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Changing tact with cattle rustlers, bandits

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Changing tact with cattle rustlers, bandits

Governors of the North- West geopolitical zone recently granted amnesty to cattle rustlers and bandits who have been terrorising their states.

 

This is part of measures geared towards restoring peace and reviving socio-economic activities in Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara and Katsina states. The governors disclosed this in a communique read at the end of a one-day security and reconciliation meeting held in Katsina.

The meeting had in attendance the governors, security agencies, vigilante and volunteer groups, as well as herdsmen and farmers. In the communique, the governors resolved that henceforth, no member of a vigilante or volunteer group should attack or kill any herdsman, while the herdsmen and their families should be allowed to go about their normal businesses without molestation, provided they do not bear arms.

 

 

The bandits have been directed to surrender their weapons and immediately release all kidnapped persons in their custody. In addition, bandits who rustled animals from communities have been directed to return them to government or the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) immediately. The governors also called for sacrifice and commitment to peace from all sides, pledging that the states would intensify efforts to provide necessities such as hospitals, schools and grazing reserves for the herders to make their lives more meaningful.

 

They expressed concern that herders were always roaming around with their animals, thereby exposing them to different kinds of hazards, which would be avoided when grazing reserves are created and the herders settle in one place in the zone.

 

It is interesting that these resolutions are coming from the governors who are constitutionally regarded as the Chief Security Officers (CSOs) in their respective states. It is also instructive that these resolutions were adopted in the presence of the Inspector- General of Police, Mr. Mohammed Adamu, who has the primary responsibility for internal security through the maintenance of law and order across the country. We must commend these governors for taking this bold initiative, even though their intervention has been long overdue.

 

We observe with pains that this effort is coming after thousands of Nigerians have been slaughtered and despatched to their early graves as a result of the violent conflicts involving herdsmen, bandits and farmers, not only on the North-West but in other parts of Nigeria. We think that these governors and other stakeholders ought to have risen to this challenge long before now rather than waiting until the crisis gets to their region.

 

For several years, the North- West had looked on like spectators at a football match while these herders ravaged farmlands and forests in other parts of Nigeria. In the Middle Belt and Southern Nigeria, these herders and bandits turned their weapons against the host communities where they grazed their cattle.

 

They took over ancestral lands, including sacred groves, sacked communities, killed the men and raped their wives and daughters, all in the name of seeking pasture and water for their cattle. One would have expected these governors to have spoken up on this conflict with as much frankness then as they have done now. Beyond the moral questions surrounding this move, we wish to remind our dear governors that offering amnesty to a group of bandits is a very serious matter that goes beyond political rhetoric.

 

By implication, the governors have officially granted pardon to and forgiven these bandits who were either into cattle rustling or involved in the raiding of communities and killing of their inhabitants to take over their lands.

 

It means that government has taken a common stand to forgive every wrongdoing and obliterate all legal encumbrances of these offences. In offering amnesty to the bandits, we must not forget that they operated much like the Boko Haram insurgents in the North- East, which has links with the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). It is therefore important that those who declared the amnesty must think through it thoroughly to avoid sweeping the salient issues driving the conflict under the carpet.

 

Banditry, cattle rustling and farmer-herder clashes in various communities are serious security issues that should be addressed from its roots before the amnesty can be meaningful and realistic. They would be operating in self-delusion if they believe that those declarations in their communique will do magic.

 

They must go beyond the political theatrics and moral persuasions by looking beyond the surface of this turbulent water. They must ensure that they worked closely with the security agencies or employed the services of private security experts to review the various security threats in the region and understand them properly. It is only then that they can design effective remedies to resolving them permanently.

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Editorial

Sports Minister and state of Nigerian football

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Sports Minister and state of Nigerian football

The Minister of Sports, Sunday Dare, is gradually trying to bring sanity into the sector. It was great to see the minister attend the final of a boxing tournament in Oworonsoki where he made bold his pledge to adopt an eight-year-old boxer, Sekinat Quadri. Dare saw the video of the young boxer on the social media and followed up by attending the competition and he gave out prizes to other boxers who excelled at the event.

This, is part of the Talent Hunt Programme of the minister which is targeted at grassroots. We commend the minister for this initiative and urge him to do much more by getting people to go round the six geo-political zones and bring out hidden talents for the future.

We acknowledge that the Sports Minister has been very vibrant on the social media. Dare was irked by the poor results recorded by the national teams in recent time. No doubt, the poor results recorded are very disturbing. The Falcons and the national U-23 team missed the tickets to be part of the Tokyo Olympic Games football event next year. The U-17 and U-20 national teams fumbled respectively at the FIFA World Cup this year. Nigeria also failed to qualify for the CHAN tournament meant for home-based players. Poor results were also recorded by the home-based team that took part in WAFU Cup. Sad enough, Coach Imama Amakapabo was the handler of three of these teams. He led the U-23 team to Olympics ouster, led the CHAN team to another ouster just as the CHAN team crumbled under his tutelage. We charge the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) not to entrust another national team on Amakapabo and he should proceed on refresher course abroad if he is to continue as one of the national coaches. After the string of bad results, we make bold to say that the former Rangers coach is no longer fit to be an under-study to Gernot Rohr in the Super Eagles.

The minister in a reaction to the string of poor runs also on his Twitter handle said: “Government will take appropriate steps and in a timely fashion to improve our football fortunes. Current outcomes offer the opportunity to review, re-strategize and develop a long term plan for football development. We will dust up great ideas already abandoned and implement…football needs a return to the basics of grassroots football, pristine sports. Nigerian football across the spectrum will benefit from this new outlook which will involve critical stakeholders. Government, mindful that Nigeria is a football nation will be bold in embracing best practices in modern football.”

