When Osun Pensioners Lauded Governor Aregbesola, By Inwalomhe Donald

The oppositions in Osun should stop using the name of pensioners to erect camp in the State. They should come out openly and criticize positively. The pensioners numbering about 200, in conjunction with opposition members led by a retired judge in the state Judiciary, who erected a camp, have forgotten that in 2015, Osun committed a total of N5, 426, 720, 195. 68 to pay pensions in spite of the very difficult financial stress the state found itself.  In 2016, the state also committed a total of N3, 981, 312, 918.78 to payment of pensions.

However, my joy is that over 3,000 Members of the Nigeria Union of Pensioners (NUP) in Osun State under the aegis of Triangular Group of Pensioners have lauded the state governor, Mr Rauf Aregbesola for paying the arrears of their pension up to December 2016. The pensioners staged a peaceful procession in Osogbo, the state capital at the weekend to demonstrate their supports to Aregbesola’s administration and assured the governor of their unalloyed loyalty.

The NUP Chairman, Prince Rotimi Adelugba said the pensioners were grateful to Aregbesola for his magnanimity and cautioned other retired civil servants in the state not to play dirty politics with the issue of the payment of the pension by the state government.

He said “The state government set up a committee headed by a veteran labour leader and former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Hassan Sumonu to fine-tune the issue of salary and pension payment in the state and suggest the best approach to the salary and pension issues in the state”.

“The committee comprised leaders of labour unions in the state and after a comprehensive analysis of the financial situation of the state, the committee proffered a way forward and we all saw reasons to accept the recommendation of the committee in the best interest of the generality of the workers, pensioners and the good people of our dear state”.

“We all agree that the state government should not downsize because we didn’t want any worker in the state to be sacked. Therefore, the only option we had was to agree with the modulated salary scheme in which the junior officers from level 01 to level 07 would get their full salary but the senior staff from level 08 and above would be earning half of their salary and the same thing applicable to the pensioners”.

“It was agreed that the modulated salary would be revisited once the economy of the state improves and that was exactly what Governor Aregbesola did recently when the modulated salary scheme was reviewed upward. The governor has never reneged in this arrangement but some retirees allowed politicians to use them to embarrass the state and that was unfortunate”.

“Though, we also need the money but we realised that we must show understanding since we also know the financial status of Osun State government. The state government has paid up our pension up till December 2016. We are aware that the payment of pension gulp N9.4 from the coffers of the state government and this is commendable”.

He said the retirees in the state want more from the state government and urged the governor to sustain the payment of their monthly pension. He also urged the governor to create special units in all state hospital where senior citizens including the pensioners would be attended to when they need medical attention.

“We also commend our dear governor Aregbesola for his love for the workers and the pensioners in the state. The governor paid the backlog of the arrears of 142 per-cent of pension increase to eligible pensioners. We are grateful to Governor Aregbesola for jacking up the monthly pension bill from N200 million to 600 million”, the NUP chairman said.

The retirees terminated the procession at the Nelson Mandela Freedom Park and held special prayers in Islamic and Christianity ways. They offered prayers for Osun State and Nigeria and sought the intervention of God on the economic recession that has bedevilled the nation in which Osun state was not exempted.

Speaking on the occasion, Governor Rauf Aregbesola who was invited to the venue by the pensioners as a special guest expressed delight that a huge number of retirees in the state acknowledged his commitment to their welfare and assured them that the New Year would be better than last year. The governor said “we implemented 142 per cent increase in pension which other rich and buoyant states including Lagos has not implemented. No state government has paid as much as we have paid pensioners in Osun. I paid 9.5 billion to pensioners alone.”

Our various governments (past and present) in this country are not wicked and selfish, within the limit of the available resources they have paid gratuities and pension arrears in bulk and some in installments that would help pensioners to build or buy their own houses with their pension arrears paid. Aregbesola has paid Osun pensioners gratuities and pension arrears that, by the grace of God, were still alive to collect and enjoy their pension arrears which may enable them to own their own houses in their life time after working for many years without being able to build houses of their own! In short, Aregbesola’s sensible position was that payment of arrears of pensions and gratuities should never be staggered.

The reasonable thing Aregbesola has done is the payment to the pensioners, a lump sum of the arrears of their pensions and most delayed gratuities at once. As Christmas and the New Year festivities were fast approaching, Osun workers and pensioners had prepared to face the gloom of unpaid salaries and pensions, but in December 2016, thanks to the Paris Club refund that enabled the government clear salary and pension arrears according to agreement, Osun Pensioners enjoyed themselves to no limit with their families

It was based on this that, the group of pensioners, Triangular Pensioners Forum led by Mr. Rotimi Adelugba, organised a big party to thank the governor for paying the pensions and gratuities of retirees in the state. Adelugba said at the event, attended by Aregbesola, that the governor had paid a total sum of N9.4bn as pensions and gratuities. He urged members of the public to ignore the ‘propaganda’ of those trying to discredit the governor.

 

Inwalomhe Donald wrote in from Benin, Edo State.

Magu: President Buhari Did The Right Thing By Uche Ugboajah

The news that President Muhammadu Buhari has resubmitted the name of Ibrahim Magu to the Senate for confirmation as the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), is indeed a very cheery one. Cheery in the sense that the presidency has not only done the right thing but is also beginning to understand the logic and the doctrines of presidential power in a democracy.

It all started with the forwarding of Magu’s name to the Senate for confirmation in June 2016 by the presidency. The Senate kept the letter and sat on it for as many months and would only consider it in December when it felt good and ready in spite of the pressures from all quarters of the Nigerian society calling for Magu’s confirmation. Not even the EFCC Chairman’s spectacular performance in the short period of his acting capacity would spur the Senate into doing the needful over the matter. And when it finally decided to act, the upper legislative house refused to screen the EFCC Chairman, citing a security report from the DSS as an impediment. But in what was clearly a rigging of its own procedures, the Senate through its spokesperson, Abdulahi Sabi, announced that they had rejected a man that never appeared before them and who they never screened!

Perhaps, one can exonerate the Senate from the shenanigans that have become the confirmation politics of Magu given that the DSS that wrote the infamous “Report” is under the presidency. Yet, how can one explain the fact that the attempt of Senator Ndume to clarify the Senate position has already cost him his office as Senate Leader? Ndume stepped out to say his afternoon prayers and before God could answer him, his colleagues with the speed of light toppled him for daring to canvass for fair play in the Magu matter.

Well, President Buhari knowing full well the perception that his administration will succeed or fail depending on how successful the anti-corruption war his government is waging turns out, decided to intervene and got his Attorney General to investigate the matter, especially the DSS allegations against Magu, and report back to him. With the re-submission of the name of Magu to the Senate by the President, it is evidently clear that the AGF found all the allegations against Magu unfounded and reeking of pettiness, prejudice and vendetta and therefore rightly advised the President to re-forward the name of the EFCC Chairman for confirmation. Was this the right thing to do?

As one of the critics of the Buhari government, I would have reserved the harshest words for Mr. President had he caved in to the intrigues of the Senate in conniving with one of the security agencies under the Presidency to abridge the powers freely given to him by the Nigerian people, whose president he is. It is important to note that of all the elected officials in the country, including members of the Senate, Mr. President is the only person who has a nation-wide mandate.

