Sunday, 25 February 2018

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

The case of a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Jumoke Akinjide, has been transferred to the Federal High Court in Lagos.

It has been re-assigned to Justice Muslim Hassan.

Akinjide was charged along with former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, who is said to be at large.

Others named in the charge are Senator Ayo Adeseun and a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stalwart Chief Olarenwaju Otiti.

They were accused of conspiring to directly take possession of N650million, which they reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act.

They were arraigned last June before Justice Joyce Abdulmalik in Ibadan.

It was learnt that the Acting Chief Judge, Justice Adamu Kafarati, moved the case to Lagos at Akinjide’s instance.

The former minister was granted bail on self-recognition when she was arraigned in Ibadan. She was also asked to submit her international passport.

Prosecuting counsel Mr Rotimi Oyedepo confirmed to our correspondent yesterday that the former minister would be tried in Lagos.

“Yes, we have been served with a Hearing Notice by the Federal High Court, Lagos Division, that the case is coming up before Justice Hassan next week,” he said.

The defendants allegedly received the money from Mrs Alison-Madueke in the build- up to the 2015 general election.

It was said to be part of the $115 million allegedly disbursed by Mrs. Alison-Madueke to influence the outcome of the 2015 presidential election.

One of the charges reads: “That you, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke (still at large), Oloye Jumoke Akinjide, Senator Ayo Ademola Adeseun and Chief Olarenwaju Otiti on or about the 26th day of March, 2015, in Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired amongst yourselves to directly take possession of the N650 million which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act.

“That you, Oloye Jumoke Akinjide, Senator Ayo Ademola Adeseun and Chief Olanrewaju Otiti on or about the 26th day of March, 2015 in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did conspire amongst yourselves to commit an offence, to wit: making cash payment of the sum of N650 million which sum exceeded the amount authorized by Law without going through financial institution and you thereby committed an offence.”

The defendants pleaded not guilty.

It was learnt that Akinjide held plea bargain talks with the EFCC. The case may come up before Justice Hassan on Tuesday.


• Returnees relive suffering, hunger, say no place like home
• Fish out ISIS infiltrators first, security expert tells govt

Nigeria migrants evacuated from Libya by the Federal Government on Sunday have described their experiences as “hellish.” On arrival at the Port Harcourt International Airport on Sunday, one of the returnees shouted, “see food oh” when he sighted Federal Government officials serving plates of rice with water to the victims.

Six-month pregnant Lewisa Comfort, 23, narrated her experience to The Guardian. She said: “The Nigerians who collected money and took us to Libya usually betrayed us. They did sell Nigerian ladies to Arab men for about N200,000 and the Arab men would use the girls as sex machines and for house cleaning jobs and with all these, we would only be given one dry bread to eat per day without water.

“If you were sold to a black man, it was a continuous sale, because the black men kept selling and re-selling the individual, just to make money. Human trafficking is the only lucrative business in Libya. 

“The situation there is very bad, so pathetic that it is not an experience one would wish his worst enemy. The desert experience is worse than the sea experience. In my set, 14 Hilux vans carrying 27 passengers each left Nigeria but only 10 people survived. More than 1,000 died.”

The pretty lady, who hails from Edo State, disclosed that some of them paid between N600,000 and N800,000 to cross over to Italy but regretted that their hopes were dashed when they were left stranded in Libya.Lewisa said when they arrived in Libya, some of them were arrested, while some were sold out. Others were moved from prison to prison with severe toture. “No water or food,” she said.She said the hellish experience forced most of them to fast and pray, seeking divine intervention for rescue.

According to her, “When we were going through all these experiences, we decided to turn our hunger into fasting and prayers .We fasted and prayed for three days and we saw ourselves as one; there was unity (of mind) among all of us in Libya.

“It was on the third day when our fasting ended we heard the cheering news that our President Muhammadu Buhari, has sent some delegations to come and evacuate us out from Libya and we were very happy, we are so glad that finally, we are back to our country and we have our freedom.”

She advised those nursing the idea to travel out of the country through illegal means to have a rethink, warning that it is better to learn skills and work with freedom in Nigeria than to be a slave in a foreign country.

She lamented that she left the country due to frustration, saying the educational system in Nigeria is very costly with no jobs at the end.
“As a graduate, I was earning N8, 000 monthly where I was teaching and before the month ran halfway, the money would have been exhausted. At a point, I was tired and decided to go look for greener pastures.”

