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Organised criminals and Diaspora remittances

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Organised criminals and Diaspora remittances

Good Tuesday Morning everyone. In today’s episode of On Politics we are going to look at issues surrounding the CBN Outbound Remittance Services and how it has crippled the economy, causing more hardship and making the banks richer at the expense of the nation.

May be the president is aware or maybe he is not, but he needs to take a hard look at the CBN and ask critical questions. Nothing, I will write in this episode is new or had not been said before. One of the biggest lies ever told is that Nigeria’s problems are intractable. I for one do not believe that Nigeria’s case is beyond redemption. I also do not accept the nation’s case is beyond the capacity of this government to resolve. With a little more focus and hard work we can drain the swamp.

Organised criminals are holding the country hostage and the president must find the courage to liberate himself, his government and the country even if it means fumigating the cockroaches.

These organised criminals are in every sector of the economy perpetuating corruption and doing all they can to destroy the country, the geese and the golden eggs. The moment the law catches with them, they will begin their theatrics, feigning all kinds of illness to escape justice. If they are not being wheeled on stretcher, they will be pushed on wheel chair before a sympathetic judge or wearing neck braces or applying for court permission to travel abroad for medical treatment. And you just wonder why they will not just die of whatever they claim is their sickness so that Nigeria will live.

President Muhammad Buhari who came to power on the mantra of anti-corruption should be encouraged not to allow the nefarious activities of these criminals to define his presidency. He has a task to leave Nigeria better than he met it. The president should be concerned that his administration cannot justify the trillions of Naira invested on roads in the past four years given the state of disrepair of our federal roads. He should be aware that millions of people plying our bad roads are cursing him as they suffer untold hardships on the roads.

The proposed tolling of federal roads, increase in VAT, closing of our land borders and introduction of all manners of taxations are all wrong headed policies, an attempt to squeeze water from stones and will only further push inflation up and antagonize the people further. I will expect a listening president to revisit some of these harsh policies. For instance, you cannot close legitimate trade by land borders when you have customs to collect tariffs. To take Nigeria out of the woods we must end policies that are killing small business and focus on how we can unleash the real wealth of Nigeria to productive activities.

Strive Masiyiwa, the former ECONET boss told a story of how he brought in engineers and technicians from Zimbabwe and South Africa to start up GSM service in Nigeria.

So he began the process of recruiting Nigerian engineers and technicians to be trained for the new industry to take over from the expatriate team. The response to the recruitment advert was overwhelming even after vetting the applications. There were thousands of people with qualifications with MBAs and PHDs! Many had qualified in the best universities around the world. There were also GSM-qualified Nigerians working internationally, including in America and Europe, wanting to return home.

The full import of this narrative is that the true wealth of Nigeria is its extraordinary human capital. If we unleash them, they will be unstoppable.

Again before increasing the VAT tariff and imposing new taxes, I will suggest to the president to consider investigating the obvious massive foreign exchange laundering going on in our banks. He should ask the CBN Governor to account for our diaspora remittances and to explain why Nigeria is the only country in the world re-exporting its FOREX remittances?

If India and Jamaica are living on foreign exchange from their citizens abroad, why is Nigeria’s case different? In 1996, diaspora remittances accounted for over 50% gross of our oil revenue. So where are the dollars today?

In an article posted by a former Minister of Finance between 1993 and 1998, Mr. Etubon Ani, he disclosed how in 1995 Western Union and MoneyGram could not receive money from Nigerians abroad due to our tax laws and how in 1996 he caused a new law to be promulgated, regarding Nigerians repatriating remuneration from abroad, Nigerians repatriating dividends, royalties, fees, commissions from foreign countries receipts by authors, sportsmen/women, musicians, play writers, artist, etc. Such income repatriated into Nigeria in foreign currency was 100 per cent exempted from tax, provided the foreign currency was repatriated through a domiciliary account with a Nigerian bank.

With the promulgation of this law, First Bank Nigeria Ltd. brought in Western Union in August 1996 while the USA brought in MoneyGram a few weeks later.

In 1996, Nigerians abroad repatriated about $4.5 billion (about 50 per cent of our gross revenue from oil) and it was ensured that these amounts were brought into Nigeria, intact, in foreign exchange. The receipts increased exponentially in 1997 and 1998 and were received in Nigeria, in foreign currency. The receipts helped to stabilize the exchange rate mechanism at N82 to a dollar from 1995 to 1998 to the extent that the naira was internally convertible currency.

Since 2014 when the organised criminals captured the Central Bank, Nigerians who want to repatriate foreign exchange by Western Union are given a quote to be claimed in naira because of a subversive arrangement between our Nigerian banks and Western Union/MoneyGram, whereby the former pays from their excess naira liquidity while the later retains the dollars abroad. In other words, the dollar remittance is retained abroad and is laundered by the Nigerian banks. This is definitely against the law which provides that all remittances must be brought into Nigeria in foreign currency via domiciliary account.

According to Mr. Ani, if by chance the dollar is remitted into Nigeria, the Central Bank of Nigeria on August 14, 2014, introduced the Outward Money Transfer Service and authorized the same MoneyGram and Western Union to re-export, in tranches of $5,000 per transaction, to Nigerians abroad, on payment of the naira equivalent at the CBN rate of exchange. Thus, Nigeria is the only country in the world re-exporting its remittances. It is relevant to note that the naira is not a convertible currency but remittances which are meant to stabilize our exchange rates are re-exported! There is something wrong at our Central Bank. It could be that we have imported the mentality of commercial banking into the CBN.

The fact is that the diaspora remittances are not retained in Nigeria and there is collaboration between the CBN, Nigerian banks and Western Union/MoneyGram; in such an event, government must investigate the infraction, punish the money launders, and recover all past diaspora remittances retained abroad! The Outbound Money Transfer Services must be stopped and all our remittances retained for national stability and development.

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Repositioning NAHCON for better service delivery

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Repositioning NAHCON for better  service delivery

Two weeks ago, I visited the NAHCON new office to see things for myself. This followed series of congratulatory messages I read on the social media.

I was impressed with what I saw. Though still under renovation, I held my chin and nodded my head in awe of the intelligence that guided this decision in this age. Now, I felt pride growing in me that I am a Nigerian and this is happening in my lifetime. An organisation is buying property for government and not the other way round, nor stashing away the funds for private use. This shows prudence in line with present government’s vision of accountability.

The other pleasant news that came from the Commission was contained in the disclosure that the Commission conducted the 2019 Hajj operations 100% without funding from government. Which means the Commission, even with a tight purse, was able to introduce new concepts like the mobile caravan clinics for pilgrims, secured accommodation in Madinah GRA area without an increase in 2019 Hajj fare to make up for it, and even helped some stranded pilgrims from tour operators who were left to overstay in Makkah with 100 Saudi Riyals each. This is remarkable. I could not help but to pray to God to reward former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration for appointing Abdullahi Mukhtar Muhammad into office. I couldn’t help but to invoke blessings on President Muahammadu Buhari for the wise decision allowing the barrister to continue in office despite administrative change.