What this means is that it is only Mr. President who has the entire Nigeria as his constituency, whereas others including senators only have limited constituencies. That being the case, Mr. President is the only person who can make a call over and above every other persons’ head, be they senators or governors. It is only Mr. President who can truly speak in the best interest of all Nigerian citizens. He has the mandate of the Nigerian people to make any decision which in his view is in the best interest of all Nigerians. And this is because, the logic of presidential powers rightly assumes that the President is in a vantage position more than anyone else to know what is right for his country. The appointment of Magu as the EFCC chairman is one of such decisions.

It must be noted that Mr. President had identified fighting corruption as the centerpiece of the policy of his government. And in pursuing that policy, he has equally identified Mr. Magu as the officer he needs to head the EFCC, the major arm for the anti-corruption war. By refusing to screen and clear Magu, the Senate are clearly abridging the rights and powers of Mr. President as the chief executive officer and the only one with nationwide mandate to govern, and in the process, will be cheating the Nigerian people of the well-intentioned decision of Mr. President. This cannot be allowed to stand! It is against the Constitution! It is against the doctrine of presidential power!

As reported in the newspapers recently, if the Senate is still insisting on that DSS report in dealing with the confirmation of Magu even after the President had explained to them that he has cleared Magu of all those false allegations, it means that they are yet to understand comprehensively the powers of a president in our type of democracy. Is the DSS superior to the President? If the Senate is not satisfied with the President’s clarifications, they are at liberty to call for the sack of the leadership of the DSS for misleading them. Yet the Senate must not make the mistake of over hyping a hate report feeding off an inter-agency rivalry and competition, as well as a morbid fear of Mr. Magu. It has been in the public domain that the leadership of the DSS and some powers that be in the presidency, have a no-love-lost relationship with Magu. One of the suggestions of the said report was that Mr. Magu lives an ostentatious lifestyle. This singular suggestion is clearly false and completely at variance with the EFCC Chairman’s ascetic lifestyle and therefore questions not only the credibility of the report but also the motives of its writers. Again, that the DSS allegedly presented two different reports on the same person with different conclusions clearly gave out its mischief in the drama that played out in the Senate.

Again, security reports the world over can be merely nebulous and sometimes instruments used to pursue all manner of vendettas and interest, which may in the final analysis, be just the personal idiosyncrasies of their authors. For instance, it is now well-documented that the United States went into the Gulf War based on a false “security report”.  Given the false remarks against Mr. Magu’s lifestyle in that report produced by the DSS and the fact that the said report categorically prayed that Mr. Magu should not be confirmed as EFCC Chairman because he is not fit, contrary to the ethical standards in report writing in the Secret Service all over the world, is an indication that it must be taken with a pinch of salt. It is just a mere smear campaign against Ibrahim Magu!

Now that President Buhari has done the right thing by re-submitting Ibrahim Magu’s name to the Senate as his only candidate for the EFCC Chairman, he must follow that action up by putting all the apparatus of presidential power behind Magu to lobby senators and secure the confirmation for the EFCC Chairman this time around. And in doing so, he should be rest assured that the Constitution supports him. It is in the national interest; it is in tandem with one of the major promises for which the Nigerian people elected him – to fight corruption. And above all, by resubmitting Magu’s name, Mr. President is sending the signal in an unmistakable language that he is ready to use the full powers that the Nigerian people gave him to serve them in the best possible way and will not brook any attempt by any ambitious or unpatriotic legislature to abridge his powers as the only official with nationwide mandate to govern.

Magu’s confirmation is just a test case. If the President allows the Senate to get away this time with the attempt to trample on some of the powers of the office of the President, then the stage would have been set for future attempts to undermine the Presidency!

*Uche Ugboajah, a researcher in presidential studies, wrote from Abuja.

UFUK Dialogue And The Message Of Peace In Nigeria By Abiye Festus Abibo

Sometime in 2013, I got an invitation from a friend of mine to attend a break of fast dinner (Ramadan Iftar) organized by a Turkish NGO, UFUK Dialogue. I protested that I was the wrong person for such an event because I am a Christian. But my friend insisted stating that though a Muslim event, the idea is not only to break the fast but to provide a platform for close interaction between adherents of both faiths with the aim of achieving love and tolerance. He said I would be glad I did attend the event. I participated in the event, and a curious part of me was ignited. Could this be true?

The ambiance of the gathering was electrifying. The audience composition was interesting. So Interesting that you find on a table people dressed with turbans and cassocks interacting while dining. All through the event, the message being preached was peace, love, and tolerance. So strong was the message that you would wonder if you were in Nigeria because of the intolerance level amongst us. Nigeria is now clearly divided along religious and ethnic lines which are unprecedented in our history. And the attendant result has been series of ethnic and religious clashes in the country. I was pretty impressed that I tasked myself to researching into the activities of UFUK Dialogue Initiative, the organizers of the event. And the result was mind-boggling.

UFUK is an international NGO in Nigeria that has been preaching the message of peaceful co-existence amongst Nigerians through the instrument of dialogue, love, and tolerance. It was founded in 2011 with a mission to foster interfaith and intercultural dialogue, stimulate thinking and exchange of opinions on supporting and fostering democracy and peace all over the world while providing a common platform for education and information exchange.

My research also revealed that their activities in Nigeria span through conferences, seminars, awards ceremonies and quite a host of other events tailored to foster unity and peaceful coexistence amongst Nigerians. UFUK Dialogue serves societal peace, love, and friendship wisely and compassionately in support of human dignity and the common good by striving to bring forth the common values of humanity; values such as understanding, tolerance, respect, and compassion.

In the course of my research, I interacted with quite some people that have either attended events organized by UFUK Dialogue in the past and some officials of the NGO too. And the language was the same. So impressed I was that promised myself to be a regular face at events organized by the NGO. As a fact, the revered Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, Cardinal John Onayekan does not miss any event hosted by UFUK Dialogue. There are also some other respected personalities like Bishop Hassan Mathew Kukah, Sheik Ahmed Lemu that has in one way or the other identified with UFUK Dialogue.  My research also afforded me the opportunity to interact with the President of UFUK Dialogue, Mr. Kamil Kemanchi. Mr. Kemanchi radiates passion for what he is doing, and he readily says that “We have no one particular agenda and no inherent ideology, other than respect and genuine concern for the spiritual quality and welfare of life on this planet of ours.”

He made me understand that UFUK Dialogue aims to be one of the most active and effective foundations in Nigeria by contributing to peace through dialogue and creating a platform for the coexistence of cultures and adherents of different faiths and ethnicities. This got me thinking about the scores of conflicts we have experienced in Nigeria in times past. And to play back the scenario and imagined that UFUK has been in Nigeria the years preaching the message of love and tolerance through dialogue what could have been averted.

This is what Nigeria needs. We need to go back to those days where a Muslim can dine freely with a Christian without fear of food poisoning and vice versa. We missed it a long time ago and the earlier we began to preach the language of love and tolerance the better for the upcoming generation.

Only recently, UFUK Dialogue organized an international conference on Love and Tolerance in collaboration with the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution in Abuja. The theme of the conference was countering violent extremism in Nigeria through love and patience. Those in attendance would readily attest to the strategic importance of such a conference at a time the country is battling insurgents in North East Nigeria. I think the activities of UFUK Dialogue should be encouraged by the government and critical stakeholders. I am aware that it already enjoys tremendous support from some speakers. But it can be better because the message of Love and Tolerance must reach the nook and cranny of Nigeria using the UFUK Dialogue model.

