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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My Head Swelled And Swelled, As The World Celebrated Buhari’s Anti-Corruption Credentials, By Femi Adesina

Wednesday was a helluva day. Filled to the brim. We didn’t call it a day till 9 p.m (2 a.m Nigerian time), and it was with all pleasure that I dived into bed about an hour later. Sweet embrace. Sleep. William Shakespeare calls it “sweet nourisher in life’s feast.” We must give glory to God for creating sleep. That’s why it’s not good to murder sleep. Serious trouble.
How did Wednesday go?

President Muhammadu Buhari met with the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa. The latter said it was always inspiring for him, each time he sat near the Nigerian President.

Purpose of the meeting? Portugal would be hosting Europe-Africa Forum in Lisbon next year, and the Nigerian leader was being invited to declare the event open.

“Please come, we’ll like to see you” de Sousa said. “We’ve been waiting for you for three years. Please come, even if it’s for just half a day. Many African leaders have visited us, but we want Nigeria. Please come to Lisbon.”
The President said our own President was looking quite well: “You are so fit! Your opponents say you are ill. I guess that is just to disturb you.” General laughter.

President Buhari said he would consider the invitation, apologizing that he hadn’t visited all the while. “I was very busy in the first term, knowing that I was going to face re-election. Now that we are in second and final term, we will consolidate on what we’ve done in first term, so that I can retire in peace and comfort.”

Next. Former Prime Minister of Australia, Hon Kevin Rudd, who now spends his time advocating for water, sanitation, and discouragement of open defecation round the world. He is chairman of a body called Water and Sanitation for All. He says his children now call him ‘Global Sultan of Sanitation.’ Interesting.

President Buhari told him what Nigeria was doing in the area of water and sanitation, including declaring a state of emergency in November last year. Target date for eradicating open defecation is 2025. Ex-PM Rudd shared a slogan made popular in India by PM Narendra Modi, particularly directed at ladies: ‘Never marry a man, unless he can provide you with clean toilet.’ Lol. Many men would surely be sentenced to eternal bachelorhood, if that happens in Nigeria. But happen it must, President Buhari assured. He said the country would step up advocacy against open defecation, and clean water would be provided for all.

Next. Two men of wealth, and of power. Their kind of wealth naturally confers great influence anywhere in the world. Bill Gates, and Aliko Dangote. Before they came in, one of us had jocularly said: “I hope they would announce a gift of one million dollars to each of us before they leave.” I would simply faint, I responded . If I got revived, and saw the pile of money, I would faint again. Remember the late Justice Ovie Whiskey? He was the electoral commission boss sometime in Nigeria. When someone accused him of collecting inducement in millions of Naira to swing victory to a particular side, he said he had never seen a million Naira before, and that if he saw it, he would simply faint. So, don’t blame me if I faint at the sight of a million dollars.
Gates and Dangote gave the President updates on the polio war, progress on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), agriculture, and many others. Their host lauded them for their help to humanity, saying: “Thanks for deriving pleasure in helping people.” (I thought they would drop the one million dollars gift for each person at that time, but alas, they didn’t).
Next again. President Julius Mada Bio of Sierra Leone. He came to discuss matters that affected his country, the West African sub-region, and Africa in general.

Now, to the big one for the day. High Level Side Event on Promotion of International Cooperation to Combat Illicit Financial Flows. It was organized by AUDA-NEPAD in conjunction with Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of Nigeria. President Buhari presented a keynote address, was supported by President Edgar Lungu of Zambia, and President of Ethiopia, Sahlework Zewede. President of UNGA 74, Professor Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, was also there, as well as key figures from round the world.
In his keynote address, President Buhari lamented the evil that corruption was doing to Africa. Quoting from the 2014 Global Financial Integrity Report, the Nigerian leader noted that Nigeria alone lost minimum of $157.5 billion between 2003-2012, adding that such massive loss of assets resulted in dearth of resources “to fund public services or to alleviate poverty,” in the country.

According to him, “This is why, as Africans, we have no choice but to break the back of corruption…That is why our government has made it a war we intend to win. We will give all it takes to ensure there is no hiding place for purveyors of corrupt practices who are truly enemies of the people.”

Stressing the need to strengthen good practices on asset recovery and return, President Buhari said that, “In the last five years, our government has made significant progress to curb corruption,” adding: “We have recovered millions of dollars stolen from our country.”

Then followed a session in which my head swelled, and swelled, as keynote statements were made by personalities from across the world. Ori mi wu, as the Yoruba people would say. Almost all the speakers were not done, till they had eulogized President Buhari for his commitment to integrity, transparency and accountability. It was one evening every right thinking Nigerian in the hall felt proud of our President. I just was afraid that my head could burst before the end of the event, as speaker after speaker poured encomium on the Nigerian President, the anti-corruption champion of Africa.

You see why some of us believe in the man, and can follow him blindfolded into battle? But pitifully, a prophet often does not have honour in his own country. Interventions came from African Union Commission, European Commission, Norway, Namibia, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), former Prime Minister of Niger Republic and CEO of AUDA-NEPAD, Sweden, South Africa, and many others. Almost everyone had good words about the Nigerian leader and his passion for anti-corruption.

My greatest takeaway from the seminal evening was perhaps the declaration by Mr Mukhisa Kituyi of UNCTAD. He said corruption was a matter that brings shame to the African continent. He praised President Buhari “for offering leadership,” and then threw a challenge: “Let other African leaders stand up to be counted.” Food for thought, indeed.

Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity

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Osinbajo, Inccurable Wailers And The Verdict Of History -By Abdullahi Haruna

That Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is the most loyal Vice President in the chequered history of Nigeria’s democracy is to state the obvious. However, the renowned Professor of law, the venerated Pastor of one of the biggest denominational churches in the world and the politician without blemish is not only known for his loyalty, he is the most learned, the most versatile and the most useful Vice President the country has ever produced.

No doubt, President Muhammadu Buhari’s selection of Osinbajo as a tested and trusted ally was not done in error or in happenstance; daily happenings even reinforce this fact. The enviable conviviality between the duo, does not come to people as a surprise because both individual share some semblances – their humane dispositions, commitment to doing what is right, and their display of sincerity and integrity signify a perfect match.

In the history of democracy in Nigeria, Osinbajo is a cypress among pliant shrubs; he stands out among his contemporaries. He stands out in terms of resourcefulness and reliability in helping to steer the ship of nation building under the leadership of President Buhari in times of peace and in times of turbulence as they often happen. It’s no exaggeration, too, that Osinbajo remains one of the most cerebral Nigerians to have occupied the position of Vice President within the context of the country’s embrace of democracy.

As a symbol of peace, Osinbajo’s words are like soothing balm that heals the wound of the past created by marginalisation, discrimination, bigotry and nepotism. He is the bridge between the ruling class and the ordinary Nigerians who had been neglected, abandoned and relegated to the background by successive governments. Past governments created unbreakable barricade around themselves; they only strolled out of their comfort zones during elections while throwing carrots at them, making empty promises in place of succour only to vaporise into the thin air after getting their votes. Ordinary Nigerians are those who stand under the scorching sun or get drenched by heavy downpour of heavenly bliss to register for their Permanent Voters’ Card (PVC) or stand on the queue endlessly to cast their votes during elections. They were however placed on the fringe of governance, as dividends of democracy always elude them. The present government has emancipated this all important group that were rob-off their entitlements, and ostracised from the mainstream of governance. Vice President Osinbajo is a symbol of that emancipation, as he traverses the nooks and crannies of this country, giving people hope in place of despair.

It is true that ordinary Nigerians remain the greatest beneficiaries of this government and Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo has been one of the messengers through which these benefits are delivered to these once neglected folks. There is no doubt, the current National Social Investment (SIP) initiated by this government is the most effective and efficient in the history of this country. From the N-Power to National Home-grown School Feeding Programme, Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) and Government Enterprises Entrepreneurship Programme (GEEP), Nigerians know that this is the first time that those for whom social programmes are designed are equally the beneficiaries.

For record’s sake, Goodluck Jonathan’s Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme otherwise known as SURE-P which was meant to reinvest the federal government savings from fuel subsidy removal on critical infrastructural projects and social safety programmes was the surest means of whetting the insatiable appetites of the corrupt individuals in high places; those marauders of Aso Rock corridors, who, like vultures, always haunted for carcasses. No doubt, SURE-P was a complete ruse, as the funds meant for it, found their permanent abode in private coffers. If SURE-P stood for anything, it was a sure corruption.

Does anyone need a retelling that the national economic management team under the leadership of the Vice President was responsible for guiding the country out of the turbulence occasioned by economic recession that almost got the country completely paralyzed? Recall that the economic team of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, which plunged the nation into abyss of recession, was led by Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, an expert in finance and economics. During this inglorious era, there were series of rhetoric on diversification and revitalization which ended up an illusion. Instead, what the nation witnessed were some voodoo growth figures that did window dressing but in reality left us perpetually attached to the apron of the zero-sum and precarious oil economy.

However, it was Professor Osinbajo, an expert in law and jurisprudence and a non-economist that led the nation out of the recession. Were it not his diligence and commitments in rallying the private and public sectors of the economy together, the country would have been completely grounded. He provided the needed leadership with the express permission of President Buhari who trusts his capacity to deliver even on the most arduous task. Although not an economist, Osinbajo’s perfect blend of intelligence, perspicacity and sincerity has ridiculed economists and financial experts; he succeeded where some economists and financial experts had woefully failed.

Osinbajo is a committed Buharist, and his stainless loyalty to this government is borne out of his undiluted love for this country. Like his Boss, President Buhari, he is committed to positioning the country for greater prosperity, through selfless leadership. Even though the world knows this, the naysayers who are still not tired of the wailing manacle around their necks, believe he has not done much. But we ask, what else do they want from Vice President Osinbajo?

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How NEC, Newly Formed EAC Would Work Together By Vice President Osinbajo

In response to a request for clarification by members of the National Economic Council regarding NEC’s relationship with the newly announced Economic Advisory Council, EAC, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, has said both councils are for the benefit of the President.

Prof. Osinbajo spoke at the 97th NEC meeting today at the Council Chambers.
“If NEC want to be briefed regularly by the Economic Advisory Council, EAC, we will request the President to do that,” the VP explained to the Council observing that such interaction will promote synergy.

