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Atiku Vs Buhari: All eyes on the judiciary

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Atiku Vs Buhari: All eyes on the judiciary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Abulegba

    September 10, 2019 at 10:47 pm

    Let’s see and hear what the presidential tribunal will do. Nigerian electoral system is on trail. The last election discouraged Nigerians that their votes did not count. We are watching and the world in also watching. We need hope to revitalize the economy and security of our country.Nigeria is bigger both Atiku and Buhari

  2. Pingback: Nigeria Breaking News Today Headlines Tuesday 10th September 2019 - Nigeria News Headlines Today

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Editorial

Making NYG, NSF count for development

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Making NYG, NSF count for development

The National Youth Games was concluded in Ilorin, Kwara State last week Monday. A total of 3,893 athletes from 33 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) competed in 34 sporting events.

A total of 238 up and coming athletes were discovered and they are to be nurtured by the Federal Ministry of Youths and Sports. We strongly hope this will happen.

However, Delta State emerged overall champions at the games with 104 medals to win for the record fifth time. Team Delta won 41 gold, 32 silver and 31 bronze medals. And so, Delta has won all five editions of the game since its inception in 2013.

Team Lagos placed second in the medals table after garnering 72 medals which comprise 22 gold, 36 silver and 14 bronze medals. Bayelsa came third with 45 medals after 17 gold, six silver and 22 bronze medals.

Akwa Ibom placed fourth in the table with 41 medals comprising 16 gold, 12 silver and 13 bronze medals.

We commend Delta State for its consistency in the past five editions of the games. The exploits of the state did not come as a surprise. We are aware that over 12 stadia are scattered all over the state with elite and young athletes springing up at every national event. It is sad that in the past seven years, the National Sports Festival, which is an upgrade of the National Youth Games, has only taken place once. Many talents could have been lost due to the long period the event was in limbo. Abuja 2019 National Festival took place because the ministry was eager to end the long wait. The last games before that took place in Lagos in 2012. We charge the ministry to avoid a repeat of such which was largely due to financial problems from the prospective host.

Going forward, it is important to determine how these athletes are transiting from one age grade to the other. We charge the national coaches in the geo-political zones in the country to make the grassroots competitions count. The over 200 young athletes discovered in Ilorin should be exposed and taken to another level to serve as back-up for the current elite athletes.

We make bold to say youth development is a key vehicle to drive growth in the sports sector. Administrators of sports look up to the youth to prepare for the future in the country in terms of grassroots development and talent discovery.

Unfortunately, the situation is not the same in Nigeria as administrators are in a hurry to record instant results and so there is little or no place for the youth. The transition through the age groups that many Nigerians clamour for in football is also not prevalent in other sports in the country.

Coaches prefer a quick fix situation to prosecute competitions and to achieve results for the national teams. Rather than project to have some players in the national team fold in four years, the coaches prefer looking for athletes who can immediately make an impact in their respective teams.

What has been missing in the sports sector is a policy template to help in the general operations of the industry. The fire brigade approach of prosecuting competitions has become a normal practice. There should be national coaches and scouts in all youth developmental competition. This has nothing to do with whether the competition is staged by the federations or not. We make bold to say there is nothing wrong in national coaches attending a competition staged by private bodies to scout for talents.

For example, the Higher Institution Football League, which is a private initiative, is ongoing but the NFF has not shown interest to look in that direction to get talents. This is wrong. We recall that in the past, there was a Manuwa Adebajo Football Competition for all higher institutions. The event produced many notable players for the Flying Eagles. Adeolu Adekola and Nosa Osadolor were in the Chile ’87 and they earned the call up to camp from the Manuwa Adebajo tournament.

We recall that the Africa Wrestling Championship was hosted by Rivers State last year and there was a junior cadre where close to 100 wrestlers represented Nigeria. Those talents should be further exposed to prepare them for future challenges.

Athletics, table tennis and boxing are traditional sports where talents abound in the federations and there should be a deliberate effort to fish them out and expose them for future challenges.

