Truly Niger 2017 Summit: “Impact Investing For Advancing Agricultural Economy And Innovation”

By Fodio Ahmed

The coming of Governor Abubakar Sani Bello has paved way for Niger State to experience high and continuous economic growth and development. The Niger State 2017 summit is an important modulation point for Niger State, where it can ensure that, the economic growth is more broad-based.

The Summit, it was gathered that, will highlight the most proactive and promising approaches to responsible investment and show examples of investments that have been made to generate a measurable social and environmental impact alongside financial returns. Key components of the summit discussions will include :

• The identification of viable investments that meet both Financial and Social/Environmental Impacts

• Finding Innovative Funds and Deal Structures

• Understanding what criteria makes an enterprise “Social”

• Strengthening the linkages Between Social Enterprises, Entrepreneurs, Investors and Innovation Networks

• Creating a clear regulatory framework

The summit will firther showcase the state’s adoption of the new way of doing business, with a team that will harness the power of the capital market, it is expected that their entry will deliver social and environmental change before the end of the administration.

The Purpose and Objectives of the #TrulyNiger Summit 2017 include but not limited to ; to showcase the state’s most promising companies with the ability to create social and environmental impact in the state.

Furthermore, the event aims to strengthen Niger’s position as the “go to” location for impact investing, in particular, the summit has the following objectives :

• Providing a platform where the impact investment community can share ideas, connect and network.

• Showcasing case studies, guides, information and all tools required for successful impact investing.

• Becoming the lead “go to” location in developing an Impact Investing market in Nigeria.

• Creating new opportunities for developing the market and creating new opportunities for impact investing.

Expected personalities for the summit are ; Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, His Excellency, Professor Yemi Osinbajo , GCON, Ag. President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Hajiya Rahmatu Mohammed Yaradua, Rt. Hon. Ahmed Marafa Guni, Speaker of the Niger State 8th House of Assembly and Chairman Northern Speakers Forum,

Others are General Olusegun Obasanjo (rtd) GCFR, Former President, Federal Republic of Nigeria, HRH, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji (Dr) Sa’ad Muhammadu Abubakar III, Alh. (Dr) Yahaya Abubakar CFR, the Estu Nupe, Chairman, Niger State Council of Traditional Rulers, Alh. Aliko Dangote, President/CEO Dangote Group, Mr. Segun Oloketuyi, Managing Director, WEMA Bank Plc,
Also expected at tge summit include Mr. Tony Elumelu, United Bank for Africa, Alhaji Ibrahim Aliyu – Chairman, North South Power Company Limited, Col. Sani Bello, Chairman, Mainstream Energy Limited, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), former President, Federal Republic of Nigeria.
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Monisola Bakre: Is The UK Government Forcefully ‘Adopting’ A Nigerian Child

A Nigerian man, Ayo Bakre has raised an alarm over the curious illegal detention and absurd adoption of his young son in the United Kingdom.

According to Bakre, the issue started in 2012 when his wife, Shade travelled to London with their son Monisola, who was less than one year old then. Since their departure five years ago, the story has taken bizarre turns in what ended in an unjust, if illegal  ‘adoption by the UK government’ under the pretext that the mother could not take care of the child. Now the UK government is about to deport the mother to Nigeria but without her child.

Ayo Bakre who has two other children with Shade (Moyosore and Morolayo), told Osun Defender that  “Sade had travelled to London on holiday in 2012 with Monisola who was less than 12 months then. While in London, Monisola got injured and was taken to an hospital for treatment but the social workers claimed the degree of the injury is non-accidental. Because of this, the mother was charged to court for attempted murder, child trafficking, etc. but she was subsequently cleared of this by the court in Bromley. 

“However, the judge says she cannot release the boy to her on the ground that in the opinion of the court, she cannot take care of the boy. After a long legal battle, our son was adopted by a court decision.  

“As a father, this does not go down well with me and I have told the mother not to make any attempt to return to Nigeria without bringing my child. I don’t understand this decision in anyway. We have never declared to court in any manner that we cannot take care of our son. I am saying it loud and clear regardless of the consequences that my son Monisola must be brought back home. The mother dares not come back home without bringing Monisola. 

” I have appealed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a letter dated 17th of August, 2015 to help me in this unfortunate situation I found myself but I am yet to get any response. His siblings at home keep disturbing me almost on a daily basis that they want to see their brother but each time they say they want to talk to their brother, confusion always sets in.”

The case leaves many questions unanswered as Shade’s family has threatened to report Ade to the police for insisting that the mother must return only with Monisola, his son. This has raised  the question of whether the boy was actually adopted or if any shady dealings are playing out

“I don’t care if my wife’s family reports to police because they threatened to do so when I told them their daughter dares not return home, if my son is not released. I am not about the story in UK; all I want is Monisola must be brought back or else the consequence for Shade might be too severe”, Bakre said.

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Blogging Is More Lucrative Than Banking, Says Laila Ijeoma, CEO, Lailasblog

In the Nigerian blogosphere, Laila Ijeoma commands a lot of respect, not just because she owns  www.LailasBlog.com; an entertainment website that reports trending Nigerian news read by millions monthly. 

On June 30, 2016, Laila took a bold step of abandoning her over N5million per annum bank job to become a full time entertainment blogger; risking everything to take a gamble on her passion.

She traded her lucrative job to pursue what was still at that time, just a hobby she was passionate about, but today, the decision has become one of her best turning points. 

In a chat with Vanguard Saturday Woman, she says she has no regrets a year after taking this huge leap of faith as she now has all the time to focus on her family and continue to grow her blog even bigger.

Why did you dump your bank job for fulltime blogging? 

I started blogging as a joke in 2012; I wasn’t looking for money because I was already gainfully employed at that time. All I wanted was an outlet to share my life with Nigerians, inspire them with my stories. So I started a Facebook group called, ‘True love for my man’- that should be around 2010. That was the first social media account I used to gather people together and we chatted about love and heartbreak. My big dream had always been to have a top Nigerian talk show, so I later started a show on radio. I eventually had to put it on hold because it was so demanding. 

Being married, a mum to 3 boys, working at the bank, there was a lot to do in just 24 hours every day and the whole schedule nearly ‘killed’ me, so I had to drop the radio show. Along the line, I discovered blogging through a colleague at the bank where I worked; he owned a blog, after he introduced me to it that fateful day, I got hooked. I realized I could reach out to people through it with much less stress compared to a radio show. I told him I would love to have mine and he helped me set it up.

I didn’t even take it serious then. But as I kept on sharing stories, and I read comments from my audience, I knew this was what I was born to do. I have always been a science student in school, I knew nothing about blogging, and I had zero celebrity friends, zero celebrity sources for my stories but I didn’t let that stop me.

How difficult was it juggling being a banker, blogger, wife and mother of three boys? 

It was a crazy, hectic schedule! On a daily basis, I woke up 4am; go to bed sometimes 12 midnight. And the next day, I still have to go to work. No excuses. I was able to run my life like that for four years because I was purely fuelled by passion. I just love blogging, there’s this irreplaceable, beautiful joy it brings me.

As with every new venture, the beginning is usually slow.

How long did it take for your traffic to skyrocket?

It took about 6 months after I made the first post on my blog for my traffic to start skyrocketing.

Did the traffic immediately translate to money for you? 

No it didn’t. My traffic didn’t translate to so much money till 2014. That was the year this particular company contacted me and ran an advert with me that lasted for a full year and changed my life.

Would you say blogging is lucrative in Nigeria? 

As long as you are a passionate blogger, as long as you are in blogging because you enjoy what you are doing, as long as your blog, its concept, its contents are original, not a rip off of another blogger’s website; blogging is the best thing that can ever happen to you.