Below are highlights of NEC deliberations:

NEC (5TH IN 2019) 97TH NEC MEETING – THURSDAY, 19TH October, 2019

UPDATE ON THE NATIONAL LIVESTOCK TRANSFORMATION PLAN BY THE GOVERNOR OF EBONYI STATE, DAVE UMAHI, CHAIRMAN OF NEC TECHNICAL COMMITTEE ON THE NLTP

The chairman reminded NEC that the Committee was to address the
Farmer/herder crisis
The Committee presented a National Livestock Transformation Plan 2019 – 2028.
The Plan is not targeted on only cows but a holistic strategy to address animal husbandry.
The Plan has six pillars:
Conflict Resolution
Justice and Peace
Humanitarian Relief and Early Recovery
Human Capital Development
Cross cutting issues
Economic Development
The Committee proposed an implementation guideline to guide FG and States
N100 billion has been budgeted to support the project.
FG is to contribute 80% in grant to support States, while States will contribute land, project implementation structure, personnel and 20% cost of the project.
Council Resolution
Need to look at the Trans-Human West Africa Regional Protocol – because the country cannot allow such movement of cattles without registering and monitoring them
Council emphasised the need to established the fact that NLTP is a creation of NEC and State Governors and is completely distinct from RUGA.
NEC adopted the National Livestock Transformation Plan on January 18, 2019. It is a creation of the National Economic Council.
States will determine, whether or not they are willing to participate, as FG did not impose this plan. Participation remains voluntary.
The role of the FG is to coordinate, monitor and help implement the plan.

UPDATE ON ACCOUNT

    Honourable Minister of State for Budget and National Planning reported to Council that balances in the underlisted accounts as at 17th September, 2019 are as follows:

EXCESS CRUDE ACCOUNT (ECA) = USD 274, 583, 856 .78
STABILIZATION ACCOUNT = N23, 796, 349,487.76
DEV. NATURAL RES. ACCT FUND = N105, 135, 613, 817.27
UPDATE ON BUDGET SUPPORT LOAN FACILITY
The Honourable Minister of State also briefed in the Budget Support Facility that State Governments are expected to start servicing the loan from September 2019 and repayment is over 240 months
Council resolved that Governors should meet with the Ministry of Finance and Central Bank of Nigeria to sort out the details of repayment modalities and the Vice President will ensure same and ensure the meeting between the Governors, CBN and Finance Ministry in order to facilitate the speedy resolution of the matter.
UPDATE ON THE PRESIDENTIAL ENABLING BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT COUNCIL (PEBEC)
The Secretary of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) Dr. Jumoke Oduwole gave an update on building an Enabling Business Environment. She informed Council that
There is currently a reform wave in African countries, as contained in the African Development Bank (AFDB) Economic Outlook Report released in January, 2019.
That in the 2019 World Bank ease of doing business ranking, Nigeria is ranked 146 with Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) making up to 90% of Business in Nigeria.
That the Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020, which has three broad objectives; which includes restoring growth; Investing in people and Building a competitive economy has positioned Nigeria in the path of building a competitive economy.
That PEBEC is mandated to make Nigeria’s ranking to top 100 in the 2020 World Bank Doing Business index.
Achieve the required political buy-in across all arms and levels of government.
Furthermore, she told NEC that PEBEC has in the past 3 years achieved the following:
Moved up 24 places in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business ranking
32 Nigerian states, led by Kaduna, Enugu, Abia, Lagos and Anambra states have improved in their ease of doing business environment.
An independent EODB survey adjudged Nigeria’s reforms as impactful in terms of reduction in time, cost and procedures of doing business.
REPORT OF THE AD-HOC COMMITTEE ON CRUDE OIL THEFT,
PREVENTION AND CONTROL PRESENTED BY GOVERNOR EDO STATE

-The 13 member Ad-Hoc Committee which is chaired by the Governor of Edo State, Mr. Godwin Obaseki in their report, told the Council that the Committee is constituted to address:
i. Impact of vandalism, oil theft and illegal bunkering on oil production;
ii. Effectiveness of the activities of the JTF and other Security Agencies
iii. Consider the set-up of Special Courts to prosecute offenders, among others.
The Terms of Reference of the Ad-Hoc Committee is to include:
· restoring and sustaining the three major pipelines;
· assessing the challenges and draw up a roadmap to guide further actions towards finding a lasting solution to the problem;
· co-opt individual or corporate body to facilitate the work of the Committee and update the Council regularly.

  • The Ad-Hoc Committee in its findings discovered that there were losses. NNPC reported a loss of 22.64 million barrel of crude oil valued at USD 1.35 billion for 2019 half a year and possibly UDS 2.7 billion for a full year at a global oil price of USD 60 per barrel, if not checked.
  • The losses were recorded on the following pipeline:
    a. Nember Creek Trunk Line (NCTL) 9.2 million barrels
    b. Trans Niger Pipeline (TNP) 8.6 million barrels
    c. Trans Forcados Pipeline (TFP) 3.96 million barrels
    d. Trans Escravos Pipeline (TSEP) 877 Thousand barrels.
  • Absence of governance structure for the pipeline such that no one is held accountable whenever there is a breach on the lines.
  • Slow and inadequate prosecution of oil thieves, despite numerous arrests and seizures.
  • Absence of petroleum products filling stations in most of its oil producing Communities that make them resort to illegal bunkering and refineries
  • Huge internal and external markets of stolen crude oil which include Ghana as well as some neighboring countries.
    -The Committee made the following recommendations to the Council:
    i. The need to restructure the maintenance of all pipelines as a way of tackling the perpetrators of oil theft. ii. Have a legal framework that will ensure every criminal is duly prosecuted, imprisoned and all assets confiscated.
    iii. Setting up Special Courts to try offenders, set-up of Legal Task Force to coordinate the prosecution of arrested offenders as well as train special judges to handle cases of oil theft.
    iv. NNPC to engage the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) to identify markets for the stolen products.
    v. Governors of the oil producing states to step up actions to develop their communities with their 13% derivation allocation as well as implement programmes that will be impactful to make life easy for the people. They should also create employment opportunities for the youths in these regions.
    vi. Propose a funding arrangement to be jointly funded by the Federal, State Governments and oil companies.

