Friday, 21 July 2017

Parliament (538)

Let me welcome you all to the seat of the Presidency for this 1st media encounter since I came here. I must, at the outset, thank members of the media, particularly the presidential press corps, for the extent and depth of the coverage they have given to the activities of the Presidency these last six months. I cannot complain about the lack of exposure of my thoughts, statements or policies since I became President. And for that, I am grateful to the media and, as I say, particularly to members of the presidential press corps, whose duty it is to cover the President. They should know that their work is appreciated.

In so saying, I think it necessary also to record my delight at the vibrancy of the Ghanaian media. I know there are some who take issue with the media on several fronts, and even go so far as to criticise me for my part in the repeal of the Criminal Libel Law, for it made the media “too free”. Even though I have been one of the greatest victims of the irresponsible section of the media, i.e. those who have created an industry from spewing calumnies, falsehoods and outright fabrications against my person, I do not regret one bit my role in repealing that old, discredited law. The repeal has inspired the Ghanaian media to be one of the freest and most vibrant on the entire continent of Africa, if not in the world. I may not go as far as Thomas Jefferson when he said that “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter”, but I will say that I much prefer the noisy, boisterous, sometimes scurrilous media of today to the monotonous, praise-singing, sycophantic one of yesteryear. The Ghanaian media has, in fact, enriched the nation’s governance by its persistence, curiosity and investigative skills.

Eleven days ago, 7th July, was exactly six months since I swore the oath of office as the 5th President of the 4th Republic. Needless to say, it has been an eventful six months. But, apart from one or two brief encounters, I have not had a sustained, direct engagement with the media. I believe that, symbolically, this is a good time to do so. Hence my invitation for this occasion. It will enable me to share some of my thoughts on what has gone on, and allow you, members of the media, to express your concerns and questions, if any, for my response. It is my intention to have such encounters twice a year.  

On 7th December, 2016, Ghanaians went to the polls, and voted decisively for change. A change to advance the economic fortunes of this country and bring about improvements in their livelihoods. A change to eradicate the perception of widespread corruption in public life and enhance the quality of governance in our nation. A change to banish the spectre of national demoralisation and renew the spirit of confidence of the Ghanaian people. 

I said in my first Message on the State of the Nation that the times in which we live demand that all of us be in a conscious hurry to deal with the problems we face. This was what has motivated my actions till now. Half-way into my first year in office, it is good to take stock of what has happened and the way forward. This forum is not intended to give another Message on the State of the Nation, neither is it to announce my achievements. It is guided, rather, by the principle of accountability.

We, and I mean we, in government, and you, in the media, together, have a responsibility to bring the details of the governing process to the people of Ghana. They deserve to know what we are doing and why we are doing it, and how that would lead to the betterment of their lives. If the people are not kept informed or do not understand the activities of the government, then, we in government, and you in the media, are failing in our duties.

My first important task was to assemble a team of quality, capable of working to overcome my government’s poor legacy, and setting Ghana on the path of progress and prosperity. By 12th April, the full central government was in place, in the fastest period of time in the history of the 4th Republic. By common consent, so as not to be seen to be blowing my own trumpet, it is regarded as being composed of some of the best persons in public life today, men and women of achievement, experience, integrity and knowledge, together with youthful elements who are full of promise. By that date, the regional government was also in place, again, a strong representation of competence and integrity. I must, once more, thank the Legislature, the Parliament, for the expeditious, but responsible manner in which it exercised its constitutional power of approval of my nominees, notwithstanding the bizarre, incomprehensible episode of the non-existent bribery of members of Parliament’s Appointments Committee. The process of constituting local government is also now almost complete, with the nomination and approval of 208 out of 216 Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives. The remaining 8, hopefully, will soon be in office. Let me use this medium to thank the relevant Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies for their vote of confidence in my nominees. I am confident that, on their part, they will work harmoniously with their Assemblies. It is worth stressing that these MMDCEs will be the last batch to take office under the current system, if the constitutional proposals for reform are accepted and passed. We have to expand full democracy to local government.

I knew that the biggest problem we would face on coming into office would be the economy, but I can safely say that I was still shocked at the state of affairs we found. A very competent Economic Management Team, with the brilliant Vice President, Aljahi Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, in the chair, has initiated, with my support, measures to deal with the mess. Our desperate economic situation has meant that we have had to take some unorthodox, but brave measures. There was never any chance that this government, voted into office with a mandate for change, would dare to do things in the business as usual manner.

The Asempa Budget that the highly respected Minister for Finance, Ken Ofori-Atta, presented in March set the tone for the new ways of doing things that will transform our economy. It also provided the opportunity to deliver on some of the promises we made during the election campaign.

Nurses and teacher training allowances have been restored to take effect at the start of the new school year. Nuisance taxes have been abolished, and other measures have been taken to shift the focus of our economy from taxation to production. 

The macroeconomic indices are beginning to show a turn for the better. The monetary policy rate (MPR) of the Bank of Ghana has been cut from 25.5 percent to 22.5 percent in the first half of the year. Inflation has gone down from 15.4% in December 2016 to 12.1% in June 2017, i.e. a period of six months, the lowest in four years. The benchmark 91-day Treasury Bill (T-bill) rate was 22.8 percent in January last year, and has narrowed to 11.9 percent in June 2017, the lowest in 5 years.

We are encouraged by the gradual decline in the cost of borrowing and the increase in banks’ credit to the private sector by nearly 6 percent in the first quarter of 2017, compared to a decline of about 7 percent in the same period in 2016. But we have to continue to work to bring down the cost of borrowing to enable businesses to have access to much needed credit. It is my hope and expectation that these statistics will soon translate into tangible benefits in the lives of Ghanaians.

We have also introduced a number of innovative interim packages to help, particularly, new entrepreneurs. I do not need to repeat that the greatest challenge we face is the creation of jobs. Young people are very anxious about not finding jobs, and their parents are even more anxious about the future of their children after seeing them through school. I am well aware that the success or otherwise of my administration will be judged largely on job creation. Last Thursday, I launched the National Entrepreneurship and Innovations Plan (NEIP) which is an innovative scheme, under the Business Development Ministry, to help startups, and the difficult early stages of setting up businesses. We have committed $10 million of public funds, which we hope to leverage into $100 million from private sources to back the plan.