The rewards will blow your mind! It’s already an open secret that blogging can make you a billionaire. You get lots of free stuff from brands too. People just call you up. They want to advertise on your website and they are handing out their products and services to you for free so you can review them and share with your readers.

Then you have the best reward; you are recognised as a voice that can start a change. You are respected. People want to read what you have to say about a situation. Readers are so addicted to your blog that they wake up in the morning and can’t wait to read what is on Laila’s Blog today. As a blogger, you can comfortably work from home in your pyjamas.

So you prefer blogging to banking?

I did banking for 10 years in one of the best banks in Nigeria and I enjoyed it. But I wasn’t self-fulfilled, I wanted more. Again, I was already blogging for over 3 years alongside my day job.

Truth is as time went on, it became harder running my blog, bank job, family and taking care of myself efficiently. I wanted to wake up in the morning to the joy of knowing that all I had to do for that day was write about the trending stories in Nigeria and not miss any story just because it happened while I was offline.

I also wanted to spend more time with my very supportive husband and children every day.

How would you compare your income now to when you were a banker? 

It has been tremendously rewarding, spiritually, family-wise, and financially. You know with a steady day job, you don’t have to worry about getting your paycheck at the end of the month. There are days I worry- what if I don’t make money this month?

That was why before I quit my bank job, I made sure I saved up my salary and had at least 6 months’ salary set aside. I actually had a full year salary saved up before I made the leap and resigned.

If you don’t plan properly, things can actually go wrong and your dreams won’t come out the way you planned them; you will fail and life will become miserable. I’m so glad I conquered my fears of what if something goes wrong and took the leap.

My friends, family, parents thought I was crazy when I first mentioned it. But after they saw I wasn’t going to quit blogging and that I had prepared for the worst; they rallied round and supported my decision to leave banking. Having them behind me made me stronger and I left.

Any regrets so far? 

None whatsoever; my income tripled. My kids wake up in the morning they see mummy. Mummy takes them to school, mum brings them back, mum tucks them into bed every night, mummy helps them with their school assignments, things I couldn’t do before.

I love what I do now and it gives me so much joy. I just miss my former colleagues once in a while.

What are the challenges you face as a blogger, especially those peculiar to the Nigerian blogosphere? 

My biggest challenge is internet network; there are times I wake up to blog and I discover my internet isn’t as fast as I need it to be. Sometimes, it’s entirely down so I can’t even blog.

Second challenge is power; a laptop is to a blogger what the Bible is to a Pastor. Laptops can only work if they are charged. Because I am online at least 18 hours daily, I spend a lot on fuel for generators.

What stands you out from other bloggers? 

You can be very sure that out of the over 50 stories you read on Laila’s blog in a day, at least 50% are our original stories. Again, we deliver stories as they are happening. You will read breaking news, trending stories first on Laila’s blog before they appear on other websites.

In your estimation, what’s the future of blogging in Nigeria in the next five years? 

With a computer today, anybody can build a global business from his/her bedroom, with a bit of creativity and sheer determination. Every day, we have over a hundred new bloggers coming online. Vlogging is now a huge thing!

Five years from now, I see more younger people doing big things, conquering boundaries, becoming millionaires through blogging in Nigeria.

I also see blogging in Nigeria becoming more professional. I am a registered member of this CAC registered bloggers’ association called The Guild of Professional Bloggers of Nigeria.

Aside blogging, any future plans? 

I have this huge passion for taking care of orphans and vulnerable children, kids under the age of 18 years who are at high risk of lacking adequate care and protection. Right now I have 10 under my care, children my husband and I take care of. We have plans of taking that number up a notch.

Any tips for upcoming bloggers who look up to you? 

One Mr. Mohammed Mustafa Ahmedzai once said ‘The easiest job on earth is starting a blog but the toughest job is maintaining it.” And this is simply because patience matters in blogging, and most upcoming bloggers don’t have that!

Experienced bloggers will tell you that you should only start to think about making money from your blog at least after 6 months of blogging. But every day, I get emails from new bloggers with 1-2 month old blogs asking you how to apply for Adsense.

These new bloggers apply for AdSense and most times, they are rejected and you see them quit blogging.

From the day anybody starts blogging till the day he/she ends her blogging career, there are lots of problems you’ll face. Solving these problems and moving ahead is not easy as it sounds! And that’s another reason upcoming bloggers quit blogging easily.

So my first tip for them will be to have patience. Without it, their eyes shall not see the billions blogging can drop in their bank accounts. If your main reason for blogging is money and you have no patience for earning it, then you’re not going to earn from blogging at all!

What’s your biggest wish in life?

I wish to make the world a better place by saving abused and vulnerable children and making sure their oppressors get severely punished for their wickedness. 

Today, August 12 is also Laila’s birthday.

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How Much Do Presidents And Candidates Need To Tell The Public About Their Health? – LA Times

Hillary Clinton, 68, was recently diagnosed with pneumonia, and the public didn’t know about it until two days later, when she abruptly left a Sept. 11 memorial ceremony feeling unwell and needing to be helped into a vehicle.

If Donald Trump, 70, were elected, he would be older than any previous president at the start of his first term — and, like Clinton, he hasn’t released detailed records about his healthbeyond a doctor’s letter. Both candidates promised Monday to release more detailed medical records soon.

But the idea of presidential candidates, or sitting presidents, disclosing their health history is relatively new. And though recent presidents have released detailed updates about their health, there is no law mandating disclosure.

America has a rich history of presidents and presidential candidates hiding their healthproblems from the public, sometimes successfully and sometimes with serious consequences.

What have recent presidential health disclosures looked like?

The report for President Obama’s most recent physical examination, in February, by White House physician Ronny L. Jackson is two pages long.

It lists basic vital information such as his height, weight, body mass, resting heart rate and blood pressure, as well as numbers from laboratory tests for his cholesterol, glucose and vitamin D levels, among other information.

The report also lists the results of tests for Obama’s physical and neural health, lists the medication he is taking (which includes the occasional use of nicotine gum) and says he drinks alcohol only occasionally.

“All clinical data indicates that the president is currently very healthy and that he will remain so for the duration of his presidency,” the report concludes.

A similar report for George W. Bush in 2006 was four pages long and included a lengthy medical history.

What have Trump and Clinton’s doctors’ letters looked like?

In 2015, Clinton released a two-page letter from her doctor that discussed Clinton’s medical history, including her hypothyroidism — a type of hormone deficiency — and the concussion she suffered in 2012 after she was weakened by a stomach virus and dehydration.

The letter also disclosed her blood pressure, respiratory rate, cholesterol levels, as well as her exercise habits, which include yoga, swimming and weight training.

“She is in excellent physical condition and fit to serve as president of the United States,” wrote Dr. Lisa Bardack, chairwoman of internal medicine at CareMount Medical in Mount Kisco, N.Y., who has been Clinton’s physician since 2001.

The letter released by Trump’s doctor in December is four paragraphs long, and said Trump had had no significant health problems over the last 39 years.

The letter gives figures for Trump’s blood pressure and his prostate blood test, says he takes 81 milligrams of aspirin and a “low dose” of cholesterol-lowering statin daily, and variously describes Trump’s health as “astonishingly excellent,” “extraordinary” and “excellent.”

“If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency,” said Harold N. Bornstein, a gastroenterologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York who has been Trump’s physician since 1980.

Why does it matter?

Nearly half the presidents in the nation’s history have had significant illnesses or injuries while in office, including most of the presidents since the start of the 20th century, according toacademic research on presidential health. Many of those presidents hid their health problems from the public.

Grover Cleveland had a secret surgery for oral cancer during his second term in 1893, survived and served until 1897, and his surgery was not revealed to the public until 1917, nine years after his death.