The minister’s reaction was in order but we frown at the shock response of the NFF as the federation argued that Eagles are the best yardstick to measure standard of the game in the country. We vehemently disagree with the football body because the federation cannot lay claim to the growth of many, if not all the players. We are aware that the transition from the age-grade is not working and the feat of the players abroad informed their invitation to Eagles. Sadly, the real developmental teams are the ones recording poor results. The domestic league players and the younger generation of players are those the NFF should nurture and boost of their exploits. We urge the NFF to put its acts together to get things right in terms of results rather than engage the minister in war of words. The federation should take criticism in good faith.

We commend the current form of the Eagles in recent time. The Eagles played 2-2 draw away to Ukraine and also was forced to a 1-1 draw by Brazil in some of their recent friendlies. In the two matches played so far in the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers, the Eagles came back from a goal down to beat Benin 2-1 and also were down 1-0 before beating Lesotho 4-2 in an away tie.

However, the exploits of the current Eagles is not in any way due to NFF’s administrative tenacity. We know that the respective clubs of the Eagles stars play a huge role in their development and not the NFF. Wilfred Ndidi, for example, has been very consistent with Leicester and this has improved his game in the national team. Joe Aribo was impressive in Scotland and now making impact in the team.

The domestic league needs help because there is no sponsor, it is not on television and the issue of hooligalism has to be completely put to rest. These issues should be the concern to the federation and energy should be channelled towards the development of the league so that the country’s continental teams will consistently post good results in Africa.

We also expect that efforts should be made to train the coaches and referees better while there should be a good plan to guarantee transition in the age grade national teams.

The NFF should avoid sentiments and face its duties across all aspects to make crazy football loving Nigerians happy.

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Before Edo State slips into anarchy

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Before Edo State slips into anarchy

The crisis between the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole and governor of his home state, Edo, Godwin Obaseki, took another turn for the worse last week. The Edo State House of Assembly declared the seats of 12 members-elect loyal to Oshiomhole, who had not been inaugurated since June this year, vacant.

The 12 members-elect had boycotted the House sittings since June when Obaseki inaugurated the house with only about nine members in attendance. Fifteen other members, who made up the 24-man assembly, were not present on the night that Obaseki proclaimed the house.

But since then, it has been a see-saw situation at the house as 12 members have avoided the house, owing to their allegiance to Oshiomhole.

The 12 members-elect have also refused to present themselves for inauguration into the 7th Assembly.

Also affected by the latest move were two other lawmakers who had earlier been inaugurated but didn’t meet mandatory sitting requirement to continue as members of the assembly.

According to the Deputy Speaker of the Assembly, Hon. Yekini Idiaye, the resolution was reached at plenary on December 4.

He said that the seats declared vacant were those of Etsako West I, Etsako West II, Owan East, Owan West, Etsako Central, Etsako East and Esan Central.

Others are Uhunmwonde, Oredo East, Oredo West, Egor, Ovia North East I, Ovia North East II and Ovia South West I.

He stated that two of those affected from Oredo East and Owan East, were sworn in, but failed to meet the mandatory 181-day sitting requirement for a member in a calendar year.

He said: “Their constituents have been complaining and have come to us that they want their voices and concerns to be heard in the House. So, people who are willing to provide quality representation have to be elected to bring the matters of the distraught constituents to the floor for debate and legislation, where necessary.”

For long, the battle for supremacy between Oshiomhole and Obaseki has threatened to cause mayhem in Edo State. There had been violence, unleashing of thugs to attack both parties, suspensions of key party figures by loyalists of both sides and other sundry matters.

The National Assembly has also tried in vain to intervene in the matter with court cases and injunctions pouring in to destabilise any move to subdue Obaseki. Thus, the Edo Assembly has been operating at low capacity since June, when the governor proclaimed it.

There is no doubt that the constitution of the country vested the powers to proclaim the House in the governor of a state.

At least, Section 105. (3) states clearly that: “Subject to the provisions of this constitution, the person elected as the governor of a state shall have power to issue a proclamation for the holding of the first session of the House of Assembly of the state concerned immediately after his being sworn in, or for its dissolution as provided in this section.”

That was done by Obaseki with only nine members in attendance. The remaining members, who are majorly Oshiomhole’s men, claimed that they were not informed of the inauguration on that date.

Since then, the members stayed away from the House. We do not understand why the lawmakers deny their constituents the liberty of representation in the House.

We are aware that Section 109. (1) of the constitution states: “A member of a House of Assembly shall vacate his seat in the House if -(f) without just cause, he is absent from meetings of the House of Assembly for a period amounting in the aggregate to more than one-third of the total number of days during which the House meets in any one year.”

The constitution provides that the House should sit for 180 days in a year.

We know that between June and December 4 when the vacancy was declared, 60 days, being one-third of the number of days required by the constitution might have passed. We do not effectively know the number of days the house has spent in its sittings.

But we can safely state that the crisis in Edo State, as manifested in the House, is taking a dangerous dimension. We are aware that the election for the governor of the state comes up in 2020. That is the crux of the matter and the source of the crisis between Oshiomhole and Obaseki.

We are worried that with the fast and furious way the politics of the state is moving, if nothing is done to arrest the situation, the country might witness a crisis it did not plan for in Edo State. What is obvious now is that both parties are not willing to pull back and allow peace reign. That is why we think that time has come for the Presidency and the leadership of APC to put a stop to the crisis in the state by calling both the governor and the party chairman to order. Otherwise, anarchy is looming in Edo State.