The activities of UFUK Dialogue in Nigeria is sponsored by the First Surat Group of Companies, the parent organization of the Nigerian Tulip International Colleges (NTIC), Nile University (NU) and the Nizamiye Hospital (NH)

Quit Throwing Tantrums, There’ll Be No Special Favours, By Lauretta Onochie 

The very idea or insinuation that President Buhari is anti North and anti Islam is to say the least, preposterous and mischievous. The truth is that those making the scathing attacks on the person and the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, believe that they are THE North.

Well, we have news for them. They are not THE North. They are just Nigerians who, over the years have grown used to privileged lifestyles of circumventing the laws for their personal aggrandisement, to the neglect and detriment of the poorest in our society. They have been shortchanging the Nigerian economy by demanding waivers from Customs and Excise and other governmental Agencies. This means that they are tax cheats!

Because their friends were in government, they demanded and easily obtained for themselves, things that should have gone to ordinary Northerner and other Nigerians. They have set up cartels of young impoverished people they use for smuggling cars, rice and other items across the borders and then try to demand special favours to further their illegal trades. No more!

But did they stop there? Oh no! They have illegally been running parallel black currency market, in defiant of the Central Bank’s order to register and be regulated. We are sure they know the damage they have done and continue to do to our economy with their illegal activities.

In these times of recession when Nigeria has shortage of foreign exchange, transaction rates are being arbitrarily fixed in negation of market forces of demand and supply. Niyi Akinsiju, a Public Affairs Analyst, has this to say:

“In a market of acutely short supply of foreign exchange as we have now, operators desperately price foreign Exchange much higher than the official window to attract transaction, unfortunately, these high transaction rates are priced into the production and service costs of entities that can access the official Forex window. This leads to higher price of products and services which in turn drives up inflation rates.”

In continuation of working hard to drive up inflation, your activities support and fuel the illegal diversion of Forex obtained from official sources. Niyi Akinsiju continues:

“The usual high rates quoted by the black market operators provide arbitrage opportunity for entities who got Forex from the interbank market or Bureau de Change, to round trip to the black market, for the diversion of Forex officially secured. THEY ACT AS UNOFFICIAL DEVALUATION AGENTS OF THE NATIONAL CURRENCY”.

So we all know why attacks are coming from the usual and unusual sources. These attacks are not done in the interests of ordinary Nigerians. No. They bear the hallmarks of criminal selfish intentions. They are aimed at re-entrenching the status quo, so that it would be business as usual, while the poor masses continue in their abject poverty.

President Buhari has said many times to the Nigerian elites that under his watch, it’s no longer business as usual in this country. He has recently asked that they should stop making expensive demands. This is clearly because some elites have been asking the President and members of his team, to do things that are not pro-masses. Yes the masses, the very people he vowed to protect from the few greedy lot. The requests are usually special favours that would benefit just them and their cronies, putting more money in their pockets, and nada, for the government’s coffers!

Pres. Buhari is known not to give special favours, especially personal  favours that do not include the welfare of the people of Nigeria. It does not matter how you are related to him, everyone gets the same treatment. He is not one to discriminate against anyone. So he would not stand by and watch a few people circumvent policies and procedures. That’s nothing but impunity, a no-no under his watch.

These Nigerian elites must now understand that living like spoilt brats where in spite of their stupendous wealth, they demand political patronage, undue waivers and dodge taxes based on friendships and “man-know-man”, is now in the past. They must shove their twisted influence as it counts for nothing and does not extend beyond their noses under this administration.

President Buhari will continue to be the president of ALL Nigerians, including the elites. But he will protect the ordinary citizens from the ferocious teeth of those greedy elites who insist of making gains that are detrimental to the welfare of all Nigerians.

While the media team of Corruption Fighting Back is throwing the money they heartlessly stole from all of us around and recruiting local and international attackers, they have now run out of coordination by having their southern and Northern recruits, run two campaigns of calumny that are opposites. Ha!

Some days ago, while his equally mischievous Southern Nigerian cronies continued to insist that President Buhari was on a mission to islamise Nigeria, Second Republic member of the House of Representatives, Dr. Junaid Mohammed continued shooting himself in the foot by insisting that President Buhari deceived the North with Islam.

At no time during the campaign, did President Buhari make religion an issue. How one man who is seen as not a “Proper” Muslim by those who are not in talking terms with Allah, would be planning to Islamise Nigeria in the same vein, calls at best, the examination of their motives. I can wager a bet that it’s selfish.

Pres. Buhari should be applauded for insisting that no part of Nigeria should be favoured unduly. We are all Nigerians and we have our needs which the government must meet. President Buhari is teaching Nigerians and indeed Africa, that they do not have to elect a national leader simply because he shares their ethnicity and religion, but based on what he can do for the whole nation.

President Buhari has set himself as the president of Nigeria, not of the North, something his critics are not used to and are finding unusual and abnormal. But this is applaudable and we all must learn this New Democratic principle he is bringing to the table.

It’s now clearly obvious that many of our Nigerian elites are not getting whatever it is they used to get previously or want out of this government. Consequently, they continue to throw tantrums.

The recession is biting hard. Many Nigerians who were abandoned for many years to live below the poverty line are groaning. President Buhari is working with his team in the face of dwindling oil revenue, to alleviate the sufferings of these Nigerians.

Jobs are being created. Apprenticeship schemes have taken off through the Federal Government’s Social Investment Schemes. Billions of Naira have been injected into the economy. The Social welfare scheme, where the poorest and the most vulnerable receive N5000 a month, is in place. Three, times, billions of Naira have been released to states to pay owed salaries so families could meet their financial obligations. Many Primary School children are enjoying school dinners. Low cost housing units are being built. Major dilapidated roads in ALL the states, are under construction. Farmers are becoming millionaires through the Federal government’s collaboration with states, Central bank and Bank of industries. Aba-made products are receiving more patronage and the attention they deserve, Etc.

The government of Pres. Buhari is not about the elites as in the previous administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, when wealth was measured by the number of the President’s friends who had private jets. No, wealth for many Nigerians means a roof over their heads, clean clothes to wear and food in their stomachs. The President Buhari-led Nigerian government is committed to rejigging the economy to be productive and favourable to all, not just a few.

These elites should channel their energy on supporting the government in nation-building. Like that, they will be well placed to proffer constructive criticisms of the government. This continued antagonism due to selfish interests is an evil wind that does no one any good. But one thing is certain, Pres. Buhari has listening ears but as his ears are not garbage cans, he will not be swayed to indulge these spoilt Nigerian elites.

God Bless Nigeria.

Lauretta Onochie

Lawal Babachir Is Just Like Sambo Dasuki, By Peregrino Brimah

January 2017 is coming to an end and Nigeria’s Secretary General to the Federal government, SGF at the Presidency has yet to be relived of his duties and properly investigated by the appropriate authorities towards recovering millions of dollars allegedly diverted from PINE northeast rehabilitation funds and the punishment that may be due.

The Buhari-ordered paddy-paddy “investigation” by the Attorney general of the Federation, AGF Malami, was no more than delay tactics and a ruse as his office is not equipped and entrusted with investigations of ordinary civilian crime suspects; a duty the police, EFCC, ICPC and DSS are equipped and whose duty it is to handle, before their results may possibly be reviewed by the AGF.

As was foreseen, president Buhari’s letter to the senate today, clearing Lawal Babachir of wrongdoing is one of the worst slaps in the face for all Nigerians and drawbacks to the dwindling hopes of needed change of this and future generations.

