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Restructuring for a better life – lessons from Brexit

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Restructuring for a better life – lessons from Brexit

The quest for a better life has been an unending aspiration of the human civilization and will remain so till the end of time – that is if time ever ends.

From the agrarian to the industrial and now the information technology age, all the peoples of all nations are seeking a better life.

But the quest for a better life has led to many choices, sometimes well thought out and in some cases not so well thought out.

Some have sought constitutional amendments only to realize that a new document does not a better life procure. Some have sought geographical demarcations and creation of new nations, states and local governments only to realize that a new territory does not necessarily deliver a better life.

Some have sought increased control of resources and wealth only to find out that more wealth does not necessarily translate into a better life. These are facts of life, yet the quest for a better life, being a natural human longing and seeking, must continue.

There are a few things that Nigeria and Britain share in common in their quest for a better life and their coincidental reach for new political and economic realignments that currently dominate their public discourse in the name of “Restructuring” and “Brexit” respectively.

First to be noted is that both nations as they currently exist are not originals and this is true of many nations (Texas). (Netherlands).

Nigeria’s recent history of statehood or nationhood is still very fresh in the memory as having evolved as an amalgamation of many territories of diverse ethnic and religious dispositions in 1914.

But it is a story that dates back much longer; first to the British conquest of Lagos in 1861, the Berlin Conference of 1883-1885 and then to the Southern and Northern Protectorates that were the predecessors to the 1914 amalgamation.

This saw many Muslims, Christians, animists and people of diverse languages bound together in a household where a better life has now become a common aspiration.

It is important to point out that in Britain or the United Kingdom as they are also known, England was the kingdom, and that is why till date there is only a Queen of England not of Britain. The Scottish, Welsh, Irish who together with England constitute Britain are not English people. They have Christians and Muslim citizens, Anglicans, Catholics and Protestants.

While this speech may not be able to delve into the detail of their diversity and historical origins, it will suffice for comparison to point out that crude oil is largely to be found on the soil of the Scottish who continuously express an intention to leave the union.

And Britain as we know it today first emerged in 1801 when it united with the neighbouring Kingdom of Ireland, forming the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. This was renamed the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland following the secession of the Irish Free State in 1922.

In perhaps the same way that Nigeria has moved from two protectorates and one colony to three regions, four regions, 12 states, 19 states to 36 states, Britain in its original form has had to concede independence to the southern part of Ireland now known as the Republic of Ireland while Northern Ireland remains a part of the United Kingdom.

This was the result of the Good Friday Peace Agreement that secured a truce after many years of conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland which spilled to several parts of the United Kingdom and resulted in bombings and acts of terror in the 1970s, similar to some of what we have experienced in the North-East of Nigeria.

In spite of these political realignments, the quest for a better life exists in both countries – Nigeria and the UK. There are problems of unemployment, security, health care, homelessness, quality of education, cost of living and business competitiveness to mention but a few in both countries.

What is different is the scale of the problem, characterized by how the resources have been invested or misused, the level of development, which is manifest in the quality of infrastructure that supports transport, energy, health care, education and law enforcement.

What does not change is the quest for a better life on both sides, and interestingly, the political leadership has weaponized this quest for maximum benefit.

In the United Kingdom, the answer to the quest for a better life is in seeing Britain leave the European Union, a union they joined reluctantly in 1973.

So, to the people of Britain, “Brexit” (one word) was sold as a politically nebulous term that suggested to the ordinary people that the free movement of other Europeans into Britain was responsible for the lack of jobs.

That the amount they were paying as membership fees of the union was part of the reason why there was not enough money to spend at home on British education and healthcare.

That the need to subordinate their laws to the European parliament affected the British government’s ability to properly protect their own people.

It was a fascinating proposition. Their constitutional arrangement required that a referendum be conducted to ask the people to decide.

In the quest for a better life, the people voted in the referendum that Britain should leave or exit from the European Union. So was formed Brexit.

The people voted for a political rearrangement in the belief that it would deliver economic and social benefits, and therefore a better life.

But, at the time they were voting, nobody told or reminded the people, that:

Most of the insulin that diabetic patients used to treat themselves in Britain came from France and the cost might go up.

Some of the best medical personnel in Britain were Europeans who might leave; 5,000 Nurses from Europe have since left the United Kingdom, as alleged by a member of Parliament on the 29th October 2019 and Nigeria and some other countries are paying the price with 2-3 year contracts being offered to their medical personnel to fill the gap.

Forty per cent of their food comes from Europe.

If they travelled to European cities, they may require visas to enter, or will have to share the same queue with Asians, Africans and other nationalities at immigration points at airports and may lose their right to use the European entry point.

Needless to reiterate, while it is doubtful that the people will all have voted for the risk of high cost of insulin, high cost of food or loss of their right of entry, the vagueness of the details of Brexit as presented by the political spin masters, has certainly left the country in some quandary.

Some people are now saying it was not well explained to them. Some have gone to court to stop the process but were unsuccessful and some are now saying they want a fresh referendum.

The political class that set the stage for Brexit now say there is no going back. The people have spoken in a referendum, and that it is a threat to democracy not to do their bidding.

Here is the tyranny of democracy’s fixation with the will of the majority and its supremacy. The majority is not always right while their supremacy is not always unimpeachable.

While this debate goes on about how to Brexit after three years of the referendum to leave, businesses are either relocating or shutting down, jobs are also being lost, and uncertainty is hobbling investment decisions.

Of course, because things are no longer what they used to be, those who described us as “fantastically corrupt” are now “visiting us fantastically”. The Prime Minister and the Prince of Wales have been here.

Their views have not changed. We are simply a market that can replace what they might be losing in Europe as a result of Brexit.

So, while we roll out cultural troupes, take them to entertainment spots and queue to take selfies, they are looking for where there is food supply, skilled labour, and possibly a new source of insulin that will be cheaper than that of France, post-Brexit.

How we react to this opportunity is another matter for another conversation, but it is one that must take place very quickly. This new friendship must be defined by mutually beneficial parameters.

But this takes me now to restructuring, which is also one word, like Brexit.

The proponents of restructuring have not been specific. Some of them, with very great respect, it appears that some of them simply want what they were used to in their more youthful days which was a parliamentary system of government and not a presidential system of government. There is nothing wrong with this, after all we are often victims of habits that are difficult to change.

However, a much younger generation did not experience the parliamentary system and may be taken in by some arguments such as cost of getting elected and the cost of legislative work. In a parliamentary system, you may have a Prime Minister in the saddle for 16 straight years for as long as he is the leader of his party. Mrs. Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister for 16 years for example. Given our current realities and diversity as a people, is that desirable in our land?

True as the cost of legislation may be as a factor, this generation must be told in clear terms that it was during the Parliamentary system that the political crisis of the 1960s started, and with a combination of other factors, led to a civil war in which many died.

They must read up about it, and demand more explanation as to why it did not prevent our division from resulting in a full blown civil war.

Of course we must not forget that the UK Parliamentary system has produced four Prime Ministers in the last 12 years including the incumbent. Do we want such rapid political leadership changes like this? What does it portend for policy consistency and continuity?