The Asempa Budget has allocated an amount of $100 million dollars as Government contribution either as equity or in kind support for the establishment of the district enterprises, 1-District-1-Factory. An additional amount of $340 million has been leveraged from local financial institutions for the programme. Government, in collaboration with the Association of Ghana Industries, has also arranged a Suppliers Credit Facility for $2 billion from China to provide equipment, machinery and other facilities in support of the programme. It is now clear that this programme is destined to succeed. 

The Asempa Budget also provided a $50 million stimulus package for the revival of distressed companies. At the end of June 2017, 285 applications had been received. So far, 118 of these applications have been screened, of which 80 have been adjudged eligible for various stimulus packages. In addition to Government’s contribution, an amount of $20 million has been earmarked by local financial institutions as part of the stimulus package. This will definitely help in the revival of our industrial sector under the dynamic leadership of the Minister for Trade and Industry, Alan Kyerematen.

At this stage of our development, agriculture will necessarily have to provide the majority of the jobs, and that is why we have to pay urgent attention to the modernisation of our agricultural practices. Extension officers are being employed, for the first time in many years, to provide hands-on support to farmers, and we are generally paying extra attention to every stage of farming.

The one-village-one-dam scheme is taking off in the three northern regions with the rehabilitation of the existing ones that are in sad states of disrepair. Planting for Food and Jobs, one of our flagship initiatives, has also started with increasing enthusiasm. The Programme has registered 185,000 farmers out of the 200,000 targeted; government is bearing 50% of the cost of fertiliser for farmers; and to date eighty thousand and thirty seven (80,037) tonnes of fertiliser have been distributed to farmers enrolled on the programme. Thirty five thousand seven hundred and forty seven (35,747) metric tonnes of seedlings have also been supplied to farmers. It is noteworthy that many of the suggestions for the 1-district-1-factory initiative are agriculture based, and that tells me that my many sermons on agriculture and food processing as the basis for our industrial take-off are finding many converts.

Over the years, several diseases such as the swollen shoot, black pod and mealy bugs have attacked our agriculture. The latest in the series is the fall army worm invasion, which is ravaging farmlands across Africa. Government is fully aware of the infestation. Our statistics indicate that it has affected one hundred and twelve thousand eight hundred and twelve (112,812) hectares of land. So far, fourteen thousand four hundred and twenty (14,420) hectares of land have been destroyed. In dealing with this menace, Government has mobilised support for farmers by supplying them with seventy two thousand seven hundred and seventy four (72,774) litres of insecticide. More are in the pipeline to confront effectively this scourge. 

In the six months of our being in office, easily the headline subject has been the fight against galamsey. I am glad that the majority of our compatriots have recognised the danger posed to the existence of our nation by the practice of galamsey.

As I have said before, since the Almighty has blessed our land with mineral resources, we cannot do without mining, and we have the right to exploit the minerals in our land. But we cannot and should not destroy our lands and water bodies and our environment in the search for gold and other minerals.

I am grateful that the majority of people and you, the media, have lent their support to the campaign against galamsey. I am hoping that the programme to restore the degraded lands will attract the same enthusiasm. For my part, I will not relent in this struggle, nor will the Cabinet Committee, headed by that eminent Ghanaian, the Minister for Environment, Prof. Kwabena Frimpong Boateng, which is spearheading government’s efforts in this fight.

Government’s plan to find funds to deal with the dramatic deficit in our infrastructure needs, has at its heart, the exploitation of our mineral wealth. The Vice President went to China, with a plan to leverage some of our bauxite deposits to raise money to tackle the programme for industrialisation and the building of roads and other infrastructure.

If proof were needed, this must surely be it, that this government is neither against mining nor against Chinese. But we certainly are against the degradation of our lands and water bodies by whoever.

I suspect it is not a surprise to anyone that we have spent a lot of time these past six months on the vexed subject of the ease of doing business in our country. By the end of the year, we intend to have our ports functioning properly and those who require the services of the ports should not feel oppressed by unnecessary and repetitive paperwork and corrupt practices. I expect to hear an announcement shortly from the Attorney General about the prosecution of the customs officials and clearing agents who have been allegedly responsible for the unlawful loss of GH¢1.2 billion to the central treasury. 

As we have already stated, all internal customs barriers will be dismantled by the beginning of October. Moving around the country should be easier not just for business people, but for the ordinary citizen as well.

The National Identification Scheme will be working by the end of the year as promised, and the digital address system will be functioning.

If I had been having this function back in January, I suspect I would have had to start with DUMSOR. Today, things have improved quite a bit. We are not yet where we should be, particularly with regard to the cost of energy. This is a great threat to the operations of business and the cost of living in the country. The Minister for Finance, in collaboration with the Minister for Energy, is at an advanced stage of floating the $2.5 billion energy bond to retire the $2.4 billion debt overhang on the energy sector. This development will attract more investment into the sector, and reduce the cost of energy.  

I am much relieved, however, that the supply and distribution have improved and we are working to bring costs down and make energy supply generally more reliable.

One of the tenets of my government is the commitment to inclusive and accountable governance. Inclusivity requires wider participation of the mass of our citizens by broadening our democratic base. This explains our desire to reorganise our system of regional governance.

We have signalled our intention to honour the petitions that have been received for the creation of potentially six new regions; two each out of the Northern and Brong Ahafo Regions, and one each out of the Western and Volta Regions. The Ministry of Regional Reorganisation and Development has worked well, under the skillful guidance of the Minister, Hon. Dan Kwaku Botwe, aka, The General, to oversee the demands of all groups and communities that will be affected. I have initiated the formal process for the consideration of these petitions by seeking by letter, dated 26th June, 2017, the advice of the Council of State on them, in accordance with Article 5(2) of the Constitution. If the consultation is positive, the Constitution requires the President to set up a Commission of Inquiry to inquire into the demands and make recommendations on all the factors involved in the creation of these new regions. The President is further required to act in accordance with the recommendations of the Commission, which will involve a Referendum being organised by the Electoral Commission in the affected areas to solicit the views of the affected people.

