Cleaning the Augean stable at FIRS, By Kayode Rahman Ogunlana

In the recent change of leadership at the Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS,  the present and the more rational question that should occupy our minds in the aftermath of Babatunde Fowler’s exit is, the antecedents and thereby, the capacity of Malam Muhammadu M. Nami, the Executive Chairman to deliver on the job. In other words, is President Buhari putting a square peg in a square hole in picking Malam Muhammadu Nami from among the horde that jostled and lobbied for the coveted office? From a cursory look at his curricular vitae and what transpired as he resumed recently, the picture depicted is that of a man eminently capable.

Born in April 1968, Muhamnad Nami is clearly coming on the job with much more than the vivacity, energy and drive required to cope with the rigors of the tasks of his new assignment. With a childhood rooted and wrought in the agrarian village of Nami in Agaie local government area of Niger state,  it tells much  of his innate sturdy and Spartan character traits of intelligence, perseverance, determination and vision to have gone the mileage to the point that he was found suitable for his latest  appointment. He is widely reckoned with as a renowned, thoroughbred consultant in matters of auditing and taxation.

While announcing his appointment, the Presidential Spokesman, Garba Shehu crisply  encapsulated Muhammad Nami as a man with highly rated qualifications and licenses from reputable professional bodies with, “practical work experience in auditing, tax management and advisory management services to clients in the banking, manufacturing and services in the private and public sectors as well as nonprofit organisations.” By virtue of his educational qualifications and professional practice, Muhammad Nami is today, either a fellow or a member of several professional bodies. For instance, he is a Fellow of the prestigious Chartered Institute of Taxation of Nigeria, CITN; the Chartered Institute of Forensic and Investigation Professionals of Nigeria, CIFIPN and, the Institute of Debt Recovery Practitioners of Nigeria, DRPN. He is as well, an Associate Member of the Nigeria Institute of Management and the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria, ANAN.

Beginning from 1993 when he  embarked on his chosen career in taxation and auditing as a trainee, Muhammad Nami has largely worked in the private sector, progressively as an employee, a partner in joint ventures, CEO of his own firms and as a consultant to individuals, corporate entities,  nongovernmental, local and international organizations as well as government Ministries and several public sector departments and  agencies.

In obvious recognition of his towering professional stature and reputation as a diligent Auditor of impeccable moral rectitude, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari appointed him between 2017 and 2018, to serve as a member of the adhoc Presidential Committee on Audit of Recoveries made by government Agencies pursuant to the anti corruption campaign. Among others, the committee was mandated to carry out an audit of all recoveries made by the MDAs, provide a data base and inventory for all recoveries; establish a viable template or, an enduring framework to make for accountability in respect of future recoveries. The nearest that he came to formally working in the public sector,  Nami was said to have made very critical contributions to  the success of the presidential committee’s assignment.  His outstanding performance in that one year stint may have further highlighted the latent and untapped capacity of the self effacing professional and, as it has turned out, recommending him for the latest national assignment.

As it is, Mohammed  Nami is coming on the saddle at the FIRS at a time that the agency is, practically, in the eye of the storm. There is for instance, the widespread allegations of gross acts of financial improprieties by members of its previous management with  the attendant negative public perception of the place as a cesspool of heist.  This may of course appear as the least of the tasks at hand, but it is yet one that must be given urgent  and particular attention. It may well turn out that he will have to first and foremost begin his assignment at the FIRS by engaging in the odious task of cleansing the Augean stable.

The recent changes at the nation’s foremost tax collection institution and which resulted in the appointment of Nami arose from its ever declining quantum of revenue generation to the national coffers. At a time the government embarked on a vicarious, spirited and frenzied policy of diversification of its sources of revenue away from oil, much is understandably expected from the FIRS. Unfortunately, the revenue generation through the Agency has been cascading downward, consistently failing to deliver on set targets in recent years.

The displeasure of the government was manifested in the query issued Mr.Fowler in April this year by the President’s Chief of Staff and of course non-renewal of his tenure.

In the light of the above, the salient but pertinent ingredient in the mandate being given to  Muhammad Nami is that he is expected to turn the fortunes of FIRS around by urgently reinvigorating its revenue generating profile. With an unprecedented federal budget of N10.59 trillion Naira and an ambitious policy of funding it substantially from revenues generated from non oil revenue sources, which translates in other words,  into increased taxation,  the assignment of  Nami cannot be regarded as a tea party.

Various prognoses, remedial measures and suggestions have been advanced for enhancing revenue generation. There has been for example, the view that the country needs to enthrone a more robust regime of taxation based on the fact that a great number of taxable individuals and corporate citizens are currently either being under taxed or, are completely outside the tax net. Those with this view, go on comparative peer group analyses of taxation in Nigeria and other countries in Africa often with the conclusion that we have a very lax, or liberal tax administration.

We can therefore foresee the Federal Inland  Revenue Service under Muhammad Nami having to engage in the expansion of the tax net. A logical, sensible and inevitable panacea in the superior and long-term social and economic wellbeing of the country as it has been argued by exponents of such a paradigm shift, there is yet on the other hand, the strong imperative of taking cognizance of counter opinions. This, in a nutshell is the demand that caution should be exercised to guard against increased taxation giving rise to increased pauperization of the mass of citizens. Related, is the opinion that an unbridled taxation drive has the potential of scarring away prospective investors and of crippling existing industries, ventures and services.

As he steps into his new station, Muhammad Nami is being challenged to unleash the entire gamut of his experience, expertise and management skills. Unlike the usual trend in such high profile appointments, Nami is not known to be coming either on the crest of partisan political considerations and interest groups or, under the wings of a god father. He is expected therefore, to go about his assignment as a thoroughbred professional without the inhibitions and digressions of extraneous forces and interests. History beckons on Muhammad Nami, the otherwise village boy from Nami.

Kayode Rahman Ogunlana is a Lagos based public affairs analyst.

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The Successful Onboarding Of Over 2.5 Million Petty Traders On The Trader Moni Scheme: The Untold Story Of Data, By Ifeayolu Nnaedozie

By making financial services open at moderate expenses to all people and organizations, regardless of total assets and size, financial inclusion aims to deliver answers for the requirements that exclude individuals from participating in the financial sector. You would concur that nations with more profound degrees of financial inclusion have more grounded GDP development rates and lower-income disparity.

According to the EFINA report, Access to Financial Services survey findings released, revealed that 36.8% of the adult population in the country is financially excluded. According to regulators and other key players in the economy, the survey also showed that Nigeria has a chance to achieve the 20% exclusion rate target for adults by 2020. This translates to a population of 36.6 million adult Nigerians who are excluded, with 44.1% male and 55.9% female.

Also, Nigeria had a total adult population of 99.6 million, with 39.8% as the banked population which translates to 39.7 million. The unbanked population is 60.1 million with 71.3% of mobile phone users that are adults among the excluded. From the analysis, 63.3% of the population is financially served with 38.7% in the banked category (39.5 million). This suggests in outright terms, that Nigeria still has a huge unbanked populace, hence the CBN financial inclusion goals.

The patterns and behaviors poor households’ exhibit around financial management sheds light on the complex financial lives they lead to survive on variable low incomes. While the federal government and CBN are focused on access to credit, poor and marginalized groups require access to a full range of financial services to effectively manage their economic lives. Financial inclusion growth tools in a diverse country like Nigeria in recent times must hence be identified as a spectrum of progress, to encapsulate the different dimensions of the populations they have serviced.

THE TRADER MONI PROGRAM
Armed with the knowledge that millions of Nigerians, at the base of the economic pyramid lacked access to credit facilities in 2016, the Federal Government initiated the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Program (GEEP). Also, in the quest to support the 20 million petty traders in Nigeria who are in dire need of capital to expand but are unable to access loans to trade, the government introduced TraderMoni, one of three microcredit products of GEEP.