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Editorial

Nigeria’s unimpressive electoral fortunes

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Nigeria’s unimpressive electoral fortunes

N

igeria has a chequered electoral history. Of the 10 general elections the nation had conducted since independence – 1964/1965, 1979, 1983, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019 – only that of 2015 could be said to have met acceptable standards.

 

 

The 2015 elections, which saw the defeat of an incumbent president and a ruling party for the first time in Nigeria’s political history was a sharp departure from what obtained in the past. This was justified by commendations the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) received after the polls from both local and foreign observers.

 

 

For instance, observer teams from the African Union (AU), European Union (EU) and the Commonwealth, among several other foreign and local election monitoring groups, gave the electoral commission, then under the leadership of Prof. Attahiru Jega, a pass mark for its impartial handling of the polls. The observer groups were unanimous that the elections were peaceful and transparent.

 

Though many saw the lapses of polls before then as part of the learning process, recent developments in the polity have shown that rather than build on the gains of the 2015 polls, the fortunes of Nigeria’s electoral process is on the decline.

 

 

The February/March 2019 general election, which should have been a veritable opportunity for the electoral umpire, political parties and other relevant stakeholders to sustain the tempo, no doubt, fell short of expectation. Most contenders for the various electoral offices in that elections ended up in courts over claims of alleged irregularities that characterised the polls.

 

 

While it was thumbs down for the 2019 polls, the recent off-season governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states have been described by both local and foreign observers as one that cast a harsh light on patterns of violence, corruption and outright criminality that have characterised Nigeria’s political system.

 

 

The pre and post-election violence, which trailed the November 16 polls in both states, according to many, will drive Nigeria’s electoral process to the brink if left unchecked. Not only that several lives were lost, property worth millions of naira destroyed in the course of the elections.

 

 

No doubt, the Prof. Mahmood Yakubu-led INEC would not be solely blamed for the dwindling fortunes in the country’s electoral process as desperation among the political class is a major contributor. The stake seems to have been raised as elections have become do-or-die.   

 

 

In the Kogi and Bayelsa elections, politicians and their loyalists, thugs inclusive, had a field day, snatching and stuffing ballot boxes; intimidating electoral officials; killing and maiming perceived opponents. Sadly, at the end of the exercise, results were declared and winners emerged despite clear irregularities. This, perhaps, explained bashings for the electoral commission as well as calls for outright cancellation of the polls.

 

 

The Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room, for instance, called for the total cancellation of Kogi State election as it represents a major dent to Nigeria’s democracy. Convener of the group, comprising about 400 civil rights organisations, Clement Nwankwo, warned that forthcoming elections in the country would be characterized by bloodbath if the outcome of the Kogi poll is allowed to stand.

 

 

Similarly, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) described the governorship election in Kogi State as falling below minimum standard of a credible election.

 

A report of the NBA’s Election Working Group (EWG) led by its Chairman, Afam Osigwe, read in part: “The credibility of the entire process was put in issue by the overwhelming incidents of harassment and intimidation of voters and electoral officials, destruction of electoral materials, snatching of ballot boxes and votes and the killings of persons.

 

“In the light of large scale acts of violence, disruptions of the electoral process, snatching of electoral materials by armed persons some of whom were dressed in police uniform, coupled with sporadic gunshots that scared voters away from voting centres, as observed by the NBA EWG, the elections in Kogi State failed to meet the minimum standards of a credible election.”

 

 

It is against this worrisome trend that we call for fundamental reforms to Nigeria’s electoral process in order to address the systemic failure noticed during the 2019 elections as well as the recent Kogi and Bayelsa governorship polls.

But, such reforms, we must emphasize, require political leadership that is dedicated to the rights of Nigerian citizens, and an inclusive process of national dialogue, involving state institutions, parties, civil societies and the media.

We reiterate the need for political leadership because 12 years after the Justice Mohammed Uwais-led Electoral Reform Committee submitted its report and two years the Senator Ken Nnamani-led Constitution and Electoral Reform Committee submitted its recommendations to the present administration, their respective recommendations are yet to be implemented.

It is not enough to advise the main opposition party and others that were not satisfied with the results of governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states to seek redress in court like President Muhammadu Buhari did.

The urgent need for electoral reform to be undertaken is to allow time for debate, legislative changes and implementation well in advance of the next elections, so that citizens’ faith in in the power and possibility of credible elections and not the power of the guns would be rekindled.

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Editorial

AFN crisis and 2020 Olympic Games

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AFN crisis and 2020 Olympic Games

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is very near and it is expected that every serious country should be putting finishing touches to its preparations for the competition widely regarded as the biggest event in the world because of the assemblage of people during the period.

For serious countries, preparation for his event starts immediately after each one and so the cycle of four years is used to get set for the next.

We observe that this has never been the case in Nigeria even when the administrators say so after every event.

We also want to emphasize that the final of the 100m is almost always the climax of every Olympic Games. Over the years, the competition has evolved in many ways. For example, football for male and female were added but it has not removed the shine for the ‘major’ attraction of the games, which is athletics. We recall that was while Micheal Johnson, Carl Lewis, Maurice Greene and just recently Usain Bolt made name as Olympic legends, not much is heard about the consistent and amazing athletes in other sports like wrestling, weightlifting, taekwondo, tennis, table tennis, etc.

Australian swimming sensation, Micheal Phelps, cannot be forgotten easily because of his amazing run in the swimming event while Cuban boxer Felix Savon cannot be forgotten as well but no doubt, athletics steal the show at the games.