All I can add is that empirical evidence has shown that diversity such as we have, is better managed with a federal arrangement and that this generation should look before they leap.

A federal arrangement reduces suspicion, hate, and acrimony and prevents hostilities. It makes for greater stability overall and collaborative working of the federating units, forging a sense of belonging in its trail and setting the tone for competitive spirit.

However, when the protagonists of restructuring are pressed to say what they mean, some say they want a more federal union and that what we have is a unitary government masquerading as a federal one.

So, their argument becomes an argument of political arrangement. The issue is, therefore, not so much the objective but the artery road, shun of bypass to the objective goal of restructuring.

When the constitutional amendment to allow for the creation of state police was voted down, very few of the champions of a wholly federal arrangement raised a whimper. This was a big item of restructuring to reform law enforcement.

I have previously said and I repeat my views that multi-level policing by whatever name called, is something that I agree with.

What is a true federal arrangement without decentralized law enforcement, when you have a decentralized judiciary and law-making arrangement? Shouldn’t states that make their own laws have their own agencies to enforce them and local governments that make bylaws have their own community policing?

Put simply, it seems that some of the protagonists of restructuring want a true federation but prefer a unitary police. Even at that, the structure of the police system is not on its own a guaranty of efficiency.

The unitary British political system has operated a decentralised policing system which is now being considered for wholesale merger in order to save costs.

With rising crime, especially gang violence and knife attacks, such as a recent report of 13 knife stabbings over a 24-hour period, thorough reflection requires one to ask whether simple structural re-arrangement will resolve the knife attack problems.

As we grapple with the issue of a minimum wage, I expect the voices of the restructurers, apostles of true federation, and those who want control of resources to stand with reason, that the wages should not be uniform if the resources and the cost of living are not uniform.

This is a position I have previously advocated publicly, that states must be allowed to decide their own wages, and that wages must move from the Exclusive to the Concurrent list of the Constitution.

Sadly, I have not heard those voices raised at the same decibel as they have argued for restructuring.

My position on state police, wages and other issues also make a protagonist, but not all protagonists will agree with me, because they also want something different.

For yet some other people, the appeal of restructuring is the opportunity to agitate for more states and more local governments. That may be legitimate.

But the aspiration must answer some questions like, which states will be carved up? What is their viability?  How do we solve the problems of existing ones that are at the point that wages of the public servants cannot be paid?

It might interest members of the public to know that boundary disputes from states creation that took place in 1967 and after that are still unresolved before the National Boundaries Commission, as some asset sharing and ownership issues have also persisted from states created after the 1967 episode.

It is perhaps helpful to also point to the fact that some of the states created over two decades ago such as Anambra, Bayelsa, Nasarawa, Zamfara and Ekiti feel that they are not fairly treated because there are no Federal Secretariats in their state.

The Buhari administration is now completing and in the process of furnishing some of these secretariats while new ones have recently been awarded.

For yet another group of the protagonists of restructuring, the argument is in favour of a weaker centre and stronger states as federating units.

Apart from the case which is appropriately made for a change in the revenue allocation formula, they hinge the argument on the case that the President is too powerful. In fact, some have argued that the Nigerian president is the most powerful in the world; however, recent facts do not support this assertion.

We are witnesses to the fact a president once seized local government funds and the Supreme Court, an arm of government that is set up as a check and balance on excessive powers and abuse of same, rightly declared that there was no constitutional power to do so.

Although the order to release the money was not immediately complied with, another president who recognised the limits of presidential power appropriately ordered the release of the funds.

We are living witnesses to how difficult it has been for these so-called all powerful presidents to get their budget passed without alterations (some of which are so fundamental) by the parliament.

I leave you to decide whether the all-embracing “powers” of the Nigerian president is a “fact” or a contrived “myth” to bolster the case for restructuring.

I also urge you to read the Nigerian constitution and see for yourself the power and duties of the Nigeria president. If you do, as I have done, you will find 48 items of mention concerning the office of the president (Duties, functions of the President- See Annexure I).

It seems that in the determination to support the unfounded argument about the enormous powers of the President, those who make the case, conveniently lump Powers with Functions and Duties.

Power is the legal right or authorization to act or not to act. It is the ability conferred on a person by law to alter, by an act of will, the rights, duties, liabilities and other relations, either of that person or another. On the other hand, the term ‘Function’ is the duty of the office.

The summary of references to the President show:-

a)  Powers exercisable by the President   = 23

b) Powers exercisable by the President, subject to National Assembly   = 9

c) Power exercisable by the President, subject to other institutions          = 4

d) Duties and Functions   = 9

e) Restriction on the powers of the President   = 3

          Total= 48

For yet another group of restructurers, they want their own country created by excising their zone. I only need to say that they should look closely at the break-up of Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, and lately Sudan, to see whether it has delivered on the expectation of a better life.

In addition to that, they must look at the potential of what they might gain as being separate nations, to what they might leave behind from inter-marriage and families that they have created in other parts of Nigeria.

Recently, the Cable News Network featured the story of the emotional reunion of an octogenarian mother with a son she had left behind when Korea was broken up into North and South as different nations in the 1940s.

And it is not just about people, it extends to resources and sustenance that contribute to better life. Think of whether you want to live in a new country and have to spend money to import some of the things you could get by driving just an hour without a border or the need for a visa.

That is the reality of Brexit today.

Before writing this piece, I thought it might be worthwhile to find out what ordinary Nigerians, as distinct from political actors know about restructuring.

I commissioned a survey, in December 2018, which was a repeat of a similar one, in late 2017.

Just over 2 in 5 of the respondents are aware of the ongoing restructuring debate in the country. Even after prompting, a third of the sample still remain unfamiliar with the term (Restructuring.)

*33% don’t know what restructuring means.

*15% think that it means amending the constitution.

*14% think that it means reorganising/rebuilding the country.

*8% think that it means devolution of power to the states.

*6% think that it means changing the revenue allocation formula.

*6% think that it means reverting to regional government.

*3% think it means increasing federal resources to selected states that are viable.

*2% think that it means abolition of Federal Character and adoption of merit based appointment.

*2% think that it means restructuring the economy.

While the findings may not vitiate the imperative of restructuring, what these point out is that there is a great deal of work to be done by its protagonists. Restructuring is inherently desirable. Those not overtly enthusiastic even when they grasp what restructuring means, what are their fears? We must make efforts to allay their fears. Because a leader leads, carrying his vision of a higher goal and a better life even when a larger section of the citizenry are yet to see his cause clearly, it means the call for restructuring requires greater public education. It is in this way we would not plunge the country into intractable confusion, to put it mildly.

Let me say emphatically that the quest for a better life in Nigeria is legitimate and salutary. That is because there is so much more that we can do and will do.

However, it seems to me that while the quest for a better life may be assisted by amending some parts of the constitution, on its own it will not deliver a better life. A better life is the commonwealth that is produced by what I call common contribution. In other words, it is the result of hard work and dedicated productivity. It is what we produce that we can distribute.

For example, how much do we produce in terms of human activity and how will amending some parts of the Constitution on their own, translate to increased national productivity?

How many of our people in public and private sector who are contracted for an eight hour daily work shift, actually work for four hours?