Woodrow Wilson had a serious stroke in 1919 that in effect ended his ability to run the country, yet his condition was kept secret. His wife, Edith, quietly took over his work until his term ended in 1921.

Wilson’s successor, Warren Harding, didn’t have much better luck: In poor health for years, he died in office in 1923 while traveling in San Francisco. His wife declined to have an autopsy done.

Paralysis caused by polio did not prevent Franklin Roosevelt from taking office and serving with distinction starting in 1933. But by Roosevelt’s fourth campaign in 1944, his health was failing. He won and then died of a cerebral hemorrhage in April 1945, leaving Vice PresidentHarry Truman to finish World War II.

Dwight Eisenhower had a well-publicized heart attack during his first term in 1955. Doctors weren’t sure whether he would survive a second term, but he ran for reelection the next year, won and lived until 1969.

Among other health problems, his successor, John F. Kennedy, had Addison’s disease, an adrenaline deficiency, which his team denied during his 1960 campaign — a lie that may have helped Kennedy win the razor-thin election against Richard Nixon. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.

Lyndon Johnson, Kennedy’s successor, flouted that type of discretion. After Johnson had gall bladder surgery in 1965, he lifted up his shirt to show reporters his scar.

How much should candidates disclose?

Since vice presidential candidate Thomas Eagleton dropped out of the 1972 presidentialrace after the disclosure that he had been hospitalized for depression, “the health status of presidential candidates has been seen as fair game by the press,” George J. Annas wrote in a 1995 article for the New England Journal of Medicine.

Health disclosures by modern presidential candidates, although generally standard since then, are still sometimes an uneven affair. Democratic hopeful Eugene McCarthy refused to release his medical records in 1976, calling them private.

Bill Clinton resisted releasing his health records during his first run in 1992, leading the New York Times’ doctor-reporter Lawrence K. Altman to declare that the Democrat had been “less forthcoming about his health than any presidential nominee in the last 20 years.”

Clinton continued to resist releasing his full records during his reelection in 1996, which led Republicans to repeatedly raise questions about whether he was hiding a secret health issue. His opponent, Bob Dole, issued detailed medical results and made his doctor available for an interview.

Obama initially released a one-page letter from his doctor in 2008 with no supporting documents, then later released lab tests and echocardiograms. His opponent, John McCain, gave reporters several hours to review 1,200 pages of health records.

The release of health records has not been standardized practice compared with the release of tax records, which is common for candidates (with the notable exception of Trump, who has declined to release his).

Although 96% of respondents in a 2004 Gallup poll said the president’s health was “important,” 61% of respondents said presidents should have a right to choose to keep their health records private like everyone else.

Without a legal mechanism to force disclosure for such records, “you really need the public to hold them accountable,” said Robert Streiffer, associate professor of bioethics and medical history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

But the bar for disclosure should be high, Streiffer said. He defined the threshold as “a condition that has a significant chance of seriously undermining the person’s ability to perform the core competencies of the presidency if they are elected.”

Former White House physician Lawrence C. Mohr said that althought “the American people are entitled to know the health status of their president and presidential candidates … the release of any medical information has to be the decision of the candidate and not the doctor.”

If disclosure happens, Mohr said, “the information should be accurate, it should be complete, it should be timely, and it should include whatever medicine is being prescribed, and the physician should offer some prognosis about how long it will take to get well.”

Mohr, who was a White House physician during the Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations, said public understanding was also an important part of disclosure.

“Just because a president has an illness doesn’t mean that’s a disqualifying factor if that illness can be effectively treated,” Mohr said, pointing to Roosevelt’s long years in office.

The things that are really important, Mohr said, are not the name of the illness or the specific diagnosis, but whether the president can think clearly, act appropriately and communicate effectively.

Editor: This article was first published on LA Times on September 13, 2016. To read the story on LA Tines, CLICK HERE

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Youth And Women Inclusion: Complementing Efforts By Speaker Dogara And The House Of Representatives

“This Bill is in the interest of the youth whom we must empower, because if we empower them, we are empowering the future generation” – Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, on the Not Too Young To Run bill.

“Not too young to run!”

“Not too young to run!”

Chants rent the air in the House of Representatives as Members waved fliers. Any onlooker, oblivious to what was going on, would think that young people in their dozens had somehow managed to infiltrate the chamber and take over proceedings. The date was Thursday, 27th July and the Green Chamber was packed full. It was a special occasion. The highlight of legislative work; for what could be more important than the process of amending the nation’s guiding document, Nigeria’s operating manual, the Constitution?

With bated breath, youth advocates waited. There had been rumours earlier that day that the House was planning to kill the bill which had the potential to finally secure political representation for Nigeria’s teeming youth population. The Senate had already voted in favour of the Bill, and so tensions were high. Were young people’s hopes about to be dashed? Was the political class about to prove notions about deliberately suppressing young people right? Would Speaker Dogara go back on his promise? Was the House going to let us down?

For months, youth and women advocates and Civil Society Organisations lobbied; they paid courtesy visits to principal officers of both chambers of the National Assembly, attended public hearings, approached legislators personally, and executed media campaigns with the aim of gaining public support and building momentum. Although the demographies differed, their mission was the same. All they wanted was to secure political representation for women and young people who, incidentally, make up the bulk of the Nigerian population but are grossly underrepresented in governance. They play active roles at grassroot level during campaigns, yet, are barely able to successfully aspire to political office and appointive positions for a myriad of reasons.

For young people, the Constitution currently places the minimum age for standing for elective office at 30. The exclusion is, therefore, not only due to societal norms which may be combatted via reorientation, but also actively enabled by legal constraints. Many opine that this provision is inherently discriminatory, and anyone with a sense of justice would agree.

For women, the challenges are many. There are cultural and quasi-religious norms which restrict women’s aspirations. These are in addition to systemic inequalities so deeply entrenched that it requires very strong will, an extensive network and enormous resources to break the glass ceiling. Most Nigerian women simply do not have these resources and are therefore relegated to wearing aso-ebi, clapping, singing and dancing at campaign grounds in support of the candidacy of their male counterparts who do not have such restrictions to do battle with. Young women face a particularly dire predicament, as they are further restricted by law.

The Legislature is the arm of government where every Nigerian can lay claim to direct representation. Representatives are elected to both chambers in terms of population and equity, and this is why the House of Representatives is often referred to as “the House of the People”. “The People” include youths and women and in recognition of this, Speaker Yakubu Dogara threw his weight not only behind Nigerian youth’s quest for representation, but also Nigerian women’s demands for equity.

Before the lobbying for inclusion even began, Speaker Dogara had, during a meeting with student leaders from higher institutions across the country, declared his unwavering support for youth inclusion in governance. It therefore came as no surprise that the Not Too Young To Run Bill was granted expeditious consideration by the House when it was eventually presented by Hon. Tony Nwulu.

From meeting with women members of State Assemblies to the courtesy visit by the Not Too Young To Run team, Speaker Dogara demonstrated a deep sense of compassion and justice, listening keenly to everything advocates had to say.

The demands were as follows: young people asked for a reduction in the age of eligibility for elective offices and the introduction of independent candidacy into the nation’s electoral process, in the hope that this will go a long way in circumventing the often torturous political party process. A process which many have decried as being needlessly expensive and, ironically, undemocratic. Women asked for affirmative action: a set percentage of ministerial appointments (at federal level) and of commissioners (at state level).

The importance with which the Speaker and the House as a whole considers youth issues was also demonstrated with the speedy response to public outcry following reports that the Not Too Young to Run Bill had been excluded from the report of the Committee on Constitution Review. Speaker Dogara assured Nigerian youths that he had made a promise and that promise would be kept.