And so it is sad that the Athletic Federation of Nigeria (AFN) is engulfed in crisis at a time the federation should be focused on potential medal prospects for the games. We frown at the fact that there are two AFN factions currently while the angle of the ministry is also there after the Ibrahim Gusau faction declared that the body would go autonomous at a Congress in Awka. There was another Congress in Abuja two days earlier which has Olamide George as its Acting President.

History has shown that crisis like this draw the country back in terms of results. The example of football is still fresh and the sad effects of crisis must not repeat itself in athletics.

Nigeria’s all time record at the games is not encouraging. Despite the talents in various sports, Nigeria on many occasions, attend the games and return with nothing.

Nigeria has her strong and weak areas in athletics but sadly, the country is yet to maximize the advantage of the strong areas especially the sprints.

Overall, Nigeria has won three gold, 10 silver and 12 gold medals. The total medal haul of 25 is not a true reflection of the talents in the country. Athletics alone won two gold, five silver and six bronze medals. In one Olympic Games, many countries perform better than Nigeria’s overall haul at the games.

At the last games in Brazil, Nigeria won only a bronze medal courtesy of the U-23 football team led by Samson Siasia. Four years earlier, at the London 2012 Games in England, Nigeria failed to win a medal.

We are aware that there are some potential medal-winning athletes that must not be ignored due to the current crisis.

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Long Jumper, Ese Brume, won bronze medal only recently at the world championship. With a personal best of 7.05m, the three-time African championship gold medallist is good enough for medals in Tokyo if well motivated with her preparation.

Hurdler, Tobi Amusan, narrowly missed the bronze medal at the Worlds but with her 12.49secs PB recorded earlier this year, the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist is also good for the podium. She could be of help in the 4x100m relay anytime.

Divine Oduduru, one of the most consistent sprinters this year could explode at Tokyo Games if well monitored. His PB of 9.86 secs recorded this year can earn him 100m medal if he is able to maintain or better it at the games.

In wrestling, Oduayo Adekuoroye and Blessing Oborodudu are solid enough to be in the medals bracket of their respective categories while ping ponger, Aruna Quadri, can also make the podium with huge encouragement and motivation from the ministry of sports. Adekuoroye is currently number 3 in the world in her cadre and she was consistent all through this year with continental and global laurels.

Quadri emerged the first African to play in the quarterfinal of an Olympics Games at Rio 2016 and we expect that with support from his federation and the ministry, he can do better in Tokyo due to his current form.

As stated earlier, crisis in the past made the Super Eagles miss back-to-back AFCON tickets and we believe a house divided against itself cannot stand. The AFN is the federation expected to be at the forefront of Olympics preparation while others learn from the body. The current situation is absurd and we call for a truce as soon as possible because national interest is bigger than the personal aspirations of those involved in the current imbroglio.

With reputable former athletes like Yusuf Ali, Henry Amike, Falilat Ogunkoya and Mary Onyali in the country, the AFN can easily consult these legends to solve its problems amicably and move the country forward.

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Time to rescue LAUTECH

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Time to rescue LAUTECH

T

he recent five-member committee inaugurated by Oyo State Governor, Seyi Makinde, to work with a similar team from Osun State to deliberate on the future ownership of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, should, in all intent and purpose, be viewed as a welcome development aimed at resolving the protracted crisis bedevilling the university.

Without mincing words, the unresolved rift between Oyo and Osun states, the joint owners of the university and the attendant confusion rocking the institution has, for long, beclouded the collective aspirations of the states.

 

The establishment of the university, which ordinarily should have guaranteed mutual development of the two owner-states, has turned out to be a source of division of the people who had lived together for ages before the creation of Osun State out of the old Oyo State on August 27, 1991.

 

The discomforts caused the administration and image of the university for decades by the ownership crisis, resulting in underfunding of the ivory tower, in every sense, are unwarranted.

The unfortunate thing is that the assumption that the university, like its contemporaries, would pilot technological advancement and offer accessible and quality university education to indigenes of the states and other Nigerians in general has been rubbished and eroded for too long.

 

The two states are today at war, albeit cold one, over an institution that should have been a source of unity among the people, but which unconsciously had been murdered on a platter of egoism, self-aggrandisement and unguarded politicking.

 

Like other institutions established under similar situation, especially the former Ondo State University, which joint ownership between Ondo and Ekiti states was amicably resolved without any strained relationship, we believe the two gladiators in the case of LAUTECH should have toed the path of reasoning, without sub-consciously jeopardising the future of the students.

In fact, what is playing out in LAUTECH today is apparently that of obtuse cynicism and political distrust between the two states, given the age-long crisis and failure to agree on the modalities and basis of nurturing the university.

 

Now that the two states have not been performing their financial obligations to the university, the institution’s chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) went on another indefinite strike after the 10-day ultimatum earlier issued to the management over non-payment of workers’ three-month salary had expired, which for many years has been the lot of the university.

 

To compound the students’ predicament, the union had threatened to withhold the students’ ‘Rain Semester’ examination results for 2018/2019 academic session until they were paid, which further portends grave consequence for the students who spent better part of their time out of campus in the last three or more years due to disruption of academic activities.

 

It is most worrisome that at this stage when the ship of the university is almost sinking, the two state governments are busy with buck-passing, accusation and counter-accusation over their indebtedness to the institution.

 

No wonder that Oyo owes LAUTECH over N4 billion, while Osun State owes over N7 billion; but while Oyo State is working to liquidate its debts, Osun State is being accused of not responding.