Barrister Muhammad, the NAHCON Chairman, is an unassuming man when you meet him but firm on principles. It is this doggedness on principles in the interest of pilgrims that led the Commission to record successes that seemed like mirage before now. And it is this insistence on principles that is earning him antagonism from those who wished for the rot in Hajj management to be sustained in their interest.

For instance, it was unthinkable in the past that untouchable tour operators will be forced to be licensed and to do the right thing or be damned. It was unthinkable that NAHCON staff would be directed to live in Tent ‘C’ Mina among the pilgrims instead of living comfortably in highbrow Tent ‘A’ while pilgrims contend with distance to Jamrat and squalor. Upon assumption of NAHCON leadership, the chairman instructed all his staff to remain with pilgrims 24/7 in the same tents, and to address anomalies instantaneously instead of waiting for post mortem reports. Of course, this order may not go down well with some members of all the aforementioned categories, but this is an ideal example of the chairman’s knack for remaining principled. And he stood by these decisions.

A method deployed in getting things done by NAHCON is in policy formulation. I particularly was impressed with one of such policies that commands airlines to accommodate pilgrims in comfortable hotels when an airline fails to convey pilgrims back home within 24 hours. The pilgrims are to be fed three hot meals daily from the airline coffers within the length of their stay. With this, if an airline fails to transport pilgrims back to Nigeria from Saudi Arabia, the carrier feels the heat from its pockets. Little surprise that one no more hears of riotous Nigerian pilgrims in Jeddah airports; abandoned like refugees seeking for mercy.

There is also this policy that demands state pilgrims’ welfare boards to hire pilgrims’ accommodations not more than two kilometres from the holy mosque in Makkah. There should not be more than five pilgrims in a room, and five pilgrims to one toilet. This checked pilgrims from past experience of herding about 12 people to a room while occupants of this and other similar ones are forced to share one toilet along the corridor of the building. New regulations safeguarding pilgrims from government quota raised the standard which made traveling under this category competitive with those of tour operators.

And this is how the leadership has been challenging business as usual from every angle. The spate of achievements, I believe must have guided the confidence reposed in the chairman’s leadership style by the present administration. Who would not want to be associated with an achiever? I personally would not be in a hurry to part with a driver with whom I can go to bed knowing my children will be brought back from school safely and still find surplus fuel in my vehicle’s tank.

I personally give gratitude to the Almighty for giving our leaders the wisdom of taking the right decisions, at the time right times, may it also come at all times. Kudos to NAHCON family.

λBakori writes from Katsina State.

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Border closure and poor culture of problem resolution

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Border closure and poor culture of problem resolution

There are a thousand and one reasons the Federal Government will justify the abrupt closure of its land borders. Some of these reasons range from smuggling of rice, used and new cars, light and heavy weapons and trafficking of human beings into Nigeria. All these criminal enterprises not to talk of the insurgent groups’ activities across the borders of Nigeria, Niger and Chad are the grievous reasons the Federal Government decided to shut Nigerian borders against her neighbours hoping by so doing to solve these problems.

Problem solving skills are learned experience even as it is part of the culture of a people. It is a culture-determined habit because culture itself is the cumulative habitual behaviour of a people. So, where a people live and grow up in an environment that welcome a problem with analytical mindset, without allowing fear to overwhelm their senses but rather calmly ponder the root and stem of the problem, such a society is never stampeded into hasty and ill-digested decision/solution to any problem.

Problem-solving is not a learned skill in Nigeria because it is not our national culture. Problem-solving skill is part of the educational system which as we know is the chief purveyor of any people’s culture. Check out our educational system and you see it is “garbage-in-garbage-out”. All the subjects we teach in our educational institutions from nursery, primary, secondary to tertiary institutions are consumptive. It is consumptive because the educational system is not designed to produce rational thinking beings. Thinking is said to be a difficult act and that is the reason a negligible percentage of humanity indulge in it. But it is thinking that unlocks the problem-solving skill of man. But as said earlier, Nigeria’s educational system is consumptive as the teacher is not trained to make you think over any issue or matter. He is trained to teach you to reason like him by copying notes and regurgitate it back to him during examination. Any scheme outside this educational template courts disaster and failure. You must never depart from the tradition. Don’t question things you met because they had existed before you and you must be crazy, even mad to question a state of being or thing. In the universities, the lecturer will tell you to give him what he gave you. And what he gave to you must be the trash he kept recycling from his mimeograph or book that was last edited or reviewed years ago. And you expect a student who went through this type of educational system to be a problem-solving patriot?

Nigeria has never been confronted with real problems. If it has, perdition would have been its lot. If you check Nigeria and its chequered history; you will see only one problem that has consistently buffeted it. The problem is about creating an effective state to manage the conflicting socio-cultural, economic and political forces contending for space to blossom in an environment that is ready-made for natural progress of human civilization but the solution which local and international conspiracy could muster is to cage the forces with iron-clad autocracy supported by brute force. Britain laid the foundation of this culture when it set up a governance structure founded on feudal autocracy and rigged the constitutional and electoral infrastructure and chose a fragile section of the political community to superintend the created leviathan for it. Ever since, check out the problems that have attended Nigeria’s existence and it boils down to one problem and that is: ‘freedom for the people’s of Nigeria to organize and rule themselves on their own terms.’

In 1964/1965, the Western Region crisis that dovetailed to 1966 crisis and eventual Biafra War was the first major problem. How did Nigeria solve it? Indigenous solution in Aburi Accord was sabotaged by Britain in order to plunge Nigeria into war, which according to General Obasanjo in his books, it prosecuted by proxy to settle once and for all the problem of the Southern irritants that stampeded it out of Nigeria on October 1, 1960. After the Biafra War, the soldiers that prosecuted the war instead of healing the nation of its wounds and rather than considering the over two million Biafra children that perished sufficient punishment for the Igbo unfurled war reparations/abandoned property, expropriation of bank savings, glass ceiling in public service against them, further rigging of the constitutional infrastructure, etc.) that have continued to haunt Nigeria just as British-inspired war reparations against Germany plunged the world into World War II that nearly consumed Britain but for USA and the Jews that discovered the atomic bomb.

Between 1979 and 1983, Shagari administration was busy sharing contracts and designing how to win landslide electoral victory to care for the development of Nigeria. Between 1984 and 1985, when General Buhari booted him out and told Nigerians that Shagari government was corrupt and every Nigeria undisciplined but he did not know that indiscipline started with the army on January 15 and July 29, 1966 particularly on that 30th July, 1966 when a Northern soldier, a private told Brigadier-General Ogundipe that he cannot obey his order but rather that of his Captain. Between August 26, 1985 and 1993 when General Babangida turned Nigeria into a political and economic laboratory and ended up cancelling the only election ever conducted on real parameters of human beings instead of statistics and ended up instituting an Interim National Government that General Abacha kicked out to install himself the king. For five years, he stayed the course trying to transmute into life president before he and his quarry (Abiola) were sacrificed to make way for Nigeria to move ahead. Out of fear and without thinking about the repercussions, General Abubakar simply copied a Constitution, conducted elections and sprung up an old member of the ruling class (General Obasanjo) to head the government and General Abubakar expected this weird experiment to succeed.