Lewisa also urged the Federal Government to create the enabling environment that would help people learn skills, trade, work and become useful to society.

Another returnee, Shedrack Lagarde, said he was happy to return to Nigeria alive, noting that six of his friends died in his presence due to hunger and severe torture.On his part, Harry Musa said, “it feels very good to be home,” adding, “one does not know what he has until he loses it. Now we know that there is no place like home.”

While disclosing that he ate only two spoonfuls of indomie for two months, he advised people not to travel to foreign countries illegally.Meanwhile, the President of the Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria (AISSON), Dr. Ona Ekhomu, has advised the Federal Government to ensure proper vetting and documentation of the Nigerian returnees from Libya before releasing them to society.
 
This is to detect ISIS fighters who might be masquerading as Nigerian returnees.In a statement yesterday, Ekhomu said that given the threat of infiltration into Nigeria of ISIS fighters, it is prudent to carefully prove the identity of each of the returnees before releasing them.“Some of these people might have pledged Bayat (loyalty or oath) to ISIS.  They need to be separated from those who migrated for economic reasons,” he added.He observed that there was no way of knowing a Nigerian by face.  And it is presumed that most of the returnees do not have travel documents.It is therefore, merely assumed that they are Nigerians.

A questionnaire must be quickly drawn up to enable the returnees to prove their national identity.  These should include questions about their date of birth, place of birth, LGA, name of  town, traditional ruler, primary and secondary school attended, ethnic nationality and native language spoken.

In order to discern their purpose for migration, Ekhomu suggested that they should be questioned about the source of funds for their trip to Libya, while all information provided must be quickly investigated (verified) and each individual cleared to enter society.

Ekhomu commended Buhari for ordering the repatriation of the Nigerians: “As a responsible government, the Federal Government did the right thing by bringing back ‘fellow Nigerians’ to our country.The security expert noted: “Nigeria currently has too many active killing fields, and does not need the threat of ISIS infiltration.”

 

A U.S. couple will go to jail after holding a Nigerian woman captive as an unpaid maid and nanny for two years in a Houston, Texas suburb, restricting her movements and threatening her if she objected, authorities said on Monday.

The husband and wife will pay restitution of more than $100,000 to the victim, whom they lured from Lagos with promises of wages that were never paid, according to the Office of Acting U.S. Attorney Abe Martinez, Reuters reports.

Sandra Nsobundu, 49, pleaded guilty to a forced labor documents charge and her husband Chudy Nsobundu, 57, pleaded guilty to visa fraud in hearings that ended late on Friday, the office said in a statement.

The victim was rescued in October 2015 after a tip to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.

She had been living for more than two years with the Nsobundu family in Katy, Texas, officials said.

During that time, the Nsobundus kept the woman’s passport from her, did not pay her and threatened to send her back to Nigeria if she objected.

They restricted her movements to two short walks each day around the block with their children and frequently yelled at her and berated her, officials said.

The couple had helped falsify a U.S. visa application for the victim with lies to boost the chances that it would be approved and hide that she would be working illegally as a housemaid and nanny, officials said.

Among the falsehoods, the application portrayed her as married and as 20 years older than she was, officials said. It also falsely claimed she was related to the Nsobundu family.

Sandra and Chudy Nsobundu each will serve sentences of seven months in jail and seven months home confinement, and they will pay more than $121,000 in restitution to the victim, officials said.

The State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Johnson Kokumo, who made the disclosure in Benin, disclosed that the Sisters were rescued during an operation by policemen from the Command.

Kokumo said that while the abductors fled on sighting the security operatives, the victims were taken to a secure health facility for medical attention.

“Police operatives closed in on the dare-devil kidnappers and they had no other option than to release the Reverend Sisters,” Kokumo said.

It was gathered that one of the victims, Veronica Ajayi, was released at about 6pm on Saturday, while the other five were released before 12 am on Sunday.

Confirming the release of the Reverend Sisters, the Superior-General of the Catholic Convent, Sister Agatha Osarekhoe, said that the sisters returned unhurt.

Osarekhoe stated, “We are happy; to God be the glory! One (Ajayi) was released yesterday (Saturday) and the others were also released.

“They are fine are fine. They are receiving some medical checkup in a hospital.”

Recall that the unknown gunmen stormed the residence of the sisters in Iguoriakhi, Ovia South-West Local Government Area of the state on November 13, and took them away in a waiting speedboat.

The kidnappers were said to have later demanded a ransom of N20 million.