Although, the present Oyo State government led by Governor Seyi Makinde has inaugurated a five-member committee to work with a similar team from Osun State raised by Governor Adegboyega Oyetola to deliberate on the ownership of the university, as well as reach out to eminent personalities in the two states, we are not persuaded enough that the continued joint ownership of the institution will either resolve or bring succour to LAUTECH’s existence.

 

Now that emphasis is on divorce of the estranged relationship, we insist that the best way to resolve the recurring crisis, which has decimated LAUTECH, is to allow a state take full ownership of the institution, which at a time in its history was the best in engineering field in Nigerian universities.

 

Since the periodic crisis has not allowed the university to grow, we insist that the best option in this regard is to follow the ‘Ondo/Ekiti Model’ in which the two owner-states would sit round a table, agree that the joint ownership has failed and share the moveable assets.

 

We totally agree that the joint ownership of the university has been futile in all ramifications and should be discontinued in the best interest of the students and workers.

 

Though, the decision of the two states to raise the committee to work on the continued existence of the institution or otherwise is laudable, the committee should not only be courageous in carrying out its assignments, it should also muster the right political will to address all contending issues as they are, in order to free the university from the shackles of uncertain future.

 

If the immediate past governors of the two states – Senator Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State and Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State – who belonged to the same political party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), failed to resolve LAUTECH crisis for eight years, it speaks volumes about the already lost love between the states, which have failed to work together.

 

This, therefore, is the best of time for the two governors to reason and act decisively on the continued existence of LAUTECH, as no institution could thrive under such precarious, disdain, stressful and unpopular condition that university is currently facing.

Enough of the political showmanship that has no regard for the future of the students and workers.

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NASS, constituency projects and ‘wasted’ N1trn

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NASS, constituency projects and ‘wasted’ N1trn

President Muhammadu Buhari, last week, stirred the hornet’s nest when he said that Nigeria has wasted N1 trillion in the past 10 years on constituency projects.

Constituency project is a unique package for members of the National Assembly to reach their constituents directly through popular projects. Such may include rural electricity, water, community halls and other sundry projects, which originally were to enable the lawmakers connect to their communities.

But, according to Buhari, the amount spent by the Federal Government on these projects has not impacted on the lives and welfare of ordinary citizens.

The president spoke at a national summit on “Diminishing Corruption in the Public Service,” in Abuja.

Buhari had urged the National Assembly to fast-track the passage of the Special Crimes Court Bill and the judiciary to embrace and support the creation of Special Crimes Court.

“It is on record that in the past 10 years, N1 trillion has been appropriated for constituency projects. Yet, the impact of such huge spending on the lives and welfare of ordinary Nigerians can hardly be seen.

“The first phase report of tracking these projects by ICPC confirms our worst fears that people at the grassroots have not benefited in terms commensurate with the huge sums appropriated for constituency projects since inception,” the president said.

Expectedly, the president’s comment attracted a sharp rebuke from lawmakers, to whom the arrow of the president’s attack was directed.

Caucus of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the Senate rejected the president’s claim. Rather, they asked Buhari to ask his ministers and heads of agencies to explain what happened to the money spent on the projects.

Leader of the group, Enyinnaya Abaribe, stated that constituency projects were domiciled with the executive, saying that “if he has not seen anything, he should ask his ministers and the head of agencies.”

Similarly, the House of Representatives accused the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) of misleading the president with their statistics.

The House Minority Leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, on a point of order, argued that the said figures were incorrect and breached his privileges as a member of the National Assembly.

He said that the figures budgeted annually were not matched with the released funds.

“Last year, there was release of about only 40 per cent and we are not sure if releases will be up to 50 per cent this year,” he noted.

Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, said the matter affected the collective privileges of members of the whole House and may yield a bad consequence. “I am concerned over the unintended consequences out of this, which is to put people’s well-being at risk,” the speaker said.

He said there was the need for government to differentiate between monies budgeted and monies released.

We strongly believe that the technicalities of the execution of such projects are known between the executive and the lawmakers. We are not party to the intricacies that are woven around the proposal, execution and actual visibilities of the projects. But we know that for long, the issue of constituency projects have been a recurring one between the executive arm of government and the lawmakers. It was previously a subject of debate how it should be executed, if it should be part of the lawmakers’ entitlement and other arguments surrounding it.

Although the lawmakers may dispute Buhari’s claims as they have done, we have no doubt that a humongous sum has gone into the projects, across the country. What is in doubt as the president pointed out is whether such expenditures have had a bearing on the welfare of the people or not. We strongly believe that judging from the sum mentioned, there is little or nothing to show for such appropriation.

We know for a fact that the sundry projects called constituency projects are small projects, which individuals and communities actually undertake at local levels without assigning billions of naira to such. We also know that in some cases, like water and electrification projects, most of such constituency projects are only objects of showmanship, which stop working as soon as the last sets of seats and canopies are taken away from the inauguration venue.

We are fully convinced that more questions should be asked by Buhari from those who computed the figures for him and those whom such projects were given. There is a strong need to know where the money went and how much was actually expended on such projects.

We say so because we believe that N1 trillion is such a huge fund that cannot be allowed to just vanish untraceably. In a country with roughly N10 trillion annual budget, we are talking of 10 per cent of the annual budget going into freebies. That amount could be used in roads construction and the provision of other infrastructure that the country is in dire need of. We are not aware that Nigeria has constructed a N1 trillion road yet. And the country might not need to do such so soon.

We therefore believe that both the president and the lawmakers need to further look deeper and discover the actual sums that have been expended on such projects. That would, at least, let Nigerians know how much the country is sinking into such projects and whether or not there is need for the continuation of such an expensive voyage into ego trips.