Yet, many were doubtful.

This doubt did not last for long as the House voted overwhelmingly in support of independent candidacy, reducing the age of eligibility, and affirmative action for women at both federal and state levels.

The only clause pertaining to political representation which failed to scale through at the House was the one which would confer indigeneship on women, thereby enabling them contest for office where they are married. Although this failed to garner the required number of votes, the Speaker called for a second round of voting, in hopes that more numbers would be gotten and the clause would eventually scale through. Alas! This was not meant to be.

The special consideration given by Speaker Dogara has been commended by many gender advocates, who believe granting a second vote provided further proof of his support for the gender equity campaign, especially as this courtesy was not extended to any other clause.

It is imperative that these efforts be sustained as the fight for inclusion now proceeds to state level. Having won the first round at the National Assembly, youth and women advocates must organise and engage at state level with as much vigour, if not more.

The advocacy must now go to state assemblies and a media strategy which entails crafting messages in support of the aims and objectives should be implemented. Local languages should be used in driving the points home, and public debates need to be held across states in order to generate discussions on youth and women inclusion in governance.

The Dogara-led House of Representatives has fulfilled its promise and now is the time for us all to ensure that these efforts are complemented, so that the Nigerian political space may be truly representative.

[Writer’s note: As an advocate for gender equity and youth representation in politics, and one who fits into both the youth and women demography, it has been an honour to watch my principal make good on his promises and fully support the campaign for youth inclusion and gender equity.]

 

Rinsola Abiola is SA (New Media) to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, founding PRO of the All Progressives Youth Forum, Ag. President of the APC Young Women Forum, and a Youth Representative on the APC’s Board of Trustees. She writes from Abuja.

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9 Benefits Of The Implementation Of The TSA, By Kunle Somoye @MrSomoye

1. TSA implementation has been saving Nigeria 4 billion naira from bank charges every month.

2.      FG now has Full control of its funds 24/7 – Transactions can be done online and payments can be made without delay.

3.      MDAs no longer write cheques, with TSA it is 100% online real-time banking for MDAs and transactions are traceable.

4.      Government will no longer borrow its own money from banks anymore –Banks made as high as 20% loaning government money to needy MDAs.

5.     Unrestricted Payment Gateway: Payers of government are not restrained with payment channels and modes. With TSA, making payments to the federal government is at its easiest. Government can receive payments via numerous channels now: POS terminals, debit/credit cards, online banking apps/sites, digital wallets, transfers from commercial and microfinance banks.

6.      TSA allows centralized accounting and auditing of all government transactions.

7.      With TSA, Nigeria joins the progressive nations of the world that have embraced electronic payments and financial inclusion.

8.      Anti-Corruption: TSA has helped  the Buhari administration in its anti-corruption fight; through it the FG discovered about 17,000 accounts previously operated on behalf of government that were fictitious.

9.   With TSA, all government funds is secured because it is domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria, in the past the Nigerian Government could lose a lot of money if a commercial bank operating its account goes bankrupt.

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Rebuilding The Berlin Wall: How Europe’s Anti-migration Agenda Threatens Stability In Africa

By Mercy Abang

On August 13, 1961, the Communist government of the German Democratic Republic built a wall between East and West Berlin. The intention of that action to build a wall was to keep “fascists” from entering East Germany but importantly, it stemmed mass defections from East to West Germany. 

In 1885, the Berlin Conference resolved to divide the geographical expression known as Africa into more governable parts. My country Nigeria was assigned to Britain as its colony – and by 1914, the conference participants had fully allocated the fragmented region of Africa among themselves.

A prevailing popular notion remains that Europe underdeveloped Africa. Our continent is in a critical situation with sub par development indicators, in stark contrast with most of Europe and Germany, one of the European Union (EU) countries that has become a favorite destination for determined immigrants escaping the stark reality of poverty in their countries with the hope of a more assured future. The EU is concerned about its creation.

Estimates available from the EU Parliament Chief in March 2017, projects that protracted violence, civil wars and poverty may force up to 30 million Africans to migrate to Europe within the next 10 years. This  poses new security challenges to the European continent – and this is a cause of grave concern to Brussels.

Margaret Louis, a researcher of African history based in Lyon, France tells me “the African leaders [need to] act fast to alter the  Marshal plans”.

Angela Merkel’s Policy for Africa

Forced by the projections and growing pressure from anti-immigration opposition in her country, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been forced to roll out new policy initiatives through the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development such as ProAfrica!the African Marshal plan, and the Compact with Africa – implemented by the treasury. The plans were unveiled on the 18th of January 2017, and there is no evidence there was any input by Africa in its development. The plans would according to the Ministry, mobilise more aid and private investment on the continent.  

Merkel’s agenda is anchored on the following pillars: Economic Growth, Jobs and Trade; Peace, Security, and Stability; and Democracy, Rule of Law and Human Rights. Many believe the policies were not well thought out.

“Reading between the agenda closely is an underlying policy that will hurt the continent much more,” said Ms Louis, a French Researcher who will be called by her first name to protect her identity for the purpose of this report.

 One, the internal EU paper understates the issue of repatriation of billions of dollars of looted funds by African politicians stashed in the continent and used to ‘develop’ it.

Nigeria was the first country to sign a migration and mobility treaty with the EU, which would allow for the mass deportation of its migrant citizens. This is far from the issue.

A study by Taz, German-based watchdog revealed that the EU is possibly fencing off the African continent. “In order to make the road to Europe more difficult, many African borders are being equipped with high-tech infrastructure and fence systems – winners of migration control are Europe’s leading arms companies”.

“We of the left party are convinced that this is a very dangerous strategy, it does not tackle many problems of African states like lack of jobs, poverty and inequality” – Niema Movassat, Chairman of the Left Party in the committee on Economic Cooperation and Development tells me in Bundestag in Berlin. “The plans will rise the debt profile of the African states and thereby could lead to a new debt crises”.

ECOWAS Protocol on Free Movement Stalled

The [German/EU] policy would stifle free movement within African states. So far, this migration treaty has been established in countries like Egypt, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Ethiopia – most of the member nations that constitute the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

ECOWAS maintains a protocol of reintegration and that permits migrants from any of its member countries to reside any where in the sub-region for up to 90 days. The “Protocol on Free Movement of People, Residence and Establishment“ was ratified in 1979.

The EU policies backed with “financial rewards” poses a great threat to African integration as many of the countries are either too poor or dependent on some form of aid to balance their budgets.

For instance, the European Development Fund would provide an assistance of 596 million euros to the Republic of Niger between 2014 and 2020. In the works are plans to further provide EUR 30 million for agricultural projects in Tahoua and Agadez through the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa.

Samir ABI, a civil society member with West African Observatory on Migration says, “the free movement of persons in Niger (an ECOWAS member state) is now stopped – after accepting funds from Angela Merkel. 

“The Nigerien President is implementing the orders of Merkel against the protocol of his sub-regional body that allows for free movement of persons and goods”, fiery Abi alleged.

Abi argues that the actions of the European Union does not only violate human rights but also makes authoritarian regimes stronger in Africa as well as hinders economic integration within the continent

“You stop Africans from Migrating within Africa and at the same time ask Africans not to migrate to Europe.” He maintains that the ECOWAS sub-region is now the worst hit as a result of Merkel’s policies.

The majority of migrants, who arrive in Niger and Nigeria for instance, migrate from neighboring West African countries of ECOWAS and most of the times do so for trade and economic activities. 

European Union Pays Countries Willing to HALT free movement

Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou during German chancellor Angela Merkel’s state visit to Niamey in October 2016 solicited a US$1 billion package to create jobs, prevent conflict, and reduce migration. Issoufou, according to experts on the subject, habitually demands for EU funds with the promise to stop free movement within his borders.