The TraderMoni scheme is a collateral-free loan program which allows petty traders the opportunity to access an initial capital of N10,000 which upon successful repayment, grows into an interest-free credit up to the sum of N300000.

According to Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, at the 23rd Convocation Ceremony of the Lagos State University, LASU – “A greater challenge was when we started our TraderMoni microcredit loans to reach two million petty traders across the country. We didn’t look beyond young Nigerian innovators. He added that the first challenge was on how to enumerate two million petty traders; we got two Nigerian technology based companies MobileForms and Generating Demand Management Group (GDM). MobileForms was founded barely three years ago by two young Nigerian graduates, Damilola Ayorinde and Oluwatomi Ayorinde.

The company has created a platform that enables businesses and governments to crowdsource data from across the African Continent. These young Nigerian entrepreneurs delivered the largest Social Investment Programs of their kind in Africa faultlessly.” The primary problem was the accessibility to the petty traders by way of properly documenting their biodata being that the petty traders had limited education, hence there was not enough information about them or financial history.

With the MobileForms application, an electronic form application that functions on a smartphone or tablet device, which enables users to collect data using mobile devices, CrowdForce enabled the creation of digital identities to over 2 million petty traders across Nigeria under the federal government’s TraderMoni project by employing over 100,000 agents in all 774 local governments in Nigeria to carry out its market research activities.

On the TraderMoni project, CrowdForce facilitated services like digital lending, loan disbursement, and recovery. Mobile Forms was developed by a team of engineers at CrowdForce with a very simple goal; to empower youths, retailers and business owners with opportunities to make extra income to improve their lives. Youths are empowered to work as agents in enumerating retailers who become beneficiaries of government and NGO initiatives like TraderMoni. Business owners are armed with the data to test the market by way of researching product-market fit, the purchasing power of the target market and so on.

According to Uzoma Nwagba, the Chief Operating Officer of GEEP, the operation of the program does not mirror its target demographics. He stressed that “the more illiterate or unsophisticated our beneficiaries are, the more sophisticated our operation has to be. All the complexity must be absorbed by us and taken out of the trader’s experience. We have a highly technology-driven program.” Agents who use the Mobile Forms initiative on the field confess that it makes it easier for them to seamlessly register, gather information and on-board the TraderMoni beneficiaries.”


“MobileForms, thank you for the payment today… for me, the traders’ payment is much more important to me because that’s why I did the enumeration for them. I want them to benefit like the previous social investment programs,” Emmanuel Oluwafemi?, an agent with CrowdForce, said.

This was affirmed by Coleman Damilola?, another agent on the CrowdForce platform who had been out of a job for a couple of months, his joy was evident as he declared “special thanks to Mobile Forms Limited, a job of one month earned me an N135100 salary.”

Although massive strides have been taken in the race for financial inclusion, there remains more to be done. For example, during the TraderMoni enumeration scheme, data on 2.5 million traders were captured and only a minuscule 16,000 had functional Bank Verification Numbers (an 11-digit number that uniquely identifies every customer across the Nigeria Banking industry using biometric details).

The Central Bank of Nigeria has a financial inclusion strategy that targets above 500,000 financial access points as well as a financial exclusion rate 0f 20% in Nigeria by 2020. Currently, many financial servicing companies are serving this market and Crowdforce is not left out as they also have a solution for this, called Payforce.

MOBILE MONEY
The lack of access to formal banking in the mass market in Africa has opened the door for technology driven companies to build successful mobile payment services. Capitalizing on the phenomenal number of agents under Crowdforce, the company developed Payforce to actively deploy mobile banking services to tap the demand from the large unbanked population in Nigeria. There is strong evidence that their services have improved access to formal financial services in Nigeria. Crowdforce’s PayForce Agent Network helps banks and Fintech start-ups with the right network to scale, render digital services and capture digital identities via local merchant stores. It enables people to digitally send and receive money, and by creating simple financial access for the unbanked and the underserved population across Nigeria. Payforce has records of over N2billion daily transactions with 687active agents spread across Nigeria. As a CBN licensed Super-agent Company, Crowdforce aims to cover more places in Africa.

The importance of data goes way beyond decision-making and optimization. It goes as far as impacting the inclusivity and journey that Nigerian economy will take.

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E- Nigeria: And The Evolving Role of ICT in a Digital Economy, By Ayo Akanji

Going digital is no longer an option, it is the default – Natarajan Chandrasekaran

Over the last decades, the great diffusion of information and communication technology (ICT) has caused a dramatic transformation of the world into an information society. Thanks to ICT infrastructure such as fixed-line telephones, mobile phones, Internet, and broadband, people, firms, and governments now have much better access to information, knowledge, and wisdom than before in terms of scale, scope, and speed.

The Information and Communication Technology (ICT) industry in Nigeria is one that has not fully exploded, but has a tremendous potential to provide jobs for million of Nigerians and spur the economy.

However, the little gains it has recorded is evident. According to a report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) stated that in Q2 of 2019, ICT contributed an impressive 13.85% to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from the 11.22% contribution it made in Q2 2018.

It is important to note that, the recent introduction of the Nigerian E-government Masterplan will further consolidate on the successes and increase interoperability among the different Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) of government and with a mandate to develop and implement a harmonized and well-coordinated digital economy policy and strategy for Nigeria.

The Director General of NITDA, Kashifu Inuwa Abdullahi, who understand the role of ICT in the economy opined that. “The economy is driven by Data and Information. Therefore to survive in this disruptive world, you need to provide developmental regulations” Excitingly this regulatory instrument is the Nigerian Data Protection Regulations (NDPR).

An urgent need for synergy between relevant stakeholders and the provision of a platform where ICT problems and solutions will be offered.

This is what eNigeria, an annual summit by (NITDA) offers. In collaboration with key players in the ICT industry, the platform provides the requisite awareness in ICT sector, creation and implementation of the necessary framework and goals that will boost the country’s position in the global information society.

Conversely, Mr President in his open remarks on the strategic importance of ICT, notated that “Globally, the Digital Economy is expanding at a very fast pace. In just a few years, this platform has transitioned from being a luxury to an absolute necessity”. President Buhari disclosed that FG had saved over N16.8 billion through the activation of key digital assets – which strengthens the fight against corruption.

The theme for this year summit was “Achieving National Digital Economy” and for Nigeria to fully benefit from the cybersphere we need to strengthen our digital laws and protect critical digital infrastructural assets. It is reported that financial services, government agencies operational in Nigeria lost about $800 million in 2018 to cyber crime in a report conducted by the foremost Africa CyberSecurity report.

The report indicated that the country lost $649m to cyber-attacks in 2017, representing a 23% increase in cost, Nigeria has one of the highest levels of cybercrime in Africa and in the world, this indeed is alarming.

Every year, the summit takes on, with the support strategic partners like Oracle, MainOne Services, CyberDome, to mention a few brands. Strategic issues with the general aim of bettering the overall cyber experience of the average Nigerian and digital assets should be the crux of the partnership.

CyberDome is a cyber security company in Abuja with branches in the US and Isreal. It offers cyber security services like analysis, critical infrastructures, defense mechanisms, and other cyber solutions, to their various clienteles which cuts across government agencies and the private sector. Clients are offered platforms to easily spot out and respond quickly and effectively to cyber-attacks and data breaches. It maintains a database of threat intelligence from all over the world and the real-time discovery of cyber-attacks, this brand is leader in this field.