For example, a developmental competition, the Zenith Bank/Delta Principals’ Cup, is billed to start on September 30 in the 25 local governments in Delta State. This is the number one state in the country in sports and we expect NFF or state football federation scouts to keep an eye on players that could be invited into the Future Eagles camp or the Eaglets.

It is good that the new Sports Minister Sunday Dare is passionate about grassroots development and we expect him to woo the corporate Nigeria to enable the ministry take advantage of all developmental events in the country. It is important to identify budding talents at tender age and take them to the next level in terms of exposure.

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Editorial

Concerns over growing debt

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Concerns over growing debt

T

he Debt Management Office (DMO), last week, declared that the Federal Government and 36 states of the federation incurred N560 billion debt in the first three months of this year.

This, according to DMO, has brought Nigeria’s total domestic and foreign debt to N24.9 trillion as at end of March 2019.

 

Compared with the debt figure as of December 31, 2018, which stood at N24.387 trillion, the first quarter 2019 figure represented 2.3 per cent increase.

 

According to debt figures released by the DMO, the country’s total foreign debt stood at N7.8 trillion ($25.6 billion) while domestic was N17 trillion. Out of the total domestic debt, the Federal Government alone owed N13.1 trillion, while the 36 states and FCT are owing N3.9 trillion.

 

 

DMO stated that the debt which rose by N560 billion was accounted for largely by domestic debt which grew by N458.36 billion, while external debt also increased by N101.64 billion during the same period.

In servicing domestic debts alone, the country spent a total of N650 billion between January and March.

 

 

While a section of the citizenry sees nothing wrong with the accumulating debt currently put at over N24 trillion, others are, however, worried that the rate at which the federal and state governments are burrowing into various credit facilities, the future of the country is consciously being mortgaged. 

The fear being expressed is evident on the fact that considering the huge sum borrowed so far, there is actually no corresponding infrastructural development to measure up with it. This actually calls for concern as the Federal Government, especially under the current administration, has often make noise about borrowing to develop infrastructure.

 

 

With major roads across the country in their unprecedented worse state, and nothing to write about electricity supply as well as other public institutions begging for attention, one is left with no choice to really question the specific areas the funds so far borrowed has been channelled into.

 

As revealed by the alarming details, as at December 31, 2018, the debt profile had risen by N2.66 trillion from N21.725 trillion as at December 2017 to N24.387 trillion within the one year period with about 70 per cent of the 2018 revenue spent on servicing it.

The situation has become so appalling that even the International Monetary Fund (IMF), last year, expressed concern over Nigeria’s ability to service its external loans estimated then at over $18.9 billion, given the mono-product economy status and low revenue base.

Despite the semblance of a robust economy under President Muhammadu Buhari, the decision to deliberately pile up debts under the guise of infrastructure development and economic stimulation is already creating an enormous milieu of uncertainty.

 

While Nigerians actually believed that things were beginning to look up for the country especially with the rising foreign reserves, decelerating inflation and curtailed widespread corruption, the rising debt is casting doubt on the freedom of the future generation to decide to destinies.

 

The future of the country is obviously at stake if nothing is done urgently to cut down the rising debt profile, which the administration and a few others find very convenient to defend based on the simple fact that prevailing economic indices still allows for such projection.

Part of the feeble defence for this long-term entrapment remains the passionate attachment to sustainability even as the Federal Government has adopted a new debt management strategy, which has the objective of reducing the ratio of domestic debt in the portfolio, while the ratio of external debt increases – with a target of 60 per cent domestic and 40 per cent external.

 

In spite of this defence and plans to raise funds through issuance of Eurobonds, the fact remains that accumulating huge debt within a period of three years calls to mind this administration’s right to question the credibility of its predecessor, which only had a liability of N7 trillion accumulated in four years.

 

For an administration that came into power under the slogan of prudence and other cost cutting projections, it is indeed alarming that the sovereignty and future of the country is gradually being mortgaged by those who should know better.

 

While it is good enough to criticise former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration for borrowing to pay salaries, the indiscriminate approach in the current dispensation as regards borrowing to fund infrastructure which are not even there, is also becoming worrisome.