Sambo Dasuki’s crime for which he is being continuously held against court orders belongs to the same category Lawal Babachir stands accused of. Dasuki is most noticeably condemned and hounded for diverting moneys meant for the war against Boko Haram. North-easterners died in thousands under the Dasuki era of pain and continue to die in the same numbers from starvation under the grand looting of Buhari’s Babachir in addition to several other similar and unrestrained accused persons looting at state and national emergency levels as detailed in a theCable investigation last December.

Babachir stands accused of diverting and misappropriating funds set aside for PINE by the Jonathan government through his private companies and their affiliates even before the Buhari administration took over and budgeted new funds again immediately paid upfront and in full to be swallowed by companies the SGF is signatory to.

A Muslim narration by Bukhari goes: “Those who came before you were destroyed because if a rich man among them stole, they would let him off, but if a lowly person stole, they would carry out the punishment on him. By Allah, if Faatimah Bint (daughter of) Muhammad were to steal, I would cut off her hand.”

Where there is no equity, there is not justice; and where there is no justice there can be no peace and progress.

As long as an increasingly lengthening list of similarly accused persons like Abba Kyari, Buratai, Danbazzau, Babachir and the rest stay enjoying with brazen open Buhari-insured immunity from proper investigation and prosecution, we should free Dasuki.

Dr. Peregrino Brimah; @EveryNigerian

Obaseki’s China Trip: Another Step In The Right Direction, By John Mayaki

For Edo State’s economic circumstance, the future gleams with a lustre of genuine prosperity. This is not only because the governor of the state, Mr. Godwin Nogheghase Obaseki is a technocrat; it is because he is also completely committed to developing Edo in every sector.

To that end, Mr. Obaseki led a delegation to China. One of the focal points of that trip was to explore means that will go in tandem with his promise to create 200,000 jobs and rapidly develop Edo State’s industries.

One gets the feel that as the industrial revolution visited England, so will Mr. Obaseki’s administration visit something similar upon the economy of Edo state.

Prior to the industrial revolution, Britain’s economy seemed to slumber in semi-soporific stagnation. Although Edo’s economy is not stagnating, the country’s general economy is in recession, and if states do not stop suckling from federal allocations in order to grow, they will soon meet with some economic misfortune or the other.

Therefore, Governor Obaseki’s trip to China centred on developing and fostering relationships with companies bearing the capacity to further the dream of revitalising the economic role of Gelegele. Over 100 years ago, Gelegele was the route employed by the Portuguese and British for trade missions to Benin. That route remains viable today and it is the goal of the governor to create a river terminal and an industrial park in that area. In doing so, Edo would take advantage of its geographic position as a junction state for the entire nation.

Judging by historical precedence, the move to revivify economic activities through the Gelegele channel is a potential home run. Japan and China remained locked up in their own world until they opened up their ports and started to trade and do business with the west. Therefore, should the Gelegele seaport be actualised, the people of Edo are likely to witness an economic boon capable of injecting life into all sectors of the state.

The potentials are vast – employment, financial uptick, industrialisation, immigration and the creation of an export-free zone are among the possibilities that could come to fruition in Edo state when the construction of the Gelegele seaport is completed.

The delegation that went to China in conjunction with the governor included a prominent citizen of Edo State, Captain Osa Okunbo; Federal Government representatives from Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Nigerian Import Promotion Council (NIPC), and Ministry of Agriculture. They engaged in talks with potential partners on developing a veritable Agro-Industrial Park.

During the trip, the governor canvassed for support in such areas as supply of technology, equipment, high yield seeds as well as technical practice training for Edo farmers. Also discussed was how to put in place a system of value-added agriculture that engages processing for increased revenue with the possibility of Edo State partnering with the private sector to become a net exporter of Agro products.

Finally, on the back of the success of Edo State becoming one of two sub-nationals on the continent to qualify for World Bank direct budget support, the Governor approached the China Exim bank regarding criteria for States to qualify for Project Finance Support.

The meetings were successful and the people of Edo state will soon start witnessing the yields of the trip to China. There were resounding commitments by the various Chinese firms to invest in the aspirations of Edo State. Particularly interesting and attractive was the prospect of the Gelegele port and the surrounding Industrial Park that can develop from such a project.

Obaseki met with the Managing Director of China Harbor Engineering Company, a company renowned as a provider of services in Engineering-Procurement-Construction (EPC), Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT), and Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) for both public and private sectors. The company also deals in marine engineering, dredging and reclamation, roads and bridges, railway construction, airports, and even equipment assemblage. Other companies whose directors and executives Obaseki met with are Kingpeng Group, Power China, China Exim Bank.

In all these, Obaseki has the blessing of Edo people and that of the Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, who promised to support him on his mission to revitalise the economy of Edo State.

The Oba made this promise when he visited the governor at the government house in Benin City alongside his palace chiefs. This was shortly after the Governor returned from his trip to China.

Oba Ewuare II vented his support for the Governor on his efforts to develop the area into an export free processing zone and for inaugurating the Gelegele Development Technical Committee.

To boot, the Oba said, “The export free zone can also have an airport strip to evacuate processed goods from the zone and also road network once the roads are also developed. We talked about the possibilities of setting roads and the possibility of developing some power in that area”.

That the Oba of Benin, a revered traditional figure – not only in Edo state, but also in Nigeria and West Africa – should voice his support for the steps Obaseki is taking to develop the state surely is a positive sign. That groups and within and outside the state are in accord concerning the governor’s efforts to develop Edo is a pat on the back to him

It may start like a trickle, as all great things do, but Obaseki’s trip to China proves him an astute and focused economic strategist with a clear-cut plan to make Edo state great again. He seems to be treading in rapid steps in the right direction with the sure-footedness of a hunter in the woods.

He is gunning for the development of Edo, and should he continue the way he has started, then he definitely will find it.

Mayaki is Chief Press Secretary (Interim) to Edo State Governor

The Railway Revolution We Need, By Senator ‘Gbenga Ashafa

Dear Nigerians, Let me seize this opportunity to once again wish you a Happy New Year. Indeed 2016 was a very challenging year for all of us, but I believe that with the efforts of both the Government and the private Sector, we should experience a more prosperous 2017.

Towards the end of last year, Nigeria was and is still faced with a major transportation challenge to wit: the impending closure of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja. This impending closure is attributed to the urgent need to rehabilitate the only runway servicing the airport.

From Thursday 12th January 2017 to Tuesday, 17th January, 2017, the Nigerian Senate engaged the stakeholders in the Sector with a view to considering other options available to the millions of Nigerians that would be affected by the Six Week Closure of the airport. The whole essence of this engagement was to find the least stressful alternative that would benefit the country.

I have given the forgoing preamble mainly to further underscore the need to quickly and speedily reinvigorate our Rail Transportation Sector, in line with the provisions of the Nigerian Railway Bill, 2016. To achieve this, our counterparts in the House of Representatives will have to hasten up to pass their version of the Bill so that the harmonised version can then be forwarded to Mr. President for his assent.

You will recall that the Nigerian Senate on July 21, 2016 passed the Nigerian Railway Corporation Bill, 2016. The new bill is poised to replace the antiquated Railway Corporation Act of 1955.

The new railway bill sponsored by Senator Andy Uba from Anambra state laid the ground work for the reengineering which the Senate Committee on Land Transport which I chair had to do to achieve the quality of the legislation that was eventually passed. I must once again commend my colleagues on the committee and the technical committee that worked with us leading to the passage of the Nigerian Railway Bill, 2016.