A fundamental part of our strategy for growth has been to associate Ghana strongly with the process of regional and continental integration. The transformation of our economy, through the measures we have begun to put in place these past six months, should make Ghanaian businesses more competitive in West Africa, Africa and beyond. As the empowered Ghanaian businesses become stronger and more successful, they will need bigger markets. West Africa has a market of 350 million, which will expand to 500 million people in 20 years. Africa’s population will also increase to 2 billion, up from its current 1.2 billion, within the same time frame. This means that establishment of genuine regional and continental markets in West Africa and Africa should be in our economic interest, for these markets will present immense opportunities to bring prosperity to our nation with hard work, creativity and enterprise. The principal reasons for my journeys across West Africa since May, are to renew friendships with our fellow ECOWAS member states, explore areas of co-operation, and reaffirm Ghana’s commitment to the important process of regional and continental integration.

Let me address a few words on the matter of BOST, and the sale of the five million litres of off-spec products. I want to reiterate that, even though investigations have been concluded by the security agencies and the National Petroleum Authority (NPA), a 9 member Committee, under the chairmanship of Dr. Lawrence Darkwah, Head of the Petroleum Engineering Department, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, has been setup by the Minister for Energy. Amongst others, the Committee is tasked with making recommendations to ensure that we put the era of contaminated and off-spec products behind us, by tackling issues such as: the integrity of the pipeline infrastructure; improving pipeline operations and maintenance; continuous training and skills upgrade of pipeline operators; and implementing improved Standard Operating Procedures, including the controlled evacuation and disposal of products under the direct supervision of NPA.

I want to stress the importance I attach to ICT development, because its potential is enormous, both at the macro and micro levels. The sector’s link to GDP is well proven. Key initiatives such as the automation of tax and business registration systems are already beginning to yield dividends. Upcoming digital platforms for procurement, immigration, parliamentary and judicial services will transform the way government conducts its business, including the business of Cabinet. Also, we want every Ghanaian to have access to good and affordable connectivity. Every Ghanaian everywhere must have access to voice and data connectivity. This is the imperative of our times. The energetic and knowledgeable Minister, Hon. Ursula Owusu Ekuful, is another Minister providing strong leadership to her sector.

It would be remiss of me not to say anything about sanitation. In the short-term, it is important to recognize that there are huge debts owed to the service providers which are hampering their ability to deliver the needed services in a timely and regular manner. Government has, however, taken measures to begin to settle these obligations to facilitate the evacuation and disposal of the heaps of refuse in our cities. It is my understanding that meetings have been held between the Ministry, led by an experienced Minister, Hon. Kofi Adda, and the service providers on this matter, and the evacuation of the refuse, which has already started on a modest scale, would be aggressively pursued to rid the cities of filth. Additionally, provision has been made to augment the sanitation infrastructure by constructing waste transfer stations at strategic locations to facilitate rapid waste collection to final disposal sites, beginning in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area. As you know, I have committed to making Accra the cleanest city in Africa, and the new Metropolitan Chief Executive of Accra, Mohammed Adjei Sowah, is working assiduously to meet this commitment.

When I came to this job, I knew there would be difficulties and I knew there might be some mistakes. For instance, I wish that voluntary groups within my party, the NPP, who had worked so hard with us during the campaign, had not overstepped the mark, and had not got into the news for all the wrong reasons. I refer to some of the Invincible and Delta Forces, who got into trouble and gave the party and the government bad publicity.

My often stated view, which I have communicated clearly to the law enforcement agencies, is that the best way of dealing with such incidents is to let the law take its course without any political interference. The young men have shown remorse and the legal process is working. I hope that we all learn the required lessons from these unfortunate incidents.

Then there was the horrendous murder of Major Mahama. I trust and pray that the trauma suffered by the whole nation as a result of the incident will cure us of the barbaric practice of mob justice. It is absolutely essential that we leave the prosecution and punishment of suspected criminals to the Police and the Judiciary.

And when it comes to wrongdoers of the kind that, indeed, cause our nation the greatest harm, corrupt public officials, I am glad to say that the Office of Special Prosecutor will be with us shortly. The bill has currently been gazetted and will be in Parliament during this meeting. We all, in and out of Parliament, should take an interest and help with the rapid passage of a law that will serve us well.

In responding to the concerns not just of Ghanaians at home, but of overseas Ghanaians as well, Government facilitated this year’s Ghana Diaspora Homecoming Summit. It afforded Government the opportunity to listen, at first-hand, to the concerns, suggestions and opinions of overseas Ghanaians on the development of our country. We know from the examples of several countries what fruitful collaboration between their overseas nationals and their governments has brought to their national development and prosperity, and my government intends to emulate them. And to our overseas Ghanaians, let me again apologise for the whining.

I declared my assets within two weeks of my inauguration, and so has the Vice President. The Ministers have declared their assets, and I am insisting that all those required to do so, under the law, should comply. I suspect this has not happened before, and I intend to make sure we keep to the intentions behind this requirement of the law. In other words, I am sticking to my word that those who would serve in my government must protect, and not abuse the public purse, and must at all times recognise that they are in public service, not for private gain.

Thank you very much for your attention, and may God bless us all and our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong.  