Some of the services Cyberdom offers which are in line with NITDA’s mandate includes; penetration testing, network access control, anti-phishing, anti-ddos, risk assessments, governance risk and compliance, digital forensics, next generation firewalls, web application firewalls, vulnerability management, cloud security, endpoint security, user behavior analytics and the provision of capacity building services to clients on cyber related issues and customizes these trainings to the client’s needs.

It is constantly adding Artificial Intelligence (AI) innovations to it’s working structure. It’s topnotch Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP), is the only facility in the country that offers a two-fold 247/365 security monitoring, advanced services on the prevention of data breaches, and a full service portfolio for all cyber security risks.

CyberDome emphasizes on the importance of collaboration in cybersecurity, as the best way of mitigating further attacks in line with NITDA directives and other industry eggheads. Collaborations thusly will be instrumental in lowering the levels of cybercrime in Nigeria. It will do a lot in reducing the number of unresolved cyber security incidences in the country.

Moreover, CyberDome is pushing for the emergence of a robust cyber policy laws for the Nigerian cyberspace. Awareness is an important part of cybersecurity, CyberDome’s Academy offers awareness trainings to workers at an organization to enable them come to full grasp with cyber policies and world best practices.

The Honourable Minister of Communication and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Pantami constantly emphasises on the importance of local contents in Nigeria’s cyberspace. CyberDome ticks that box effectively.

Furthermore, the clamour to diversify the country’s economy continues to hit new heights every day. ICT can provide a solid alternative to oil, making Nigeria a global player in the digital economy.

This can only happen when all stakeholders like NITDA, NCC, GalaxyBackbone, CSO’s and strategic partners like CyberDome collaborates.

Ayo Akanji is a businessman and cyber security enthusiast, he writes from Abuja.

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Dauda Lawal And The Philosophy of Service In Politics, By Ayo Akanji

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams

It was on a Wednesday evening, I was reminiscing on the outcome of the political intrigues in Zamfara State, on how the All Progressives Congress (APC) lost the chance of forming the government at the state, the failure was hinged on the schemings among the APC aspirants in the gubernatorial elections which enabled the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) secure victory without firing a shot – through the court pronouncement. I wanted to have a chat with Dr Dauda, who incidentally like me, graduated from the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University (ABU). I reached out to Femi, his responsive aide for a chance of having an appointment with him, wanted to use the opportunity to discuss politics in his state and other topical national issues in the country.

I was glad when the aide informed me of a time for the rendezvous with Dr Dauda, who I call the financial Mozart, walked into his office and met him waiting for me with a steamy cup of tea in his hand, the atmosphere around him could be aptly described as serene, and reassuring, alongside his radiant mien.

Most notably, Dr Lawal Dauda, is the former Executive Director, Public Sector, North of First Bank Plc. Born to a humble family in Gusau, Dauda obtained a degree in Political Science from Ahamdu Bello University, Zaria in 1987. He bagged an M.sc in 1992 from the same ivy league. He completed the academic cycle by obtaining an honorary PhD in Public Administration from Usman Danfodiyo University, Sokoto.

Always daring for more, he transversed various continents, honing his business skills in some of the world’s prestigious learning centers like Havard Business School, Boston, London School of Economics, London Business School, Wharton Business School, Pennsylvania, Lagos Business School among others.

He is a fellow of a number of reputable professional bodies like Institute of Credit Administration of Nigeria and the Civilian Institute of Democratic Administration of Ghana, African Business Roundtable, to mention a few.

Starting out as a Political Education Officer with the defunct Mass Mobilization for Self Reliance Social Justice and Econimic Recovery MAMSER, a policy of political orientation in Nigeria implemented by the Babaginda regime in 1987. MAMSER was eventually renamed National Orientation Agency with a huge presence spanning across all 774 local governments in Nigeria.

Dauda moved on to Westex Nigeria Limited where he worked as the AGM. His career path took him to the Nigerian Embassy in Washington DC and he became part of the team which reorganized the consular unit for Nigerians to have confidence in sending their passport for visa processing, he rose to the position of chief protocol officer before retiring for a more daunting task.

Looking for something challenging he decided to return to Nigeria and had various offers; either to work with the Port authority or the banking sector, he choose the latter, a tough terrain but with sheer determination he understood the pathway of the banking sector with training here and there, growing from a manger to the exalted position of Executive Director.

When I asked him why he joined the Governorship race – he quipped “I got into politics trying to reform Zamfara state, I contested to try and change the economic fortunes of the state. It was my first time joining politics, I’m happy that even though I did not win, my campaign was able to raise the bar in the political history of the state”. He always wanted something challenging, in an opinion poll conducted online, he resonated more with the youth than other aspirants.

As valuable as it, Dauda is a man who has over years, maintained the relationship he has with his people in Zamfara. He is a philanthropist through and through, his continuous work of philanthropy has placed him above his peers, signifying his ability to help his people and the willingness to do more with a larger platform.

He built hostels at the School of Health Technology, Tsafe. He dualised a road at the Federal University Gusau and built classrooms for School of Nursing in Tsafe. He has instituted a number of schemes that benefited SME’s. His commitment to a better learning environment for students spurred him into donating lecture halls to his former department in ABU.

One thing about Dauda is his passion to serve the people made him contest the governorship post in Zamfara state. He did not scale the last hurdle but that has not stopped him from service to humanity. For Dauda, acts of philanthropy are not seasonal. To be human is to feel the pains of other humans. This sentience has guided him throughout his life.

Conversely, debating on national issues we delved into the border closure, code-named ‘Exercise Swift Response’, through which Nigeria Customs Service generates N8billion daily.

He seems to align with the border closure by the Federal Government, noting that Nigeria is a dominate player in the African economy and our population serves as a comparative advantage – he interjects that “Benin Republic accounts for 40% of cars coming into Nigeria”. On rice, he spoke of governments incentives for our local farmers through the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN Anchors Borrowers Programme, a formidable polices of government ensuring food security.

On revenue generation, he believes there are so many avenues to generate revenue, from traffic rules in big cities such as Abuja, Lagos, to vehicle registrations and simultaneously licenses given, can also be used to generate funds, and combat insecurity.

He’s of the opinion that the private sectors need to come in managing the roads and applauded the re-introduction of electronic toll gates in the country as extra form of generating revenue and maintaining our roads, stakeholders need to compliment governments efforts to build strong institutions for the benefit of the country.

Finally, passing the baton to the younger generation and those who look up to him as a role mode, he stated the three key habits towards success as; honesty, hard work and determination – in his words, “if you combine these you would make a career in anything you set out for”.

Ayobami Ismail Akanji is a public affairs analyst and writes from Abuja

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Is the Nigerian First Lady A Realist? By Farida Akanji

?Realism is described as a systematic mode of thought with distinctive principles clearly opposed to every form of subjectivism and idealism (John Wild: 1947). From the above assertion, a realist individual never believes in illusion or imagination as guiding principles. An individual who is a realist understands the source, the use and management of power. This knowledge of power guides his/her actions or reactions to issues.

?In another development, a realist is a truthful and objective individual who stands on a platform made of unshakable facts to act or react. Some of those unshakable facts are: no leadership lasts forever, no political party rules forever, no presidency lasts forever etcetera. A realist is therefore an individual who does things, having in mind the likely repercussion of actions or reactions. And those repercussions could either be positive or negative.

?The First Lady, Dr. Mrs. Aisha Buhari believes that support for the President should not be based on sentiment. Hence, she uses constructive means to express support for the President , Nevertheless such support is being misinterpreted in some quarters. However, she has remained determined and committedto the success of the present Administration. These are reflected in her efforts to continuously draw the attention of the stakeholders of this government to sensitive issues that need urgent attention in the interest of Nigerians in general.