A better life is not a miracle product. It is the harvest of the investment of labour.

While considering numbers, it might be useful to see how they impact education.

The default argument for poor quality education is government.

That is true to the extent that government is the regulator, responsible for setting standards and all. But how many schools does government own? The record indicates that there are a total of 165 universities in Nigeria (not including a few recently approved ones); 43 belong to the Federal Government; 47 to the state governments and 75 are private universities.

At the secondary level, there are 104 unity schools owned by the Federal Government; this is a drop in the ocean, compared to the number of secondary and primary schools owned by state governments and private organisations nationwide.

Let me use the data from Lagos that I can claim some degree of familiarity with to make this case of responsibility.

There were a total of 8,274 schools primary and secondary in Lagos State. The state government owned a total of 1,681, made up of 1,045 primary and 636 secondary, representing 20 per cent of the total number of schools.

The remaining were owned by the private sector, individuals, non-profit organisation and religious missions. These numbers show where the bulk of responsibility for foundational education lies, with us, the private people, entrepreneurs and less with government.

The same is also true of the health sector where critical life-saving intervention, like ante-natal care, immunization of babies, sanitation and refuse management all lie with the local government system under our constitution.

Do we wish to restructure and pass these to the Federal Government, whose powers we say are already too much, or will we get down to work and make these primary health centres do their work of preventing disease, supporting wellbeing and deterring illness, or do we want to blame the constitution?

Let me remind all of us that we already have in our constitution a provision that seeks to promote the equitable distribution of opportunities called the Federal Character provision.

Has it solved the problem of access to opportunities and jobs?

The Supreme Court of Nigeria has also advanced the cause for restructuring in its judgement in the case popularly called the Resource Control Case by which certain oil producing states get 13% extra revenue from the distribution pool.

Has it achieved a better life for the peoples of those states?

I think the jury will be out for a long time on this one.

These are some of the hard facts.

They point clearly to where the responsibility for a better life lies. While admittedly a document may point the way; while it may show direction, it is we who must tread the path it shows to us. A good document not backed by the right attitude does not take a people far.

So, in addition to restructuring our political and administrative arrangements, we must restructure our attitude and our mindset. A better life does not necessarily exist in a new document without the right political education, a change of attitude and our inflexible commitment to public good.

λFashola (SAN), the Minister of Works and Housing delivered the address at the 2019 Island Club 76th anniversary lecture, on Friday 15th November in Lagos.

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Rooting for science with humanity

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Rooting for science with humanity

This work stems from Mahatma Gandhi’s description of the seven social sins of the world. They include wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, religion without sacrifice and politics without principles.

However, this paper focuses on the 5th social sin which he called ‘Science without humanity’.

Butcher (2015) stated that Mahatma Gandhi believed that humankind was advancing in science much faster than our ability to understand the deadly consequences of unbridled technology, especially in the area of weaponry.

Weapons technology keeps advancing faster than the morality about how to use them.

Mahatma Gandhi seeks to explain how human beings are being ruthless and wicked in the use of various devices. He argues that science is quite beneficial to man but without humanity it is dangerous and does not promote human advancement. He further explains that science does not change our attitude, character or beliefs.

Persico (2013) argues that science never did and will never have a heart. It has no humanity. The scientific method does not use any system of ethics or morality to determine its direction and goals. Humanity is the moral compass we need to guide us in the usage of technology.

Also, I will present an evaluation of science with humanity beyond what Ghandi stated on science without humanity. Science deals with laws and ‘humanity’ is from the Latin word ‘humanitas’ which stands for “human nature, kindness.” Humanity includes all the humans, but it can also refer to the kind feelings humans often have for each other. Thus we would be evaluating on the need for us (as Christians) to deal with our fellow humans with humanity irrespective of what the law says or what is expected of us.

There would be an explanation on the various instances where the law should be compromised as a result of our compassion or love for others. Sometimes people are meant to receive a particular punishment or judgement as a result of their actions and in other cases, people should be pardoned.

For example: In 1 Samuel 26, where David spared Saul even when he was supposed to kill him is a perfect example of science with humanity. David spared as a result of his Christian beliefs. He said ‘And David said to Abishai, destroy him not, for who can put his hand against Jehovah’s anointed and be guiltless’ (1Samuel 26:9).

Also, In Exodus 2:5-10, the daughter of King Pharaoh saved Moses when she saw him in the river. She didn’t care about the law that her father had passed. She only felt compassion for the crying baby and rescued him. She demonstrated science with humanity.

Thus, as Christians, the Bible should guide our humanity which would deal with our daily activities involving the way we use technology. God instructs us to ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these (Mark 12:31) because ‘love covers a multitude of sins’ (1 Peter 4:8). Thus if we love our neighbours as we love ourselves, we would not think of bring harm or discomfort to them. We would deal with them compassionately. We would work for benefit of one other instead of seeking to destroy each other. It is important that as Christians we are conscious of the fact that we are ambassadors of Christ and this consciousness should guide our daily lives and interactions with people.

*Ebeledike Neenma is a student of Redeemer University, Ogun State

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Obaseki’s job rating, re-election bid, stupid!

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Obaseki’s job rating, re-election bid, stupid!

The title of this piece draws from James Carville’s famous quip: “The economy, stupid.” Carville was Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist in the successful 1992 presidential campaign that culminated in President George Bush’s defeat. The phrase, reportedly, was for the internal audience of Clinton’s campaign workers as one of the three messages to focus on. The other two messages were “Change vs. more of the same” and “Don’t forget health care”. The quip later morphed into a de facto slogan for the Clinton campaign.

As a guidebook, the Carville paradigm is apt in the context of the electioneering for the 2020 governorship poll in Edo State. About a year to the presidential election in 1992, just as it is about a year to the governorship poll in Edo in 2020, the job performance rating of Bush on the economy had gone down; just as Governor Godwin Obaseki’s rating on governance generally has suffered a worse dip. That scenario in the United States became electorally fatal for Bush.

Whereas incumbent Bush, as of right, became the standard bearer of his Republican Party in the presidential election, Obaseki faces the uphill task of clinching the nomination of his All Progressives Congress (APC) in next year’s governorship election. Apparently in the eye of a storm, Obaseki, arguably, does not look good to clinch the APC ticket. Even though, his problem would appear to be circumscribed within the APC; yet externally – talking about the wider Edo audience – he has an existential crisis of appeal and validation in daily striving to truthfully situate his performance within the context of his moniker: “Wake and see Governor.”

But rather than focus on governance, Obaseki had pandered to the allure of personal aggrandizement in the unnecessary battle to wrest the APC machinery in Edo from the control of his predecessor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the man who, virtually, single-handed, ensured his emergence as governor, against all odds. A smart politician who enjoys the benefits of good advice and strategy would not have taken Obaseki’s path in his first term. He should have waited till the second term to contemplate building his own structure or frontally challenging the structure that produced him as governor, if he considers the option necessary.