Council Resolution
Council resolve as follows:
Recommendations given will be presented to the President who is also the Minister of Petroleum for the final decision and implementation.
The Chairman of Council also asked NNPC to make a presentation to the Council on the state of PMS and smuggling across the borders.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS

Governors requested clarification from the Council Chairman on the relationship between NEC and the newly formed Economic Advisory Council. The Vice President explained that both Councils are advisory for the benefits of the President, while NEC is established by the Constitution. The Vice President added that NEC could be briefed regularly on the activities of the newly found EAC with the permission of the President.

Released by

‘Laolu Akande

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media & Publicity
Office of the Vice President
19th October, 2019

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Trader Moni: Too Little To You. The Lifeline Of A Trader, By Akinloye James

According to the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) the number of MSMEs in Nigeria is at 37 million, employing 59 million persons contributing over 70% of the active labor force. That means over a quarter of our population are involved in small and medium scale businesses. And they are mostly artisans, petty traders and the likes. Of this large number, 43% fail due to lack of funds for daily sustenance or consistent sales and 38% do not grow beyond their initial start-up level.  A major challenge of these businesses is they cannot meet the basic requirement of obtaining loans at commercial banks, and even when they do, they do not possess sufficient collateral for these loans. Research shows that the availability of microcredit facilities is one key step to boosting economies of developing countries like Nigeria. Yet this has not been the case, as credit facilities have in most instances been channelled to the high and mighty businesses.

Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osibajo is oft heard saying that one the objectives of his administration is to invest in the lives of its people, especially those at the bottom of the pyramid. The visible and rigorous efforts of the initiatives of the National Social Investment Programmes are telling of this intent. The Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) is one of the schemes of the Social Investment Programmes. Through its sub-schemes, TraderMoni and MarketMoni,  financial support is provided through micro lending to micro scale traders. These schemes seek to promote financial inclusion at the grassroots, assisting petty traders with the financial support to conduct their respective businesses. They serve a dual purpose: an economic intervention to drive economic advancement at the grassroots, as well as a social impact project. The implication of this is that these schemes are set to improve the nation’s economy by first improving the daily living conditions its beneficiaries.

Two commonplace errors I have often come across  when conversations on Trader Moni come about: one, the notion that 10,000 Naira can barely make an impact in a person’s life, let alone a household or a business and secondly, the possibility of the scheme to have significant impact on a national or global scale especially in the long term.

These notions are evince that the divide between Nigeria’s poor and rich is palpable; that while to some a loan of 10,000 may seem as paltry sum and even useless, to a large number – a silent majority – it may seem synonymous with oxygen. The imbalance in the conversation flows from the fact that those who control the spaces of conversations, those who write history and shape narratives are the elite minority who cannot fathom the logic of the impact of 10,000 Naira to a small business. To them this money would function to simply cater for petrol or recharge card.

The beneficiaries of the scheme mostly do not have a voice. They are not on social media. They do not have smart phones to explain their stories – and even when they do, they are not literate to tell it. They are not invited to the TV stations to comment on the effects of these loans – their best chances at having their voices known is when the Vice President takes a tour to assess the programme in markets. They cannot write opinion pieces on newspapers or blogs. Yet these are the men and women who form the majority – the silent majority.

Whether they have a voice or not, it does not take away their reality. Take for instance Mrs Agbo Mnenna Mercy who heartily shared her growth story of selling basins of corn to trading in bags; to Mrs Anyor Doshima, a petty trader in Wurunkum market, Benue State, who through Trader Moni was able to make an increase in the number of livestock she owned from 50 to 70; to Solomon Ogunwale a trader in Oja Oba market, Oyo State, who has expanded his blending business and has now employed a new staff. 

These seemingly little changes in their businesses have culminated in increase in their purchasing power as well as improvements in their living standards, and even nutrition. The enormity of Nigerians in this economic demography is one of the reasons why it is detrimental for this vast number to remain underfunded or unassisted. The scheme addresses a pertinent challenge of citizens in this demography; accessing capital without the added pain of high interest rates and rigid collateral demands which before now, has prevented them from expanding their businesses and employing more labour. The ripple effect of the seemingly little, stretches as far as improving  productivity among the disadvantaged population, decrease in inequality as more women are empowered financially, and the improvement in living standards triggering more economic activities across the nation.

The thousands of petty traders who have benefitted from these schemes are proof that they are working.  And impacting on the socio-economic lives of its beneficiaries. They are paying back these loans too – to access higher loans to continue the expansion of their businesses. It is not a quick-fix that would end poverty in Nigeria overnight. Like many great initiatives consistency and diligence are needed to ensure that the schemes do not lose track.

It was Confucius who said that he who intends to move a mountain must first start by carrying little stones. The little impact of each loan given to a family adds to the greater impact that Nigeria needs to end poverty, no matter how slowly. With over two million loans disbursed so far, this lifelines have done more for the economy than many can ever fathom.

Akinloye James is the President of the Initiative to Save Democracy.

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Court’s Affirmation of President Buhari’s Victory, Not Unexpected – Barr. Ismaeel Ahmed

The judgment of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal striking out the petition of the PDP and its candidate in the 2019 Presidential elections, Atiku Abubakar, and affirming the victory of President Muhammadu Buhari at the polls is one that we did not see as unexpected, Barrister Ismaeel Ahmed, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Social Investment Programmes and a member of the APC Board of Trustees and also a Director in the 2019 Buhari Presidential Campaign Council has stated.