For 16 years, Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and Jonathan seized the state only for the PDP to disagree among themselves about zoning thereby creating an avenue for another retired general (Buhari) to ‘topple” Jonathan in an electoral contest and became the president. Since 2015, it was as if Nigerians have been reliving 1984 to 1985 all over again. The anti-corruption war now mimics 1984 – 1985 debacles minus the War Against Indiscipline. The economic space has been folded up just like 1984 – 1985 and the detentions and harassments for indeterminate offences are back.

But it is the closure of the border which has been held up as the solution for myriad of problems such as smuggling, arms and human trafficking that has the capacity to shut up the economy but the government says that it boosts the economy and readily points to alleged booming local rice production but the security problems persist as the army launches one operation crocodile after another to no avail. Now, the army is even deployed to administer internal security checks on citizens’ movements. Problem-solving skill is a problem in Nigeria. This is quite unlike the USA where apart from President Trump’s actions against Mexico, fire-brigade measures are eschewed. Gun-related offences are rampant in USA which have consumed about two presidents and fatally wounding about two others but the USA has never abolished the people’s right to bear arms. But here in Nigeria we are given to fire-brigade measures to solve our problem against the civilized way of thinking out rational solutions to problems.

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The mining sector and way forward

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The mining sector and way forward

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enultimate week, there was a frantic call by stakeholders in Nigeria, advocating devolution of power on mineral deposits across the federation. According to them, such approach would help to fast-track the needed development as currently yearned by concerned Nigerians.       

Mining is simply the extraction of valuable minerals cum other geological materials from the earth crust, usually from lode, vein, ore-body, seam, reef, or placer, deposits.

These deposits constitute a mineralized package that is of economic interest to the prospective miner. Ores gotten via mining activity are gemstones, limestone, coal, oil shale, metals, dimension stone, clay, gravel, potash, and rock salt, among others.

Mining is required to obtain essential commodities that cannot be possibly grown via agricultural processes, or created artificially in a factory or laboratory. Mining of stones and metals has been a well-recognized human occupation since prehistoric era.

Modern days mining processes involve prospecting for ore bodies, analysing the profit potential of the proposed mine, extraction of the desired materials, and final reclamation of the affected land after the mine is closed.

The economic importance of mining cannot be overemphasized. In Ghana, for instance, the country’s mining sector is a very vital segment of its economy, and has played a significant role in its socio-economic development since the colonial period. Historically, the Ghanaian mining sector’s contribution to the country’s gross foreign exchange – particularly gold – has only been paralleled by its cocoa sector.

Not only do the products power the family car as well as heat the family home, the manufacturing sector, high tech industries, and even the better known resource industries, are all dependent – in one way or the other – on the mining industry.

The mining industry will continue to be an important support to the economy of any country that embraces it. Aside boosting Gross Domestic Product (GDP), it encourages high rate of employment opportunities and equally thrives to ensure that the number of entrepreneurs in the country is increased tremendously.

In spite of the ongoing boom in the sector, Nigeria still lags behind. It’s shocking to note that notwithstanding the unquantifiable solid minerals the country is blessed with, mining accounts for barely 0.3 per cent of the country’s GDP, due to the influence of its vast petroleum resources.

The country’s domestic mining industry is obviously underdeveloped, leading to importation of minerals such as, but not limited to, iron-ore and salt, that could be domestically produced with ease. It’s a shame that the only material that’s overtime mined across the country is sand.

Rights to ownership of mineral resources is held by the Federal Government who grants titles to interested organizations to explore, mine, and sell mineral resources, but ab initio the business has been relatively unpopular. The Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration began a process of selling off government-owned mining corporations to private investors in 1999; till date, those firms are ostensibly lying moribund.

On assumption of duty, perhaps piqued by the ongoing devastating physiognomy of the Nigeria’s mining sector, the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government strongly assured the teeming Nigerians that the administration would rejuvenate the industry.

Little wonder the government recently approved a sum of N12.7 billion solid minerals exploration contract. Yet at the moment, pathetically no serious and practical impact has been recorded, probably owing to lack of policy direction.

It’s therefore high time Nigeria started mining the available solid mineral deposits abound in the country – to include tale, gypsum, lead, zinc, bentonite, gold, uranium, bitumen, coal, rock salt, gemstones, kaolin and barite – all which are highly lucrative and of economic value. This can only be actualized by deploring the required techniques tactically as well as imbibing viable policies into the system.

Surface mining and sub-surface (underground) mining are the available two major forms of mining. The targeted minerals are generally divided into two categories of materials namely, placer deposits and lode deposits. The former comprises valuable minerals contained within river, gravels, beach sands, and other unconsolidated materials, whilst the latter are those found in veins, layers, or in mineral grains widely distributed throughout a mass of actual rock.

Both classes of deposits could be mined by either of the aforesaid mining types. Moreover, in-situ leaching is another technique mainly used in mining rare earth elements cum soluble minerals like uranium, potash, potassium chloride, sodium chloride, and sodium sulfate. Of all, surface mining is currently much more common and viable.

However, it’s pertinent to acknowledge that mining, likewise petroleum drilling, is associated with various environmental factors. These include erosion, formation of sinkholes, and loss of biodiversity, coupled with contamination of soil, ground cum surface water by chemicals from mining processes.

In some cases, additional forest logging is done in the vicinity of mines to create space for the storage of the created debris and soil. Basic examples of pollution from mining activities include coal fires, which can last for years, producing severe amounts of environmental damage. This can be properly controlled through the effort of the concerned law enforcement agency by implementing stringent environmental and rehabilitation Acts and functional policies.

Now that diversification is apparently the only way to revive the Nigeria’s troubled economy, the government should endeavour to take the bull by the horn towards ensuring that the mining industry is accorded a well-deserved attention.

It’s more interesting to note that exploring the industry apparently remains one of the prime agenda of the present administration. But for such an agendum to be holistically actualized, hands of fellowship must be duly and sincerely extended to the cognoscenti who can spur the sector to do more even when challenges are enormous.

Considering the impact the said sector stands to create on the country’s economy at large, it’s needless to state that its exploration is long overdue, thus feasible action is seriously needed.

Devolution of power is not really the apt answer to the people’s yearning, but formation of candid and stringent policies and their onward strict implementation. It’s time we learnt on how aptly we can formulate ideas cum policies, and endeavour to implement them as required.

We as a people are, therefore, in need of change of attitude and mindset rather than imbuing the states with more powers. Think about it!

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November 16 poll: Douye needs your votes

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arely days to the November 16, 2019 governorship poll in Bayelsa State, the various political parties – that’s the serious ones – have rounded off major campaigns in the eight local government areas.