According to the Taz study, the EU has selected “priority countries” with which it negotiates concerning migration over billion-euro aid packages. These countries are believed to be facilitation zones and working with them could effectively curb migration.

Larger sums of money have already been invested for migration control

“This strategy includes regionally important countries such as Nigeria, Ethiopia and Mali. Many rejected asylum seekers are to be deported into these countries of origin – corresponding institutions are already present in these countries, migration control can be implemented quickly.”

Germany has invested in training and equipping security forces and border patrols of many African states – a project which the EU has established a special fund to finance.

Dimitris Avramopoulos, the European Commissioner for Migration and Home Affairs, during an informal dinner in Brussels, reportedly threatened that funds should be cut to African countries who do not collaborate enough in preventing the free movement of Africans within their shores and borders.

This position seems to be reechoed in official EU position. A paper released by the commission in November 2015, clearly states, “the EU is mobilising all relevant policies including foreign policy, development assistance and trade to incentivize our partners to cooperate on readmission, on the basis of a more for more principle”.

African states accept the European diktat, trying to turn to their advantage the additional resources released by the EU. There is nothing like the EU-Africa partnership, an expert on migration told me.

“While the EU Promotes free movement of persons within its shores, the same EU moves to stop Africans from moving then insist to shut their borders against same Africans” Mohammed Conte, a Nigerien immigrant from Lampedusa.

Mohammed, 37, questions the rationale behind the Merkel led EU funding to African leaders to enforce unfriendly policies that stalls economic development in Africa despite closing their borders against migrants. He referred to this as “modern day colonialism”.

Nigeria benefits more from Migration than aid

Europe continues to deploy the instrument of development aid to the countries of origin of African migrants. Available evidence suggests that migration is more beneficial to these countries than the assistance. Countries like Nigeria make a great example.

The Taz study captures 520 million Euros in EU development aid to Nigeria between the year 2014 to 2020. The Nigerian diaspora with an estimated population of 20 million Nigerians remitted at least 21 billion dollars according to the Central Bank of Nigeria in 2015. The study disclosed that, “the remittances from migrants to their countries of origin is much more beneficial than development aid to poor countries. Almost everywhere, remittances outnumber aid. In addition, this money directly reaches families and small businesses.”

Beyond the increasing restrictions on thousands of refugees and migrant workers seeking to enter Europe, nomads and ethnic groups living on both sides of the borders have been trapped. The EU policy continues to limit free movement.

Africa’s integration efforts such as a plan for free movement in the West and East Africa bloc and a common passport regime might be jeopardized. EU’s approach jettisons the sub-regional blocs as it seeks to make one-on-one deals with African states.

An opposition Lawmaker in Germany who spoke to me appears to side with Mohammed’s argument. He is of the opinion that the G20’s compact with Africa constitutes a huge risk in terms of sustainable development – highlighting the proposal to privatise infrastructure or manage it through public private partnerships.

Uwe Kekeritz of the Green Party, “the PPP has never worked in Germany or France but they want it to work in Africa”.  The lawmaker believes lawmakers should be let into Europe, to gain education and to acquire skills that would prove more useful to the African continent rather than growth stifling, unsustainable policies. 

The Disturbing Numbers and migration flows

Africa, with an estimated population of 1.2 billion people, is central to the migration issue. Nigeria specifically accounts for the highest numbers of African migrants across the Mediterranean.  Intra-African migration is significantly higher than the migrants’ flows from Africa to Europe. According to the International Organization of Migration, out of 32 million African migrants around the world, half are in Africa, where South Africa, Ivory Coast and Nigeria are among the top three destinations.

Joshua Massarenti, head of a non-governmental organization working on migration issues in Brussles tries to give reasons about the policy, “they are terrified that the African continent will host more than two billion people by 2050, with hundreds of millions of young people looking for jobs, increased pressures on natural resources, more food insecurity, etc.”

Already, Nigerians in their hundreds are being deported back home world over, with no plans for the deportees in their home country. The National Bureau of Statistics in its reports released in June of this year revealed that 2.1 millions Nigerians lost jobs within the last two years and more entrepreneurs are facing tough times amid difficult economic conditions. The unemployment crisis, and the possibility of closed west African borders, triggered by unfriendly EU policies, offers no hope.

Statistics from a 2017 United Nations report indicates that out of 37,000 Nigerians, who tried to cross over to European countries in 2016, 68% of them were graduates. The report showed that at least 9,000 of the emigrants, who tried to enter Europe through the desert and sea, lost their lives in the process.

Nigeria is projected to be the world’s third most populous country by the year 2050, according to a report released by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs. The report, titled ‘World Population Prospects: The 2017 Revision’, said with such development, Nigeria would overtake the United States in terms of population just as world population would reach 9.8 billion people. The report said “by 2050, the third most populous country will be Nigeria, which currently ranks seventh, and which is poised to replace the United States.

Integration rather than regulation could bring development for the continent.

This article was written as part of the 2017 BudgIT Media Fellowship

 

Mercy Abang is a Freelance Journalist, focusing on development Journalism – She doubles as a media fixer with Sunday Times of London, BBC, Aljazeera and a former Stringer with the Associated Press – She tweets at @abangmercy.. She is the 2017 United Nations Journalism Fellow and budgIT Media fellow for 2017    

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Chronic Debtors, Detractors Fight Skye Bank’s CEO Over Attempt To Recover 60bn Debt

Investigations have revealed that chronic debtors and detractors of Skye Bank have drawn a battle line with the management of the bank over attempt to recover a 60bn debt.

This is coming barely a week after the earth-shaking publication titled: Regulatory Takeover of Skye Bank Management: One Year After was published in select national newspapers which detailed how Skye Bank has fared since the bank’s management was reorganised last year.

It will be recalled that on July 4, 2016 the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), had intervened and re-constituted a new board and management for Skye Bank Plc., to address what it described then as the Bank’s declining prudential ratios and return the lender to sustainable profitability – with a mandate to reduce cost to income ratio – improve asset quality, improve liquidity and capital adequacy and restore profitability.

This action by the apex bank had informed the need for the new management to be resolute and firm in tackling the humongous challenges they met in the management of the institution which at the time was in a parlous state owing to the fact that many of its largest loans, taken by highly placed individuals and organisations, were non-performing; with its capital significantly eroded and liquidity impaired.

In carrying out the mandate of the apex regulatory body, the bank’s management in the July 18 advertorial resolved to be resolute and ensure that all those who committed infractions against the lender, restitute accordingly for their actions and meet their legitimate obligations to the bank.

However, the management’s resolve and attempt in this direction has met stiff opposition as the debtors have strategically ochestrated series of negative campaigns that would target the leadership in the days and weeks ahead.

The fight back include a staged sponsored media attacks on the Bank, especially its CEO who is being alleged to have been specifically appointed and is being used by the CBN to take them down.

Efforts made to reach CBN and  Skye Bank  officials to react on the development met with no comment. However inside sources within the banks notes that the banks are not bothered by such attacks which are common amongst chronic debtors who often resort to social media attacks to create public sympathy of being innocent targets.

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Tobacco’s Soft Targets: Nigeria’s Under Aged Kids Getting Taught To Smoke In School

By Abang Mercy

A Special Report by Freelance Journalist, Abang Mercy contributed to the Tobacco-Free Nigeria Campaign #ClearTheAir?

Musa, 14, is a student of Government Secondary School Wuse, Abuja, He has been smoking for five years, starting out at the tender age of 9, at the time when he was enrolled in the Junior Secondary School.

For Musa, smoking was not a matter of choice, cigarettes and other tobacco products could be found within his reach – just at the entrance to the school he attends. He got curious and was naïve.