Even while the dust raised by the current debt profile is yet to settle, the Federal Government still seeks more loans from both the World Bank and any other institution willing to offer.

 

While not ruling out borrowing to develop the economy, we, however, advise that caution should be applied and such development spread over time instead of piling up debts to get everything done at once.

 

Rather than rush to do everything just to get the credit, institutions should be built to ensure that whoever takes over from the government of today continues from where it stops.

 

 

We also believe it is time the government put into use whatever has been recovered from corrupt public office holders.

We call on the state and federal governments to be cautious in their quest for more loans.

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Editorial

Need to tackle rising drug abuse level

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Need to tackle rising drug abuse level

By all standards, it is an incontestable fact in recent times that drug abuse in Nigeria is on the upward swing and more prevalent across almost all strata of the society. From the East to West, North to South, amazing re-ports of drugs and other sub-stance abuse fall among some social and legal issues causing great concern. But even more foreboding was the Federal Government’s disclosure that an estimated 14.3 million adults in Nigeria use hard drugs for non-medical purposes within the last one year.

 

The immediate past Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, while unveiling the report of the first National Survey on Drug Use and Health to be con-ducted in Nigeria, said some of the findings were striking and alarming. According to him, data collected from 38,850 respondents in the household and 9,344 high risk drug users nationwide suggests that the prevalence of past year’s drug use in Nigeria is more than twice the global average of 5.6 per cent. He said: “In Nigeria, cannabis is the most commonly used drug. An estimated 10.6 million people had used cannabis in the past year.

 

The average age of initiation of cannabis use among the general population is 19 years. One in seven persons aged 15 – 64 years had used a drug other than tobacco and alcohol in the past year.”

 

The disclosure evidently formed the basis of increasing level of violence and criminality among youths and cult groups around the country as a result of drug and substance abuse among the younger generation. The report grouped youths within 19 years of age as mostly affected. It is in this context that the recent cult clashes in Shomolu, Surulere, Ikorodu in Lagos State wherein hundreds of suspects were herded into police detention and prison custody, as well as deadly drug-induced cult-related attacks in Rivers State are some startling evidence of these.

 

In the southern and northern parts of the country, there is also a considerable level of non-medical use of prescription opioids such as tramadol and cough syrup containing codeine and dextromethorphan, with unprecedented health hazards, which, in turn, culminated in the increase in the number of inmates in lunatic asylums.

 

If the prevalence is disturbing, it is even more disheartening to know that the report identified people who inject drugs (PWIDs) also constituted a sizeable proportion of high risk drug users, even as pharmaceutical opioids, cocaine and heroin in that order were the commonly injected drugs.

 

The fact that the report stated that among every four drug users in Nigeria, one is a woman that one in five persons who had used a hard drug in the past year suffered from drug user disorders attests to the fact that there is need for concerted efforts to mitigate the negative consequences of the increasing use of psychoactive substances on the health and security of the nation. But the probing question is: What is the source of these con-trolled drugs and substance?

 

Given the fact that cocaine and heroin are not grown in Nigeria, how effective are the border control measures? What level of implementation has Nigeria given to the various strategies enunciated by the International Narcotic Control Board (INCB)? To what extent have operatives of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) implemented the National Drug Control Master plan, which addressed the issue through four broad subheads – Licit and Illicit Drugs, Drug Demand Reduction and Adequacy of Penal Sanction.

 

It is pertinent to note that no nation of consequence will ignore the salient provision of this plan. Beyond arresting and prosecution of drug barons, traffickers and users, of great importance is the role of education on the dangers of drug and substance abuse, through the media as well as anti-drug clubs in schools. If such preventive measures are critical to the success, treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration for drug use disorders are essential components of drug demand reduction. While these measures last, it is vital Nigeria ensures periodic high level review of the implementation of the plans in consonance with contemporary realities.

 

Like the INCB suggested in one of its annual reports, all member states should make Political Declaration and Plan of Action on International Cooperation towards an integrated and balanced strategy to counter the World Drug Problem. Given the fact that researches have shown that preponderance of drug abusers are among youths and teenagers, it has become indispensable to redesign efforts and strategies to redirect their perception in order to regain this generation of youths and refocus their minds on productive and beneficial activities.