 

 

What’s going on now are mop-up operations, door-to-door and community meetings with the electorate, to remind them of the promises the contenders have made.

 

 

And most importantly, to plead with them not to lose focus or be swayed by opponents’ “sweet” talks, and cast their votes for the “wrong” political party and its candidate.

 

 

The last minute “meet-the-people” is also an avenue to listen, and talk about the little things that matter to the people; the kitchen table issues of everyday living in these hard times when everything seems to go haywire.

 

 

This is where Senator Diri Douye comes in. The candidate of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) hasn’t only promised to solve those kitchen matters affecting the people of Bayelsa, but also lead the state to a path of prosperity that an average Bayelsan craves for.

 

 

In the past months, his joint campaign train with his running mate, Senator Lawrence Ewrujakpor, has transversed the nooks and crannies of the state, bringing the message of hope and a glorious dawn to the people.

 

 

At every stop, his communication was simple: He would sustain, and build on the legacies of the eight years of the Governor Seriake Dickson’s administration on education, health, infrastructure, empowerment, security and peaceful co-existence of all inhabitants of the state.

 

 

Even as he pledges not to disappoint the good people of the state, he wants their assurances to cast their lot with him on November 16, so that Beyelsa will continue on its trajectory of laying a solid foundation for the next generation.

 

 

Indeed, the strength of any nation rests on the youth (the next generation) of the land, and Douye prides himself in promoting the interests of the youth of Bayelsa.

 

 

Hence, he’s repeatedly stated that, “the next election is not merely about who will be the governor, but about the wellbeing of the next generation.” So, to emerge as the new helmsman of our beloved state, the grounding of his governorship will be the prioritisation of the youth.

 

 

In line with this dynamic is the fact that Bayelsa is renowned for its excellence in sports, especially in swimming and wrestling. Accordingly, Douye has promised to build sports villages across the local government areas.

 

The villages will offer top-level sports facilities, including Olympic-size swimming pools, wrestling auditoriums, full-size football fields and fitness gyms, to tap potential talents, and produce national and international champions.

 

 

Nonetheless, it’s not a mean task to liberalise Bayelsa’s economy, and remove the word, “struggle,” from the lives of the people, both living in the state and in diaspora, and make them to catch their fish to feed for a lifetime without dependence on oil or anybody else.

 

 

To achieve these goals, the next administration of Bayelsa needs to harness contributions from the government, the private sector and foreign investors.

 

 

A Governor Douye can bring this to fruition with his intellectual depth, experience, integrity and strength of character, and a strong desire to diversify the economy and wean Bayelsa of its reliance on monthly federal allocation.

 

Thus, with his proven financial management skill, Bayelsa is set for greater heights. All that’s needed is for the people to take his message of FORWARD TOGETHER to all households, clans, communities, wards, local governments and the state at large.

 

 

But while spreading that message is good in itself, it would be of no use if Senator Douye didn’t get the needed votes, to be able to accomplish his vision and mission for Bayelsa.

 

In a phrase taken from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Brutus talks to Cassius that, “There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune” (Act-IV, Scene-III).

 

It simply means that, “the key to success in life lies in knowing that a tide, or simply the motivation of men (exists), and it is up to a man to recognise, and seize the opportunity.”

 

 

So, the people of Bayelsa should “recognise, and seize the opportunity” offered by the November 16 poll, and cast their votes for Douye and his platform, the PDP.

 

Yes, we can deliver those votes in overwhelming numbers, to allow him to be the first to breast the tape among a “crowded” field of 45 contenders for the governorship seat at the Creek Haven in Yenagoa, the capital city of Bayelsa State!

 

 

Abanum writes from Abuja.

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Transfer of real resources to developing countries

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Transfer of real resources to developing countries

The interest to scale up public and private investments in logistics infrastructure and energy had, among others, taken the front burner at the Joint Ministerial Committee of the Boards of Governors of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the transfer of real resources to developing countries. It was at the 100th meeting of the Bank during the just concluded World Bank/IMF 2019 Annual Meetings in Washington DC. 

Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, on behalf of the constituency of Nigeria, Angola, and South Africa, the Board viewed infrastructure deficit as one of the main factors behind the high trade cost in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) which partly harm the competitiveness of industries in the region and limit integration into global value chains (GVCs).

“We urge the World Bank Group (WBG) to partner with African countries to scale up public and private investments in logistics infrastructure and energy. We call for prioritisation of regional integration in the financing and policy offering of the WBG and the IMF to leverage from regional solutions such as the recently ratified African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (ACFTA),” the Board stressed.

To complement infrastructure investment, the Board called on the WBG to work with SSA countries to enhance domestic policies that are critical for industry competitiveness, such as elimination of red tape for business, efficient operation of industrial parks, export promotion and facilitation of trade finance. In addition, the call was also on the Bank and the IMF to assist with policies to address challenges from trade (e.g. job losses from capital intensive trade production, tax policies to attract GVCs without undermining revenues and measures to deal with illicit financial flows, IFFs).

The Board is concerned that the global growth remains subdued as trade tensions are affecting international trade and investment, and noted the IMF World Economic Outlook (WEO) forecast for global growth of 3% in 2019 and a projection of 3.4% in 2020. “We are concerned with the downside risks from further trade tensions, policy uncertainty from a no-deal Brexit and an increase in financial vulnerabilities in emerging markets and developing countries. To help reduce policy uncertainty, we call on the World Bank and IMF member countries to take necessary actions to foster a modern, rules-based and fair-trading system, with the World Trade Organization (WTO) at its centre.”

Also noted is the IMF growth forecast for SSA of 3.2% in 2019 which “we do not view as adequate to help the region achieve the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Despite the low economic performance of the three largest economies in the region, we are encouraged that approximately 20 economies in the SSA are expected to record growth that exceeds five per cent in 2019.” The Board called on the IMF and the WBG to help African countries with policy support to ensure that growth is high enough, inclusive, job creating and associated with economic transformation. The African countries were also called on to address debt vulnerabilities and aim to achieve the right balance between debt and growth objectives.

On the World Development Report 2020 (WDR20), the Board welcomed the report on GVCs. It was encouraged by the findings of the report that the development of GVCs has led to economic growth, poverty reduction and net increase in jobs in regions that have strong GVC participation. However, the Board also noted the findings of the report that the development of GVCs has been concentrated in few regions such as North America, Western Europe and East Asia, with SSA only connected to the chains through exports of raw materials and minerals.

The Board had welcomed the paper on jobs and economic transformation (JET) and do support its call for the WBG to help countries pursue economic transformation and private sector development as the pathway to more and better jobs in the formal and informal sectors. “We underscore the realisation that the JET objectives described in the paper requires a strengthened WBG approach. Thus, the WBG needs to increasingly focus on coordinated approaches, including through integrated operations that address both demand and supply-side constraints, as well as more broadly on coordinated interventions at the sectoral, portfolio, and national/regional levels.”