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Buhari’s request for $29.9bn loan

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Buhari’s request for $29.9bn loan

President Muhammadu Buhari, last week, returned to the Senate for the approval of his request to borrow about $29.9 billion for development projects.

The president had submitted the bill to the 8th session of the National Assembly led by former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, who refused to approve it.

Many months later, Buhari, last Thursday, returned the bill to the Senate for approval. He bemoaned the attitude of the 8th Assembly, inferring that the action of the previous Senate delayed him in the implementation of key projects mapped out to be executed with the loan facility.

In a letter dated November 26, 2019 and read on the floor of the Upper Chamber by the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, Buhari noted that the 8th National Assembly approved only a part of the external borrowing request forwarded to it in September 2016.

He regretted that the action of the then National Assembly stalled the Federal Government’s implementation of critical projects spanning across mining, power, health, agricultural, water and education sectors.

The president noted that the request was in pursuant to Sections 21 and 27 of the Debt Management Office (Establishment) Act.

He said: “Specifically, the Senate is invited to note that: While I had transmitted the 2016-2018 External Borrowing Plan to the Eighth National Assembly in September 2016, this plan was not approved in its entirety by the legislature; only the Federal Government’s Emergency projects for the North-East, (Four states’ projects and one China Exim Bank Assisted Railway Modernisation Projects for Lagos–Ibadan segment) were approved, out of a total of 39 projects.

“The outstanding projects in the plan that were not approved by the legislature are, nevertheless, critical to the delivery of government’s policies and programmes relating to power, mining, road, agriculture, health, water and educational sectors.”

Since he resubmitted the letter, it has attracted varied interest from the public. While some believe that it was the right decision, many are worried that Nigeria might be slipping into another era of debt overhang, which it exited during the era of former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), for instance, raised an alarm on Sunday that Nigeria’s debt profile was rising astronomically to a dangerous level. LCCI said that between 2015 and 2019, Nigeria’s debt profile increased by N13.1 trillion from N12.6 trillion in 2015 to N25.7 trillion in 2019.

The chamber, which said that it was about a 104 per cent increase, warned that the request of new $29.9 billion loan from the World Bank was troubling, considering the fragile growth of the country’s gross domestic product and low revenue earning by government.

LCCI Director General, Muda Yusuf, said that members of the organised private sector were concerned with the state of the country’s growing debt profile and government’s request for a new $29.9 billion loan.

We are also worried by the huge amount government intends to borrow. We are not worried just by the huge amount, but also by the proper utilisation of the loan. It is on record that Nigeria has borrowed money several times from external creditors without channelling the money to appropriate usage. Thus, the country ended up with huge loans without commensurate projects attached to them.

We know for a fact that Nigeria has a parlous state of infrastructure, which goes back to several years of poor governance. We also acknowledge that there is the need to speed up some infrastructural developments across the country. We note that the Buhari government is focused on this and other ways of making the country more viable for investments and offer meaningful lives to Nigerians.

But we cannot forget in haste the yoke huge debts imposed on Nigeria before Obasanjo achieved the write-off of some loans by the World Bank and Paris Club. But since then, Nigeria has been borrowing again. Yet, across the country, public infrastructure remained dilapidated, with little or nothing to show for the loans or accruals from oil sales.

Currently, the Buhari government has expanded the nation’s revenue base through massive taxation, recoveries from looted funds, loans from China and similar ones. Still, the country wants to borrow another $29.9 billion at this time.

While we are not opposed to borrowing, which is an essential part of development, we are worried that the debts are piling up and would even be more if the request, as expected, is approved by the Senate.

We then ask: What is the method of repayment? For how long is Nigeria going to repay such debts? What are the implications for the future generations and the nation’s long term economic plans?

We ask those questions because we are aware that government is already spending a large chunk of the nation’s budget on debt servicing. In the 2020 budget, estimated at N10.33 trillion, Nigeria will spend almost a quarter to service debts.

That is why we believe that the Federal Government should take it easy with external borrowing. We support the regeneration of infrastructure, but we believe that government should apply discretion in borrowing massively. If not for anything, we need to prevent using half of the nation’s budget to service debts. Where it becomes extremely necessary to borrow, the monies must be utilised judiciously for the sake of the future of the country.

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Editorial

Dwindling fortunes of Nigeria’s electoral process

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Dwindling fortunes of Nigeria’s electoral process

N

igeria has a chequered electoral history. Of the 10 general elections the nation had conducted since independence – 1964/1965, 1979, 1983, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019 – only that of 2015 could be said to have met acceptable standards.

 

 

The 2015 elections, which saw the defeat of an incumbent president and a ruling party for the first time in Nigeria’s political history was a sharp departure from what obtained in the past. This was justified by commendations the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) received after the polls from both local and foreign observers.

 

 

For instance, observer teams from the African Union (AU), European Union (EU) and the Commonwealth, among several other foreign and local election monitoring groups, gave the electoral commission, then under the leadership of Prof. Attahiru Jega, a pass mark for its impartial handling of the polls. The observer groups were unanimous that the elections were peaceful and transparent.

 

 

Though many saw the lapses of polls before then as part of the learning process, recent developments in the polity have shown that rather than build on the gains of the 2015 polls, the fortunes of Nigeria’s electoral process is on the decline.

 

 

The February/March 2019 general election, which should have been a veritable opportunity for the electoral umpire, political parties and other relevant stakeholders to sustain the tempo, no doubt, fell short of expectation. Most contenders for the various electoral offices in that elections ended up in courts over claims of alleged irregularities that characterised the polls.

 

 

While it was thumbs down for the 2019 polls, the recent off-season governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states have been described by both local and foreign observers as one that cast a harsh light on patterns of violence, corruption and outright criminality that have characterised Nigeria’s political system.