Basically, the passed bill is a departure from the old order, which shut private investors out of the railway business. The new bill, among other things, seeks to open up the railway business to private investors, and to distinguish the regulator – which is the government – from the operator.

I remain a strong believer in the primacy of the railway. It is my belief as well that the Railways remain a critical infrastructure that will extenuate Nigeria’s motley transportation problems. Hence, I am dedicated to leading the charge for the “revolutionalisation” of the system.

Last year, I expressed my thoughts on the same subject in an essay entitled, ‘Time has come to open up our railway to private participation’, which was published a few days before the passage of the bill in July 2016. Given the situation we have found ourselves in now, I deem it necessary to quote some of the thoughts expressed therein, hereunder.

“Government after government has invested even more in road expansion projects. The result as can be observed in the case of Lagos and Abuja has been a gradual occupation of the expanded roads with more cars. This is attributable to rural-urban migration as well as population explosion across the nation,”.

“Mass transit remains a very pivotal aspect of the development of any city. It plays a critical role in enhancing productivity of the state by ensuring the movement of the largest number of people from point A to Point B within the shortest possible time. It also reflects the quality of life and the value placed on the unit citizen by any responsible government.

“You will agree with me that the most effective means of transporting large quantities of humans, goods and services within any country is via rail. This is why whenever the topic of mass transit is discussed; rail transportation must be given its pride of place.”

Now, with the impending closure of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, a frontal focus on the railway is more than ever germane. The goal is not to have just functional railways, but to have trains that are as fast and effective as those we see outside Nigeria.

I believe that the private sector has a pivotal role to play in turning around the fortunes of the Nigerian Railway System. To achieve this, the Senate has taken the lead in giving the executive the requisite Legislative Support to attract Foreign and local investments into the sector. This was the prime goal, when the Senate committee on Land Transport, worked round the clock to ensure the passage of the Railway Bill in good time.

The imminent total closure of the second busiest airport in Nigeria has caused unrest for many Nigerians and foreigners going by their outcry. Imagine if we had an effective rail system whereby cities, states and communities are linked.  A sturdy railway system or a faster train traversing the Abuja to Kaduna corridor, the consequences of the total closure  of the Abuja Airport would be minimal and frequent travelers might not feel much pain or discomfort.

The time for linking every Nigerian artery by rail is now.
Senator Gbenga Ashafa represents the good and industrious people of Lagos East Senatorial District in the Senate. He is also the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Land Transport.

Nigerian Youths And The ‘PDP’ Battle, By Whyte Habeeb Ibidapo

I remain Habeeb Whyte and I am still obliged with the responsibility that life placed on me to suggest a path deserving a collective action from Nigerian youths towards what fate have for us as Nigerians. To say that the struggles of our heroes shall not be in vain is the only basis that is making us advocating for ‘positive change’ and not just change. I have chosen not to be a silent collaborator in the guise of maintaining neutrality. The usual refrain in our clime is not to join issues with the elderly ones that have always advocated that an average Nigerian youth is not ready for leadership.  There is indeed wisdom in not joining issues; particularly in the very dicey and unfathomable political situation which is peculiar in Nigeria. However, the truth in my heart would not betray my tongue neither would my ink dry up in an attempt to face the reality on ground. The issue at hand is serious. It is far from an attempt to rewrite history but an attempt to move forward to the past with the crop of leaders that we have today.  There are many actors in the political succession stories in Nigeria since May 1999 with bogus claims of youthful contributions to the democratization struggle which cannot be substantiated. I consider this as a big challenge for my generation because an unsubstantiated claim is an adverse to the legacy of virtuous and progressive leadership which our patriarchs bequeathed on the country at independence.

Those who swear by the rule that everything has a price would have found much to contemplate. Delusions are often functional. A mother’s opinion about her children’s beauty, goodness etc., keeps her from drowning them at birth. Nigeria is Nigeria, so also we remain Nigerians but we cease to remain Nigerians when we start doing things that would bring her down. It’s only few men that have virtue to withstand the highest bidder. Most of us are doing things that have endangered and endangering the governance of this country. Few Nigerians are destroying Nigeria for the benefit of few Nigerians at the expense of massive Nigerians. This must not be allowed to stand as desideratum to be desired in our country and our generation must continue to canvass vehemently against pseudo-democrats whose only credentials are their tired and hired brain, mansions and fleet of cars must be politically, economically and socially ex-communicated from our midst. As youths, we must not see ourselves as plate-holders and at all times, we must insist on an irreducible minimum democratic credentials and antecedents as the entry point for whoever seeks elective office. We should shut our eyes to those leaders that would package ‘scams’ for us in the ‘change’ language.  The rich and highly placed are running a dreadful risk in their callous neglect of the poor and the downtrodden Nigerians. If we don’t call attention to ourselves, who would?

 

It should be noted that there is a calculated attempt to shut the youths out of governance in all forms. This is an unconscious conspiracy that has matured in the minds of some of the leaders that are rallying around the constitutional leaders in Nigeria. Sadly, some youths that has grown unconsciously to be model in such an act. This is the time to challenge bizarre and money-forces parading themselves as our representatives and put them in their rightful places in the hall of infamy are guaranteed as champions of extractive politics. This moment should be used by us to ensure that our leaders should recruit and position young people for public offices with the intention of proper empowerment towards the challenges of leadership. Most young ones that have been privileged to taste power have derailed to an extent and have turned against the very structure that bred and nurtured them from ground zero. Some youths are pseudo-activists and situational supporters of worthy causes who jump fences in the face of intimidation or in anticipation of better deals on the side of our oppressors. We have them in abundance especially on the social media platforms. We all know the sudden advocates of a better Nigeria but gone silent even when the so called leaders are not getting it right. So disappointing that some of these youths are still red carpeted upon their chameleonic attribute which is buttered with impunity.  Only a flustered mind gets bewildered by the pangs of betrayal for too long. A true ambassador of the Nigerian youth constituency would never deterred by antics of betrayers particularly when there is a historic mission to be fulfilled. Betrayers of the Nigerian constituency should never be confused with revolutionaries who are usually propelled by ideology and common good.

In spite of desperation to monopolize power to selfish servicing of the pockets, some youths with rational mind have learnt to sift, distil and situate unfolding scenarios of youth neglect in proper governance into proper context. When the concocted and empty promises are left to fester unchallenged by leaders within the same system, the public would be fed with outright mischief, half-truth and mere fabrications. The sad truth is that some youths may end up as victims of acquiescence and cold complicity which desperate and wicked leaders seek to foist on their colleagues in the system.  As the saying goes, success is meaningless without a good or better successor; leaders that believe in the notion that the Nigerian youths should be afforded a number of opportunities to participate in governance should be encouraged and supported at all times. Unfortunately, these leaders are rare and the opportunity afforded represents a paradigm generational shift from gerontocracy to youth dynamism. No doubt, this comes with challenges too.

For Nigeria to experience sustainable socio-economic development, responsible, credible governance, she need true leaders who will build strong and transparent institutions as well as leaders who are dedicated to how history will remember them for transforming the society rather than accumulation of private wealth must emerge to implant the act of good and selfless governance in Nigeria. The Nigerian youths must remain consistent with an unwavering, unflagging and unalloyed commitment in the discipleship of the movement for the emergence of an egalitarian society. Every generation, out of relative obscurity, will discover its mission, whether to fulfill or betray it. It is noteworthy that when the youths have decided to change the ‘change’, it is a step in their Personal Development Programme. With their PDP, the change begins with them.