“I have today become a chain smoker, I can’t do without cigarette’s and same applies to most of us you see here” he says and he points in the direction of other students heading out haphazardly at the end of the school day.

“As many times as I try to stop smoking, it becomes more difficult”. Musa tells me the tobacco products sold at the entrance of the school premises has become a norm in most schools. The pitch to himself and his under aged peers, was that it made them look tough and powerful.

Ahmed Isa, 25, a recent graduate could be spotted looking dazed, swaggering along the pedestrian walkway on the busy streets of Adetokunbo Ademola Crescent, Wuse 2 in Abuja. His tale was no different from what teenage Musa told me.

Ahmed admits to abusing substances and acknowledges his grave situation.  “To keep my spirit high, there’s simply nothing else to do and here’s my fifth codeine bottle,” he said reaching out for an empty container of cough syrup.

According to Isa, his journey with smoking had begun as early as elementary school where he would share cigarettes with his school mates. To this day, he is not only hooked on cigarettes but also on drugs, which ‘keeps him up at night’.

Tobacco use history by under aged persons often herald a lifelong abuse of non conventional drugs among young Nigerians which has become an increasing trend. Ahmed revealed to me that many of his friends take anything they find to feel ‘high’ from gasoline to correction fluid, rubber solution, aerosol, nail polish removers, kerosene. “It all started with the “mallams” shop next to the school premises where we (students) turned to for our tobacco needs.”

Unfortunately, Nigeria is ill equipped to deal with these challenges.

Tobacco Retail Targets Kids 

Umar Ado, 37 has been peddling biscuts in front of L.E.A primary school Kubwa Abuja. “I have been selling here for over fifteen years” he says, his shop lies adjacent the school. “Pupils come here every day to buy things before going into school and coming out”’

Ado’s shop hangs on the wall of the L.E.A Kubwa II primary school in Bwari Area Council Abuja. The shop is one of five wooden containers surrounding the school which stands somewhere at the middle of two hotels: Leisure Palace Hotel, and Jelinka Hotel, both reputed to be home to the highest number of commercial sex workers in Kubwa – a huge satellite town in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory.

“In the morning they come to buy biscuits, in the night, they come to buy cigarettes.” Ado added. Every morning as children walk into school, the sex workers often solicit their help to purchase soaps, cigarettes and tissue papers from these outlets.

“I don’t sell to them, but a lot of people do. At night these children want to behave more maturely and they feel smoking makes them look tough.” Ado added. These retail outlets also serve the needs of households, where family members can purchase utilities.

In 2015 President Goodluck Jonathan passed the Nigerian Tobacco Control Act with key provisions including the imposition of a ban on –  tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship, prohibition of smoking in public places and sale of cigarettes to under aged persons. Two years later, the non-implementation of this legislation has caused many to dismiss it as merely a paper agreement.

“The people selling the cigarettes are a problem, but if you enter the school, like at the football field, you will see a lot of young boys smoking. People have taken these primary schools as places to smoke, especially the government ones that have a lot of space.” Tiamiyu Sadiq, a primary school teacher resident in the town remarked.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) 2015 estimates, over 1.1billion people smoked tobacco. Although the agency added that the figure declined worldwide and in many countries, the prevalence of tobacco smoking appears to be on the rise in the Eastern Mediterranean Region and the African Region.

In Nigeria, tobacco companies own the blame for the proliferation of tobacco products across the organic chain of retail services that support the deathly trade.  Almost every school in districts and communities around the FCT have a retail shop outside for children to have access to items they need such as pencils, books and erasers as well as consumables. It is almost impossible not to find cigarettes prominently displayed next to these items.

Motorcycle riders often pause during the day to eat and rest outside the school. They would take one or two sticks of cigarettes before returning to their posts and it often coincides with when the school kids are out to make break time purchase.

Speaking anonymously, a teacher at the L.E.A Primary school in Kubwa lamented on the situation, and highlighted efforts being done by the school: “Well, we cannot stop them from going to buy the things they need. We have subjects like civil education that we use to teach the children about bad social behaviour, but our efforts stop at the school. We can’t control them when they leave.”

“We have been trying to dissuade all these bad boys from coming to smoke in the schools and spoiling the children, we even raised the fence and have been working to put a barbed wire, but these things take time.” She added.

Grave Implications Calling for Action

The statistics are alarming. “Tobacco threatens us all,” former WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan once remarked. “Tobacco exacerbates poverty, reduces economic productivity, contributes to poor household food choices, and pollutes indoor air.”

Tobacco use kills more than 7 million people every year and costs households and governments over US$ 1.4 trillion through healthcare expenditure and lost productivity. Tobacco threatens the development of countries worldwide, the WHO revealed, and charged governments to take action by implementing strong tobacco control measures. These include banning marketing and advertising of tobacco, promoting plain packaging of tobacco products, raising excise taxes, and making indoor public places and workplaces smoke-free.

Civil Education alone will not suffice to deal with the use of tobacco by extremely vulnerable children exposed to tobacco promotion and retail presence across educational facilities in Nigeria.

Musa and Ahmed represent thousands of Nigerian school kids exposed to tobacco promotion and marketing. Musa is particularly worried and uncertain about his future. He has an increasing desire to smoke cigarettes and worried he cannot seek or readily obtain help. Parents are in the dark about their kid’s habitual tobacco use while more kids remain exposed.

Mercy Abang is a Freelance Journalist, focusing on development Journalism – She doubles as a media fixer with Sunday Times of London, BBC, Aljazeera and a former Stringer with the Associated Press – She tweets at @abangmercy.. She is the 2017 United Nations Journalism Fellow and budgIT Media fellow for 2017

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Poverty Within Opulence: Water Crisis At The Heart Of Nigeria’s Capital

By Mercy Abang

Miracle, age 9, lives in Gishiri, has a daily routine of fetching from a nearby pond. “My mum asked me to come fetch and bath” she said, standing beside her was her friend who was bathing from the unclean water with her uniforms on.

Both girls reside in a community located at the heart of Abuja between Maitama and Wuse 2 district of the Municipal Area Council within? the growing metropolitan city of Nigeria. In Gishiri, children are often responsible for collecting rainwater to help their families after school.

Like Miracle, Deborah, 10, her friend also tells me that their drinking water in that community comes from wells, hand-pumped water boreholes or even the small stream where they were bathing.

Leading me through a garbage heap of human faeces in polythene bags, she smiles at me and adds that she wants to become a medical doctor. The unhygienic condition of her environment stands in sharp contrast to the well-planned roads and flyovers that demarcates her community to Ministers Hill in Maitama District – Most people who live in Maitama are diplomats, ministers, influential Nigerians and the Ministers hill end of the area is the exclusive preserve of the money bags. Miracle is the third child in a family of five.

Nigeria is ranked third after India and China among countries whose major population lacked access to portable water and for Deborah, it is more about her parent’s inability to afford well water, which in itself is not so portable. “This is the only water my mum can afford, the other one sold in jeri-can is expensive for us”, Deborah a Primary 5 student from the local school said.

Pointing to what looks like a water pond covered in grass, she said, “I have to come here and bath – last year a 10 – year-old boy drowned in this water”.

Deborah also depends on the stream for her water needs – the poverty stricken slum located amidst opulence is a reminder of what life looks like for residents of these communities who work in neighborhoods with trimmed lawn, air-conditioned offices but can only afford Gishiri.

Because of its location within the heart of Abuja, one bedroom apartment in Gishiri costs between $1,500 per annum to $1,800 – the location of the community estimated to host about 500,000 residents is regarded as Abuja most sought after location for civil servants and low income earners.