The motivation behind Obaseki’s ill-timed gambit is blurry. Had he learnt from the recent political history of Edo, he would have been more circumspect. The attempt by a former governor of the state on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prof. Oserhiemen Osunbor, to dismantle the structure of his godfather, Chief Tony Anenih, and build his own, largely cost him the governorship. Perhaps, afflicted by sheer delusion, Obaseki had thought that he could confront and neutralize Oshiomhole in the politics of Edo APC. He might just have been able to do that if Oshiomhole had not emerged as national chair of the APC.

Therefore, curiously drawn to challenge his benefactor, Obaseki has become largely distracted in the festering battle for survival. Instead of focusing on developing infrastructure and building a political brand in his first term, he, just as Osunbor, embarked on a self-immolating voyage. Whereas Osunbor enjoyed the backing of another political godfather, Samuel Ogbemudia, against Anenih who had a firmer grip on the party structure, Obaseki cannot be said to enjoy the backing of politicians of the clout of the late Anenih and Ogbemudia in the APC. Thus, feeding his desperation to upend the suzerainty of Oshiomhole over the APC structure in Edo lacks the requisite footing.

As it is, Obaseki has chosen intrigues over rapid infrastructure development and opted to challenge the superintendence by his former boss over the political wing of the APC administration in Edo. To be sure, that superintendence was in accordance with some original arrangements. Significantly, up until he threw down the gauntlet, Obaseki’s job performance had been uninspiring. However, to be fair to him, the embattled governor had, indeed, delivered, anyhow, the Iriri-Sapele road project; his other proposed projects that had benefited from huge budgetary allocations and expenditures have been, at best, midstream.

It is against this backdrop that the governor’s desperate and unruly exertions to secure a second term and preserve his political future amount to misplacement of priorities. Prioritising political schisms over service delivery is a strategic misstep. There is no more time for Obaseki to refocus. He will not sleep until the primary and the governorship election have been done with. Whichever platform he chooses to contest after the APC may have shut him out of its ticket; it is significant to consider the thrust of his campaign messages.

What messages will Obaseki sell to the people about his job performance to validate his claim to a second governorship term? What records of achievements will he flaunt? Whereas, about the third year into Oshiomole’s first term as governor, it was clear he would get a second term on the basis of the several infrastructural projects executed across the state. Obaseki’s “wake and see governor” moniker hinged on the pretext of his self-acclaimed development strides is a charade. His series of Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with foreign and local bodies, for which the opposition PDP has dubbed him as “MoU governor” amount to scams.

Indeed, Obaseki could have synergized with his predecessor to build on his legacies and, thereby, cut a niche for himself as a loyal successor who kept fidelity to the mantra of continuity – the reason Oshiomhole handed over power to him. There would not have been crises in the Edo State chapter of the APC had Obaseki acted wisely. His failed promises also rubbed off negatively on his job performance rating. For instance, Obaseki said he was going to build the Gelegele Port, for which he raised the hope of the royalty and the hoi-polloi alike. He has been voting money to the project. The administration brought a Chinese company that has been doing soil testing for close to three years that had cost the state multi-billion naira, according to feelers. It is feared the billions had become sunk cost on the zero-prospect project.

Also, instead of operating the five-star Central Hospital that Oshiomhole built, he had initially abandoned it ostensibly out of political bile in a futile attempt to misrepresent the Oshiomhole persona. Obaseki resorted to unconscionable demonisation of Oshiomhole. Whereas, it would not have cost the administration up to 20 per cent of the contract cost to keep the hospital running, Obaseki had scoffed at the populist project until recently when the administration began to run the hospital through some hazy private arrangement.

He had also abandoned the Benin Storm Water Master Plan and the critical projects within the plan as conceptualized by the Oshiomhole administration to address the menace of flooding in Benin City. Ensuring de-silting of the drainages, a subset of the significant flood-control project, would have guaranteed free flow of flood water but he chose to do otherwise.

Interestingly, the shape and texture of electioneering for next year’s governorship contest in Edo State appear to be defining themselves. Edo’s political terrain will be a market place to sell and de-market governorship candidates. 

From all indications, Obaseki may have to strive hard to validate his aspiration for a second term on any platform he can secure. That is how the cookie crumbles, having fouled the political atmosphere of Edo with his odious governance style. The critical mass and members of the elite class who are intent on stopping him are more likely to focus on the adversarial campaign about his perceived poor job performance rating that recommends his electoral defeat and political retirement.

λOjeifo writes from Beijing, China via ojwonderngr@yahoo.com      

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Edo 2020: The citizens’ place

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Edo 2020: The citizens’ place

As a political player in Edo State, I have seen men and women on the streets curse and condemn politicians and political activities. I have felt the passion of hatred and heard cacophonies of voices clamouring for politicians and electioneering activities to cease from being a part of our existence.

Some years ago, when on a political campaign trail, our tour took us through a popular market area in Benin City. I heard all manner of insults as different groups of traders throng out, shouting something like “Una nor get work…shameless people…deceivers…419” (You are all jobless shameless people, deceivers, scammers). These words really evoked something in me and I kept wondering about the level of discontent and disconnect that would make the citizens consider their eventual rulers as ‘jobless and shameless people’.

But today in Edo State, it is very inspiring that the loathing, aloofness and cynicism are fast changing. I simply cannot imagine that such acrid hatred can be erased in so short a time to become something which now attracts massive involvement into the hitherto resented vocation that politicking was considered to be.

We may not be cocksure of the exact time a revolution actually commenced, but we can be sure of the events leading to a revolution. And if the new wave of people’s commitment to the political progression of Edo State is anything to go by, then Edo State has certainly began with the events signaling a historical and political turning point.

Interestingly, a lot of onlookers and political actors from other states and around the world are not quite aware of the sudden switch in the political role of Edo citizens, who have now plunged themselves into the political affairs of the state and are so determined to be active stakeholders. This is the new interest that is pushing what used to be strictly political party affairs to the streets, social gatherings, markets, community square and people’s bedrooms.

In some ways, Obaseki has been able to demonstrate that you do not have to be an active politician to rule well. In addition, he has also proven that one does not necessarily have to surround oneself with politicians to know the right direction to the hearts of those being served. But whether his approach is adjudged creditable or not, he has however managed in succeeding to win a great number of converts to himself, and has enjoined greater interests in the progress of the state through his approach.

While the crux of the political crisis in Edo State is mainly about those who want Obaseki to place them in his first-line charge because of the feelings that he owes them such regards; this however keeps raising the pertinent question of “how far can the citizens go in determining what becomes of their fate when the political system is so designed in the manner that confines aspiring political office to first undergo ‘acceptance and initiation’ by politicians before attempting a shot at any elective public office.”

This is the test case now playing out and challenging the multitude of Edo residents who are seemingly in approval of Governor Obaseki’s style of governance and achievements. And from all indications, they are willing to dare any opposition in order to safeguard their common interest.

In the line of duty, Obaseki, who is well known to be a cut far away from the everyday politician is resetting Edo State development trajectory; embodying a system of purposeful governance, promoting inclusiveness and selfless participation, laying the foundation for self-enterprise to thrive, reviving the housing sector and better land administration, championing causes which guarantee respite from the strangulations of non-state actors, opening up the state for economic prosperity, delivering accountable and visible use of public funds, enhancing capacities and work environment, and taking the state into the realm of a more assured, desired and a prosperous future. 