(WHYTE HABEEB IBIDAPO is a Lawyer, United Nations Award winner, Africa International Arbitration Award winner, Coca cola/ The Nation Campuslife Award Winner, Promasidor Runner-up for the Best Future Writer in Nigeria, i-Hustle Campaign Initiative – Ambassador and Editor – Egba Youth Awards Foundation.

Email: whyte287@gmail.com

@whytehabeeb

Talking El-Zakzaky Out Of Controversy, By Ade Ilemobade

I am not a Jurist and I do not claim to have professional competence on legal matters. However, nothing prevents me from poking my philosophical proboscis into the analysis of fundamental issues within the purview of human rights architecture as regards preventive detention in Nigeria and El-Zakyzaky’s case is instructive as a starting point to flesh out this contentious, controversial methodology of protecting and preserving public interest or national security.

My intention here is to avoid unnecessary legal terminologies or cumbersome definitions in other to present a vivid clarification of my position to support preventive detention specifically in the case of El-Zakyzaky to forstall the disintergration of public order given the antecedents of IMN leadership and the delicate intra-religious hegemonic warfare between Shiites and Sunnis in Northern Nigeria not forgetting the unfortunate incident in Kaduna leading to death and wanton destruction of properties.

To preventively detain an individual is to take away his/her freedom and liberty using executive administrative order where and when circumstances come up needing such action either with the aim of protecting national security and public order or protecting the individual in question from harm. It is important to note here that no requirement of previous conviction is a precondition neither is it a necessary condition that the individual being preventively detained has committed any offence at the moment of detention rather certain antecedents of such person not necessarily legal conviction might be enough justification for such detention without trial because of the potentiality of such individual constituting national security threat.

I want to emphasize again that the most important element of justification in respect of preventive detention can be suspicion or reasonable probability. Therefore, the necessariness of previous criminal conviction based on legal evidence is of no significance. The need here is to pre-emptively stop the perpetration of action and event that can be injurious to public security and the release of El-Zakyzaky from detention in my view can probably lead to event that is injurious to public safety and a threat to national security given the state of health or medical condition of the Man since the Kaduna Shiites versus Nigerian Army confrontation.

You may disagree with me given the above explanation but the information available to me suggests that the Man El-Zakyzaky is better protected in government custody and really preventive detention is not explicitly rejected in the Nigerian constitution because there are situations wherein an individual can be detained for up to three months pending arraignment before a competent court but that is when there is a criminal charge(s) against such individual. However, in El-Zakyzaky’s case there are no charges and the constitution is silent on that because it is a matter that concerns national security beyond the purview of what the drafters of the constitution anticipated as regards the jurisdiction of the court in such cases wherein executive administrative orders predominate.

The interpretation of the Nigerian constitution in its ordinariness without imputing any externalities beyond what it means under the rubric fundamental rights has some similarities and same scenario just like what is observable in international human rights law in practice. This is so because the standard practice locally and internationally has being to use national security or public interest arguments to justify preventive detention and the international community has been finding it difficult to condemn the practice. Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib anti terrorism practices of the United State of America is instructive here.

Those chanting that preventive detention is anti-democratic must do a rethink in the light of the above because it does not matter anymore whether the institutions or governments enforcing such detention are democratic or dictatorial neither is the rule of law a panacea to stopping the application of preventive mechanism of detention in so far as there are provisions or lacks in their legal statute that allowed or not explicitly disallowed preventive detention so any attempt to hide under any claim that a democratic country cannot and should not preventively detained people is Ignoratio elenchi.

The issue here is whether there is a threat to national security and public order and if/when the answer is in the affirmative which I believe it is coupled with the awareness that Nigerian government entered reservation to most articles in international human rights treaty that have the effect of infringing on its interpretation of cetain provisions of state laws in national interest then the lawfulness of preventatively detaining El-Zakyzaky in the interest of national security cannot be challenged legally sucessfully.

Public interest is a higher goal of any statehood an important base of our social contract, any Nigerian can be detained using public interest as justification there are no legal requirements in contradistinction to Art 36 (5) Every person who is charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed to be innocent until he is proved guilty; which is about criminal offence, presumption of innocence and the prove of guilt but this is not the case with El-Zakyzaky he was taken into preventive detention which in my opinion has no explicit regulation in our constitution and the reasonableness of time for adjudication by a competent court does not apply in this case because there are no charges it is therefore mere academic going to court seeking relief.

El-Zakyzaky’s release may cause great public disorder Nigerian government has taken the right decision that is proportional to the end game of preventing public disintergration, disorder and threat to national security given the circumstances of the case under review.

Why Peace Is Becoming Elusive In Southern Kaduna, By Mukhtar Garba Maigamo

“I’m for truth, no matter who tells it. I’m for justice, no matter who it’s for or against.”-  Malcolm X

The cumulative burden and the incidence of violence in Southern Kaduna  (from 1980s to the recent one in 2011) which this present administration of Elrufai inherited now –sadly, is becoming hard nut, not in itself really, but because those self-appointed Town Criers of southern Kaduna are just two-faced characters.  They are the ones propelling this by their sheer hypocrisy and double standard.

They underreport any attack on Fulani but overblow every reprisals carry out. It has also become a point of duty for them to be hypercritical of everything and anything about the Kaduna state governor-Elrufai. While the governor is trying very hard to bring an end to this violence, they are frustrating that by their utterances and actions. They are now attempting to change the narrative of this conflict to genocidal war just to present the President, the APC and the Kaduna state governor in a bad light.

However, before I move further, let it be clear that my stand has always been that any attack, kidnapping, killings-whether reprisal or not; or any other form of crime is condemnable. Also as a student of peace, I subscribe to the doctrine of social justice as the enabler of peaceful coexistence. Social justice in this context is to be construed as the promotion of a just society by protesting injustice, prejudiced on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, political affiliations etc, or injustice in whatever form.

Sometime in November 2016, on Tuesday weekly market of Samarun Kataf there was an attack by the Youths who blocked roads, burn cars wantonly and killed two Fulani herdsmen based on the rumors that Fulani killed one of their people. They also took to the streets with dangerous weapons, and destroyed the very signboard of the recent Kafanchan Declaration Peace Accord.

At that same day simultaneously, 2 Fulanis were also killed at Kan-Kurmi village. But surprisingly, there was a conspiracy of silence among the self-appointed Town Criers as always has been. There was no report, there was no words of reproach, no condemnation, no nothing. Just a deafening silence from them.

Now, on Tuesday, the same market day and at the same spot, 3 people were shot by some people who are suspected to be Fulani, and whose motives would be seen to be avenging the killings of their brothers that happened in the market two months ago. The act is condemnable in its entirety but the double standard of our two-faced southern Kaduna friends is too glaring because they refuse to condemn the first one perpetrated by their ‘brothers’ but they are condemning this one. They did not even stop at condemnation but they constantly employ a dangerous connotation and link it with the governor on account of his identity and creed.

Surprisingly, on Wednesday the Emir of Jamaá, Alhaji Muhammad Isa Muhammad II was ambushed and attacked by irate youths when he was returning back from Security Council meeting with the governor. CAN is quiet, SOKAPU is not only quite, it has even denied occurrence of the incident. No words of reproach from Rebuen Buhari- a new Town Crier; Moses Ochunu didn’t write reproachful article from University of Vanderbilt USA. This is the double standard we are talking about. If the very people and institutions who are thought-police and moral compass of their communities and happen to be central to the conflict resolution, but become partisan in this manner, the peace we are all seeking for will be elusive.