It is also obvious that, the First Lady does not support the crusade tagged “My Husband must Rule”. She prefers leadership embedded in integrity. That is why she is always critical on issues of political leadership such as transparency, fairness, justice etcetera. No wonder she is always drawing the attention of the President to delicate issues.

Notable it is to mention that, she always expresses her mind with courage. Her honesty in promoting national interests to the best of her knowledge places her above those who clamour for regime interest only. For instance, in Africa and the world at large, most First Ladies grab the presidency as if it is a permanent position, whereas no condition is permanent.

Political ideology has not yet taken its rightful place in the Nigerian politics. The First Lady is one of the hardened advocates of political ideology in Nigeria which according to her, will enthrone discipline in promoting women in politics, party politics and national politics.

Mrs Buhari also demonstrates patience in the face of political challenges which is depicted in her formidable way of downplaying boiling issues, for example, she goes to the extent of apologising when the need arises.

It is important to reveal that the First Lady is mindful of the less privileged Nigerians and she is contributing her quota in addressing their challenges through her Future Assured project. Several less privileged Nigerians benefitted and are still benefitingfrom her empowerment programmes in all the geopolitical zones. Her capacity of discernment and her leadership posture point to her hope for the present Administration to have a soft landing at the end.  

This article is derived from a critical appraisal of her utterances, her cautious use of power, her commitment to fairness, justice and equity. Therefore, the First Lady Dr. Mrs. Aisha Buhari is a realist.

Farida Funmi Akanji.

Coordinator, Nigerian Youth Organisation for Good Governance

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Alwan Hassan: Why Buhari Is Nigeria’s Best President – Here’s A Look At His Achievements In Infrastructure

The greatness of the Muhammadu Buhari presidency is hinged on the sustainable impact of many of its policies, programs, and projects — many of which will be highlighted herein. Since coming to power in 2015, President Buhari has spearheaded several key policy interventions in every major sector of the Nigerian economy. This is why, with all these achievements, he has clearly secured his place as Nigeria’s best President so far.

The achievements that will define the legacy of Buhari are also the inconvenient truths that will unsettle those who place themselves above Nigeria’s interest. And this is why this compilation of facts is not an attempt at image laundering, but a verifiable record on his significant accomplishments in infrastructure, agriculture, economy, social welfare, industrialization and a legion of other interventions that combine to justify Buhari’s record as Nigeria’s best President.

Unarguably, one of the biggest achievements of the Buhari administration has been his administration’s unrivalled investment in infrastructure — a feat that has gained his government a competitive edge when compared with the previous democratic regimes that it has succeeded.

An x-ray of the infrastructural development facilitated by the Buhari-led Federal Government between 2015 and 2019 reveals the following:

INFRASTRUCTURE 

N2.7 trillion was spent on Infrastructure in 2016 and 2017 fiscal years, an unprecedented allocation in Nigeria’s recent history. Out of this figure, N1.219 trillion was released for capital expenditure in the 2016 budget, and N1.476 trillion so far in the 2017 budget — making for a total of N2.7 trillion (about US$9 billion) in two years. This investment has enabled the resumption of work on several stalled projects — road, rail and power projects — across the country.

ROADS

Through the N100 billion Sukuk Bond issued in 2017 by the Buhari Administration, 25 major road projects have been financed across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria. It is also important to note that road projects are now going on across every state in the country. This is despite the fact that many of these projects had been abandoned by previous administrations because of the mounting debts owed by the Federal Government to contractors.

The Works Ministry, marshaled by Babatunde Fashola (SAN), since this administration came into office, has seen to the rehabilitation of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway; the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano expressway; and the Second Niger Bridge following the release of US$650 million from the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF) launched in 2018 by the Buhari government.

Additionally, under Executive Order 7 signed by President Buhari on January 1, 2019, to develop critical road infrastructure in the country, six companies will construct 19 federal roads that have been prioritized in 11 states across each of the six geo-political zones. Again, this project covers an impressive 794.4km.

The companies which include, Dangote Industries Limited; Lafarge Africa Plc; Unilever Nigeria Plc; Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc; Nigeria LNG Limited; and China Road and Bridge Corporation Nigeria Limited will invest in the following road projects:

The Construction of Ashaka-Bajoga Highway in Gombe State; the reconstruction of Dikwa-GambaruNgala Road in Borno State; the Reconstruction of Bama-Banki Road in Borno State; the rehabilitation of Sharada Road in Kano State; Rehabilitation of Benin City – Asaba Road in Edo State; and the rehabilitation of Nnamdi Azikiwe Expressway / Bypass, in Kaduna State.

Others are the reconstruction of Birnin Gwari Expressway – Road in Kaduna State; reconstruction of Birnin Gwari – Dansadau Road in Kaduna State; reconstruction of Makurdi-Yandev-Gboko Road in Benue State; reconstruction of Zone Roundabout-House of Assembly Road in Benue State; reconstruction of Obajana-Kabba Road in Kogi State; and the reconstruction of Ekuku-Idoma-Obehira Road in Kogi State.

Additionally, the companies will also construct the AdaviEba-Ikuehi-Obeiba-Obokore Road in Kogi State; rehabilitate the Lokoja-Ganaja Road in Kogi State; the Ofeme Community Road Network and Bridges in Abia State; the Obele-Ilaro-Papalanto-Shagamu Road in Ogun State; Bodo-Bonny Road & Bridges across Opobo Channel in Rivers State; and work on the reconstruction of Sokoto Road in Ogun State and the Apapa-Oshodi-Oworonshoki-Ojota Road in Lagos State.

RAIL

The Buhari Administration, through the Ministry of Transport headed by Rt. Hon Rotimi Amaechi has completed some rail projects and started others. This includes the Abuja-Kaduna line, which has been completed. Meanwhile, the tracks and the signalling have been completed on the Abuja-Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail, while work has started on the Lagos-Abeokuta-Ibadan rail.

Similarly, the upgrade of Nigeria’s 3,500km network narrow-gauge railway network has commenced, with the signing, in April 2018, of the interim phase of a concession agreement between the Government of Nigeria and an International Consortium led by General Electric (GE). 

The target of this Interim Phase is that within the next 12 months, passengers will experience reduced travel time by rail between Lagos to Kano, and, for the first time in over a decade, contracted and scheduled freight rail services will be available.

Abuja’s Light Rail system is ongoing and will go into operation in 2020. The first line to be launched will connect the city center with the Airport, with a link to the Abuja-Kaduna Railway Line.

The Buhari government, according to the Transport Minister, Amaechi would create about 5,000 jobs upon completion of the railway Wagon Assembly Plant being built at Kajola in Ogun State. Nigeria would also, in the long run, be able to manufacture rolling stock for the country’s use as well as for other African countries.

POWER

According to the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO), one of the President’s 100 days in office milestones for his second and final term was a remarkable deal with Siemens to rejig Nigeria’s power supply, as well as the inauguration of Africa’s largest hybrid solar power plant. For the avoidance of doubt, the President, within the first few days of his second term, concluded plans for improved electricity supply by signing a six-year power deal with German energy giant Siemens, which will result in the production of at least 25,000 megawatts of electricity by the year 2025.

More than 2,000MW of additional power generation capacity by the end of 2018 — some of it via publicly owned plants (Afam Fast Power, 240MW); others through private sector investment supported by the Federal Government.

Launch of the Energizing Economic Programme which is bringing reliable and efficient power to economic clusters /markets around the country. Pilot projects are currently being implemented in Aba (Ariaria Market), Lagos (Shomolu Printing Community, (Sura Shopping Complex), Kano (Sabon Gari Market) and Akure (Isinkan Market). 

Furthermore, the Transmission Expansion and Rehabilitation Programme has resulted in a 50 percent expansion in Grid Capacity since 2015, from 5,000MW to 7,125MW as of December 2017. Beyond the Grid Programme, a Public-Private Partnership scheme championed by the Presidency and the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC), successfully deployed 20,000 units of solar home systems to power rural households across 12 States, between July 2017 and April 2018. 