Posted On Friday, 21 July 2017 12:16 Written by
  • On April 6th 2017, the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu announced the reconstitution of 23 Governing Boards of Nigerian Universities. A public statement issued by the minister proclaimed that the exercise was carried out on the authority of President Muhammadu Buhari. Similarly, the government in the same announcement also named the Chairmen and Board members for Boards of Education Parastatals and Agencies of the Federal Government.
  • On May 9th, the Minister inaugurated the boards of 23 universities whose reconstitution he previously announced. At the ceremony, he said the reconstitution was necessitated by the fact that the four year tenure of the previous boards had expired since April 6th. The new council members are also limited to a four year term after which their appointments will be reviewed.
  • The Minister said the mandate of the new councils extended to approving financial guidelines for the universities, determining the terms of appointment of Vice Chancellors and other principal officers of the universities as well as annually reviewing the budget of the universities to monitor their performance and access the overall impact of the implementation among others. Since then the new appointees have swung into action. We commend the zeal and speed with which the new governing council members have applied to their jobs.
  • Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the other Boards under the same ministry whose appointments were made known by the same Minister and at the same time. We are informed that even though the boards are also charged with statutory responsibilities similar to the ones of the university governing councils, they are yet to be inaugurated. Needless to say, this inexplicable lacuna has had its negative effects on the functions of the boards and the institutions whose operations they are by the nature of their appointments mandated to supervise.
  • The Board Chairmen who are yet to be inaugurated almost four months after their appointments were made public by the Minister include Ayo Banjo – National Universities Commission (NUC), Mr. Emeka Nwajiuba – Tertiary Education Trust Fund (Tetfund),
    Dr. Ekaette Obon Oko – National Institute For Educational Planning And Administration (NIEPA), Dr. Mahmoud Mohammed -Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), Prof. Zainab Alkali -National Library of Nigeria (NLN), Dr. Abubakar Saddiq -National Examinations Council (NECO) and, Dr. Gidado Bello Akko – Mass Literacy.  Others are Prof. Gidado Tahir -Nomadic Education, Prof. Leonard Shilgba -National Business & Technical Examination Board (NABTEB), Prof. Adamu Baikie -Teachers Registration Council of Nigeria (TRCN), Alhaji Maigari Dingyadi – National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), Senator Mallam Kaka Yale -National Teachers Institute (NTI) and, Prof. Buba Bajoga -National Mathematical Centre (NMC).  The rest are Dr. Emmanuel Ndukwe -Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Chief N. N. Nnabuchi – National Institute For Nigerian Languages (NINLAN),Chief Paul Unongo -Nigerian Educational Research & Development Council (NERDC), Prof. Saliba Mukoro – Nigerian French Language Village (NFLV), Prof. Modupe Adelabu -National Board for Technical Education (NBTE)and,  Prof. O. Oladusi – Nigerian Arabic Language Village (NALV). 

The Managements of these institutions are unwittingly handicapped in their operations because they are by law restrained from carrying out certain activities. Such activities as heavy expenditures and some categories of appointments have to be approved by their boards. Sadly, without their inauguration, the boards cannot just jump into action. With a government that came to office with the banner of change and transparency, it is little wonder that the managements of these agencies have been reduced to lame ducks.

Sadly also, this tardiness in appointing people into offices is almost becoming a trademark of this government. It is on record that it took President Buhari months after his inauguration in 2015 to appoint members of his kitchen cabinet – his personal staff that did not require confirmation by the Senate. The appointment of his Ministers which required Senate confirmation took a prolonged time to come. For a man who made three unsuccessful attempts to win the presidency, this was a rather poor start. It gave the public impression that he was not ready for the job he so desperately fought for.

Even as we discuss the non-inauguration of already appointed board members in the ministry of Education, there are many boards in the federal government whose constitution have not been announced. For a government that is battling the ravages of recession, we find the failure of government to take action on such elementary issues inexcusable.

We therefore call for an immediate inauguration of the appointed boards under the Ministry of Education and the constitution of boards whose membership is still vacant.


Posted On Friday, 21 July 2017 11:51 Written by

There is hardly any doubt that the subsisting economic recession in the country is taking its toll on all sectors of the economy. The arising pains, from time to time, become so heavy that even the most enduring lets out a cry of exasperation. The other day, operators in the automotive sector were reported to have cried out that low demand for their products might cause them to shut down their operations. What that means is that auto-manufacturers or assembly plants in the country have reached their wit’s end. That situation has been driven by many factors but certainly not because Nigerians no longer need brand new cars and vehicles. The forces include non-availability of financial resources needed to purchase new cars; poor state of the economy resulting from the on-going economic recession; devaluation of the Nigerian currency against major international convertible currencies; lack of or inadequate consumer finance facilities for vehicle purchase; high cost of the cars/vehicles assembled in the country; availability of cheaper alternatives especially functional second hand cars; ineffective implementation of government’s policy on ‘buy Nigerian made goods’; and inflation that has eroded the value of money.

If the auto-manufacturing companies are allowed to shut down, the inherent dangers will include loss of jobs by the employees leading to higher national unemployment rate. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country will nose-dive as the contributions made by the auto-makers will be lost. There will be decline in government’s revenue as a result of lost income taxes; industrialisation of the country will suffer a major setback; small and medium scale enterprises that provide services or supply materials to the companies will lose their contracts and perhaps, die. Local capacity and skills development will tend downwards; and ultimately, all the investment that had been made will be lost even as the government goes about in search of more investors.

Incidentally, what is happening to the business of the auto-manufacturers currently cuts across all sectors of the economy. Individuals and organisations, including governments at all levels, are struggling to make ends meet. It is incumbent on each and everyone to find innovative and creative solutions that will facilitate overcoming the current challenges posed by unhealthy economic environment. Thinking out of the box is paramount. It does not matter how long and how far and loudly the cries of drowning individuals, corporations and governments are heard, such are unlikely to produce positive solutions. That the auto-manufacturers are reported to be operating presently at five per cent of installed capacity can be noted as worrisome but such notation will not change the situation. Companies as big enough as the auto-makers should have the means of reading and interpreting goings-on in the market place as well as the know-how to generate ideas that, when implemented, should turn the table in their favour. If the directors and managers are unable to deal with ensuing challenges and as a result the companies are shut down, that will be a clear sign of leadership failure and a bad baggage they will carry around for the rest of their careers. Consequently, it is not in the interest of the leadership of the auto-companies to keep waiting until they are shut down. No amount of outcry will assure that the companies either remain productive or improve on capacity utilisation. Therefore, they should think and act.

But the auto-manufacturers would have seen the issue of low sales coming if only they had been market-sensitive. Indeed, if their marketing, research and development departments were alive to their responsibilities, they would have foreseen the situation. With such early knowledge, the companies would have strategised on how best to deal with the challenge in order to keep their operations on-going despite the country’s economic situation. One way this would have been achieved is by exploring the export market, especially in countries that are not suffering from economic recession. It would also have been necessary for the auto firms to strategically re-assess their cost profiles with a view to identifying and effectively managing major cost drivers in order to achieve lower selling prices of their products.