The Kano Born Politician in a statement delivered to journalists said that although he recognizes the right of the former Vice President to challenge the victory in court, he truly believes that in the spirit of building a fractured nation, the resources and time could have been well spent on focusing in the already agenda of moving the country forward.

“A genuine electoral mandate was given to us in February that truly reflected the mood and political reality in the country. We didn’t win in any state that we didn’t have a strong wind going into the elections. As a matter of fact we lost in states that we could have won if we were to do what PDP was used to doing during elections. We wouldn’t have lost Abuja, or Oyo or Imo or Edo where we had APC Governors and a federal government. This was an extremely fair contest with results that reflect the mood of the country at the time and we won squarely as the courts have affirmed today. No one in this country can contest President Buhari’s appeal and popular support.”??“Many Nigerians do not just love President Buhari because he is loveable, but they cherish the qualities and charisma he brings to the table. He is a man of determination, he has an unassailable public profile that speaks humility and integrity, he is focused and has Nigeria’s interests at heart.??“President Buhari is a patriot. His sacrifices and commitments to this country are a matter of public knowledge and record. So it is not surprising to see that Nigerians went to the polls to vote him overwhelmingly. I was confident of our victory from the start and I was also confident that the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal would only affirm this victory.”??Ismaeel Ahmed went further to state that the issue the PDP brought to the table were not solid and could hold no grounds in the courts of law.

“I reviewed the submissions their lawyers brought before the courts, and even on face value they lacked evidentiary substance. I believe the entire case was just an attempt to smear the President and attack the credibility of his well-earned victory. It wasn’t much else. No serious evidence was brought to prove the case.

“Attacking the certification of a former Head of State, Military General and a Presidential candidate who contested against PDP severally to be challenged about a school leaving certificate only after he had won is just an attempt at ridicule and that’s why it’s painful. It wasn’t a case of elections and Law, it was almost a personalized attack on an outstanding public servant. They called governance and helping poor traders through micro-credit loans ‘vote-buying’; all these were struck out by the Tribunal.”

Barrister Ismaeel also noted that now that the President’s victory had been affirmed, the next task before the government which he plays a critical role in as one of the managers of the Social Investment Programmes, was to deliver on the promises the party had made during the elections.

He further noted that the government would focus on ensuring that it continues to lay a solid foundation for the sustainable development of the country.

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3 Reasons Why Atiku Stood No Chance At The Presidential Election Petition Tribunal, By Akinloye James

1. His petition was filled with so many contradictions, that for every claim he made, he made another claim that contradicted the other. Take for instance: In his petition Atiku said that the card readers used during the election transmitted results that showed he got over 16 million votes. By this Atiku relied on the optimum working of card readers across the country to establish his claim – yet the same Atiku in the same petition says the same card readers were barely used in 11 Northern States.

2. He based his petition on a non-existent server. Atiku claimed that INEC had a server where votes were allegedly transmitted through card readers. This is the most ridiculous claim yet. Why? One, the electoral laws do not provide for electoral transmission of results. Two, because there is no such provision, there was no such transmission by any means. The only means by which results were collated and tabulated were through paper forms at polling units. Atiku then claims that Card Readers were used to transmit votes tabulated. This is foolish. Because nobody votes on card readers. For votes to be transmitted via any device, you would have to have voted the party of your choice on that device. Nobody voted on card readers. The card readers were used before voting to accredit voters. Thus the card readers can only tell you the number of voters and those who voted, but not who they voted for. Atiku thinks everyone is as foolish as he is.

3. Atiku believes President Buhari does not have the required certificate to qualify to run for President. Now that is really dumb. How did a man rise to become a General in the Nigerian Army if he did not have a certificate. It simply does not make sense. Yet President Buhari has provided from the records of WAEC and CAMBRIDGE the transcripts of his Senior School Leaving Certificate: That is the West African School Certificate. This is the minimum requirement expected by law. His classmates have also come forward to affirm that he indeed was their classmate and that they sat for these exams together. Recall that President Buhari has maintained that his certificates got missing during a raid by some Army Officers on his residence during the 1985 coup against him.

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Taye Paul Olubayo: Ode To The Brand Strategist Steadily Revolutionizing The Face Of Digital Media In Africa

There are two types of people who will tell you cannot make a difference in this world: those who are afraid to try and those who are afraid you will succeed.

  • Ray Goforth

 In a world prevalent with Fake News, half truths and complete lies, it is refreshing encountering, a vibrant, focused and dedicated young man, who, despite all odds, continues to rise above all the noise charting a path for himself.

My first encounter with Taye Paul Olubayo, the self-acclaimed UNILAG EFIWE, must have been sometime between 2014 and 2015. He just got out of a meeting with the Business Development Manager at that time, of Hellofood Nigeria (now Jumia Food).

As they were just finding their feet in the Nigerian space, Hellofood, being the first company to introduce food ordering services on a commercial scale in Nigeria, Taye had gone in to pitch the operation #InvadeYaba to the Hellofood team.

His tactics were simple – as the company’s office was set up in Yaba; Yaba being the tech nerve centre of Lagos and also home to three higher institutions of learning (University of Lagos, Yabatech and FCE Akoka), it was only wise to, in his words, “invade Yaba” letting students and staff of tech companies around the environs know that from the comfort of their offices and hostels, they could have delicious meals delivered to them within 15minutes.