It is worth repeating here that governor Elrufai inherited these security problems from cattle rustling, rural banditry, and arm robbery, kidnapping and reprisal killings in southern Kaduna. But yet he is determined in addressing them. Southern Kaduna violence become a centre-stage in all the security issues since when they came on board.

Many a people know that, the violence we are facing now is a spill over of the way and manner the previous administrations handled the crisis before now- for political correctness, for political expediency; which bred impunity in our society. It started during IBB era and continued unabated.

One will have to wonder seeing Rueben Buhari now at the forefront of lambasting this government about the issues of killings in southern Kaduna. When he served in the government of late Patrick Yakowa, there were same violence in the zone, but he didn’t blame his principal. This shows clear enmity and hatred. We are seeing many of him today under the cloak of humanists and if we don’t rise and resist these people the peace we are all seeking will keeps on eluding us. We must do away with sentiments and see clearly the intentions of some merchants of conflict who profit in this one. We must also reject the so called citadels and demagogues whose actions and utterance only exacerbate the problem.

 

Mukhtar Garba Maigamo,

A Public Commentator, Conflict Resolution expert lives in  Kaduna State. 08066792996

mgmaigamo@yahoo.com

A Week Of International Diplomacy, By @DeleMomodu

“Every person in Ghana, whatever his race, place of origin, political opinion, colour, religion, creed, or gender, shall be entitled to the fundamental human rights and freedoms of the individual contained in this chapter but subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for public interest…”

The Ghanaian Constitution, Section 12 (2)

Fellow Nigerians, let me apologise for my sudden absence from this page last week. It is not in my character to abdicate my responsibility at any time and if I do so at all, you can be sure that it must be with cogent reason. I’m actually totally addicted to writing Pendulum but my itinerant existence sometimes gets in the way and I’m not able to fulfil all righteousness to you. Last week was one such exceptional occasion that I just couldn’t do anything about. By the time you read the article I started on our flight to Banjul last week in the company of eminent ECOWAS leaders past and present, you will understand and appreciate why I couldn’t deliver. Please, forgive me… In the meantime, let me continue where I left off last time.

Fellow Africans, as I was saying last week (a couple of weeks ago now), the former President of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama, has decided to retire to his farmlands in the Akosombo area, about one hour from Accra by road. I had worked closely with him in the last couple of months and discovered a leader who was not desperate for power but passionate about developing his country at the speed of light. No challenge was too big for him to tackle. It was as if he knew he had little time to do the gigantic projects he had embarked on – a mere four years!

He was bold and courageous in his decisions and execution. He did not play the game of typical politicians who would lie through the teeth just to grab votes by all means. He would later suffer the consequences of not speaking the political language despite being a consummate communicator in his real life. He offended the unemployed youths by not promising to give them jobs that would never come unless certain infrastructural projects were in place. He would not borrow money to pay certain personal allowances that would have endeared him to selfish interests. However what he was prepared to do was that he would rather ensure the roads were tarred, the airports were upgraded to international standards without disrupting normal activities and modern and well-equipped hospitals where doctors and nurses and others can be gainfully employed were built. For him development was not stomach infrastructure but the electrification of Ghana including the rural areas, industrialisation of Ghana by resuscitating moribund and comatose industries, and such similar large program development projects.

What is more, JDM, as we fondly call him, is a true pan-Africanist who threw the doors of Ghana open to all Africans, particularly Nigerians. I found his affection for Nigeria and Nigerians, and his great respect for our leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, most refreshing. His was not a non-productive competition or bickering against Nigeria and Nigerians. He grew up in Kano when his great dad, a Ghanaian politician in the Nkrumah days, was forced into exile. Mahama has fond memories of Nigeria and has made many friends along the way.

He awarded a great and enigmatic Nigerian businessman, Dr Mike Adenuga Jnr., the Globalcom Chairman, the highest civilian National Honour in Ghana. Under his leadership, he gave us access to his developmental projects and Ovation International became a veritable part of his media campaign. Our team worked assiduously to showcase his phenomenal infrastructure projects which were previously under publicised for whatever reasons. It was a work that brought us into collision with some powerful forces but we were determined to promote one of the few great leaders doing wonderful things in Africa. We did what we had to do not just because of the elections but mainly because we saw it as an opportunity to permanently record the gargantuan efforts of a true patriot. Mahama’s simplicity is truly infectious. It made our task even simpler. He performed his duties without fuss, and almost effortlessly. He made us proud as Africans.

Just as he feels very much at home with Nigerians, he regards all Africans as one and is committed a united and democratic Africa comprising African States that look out for one another and champion each other’s causes.

Despite the unexpected outcome of the Presidential election, JDM was never grumpy. In fact he comforted those of us who felt sad at the results letting us know that that it was the will of God and certainly not the end of the world.  His cheerful disposition lifted the initial gloom around our team and we subsequently held our heads up high because of the great work that we had all done.  JDM bore the loss with uncommon equanimity and chose to hand over power and move on quietly with his life when he could very easily have taken the long road and either manipulated the election results or challenged their validity. But it has not been as simple as that and the solitude, anonymity and relaxation that he craved have been taken away from him.

In the last couple of weeks, JDM has started what looks like a new assignment, foisted on him by ECOWAS and our President, Muhammadu Buhari. Two days after leaving office, JDM was invited to join a few African leaders from Senegal and Liberia in Abuja. Their purpose was to discuss ways of resolving the logjam in The Gambia following the decision by former President Yahya Jammeh to renege on his previous laudable acceptance of defeat and congratulations to the victor, President Adama Barrow. I was pleasantly surprised when JDM invited me along on the trip even though he knew I was desperate to return to Nigeria to deal with urgent business and personal matters. For me it was a call to service and I knew it was imperative for me to make some personal sacrifices if it meant I could help in some way.  I saw it as a vote of confidence in me by JDM. Though we had succeeded in establishing some enviable chemistry, I still did not know the extent of our relationship. He had spent two days in Lagos last December and attended the Ovation Carol at Eko Hotel Convention Centre. I found it ironic that it would take JDM inviting me to my own country for me to enter the Aso Rock Presidential villa again. That is another story for another day, anyway.

It did not end there. Following the deliberations in Abuja, President Muhammadu Buhari, for the second time in a week, invited JDM and a few other leaders to join him in Banjul to broker a peace deal with the former strongman of The Gambia, Yahya Jameh. Again, JDM also invited me along. In fact, I began writing this piece on the plane, on our way to picking the President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in a country where I was gowned nearly ten years ago and was given the Chieftaincy title of The Kiazolu of Grand Cape Mount County…

This was the point at which I stopped writing in the hope that I would complete the article on our return journey. But The Gambia proved a naughty nut to crack. Right from the airport, it was obvious President Yahya Jammeh had no plans to quit power. After a meeting between Presidents Buhari, Sirleaf and Mahama, they decided to head to Jammeh’s Palace. When we got there, he came out to welcome them before they all retired behind closed doors. When they emerged from their meeting, he saw them off again. We headed back to the hotel earlier used and that was when the leaders decided to meet with the then President-elect of The Gambia, President Adama Barrow. News later came that neither opposition nor government had agreed on anything tangible and a press conference was arranged and addressed by Nigeria’s Foreign Minister, Geoffrey Onyeama, who should be credited for creditably coordinating the elaborate peace initiatives deftly and adroitly. He was a picture of charm, calm and diplomacy and he made me proud to see a Nigerian Minister who clearly knew what he was doing and who succeeded in doing it well to the admiration of all.