Anybody who cannot justify the determination Edo people to cling to a promising path may want to call on the Federal might in suppressing people’s will. But such an oppressive action must first be justified by why the will of Edo people is no longer relevant in the affairs which strictly affect their existence as a people.

However, for a continued faith in the unity of our dear country, there is a need for genuine reconciliation of all warring interests. The kind of reconciliation which is not spurred by factional interest beyond having a place for the interest of Edo people.

Across board, if the APC must continue to remain as a nationally relevant political party, there is the need to have a well-established reconciliation organ which first and foremost considers the yearnings of the people from which the party derives its relevance and purpose of existence.

Anything short of such considerations, the APC could inadvertently begin to push itself far more into the realm of a non-people centred political party, fanning the now trending argument that the Black race may naturally be incapable of freeing itself from the challenges of advancing into a preferred order. Now we are all witnesses to every point from which our actions are igniting the fire; but no one truly knows where it would end and what it would consume.

λOgbeide writes in from Benin

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Benue Rep donates four-year salary to constituents

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Benue Rep donates four-year salary to constituents

A member of the House of Representatives, representing Ado/Okpokwu/Ogbadigbo federal constituency of Benue State, Hon. Francis Otta Agbo, has pleaded with the Federal Government to address the neglect of his constituency in the area of infrastructure and federal appointments.
This is even as he donated his four-year salary to his constituents who are widows and orphans, to help ameliorate their plight.
Agbo made the disclosure on Monday, in Abuja during an interactive session with a delegation of Ijigban/Ulayi/Ekile Communities of Ado Local government area of Benue State, led by Hon. Emmanuel Ogaba.
He regretted that though over one million of Ijigban/Ekile/ Ulayi people were contributing immensely to the economy of the state, they remained the most neglected, in terms of infrastructure and employment in the state and federal civil service.
“I want to use this medium to tell the world, how marginalised we are. The whole world should know that the Nigerian state has forgotten the Ulayi, Ekile and Ijigban communities,” he said.

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#RevolutionIsNow: Sowore and DSS many alibis

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#RevolutionIsNow: Sowore and DSS many alibis

I

n an uncanny sense of exhilaration, but with deep concerns for the health of Nigeria’s polity, I was hoping that the Department of State Services (DSS) would “mess” with Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja.

That was on Thursday, December 5, 2019, when the judge ordered that Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare be freed within 24 hours, topping the directive with a fine of N100,000.

A proverb of the Esan people in Edo State says, “It’s not on its own volition that the palm kernel produces oil.” And as the Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulopo-Kuti, would intone, “khaki no bi leather.”

 

The Justice Ojukwu order wasn’t one for the DSS to forum-shop for interpretation. It’s absolute, decisive, distinct, explicit and obvious, and pregnant with dire payback. Pronto, the DSS released Sowore and Bakare, and also paid the fine.

Sowore, publisher of online Sahara Reporters and a presidential candidate in the 2019 general election, was arrested on August 3, 2019, two days to the “#DaysofRage” he had called for August 5, to advance his #RevolutionIsNow protests.

 

He was charged with treasonable felony, for allegedly attempting, in the mode of the recent Sudanese revolution, to bring down the government of President Muhammadu Buhari.

Thursday, December 5, marked 125 days that Sowore had spent in detention, exceeding the 45 days the court had allowed, and within the period, a couple of courts had granted him bail, which the DSS had spurned.

 

It had been excuses from the DSS: It’s either the defendant hadn’t met his bail bond; his sureties didn’t show up to pick him; or they didn’t submit themselves for vetting: all in attempts to subvert the court orders, and the rule of law.

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and rights activist, Mr. Femi Falana, who’s Sowore’s lawyer, said that at the end of August 2019, he had compiled a list containing 32 court orders disobeyed by the Nigerian government.

 

In an interview, Falana said: “It doesn’t lie in the mouth of an attorney general or the president of a country to choose and pick which orders of court to obey. When you do that, you are reducing the status of the country to a banana republic.”

This was the situation on December 5 when the DSS came before Justice Ojukwu, and spun another alibi on why it couldn’t release Sowore: It prayed the court for an order to remind him at the Correctional Centre (Prison) in Lagos.

 

Rightly, the request, on the back of prior order the DSS ignored, touched a raw nerve in the judge, who ruled unequivocally, that Sowore be released within 24 hours, and with proof of compliance.

Considering previous disobedience to court orders, I had looked forward to the DSS, headed by Mr. Yusuf Bichi, conjuring a fresh excuse to shun the directive. But that wasn’t to be, as it had complied with the court order.

 

Then came Friday, December 6, and the prosecution and defence lawyers confirmed the DSS compliance, prompting Justice Ojukwu to praise the service, saying, “it was obvious they had demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law.”

To the judge: “No one is above the law. Those called to govern citizens, in the discharge of what is considered to be their statutory duties, must at all times conform with the rule of law. That is the path to greatness. The DSS has earned themselves the respect of the Nigerian citizens and all the arms of government.”

But unknown to Justice Ojukwu, who had adjourned the trial to the 11th, 12th and 13th of February 2020, for definite hearing, the DSS had yet an ace to play, swooping on the court, to re-arrest Sowore and Bakare for undisclosed “fresh charges.”

There’s pandemonium, as it became a tug-of-war between the DSS operatives and supporters to have custody of Sowore, who alleged an attempt on his life in a “choke-hold” by the operatives.

 

With the sounds of cocking guns, and Sowore supporters daring the operatives to “shoot,” the judge, lawyers and officials fled the court to avoid collateral fatalities from stray bullets.

 

Save the resistance from their supporters, and intervention by Mr. Falana, the DSS operatives were prepared to drag Sowore and Bakare from the court premises they had thus desecrated.

 

Falana had to chaperon them from the hallowed grounds, and out of the entrance gate, from where an operative, behind the wheel of Falana’s car, drove the defendants to the secret police office.

The DSS melodrama has willy nilly firmed the belief that the Buhari government is intolerant of opposing views, and is out to silence its critics by “unlawful” arrest, detention, arraignment, and flouting of court orders to free them.

Or is the government not aware of the antics of the DSS, whose Director General, Mr. Bichi, and his operatives are acting in the name of the State, and President Buhari’s?

 

Officials of government regularly blame the global community, and international organisations, “for distorting and/or spreading false news about happenings in Nigeria.”

Below are excerpts from some of these bodies on the Sowore saga: The Amnesty International has declared Sowore and Bakare, and a journalist, Agba Jalingo, as “prisoners of conscience.”

 

“When we see cases of injustice like this, it’s important to bring the world’s attention to it,” said the organisation’s Nigeria Director, Osai Ojigho, who told the CNN “it’s important that the world stands to demand” unconditional release of the detainees.

 

Similarly, The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and prominent figures, including Amal Clooney, co-president of the Clooney Foundation for Justice, have condemned Sowore’s arrest and continued detention.

“It is outrageous that Nigeria continues to imprison a journalist and presidential candidate after a court has ordered his release,” Clooney said, adding that, “TrialWatch will continue to monitor Mr. Sowore’s trial and calls on the authorities to implement the court’s order as soon as possible.”