He had rightly postulated getting a grip hold of Yaba, would have a ripple effect on other areas in the state. He further argued that the company focus on starting big and expanding as opposed to trying to take over the entire state in one swoop.

He did eventually get the contract to execute the project. But that’s not even the beauty of the story, as at that time all this was happening, Taye was only just a Youth Corper serving in some remote town in Ibadan!

I have since followed closely, and with keen interest, his activities since then. Loosing his dad in December 1999 and mum in January 2003 didn’t stop him from bagging his Degree in Philosophy from the University of Lagos.

As a lover of trailblazers, who follows with keen interest, their professional life, Taye has worked as an HR Analyst with a firm in Lekki, another e-commerce company in Yaba, Lagos and was a Consultant for a company that helped connect internet users to handymen and artisans anywhere in Nigeria.

He later then pitched his tent with 5ive Music Group and then Chocolate City Music where he handles all digital, strategic and social media communications.

Taye is someone passionate about governance in Africa and has done brand consultancy for Osun, Kwara, Niger, Gombe, Zamfara, Lagos, Ogun and Edo state governments.

Very recently also, he was:

  1. Member, Sanwoolu Independent Campaign Group’s Digital team
  2. Member, Strategic Communications team, Buhari Campaign Organization headed by Barr. Festus Keyanmo
  3. Head, Digital Content, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo’s Campaign Organization
  4. Head, Content and Strategy, Buhari New Media Centre, Lagos state.
  5. Digital Project Coordinator, Ajibola Basiru Campaign Organization (Osun Central Senatorial District)

On the flipside, and away from the murky waters of political strategizing, Taye has had in hands involved in corporate projects for Mara Mentor, Slot Limited, Autofactor Nigeria and Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), Microsoft Nigeria and a few others.

Little wonder in years 2014, 2015 and 2016 when Forbes, Wall Street Journal and New York Times Magazine did a list of Top 100 Global Social Media Personalities to follow on Twitter, yearly, he made the list.

He is also the current Vice President, Digital Media Practitioners of Nigeria which is a further proof of how far he has grown since my encounter with him as Corper.

Going by our last conversation where we spoke extensively about his plans and projects for the future, it is safe to say Africa needs more bright minds like him; those passionate about improving our image and at the same time making their impacts.

Aisosa Okundaye is PR Expert and writes from Lagos Nigeria

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Nigeria’s Bite Back At South Africa: How The Buhari Government Responded To Xenophobic Attack On Its Citizens By Nathaniel Adoji

The last few days have been painful for Nigerians and other foreign nationals living in South Africa. Two people have been confirmed dead, businesses have been destroyed, properties burned down and security officials say they are finding it hard to calm the violence. The reason for the xenophobic attacks on Nigerians is largely due to poverty, growing inequality, high level of unemployment and lack of opportunities; the South African denizens who are victims of these believe immigrants, especially Nigerians, are taking up their opportunities and have resorted to violence. 

President Buhari in a strongly worded statement expressed his displeasure over the treatment of Nigerian citizens, condemning possible negligence on the part of law enforcement agents in South Africa and their failure to protect the lives and property of Nigerians. He also instructed his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, to summon the South African High Commissioner to Nigeria for discourse on how to ensure safety of lives and property.  

The Minister had the previous day taken to Twitter on the issue. He wrote: ”Received sickening and depressing news of continued burning and looting of Nigerian shops and premises in #SouthAfrica by mindless criminals with ineffective police protection. Enough is enough. We will take definitive measures. @NigeriaGov @DigiCommsNG @GovernmentZA @DIRCO_ZA”. He later shared photos of his joint press conference with the High Commissioner of South Africa to Nigeria, Bobby Moroe, where he demanded compensation for affected victims and family members, as well as justice by prosecuting those involved in perpetrating these attacks. 

The Nigerian Government via its Twitter handle did not spare words too, a tweet from the official handle with the phrase “Enough is Enough” attracted thousands of retweets and engagements. 

The Federal Government has already despatched a Special Envoy to convey to President Cyril Ramaphosa the countries displeasure of the killings of Nigerians, and to register that they have to pay for the losses of lives and properties. One of the highest forms of registering displeasure in a diplomatic setting. They are expected to arrive Pretoria latest Thursday, September 5, 2019. 

The dispatch of a special envoy is akin to sending the highest rank of diplomatic representation to another country. 

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, at the end of an event he attended in Kano addressed the press with a stern face condemning the xenophobic attacks against Nigerians in South Africa, deeming it as unfortunate considering the role Nigeria and Nigerians played in pulling down apartheid. He also cited the fierce attacks as completely contrary to the ideals of all great South African leaders, many who gave up their lives for the country’s emancipation. Professor Osinbajo added that ‘Besides, these acts of bigotry are entirely contrary to the very ideals that all the great South African leaders, including the present President fought for, and for which many gave their lives.’ He further expressed his worries and the government’s plans to take this up with the right authorities in SA in order to ensure we bring an end to these attacks, one he calls ‘absolutely unacceptable and unconscionable.”

The Federal Government through the Minister of Information has drawn the line reiterating that it will no longer condone the mistreatment of Nigerian citizens in South Africa. However, the Federal Government has appealed to Nigerians not to attack South African companies operating in Nigeria in retaliation for the ongoing xenophobic attacks against Nigerians in South Africa.

Several Nigerians and groups have called on other citizens to boycott South African products and companies, including DSTV, Shoprite and MTN. They are also demanding that the Vice President withdraw from the World Economic Forum event in Cape Town coming up later this week. This request drives many pertinent questions, one of which is: In a world where diplomacy is urgently required, more than ever, should the Vice President boycott like other African leaders have announced to do, or rather should he attend and make the anger of Nigerians known in person, on South African soil?