It viewed very important the role of the International Development Association (IDA) in helping SSA countries achieve JET. The 18th replenishment of IDA (i.e. IDA18) focused on developing knowledge and diagnostics tools to support the JET agenda. Therefore, the Board called for a pivot towards operational impact, through a more deliberate focus of JET in country programmes in IDA19. According to the Board, “This will require changing the way the WBG approaches JET, including the provision of incentives for focusing on more transformational, job-creating interventions led by the private sector.” The proposed operational and policy recommendations in the paper will require a JET implementation strategy for the WBG. A WBG JET strategy is critical for strengthened coordination with development partners from the public and private sectors, and for closer collaboration with development partners, through both global and regional strategic initiatives and country platforms. Based on the above understanding, the Board called on the management to report back to Governors on progress at the 2020 Spring Meetings.

The progress made on the human capital project since the publication of the Human Capital Index (HCI) in October 2018 did not miss the attention of the Board. The update had reiterated the WBG strong commitment to the twin goals, having taken a long-term approach to the development of human capital and its implications in achieving the SDGs. The Board supported the new approach to the HCI, which is meant to explore skills of working population and cultural factors affecting human capital development. It called on the WBG, under the leadership of International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), to assist the poorest countries and those under debt distress, to mobilise investments for human capital development, even from the private sector.

The Board was comfortable with IDA 19th replenishment and IDA voting rights review, together with the proposed special themes, cross-cutting issues and dedicated financing windows and facilities. It continued to call for greater ambition among existing and new IDA donors to address the growing needs of the poor and vulnerable. “This call is driven by our collective risks of missing the SDGs, if concerted efforts are not made to close financing gaps, address new and emerging development challenges, accelerate growth, safeguard achievements and build resilience.”

The Board had endorsed the proposed review of IDA voting rights and fully supported both the guiding principles and scope of the review. It therefore requested the IDA board of executive directors to lead the review, ensure effective consultations in the process, provide regular updates to IDA deputies and borrower representatives, and provide an update by the 2020 Annual Meetings.

Climate change was also considered at the meeting; that it has remained one of the critical factors accounting for fragility in some of our countries including those of the Lake Chad and Sahel Region.

Abdullahi is Special Adviser on Media and Communication to the Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning.

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Sex-for-marks: Punishing the monster with the laws

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Sex-for-marks: Punishing the monster with the laws

The aired investigative report of the BBC World Service: Sex for Grades: Under cover in most of West African Universities”, hit our television screens recently, exposing to light some of the realities in most of our tertiary institutions. The sexual exploitation of students and extortion by lecturers couldn’t have come to light at a better time than now that President Muhammadu Buhari is battling the odds to sanitize the system.

Truth be told, the pillage for sex and money in exchange for marks and grades by lecturers is not new in Nigerian tertiary institutions. ‘Cold Rooms’, which may have been a relatively new term to Nigerians, exists in all sorts of places in the tertiary institutions – from staff offices, staff-owned hotels cum brothels and commercial hotels, staff clubs, pavilions, students hostels – and other places where students are sexually devoured far from the gaze of the public. Exploitation also comes in different forms – it may be the lecturer exploiting the students or the students exploiting the lecturer.

On the other hand, it may even be both parties exploiting each other by bartering sex for marks, as well as pleasure for grades. Men and women across all strata of the society have encountered one form of sexual exploitation or the other when they are trapped in circumstances in which they desperately need help.

Sex abuse transcends our tertiary institutions – the hydra headed monster lurks in corporate bodies, institutions, government ministries, departments and parastatals, among others. It all comes in various guises and garments to get under the skirt.

Well, the saddening thing is that voices are stifled in silence to enclose the woes this menace encloses in its garbs. No one is willing to talk about it. We all bow and cower to intimidations, threats, fears and reprisals. Most stories on abuse fade into clouds of hearsays, masking the plights of victims. Students cower under fear and threats of failure, suspension, and expulsion from those dirty lecturers that lack moral values. These had hindered justice for the victims, while the abusers struts the streets with impunity and arrogant display of pride typical of sadists and vagabonds.

As responsible people, we all have rights against sexual exploitation and monetary extortion for marks, grades and signatures. No individual has the right to stifle our voices in the expression of the infringements of our fundamental rights. Section 39 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) enshrines the right of our free will to hold opinions and express them in public. It provides that: “every person shall be entitled to freedom to hold opinions and impart ideas and information without interference.” Those criminals that engage in sex for marks, money for grades or signature on result sheet and handouts in tertiary institutions should be brought to book decisively.

Victims of various forms of abuses ought to be protected from the machinations of those devil lecturers. We all have to be whistleblowers or witnesses in courts to expose and prosecute those beasts with government protection or we deal with them through the application of jungle justice as the saving option. Victimized students should be protected and anonymity should be ensured when the stories are reported. Discreet investigation should be carried out and lecturers responsible for such devilish misconduct arrested and if found guilty, flushed out of the system and thrown to long term jail sentence.

If the identities of armed robbers, bandits, kidnappers, ‘yahoo boys’ and rapist can be exposed to the public, what stops the identities of those lecturers made public to serve as a deterrent to other like minds? Only then would the students be confident to tell their stories of exploitation and extortion from those wolves and predators in deceptive garbs.

Nigerians should rise in unison in this present crusade as kick-started in some tertiary institutions. Let’s tell the whole world how our rights are being violated by the devils in tertiary institutions. Let’s tell the public how our students are intimidated to subjection by those ‘predators’ evil whims. We owe the society justice. We all have the duty to bring those devils to book. Let’s strive to cleanse the society of the filth hobnobbing with our students in tertiary institutions. Those lecturers that press for bribes from students for common signature etc. deserve to be in the correctional centres.

In his opinion on the sex-for-marks scandal bedeviling our tertiary institutions, Director for Public Relations of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU), Bauchi, Dr. Andee Iheme posits: “The issue should be handled with care because of its sensitivity and delicate nature that may affect the progress of the entire education sector if caution is not applied. For instance, in ATBU, we have not recorded a single incidence of the shameful act and we are on the watch. The Vice-Chancellor has issued a stern warning to all to be above board as the known trademark of the institution.

“ATBU shall not condone such unruly behaviour that may tarnish its already built and respected reputation. ATBU management is carefully watching and closely monitoring movements and academic performances of our female students through a secret coded operation. There may be some cases in some tertiary institutions of the monster but ATBU is jealously guarding and shielding its reputation against the monster. The authorities concerned should strive to nip the problem in the bud before it inflicts more injuries on our education sector.”

Sanusi is a journalist based in Bauchi.

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Dormancy of HIV/AIDS anti-discrimination law in Nigeria

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Dormancy of HIV/AIDS anti-discrimination law in Nigeria

T

he HIV/AIDS (anti-discrimination) Act was enacted in Nigeria in 2014, but has since remained dormant due to non-implementation. Unfortunately, besides the psychological trauma and pains persons living with HIV go through in the country, they also face various forms of discrimination and inhumane treatment by fellow citizens.