It is imperative, however, that it is recalled that the Federal Government not too long ago unfolded the National Automotive Industry Plan. That plan received broad-based acceptable by stakeholders, including the auto-producers. As good as that plan may be if it is not implemented in its letter and spirit, the challenges that face the automotive sector will not abate in the short to medium term. The government must therefore ensure that the implementation is driven to the extent that the intendments are achieved with the operators having little or no cause to complain. If, for example, governments and their agencies patronize domestic auto-assemblers by buying their vehicles, that will be exemplary and may encourage other corporate entities in the country to do the same. If governments’ employees are made to buy locally assembled cars, private sector operatives may also follow. This can be achieved faster if governments arrange, through the banks, new vehicle purchase finance facilities for their employees. The ‘buy made in Nigeria goods’ slogan needs to be catalysed through government examples. These initiatives will assist in solving the ‘low sales’ challenge being faced by the automotive industry. 

Additionally, the production cost of the auto companies needs to be studied to reveal and rectify what drives them too high resulting in high selling prices and inability to compete with imported ones. Furthermore, issues of poor infrastructure such as power, high cost of funds, inadequate foreign exchange, non-payment of employees’ salaries by most state governments, rising cases of unemployment, depreciation of the Naira, and so on require urgent remedial attention if enduring solutions must be found. In the final analysis, government should appreciate that with the reported development, realisation of its objectives and projections in the National Automotive Industry Plan, is under threat and thus, must do something to counter the threat.

Posted On Monday, 17 July 2017 23:50 Written by

Thurmond (not his real name), a white American construction worker who I met at a site a while ago lamented to me thus. “Look, the order of significance in America regarding human and other rights is children first, women second, pets such as dogs and cats third, and men last, if at all.”

I chewed this information for a while, decided after some reflection that perhaps there was some merit in it before countering thus. “Count yourself lucky Thurmond. In my country Nigeria, there are hardly any human rights at all, but the order of significance under the current Buhari Administration is Fulani herdsmen first, other Fulani men second, Fulani cattle third, Fulani women and girls fourth, Nigerian Muslims fifth, other supporters of the present administration sixth, and the rest last, if at all.”

“Where do you belong then?” he asked me inquisitively. “Well like yourself I belong to the ‘last or if at all’ category,” I replied honestly.  Thurmond my interlocutor ejaculated. “No you are further down the totem pole than myself. I thought my case was bad, but yours seems even worse. What can I say to you?  I can only thank God that I am an American. Sorry about that bro.” he said as he walked away, contemplatively shaking his head in sympathetic amazement.

Both Thurmond and myself have long since finished our respective jobs in the particular site where we met and have each moved on to other job site assignments. But if I happen to run into Thurmond again given what I have watched, seen and heard over the last couple of days I surely would have plenty to tell him.

Indeed, on January 20, 2017, some American protesters demonstrating against Donald Trump’s emergence as the 45th President of the United States were smashing windows a couple of blocks away from the Capitol Building where he took the oath of office. Yet the American police and security agents handled the situation most professionally. A number of arrests, at the last unofficial count 217 persons, were made, but to the best of my knowledge there were no severe injuries or fatalities.

A much bigger anti-Trump demonstration the so-called Women’s March on Washington D.C. took place on January 21, 2017 and went off successfully. Similar demonstrations against Donald Trump took place in several cities and towns within the US and many cities around the world with unconfirmed reports estimating that as many as 3 million people participated worldwide. But apparently all these global demonstrations went on smoothly without any significant untoward incident of police brutality, demonstrators’ injury or possibly fatality.

The sole global exception apparently is Nigeria where a peaceful demonstration which held at Port Harcourt on January 20, 2017, in support of Donald Trump by members of peaceful separatist groups, led by the  Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), was broken up by the Nigerian police and other security agents with extreme violence including the use of live bullets leading by some media eye witness accounts to the possible loss of about 11 lives (IPOB claims 20 fatalities), gunshot injuries to about 70 persons and about 200 persons missing or still unaccounted for.

A violent approach to managing the peaceful exercise of dissenters’ fundamental human rights has been the hallmark of the apparently blood-thirsty Buhari Administration which has continuously met the peaceful demonstrations of non-Fulani Nigerians particularly the neo-Biafrans and Nigeria’s Shiite Muslim community with savage acts of brutality and denied many Nigerians particularly the aforementioned peaceful groups their fundamental human rights of freely and publicly expressing their views.

It should be pointed out that not all of the radical separatist views of IPOB are shared by many Nigerians including Igbos for that matter. Nonetheless provided their approach is peaceful and non-violent, it is within the realm of their fundamental human rights to engage in free speech, peaceful public demonstrations and free association with other aggrieved Nigerians of like minds.

However, at the same time, the very same Buhari Administration has turned a blind eye to and perhaps passively instigates or covertly supports the terroristic activities of segments of his own Fulani ethnic group who under the guise of nomadic cattle rearing, engage in expansionist land grab activities, outside the Fulani traditional ethnic homeland. These expansionist activities are actively propped up by State coercive and non-coercive organs. The sum total of this assured State support is the mindless slaughter of anywhere between 5,000 to 10,000 innocent non-Fulani peasant Nigerian citizens across the length and breadth of Nigeria.

Recent major hotspots of the terroristic Fulani aggression against bona fide citizens of Nigeria leading to the loss of many lives under President Buhari’s watch include Agatu in Benue State where the official local government count indicates that more than 3,000 lives were lost during the carnage while 2,000 lives were subsequently lost in Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps due to the criminal neglect of traumatized displaced Agatu indigenes by the Federal and State Authorities. Other local government areas of Benue State have hardly fared better.

 In Southern Kaduna State about 808 lives (according to the Catholic Church records) were lost recently due to the terroristic activities of Fulani Herdsmen. Last year in Enugu State many lives running into double digits were reportedly lost when the terroristic Fulani Herdsmen extended their murderous rampage to that area. The murderous carnage of terroristic Fulani cattle herdsmen has been felt in Delta State, Ondo State, Oyo State, and Rivers State among others.