 

 

The pre and post-election violence, which trailed the November 16 polls in both states, according to many, will drive Nigeria’s electoral process to the brink if left unchecked. Not only that several lives were lost, property worth millions of naira destroyed in the course of the elections.

 

 

No doubt, the Prof. Mahmood Yakubu-led INEC would not be solely blamed for the dwindling fortunes in the country’s electoral process as desperation among the political class is a major contributor. The stake seems to have been raised as elections have become do-or-die.   

 

 

In the Kogi and Bayelsa elections, politicians and their loyalists, thugs inclusive, had a field day, snatching and stuffing ballot boxes; intimidating electoral officials; killing and maiming perceived opponents. Sadly, at the end of the exercise, results were declared and winners emerged despite clear irregularities. This, perhaps, explained bashings for the electoral commission as well as calls for outright cancellation of the polls.

 

 

The Nigerian Civil Society Situation Room, for instance, called for the total cancellation of Kogi State election as it represents a major dent to Nigeria’s democracy. Convener of the group, comprising about 400 civil rights organisations, Clement Nwankwo, warned that forthcoming elections in the country would be characterized by bloodbath if the outcome of the Kogi poll is allowed to stand.

 

Similarly, the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) described the governorship election in Kogi State as falling below minimum standard of a credible election.

 

 

A report of the NBA’s Election Working Group (EWG) led by its Chairman, Afam Osigwe, read in part: “The credibility of the entire process was put in issue by the overwhelming incidents of harassment and intimidation of voters and electoral officials, destruction of electoral materials, snatching of ballot boxes and votes and the killings of persons.

 

 

“In the light of large scale acts of violence, disruptions of the electoral process, snatching of electoral materials by armed persons some of whom were dressed in police uniform, coupled with sporadic gunshots that scared voters away from voting centres, as observed by the NBA EWG, the elections in Kogi State failed to meet the minimum standards of a credible election.”

 

 

It is against this worrisome trend that we join other well-meaning Nigerians and even friends of the nation, who have continued to call for fundamental reforms to the Nigeria’s electoral process in order to address the systemic failure noticed during the 2019 elections as well as the recent Kogi and Bayelsa governorship polls.

 

 

But, such reforms, we must emphasize, require political leadership that is dedicated to the rights of Nigerian citizens, and an inclusive process of national dialogue, involving state institutions, parties, civil societies and the media.

 

 

We reiterate the need for political leadership because 12 years after the Justice Mohammed Uwais-led Electoral Reform Committee submitted its report and two years the Senator Ken Nnamani-led Constitution and Electoral Reform Committee submitted its recommendations to the present administration, their respective recommendations are yet to be implemented.

 

 

It is not enough to advise the main opposition party and others that were not satisfied with the results of governorship elections in Kogi and Bayelsa states to seek redress in court like President Muhammadu Buhari did.

 

 

The urgent need for electoral reform to be undertaken is to allow time for debate, legislative changes and implementation well in advance of the next elections, so that citizens’ faith in in the power and possibility of credible elections and not the power of the guns would be rekindled.

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Editorial

NFF, Rohr feud not good for football growth

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NFF, Rohr feud not good for football growth

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has witnessed so many crises in the past years and in most cases, the beautiful game suffers for it. The imbroglio between NFF President Amaju Pinnick and a Jos-based politician, Chris Giwa, was a big setback to the game. We recall that rather than focus on the development of the game at the time, the federation was busy and concentrated on the leadership battle with Giwa. It is on record that the Eagles failed to book a ticket to the African Cup of Nations three times within five years not due to lack of talents but largely because of administrative problems in the federation between 2013 and 2017.

We also recall vividly that the long list of court cases involving the top chieftains of the football body have been a big setback to the progress of the game in the country.

And so the ongoing feud between the NFF and the Eagles Manager, Gernot Rohr, is sad and rather unfortunate. This is coming at a time the senior national team seems to be finding its rhythm at all fronts. The Eagles were held to a 2-2 draw by Ukraine in an international friendly away while highly rated Brazil, also forced Eagles to a 1-1 draw in another Grade A friendly.

And in the qualifiers for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations, Nigeria defeated Benin 2-1 in Uyo and followed up with an emphatic 4-2 away win against Lesotho. Young players like Victor Osimhen, Samuel Chukwueze, Joe Aribo, Samuel Kalu and Alex Iwobi have shown so much promise to give hope of a better tomorrow for the team.

We believe another golden generation is in the making as most of the players in the current team could still be together for another eight years to prosecute two World Cups and four AFCON tournaments.

Rohr’s contract expires next June and his relationship with the NFF has broken down. In recent interviews, the coach came out to confess that the federation owes him salaries while his players and staff are being owed bonuses and allowances.

In a swift reaction, the federation through the Technical Director of the body, Bitrus Bewarang, accused the handler of breach of contract.

Bewarang, an assistant to Clemens Westerhof when the Super Eagles qualified for their first-ever FIFA World Cup and won the Africa Cup of Nations in Tunisia in 1994, cited Clause N of the Code of Conduct for coaches, which states that “coaches must not by their actions or inaction cause NFF or the Federal Government of Nigeria any harm, reputational damage or embarrassment, nor do anything directly or indirectly to undermine their contract with the NFF.”

Less than 24 hours after, Rohr again granted another interview stating that many other countries were already showing interest in his services.

“I can sign for another team by January 1st and will be free to leave by July 1st. I wish to continue but if the situation remains the same, I will consider my options,” Rohr said.