 

This was before the Friday, December 6 “show of shame” inside the Federal High Court in Abuja. Will the government deny the social media live-streamed incident, and label it as a propaganda piece by outside conspirators?

 

The government maybe treating the Sowore matter as a flash in the pan, juxtaposed with the Col. Sambo Dasuki and Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky years-long cases and incarceration. But it’s a little excreta that soils the anus!

It’s time to halt the DSS escapades, before they did more damage to the image of President Buhari and his government, which should realise that disobedience to court orders destroys the foundation upon which the rule of law and democracy rest.

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Rooting for science with humanity

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This work stems from Mahatma Gandhi’s description of the seven social sins of the world. They include wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, religion without sacrifice, and politics without principles.

 

 

However, this paper focuses on the 5th social sin which he called ‘Science without humanity’. Butcher (2015) stated that Mahatma Gandhi believed that humankind was advancing in science much faster than our ability to understand the deadly consequences of unbridled technology, especially in the area of weaponry. Weapons technology keeps advancing faster than the morality about how to use them.

 

 

Mahatma Gandhi sought to explain how human beings are being ruthless and wicked in the use of various devices. He argued that science is quite beneficial to man but without humanity it is dangerous and does not promote human advancement. He further explained that science does not change our attitude, character or beliefs.

 

Persico (2013) argues that science never did and will never have a heart. It has no humanity. The scientific method does not use any system of ethics or morality to determine its direction and goals. Humanity is the moral compass we need to guide us in the usage of technology.

 

Also, in this paper, there would be an evaluation of science with humanity beyond what Ghandi stated on science without humanity. Science deals with laws and ‘humanity’ is from the Latin word ‘humanitas’ which stands for “human nature, kindness.” Humanity includes all the humans, but it can also refer to the kind feelings humans often have for each other. Thus we would be evaluating on the need for us (as Christians) to deal with our fellow humans with humanity irrespective of what the law says or what is expected of us.

 

There would be an explanation on the various instances where the law should be compromised as a result of our compassion or love for others. Sometimes people are meant to receive a particular punishment or judgement as a result of their actions and in other cases, people should be pardoned. For example, in 1 Samuel 26, where David spared Saul even when he was supposed to kill him is a perfect example of science with humanity. David spared Saul as a result of his fear for God. He said ‘And David said to Abishai, destroy him not, for who can put his hand against Jehovah’s anointed and be guiltless’ (1Samuel 26:9).

 

Also, in Exodus 2:5-10, the daughter of King Pharaoh saved Moses when she saw him in the river. She didn’t care about the law that her father had passed. She only felt compassion for the crying baby and rescued him. She demonstrated science with humanity.

 

Thus, as Christians, the bible should guide our humanity which would deal with our daily activities involving the way we use technology. God instructs us to ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these (Mark 12:31) because ‘love covers a multitude of sins’ (1 Peter 4:8). Thus if we love our neighbours as we love ourselves, we would not think of bringing harm or discomfort to them. We would deal with them compassionately. We would work for benefit of one other instead of seeking to destroy each other. It is important that as Christians we are conscious of the fact that we are ambassadors of Christ and this consciousness should guide our daily lives and interactions with people.

 

 

• Neenma is a student of the Redeemer’s University

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Could the private sector fill Nigeria’s $31bn annual infrastructure gap?

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Nigeria’s Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola recently commissioned public roads built by a private citizen, Chief Ade-Ojo. For decades, Nigerians have looked up to the government to provide necessary infrastructures. But things seem to be changing, at least following Fashola’s call on private citizens to supplement state efforts. Nigeria has an enormous infrastructure deficit that would require annual spending of at least $31 billion and the government is already neck-deep in debt.

 

According to the World Bank, the country’s infrastructure deficit may reach a whopping $878 billion by 2040. A viable way for Nigeria to fill this gap in infrastructure in light of the rising debt, as advised by Fashola, would be through the support of individuals and corporations.

 

Should Nigerians, however, take to building public infrastructures, it would not be the first time such help is rendered by non-state bodies. Unleashing the powers of the private sector through infrastructure investment, meanwhile, is a part of development stories in the west.

 

In 1896, Nikola Tesla built a hydroelectricity power station at Niagara Falls in order to provide public electricity for New York City. Thirteen years earlier, Thomas Edison commissioned the first public electricity project in the world while inspiring the first hydropower station built by another American businessman, H.J Rogers on the Fox River in Wisconsin. Many of the railroads and steel bridges in America were built in like manner by private citizens.

 

Similarly, though, Public-Private Partnerships in the United Kingdom (UK) has led to the private sector investing £56 billion in 700 UK infrastructure projects. With the huge infrastructure deficit in Nigeria, there is a lot of room for private capital investments.

 

The importance of private participation in state-building should not be lost. But now that private university founders like Chief Ade-Ojo are venturing into building public roads, too, it is instructive to note that the oldest private university in Nigeria started in 1999.

 

Whereas, in 20 years, 79 private universities have been built in Nigeria. The private sector has built 36 more universities since 1999 than all 43 federal universities built since 1914. Clearly, there is no doubt that with the right policy environment, this feat can be replicated in building roads, seaports, railways, power supply, and other hard infrastructures.

 

As we have seen with the new private universities, financial institutions, and entertainment outlets, job creation is a dependable outcome when private corporations invest in an endeavour. Investing in hard infrastructure could provide thousands of jobs that would, in turn, help the average household income, which is currently appalling. These investments could accelerate Nigeria’s industrialization.

 

Meanwhile, Nigerians should do away with the wrong premise that the government has unlimited wealth at its disposal, hence it should assume all development responsibilities. This would only encourage indiscriminate state borrowing, which would accelerate. Not only does the borrowed funds lead the country into a huge debt burden over time, but it is also susceptible to be embezzled or diverted by officials when it is aplenty. Nigeria’s debt profile is already a staggering N25 trillion.

 

We would not want to blow that over. Private sector investments in infrastructure, nonetheless, provides a healthy alternative to borrowing.

 

With the private sector complementing the state in infrastructural developments, the government can focus more on creating an enabling environment and increasing funding for other necessities like education and health. Indeed, Nigerians need to change their view on the role of the government in development. Moving the country forward is everyone’s homework.

 

•Feyisade Charles Adeyemi is a writing fellow at African Liberty and a lecturer at Elizade University. He is on Twitter @Thisischale.

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Tightening the screws on Sex Offenders

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The recently launched National Sex Offender Register in Nigeria is a welcome development, considering the fact that ‘one in four women is sexually abused in the country and worse still, before they attain the age of 18,’ as extrapolated from UNICEF. Even at that, this statistics seems a mere tip of the iceberg, as we, as a people, have not been good at keeping accurate records of these heinous criminals who should be named and shamed. Also in operation in the United Kingdom, this Register contains the details of anyone convicted, cautioned or released from prison for sexual offences.

 

As at last year, 2018, about 60,000 sex offenders were registered. They are legally required to register with the police within three days of their conviction, or release from prison – and must continue to do so, on an annual basis. This is to guide against repeated sex offenders. Of importance, too, is the Sarah’s Law, named after eight-year-old Sarah Payne, who was abducted and then murdered by sex offenders

.