But the Superior-General disclosed that no ransom was paid, even as she said that the police did their best to ensure that the sisters regained their freedom.

She said “No ransom was paid. Well, we know that they (police) did their best because they are aware.

“They had to do their work, so the police were aware. The most important thing is that our sisters are out.”

She further said that the three females would be reunited with their families later.

Osarekhoe said, “Certainly, they are supposed to be reunited with their families after some period of time. But with this experience, we will just get them settled down and then know what to.

“Their families have been anxious. So, we will get the sisters to speak with them (families).”

 
 
A Houston-based couple was ordered at the weekend to pay more than $121,000 in restitution to a Nigerian nanny who worked in their home.

The couple had pleaded guilty to federal charges related to forcing the woman to work nearly 20 hours a day, taking care of their home and five children without pay for two years, authorities said.

Besides, Chudy Nsobundu, 57, and his wife Sandra, 49, were sentenced to seven months in jail and seven months of home confinement, plus three years probation.

The couple, who are Nigerian-born, naturalized U.S. citizens, recruited the woman by promising her a $100 monthly wage. Instead, they abused her physically and verbally while she worked at their home in the Houston suburb of Katy from September 2013 to October 2015, authorities said.

Chudy Nsobundu pleaded guilty to visa fraud in 2016 while his wife pleaded guilty to unlawful conduct with respect to documents in furtherance of forced labour.

According to court documents, the nanny worked every day from 5:30 a.m. to 1 a.m., with no breaks, and no fresh food, and at times was allowed to drink only the milk left in the children’s cereal bowls.

The Nsobundus prevented the nanny from leaving their employment by withholding her passport and by threatening her with physical and mental abuse, authorities said.

The nanny reached out for help and was rescued following a tip to the National Human Trafficking Resource Centre.

Prosecutors also say the couple knowingly submitted false application to the U.S. State Department for the woman’s visa application.

Friday, 05 January 2018 01:45

Troops rescue Chibok girl Solomi Pagu

Another Chibok schoolgirl has been rescued in Borno State by troops.

Two batches of 21 and 82 girls have been freed as a result of the Federal Government’s negotiations with the Boko Haram terrorist group.

Three were rescued by troops bringing the number of freed Chibok girls so far to 106.

The girls – 218 of them – were abducted from their hostel at the Chibok Girls Secondary School in Borno State in April, 2014.

Salomi Pagu was rescued yesterday along with another girl in Pulka, Borno State.

The Deputy Director, Public Relations, of the Army’s Theatre Command of Operation Lafiya Dole, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu,  in a statement in Maiduguri said:

”Troops of Operation Lafiya Dole deployed in Pulka today rescued one of the Chibok girls abducted by Boko Haram terrorists earlier in 2014.

“So far, preliminary investigations reveal that the young girl identified as Salomi Pagu is the same as the Chibok girl published on serial 86 of the online list of abducted Chibok girls.

“Currently the girl who was intercepted in the company of another young girl, Jamila Adams, about 14 years old with a child are in the safe custody of troops and receiving medical attention”.

Members of the #BringBackOurGirls (#BBOG) confirmed that the rescued girl’s status as an abducted Chibok schoolgirl. It gave miss Pagu’s number on the list of the girls as Number 15.

Col. Nwachukwu said the Chibok girl was found in the company of a 14-year old girl and her baby.

Spokesperson for the #BBOG Sesugh Akume, in a statement, said: “The Military Theatre Command Operation Lafiya Dole has announced that Nigerian troops of the operation in Pulka today rescued one of our 113 missing Chibok girls, Solomi Pagu, along with another young girl of about 14 years old, Jamila Adams, who is with a child. All of them are said to be in the safe custody of the troops and receiving medical attention.

“Our movement is delighted to confirm this news to be true. Salomi Pagu is a daughter of Mallam Pagu Yahi from Kaumutahyahi, a village in Kuburmbula ward of Chibok LGA. Both her parents are currently IDPs in Rumirgo Village, in nearby Askira/Uba LGA in Borno State.

“She is Number 15 on the publicly known list of missing #ChibokGirls, NOT Number 86, as the statement by the military said. This brings the number of our missing #ChibokGirls to 112.

“We are yet to ascertain further details about Jamila Adams and the baby.”

Thursday, 04 January 2018 00:52

Minister: Buhari’ll run

Advocates of another term for the President are getting more serious. Communications Minister Adebayo Shittu told reporters yesterday after a meeting with the President at Aso Villa that he had been appointed to lead a group in support of President Muhammadu Buhari’s 2019 election.