We frown at the fact that the NFF was accusing the coach of speaking to the public. The NFF is also guilty of same offence. The federation did not call Rohr to privately warn him but opted to talk to him through the media. The NFF erred by going to the press in an attempt to correct Rohr. The contract terms should not be a secret document in the first place. In some developed countries, the contract papers won’t be a secret. We recall that when Thijs Ligbrets signed for Nigeria years back, his contract papers were given to journalists during his unveiling.

We make bold to say there are better ways to resolve contractual issues than the pages of newspapers. The NFF should learn to follow the best practices all over the world. With good intention, there is no need to hide anything about the contract of a national team handler. It took newsmen time to confirm the salaries of Mr. Rohr but with just a click of the button, the salaries of all national teams and club coaches all over the world can be confirmed through the Internet.

Like many other Nigerians, we are concerned about the results being posted by the Eagles as we hope the current impasse will not affect the current form of the Super Eagles.

The NFF says the body is only owing a differential of Rohr’s old and new salaries but the coach said it was $100,000. It’s like beating a kid and insisting he should not cry. Certainly, this is not looking good for Rohr and the federation.

No doubt, this issue has escalated because the NFF was not mature in the handling of the development. We expect Sports Minister, Sunday Dare, to wade into the crisis just as we expect that the federation should start looking for options in case Rohr chooses to quit.

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Editorial

Dealing with sexual offenders in varsities

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Dealing with sexual offenders in varsities

 

T

he termination of appointment of eight lecturers of the Akwa Ibom State University over sexual harassment has brought to the fore the endemic nature of the menace.

 

 

Vice Chancellor of the institution, Prof. Eno Ibanga, last week, said that the lecturers were sacked for sexually harassing some female students and for extortion between 2015/2016 academic year and 2018/2019 session.

 

 

“The appointment of eight lecturers has been terminated by the university bordering on sexual harassment and extortion.

“As we speak, a notorious one is on ground and the person will not go scot free.

 

“Some of the cases are still in court. I swore to run an institution that can stand the test of time. We are doing the best to bring sanity to the institution,” Ibanga said.

 

 

We commend the university for this disciplinary action. Prof. Ibanga and the management of this institution should also ensure that the lecturers are duly prosecuted. It is not enough to terminate their appointment; they must face the wrath of the law. This will, no doubt, instil sanity among lecturers and students.

 

 

 

Just recently, the BBC did an expose on lecturers of the University of Lagos, Dr. Boniface Igbeneghu and Dr. Samuel Ladipo.

 

 

In one of the viral videos released by the broadcasting organisation following its investigation into sex escapades in the university, Dr. Igbeneghu was seen propositioning a BBC undercover reporter who posed as a 17-year-old admission seeker. He had invited the teenager to his office a number of times before delving into discussions of a very sexual nature with her.

 

The lecturer also made reference to the school’s guest house which was cynically christened ‘cold room’ where lecturers take young students for activities of a sexual nature. “Do you want me to kiss you? Switch off the light, lock the door and I will kiss you for a minute. That’s what they do in cold room,” Igbeneghu told the young lady.

 

The school authorities have since suspended both lecturers pending the outcome of investigation. The case of Igbeneghu is even more pathetic because he is a pastor of a well-known church. The church has also relieved him of his pastoral duties in the meantime. These are commendable steps.

 

However, it is worrisome that lecturers who are supposed to nurture and protect young and vulnerable female students have turned round to be their worst nightmares and predators. It is clear from the videos that what has come to the fore is just a tip of the iceberg. It will not be exaggerating to surmise that many lecturers are active participants in the cold room business.

 

 

It will also be stating the obvious to note that many students have had to spend extra years for refusal to accede to the amorous advances of lecturers in the past. Yet these are men who – by virtue of their high education – should know better. Men who should be able to exercise control and restraint, after all education is not just about learning; it is also about character. Unfortunately the latter aspect is seriously diminished in the conduct of these purveyors of sex-for-grades in universities.

 

 

 

There’s no doubt that some lazy female students deliberately go out of their way to entrap lecturers to award them unmerited grades, and this was a talking point in the latest BBC investigation. The case of Prof. Richard Akindele at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) underlines this aspect of the problem. The student not only sent suggestive WhatsApp chats to Prof. Akindele, she went as far as sending photos of her private part to the lecturer who has since been sacked from the employ of OAU after a panel found him guilty. He was equally found guilty by a court of law and jailed two years.

 

 

While we believe that such students should be held to account in some way, we however insist that the balance of the power relations between lecturers and students is so heavily tipped in favour of the former such that a much higher sense of responsibility is naturally expected from them. Unfortunately, some of these people have failed this test abysmally. It is bothersome that lecturers who should know the overall implication of lowering academic standards – and sex-for-grades is one manifestation – are caught in this shameless conundrum.

 

 

We insist that the law must be followed to its logical conclusion in the UNILAG cases. Igbenegbu and Ladipo should not be shielded from having their day in court. We also emphasise the need for managements of higher institutions to do more to fish out bad eggs among their teaching staff and exclude them from the system.

 

 

In this regard we want to commend the management of the University of Ibadan for inaugurating a committee in the aftermath of the BBC investigation to probe claims of sexual misconduct in the institution.

We recommend this course of action to all higher institutions.

 

 

We also call on the Senate to expedite action on the Bill for an Act to Prevent, Prohibit and Redress Sexual Harassment of Students in Tertiary Educational Institutions and for other matters connected therewith 2019.

 

 

The bill proposes maximum of 14 years’ jail term, with a minimum of 5 years, without an option of fine for any educator who commits sexual offences in tertiary institutions.

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