In none of these cases has President Muhammadu Buhari personally, openly, unequivocally and in a timely manner, sympathized with the victims of his kinsmen’s terrorist rampages. Where the Administration has been forced by public and mostly international outcry to commiserate with the victims, meaningless sympathies not backed by a resolute determination to fish out the perpetrators of these heinous terrorist actions, have been expressed belatedly and half-heartedly through paid media assistants and public relations advisers.  

Instead what has been witnessed is an all-out government effort to seize by any means possible, including through the proposed unorthodox engagement of the Nigerian Army in cattle ranching, the landed territory of ethnic sub-nationalities across the length and breadth of Nigeria with the barely disguised intention of forcibly transferring same down the road to the terroristic Fulani herdsmen as grazing lands which they would hold onto in perpetuity without paying royalties or acknowledging their tenant status in such lands.

Now as many Nigerian ethnicities who have hosted Fulani settlements in their ethnic homelands freely attest, the current generation of nomadic Fulani cattle herders are no more the good neighbors’ previous generations used to be. Armed to the teeth with offensive weapons including sub-machine guns in flagrant disregard of and disobedience to extant Nigerian Laws, the current Fulani herdsmen engage in criminal and subversive acts of rape, murder, armed robbery and wanton destruction of the cultivated lands of whichever community is unlucky enough to be their immediate unwilling hosts.

Any attempt to challenge them results in the kind of murderous onslaughts witnessed in Agatu, Southern Kaduna and other areas enumerated above. The Fulani terroristic herdsmen strut the length and breadth of the nation like proud colorful peacocks adorned with bullet straps, amulets and sophisticated weapons, answerable to nobody and held in awe by all and sundry, military, security forces and civilians alike.  

Since the emergence of the Buhari Adminstration, an additional swagger has been noticed in their comportment. Governors of States where carnages have taken place are not immune from the general intimidation of the populace by terroristic Fulani herdsmen. Many State Governors apart from the Governor of Ondo State, Ayodele Fayose, have been reduced to empty weeping vessels or pitiable castrated objects cowering in the face of terroristic Fulani bravado.

Recently thousands of peasant women in Delta State, fearful for their lives and aggrieved at the loss of personal security in their farmlands, their only source of livelihood, took to the streets in their thousands and blocked the Warri-Port Harcourt express way which is the major highway linking the two major commercial cities in the Niger Delta region. The women lamented about incessant cases of violent rape and murder in their farmlands perpetrated on a daily basis by terroristic Fulani herdsmen. The aggrieved women vowed that they would not evacuate the highway until they were personally addressed by the Governor of Delta State. It is uncertain if the Delta State Governor, the designated Chief Security Officer of the State, who may have been otherwise engaged, responded to their request, by honoring them with his physical presence in order to personally reassure them of their personal safety and security in their farmlands.

For their part, to their credit and in an unmistakably mark of their supreme confidence in their invincibility, the terroristic Fulani Herdsmen have serially owned up to their terrorist actions. Reacting under the canopy of their umbrella body, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeding Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) of which President Muhammadu Buhari, himself a cattle rearer is the Grand Patron, they have never denied their involvement in all the genocidal carnages, not associated with the renowned and distinct Boko Haram terrorist group, which Nigeria has witnessed in recent times and particularly under the Buhari Adminstration. What they have repeatedly said is that their genocidal activities are reprisal attacks for the loss of their cattle and sometimes members to cattle rustlers from the host communities.

Indeed, it is some State Governors mostly of Fulani origin, particularly the Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai (a prominent member of President Buhari’s kitchen cabinet and reputed as his potential successor), who have been spinning the narrative that the terroristic Fulani elements causing mayhem in Nigeria are non-Nigerian Fulani migrating into Nigeria to cause havoc from far-flung countries like Niger, Mali, Chad etc.

This disingenuous explanation raises more serious questions than it answers. Firstly, what is the motivation behind the eagerness of the Nigerian Government authorities to extricate Nigerian Fulani herdsmen whose leadership is well-known by all and sundry, from their self-confessed responsibility for genocidal acts in Nigeria and transfer the responsibility for these very same acts to unknown and unknowable non-Nigerian Fulani herdsmen? Is it to shield them from the long hands of the Law as perpetrators and shield themselves as instigators?

Secondly, assuming but not conceding that the Nigerian Government officials implicating non-Nigerian Fulanis in these genocidal acts are correct in their narrative, is it not a culpable humongous admission of failure for Government to admit that foreigners came from outside Nigeria into Nigeria, to kill bona fide Nigerian citizens and the governments at State and Federal levels are not able to identify, arrest or extradite these foreign elements and bring them to justice?

Granted that the President is the Chief Security Officer of the Nation, who collects humongous, un-retire-able amounts of money daily, weekly or monthly as the case may be from the National Treasury in the name of Security Vote, and yet is unable to provide security for Nigerians, is this not enough cause to call for the President’s resignation, or impeachment or replacement as Chief Security Officer? The same applies to the State Governors who are the Chief Security Officers of their own States. Do Nigerians through their elected representatives not have a right to know how and why so much money is voted for Security in the nation and yet there is no security at all?

By the way, it is our view that the legality of the so-called Security Vote be investigated under the tenets of the Nigerian Constitution. If it is legal, there should be more transparency in its utilization, if found to be otherwise and to be based solely on precedence it should be scrapped immediately and the money directly remitted to the heads of the various security agencies who would then be held publicly accountable for the breakdown of law and order anywhere in Nigeria.

Coming back to the self-acknowledged complicity of Nigerian Fulanis in the terroristic acts of genocide in Nigeria, assuming but not conceding that these actions were provoked by cattle rustling and killing of their members, who and what gave the terroristic Fulani Herdsmen the right and audacity to administer instant justice in Nigeria without recourse to the established Judicial Authorities?

No Nigerian citizen has the right to administer justice on other human beings in Nigeria, citizen or non-citizen alike, without recourse to the established organs of the Judicial system. No amount of provocation, including the purported willful murder of its members and stealing of its cattle by elements of their host communities confers on the Fulanis of Nigeria the right to take the laws into their own hands and administer terroristic justice as they deem fit.