Once the negotiations collapsed, it then became a matter of “to thy tents Oh Israel.” We headed back to the airport. Adama Barrow and a few others, including the Chief Justice of the Gambia, Nigeria’s own Justice Emmanuel Fagbenle, and his wife, joined us on the trip to Liberia where Madam Sirleaf disembarked with Barrow. I did not realise the significance of the presence of the Chief Justice on our return trip until this Thursday when everything clicked into place as the Chief Justice swore in President Adama Barrow at the Gambian Embassy in Senegal.

By the time we got to Monrovia, a second time on the same day, it was too late for me to finish Pendulum. But in view of the Gambian debacle and the failure of diplomacy that was the least of my concerns.  What was uppermost in my mind was the peace that had eluded a once tranquil nation known for its beaches and as a great tourist attraction and I was truly sad. Unknown to me then, the only option left was to swear in President Barrow on foreign soil which has now transpired and then return him to the Gammbia with the aid of oreign troops including Nigerian soldiers and Air Force which is ongoing. The rest is now history.

Before we left The Gambia, I had tried to check the mood of President Jammeh by chatting briefly with him. I had known and met him a couple of times since the year 2000 when we were invited by Ms Isha Tejan Cole to establish Ovation’s presence in Banjul. Jammeh and his beautiful wife were very receptive at the time with their popularity rating still high enough. I never expected him not to quit while the ovation was still a bit loud. The Jammeh I spoke to last week Friday was a shadow of himself. He was not as confident and assertive as he used to be. He appeared jumpy and fidgety. Like a thief whose hand has been caught in the cookie jar. As we shook hands and I left him, I could not but remember the proviso to section 12(2) of the Ghanaian Constitution that I have cited above in so far as it relates to “respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for public interest …”.

I was seriously convicted and compelled to pray that God would mercifully rescue the good people of The Gambia from the ambition of one man who failed to realise that he must properly respect the rights and freedom of his people to freely choose any leader that they want and the attendant public interest in doing so.  Yahya Jammeh should have known that whatever has a beginning must have an end. Thai is the simple lot of Man.  It is my fervent hope that it does not end in tragedy for him and that he will indeed quit today as he now seems to be saying having seen the noose tightening around his neck! God let wisdom and uncommon sense prevail! Amen

Towards Effective Local Government Administration, By ‘Rinsola Abiola

“The only way we can add value to local government is by giving them political and financial independence, as this will expand opportunities in the grassroots.” – Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara

Local Government can be described as a collective term for local councils, and/or an administrative body for a small geographical area such as a county or district. In Nigeria, local government is the third tier of government, and its statutory functions are spelt out in the Fourth Schedule of the 1999 Constitution. These include – but are not limited to – construction and maintenance of roads, provision of public conveniences, sewage and refuse disposal, the provision and maintenance of primary, adult and vocational education, the development of agriculture and natural resources (other than the exploitation of minerals), and the provision and maintenance of health services.

From the foregoing, the importance of Local Government in any democracy cannot be overstated, and it is believed – rightly so – that effective Local Government administration would help speed up the pace of development. In some democracies around the world, such as the United States (which provides a model for most), the Local Government structure is fully defined with council courts and police, while it is not in others. What most nations agree on, however, is that true autonomy – or that which is closest to it – further deepens democracy and positively impacts citizens through the attendant improvement in the quality of governance.

The topic of local government autonomy is one which has generated a lot of debate. During the Obasanjo administration, a technical committee was set up to look into the relevance, sustainability and viability of the local government system and while some advocated that it be completely done away with, the government opted instead, to maintain it.

There have also been different attempts by the legislature to grant autonomy to local governments, but such proposed amendments to the Constitution have failed to meet the required approval of 2/3rds of state assemblies. Speaking on these previous attempts, Speaker Yakubu Dogara – who is now championing the campaign for local government autonomy – recently noted that: “We [the House] attempted it in the 6th Assembly but most of the critical aspects of what we are talking about here did not scale 2/3rd votes from all the state assemblies in Nigeria. In the 7th Assembly, however, this issue of autonomy of local government got endorsement of 20 state assemblies but, unfortunately, we needed 2/3rd, so we were short of four. So, it means that even if the President had assented to the Bill on constitution amendment, that aspect wouldn’t have scaled through.”

He also described local government administration in the country as “a system in crisis”, and stated that: “since 1999, there has hardly been any local government that has lived up to its constitutional mandate.”

Pursuant to this, the House of Representatives has identified local government autonomy as a major issue in the ongoing Constitution review process. In order to achieve this, clauses which would grant financial and political autonomy to local government are being considered. This, the Speaker explained, saying that: “the only way we can rescue the local government system in Nigeria is by introducing amendments to the Constitution….What we can therefore do is to make sure that in the spirit of the Constitution, the local government administration is democratically elected to ensure that, by the provision of the Constitution, any local government that is not democratically constituted will not have access to funding from the federation account.”

Daily, citizens decry the terrible state of infrastructure in the most interior parts of state capitals and in smaller towns. Lack of infrastructural development has also been identified as one of the leading causes of rural-urban migration and many keen observers of trends in governance opine that if Local Government councils had financial autonomy, thereby enabling them to fully execute their constitutionally defined mandate, there would be more development in rural areas. Being the tier of government that is closest to the people, local governments would also do a much better job of identifying areas in which intervention is most required. The Speaker also believes that a more effective and independent local government system would increase competition at that level and attract an even better quality of aspirants.

It was in response to Speaker Dogara’s impassioned advocacy for local government autonomy, that the leadership of the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE) paid him a solidarity visit on Wednesday, January 18, 2017. The president of the body, Comrade Ibrahim Khalil, spoke at length on the benefits that Nigerians stand to gain if the proposed amendments scale through, and some of the things he mentioned include improved healthcare and infrastructure. The Speaker, in his response, urged the union to engage with elected officials at state level, especially in State Assemblies.

Another cogent issue that autonomy would effectively fix is the dissolution of Local Government councils and subsequent appointment of caretaker committees by state governors. The question surrounding the legality of sacking elected council chairmen and appointing caretaker committees was put to rest by the Supreme Court judgment which described the move as “executive recklessness”. The decision by the apex court has, therefore, made it clear that state executives lack the constitutional backing to sack elected council chairmen, and this provides an excellent premise upon which the argument for the independence of the Local Government may also be based.

While stressing the need for independence, the Speaker acknowledged that; “We may not achieve that [absolute independence] since ours is a strong federation. It is not a weak federation like what you have in the United States where councils and states join money and then appropriate it and pay royalties in taxes to the Federal Government.”

Therefore, in a strong federation like ours, that level of autonomy would most probably be impossible to achieve, but that still does not and should not preclude us from working to grant as much independence as possible, and there would be no better place from which to begin, than from finance and democratic composition.

Many Nigerians focus on the Federal Government and demand interventions regarding the most basic challenges, but in the words of Calvin Coolidge, “what we need is not more federal government, but better local government.”

Rinsola Abiola is SA on New Media to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara. She tweets via @Bint_Moshood.

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