According to him, the Muhammadu Buhari/Osinbajo Dynamic Support Group will on January 20 inaugurate its Southwest zonal office to launch the President’s reelection battle.

He said for Buhari to seek a second term “goes without saying”.

“I know he has not made up his mind but I can say that some of us can assist him in making up his mind so that Nigeria can continue to enjoy stability and progress.

“I mean if you have a child who goes to primary school, does well, proceeds to secondary school, does well, and you keep asking, is he going to university? It goes without saying. By the grace of God, we his ardent supporters who appreciate his worth on behalf of millions of Nigerians would urge him to recontest.”

Asked whether campaigns for 2019 elections had begun, Shittu said: “Everyday since he came into office, all his activities are geared towards letting Nigeria know they have a saviour, a rescuer, somebody who is committed to providing relief to Nigerians in all respects.

“In the area of fighting corruption, insurgency, whether in the Northeast or the Niger Delta, in the area of repairing the economy and providing jobs and providing social stability in the society. You will agree with me that today but for Buhari, Boko Haram would have invaded even Lagos.”

Shittu, who hails from Oke Ogun, Oyo State, plans to run for governor in 2019, having previously failed as the governorship candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in 2011.

The President has not spoken about his interest in 2019.

During the last National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja, an attempt to move a motion on his 2019 candidature was stopped.

Presidential spokesman Femi Adesina said on New Year’s Eve that ”nobody knows whether or not the President will seek reelection. About four groups have come to the President, asking if he will go for second term. The last of such groups was Good Governance Support Group, but the President has not said anything.”

However, in October, last year, the Buhari Support Organisation inaugurated its office in Abuja to campaign for Buhari’s second term.

Buhari’s men and many public office holders gathered at the event which enjoyed wide publicity.

Customs Comptroller General Col. Hamid Ali, the chief speaker at the event, urged the President to reward those who worked for his emergence but still left in the cold more than two years into the four-year tenure.

Members of the group-led by Senator Abu Ibrahim, later visited the President at the Villa.

The President himself gave a subtle hint that he would run when he told Nigerians in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire when met with them after attending an African Union/European Union Summit, that he might need Nigerians’ vote in future.

Tuesday, 02 January 2018 01:55

Mbaka faults Buhari’s anti-graft battle

Fiery Catholic priest, Rev. Ejike Mbaka, has condemned President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption fight, warning that the President should change “those cabal holding him in captivity otherwise he would be changed”.

Mbaka spoke in his New Year message during the cross over mass at his Emene Enugu Adoration Ground.

The priest lamented that the good intentions of the president have been hijacked by the cabal he surrounded himself with. He urged President Buhari to wake up and live up to his billings as Nigerians have suffered a lot in the past year.

His message reads: “I had wanted to pray for you and go because I don’t want anybody to attack me; I don’t want the Bishop to invite me; I don’t want politicians to attack me anywhere. But God forced me to say it.

“Listen to me, 2017 became one of the most horrible years in this country and that is the message. The Lord says, Nigerians, he says, captive Nigerians, you will be speedily rescued; Nigerians, things are very difficult, hard and tough nowadays; the hardship is not from God, they are man-made; the wicked cabals and satanic agents in this country have wickedly kidnapped the goodwill and good intentions of President Muhammadu Buhari; his good intentions have been kidnapped; President Buhari must wake up and sit up immediately or…heaven demands him, heaven demands Buhari, our President to change all those who are holding and caging him in captivity; if he will not change them, he will be changed.

“Mr. President wake up; sit up; God said you are toying with the privilege given to you; there is no time; Nigerians are dying in your hand; people are not happy with your system. Change or you will be changed; God said that Buhari is in trouble; Buhari is hypnotised; Buhari is in a horrible bondage; Buhari’s mantra has been canibalised.

“Unless President Buhari quickly and strategically positions the right people and changes the ones he inaugurated, the wind of change that he himself inaugurated will blow him away shamefully. The wind will be too strong that Mr. President and the cabal will be blown out of office shamefully. The wind will be irresistible for it will come like a hurricane. Buhari can handle this problem but number one, his office, if he is not careful, another will take.

“Number 2, if he is doesn’t want to move Nigeria forward, God says He himself will plan a strategy of moving Nigeria forward. His pattern of embattling corruption is not just archaic and barbaric, but is witch-hunting, terribly selective. Mr. Buhari, why should you and EFCC be selective in arrests and prosecution, such that your party becomes a hideout for criminals?