That the terroristic Fulani herdsmen routinely bypass the established channels of securing redress including reporting criminal matters to the Police and presenting their complaints before the Law Courts, is indicative of the amount of disdain and contempt in which they hold the Nigerian State. Yet this same Nigerian State acting under the direction of unpatriotic Fulanis in power, attempts to shield them by all means possible from the long hands of the law while subjecting other non-Fulani Nigerians especially IPOB members and Shiite Muslims to violent reprisals for actions and activities permitted under the Law.   

It is this disdain for the law, which is aided and abetted by actions of commission or omission in the highest levels of Government that is ultimately responsible for all the recent acts of genocide committed in Nigeria by terroristic Fulani herdsmen in their desperate expansionist grab for land outside their traditional ethnic domain. For these genocidal acts, their sponsors now very clearly exposed and identified by all shall be held accountable someday either by man or by God.

It is in the context of this injustice, daily crying to God for vengeance, that the so-called peace pact; recently struck between the King of Agatu people and their terroristic Fulani invaders; which pact cedes Agatu land to the very same Fulani elements who decimated them; and which pact was recently signed between the King of Agatu and the Fulani in the presence of the Governors of Benue State and Nassarawa State and some of which details were exposed by the Local Government Chairman of Agatu; should be recognized by all and sundry for what it truly is.

This so-called pact is an act of coercion of the hapless peasant Agatu people by terroristic Fulani herdsmen using the very same intimidating instruments of State which they willfully ignored before proceeding on their terroristic rampage. Peace is a very good thing. But peace must be accompanied by justice and the terms of any peace must be freely and democratically accepted by a majority of Agatu people freely exercising their will.

The terms of this peace must not be dictated to the Agatu victims through the auspices of their King and Local Government Chairman ostensibly negotiating on their behalf under the influence of State Government duress, their personal goodwill notwithstanding. In addition, while seeking peace the State must also administer justice by impartially investigating and addressing all acts of criminality including bringing the so-called Agatu elements who purportedly stole Fulani cattle before the Agatu carnage (if they are still alive) to justice. The state must also round up and bring all the members of the terroristic Fulani herdsmen community and their sponsors who planned and executed the so-called Agatu reprisal carnage to justice. The same should apply to all the cases of terroristic carnage in Nigeria.

The Nigerian State must summon the will and courage to subject the terroristic Fulani herdsmen to its judicial authority.  To do otherwise is to kick the can of justice further down the road and sow the seeds for the next round of carnage in the foreseeable future.

Anthony Chuka Konwea, Ph.D., P.E., M.ASCE, MNSE, FNIStructE, MNICE.

-- THE END --

Posted On Tuesday, 11 July 2017 02:14 Written by

Nigerian-born Dr Henry Bello, who shot seven people, killed one woman and himself, at a Bronx hospital sent a chilling email to a New York newspaper just two hours before the deadly rampage, it has been gathered.

Bello used an AR-15 assault rifle in the attack on the 16th and 17th floors of the Bronx Lebanon Hospital last Friday around 2.45pm.

It was learnt the 45-year-old sent an email to the New York Daily News blaming two doctors for terminating “my road to a licensure to practice medicine.”

Bello, who was described on the hospital’s website as a family medicine physician, in the email said: “First, I was told it was because I always kept to myself. Then it was because of an altercation with a nurse.”

It emerged Bello was forced to resign over sexual harassment accusations.

However, in the email that was sent at 12.46pm, Bello said he was told his termination stemmed from him threatening a colleague.

He said he then sent an email to that colleague “congratulating her for my termination after she sent out an email to everybody telling them to file complaints against me so I can be terminated for being rude to her.

“I only said in the email, it remains to be seen if my life is meaningless or disposable,” Bello mailed.

Bello then blamed another doctor for ruining his career, adding that the doctor ‘blocked’ him from getting his medical permit despite him pouring $400,000 of his money into the hospital and the family medicine department.

Posted On Sunday, 02 July 2017 01:58 Written by

Folktales and the art of traditional storytelling are in danger of being lost and Nairobi-based performer Maïmouna Jallow is on a mission to reverse the trend. But on her journey to revive the art she has also discovered the relevance of performing contemporary stories.

There is something mystical about Zanzibar's Stone Town. It is a place where past and present collide, and where a mosaic of sights and smells from across the Indian Ocean weave themselves together down narrow alleyways.

It is perhaps fitting then, that my exploration of traditional East African folktales began here, leading me on an unexpected journey into storytelling and adapting contemporary novels.

In 2015, feeling nostalgic for the tales of Anansi the Spider that I had grown up with in West Africa, I travelled to the historic centre of Zanzibar in search of folktales.

Streets of StonetwonImage copyrightMAIMONA JALLOW
Image captionStone Town's narrow streets and old buildings proved the perfect setting to rediscover old folktales

On arrival, I went straight to the Old Fort, an imposing 17th Century structure built by the Omanis to defend the island from the Portuguese. There, with the help of the painter Hamza Aussie, I met a group of women who owned curio shops that lined the grassy courtyard.

I asked them if they would share the folktales of their youth with me, and within a couple of hours, I had recorded a dozen stories, or rather, fragments of stories.

Around us, children pressed inwards, eager to hear their tales. But even in those magical hours, I started to feel like I was grasping at clouds. The women had to dig deep into the recess of their minds as they tried to piece together scattered bits of ancient tales.

Like an old discarded puzzle, some pieces seemed to be lost forever.

Women sharing stories in ZanzibarImage copyrightMAIMOUNA JALLOW
Image captionMaimouna heard traditional stories from women in Zanzibar

The children around us, whilst enchanted by their tales, would save their coins to play computer games in the gaming rooms that had sprouted alongside shops that sold henna and incense.

It seemed that even in this small town, famed for its quaint antiquity, folktales were dying. I needed to understand why.

Yes, television was to blame, and so was the breakdown of the extended family, but how had we so easily lost such a fundamental kernel of our existence?

Later that week, I had the good fortune of meeting Haji Gora Haji, the Island's poet laureate, a living fountain of wondrous tales.

As I listened to him recount a story about the infamous Hare duping Tortoise into buying a piece of land that turned out to be a beach, which Tortoise only found out about when the tide came in, I wondered whether part of the problem is that so many of these stories are far removed from our realities today.