Nathanniel Adoji is a journalist and public affairs commentator.

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Reno Omokri: Social Media’s Rogue And Demagogue, By Moyosore Andrews

The internet continues to shape several aspects of our lives, it has undoubtedly caused a paradigm in how we communicate and share information regardless of proximity or existence of facts. There are many benefits of the web and its role in today’s world, but it should come as no surprise that the internet has also spawned a resurgence of misinformation or what we call fake news. For a country like Nigeria where internet penetration and literacy is still low, it is becoming increasingly easy to disperse news based on ethnic, political or religious bias for the purpose of swaying judgments and emotions. The problem is that information on social media doesn’t have to be vetted, investigated, or confirmed before it escalates, and this leads to misinformation and rumors spreading like wildfire online.

Reno Omokri, an ex-aide to former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is widely known for his half-baked nuggets and untruths, propagated trolling and mostly serves as the mouthpiece of the opposition on social media, although he never admits the latter. Since the emergence of the Buhari-led administration, Reno has taken a bullish approach to countering everything the government is seen to be doing and is constantly in the business of promoting hate and disinformation.

The self acclaimed author and questionable clergyman does poor work in his research and facts before taking to his Twitter account to attack the President Buhari administration with funny yet acerbic hashtags to push his narratives. He seems to have taken it upon himself to feed Nigerians with hearsay and jumps at every opportunity to discredit the government with shallow points and pure hate under the disguise of social activism. The pervasiveness of his tantrums and political bigotry on social media, from the distribution of disinformation to organized social media attacks is low and lacks dignity. But it is without doubt, that Reno is a fire starter, and many times it is always for the wrong reasons or because of his lack of constructive intellect.

Not too long ago, Reno argued on his social media platforms that the reason why President Buhari wasn’t invited to the G-7 summit was because of his “misrule and poor leadership skills”, adding that the President’s visit to Japan was meant to distract attention from a G-7 snubGuardian was first to call out this fake news with a fact check post. Since when did Nigeria become part of the G-7? This is a gathering of the world’s super powers and they decide who they want to have partake in their meetings given global trends and issues dominating their agenda. Back in 2015, President Buhari earned a seat at that table. He was invited to engage with members of the G-7 on the pressing challenges of Nigeria especially security in the North East. Where was Mr. Omokri then? For someone who brags much about once being in the corridors of government this knowledge should have been easy stuff. It appears that there is more that he does not know – save he is being deliberately mischievous, which seems likely. But if we pretend that he does not know much about international politics and how these relationships work, he should learn these things rather than use illiterate tactics to prove his points.

Reno continues to use his social media platforms to make many unsubstantiated claims made against the government. Many unsuspecting Nigerians have unfortunately bought into his lies and falsehood without fact-checking him. His constant attack on Vice President Yemi Osinbajo does not just irritate, it questions Mr Omokri’s assumed sanity. It seems clear to any social media observer that this is his new point of duty. His latest trend, #RenoMoni, was created to mock the efforts of the Social Investment Programmes’ TraderMoni and MarketMoni. In this faux attempt to mock the genuine micro-credit scheme, he doles a few thousands to some of his followers persuading them to believing that the government’s Market and Trader Moni schemes are fake and dubious unlike his own twitter jamboree.

But just recently, the Vice President was in Nasarawa state to assess ongoing disbursements of loans and interact with the beneficiaries. During his visit, he highlighted the progress of the initiative and the government’s plan to reach more states across to country. Significant too was the testimony that more traders were paying back their loans and getting access to bigger loans. Before now, we have seen men and women tell their stories about how the program has impacted their lives and businesses. Yet Reno, who lives in California, USA is relentless about misleading people and preying on doling cheap money to his elite followers to get them to buy his faux logic.

And this is not the first or last of his shenanigans. He is well known for attacking people who are not on his side or more intellectually sound than he is. He is swift to block any one who shares the truth to his Social Media timelines. His concoctions of stories and religious sentiments are deliberate to ignite outrage and discredit others. Evidently he derives joy in pushing fallacies and harmful propaganda for attention. The same man who is quick to question other people’s integrity shies away whenever he’s called out concerning his credibility and other dubious campaigns he has been involved in.

What people like Reno Omokri fail to realize is that communication should enhance democracy, rather than endanger it. Instead of acting ignorant or tirelessly attacking the government, we should help the public air their concerns rather than manipulate them. Reno should think less of himself if he is as concerned as he wants us to believe, because rogue activism is undermining democracy, making it very hard for ordinary citizens to decipher truth from his falsehood. His constant bombardment of conspiracy theories, and other misinformation fuels cynicism, and citizen fatigue. His presence on social media has made the arena a danger zone, not because he claims to be an activist that puts government on its toes, but because he endangers truth, the most fundamental tool in information management.

Moyosore Andrews is a journalist and social media commentator.

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To The Deaf, Osinbajo Is Silent, By Richard Ogundiya

On 20th of August 2019, Itunu Ajayi from Maryland USA revealed his standpoint on The Guardian about Vice President Osinbajo’s presumed silence on the incessant killings and security instability in many parts of the country.

For someone who is a 2014 Kurt Schork Fellow in International Journalism (yes, I looked him up), it was an uninformed, depressing take packed with personal bias and judgement that didn’t do justice to credit a man whose role is to deputise, support and advise the president.