“Change or you will be changed; after all you it was you who introduced change as your mantra.”

I join my fellow citizens this morning to welcome and celebrate the New Year 2018. This year promises to be pivotal in our quest for CHANGE.

Unfortunately, I am saddened to acknowledge that for many this Christmas and New Year holidays have been anything but merry and happy. Instead of showing love, companionship and charity, some of our compatriots chose this period to inflict severe hardship on us all by creating unnecessary fuel scarcity across the country.

The consequence was that not many could travel and the few who did had to pay exorbitant transport fares. This is unacceptable given that NNPC had taken measures to ensure availability at all depots. I am determined to get to the root of this collective blackmail of all Nigerians and ensure that whichever groups are behind this manipulated hardship will be prevented from doing so again.

Such unpatriotism will not divert the Administration from the course we have set ourselves. Our government’s watch word and policy thrust is CHANGE. We must change our way of doing things or we will stagnate and be left behind in the race to lift our people out of poverty and into prosperity.

My address to fellow Nigerians this morning is devoted mainly to informing you about the intense efforts this Administration is putting to address our country’s huge infrastructural deficit.

We are going to make significant in-roads in advancing road, rail and power projects across the country.

The Ministry of Power, Works and Housing is one of the drivers of this Government’s commitment to renew and increase Nigeria’s stock of infrastructure in order to achieve global economic competitiveness as targeted under the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.

With regards to Railways, we have set ourselves ambitious targets. Already in construction stage is the Lagos-Kano Standard Gauge Railway.

The line should reach Ibadan from Lagos by the end of 2019 and will carry two million passengers per year and five million tons of cargo will be transported every year giving a substantial boost to the country’s economy.

Construction of the Kano – Kaduna segment is expected to commence this year and reach Kaduna by the end of 2019. By the end of 2021 the two ends will be joined so that we will have standard gauge railway across the main North-South trading route.

The Abuja – Kaduna route will be boosted by additional rolling stock next Thursday and will be able to handle one million commuters annually.

At the same time I have approved and negotiations will be concluded in the first part of this year for the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri line covering Aba, Owerri, Umuahia, Enugu, Awka, Abakaliki, Makurdi, Lafia, Jos, Bauchi, Gombe, Yola and Damaturu. The Abuja to Itakpe line will go through Baro and terminate in Warri with construction of a new seaport at Warri.

Negotiations are also advanced for the construction of other railway lines, firstly from Kano to Maradi in Niger Republic passing through Kazaure, Daura, Katsina, Jibia to Maradi.

Secondly, Lagos to Calabar the “Coastal Rail” through Ore, Benin, Agbor, Asaba, Onitsha, Sapele, Ughelli, Warri, Yenagoa, Otuoke, Port Harcourt, Aba, Uyo and Calabar. In the next few years, all these Nigerian cities will be linked by functional modern rail systems, giving enormous boost to the social and economic life of our people.

With respect to the Abuja Capital Light Rail, progress has reached 98% completion, as at 64% completion when we assumed office. Only test runs remain before start of operations.

This train service will stimulate economic activities in the Federal Capital and provide residents with an efficient and safe transportation system. Twelve railway sub-stations around the capital over a 45.2 kilometre route will serve as a catalyst and a pull factor to the economy of the area. The Light Rail System will reduce traffic congestion and carbon emission in line with the Administration’s policy on climate change.

Management of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) has been reconstituted and has been charged with a 12 week rapid intervention in road repairs to cover all the geo-political zones. Government is undertaking repairs and maintenance of 44 roads within the six geo-political zones.

Twenty five major highways will be funded under the N100b SUKUK facility. Each geo-political zone will benefit by an equal amount of N16.67b. The following major highways are to receive special attention:

a. Oyo – Ogbomosho,

b. Ofusu – Ore – Ajebandele – Shagamu,

c. Yenagoa Road Junction – Kolo Otuoke – Bayelsa Palm,

d. Enugu – Port Harcourt Dual Carriage Way,

e. Onitsha – Enugu Expressway,

f. Kaduna Eastern Bypass,

g. Dualization of Kano – Maiduguri Road,

h. Dualization of Abuja – Lokoja – Benin Road,

i. Dualization of Suleja – Minna Road.

In addition, Government has approved work to start on the re-construction of Abuja – Kaduna – Zaria – Kano road which is in a state of disrepair. Work will soon start and is expected to be completed in 2019.