 

 

The HIV/AIDS (anti-discrimination) Act, 2014, was enacted to discourage discrimination against persons living with HIV/AIDS, particularly at workplaces.

 

 

Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). By damaging immune system, HIV interferes with body’s ability to fight organisms that cause diseases. On this basis, many people consider it a death sentence. Many people have lost their jobs because of their HIV status, while many marriages have crashed on grounds of same.

 

 

The worst part is that most persons who are HIV positive conceal their status while majority of persons are avoiding HIV test mainly because of social stigma and discrimination.

 

 

Some pregnant women who are HIV positive avoid going for antenatal care so as not to be tested, thereby subjecting their lives and the lives of their unborn babies to serious danger. In fact, this discrimination poses a threat to peaceful coexistence among members of the society, making compliance with the HIV/AIDS (anti-discrimination) Act, 2014, very difficult.

 

 

It is absurd that the law that was enacted to stop this discrimination has been dormant like it doesn’t even exist. For instance, section 21 (1) of the HIV/AIDS (anti-discrimination) Act, 2014, stipulates that an employer employing five or more persons shall in consultation with the employees or their representatives adopt a written workplace policy that is consistent with the National HIV/AIDS workplace policy for the working environment.

 

 

Subsection 2 of the same section further states that the workplace polices shall be lodged with the Minister of Labour and Productivity, currently known as Minister of Labour and Employment. Section 24 (1) of the same Act goes on to repose the duty of ensuring compliance and enforcement of the entire provisions of the Act on the Attorney-General of the Federation.

 

 

The HIV/AIDS anti-discrimination Act 2014, therefore specifically reposes the duty to ensure compliance with the entire HIV/AIDS (anti-discrimination) Act, 2014, including section 21 (1) of the same Act on the Attorney-General of the Federation.

 

 

Meanwhile, by virtue of section 150 (1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended), the Attorney-General of the Federation who is also the Minister of Justice, is the Chief Law Officer in Nigeria, and therefore responsible for and oversees all legal affairs of the nation.

 

 

Now, one is wondering whether the office of Attorney-General of the Federation is aware of this Act and why it has not performed its duty in ensuring the implementation of the law and compliance by employers of labour in Nigeria. Why is it always compulsory that our government officials and even the ministries and agencies must be pushed to perform their statutory roles? This is just worrisome, alas!

 

 

It is indeed worrisome that an Act which was enacted five years ago is yet to be implemented and complied with. I am aware that Lawyers Alert Nigeria, a non-profit human rights organization has approached court to compel the Attorney-General of the Federation to carry out its functions as provided in the HIV/AIDS (anti-discrimination) Act, 2014.

 

 

Lawyers Alert under its free legal assistance project for vulnerable groups is prosecuting several cases where persons living with HIV were discriminated against and either denied employment even when qualified and able, or sacked on account of their HIV status. Of course, dismissal of an employee over HIV status is a gross violation of his or her human rights to work.

 

 

Recently, Lawyers Alert got judgement in its favour in a matter where an employee was dismissed by his employer on the account of his HIV status. The matter was instituted at the National Industrial Court, Abuja division. The court held that dismissing employees on the basis of HIV status is discriminatory and unlawful.

 

Justice Agbakoba of the Abuja Industrial Court found that the HIV/AIDS (Anti-Discrimination) Act, 2014, is equally applicable in the private sector and prohibits discrimination against existing and prospective employees.

 

 

Following an increase in cases of discrimination against Persons Living with HIV in workplaces in Nigeria, Lawyers Alert in its determination to provide access to justice for persons living with HIV and to ensure compliance with the HIV/AIDS (Anti-Discrimination) Act, 2014, served a Freedom of Information request on the Minister of Labour and Employment, on November 2, 2018, requesting the document containing a list of workplaces/ministries that have complied with the provisions of section 21 (1) of the HIV/AIDS anti-discrimination Act, 2014, which requires employers of labour to adopt a written workplace policy and lodge same with the minister.

 

 

Unfortunately, despite series of follow-ups on the FOI by Lawyers Alert for over three months, there was no document at all containing such information, with the Minister of Labour and Employment.

 

While awaiting the outcome of Lawyers Alert’s suit against the Attorney-General of the Federation which is in Court 3 of the National Industrial Court, let me just conclude here by noting that if the Attorney-General of the Federation carries the duties as enshrined in the law and ensures compliance with HIV workplace policy by employers of labour, stigma and discrimination against persons living with HIV in Nigeria would cease and rights to work and access to justice would be enhanced for persons living with HIV in Nigeria.

 

 

 

Oyegbade writes from Osogbo, Osun State

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NDDC: Forensic audit and attacks on Akpabio

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NDDC: Forensic audit and attacks on Akpabio

T

he Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) is reportedly a cesspool of corruption where the major business of the day for the management is the award of contracts, many of them “fathom” in nature. It’s the reason there’re tens of thousands of uncompleted and abandoned projects in the nine oil-producing states, loosely refer to as the Niger Delta, which traditionally comprises six states.

 

 

Take, for instance, the revelation that “a serving senator is single-handedly handling about 300 contracts” for the NDDC, with 120 of the contracts “fully paid for.” But is there evidence of any of the jobs partially or wholly executed?

 

 

Where such “evidence” exists, and “certificates of completion” obtained therein, the jobs are poorly done, as it takes a few weeks or months to reveal their shoddiness. And why not?

 

 

How can an individual, no matter their expertise, equipment outlay, and the number of companies they control, secure a large number of contracts from a single entity? That’s corruption at its zenith!

 

 

This disclosure by the Acting Executive Director of Projects of the NDDC, Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, may be a tip of the iceberg. There might be thousands of similar contracts, also fully paid for, but not executed, partially executed or poorly executed.

 

 

What about a contract awarded for the clearing of water hyacinths, and de-silting of the riverine areas, valued at N2.5 billion, which suddenly rose to about N65 billion? How, when and who reviewed the contract upward?

 

 

No wonder the NDDC is said to be saddled with over N3 trillion debt owed to contractors for obligations they may not have accomplished in compliance with the contract terms!

 

 

Hence, President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered a forensic audit of the commission, for which a three-man Interim Management Committee (IMC) was constituted pending the inauguration of a new management board.

 

At a meeting with governors of oil-producing states at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on October 17, 2019, Buhari noted that the humongous amount pumped into the interventionist agency since 2001 did not match the projects on the ground.

 

 

His words: “With the amount of money that the Federal Government has religiously allocated to the NDDC, we will like to see the results on the ground; those that are responsible for that have to explain certain issues.

 

“The projects said to have been done must be verifiable. You just cannot say you spent so much billions and when the place is visited, one cannot see the structures that have been done.”

 

The President said he would wait for the report of the audit, to decide on the next line of action regarding the commission.

 

 

Even before its take-off, the audit is facing a barrage of criticisms from individuals and groups in the oil-producing states, who should ordinarily be happy and embrace a process to cleanse the Augean stables (rid the NDDC of corruption).