WATER

In Kaduna, the Federal Government spent N11.8bn to build Galma Dam to ensure the realization of the Zaria water project which was virtually abandoned by previous administrations. Now, residents of that ancient city who may not have seen water flow from public taps for about 30 years have a new lease on life with the 150 million liters per day water source as a result of the collaboration with the state government.

Additionally, the following Water Supply Projects and Dam/Irrigation Projects have been completed by the Buhari administration through the Ministry of Water Resources led by Engr. Suleiman Hussein Adamu: the Central Ogbia Regional Water Project, in Bayelsa; the Sabke/Dutsi/Mashi Water Supply Project, in Katsina; and the Northern Ishan Regional Water Supply Project, serving Ugboha and Uromi communities of Edo State.

Other noteworthy water projects being completed by the Buhari administration are the Kashimbila Dam, in Taraba State; the Ogwashi-Uku Dam, in Delta State; the Shagari Dam Irrigation Project, in Sokoto State; and the Rehabilitation of the Ojirami Dam Water Supply Project in Edo State.

Moreover, more than 70 Ecological Fund projects have been awarded and completed by the Buhari Administration, across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria. These include flood control projects; erosion control projects; bridges and dams; channelization and desilting.

AVIATION

According to the Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, one of the major achievements of President Buhari’s administration in the aviation sector is the sustenance of safety. This development, the Minister says, has further boosted and restored the confidence of the public in Nigeria’s aviation sector. The Minister cited the fact that ensuring the safety of fliers would not have been possible without the enforcement of regulatory rules by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA).

In the area of upgrading Nigerian airports to international standards, President Buhari’s administration has worked to complete the Kano Tower Automated Air Traffic Management and Meteorological Systems, installed the Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) Category II (CAT II), Doppler VORs (DVORs), Distance Measuring Equipment (DME) at four airports across the country: Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt, and Kaduna completed, while that of Minna, Jos, Yola, Maiduguri, Benin, and Akure are nearly completed. Additionally, CAT III Instrument Landing Systems have been installed in Lagos and Abuja, which has helped to improve the operation of aircraft during inclement weather conditions. 

Similarly, this administration has also installed solar airfield lighting at 10 airports; Akure, Port Harcourt, Sokoto, Yola, Kaduna, Minna, Enugu, Maiduguri, Jos, and Ibadan, as well as installed Very High Frequency (VHF) radios for aerodrome and approach air-ground communication in 18 airports nationwide. The airports are Maiduguri, Enugu, Jos, Calabar, Yola, Ilorin, Sokoto, Lagos, Kano, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, Zaria, Katsina, Owerri, Yola, Calabar and Kaduna to ensure passenger safety.

CONCLUSION

With this as a guide, it is clear that as President Buhari, aided by his Ministers work to fix Nigeria one project at a time, one sector at a time, with one new achievement every time — we need all hands on deck to ensure that the commenced projects are completed, and the completed projects are adequately utilized and managed for the sake of the Nigerians that this administration came into office to serve.

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APC National Secretary: Powerful Blocs That Are Backing Bulama, By Segun Tomori

It is no longer news that the seat of the National Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is vacant, what is news is that there is a proposed National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party on Friday, 22nd Nov, 2019 to fill the position and other vacant offices in the party’s National Working Committee (NWC).

The NEC is expected to ratify the nominees presented by zones in which the vacant offices were zoned. The National scribe position was zoned to the North-East, and micro-zoned to Borno and Yobe which gives Arc. Waziri Bulama, an indigene of Borno, an edge to clinch it.

Apart from being the Deputy Director-General (Coordination) of the 2019 APC Presidential Campaign Council (PCC), Bulama was a frontrunner for the same position in the June 2018 National convention of the party before he was persuaded to step down at the last minute by party stakeholders for the out-gone scribe, now Gov. Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State.

Over the past few months, Bulama’s aspiration has garnered unprecedented momentum within the APC that has seen him bag the endorsement of powerful blocs within the party. Amongst the blocs that have endorsed him include:

  1. Forum of State Chairmen of the APC at its meeting in July endorsed Bulama citing his experience and impeccable credentials.
  2. Key chieftains of the APC in the North-East led by Gov. Zulum of Borno, his counterparts in other States, the 6 APC State chairmen in the zone, majority of members of the National Assembly have all thrown their weight behind Bulama.
  3. Majority of the National Working Committee (NWC) members are also rooting for Bulama. He is seen as a unifier and a detribalised administrator.
  4. The Buhari Support Organization (BSO) at a meeting of its State Coordinators sometime in July also unanimously adopted Arc. Waziri Bulama as its sole candidate for APC scribe.

The Chairman of the forum extolled his virtues stating he is the best man for the job.

  1. A pressure group under the auspices of Tinubu Transformation Agenda (TITAN) has also since backed Bulama.

Other groups that have joined the Bulama for National Secretary advocacy include, the Coalition of Buhari and Osinbajo Movement (COBOM), APC in Diaspora, Women for Buhari/Osinbajo amongst others.

It is obvious that majority of stakeholders within the APC are in support of the emergence of Bulama as the party’s scribe.

The long wait for the emergence of the new party scribe has reached feverish pitch. Party faithful across the country are now eagerly awaiting the announcement of the amiable Arc. Waziri Bulama as the substantive APC National Secretary at the party’s forthcoming NEC meeting.

Segun Tomori is the Chairman, Media & Publicity, Bulama Support Group (BSG), Dep. Chairman (South), Bulama Youth Coalition (BYC).

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Towards A New Deal For Nigeria, By Abba Kyari

The decision by the National Assembly to amend the Deep Offshore (and inland basin production sharing contract) Act is a huge victory for Nigeria. The articles and clauses of complex legislation may not appear to be the stuff to set pulses racing. But there should be no doubt: this is a watershed moment for our economy, our institutions and our people.

As a result of this amendment, Nigeria could earn an extra billion dollars a year from our oil. These are funds that will help restore our schools and hospitals, repair our roads and infrastructure and give our armed forces the support they need to keep us safe. That is a big win. But it is about more than just the money.

There is no doubt that the Deep Offshore Act had to change. The original law that provided for the operation of oil licences in deep water was introduced by the military regime back in 1993. New techniques in drilling and computer modelling were then beginning to emerge, allowing for the exploitation of oil in water depths that had previously been impossible. Fiscal terms were based on the industry’s long-term outlook for oil prices of around USD18-20/ barrel, above which profits were hardly taxed at all.

Crucially, the 1993 contract provided only for a review of terms. Oil passed USD20 barrel in 2003 but companies could, and did, refuse to accept any changes. The ‘business as usual’ lobby made sure that every attempt until now to amend the law ended in failure. But more than 25 years on, advances in technology have substantially reduced costs to industry and oil has consistently traded way above that anticipated range. For international oil companies, this has been a regulatory bonanza. A better balance between reasonable profits and a fair tax regime would years ago have delivered the billions we need to invest in Nigeria’s future.

The amendment calls time on this contractual anachronism. But it should not be seen in isolation, or as a ‘one off’. President Muhammadu Buhari pushed for the amendment as part of an ambitious programme to overhaul a corruption-saddled and under-performing oil and gas sector.

This is the key to the delivery of a more diverse and productive economy that will provide the jobs and sustainable growth we need in the coming decades to end poverty and raise living standards. Headline increases in our GDP will be matched by policies that ensure growth is inclusive and evenly shared, and provide protection and opportunity for the most vulnerable.