More Nigerians across the country are experiencing improved power supply to their homes and businesses. However, power remains a concern to this government because too many people still do not have regular and reliable supply.

The Payment Assurance Guarantee Scheme which started in January 2016 has enabled the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trader to raise so far N701 billion to assure Generation Companies of at least 80% payment for any power delivered to the national grid.

Consequently, generation has now reached 7,000MW. On December 8, 2017 the country achieved 5,155MW of power delivered to consumers, the highest level ever recorded.

Several moribund projects have been revived. Repairs of Afam Power Station added 110MW in 2017 and another 240MW will be added this year through a private investment partnership.

Katsina Power Project is now being tested and producing 10MW of power from wind for the first time in Nigeria. It should be fully operational this year.

The Zungeru 700MW Hydroelectric Power Project, stalled by court cases is due for completion in 2019. The transmission and other requirements to operate the 30MW Gurara Phase 1 Hydroelectric Plant, the 40MW Kashimbilla Hydroelectric Plant and the 215 MW Kaduna Gas/LPG/Diesel Power Plant will also be completed this year.

A landmark project, Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Project is at last taking off. This project has been on the drawing Board for 40 years, but now the engineering, procurement and construction contract for the 3,050MW project has been agreed with a Chinese joint venture Company with a financing commitment from the government of China. Completion is targeted for 2023.

As I mentioned earlier, the Transmission Company of Nigeria can now distribute all the 7,000MW that can be generated. TCN and the Niger Delta Holding Company have added 1,950MVA of 330 down to 132KV transformer capacity of 10 transmission stations and 2,930MVA of 132 down to 33KV transformer capacity of 42 sub-stations including Ikot Ekpene, Aba, Alagbon, Ajah, Ejigbo, Funtua and Zaria.

This Administration is working with the privatised distribution Companies to overcome the continuing challenges of distribution.

These massive public works should spearhead the recovery and lead millions back to employment. You will recall that it was not until last year that we got out of the economic recession into which the country had fallen as a consequence of past unsustainable economic policies which projected short-term illusory growth.

The government is slowly stabilizing the economy.

It was in order to change the steady and steep decline that we adopted the more sustainable policies and programmes captured in the Economic Recovery Plan. Diversification efforts have resulted in improved output particularly in agriculture and solid minerals sectors. The relative exchange rate stability has improved manufacturing sector performance.

We have got to get used to discipline and direction in economic management. The days of business, as usual, are numbered.

Two years ago I appealed to people to go back to the land. I am highly gratified that agriculture has picked up, contributing to the government’s effort to restructure the economy. Rice imports will stop this year. Local rice, fresher and more nutritious will be on our dishes from now on.

By the same token, I am today appealing to enterprising Nigerians with ideas and unemployed graduates and other able-bodied and literate men and women with ideas not to just sit and wait for employment from the government or the Organized Private Sector. Great nations are built by enterprising people who turn their hands to anything that circumstances dictate.

In respect of political developments, I have kept a close watch on the on-going debate about “Restructuring”. No human law or edifice is perfect. Whatever structure we develop must periodically be perfected according to changing circumstances and the country’s socio-economic developments. We Nigerians can be very impatient and want to improve our conditions faster than may be possible considering our resources and capabilities. When all the aggregates of nationwide opinions are considered, my firm view is that our problems are more to do with process than structure.

We tried the Parliamentary system: we jettisoned it. Now there are shrill cries for a return to the Parliamentary structure. In older democracies, these systems took centuries to evolve so we cannot expect a copied system to fit neatly our purposes. We must give a long period of trial and improvement before the system we have adopted is anywhere near fit for purpose.

However, there is a strong case for a closer look at the cost of government and for the public services long used to extravagance, waste and corruption to change for the better. I assure you that government is ever receptive to ideas which will improve governance and contribute to the country’s peace and stability.

As the electioneering season approaches politicians must avoid exploiting ethnicity and religion by linking ethnicity with religion and religion with politics. Such must be avoided at all costs if we are to live in harmony.

In this respect, the rest of Nigeria could learn from the South Western States who have successfully internalized religion, ethnicity and politics.

Political discourse should be conducted with civility, decorum and in a constitutional manner. We all have a collective responsibility to strengthen our democracy and entrench the rule of law. We should draw encouragement from the series of bye-elections conducted by INEC last year which were generally violence-free and their outcomes adjudged to be free and fair.