 

 

The agitators question the “legality” of constituting the IMC, when a new management board had been named (and cleared by the Senate), and canvass the sacking of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Godswill Akpabio.

 

 

To them, Akpabio, a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, is responsible for the transfer of the NDDC from the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, and the empanelling of a forensic audit and an IMC for the commission.

 

 

But this is picking on a soft target, as the latest spotlight on the NDDC is at the behest of President Buhari, notwithstanding whether he had any advice from a third party to that effect.

 

 

Actually, Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State, as head of the governors’ delegation to the president, expressed his counterparts’ disappointment with the operations of the NDDC.

 

 

The commission’s operations had been characterised by “poor choice of projects, shoddy handling, uncompleted jobs and lack of required support for the efforts of the states and local governments in its areas of coverage,” Dickson said, and solicited Buhari’s repositioning of the commission “in order to achieve the objectives for which it was set up.”

 

 

So, attacking Akpabio (the messenger), and dissing the audit panel and the management committee (the message) shows one thing: Corruption, in and outside the NDDC, is fighting back.

 

 

As in the larger society where the anti-corruption war of the Buhari administration is resisted by alleged looters, the orchestrators of the campaign to stop the audit are those that have questions to answer on the reported sleaze at the commission.

 

And in the manner of politically-exposed persons (PEPs) when confronted with their financial malfeasance; the opposers of the audit have embarked on a well-oiled media campaign to taint the investigation, and those they perceive as its drivers.

 

That’s why Akpabio has become the target of attacks, as having accusingly, in addition to the audit, “instigated” the transfer of the NDDC from the office of the SGF to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, and the setting up of the IMC.

 

But the senator couldn’t have accomplished what are credited to him without the approval of President Buhari, who appoints, and delegates powers/functions to him as a minister.

 

 

It’s calling a dog a bad name in order to hang it. And that process has begun with the allegation that Akpabio received some billions from the former Managing Director of the NDDC, Nsima Ekere.

 

Thus, his accusers are “putting two-and-two together” to get at him, for his possible sack, which, indeed, they have implored President Buhari to do immediately.

 

Note the agitators’ strategy: Attack Akpabio and “his Interim Management Committee,” so as to divert attention, muddy the terrain, and prevent the audit from holding or shoddily handled.

 

They know that if thoroughly carried out, the audit would open a can of worms, the type Akpabio spoke about recently, thereby stirring the hornet’s nest that’s turned back to haunt him.

 

Fielding questions on an NTA programme, Akpabio said that some people in the NDDC had stalled the infrastructural development goals of the Niger Delta, to enrich themselves.

 

“I think people were treating the place as an ATM, where you just walk in, to go and pluck money and go away. I don’t think they were looking at it as an interventionist agency,” he said.

 

 

The watching public can see where the attacks on Akpabio are coming: From those that have benefitted from the multi-billion fraud in the NDDC. They’re the ones fighting back!

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Season of madness (II)

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Season of madness (II)

The robust reactions elicited by my open discourse on the seasons of madness in high places came as a surprise. The responses were so widely ranged and reactions so diversified that I am compelled to further clarify the position taken. A good number of the reactions came from the religious hierarchy because of the statement: “Nobody knows what is coming around the corner but it’s obvious that righteousness is gearing up to fight back and woe betide the soul of any religious leader that is caught on the wrong side of history.”

 

 

This is indeed a loaded statement that is worthy of expansion because the religious platform in general is the institution that carries the mandate to establish moral rectitude in a nation. Much more than the political institutes of governance, it is the primary duty of the religious institutes to act as the thermostat instead of a thermometer for the morals and values of our nation.

 

 

Both are thermal devices but the basic difference between the two is that one simply measures while the other exerts influence to establish a standard. In this sense the “war against corruption” should have been the primary preserve of our religious institutes instead of a campaign slogan for politics. If Nigeria is truly meant to be modelled after an American styled democracy, we must have missed the statement made by John Adams who was a founding father and the 2nd president of the United States of America.

 

 

He said: “our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” The strength of immorality mixed with religious confusions in the national picture suggests that Nigeria will keep trying to defy gravity until our religious issues are resolved. The fact that the Nazi propaganda technique of the “große luge” – the Big lie, favoured by Adolf Hitler is now an accepted part of the Nigerian political narrative should trigger alarm bells in the religious community.

 

 

The average Nigerian is suffering terrible hardships and the hopes of millions are dying. The scenario where an anti-corruption administration has permitted the use of this “große luge” – the Big lie technique – against its own poster hero shows that something is terribly wrong in high places.

 

 

The Yemi Osinbajo brand created by this government speaks of loyalty, hope, faithfulness and a maturity defined by the ability to delay gratification. It is a brand that has gone beyond politics and those who seek to destroy it must be prepared for a public backlash when all hope is gone and it would be a tragedy to push the Nigerian masses into the embrace of Franz Fanon’s posit on the cathartic effect of violence in the process of change.

 

 

Beyond the religious authorities in general, the church authorities in particular should be chagrinned by the attempt to smear the Vice-President’s profession of faith. If permitted to zero in on the Nigerian church I would have thought that the church would seize this opportunity to address the outstanding imbalances that her constituency has been suffering.

 

 

The church should let the Federal Government realise that the use of that “große luge – the Big lie” against the Vice-President has strengthened the public suspicions that the presidency has again been infiltrated by closet terrorists. In his day, former President Goodluck Jonathan was good enough to alert the nation about those moles and the public would not be surprised at all if they are the ones responsible for the continued incarceration of Leah Sharibu.

 

 

The lack of religious tolerance is the signature of such moles and my fear is that their covert activities would strengthen a resuscitation of the accusations against President Buhari unless they are exposed on time. In the event that the “große luge” – the Big lie” against Yemi Osinbajo was not deployed by terrorist moles in high places it becomes even more important to trace and expose the “men in the shadows” that could pull off such a feat.

 

 

They should be labelled as public enemies of the highest grade capable of destabilising the country. No matter which way we look at the “große luge – the Big lie” deployed against the Vice-president, it represents an existential threat. On an even more serious level it could terminate the destinies of many heaven bound believers and Christian leaders if we don’t defeat it totally.

 

 

Wherever the “große luge – the Big lie” succeeds even the elect could be deceived. To prove this point, I will establish from scriptures what the position of any genuine believer in Christ should be on this issue of the Vice-president and the “große luge” – the Big lie” unleashed at him. Those of us who really believe in Christ are so defined because we have accepted that God by divine fiat permitted a Virgin to be found with child so that a quality of life that was His exclusive preserve could be introduced into human affairs.

 

 

This truth that the just shall live by faith is the greatest obstacle that has disqualified existential materialists at the door way of salvation because that position sounds and seems illogical and indeed it is beyond human reasoning. It is this ability to believe beyond reason that both ennobles and makes religion dangerous at the same time.