Leading cause of child death is diarrhoea, a majority of which is water-related, and according to the World Health Organisation, diarrhoea disease is the second leading cause of death in children, and is responsible for killing around 525 000 children every year. As Miracle hopes to become a medical doctor someday, the stream she visits almost on a daily for her water needs will likely end that aspiration – and the aspiration of many other kids forced to survive in inhuman conditions while they watch their peers live in luxury.

A recent report by Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Healthy estimated that 63 million Nigerians lack access to potable water – undeniably residents of Gishiri and importantly, Miracle and her friend Deborah IF captured by that report fall under the number of the vulnerable in the Nigerian society that are likely to die as a result of preventable water-borne diseases.

Abuja’s development has remained non-inclusive for even those within its reach – Abuja is named among the 20 most rapidly expanding cities (in terms of population) with at least five million residents, according to the United Nations 2010-2020 rates (data supplied by demographia.com).

Amidst that growth is the absolute disregard for its rural dwellers “we don’t think we are in Abuja – we watch the big men rise along their skyscrapers”  – Godiya Shem, 33, a primary school teacher in Gishiri.

For those who can afford it, “we depend on Maruwa (well water sold in Jeri cans) and others go to the stream for their water needs as you can see”.

For residents of a community situated within same location as Maitama and Wuse 2 to be dealing with water challengers, it tells of the growing inequality between the poor and the wealthy within Nigerian societies.

When questioned when he was the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mr Nasir el-Rufai, now governor of Kaduna state was widely quoted to have said Abuja was “not a city for the poor”. The 2013 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey report revealed that 97,000 children die yearly from diseases due to unsafe water and poor sanitation.

For Mr Shem who moved into Gishiri five years ago, the need for government to build infrastructure for the elites, the middle class and the poor should be the priority of Government – “the responsibility of the poor taking care of themselves seems to have been left for the poor”. He questioned how a system that pays civil servants 18000 Naira ($50), as minimum wage wants such an individual to afford the high rents costs the luxury apartments of Maitama.

***

Mercy Abang is a Freelance Journalist, focusing on development Journalism – She doubles as a media fixer with Sunday Times of London, BBC, Aljazeera and a former Stringer with the Associated Press – She tweets at @abangmercy.. She is the 2017 United Nations Journalism Fellow and budgIT Media fellow for 2017

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A Message of Gratitude and Hope: Senator Ashafa’s Mid-Term Stewardship Report

INTRODUCTION

Dear Good People of Lagos East Senatorial District, it is my humble privilege to present this mid-term stewardship report for my second term activities in the senate of the National Assembly. Before I proceed any further please permit me to thank you all for your support, interventions and criticisms since the commencement of this 8th Assembly. I am indeed grateful.

The purpose of this mid-term stewardship report is to provide a basis for a mid-term assessment of service delivery in the spirit of accountability and responsibility required of public servants at all levels of government. This report is a highly summarized account of my activities over the past two years as a second term senator from June 2015 till June 2017.

  1. LEGISLATIVE BUSINESS (BILLS, MOTIONS, COMMITTEE WORK)

In addition to chairing the Senate Committee on Land Transport, I am also an active member of the Senate Committees on Constitution Review, Water Resources, Establishment (Pension and public services), Foreign Affairs, Legislative Compliance and National Security & Intelligence.

NIGERIAN RAILWAY BILL 2016:

As the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport, I have been able to midwife the passage of the Nigerian Railway bill, 2016. This new law represents a radical departure from the norm as the new law has effectively broken down the railway sector into the Regulatory and Operations components in line with international best practices, thereby creating a level playing field for private and state sector participation. When implemented, it is forecasted that this new law will attract the largest infrastructural developments in the Nigerian rail sector, attract foreign direct investments and ultimately translate to millions of Jobs.

In addition to co-sponsoring other bills, I have directly sponsored Seven Bills since June 2015 and they are:

  1. The Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency Act Amendment Bill 2016
  2. The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport Bill 2016
  3. The City University of Technology Bill 2016
  4. Sporting Tax Holiday Bill 2016.
  5. The Nigerian Postal Service Bill 2017.
  6. The Nigerian French Language Village Establishment Bill 2017.
  7. A Bill for the amendment of the National Sports Act, 2017.

Some of the Co – Sponsored Bills include:

  1. A Bill For An Act To Establish Lagos State Special Economic Assistance Programme By Senator Oluremi Tinubu.
  2. A Bill For An Act To Amend The Prisons Act Cap P.29 By Senator Oluremi Tinubu.
  3. A Bill for an to provide the Establishment Of National Animal Identification and Management Bureau By Sen Abu Ibrahim;
  4. A Bill to an Act to amend the Electoral Act No 6 of 2010 as amended by Senator Monsurat Sumonu
  5. A Bill for An Act to Repeal The Prison Act 2015 by Senator Shaaba Lafiagi.

Further to the above, in addition to making meaningful contributions whilst deliberating on other motions put up for discussion by my distinguished colleagues, I have also sponsored several motions, which include:

  1. Motion on Fuel Tanker Tragedies on Nigeria Highways.
  2. Motion on Nigerians involvement in illicit Global Drug Trade and increase in Domestic Abuse by Nigerian Youths.
  3. Motion condemning the rising incidences of Jungle Justice in Nigeria.
  4. Motion on urgent need for the Nigerian police force and other security agencies to intervene in the increased rate of kidnapping in the Lagos East senatorial district and        securing the waterways.
  5. Motion on the Outbreak of Meningitis: Urgent need to curb the spread and stop further deaths.
  6. Motion on the Unity of Nigeria by Senate Leader, Senator Ahmed Lawan (Co-sponsor)
  7. Motion on the urgent need for the Federal Government to redeem Local Contractors Debts. – Senator Oluremi Tinubu (Co-sponsor)
  8. Motion on the need to avoid imminent disruption of full academic activities and closure of Federal University of Maiduguri, due to rising insecurity occasioned by the spate of suicide bomb attacks. – Senator Kaka (Co-sponsor)
  9. “Urgent need for the Federal Government to intervene in Ladoke Akintola University of Technology imbroglio in Order to save the future of innocent Youths.” – Senator Buhari Abdulfatai (Co- Sponsor)
  10. CONSTITUENCY ENGAGEMENTS, SME EMPOWERMENT TOOLS AND          SOCIAL WELFARE PROJECTS

Through our legislative office at the National Assembly, the constituency offices situated in all the Local Government Areas within our Senatorial District and other platforms of engagement (e.g. Social Media), I have directly facilitated several town hall meetings, empowerment sessions for SME owners in Lagos East and the siting of capital-intensive projects targeted at empowering a minimum of 10, 000 constituents of Lagos East. My actions are driven by a firm belief that one of the primary responsibilities of government is to implement economic policies that lift millions of our citizens out of poverty, and to use the resources at its disposal to create safety nets for the poor and vulnerable in our society.

CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS:

Some of our ongoing construction projects include; the construction of an ICT Centre with Supply of Computer Systems at Oreyo Secondary School, Igbogbo, Ikorodu. This project which commenced earlier this year is about 70% Complete. We have also completed the Construction of Solar Boreholes in 7 locations (Somolu, Bariga, Ojota, Isheri-Magodo, Agbede-Ikorodu, Ketu, Ibeju-Lekki) across the Senatorial District.

DONATIONS:

We have been able to donate the following items to our constituents with a view to empowering them to start their own Small Scale Businesses: 500 units of Sewing Machines, 100 units of Tricycles, 200 units of Grinding Machines, 20 units of Block Making Machine, 150 units of 1.2KVA Generators, and 10 units of 6.5KVA Generators.

We have also provided 2 units of Transformers, which have already been installed in Somolu and Epe.