Before I conclude my address I must reassure my fellow citizens that security of life and property is still top of our government’s agenda. We have since beaten Boko Haram. Isolated attacks still occur, but even the best-policed countries cannot prevent determined criminals from committing terrible acts of terror as we have seen during the past years in Europe, Asia, Middle East, elsewhere in Africa and in America.

Our government remains determined to protect all Nigerians in line with our election pledge and promises. On behalf of all Nigerians let me offer our thanks to the Armed forces, the Police, other para-military forces and traditional authorities who are working round the clock to ensure that you and I go about our normal business in reasonable safety.

Terrorism and urban crimes are world-wide phenomena and our security forces are continuously adapting their responses to changing threats.

With regard to rampant cases of kidnappings, we are taking immediate short-term measures to combat this new evil creeping into our societies. Tighter police methods and swift and severe punishment for those proved to be engaged in kidnapping are on the way.

With respect to Niger Delta, Government is still engaging the responsible leadership of the Communities to help in identifying and addressing genuine grievances of the region. Our clean-up programme in collaboration with the United Nations is making satisfactory progress.

I am grateful to all the Governors and other Political & Community leaders of the Niger Delta States for their part in bringing relative peace to the areas.

Finally let me again express my heartfelt thanks to all Nigerians who prayed for me during my illness last year. I feel deeply humbled by your prayers and good wishes and I am more determined than ever to serve you to the best of my ability.

Good morning. And I wish everyone a Happy New Year.

Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka on Saturday said there is something rotten in the state of ‘Naija’ (Nigeria) following persistent fuel crisis and the blame passing of those in authorities who are supposed to remedy the situation.

Soyinka, in a statement lamented that Nigerians were being frustrated and made to undergo excruciating pains and sufferings due to ongoing fuel crisis in the land.

The Nobel laureate said even before the current edition of the fuel crisis, other challenges, requiring immediate fix, had begun to monopolize national attention, relegating to the sidelines the outcry for a fundamental and holistic approach to the wearisome cycle of citizen trauma.

“This has been expressed most recently, and near universally in the word “Restructuring”, defined straightforwardly as a drastic overhaul of Nigerian articles of co-existence in a more rational, equitable and decentralized manner. Such an overhaul, the re-positioning of the relationship between the parts and the whole offers, it has been strongly argued, prospects of a closer governance awareness of, and responsiveness to citizen entitlement. An overhaul that will near totally eliminate the frequent spasms of systemic malfunctioning that are in-built into the present protocols of national association.

“I recently ran the gauntlet of petroleum queues through three conveniently situated cities – Lagos, Abeokuta and Ibadan – deliberately, this Friday. Even with ‘unorthodox’ aids of passage, this was no task for the faint-hearted. Just getting past fueling stations was traumatizing, an obstacle race through seething, frustrated masses of humanity, only to find ourselves on vast stretches of emptied roads pleading for occupation. As for obtaining the petroleum in the first place – the less said the better. I suspect that this government has permitted itself to be fooled by the peace of those empty streets, but also by the orderly, patient, long-suffering queues that are admittedly prevalent in the city centres.

“It is time the reporting monitors of government move to city peripheries and sometimes even some other inner urban sectors, such as Ikeja and Maryland from time to time to see, and listen !Pronouncements – such as the 1977 above – again re-echoing by rote in 2017– are a delusion at best, a formula that derides public intelligence. Buying time. Passing blame. Yes of course, the current affliction must be remedied, and fast, but is there a dimension to it that must be brought to the fore, simultaneously and forcefully? This had better be the framework for solving even a shortage that virtually paralyzed the nation,” he said.

Read Soyinka’s full statement below:

BLAME PASSING – The New Year Gift to a Nation

In the accustomed tradition, I wish the nation less misery in the coming year. A genuine Happy New Year Greeting is probably too extravagant a wish.

The accompanying news clipping from June,1977 came into my hands quite fortuitously. It is forty years old. It captures the unenviable enigma that is the Nigerian nation. It is however a masterful end-of-year image to take into the coming year, not only for the individual now at the helm of government, General Buhari, but for a people surely credited with the most astounding degree of patience and forbearance on the African continent – except of course among themselves, when they turn into predatory fiends. When many of us are blissfully departed, an updated rendition of this same clipping – with a change of cast here and there – will undoubtedly be reproduced in the media, with the same alibis, the same in-built panacea of blame passing.