 

An adjunct to this is the need to integrate primary, secondary and tertiary institutions, community development associations and social clubs into drug control stakeholders, utilising these for effective educational programmes, while the National Orientation Agency (NOA), health and justice ministries and the NDLEA as well as the police strengthen their convergent and divergent efforts to arrest this alarm-ing level of drug abuse in the country.

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Editorial

Merger, unbundling of federal ministries

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Merger, unbundling of federal ministries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Nigeria, U.S.’ rift over visa fee

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Nigeria, U.S.’ rift over visa fee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NFF and the Eagles of tomorrow

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NFF and the Eagles of tomorrow

 

W

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

W

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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Editorial

Fighting security challenges with technology

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Insecurity is probably at its peak in the South-West no thanks to the violent attacks in almost all parts of the region. Today, people are afraid to move from one part of the region to the other because of the fear of being attacked. Attacks come from different marauding gangs, particularly armed robbers and the most dreadful of all, kidnappers, who those survived their reprehensible activities have described as herdsmen.

 

In the last couple of months, kidnappers have become notorious in the South-West that the mere mention of their names usually strikes terror in the minds of many. People don’t just fear the kidnappers; the abductors earned it through tales of their deliberate wickedness to their victims, which many people reasonably believe to be part of a larger script. Most of the times, gunmen would jump on a major road in broad daylight and start to shoot at oncoming vehicles to force motorists to stop.

 

Through this process several people have been sent to their graves in their prime. Those kidnapped are made to pass through hell while in the captivity of these depraves. Many women, including children, are tortured and gangraped for several days.

 

Many are permanently damaged as they could not survive their traumatic experience in the hands of their abductors. Men are not spared in the depravity. Violence is not limited to the South-West states of Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun and Oyo.

 

The North, especially the North-East, has in the last few years being in the throes of violence unleashed by the terror group, Boko Haram, while parts of the North-Central have been under attacks by the ubiquitous herdsmen. The bandits have killed and abducted several people in the North-West. The upsurge in violence in the South-West, it is believed, is fallout of the continuous bloodletting in the North. The violence in the South- West reached a crescendo with the recent murder of Mrs. Funke Olakunrin, daughter of Pa Reuben Fasoranti, the leader of pan-Yoruba sociocultural organisation, Afenifere.

 

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

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

 

The President spoke while playing host to traditional rul-ers from the South-West led by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, at the State House. The President disclosed that he “will be issuing directives to the appropriate federal authorities to speedily approve licensing for states requesting the use of drones to monitor forests and other criminal hideouts. “We also intend to install CCTVs on highways and other strategic locations so that activities in some of those hidden places can be exposed, more effectively monitored and open to actionable review.

 

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

 

A few days later, the Inspector- General of Police (IG), Mohammed Adamu, said the police would, in the next few days, deploy a special squad in the South-West to tackle kidnapping and other criminal activities. The Deputy Inspector-General of Police (Operations), Abdulmajid Ali, who disclosed this during a visit to Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State in Akure, said the main assignment of the squad was to curb crimes in the region. He said the police were keen on making the country safe for everyone. Drawing attention to the fact that the dynamics for safeguarding security keep changing, the President noted that government must adapt strategies to these challenges as well as adopt modern, technological and people-centred methods in achieving these goals.

 

The plan, as enunciated by the President, is commendable. Criminals have continued to embrace technology, so checking crimes requires deployment of modern technology. Provision of security for the citizens is a cardinal responsibility of any government. Any government that fails to provide adequate security will eventually lose the moral authority to govern. In this light, the Federal Government plan is a welcome development. But the President failed to explain how the CCTV would be deployed in a vast area, especially highways, without electricity.

 

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

 

However, it is often said, to be late is better than never. It is not too late. We urge the government not to procrastinate again in decisively dealing with violent crimes in the South-West and all other parts of the country.

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Editorial

Restriction on herdsmen in South-East

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Restriction on herdsmen in South-East

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Editorial

No to selective rewards, reception of athletes

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No to selective rewards, reception of athletes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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