The President has worked with the 9th National Assembly, its leadership and members, to deliver this amendment. This is the kind of partnership that we have seen all too rarely since the restoration of democracy in 1999. We have shown how national institutions, the executive and legislature, can come together to work for the common good and the National Interest.

A sense of patriotism and the drive to deliver reform is replacing the sterile self-interest that has for too long dominated public administration. The passage of the amendment shows that the 9th National Assembly has the ambition and commitment to help make the real changes Nigeria needs if we are to move forward. The Senate and House of Representatives have shown that we can replace exploitation of the system by the few for the benefit of the few with a new spirit of co-operation – to build a fairer, more efficient system for the benefit of rich and poor alike.

Our vision is for an oil and gas industry that is attractive to investors and competitive in a crowded international market. Operations should be driven by commercial principles, transparent and free from political interference. We will deliver a new deal for host communities and proper guarantees for environmental standards.

The Collins English dictionary defines a free-for-all as “a situation in which several people or groups are trying to get something for themselves and there are no controls on how they do it.” We need an oil industry that is fair for all its stakeholders, to move towards a new partnership that ends the adversarial dysfunction and searching for loopholes that has become the norm.

The amendment is important for three reasons: it brings our laws and taxes into the 21st century; it shows that our institutions are effective and resolute in support of the National Interest; and that President Buhari means business. As Britain’s wartime prime minister Winston Churchill once said, ‘This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end.’ We have a lot of work to do. But this amendment shows where we are going – and that now, within our grasp, is a Nigeria that works for us all.

Kyari is the Chief of Staff to the President

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Prof Abdalla And The Soaring Image Of NOUN, By Gidado Yushau Shuaib

If the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) lasts until the end of time, and there is every likelihood it will, the name ‘Prof. Abdalla Uba Adamu’ will never go into extinction. It will face no compromise. Professor Adamu, the Vice-Chancellor of NOUN has paddled the university out of the doldrums to its present admirable position as a reputable citadel of learning. One won’t be wrong to call him ‘the changer of fate.’

Established in 1983 as a springboard for open and distance learning in Nigeria, the institution had to be suspended a year after. However, its resuscitation began on 12 April 2000. Ever since the institution had been witnessing one stride after another in the hands. Notably, the administration of Prof. Abdalla which started in 2016 has been eventful especially as the institution is seen to be witnessing a what may aptly be described as the transformation to a ‘giant’ institution.

Starting from the swift relocation of its headquarters from Lagos to Abuja, the country’s ‘administrative capital’, up till the point of making the institution to have a blossoming student population unrivalled in Africa, all of which were made possible by Prof. Adamu’s leadership ‘notoriety’. In ensuring a smooth relocation, Professor Adamu had to quickly fix the infrastructural gaps in the permanent site which was then under construction.

Concerned about qualitative education relevant to the modern world, Adamu introduced professional courses with ‘attractive’ modules including degree programmes in International Relations, French and Development Studies. He also introduced Master of Law (LL.M), Master of International Law and Diplomacy (MILD), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Law, M.Sc Public Health, Postgraduate Diploma (PGD) Economics, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Mass Communication, Master of Science (M.Sc) Cyber Security. Others include a Master of Science (M.Sc) Artificial Intelligence, Master of Science (M.Sc) Management Information System, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Cyber Security, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Artificial Intelligence, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Management Information System as well as its over 22,000 facilitators spread across the country.

Before Prof Adamu assumed office, the university was facing a hard time over the accreditation of some of its courses by the National University Commission (NUC). With his Midas Touch, the school’s Law programme is being fine-tuned for accreditation so as its students would soon be able to enrol in the Nigerian Law School. This, before Prof Adamu’s coming, was deemed arguably impossible.

Also, under his leadership, in 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari assented the amended NOUN Act. With this recognition, the university is placed at par with all recognised universities in Nigeria under the various Acts that amended the provision of higher education in Nigerian universities. The act opens a vista of opportunities for students of the institution that they did not have before.

Going back to the institution’s infrastructural achievements under Prof Adamu, one can beat his chest that it never had it better. And it is not solely at the headquarters that the infrastructural transformation has taken place, it is across its 78 study centres. At the headquarters, there is a 3-storey faculty building billed to house the remaining faculties in Lagos. Other structures built by the professor include: a magnificent library, a brand-new printing press, a convocation ground and a media centre.

The institution also unveiled its newly redesigned Olusegun Obasanjo Centre for African Studies, OOCAS, the centre was opened to collaborate with local and international scholars willing to dissect Africa, towards the goal of producing cutting-edge research that would showcase the African story.

Apart from academics, the professor has a strong passion for sports. This is apparently why he is seeing to the building of a recreation centre at the university’s headquarters. In the centre are two courts for basketball, one for volleyball and another one for football. These facilities are being routinely used by both staff and students; hence the institution stole the show at the recent NUSSA Games at the University of Ilorin and smiled home with the highest number of medals. NOUN had more athletes in the competition than any other university.

Daily, both global and local players in the sector of education troop into the university for all sorts of collaborations. Many a university in Nigeria and beyond are now using NOUN’s template because of its efficacy. Little wonder, the Society for Peace, Conflict and Practice and Canada-based Commonwealth of Learning conferred their fellowship this workaholic Professor.

These aren’t all the achievements of Prof Adamu at NOUN. These are only a few, yet they loudly position him as a man with the Midas Touch.

Gidado Yushau Shuaib, the editor of Youths Digest and The News Digest, can be reached on giddyshuaib@gmail.com

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A Tale Of Progress: Ease Of Doing Business In Nigeria Is Picking Steam Indeed, By Bernard Okri

Progress is not an illusion, it happens – George Orwell

The World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Index (DBI) which has ranked Nigeria 131 out of 190 countries, up 15 places from 146 positions last year, up from 170 since 2014 is a testament to the progress of our nation. For those wondering, the Doing Business Index is an annual ranking that objectively assesses prevailing business climate conditions across 190 countries based on 10 ease of doing business indicators.

This celebrated feat would not have been possible without the much needed reforms implemented by this Administration over the past four years through the establishment of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC).

PEBEC has the aim of minimizing the constraints that come with running businesses in the country works towards the fulfillment of the projections of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP 2017-2020), which strives to deliver sustainable economic growth in Nigeria by investing in our people, and building a competitive economy. Some of the strategies that brought about this feat include cutting down the time it takes to register a business through the use of the electronic platform, new grid connections for electricity, upgrading election systems for imports and exports and also educating business owners on vital business strategies.

Since 1995, the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission Act has taken steps to dismantle years of controls and limits on foreign direct investment (FDI), opening nearly all sectors to foreign investment, allowing for 100 percent foreign ownership in all sectors (with the exception of the petroleum sector, where FDI is limited to joint ventures or production sharing contracts), and creating the Nigerian Investment Promotion Commission (NIPC) with a mandate to encourage and assist investment in Nigeria. The Government has introduced several programmes to boost FDI, notably in agriculture, exploitation and mining, oil and gas extraction, as well as in the export sectors. Tax incentives are granted to pioneering industries deemed beneficial for the economic development of the country and employment of its workforce (such as clothing); allowances facilitating capital investments and the deduction of interest on loans for gas companies are few reforms aimed at promoting public-private partnerships and strategic alliances with foreign companies.

The implementation of various strategies in pursuit of increasing the ease of doing business has had and continues to impacts on entrepreneurs in Nigeria. One of whom is Ola Brown, founder of Flying Doctors Nigeria, a medical emergency services company, whose business has been transformed by the review of the requirements for Nigerian visas in order to make it more assessable and customer-friendly to improve the country’s business climate by the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS). She disclosed during her interview with CNN how a simple policy change has transformed her business, allowing her the comfort to bring patients to Nigeria without having to get a visa in advance.