Let this be called to our collective memory. Even before the current edition of the fuel crisis, other challenges, requiring immediate fix, had begun to monopolize national attention, relegating to the sidelines the outcry for a fundamental and holistic approach to the wearisome cycle of citizen trauma. This has been expressed most recently, and near universally in the word “Restructuring”, defined straightforwardly as a drastic overhaul of Nigerian articles of co-existence in a more rational, equitable and decentralized manner. Such an overhaul, the re-positioning of the relationship between the parts and the whole offers, it has been strongly argued, prospects of a closer governance awareness of, and responsiveness to citizen entitlement. An overhaul that will near totally eliminate the frequent spasms of systemic malfunctioning that are in-built into the present protocols of national association.

I recently ran the gauntlet of petroleum queues through three conveniently situated cities – Lagos, Abeokuta and Ibadan – deliberately, this Friday. Even with ‘unorthodox’ aids of passage, this was no task for the faint-hearted. Just getting past fueling stations was traumatizing, an obstacle race through seething, frustrated masses of humanity, only to find ourselves on vast stretches of emptied roads pleading for occupation. As for obtaining the petroleum in the first place – the less said the better. I suspect that this government has permitted itself to be fooled by the peace of those empty streets, but also by the orderly, patient, long-suffering queues that are admittedly prevalent in the city centres. It is time the reporting monitors of government move to city peripheries and sometimes even some other inner urban sectors, such as Ikeja and Maryland from time to time to see, and listen !Pronouncements – such as the 1977 above – again re-echoing by rote in 2017– are a delusion at best, a formula that derides public intelligence. Buying time. Passing blame. Yes of course, the current affliction must be remedied, and fast, but is there a dimension to it that must be brought to the fore, simultaneously and forcefully? This had better be the framework for solving even a shortage that virtually paralyzed the nation.

Just to think laterally for a moment – what became of the initiatives by some states  nearly two decades ago – Lagos most prominently – to decentralize power, and thus empower states to generate and distribute their own energy requirements? Frustrated and eventually sabotaged in the most cynical manner from the Federal centre! The similarity today is frightening – for nearly four days on that earlier occasion, the nation was blacked out near entirely. We know that one survival tactic of governments is to keep their citizens in the dark over decisions that affect their lives but, this was literal! And yet each such crisis, plus lesser ones, merely reiterate again and again that this national contraption, as it now stands, is simply– dysfunctional!. What this demands is that, in the process of alleviating the immediate pressing misery, we do not permit ourselves to be manipulated yet again into forgetting the MAIN issue whose ramifications exact penalties such as petroleum seizures and national power outage. These are only two handy, being recent symptoms – there are several others, but this is not intended to be a catalogue of woes. Sufficient to draw attention to the Yoruba saying that goes: Won ni, Amukun, eru e wo. Oun ni, at’isale ni. Translation: Some voices alerted the K-Legged porter to the dangerous tilt of the load on his head. His response was – Thank you, but the problem actually resides in the legs.

The providential image above sums up a defining moment for both individual and collective self-assessment, places in question the ability of a nation to profit from past experience. Vast resources, yes, but proved unmanageable under its present structural arrangements. As the tussle for the next round of power gets hotter in the coming year, the electorate will again be manipulated into losing sight of the BASE ISSUE. Its noisome claque in the meantime, the automated mumus of social media, practiced in sterile deflection and trivialization of critical issues, unwittingly join hands with government to indulge in blame passing and name calling – both sides with different targets. From the anguished cry of Charley Boy’s Our Mummu Done Do! to expositions from academics such as Professor Makinde’s recent intervention, the public is subjected daily to a relentless barrage of awareness, underlined in urgency. Nobody listens. One wonders if many people read. And certainly, very few retain or relate – until of course the next crisis. The Labour movement declares that it awaits a guarantee of the ‘people’s backing’ before it embarks on any critical intervention. Understandably. There is more than enough of the opium of blame passing on tap to lull mummus into that deep coma from which – give it a little more time – there can only be a rude awakening.

Sooner than later, but not as soon as pledged, the fuel crisis will pass. And then of course we shall await the next round of shortages, then a recommencement of blame passing.  What will be the commodity this time – food perhaps? Maybe even potable water? In a nation of plenty, nothing is beyond eventual shortage – except of course, the commonplace endowment of pre-emptive planning and methodical execution. Forty years after, the same language of re-assurance? “There is something rotten in the state of Naija!”

-Wole SOYINKA

 
 
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