndidi. It would have been great for him and the country. We make bold to say that the talents in the Super Eagles for now are barely average and that is why it is difficult for them to be linked with big teams.

The players need to put in extra efforts so that they can be counted among the big boys in the game anywhere they are. To make the starting team of a prominent club is not easy and to retain a spot in such teams is even more difficult. Another big point is the issue of who manages these players in various ways.

Do they have good agents to give them deals that will boost their careers? Do they have media, financial, medical advisers to help them along the line? Do they have a team that projects the future for them based on their current form, skills and standards? These are critical questions to be answered by the Super Eagles if they are to rub shoulders with their colleagues on the continent and beyond. It was good that three Nigerians – Odion Ighalo, Omeruo and Ndidi make the Best X1 of CAF after the just concluded African Cup of Nations even though Mohamed Salah of Egypt, Sadio Mane of Senegal, Riyad Mahrez of Algeria, Andre Dede Ayew of Ghana and Naby Keita of Guinea were the players on the lips of most football fans before the AFCON. Ndidi, Chukwueze, Onuachu, Onyekuru, Oshimen are the future of the team. We charge them to work hard in the new season to better the lots of Nigerian footballers abroad.

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Editorial

Sanitising Nigeria’s political system

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Sanitising Nigeria’s political system

N

ot too long ago, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced its desire to prune down the number of political parties in the country. Currently, there are 91 political parties, which took part in the 2019 general election. Of the lot, only the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) made any substantial showing in the polls.

 

A few other parties also got some seats. But in all, of the 91 political parties, not more than six won anything in the 2019 elections. Thus, INEC is now considering seeking a constitutional amendment for registration and deregistration of political parties.

 

 

INEC’s concerns now are the ‘dormant and commercial platforms’ with little or no visible structures and presence in the states. According to INEC’s National Commissioner and Chairman of its Information and Voter Education Committee, Festus Okoye, the present framework for the registration of political parties is inadequate to guarantee the registration of qualitative, membership driven and ideologically propelled political parties. He also stated that some parties were mere platforms for hire and have no visible presence in most states of the federation. While we sympathise with INEC on the onerous journey of establishing order in the multitude of political parties, we cannot fail to state that the move is in order.

 

 

We believe that political parties should be ideologically based and have the desire to win elections even at the ward level. Much as we acknowledge that every group is entitled to its views and dreams as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution, we object to the idea of forming political parties for the purpose of racketeering and endorsement of major political parties during elections.

 

 

We recall that in the just concluded 2019 elections, most of the 91 political parties were only engaged in the endorsement of the APC and PDP at the national and state levels. The Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) was made up of about 30 political parties, which endorsed the candidacy of the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Some of the other over 70 political parties that fielded candidates for the election did not go beyond having their names on the ballot papers as the election was strictly between President Muhammadu Buhari of the APC and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar of the PDP. In some states of the federation also, there were more than 60 candidates for the governorship elections, with many not gathering up to 1,000 votes.

 

 

As INEC pointed out, beyond the briefcase and the names on INEC register, most of the political parties have no structure, presence or activity to show that they are in existence. We recall that in November 2002, late human rights activist and lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), had won a case at the Supreme Court against INEC, over the non-registration of his political association, the National Conscience Party (NCP). That set the tone for the entry of all manners of associations into the system as political parties. In a landmark judgement, the Supreme Court voided the guidelines used by INEC in the registration of parties.

 

 

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

 

 

Justice Gabriel Kolawole of a Federal High Court in Abuja, in a ruling in 2013, faulted INEC on the deregistration, insisting that the Section 78(7) (i) and (ii) of the Electoral Act, 2010 which it relied on was not in consonance with the Nigerian Constitution. That portion stated that, “the commission shall have power to de-register political parties on the following grounds: “(i) breach of any of the requirements for registration; and for failure to win a seat in the National or State Assembly election.”

 

 

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

 

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

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