 

This law allows UK parents to find out if a child sex offender lives in their area. More so, if someone on the Register wants to start a new relationship, there are certain conditions that must be met, these conditions becoming more stringent if any of the lovebirds are coming into the relationship with children.

 

Now to Nigeria: This new measure is a step in the right direction, however, keeping an overstocked database of those convicted of sex crimes is one thing, and prosecuting these criminals, another. It has been established by the United Nations Children Agency, UNICEF, that majority of cases involving sexual abuse in the country are not prosecuted, thereby, giving the heartless perpetrators a free rein to intensify their atrocious acts. Now is the time to put our money where our mouth is.

 

We must ensure that we keep a clean slate of the past and checkmate our country’s evergrowing sex offenders anytime they violate the rights of our young girls. Where they are sent to jail to serve as a deterrent, that punishment in effect, should serve as their just deserts rather than be given a cozied, comfortable or stress-free incarceration because they are acquainted to the prosecuting judge or able to navigate the barefaced lacunae bedevilling our criminal justice system.

 

It is also high time we took sex violence serious and rewrite or abrogate certain sections of our Penal Codes which covertly encourage rape, spousal abuse and sex violence. Take, for instance, Section 282(2) of our penal code, where it is spelt out inter alia, that sexual intercourse by a man with his own wife is not rape if she has attained puberty.

 

This provision is to me, defective and in fact, ostensibly allows for the defiling of teenage girls, as the honourable drafters of the Code simply ignores the age of puberty, usually 14; and rather concentrates on the all-encompassing banner of ‘wife.’

 

Also check out the poisonous fangs of the Northern Nigeria Penal Code, Section 55(1) (d), which provides that nothing is an offence which is done by a husband for the purpose of correcting his wife…where the drafters did not specify which ‘offence’ needs correction nor did they care a hoot about what is ‘correction’ and in what manner or fashion can it be gauged.

 

They goofed and they know it. Even, the Vagrancy Law which has for close to a decade ceased from being in operation in the country is still being used by morallybankrupt and skirt-sniffing law enforcement officers to railroad innocent girls to jail for ‘wandering,’ if they fail to ‘play ball’ or surrender their bodies for rape.

 

The nitty-gritty here, is that while the newly launched Sex Offenders Register is a desideratum albeit arriving belatedly considering the excruciating pains our young girls had been subjected to over the years, there should be a rewording or even an abrogation of these Codes which, in their harshness, could drive our numerous teenage girls and baby-wives onto the streets and into the trap nets of these evil and conscienceless sex offenders. It will be preposterous and clearly beyond the realms of the ridiculous for anyone to begin to argue about the concept of Retroactive Law, in that the law had not been in operation in 2015 when these people committed the sexual offence.

 

This SHOULD NOT be the case. Finally, while I applaud the newly-introduced national Sex Offender Register, there should be no garland yet for Sadiya Farouq, Nigeria’s Minister for Humanitarian Affairs, as we have just initiated our first faltering steps; and for that very reason, not yet Uhuru.

 

 

•Martins Agbonlahor is a trained lawyer and lives in Manchester, United Kingdom.

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Where is the lion’s owner?

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Where is the lion’s owner?

 

The story of Kevin Rene Richardson, a South African, who is better known as “Lion whisperers,” has never stopped to amaze animal behaviourists and wildlife experts. I remember how I held Richardson in awe, the first time I watched him on DSTV’s Nat Geo Wild station in the midst of a Pride of Lions in a forest. He was obviously at home with the pride comprising at least five big lions who have accepted him as a member of the pride.

 

If I had seen that video as a young boy, I would have either come up with a myth to explain what Richardson does with the pride or thought the South African used “juju” to tame the lions. As I was watching the video, I also recalled the case of one cleric, who was later named as “Brother Daniel” by the students of the University of Ibadan.

 

 

The story of “Brother Daniel” happened in the ’80s and was well captured by the then “Evening Times,” an evening paper as the name suggests, a publication of Daily Times.

 

Armed with a Bible, a long rope and a bell, “Brother Daniel,” who had boasted to visitors at the UI Zoo, claimed that he had divine power to tame the lion who was sleeping at the time. To convince the onlookers that he was not a joker, he scaled the cage of the lion and even had the audacity to continuously ring the bell until the Lion woke up. I can still recall how the reporter dramatised the encounter between “Brother Daniel” and the lion using descriptive power and imaginative prowess to explain to the readers how the lion devoured the cleric.

 

I remember the reporter writing that if “Brother Daniel” had come out of the cage alive, religious bigots would have been fooled that the Biblical Daniel had reincarnated in Nigeria and the country might have experienced the influx of religion zealots from different countries. The lion was eventually killed by the zoo authorities. Most people were unhappy that the lion was killed and blamed the cleric for his foolishness.

 

But the authorities had a good explanation for its action. Ordinarily, a lion is a wild animal and once it tastes human blood, it becomes more dangerous and wilder.

 

Having tasted human blood, its taste had changed and would yearn for more human blood. It won’t be satisfied with the live goat he was being fed with. So, it would be dangerous to keep such a lion even though it was restricted to a cage. So, such lion must be cut down. This is how dangerous lions are.

 

Yet, a foreigner kept this kind of animal in a residential area in Nigeria for a while until November 19. Nigeria is a fertile land and will always attract foreigners despite our obvious downside.

 

But it is not good when we allow foreigners in connivance with our people go away with the impression that ours is a like a Banana republic where anything goes. I recall a day I was driving on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, two foreigners were being chauffeur-driven in a nice car. One of them sat behind the driver while the other one sat beside the driver in the front.

 

The one who sat beside the driver wound   down and was pouring banana peels and some dirt right on the road. I wondered what sort of human being this was.

 

I quickly increased the speed of my vehicle so I could catch up with them and yelled at the animal in human skin and asked him a rhetorical question: ‘Can you do that in your country?’ By the time I caught up with the vehicle, I guessed he had poured all the dirt on the road and wound up again. I honked the horn to attract them. But they all kept straight faces. I strongly suspected they knew I wanted to register my resentment and didn’t want to give me the opportunity.

 

As the head of Punch Metro Desk some years back, we had cause to report cases of exploitation and inhuman treatment of Nigerians who worked in factories owned by Chinese, Indians and Lebanese. Some of those who worked in some of these factories narrated to us how they were often exploited and treated like animals.

 

Some of the girls working in some of these factories were sometimes asked to report to the residents of their foreign employers to perform household chores not captured in their letters of employment. And did it at no cost except what the master gave out something extra out of his “generosity.” In some cases, some of the girls would be invited to satisfy the libido of their masters.

 

Most of such girls suffered in silence because of fear of losing their jobs. It was worse for the girls, most of who were from poor homes and had assumed the role of breadwinners in their families on account of what they earned as salaries. I recall the case of a guy who suffered a permanent dis ability while working in one of these slave camps called factories.

 

 

His employers abandoned him and he approached me to help publicise his plight. In line with the principle of fair hearing and balancing, I asked the reporter assigned to cover the story to get response from the company concerning the allegations brought by an employee. But to my chagrin, the company was more interested in “killing” the story than seeing to the welfare of the injured worker.