Speaking in detail at the Lit Subnational Tour organized by The Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council and the Lagos State Government, Dr. Brown spoke about how the Visa on arrival policy has enhanced her business and ensure better and faster healthcare delivery. “For me, visa on arrival has changed the way my business runs forever. Flying Doctors like every air ambulance service in the world is focused on moving patients from an area where there is an overwhelmed level of care to a more suitable level of care.”

She went further to illustrate the numerous economic opportunities for not just her business but several others catering to the value chain: “imagine trying to move an American or a European that’s had an accident in Chad into a Nigerian hospital, you have to move them to the center of Chad first and wait two days for a visa there while the patient is critical before you can get them into Nigeria. However, now we can fly directly there and bring them straight into Lagos, they get their visa on arrival when they get to Lagos and we can take them to hospital and I will tell you what that does, each of these patients are intensive care patients, they spend around $50, 000 each. So you can imagine if we are bringing one thousand to five thousand of those patients every year into Lagos, It just props up my business. The business services are making money because now they are making money from their charges when they issue visa. The hospitals are making money; the doctors can be paid better salaries. Even sometimes the relatives have to fly in to stay in hotels in Lagos. So it is a really huge boost to the economy.”

Founder of Farmcrowdy, Onyeka Akumah, remarked about his firm’s progress operating from Lagos under a better business environment brought about by the Ease of Doing Business Reforms Policy. He spoke about the strides of the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, under the new policy. He said: “When investors are coming into the country, it’s a lot easier for them to locate on their phone where the organization is across the country. So CAC registration is not just allowing people to register online easily but it also makes customers discover you online and that has been beneficial to us.”

The Ease of doing business policy of the federal government in collaboration with the state governments is aimed at ensuring that investors and entrepreneurs are able to carry out their business activities with little or no impediments or obstacles.
The policy is hinged on implementing enabling business environment interventions across the country with Federal Government ministries, departments and agencies working to ensure that processes and regulations are simplified and automated to ensure easier, faster and stress free business environment. Key features of this initiative include ease of business incorporation, trade across borders, prevention of double taxation, faster registration of property, introduction of visa on arrival, and successful legislation of a new Company and Allied Matters Bill 2018, among many others.

Subsequently, another vital reform that resulted in Nigeria’s progress as seen in the World Bank’s 2020 Doing Business Index (DBI) is the integration of more agencies into customs electronic data interchange system, and the introduction of an e-payment system for port authorities, thus speeding up both exports and imports.
Over the past 3 years, Nigeria has implemented more than 140 reforms all aimed at improving how business is done in the country. The World Economic Forum (WEF) has consequently recognized Nigeria’s business environment as one of the most entrepreneurial in the world, and highlighted Nigeria’s improved competitiveness in Enabling Business Environment.

Bernard Okri is the President of the Global Economic Policy Initiative.

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The Takeaways From President Buhari’s Visit To Russia By Garba Shehu

President Muhammadu Buhari has returned to Nigeria from his four-day visit to the Russian Republic extremely happy with the success of the visit, which outcome is the best response to a few skeptical audiences back home, including a toxic newspaper editorial, “Buhari, Stay On Your Job,” by the Lagos-based Punch Newspaper asking him to not travel.

Based upon the results, it must be concluded that the President’s mission was fully accomplished. The definite high point was the decision by the Russians to agree to a government-to-government understanding that would see them return to complete the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill and commission it. Nigeria had expended well over USD 5 billion without it coming to fruition.

When he campaigned early in the year for his re-election, which he won with a majority of four million votes, marking a difference of 14 per cent against his closest rival, President Buhari reiterated an earlier promise to complete Ajaokuta to provide jobs and the steel backbone that the nation’s industrial complex needed so desperately. Could this have been achieved if he had locked himself inside the Aso Rock Villa? The answer is obviously a “no.”

Yet, this was not all that he secured. Presidents Buhari and Vladimir Putin opened a “new chapter” in the historically important relationship between the two countries as they both agreed to expand cooperation in energy sector, petroleum and gas, trade and investment, defence and security, mining and steel development, aluminium and phosphate, education and agriculture and a plethora of other issues which, to my pleasure had been spelled out in an elaborate manner by Tonye Princewill, an astute leader in the All Progressives Congress, APC in an opinion article he widely circulated.

President Putin noted that the traditional friendly relationship between Nigeria and his country has gained a new momentum, symbolized by a 93 per cent growth in trade between the two nations in 2018, promising that “Russian companies are ready to offer their scientific and technological developments to their African partners, and share their experience of upgrading energy, transport and communications infrastructure.”

In President Buhari’s view, this summit was a necessary anchor “to kick start what has been a very cordial and mutually beneficial relationship in past years…there are similarities between Russia’s journey under your leadership (Putin’s) and Nigeria’s aspirations for the future. We can learn a lot from the experiences of Russia’s ongoing reforms of transitioning from an oil dependent economy to a modern, diversified and inclusive economy.”

Russia is clearly seeking to reconstruct the important role the country played in its Soviet era. They had traditionally supported African countries in their fights for independence and sought to build industrial infrastructure and develop national economies.

In another sense, the focus of the summit on multilateralism, the advocacy for the reform of the United Nations and climate change action is a direct response to Trump era unilateralism.

It is noteworthy that Nigeria got everything our delegation asked for. When German Chancellor, Angela Merkel visited President Buhari in Abuja in August last year, she made reference to a pertinent defect in the relationship between Europe and Africa when it comes to the promotion of projects.

“When we give you a project, we show you the door to a bank. We tell you to go and obtain financing. The Chinese give you the project, they give you financing. That is something we will have to look at,” she said to President Buhari.

Before the Europeans make up their minds on this, the Russians are now having a go at the idea. For every viable project Nigerian officials suggested in the course of this summit, the chances of the financing appeared within sight.

It is in the light of this that one of Russia’s leading rail line service providers, MEDPROM indicated their interest in undertaking the 1,400-kilometer Lagos-Calabar rail track that will pass through all the states in the South-South sub-region.

The agreement and MoU signed between the NNPC and the Russia’s Lukoil is another spectacular agreement along these lines. Lukoil owns seven refineries and a record turnover of USD 38 billion.

The two oil giants will upgrade their commercial relationship to a government-to-government backed partnership, to work together in upstream operations and in revamping Nigeria’s ill-functioning refineries. The signing ceremony was witnessed by Timipre Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources. The Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mele Kyari signed for the Nigerian side while Vagit Alekperov, President, signed on behalf of Lukoil.

In support of this, President Buhari made clear that he wished to work with Russian businesses to improve the efficiency of our oil and gas sector, giving a strong assurance that his administration will “ensure this initiative is implemented within the shortest possible time.”

Of no less significance is the MoU resolving past issues, paving the way for the revival of the rested joint venture between the NNPC and Russia’s gas giants, GASPROM for the development of Nigeria’s enormous gas resources and its infrastructure.

In that waggish but poisonous editorial, the newspaper in question raised concerns about terrorism, kidnapping and general insecurity in the country. It asked a question, wondering why the President would travel abroad when there is, in the country, the problem of kidnapping and fire from oil tankers had caused the loss of life and devastation of shops. Yes, these are sad and unwelcome. This is a President who is praised for his prompt response to the Onitsha fire, first by releasing a message of commiseration same evening and thereafter, dispatching the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs on a condolence mission. The minister gave directive on the spot to the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA for the immediate deployment of emergency assistance to the Southeast.

Either out of ignorance or mischief, the Punch failed to see how important it is for the President to seek international support in tackling home grown terrorists, the Boko Haram, reinforced by 2000 ex-ISIS fighters as disclosed by Mr. Putin.