To mark the end of year 2016, we conducted free medical outreaches across all the LGAs in Lagos East senatorial district and distributed educational kits and back-to-school materials to more than 3000 pupils in our district. We also awarded scholarships, financial assistance and medical assistance to constituents under the Gbenga Ashafa Trust Endowment (G.A.T.E).

Further to the above, in the past 2 years, we donated security equipment to complement existing efforts at ensuring adequate safety of our children in two of our schools that have been affected by kidnapping within the period. These are the Lagos State Model College, Igbonla in Epe and the Babington Macaulay Junior Seminary in Ikorodu.

Last but not the least, we commenced our Agricultural Entrepreneurship Program in conjunction with Small and Medium En-terprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) for the first batch of (250) Constituents of Lagos East and the subsequent distribution of seed funds to beneficiaries in February, 2017.

COMMENDATIONS & AWARDS RECEIVED

I would also like to appreciate the Press Corps of the Nigerian Senate and The Amalgamated Commercial Motorcycle and Tricycle Riders Association of Nigeria who conferred me with awards as the PARLIAMENTARY ADVOCATE ON INFRASTRUCTURE 2016 and THE ARROWHEAD OF TRANSPORTATION respectively. Also, I was only recently conferred with the SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARD for the work we did on the passage of the Nigerian Railway Authority Bill, 2015 by the National Assembly Business Environment Roundtable.

Other awards and recognitions include:

  1. SENATOR OF THE YEAR AWARD – CITY PEOPLE GROUP
  2. AWARD OF EXCELLENCE-MEGA TREND PRODUCTION 2016
  3. POLITICAL LEADERSHIP AWARD- NIGERIA UNION OF JOURNALISTS  (LAGOS TELEVISION CHAPTER)
  4. SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARD FOR THE WELFARE AND EMPOWERMENT OF WIDOWS – IBUKUN FOUNDATION FOR WIDOWS
  5. GOLDEN MERIT AWARD – LAGOS STATE PUBLIC SERVICE CLUB IKORODU ANNEX
  6. HEROES AWARD – THE ACHIEVERS INDIGENE OF ELEMORO LAND,IBEJU-LEKKI

Having itemized the forgoing, which we couldn’t have achieved without your support, I must now quickly address certain issues pertaining to our Senatorial District and my role as your Senator:

Insecurity in Lagos East:

In the past two years, Lagos East has been experiencing rising incidences of crime, the most prevalent being kidnapping, militancy and cultism. The most affected areas in our district have been Epe and Ikorodu.

In Epe, we are currently dealing with the challenge of our school children that were kidnapped from their school, the Lagos State Model Colege, Igbonla Epe exactly 52 days ago. My heart and prayers are with our boys, their families and their friends. I pray that they are released to us within the shortest possible time.

I am aware that the State Government has been working with security agencies to ensure that these Kids are released without any harm. On my part, I have petitioned the Inspector General of Police on the need to make this case top priority.

While in Ikorodu we are dealing with multiple issues of kidnapping and street cultism popularized by the menace of Badoo. Like I had earlier said, I commend my constituents in Ikorodu for rising up to ostracize the members of the cult group from their community, we must all rise up to condemn jungle justice that is currently going on in that area.

On my part, one of the motions I moved shortly before this incident occurred is a motion captioned “Motion on urgent need for the Nigerian police force and other security agencies to intervene in the increased rate of kidnapping in the Lagos East senatorial district and securing the waterways.

Through this motion, the Senate urged the Nigerian Police Force and other security agencies to beef up security around our Senatorial district and even requested for aerial surveillance of our creeks.

This situation underscores the need for all of us in the district to join our hands together to support the security agencies with information about any criminal syndicates/ elements in our communities in order to facilitate their arrest and prosecution. We must rid Lagos East of all criminals and we must do this together.

Lagos Ibadan:

Further to the above, I am most impressed about the number of inquiries I have received as regards the issue of the reduction of the allocation provided for the completion of the Lagos – Ibadan Expressway in the 2017 budget. It shows how vibrant, active and intellectually mobile our constituents are and we remain committed to the highest levels of accountability.

Without any iota of doubt, the Lagos Ibadan expressway is a National asset of utmost importance, even more important is the need to ensure the speedy conclusion of the repair works going on the road in order to forestall the rate of accidents on the road and to further boost the economic potentials of the entire country.

However, to ensure the effective oversight of the legislature, legislators are divided into several committees. It is these committees under the direction of the Senate Committee on appropriation that interface with the leadership of the various Ministrys’, Departments and Agencies under its purview. Hence, while I have a general overview of the entire budget, my knowledge of the knitty gritty of each ministries budget would naturally be limited, except of-course for the Ministrys’, Departments and Agencies under the Committees of the Senate to which, I belong. In the light of the forgoing, I am not a member of the Senate Committee on works or any other committee that interfaced with the Honourable Minister of Works at that level and as such I was not aware of any cut in the allocation to the Lagos- Ibadan Expressway prior to the passage of the budget.

I believe that the Legislature and the Executive have reached a progressive solution, which would ensure that there is no hindrance to the speedy completion of the project before the conclusion of the 2017 appropriation cycle. In other words, the National Assembly is committed to the speedy passage of a Supplementary Budget that would cover all affected projects (including the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway), as soon as same is presented by the Executive.

CONCLUSION

While I acknowledge that nothing can be too much to do for the industrious and hardworking people of Lagos East Senatorial District and that indeed so much more can be done, I am grateful for the support we have received from our dear constituents so far. For our constituents who feel we haven’t addressed their concerns, we hear you and promise to do even better in the next half. I am equally aware that the myriad of socio-economic challenges facing the people in our local communities can best be tackled through the synchronized efforts of government at the federal, state and local levels. I recognize the efforts of all entrepreneurs and business owners who are contributing in no small measure to building the kind of trickle-down economic growth we are witnessing in Lagos State. I also commend those in the NGO space and civil society who continuously speak the truth to people in power and provide development opportunities for the less-privileged in their various communities.

As I conclude, I urge you all to troop out en-masse to support the Candidates of our party, the All Progressives Congress, when they emerge, for the upcoming Local Government Elections. By doing this, we would be able to harness the development we are witnessing in Lagos State at the grass-root level, through the synchronized effort of the State and Local Governments.

I wish to end by encouraging you all to continue to contribute your quota to nation building in what you do and wherever you find yourself.

God bless you all.

 

Senator ‘Gbenga B. Ashafa?

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Highlights Of The 2017 BusinessDay States’ Competitiveness And Good Governance Awards

By Kunle Somoye

Business Day Newspapers held another edition of its BusinessDay State Competitiveness and Good Governance Awards yesterday 13 July 2017 at the prestigious Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja where 15 States out of those nominated won in their different award categories.

Giving his opening remarks, publisher/CEO BusinessDay Mr Frank Aigbogbun thanked the dignitaries and encourage the winners not to rest on their oars as the sky is the limit.

The award ceremony was graced with the attendance of Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbajo who was represented by Babafemi Ojudu, his special adviser on political affairs, other dignitaries present included the Kano State Governor, Abdulahi Ganduje, Kaduna State Governor Nasir El Rufai, Abia State Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom a host of others.

Kano State won the Fastest Growing State economy award, Osun State won the Best State in Tourism Award. Kaduna State won the most improved state in Ease of doing business. Ebonyi State won the most improved State in healthcare development. Abia state clinched the best state promoting made in Nigeria goods and SME development in its category.

Other winners include Ogun State who won best State in Housing and Development, Benue State who won best state in Agriculture Development while Imo and Sokoto States went head to head to clinch the most improved states in Education. Lastly Gombe and Plateau States won most improved states in peace and security.

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