 

 

Genuine believers are not motivated by the evidence of their ears or ears but by revelations from above. Many people accept that it is the abuse of this divine ability that produces suicide bombers and irrational terrorists. On the positive side of the coin of faith, we have millions who believe that the presidential tag team represented by the Buhari-Osinbajo ticket was a messianic intervention and the Buhari-diehards are a subset of that umbrella because of their faith in Osinbajo’s Christian pedigree. In fact, the Osinbajo diehards are favourably disposed to the political maestro of the South West for being an instrument of God and prayers are regularly offered on his behalf by people he will never meet.

 

 

This season of madness, is however, throwing up angles that defy all the standards of decency. To be on the right side of history the believer knows that logic could never have preferred Solomon over Adonijah as the King of Israel, yet that was God’s position. In the same breath it would have taken an extra-ordinary effort to choose Rahab as a heroine that would be listed with reverence in the Messiah’s lineage.

 

 

There are several examples of the illogical-logic of the Spirit in scriptures and this is why seasoned believers tread carefully when it come to taking a position on God’s political will for Nigeria. The way God thinks is different from the way men think and this is why His methods and choices never coincide with our natural senses.

 

 

All in all I will conclude that there is always a method in all the madness that the world can throw up but God who sits above all is never deceived. So I dare say that the wind will blow hard and fast in Nigeria and there are troubling days ahead but when the dust settles we will all have cause to rejoice into generations when our nation finally takes its mantle as the true champion of the African cause.

 

 

Muslims and Christians alike will exult in our new nation and the violence, hatred, strife and bloodshed of old will no more be found in our streets. Foreign nations will send emissaries to learn our secrets and all I can say for now is that the Osinbajo brand will outlive our political and religious divisions and those who have understanding will not be caught on the wrong side of history.

 

 

Rev. Ladi Peter Thompson, Strategic Thought Consultant, writes in from Lagos

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Kidnapping: Finally, the chickens have come home to roost!

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Kidnapping: Finally, the chickens have come home to roost!

For a very long time our security outfits, mainly the police consistently made public statements that flied in the face of reality. What I am alluding too here is the statements made by the men in black whenever a kidnapping case was finally resolved with the abducted person or persons being reunited with his/her/their loved ones. Until recently in virtually all cases, the police would insist that no ransom was paid, and that the case was settled solely due to their tenacious pursuit of the kidnappers, or the sudden ‘benevolence’ of the abductors, who had a change of heart and just decided to free their victims without collecting anything in return.

 

Incidentally while this public posture had become the order of the day, I’m sure that even the police were also very well aware that most people took such pronouncements with a pinch of salt. I never really understood while they (police) opted to toe this line especially in a country like ours where news (both real and fake) spread like wildfire. Which meant that a victim of a “successfully” concluded kidnap situation would immediately have told family members, friends and colleagues what they did in order to get their loved one back safely. And that news would now spread across the length and breadth of the land, especially in this age of social media. Of course, the “bad boys” would also be privy to such information, (even though they would also get the news first hand from fellow members of the underworld), and while the police were busy giving the impression that there was nothing to be made from carrying out such dastardly actions, they would know it was not true.

 

Armed with such knowledge, one does not need to be told that what would follow would be an explosion of more people going into the “business” of kidnapping for the simple reason because it was so lucrative and in Nigeria where money is “king” it would bound to attract the many of the army of unemployed to the fold. If the police were living in a world of denial all that was to change some two years ago when more than 20 security operatives stormed the Fred Shoboyejo home of vicious kidnapper and robber, Chukwudubem Onwuamadike – aka Evans, less than a month after the police announced a N30 million bounty in return for information leading to his arrest.

 

For at least seven years prior to this, Evans had co-ordinated bank robberies across Oyo, Port Harcourt and Abia, as well as numerous high-profile kidnaps whose ransoms amount to hundreds of millions of naira. Now tell me in all honesty, who would not want to live the flamboyant life style of the kidnapper, who lived amongst the affluent in the upscale area of Magodo in Lagos? Pictures of the mansion he was living in and what he had inside coupled with his fleet of cars is the stuff millions of us will dream about but might never ever achieve throughout our lifetime. But here was a young Nigerian who hardly went to school and yet was able to live a very good life not based on his education ability but through anti-social activities in the name of kidnapping.

 

 

An unfortunate premise that perhaps crime does pay after all if abducting people is so lucrative why not join the “business” after all the rewards are usually instant since there are a lot of “chips” to be cashed in for a quick riches beyond the wildest imaginations.

 

But back to my original path, perhaps had the police acknowledge this scourge from the get go rather than basking in selfdenial maybe the problem would not have assumed such alarming dimensions across the length and breadth of the country because they (police) would have drawn the necessary attention to it with possible support from government. However, that opportunity has been lost and the police will now have to now come up with fresh strategies to mitigate the problem, which the Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike recently pointed out the main reason for its proliferation – the commercialisation of kidnapping!

 

Wike, who made this remark on Monday during a courtesy visit by the Rotary International District 9141, to the Government House in Port Harcourt, explained that since kidnapping had become business, it could only be reduced to the barest minimum. He said: “It is now impossible to stop kidnapping in Nigeria; it (kidnapping) is now a business. It has been commercialised.

 

“It is now a major business. Everyone must partner with the government to ensure that we reduce it to the barest minimum. But it cannot be totally eradicated.” He said that those involved in kidnapping from security reports ranged from 16 to 22 years in age. “Look at what is happening across the country. Kidnapping has taken over all states.

When it started here, it was politicised. But today, it is negatively affecting all states of the federation. “A few days ago, a Court of Appeal judge was kidnapped in Benin. Before that, a Federal High Court judge was kidnapped. All of us must work together to stop this scourge,” he said.

In a previous write up titled: “Crime fighting: Beyond operational names”, published on June 8, 2019, I pointed out how the US federal crime agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was set up to help the nation tackle crime headlong across the land when it was getting out of hand.

 

This was the situation at the turn of the 19th Century, prompting the government of then President Theodore Roosevelt decided to set up the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on July 26, 1908 with its main goals “to protect and defend the United States, to uphold and enforce the criminal laws of the United States, and to provide leadership and criminal justice services to federal, state, municipal, and international agencies and partners.” Of course while the FBI has not been able to completely eradicate all federal crimes in the US, it has gone a long way in making the “bad guys” think twice before carrying out their nefarious activities. Although the FBI has also been given all the necessary manpower, tools and equipment needed in order to carry out their task in keeping the people safe, their main weapon is still good old intelligence.

 

The Nigeria Police Force used to be outstanding in this regard with their CID operatives, who seemed omnipotent, able to infiltrate anywhere in their quest to frustrate the bad guys.

 

This is an area I believe they will again need to devout a lot of time and energy on because without good intelligence there is virtually nothing even the world’s best mobilised and equipped police force can do. Thus unless and until the NPF can come to grips with this very important aspect then the chickens will continue to come home to roost with tones of money made from kidnapping.

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