Not only did President Buhari get that needed support to fight Boko Haram terrorists, he got the two countries to cooperate extensively in the strategic fields of defence, civil nuclear energy and in dealing with piracy and oil pipeline vandalism in the Gulf of Guinea.

The Nigerian leader also got a deal for the technological upgrade and timely delivery of the balance of seven, out of an existing order for 12 Attack Helicopters. These, and an assortment of military hardware are direly needed by Nigeria to deal with the new wave of crime bedevilling the country.

Interestingly, one of the three key themes of the whole conference is security. African states with Russia’s support have, as an outcome, drawn up a regional security architecture that would use new technological solutions to ensure security for cities, securing the borders and creating a buffer against the illegal movement of explosives, weapons, drugs and smuggling to reduce terrorist danger to the continent.

Still on security, the Nigeria-Russia Military Technical Agreement that lapsed a few years ago without being renewed will be given due attention by Nigeria. Russia had been ready with her part. President Buhari gave a response to this, saying, “I have directed the Minister of Defence to work with the Ministry of Justice to conclude this matter within the shortest possible time.”

The significance of this agreement lies in the fact that it opens the door to the procurement of military hardware, on a government-to-government basis, eliminating middlemen and reducing cost, as well as the training of military personnel, modernization of the armed forces, refurbishment and renewal of infrastructure and equipment, which President Putin said he is ready to assist Nigeria to undertake.

The one perennial business and, if you like emotional topic between the two countries is the protracted issue of the Aluminium Smelter Company of Nigeria, ALSCON, Ikot-Abasi, Akwa-Ibom State. It too, will be resolved. President Buhari announced that he had asked the Ministry of Justice, “to submit a comprehensive report on the UC Russel (the Russian owners of the plant) matter…I want to assure you that the aim of our reforms is to ensure such investments are concluded and actualized in a professional and painless manner.”

There are many of our citizens who do not reckon with the fact that this country has a nuclear programme for about 40 years, one however, that has not gone beyond the setting up of research stations. Arising from these discussions, President Putin invited President Buhari to join him in taking the next step in the implementation of the project by commencing the construction of the nuclear power plant.

The two Presidents also addressed issues in education and agriculture. Russia said she would give additional scholarships. There are currently 100 Nigerian students studying under her scholarship and so far, 797 students from Nigeria have benefited from scholarships for training in Russia in various academic fields.

On agriculture, Russia agreed to support Nigeria in laying a solid foundation for food security. This will partly come through raw materials (phosphate) supply for President Buhari’s very impactful Presidential Fertilizer Initiative that has seen the reopening of dozens of blending plants and the return to work of thousands of employees.

Russia, now the world’s largest producer of wheat according to President Putin, will work with Nigeria in growing wheat to meet domestic and market needs.

This is in response to President Buhari who made a request to Putin, that “we seek your Government’s support especially in the area of wheat production. Today, Nigeria produces less than one hundred thousand metric tons of wheat locally while our imports are projected to exceed five million tons in 2020. We therefore need your support to bridge the deficit which will create jobs and save our foreign exchange for other important areas like security, defence and infrastructure.”

The two leaders also discussed regional and international issues of mutual interest, with President Buhari pointedly asking for Russia’s support for Nigeria’s aspiration to assume a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, in the envisaged reform of the UN.

Realizing that the relationship between our two countries had suffered the loss of the momentum characteristic of the Soviet era, President Buhari said “to move forward, may I suggest that our countries organize the fifth Joint Commission meeting to review and ratify all the agreements (about 40) contained in the Inter-governmental Nigeria-Russia Joint Commission on Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation Protocol of November 11, 2016,” to which his Russian counterpart agreed.

For the African continent that been looked at as a potential bright spot in the world economy for a long time, the flurry of summits between the leaders of the major economies of the world and the Heads of African states and government is a clear indication of Africa coming of age.

For Nigeria and President Buhari in particular, the Russia-Africa Summit had served the desire the two countries to diversify and further strengthen the bonds of our robust bilateral relations. A solid foundation has indeed been laid for the promotion of the mutually beneficial cooperation between both nations.

Garba Shehu, is the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity

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Nigeria’s Democratic Journey: Why Social Media Would Define Future Elections, By Jasmine Osai

No average person 30 years ago would have predicted that Social Media would define democracy three decades ahead. The closest was William Gibson in 1984 in his masterpiece, Neuromancer. In it, he predicted a situation where there would be no geographical boundaries for the mass media and information flow because of technological advancement. The evolution of social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, have not just provided room to facilitate networking among friends but have also provided the platforms for political communication and campaign, hence giving testimony to Gibson’s prophecy.

The global political media system has undergone massive transformations over the past decade. There is a major shift in how and where people get political information and with technological advancements, more people easily turn to digital sources. With no geographical boundary, over the past decade, social media has become one of the most powerful tools in campaigns and governance.

Not left behind, Nigeria has witnessed an exponential growth in Internet and social media use in defining its political processes. Although social media platforms were already in the picture around the 2011 Presidential election, the political role of social media in Nigerian politics took a more established position during the famous OccupyNigeria movement in 2012. In a seeming unprecedented fashion, the protests saw thousands of Nigerians take to the streets to demand improvement in the fight against corruption, the reversal of the deregulation of downstream oil industries and at large, and better government accountability. Participants at the protests were mostly mobilized by social media posts; the movement exploited the networking, collaborating, and community-building potential of social media. Ever since, social media’s political function in campaigns, government, and political movements, as well as its role in the news media ecosystem in Nigeria, has rapidly broadened in reach, consequence and complexity.

The OccupyNigeria movement drove a hunger for change; so, when the merchants of change came, a large percentage of Nigerians were stoked. They picked up the gauntlet and got into the thick of things; Nigerians rallied, campaigned and even donated to the ‘change’ cause on social media. These social media platforms played a significant role in the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari as the winner in what has been described as the most ‘free and fair election in the history of Nigeria’ in 2015.

“Elections are not won on social media but perceptions are shaped there,” says an aphorism. Indeed,social media did not win the 2015 elections. However, it molded opinion, helped create viral campaigns, checkmated irregularities, and locked down results – it was a similar case for the 2019 elections. But politics transcends the social media sphere; other factors come to play – local popularity, finances, relationship with key actors, among others. This is most likely why although some party candidates in the 2019 presidential elections may seem to have had thousands of Retweets, Shares and Likes on social media, translating to a perception of preference for their candidature, President Buhari still won the elections. He was able to engage more people at the grassroots whilst having a relatively strong online campaign.

Social media has ultimately become a tool for driving one cause or the other; from social movements aimed at socio-economic development, to direction for policy-making, to protestations against corruption, to demands for government empathy or accountability, and advocacy for an overall better performance and input by government officials.

Take the more recent instance of the proposed implementation of the controversial Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) settlement, which was suspended partly because Nigerians took to various social media platforms to oppose the policy. These platforms have created a space for intensive and productive civic engagement, political discourse and deliberative democracy, using hashtags as a coordinating and tracking strategy. In many cases social media trends do not just stop as trends, but transcend the internet to become raging topics on TV shows, radio programmes and even newspaper headlines.

Nigerians on social media are forever on the topic of who gets what, when and how and are keenly involved in conversations tilting towards a progressive country. These conversations have influenced policies, people and most definitely have influenced the opinions and decisions of those in power.

Four years ahead of the 2023 Presidential election, commentaries on the agenda of that political epoch are already being held – on the internet space. The divide on social and digital media platforms, like Twitter, Nairaland and Facebook are getting wider with partisanship, interests and sentiments palpable in the tone of posts. The character of the political discourse on these platforms is already defining the persona of who users seek would emerge as their next president – or not.

Jasmine Osai, a development and media enthusiast writes from Port Harcourt.

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