This factless blasphemy by Itunu disguised in the suit of an opinion by one who prides to be a journalist is a valid reason why people’s faith in journalism is fast drifting.

Itunu’s evocative postulations give the impression of a hyper-deliberate attempt at slandering Yemi Osinbajo and undermining his achievements and contributions as arguably the most active, seen, heard and devoted Vice President Nigeria has ever encountered.

Itunu attempts to play a centrist. But too often, we confuse centrism with fairness, objectivity or common-sense truth. But centrism is none of those, it is a point of view, and it can be wrong, just as conservatism or liberalism can be; so opinions must be based on accurate information, sound logic, and expressed respectfully.

He wants us to believe, without any certitude, that Osinbajo is not deeply concerned about the current state of the country because of his own misinterpretation of events.

He consciously forgets to mention every instance the Vice President has spoken out on issues of insecurity in the country, every time he has condemned wrongdoing by enemies of our state, every time he has paid a solidarity visit to victims and reminded them that government cares, and would not forget them – passing the message of relieve and hope to the victims.

He consciously denies the truth to his readers when he pretends not to know that President Buhari has the ears of his number two man, and they, whether we know it or not, meet time without number to discuss issues of national interests.

In his essay, the writer consciously strips the Vice President off his constitutional capacity through deliberate ignorance of the roles and responsibilities that flow therefrom, but thereafter goes ahead to hold him liable for those functions that are not even his.

He then attempts to severe his office from the Buhari government, as if they are not one, and that the two elected leaders should act in discord. The story forces its readers to digest misconstrued analysis as facts and struggles to beg for empathy by connecting it to the general displeasure of nationwide killings.

What makes it absurd and ridiculous is that he thinks and believes that the President and his Vice are not troubled about the insecurity or working towards seeing the end of the menace. Nothing could be more far from the truth.

There is no political leader who prays for disability knowing it would injure his name, or who is in a place of power would do nothing to end such. And this in fact is the least expected.

Since he assumed office in 2015 as President Muhammadu Buhari’s deputy, VP Osinbajo has played an increasingly prominent role in Nigeria’s government and his accomplishments are incomparable to any other Vice President as they surpass by far.

Not too long ago, former President Obasanjo had disclosed that his deputy, Atiku Abubakar, complained about taking on too many responsibilities as the nation’s number 2 citizen in their days of power.

That is in contrast with the reality today; Vice President Osinbajo not only chairs the National Economic Council which works with several parastatals to identify problems, recommend and execute solutions regarding economic development, poverty alleviation and foreign exchange policies, he also oversees the National Social Investment Office which facilitates empowerment schemes aimed at students, traders, farmers, enterprises and bottom of the pyramid population.

The Social Investment Office boasts of the largest social investment ever attempted in Africa. And it is succeeding. It feeds almost 10 million pupils in public schools; it has provided entrepreneurship and skill based jobs to 500,000 previously unemployed graduates; it is giving cash to Nigeria’s poorest families in the hinterland communities to improve their welfare and livelihood.

But Itunu is in haste to lash out on the Vice President and his office that he forgets these, as well as the administration’s ongoing plans on establishing a sustainable herding system across the country through the National Livestock Transformation Plan – which Vice President Osinbajo oversees – that would put a sustainable end to clashes between herders and farmers and the consequent killings.

He also misses out on the fact that the Buhari – Osinbajo administration is re-engineering the country’s national security architecture to help combat attacks led by Islamic State of West Africa Province (ISWAP), farmer-herder clashes and other unfortunate bandits.

His failure to mention the times the Vice President has visited families of victims, visited areas of attack to assess the impact and report to his principal is evident of Itunu’s deliberate mischief and shortfall of honest intentions.

Recall that on 26th of June 2019, Osinbajo interacted with The Council on Foreign Relations in the USA and extensively talked about the current state of ISWAP, challenges rocking the administration and ongoing efforts to completely deal with the insecurity.

He has also led the consultations and meetings – especially in the south west – seeking an end and solutions to the kidnappings and killings. He is largely responsible for the peace we see in the South South today; the absence of a hitherto raging militancy is courtesy his back and forth in the region in 2016 where he met and dialogued with the leaders there and constantly assuring Nigerians of the Federal Government’s commitment to continue to give priority attention to the operational requirements and welfare of the Nigerian Armed Forces.

He seats as the Deputy Chairman of the Security Council which means he has a voice at the highest points whenever issues of security are brought up. Are these items of silence, or is Itunu just simply deaf?

It is without doubts that he has brought value and and function to his office, as manager of the economy and other assignments given to him. The Vice President’s pace of action has been commended by many Nigerians and international bodies prompting suggestions that he should continue playing the major roles in the government.

According to the writer, Professor Osinbajo’s call for alliances across faiths and ethnicities to wreck national threats hindering the country’s unity and coexistence is enough concrete reason to accuse him of lackadaisical attitude and noiselessness.

I am left to wonder if a birthday ceremony is the best place to give a detailed proposition on how the government plans to successfully tackle security challenges. It is no coincidence that even before now, the Vice President has always addressed cooked narratives by opposition that the presidency is protecting killer herdsmen and Boko Haram members as a desperate ploy to promote ethnic and religious suspicion.

Without doubt, Itunu’s phoney claims are inaccurate, abandon objectivity and suspend sense of fairness, declaring judgement in his own court of reasoning. This haste to demonize the Buhari administration is agenda-driven, not Information-driven.

Richard Ogundiya is a journalist and researcher based in Lagos

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