 

Subsequently dealings with some of these factories indicated that perhaps as a deliberate policy, their human resources departments were usually headed by Nigerians, who were often used as chief tormentors of fellow Nigerians.

 

 

No matter how bad Nigerians were treated, fellow Nigerians would swear to high heavens to defend these foreign owners of these sinister factories.

 

Back to the issue of the lion allegedly owned by an Indian and kept at 229, Muri Okunola Street, Victoria Island, Lagos, a residential building. It was the grace of God that the lion didn’t get out of its cage before it was tranquilised, evacuated and taken to a zoo by officials of the Lagos State government.

 

Imagine the damage the lion would have caused if it had escaped from its cage. Since the issue became public knowledge, the whereabouts of the owner remain unknown. The fact remains that the lion did not stray from a zoo to the residence. It has been established that someone actually brought it to the residence. Perhaps, the owner might have fled Nigeria.

 

If that is the case, how did it happen? Between November 19 and December 7 is long enough to know how the man developed wings and flew out of the country or at least tell us his name and a few things about him.

 

After all, the apartment he rented, paid for and kept the lion was not paid for by a ghost. I learnt some of those working for the man were arrested. Are we going to use them as scapegoats and allow the main culprit to go with the intention that anything goes here?

 

It’s high time we named and shamed the man who put the lives of hundreds of his neighbours at risk for at least two years by keeping a lion as a pet. Another person may try a similar thing and we may not be this lucky. This is the danger of bad precedence.

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World Bank warning: Will anything change?

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World Bank warning: Will anything change?

 

 

O

n Monday, global financial institution – the World Bank, released a very damning report, warning that as Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) declines, poverty will be on the increase.

 

According to the international financial institution, headquartered in Washington DC, United States, and which provides loans and grants to the governments of poorer countries for the purpose of pursuing capital projects, the main problem the world’s most populous black nation is facing, is that uncontrolled population growth is outpacing economic growth.

 

In its Nigeria Economic Update (NEU) report released by the global financial institution in Abuja on Monday, the World Bank said: “With economic growth expected to remain below the estimated population growth of 2.6 per cent through 2021, per capita real GDP will decline from $2,485 in 2018 to $2,460 by 2021, pushing more Nigerians into poverty.”

 

“Population growth is expected to continue exceeding economic growth, undermining Nigeria’s prospects for poverty reduction.”

 

Incidentally, in the late 80s former military President Ibrahim Babangida was aware of this problem for the nation and consequently came up with a simple solution – encouraging families to limiting them to just four children!

 

Unfortunately, a serious backlash from conservatries both religious and traditionalists meant that the suggestion never really gained traction.

 

Our failure to take action then has led to the situation we have found ourselves in now, which has further been highlighted by the World Bank.

 

The situation has become so dire that in June Nigeria was officially dubbed “the poverty capital of the world” by ‘The World Poverty Clock’, which said we have overtaken India in that dubious regard.

 

The report said then: “The struggle to lift more citizens out of extreme poverty is an indictment on successive Nigerian governments which have mismanaged the country’s vast oil riches through incompetence and corruption”.

 

Since then, nothing concrete has been done by those at the helm at affairs to stem the slide or even show that The World Poverty Clock writers that they would put them to shame.

 

 

Instead, it has been business as usual with government officials not seemingly bothered by the tag.

 

In fact, Monday’s World Bank report further showed the kind of people we are when it said that money in the Excess Crude Account (ECA) had almost “been exhausted, rendering Nigeria more vulnerable to shocks.”

 

The NEU report stated that “the account balance on June 30 was $0.1 billion, down from $0.6 billion at the end of 2018 and $2.5 billion at the end of 2017.”

 

The World Bank lamented that the “ECA has rarely operated as envisaged; when it was established in 2004.” It explained that that the account “was to be drawn on only when the actual crude oil price falls below the budget benchmark price for three consecutive months.”

 

Ironically, state governments had kicked against the creation of ECA on the grounds that the Federal Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) of 2007 was not binding on them and local governments.

 

In 2011, the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) Act came into being, thus, establishing the Nigeria Sovereign Wealth Fund (NSWF) as the oil savings fund for the country. It has three ring-fenced funds (future generations, infrastructure, and stabilisation), jointly owned by the three tiers of government.

 

The stabilisation fund, like the ECA, is to support federation revenue in times of economic stress. It was envisaged that the balance in the ECA in 2011 would be transferred to the fund. Instead, in 2012, seed capital of only $1.5 billion was transferred. In addition, another $0.5 billion in 2017 and another $250 million recently.

 

But like most things in this country it has been repeatedly abused as noted by the World Bank, which said savings had drastically dwindled.

 

Incidentally, Norway, which is also a major oil producing nation, and with a much smaller population than Nigeria’s, 5.2 million compared to the West African nation’s 200 million, started her own fund in 1990 to invest the surplus revenues of the Norwegian petroleum sector.

 

It now has over $1 trillion in assets, including 1.4% of global stocks and shares, making it the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund.

 

This means that in the event that their main natural resource eventually runs dry they (Norway) have more than enough funds to continue to enjoy the way of life they have become used to.

 

Sadly, if our previous records are anything to go by, nothing is expected to change here because ironically some of the most vociferous opponents of the Sovereign Trust Fund and who often pressurised the central government hand over money to them when they were governors are now the ones formulating policies in government.

 

And with such mind-set will certainly not have suddenly become proponents of financial discipline.

 

Desolately, had the monies they armed twisted the federal government in releasing to them from the (SWTF) had been put to good use, the people would have been the major beneficiaries of better hospitals, roads and other social and infrastructural amenities.

 

Instead, we have been treated to continued reports of the massive sleaze that many governors, past and present, have been accused of carrying out.

 

The same government that has been touting its successes in the agric sector, especially with the direct intervention of the Central Bank, have also been called into question by the World Bank report.

 

“CBN financing schemes for the agriculture sector and forex restrictions designed to reduce imports of staple foods will continue to support the sector, but will affect the quality and increase the price of agricultural produce,” it said.

 

The report warned that “with little growth in agriculture and few opportunities elsewhere, agricultural labour productivity is expected to stagnate, failing to improve the living standards of the 40 million Nigerians it employs.”

 

Government and politicians have refused to show that they are not only worried by the reports but are ready to tackle the issue head on by setting examples by cutting down on wastages and their humongous salaries and allowances.

 

The present government has said that it is committed to lifting more than 100 million Nigerians out of poverty without explaining in concrete terms, how they intend to make this happen.

 

On Wednesday, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, once again insisted that poverty eradication as key to attaining sustainable development, saying that it is an issue the Federal Government will remain committed to.

 

Mohammed, who made this known in Abuja at the Quarterly Public Lecture of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), said: attaining sustainable development is in line with fulfilling Buhari’s promise to lift “100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next ten years”.

 

Since 1999 every successive civilian government has been promising the people El Dorado and yet leave them worse off than how they met them.

 

As things stand, it is clear that unless a miracle happens, or the people finally decide that they have had enough and will ensure that their votes do ultimately count, things will not change any time soon.

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