Would our urbanised kids understand Haji's story?

Maimouna performingImage copyrightNII KOTEI NIKOI

Heck, even I needed Hamza to give me the annotated version. As he explained it, there was a time when many people on the island were being conned into buying land without title deeds, so this was a warning to people to be wary of unscrupulous salesmen.

Indeed, folktales have always been a vital way to transmit important information, as well as moral lessons, and as such, they are often rooted in specific places and contexts.

And as much as the purist in me wanted to believe that folktales are not only timeless but also universal, I started to think that perhaps one way to preserve folktales was to re-imagine them so that they would resonate with children and adults today.

Back in Nairobi, I launched an online contest, inviting African writers to re-write traditional folktales but with a contemporary twist.

We got a mixed bag of entries, some which addressed war and exile, others that questioned our modern mores. I too began writing stories that merged the old with the new, for example, drawing parallels between slavery and the indiscriminate killing of young black men in America.

Maimouna performingImage copyrightNEKANE REQUEJO DE OZAMIZ

I began performing these stories, at times using video footage of real events to ground them in reality, but preserving the structure and style of traditional folktales. The result was as hybrid as me, and whilst I worried about veering off track, I knew that are so many of us who inhabit multiple worlds.

The success of this experiment spurred me to push the boundaries even further and to use oral storytelling to bring African literature to new audiences by adapting novels for performance. I have author Lola Shoneyin thank for this.

The first time I read her acclaimed novel, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi's Wives, the women in the story possessed me. They were hilarious. And they jostled for space in my mind, speaking loudly, and demanding to be seen.

My initial reaction was to think, "someone needs to turn this into a movie". But soon, I realised that I wanted to tell this story.

One-woman show

It was about patriarchy, sexual abuse, polygamy, poverty, education, love, friendship and so many issues that I wanted to talk about, and I felt that performance storytelling could be a gateway to have open discussions on the serious questions raised by the novel.

So I set about adapting the book into a 50-minute one-woman show.

Then, I dug into my bookshelves and pulled out other novels that I thought would translate beautifully into performed stories. I worked with five other women, an eclectic mix of poets, actors and writers, and together we started to bring African novels to life.

These were not plays. Each novel was adapted and retold by just one teller. We used traditional elements of African oral storytelling like call and response and each time, the teller would build a relationship with the audience and create a different form of magic.

The response was tremendous. Audiences told us that we had brought books to life. Some said they did not read and were grateful to still be able to enjoy the terrific literature coming out of Africa.

Many subsequently bought the novels so that they could enjoy the full details that had to be left out in the adaptations.

As an African literature major, it dawned on me that my journey had come full circle: folktales had led me back to contemporary novels and opened the door to storytelling. So perhaps I have not veered off track after all.

The late Professor Kofi Awoonor used to say: "We weave new ropes where the old ones left off." And like Stone Town itself, I have simply found a way to fuse past and present.

Posted On Sunday, 02 July 2017 01:26 Written by

When Terry Gobanga - then Terry Apudo - didn't show up to her wedding, nobody could have guessed that she had been abducted, raped and left for dead by the roadside. It was the first of two tragedies to hit the young Nairobi pastor in quick succession. But she is a survivor.

It was going to be a very big wedding. I was a pastor, so all our church members were coming, as well as all our relatives. My fiance, Harry, and I were very excited - we were getting married in All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi and I had rented a beautiful dress.

But the night before the wedding I realised that I had some of Harry's clothes, including his cravat. He couldn't show up without a tie, so a friend who had stayed the night offered to take it to him first thing in the morning. We got up at dawn and I walked her to the bus station.

As I was making my way back home, I walked past a guy sitting on the bonnet of a car - suddenly he grabbed me from behind and dumped me in the back seat. There were two more men inside, and they drove off. It all happened in a fraction of a second.

A piece of cloth was stuffed in my mouth. I was kicking and hitting out and trying to scream. When I managed to push the gag out, I screamed: "It's my wedding day!" That was when I got the first blow. One of the men told me to "co-operate or you will die".

close-up of Terry GobangaImage copyrightTERRY GOBANGA

The men took turns to rape me. I felt sure I was going to die, but I was still fighting for my life, so when one of the men took the gag out of my mouth I bit his manhood. He screamed in pain and one of them stabbed me in the stomach. Then they opened the door and threw me out of the moving car.

I was miles from home, outside Nairobi. More than six hours had passed since I had been abducted.

A child saw me being thrown out and called her grandmother. People came running. When the police came they tried to get a pulse, but no-one could. Thinking I was dead, they wrapped me in a blanket and started to take me to the mortuary. But on the way there, I choked on the blanket and coughed. The policeman said: "She's alive?" And he turned the car around and drove me to the biggest government hospital in Kenya.

I arrived in great shock, murmuring incoherently. I was half-naked and covered in blood, and my face was swollen from being punched. But something must have alerted the matron, because she guessed I was a bride. "Let's go around the churches to see if they're missing a bride," she told the nurses.

All Saint's Cathedral is the national Anglican cathedral in NairobiImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionAll Saint's Cathedral is the oldest Anglican cathedral in Nairobi

By coincidence, the first church they called at was All Saints Cathedral. "Are you missing a bride?" the nurse asked.

The minister said: "Yes, there was a wedding at 10 o'clock and she didn't come."

When I didn't show up to the church, my parents were panicking. People were sent out to search for me. Rumours flew. Some wondered: "Did she change her mind?" Others said: "No, it's so unlike her, what happened?"

After a few hours, they had to take down the decorations to make room for the next ceremony. Harry had been put in the vestry to wait.

When they heard where I was, my parents came to the hospital with the whole entourage. Harry was actually carrying my wedding gown. But the media had also got wind of the story so there were reporters too.

I was moved to another hospital where I'd have more privacy. That was where the doctors stitched me up and gave me some devastating news: "The stab wound went deep into your womb, so you won't be able to carry any children."

Terry pictured this yearImage copyrightTERRY GOBANGA

I was given the morning-after pill, as well as antiretroviral drugs to protect me from HIV and Aids. My mind shut down, it refused to accept what had happened.

Harry kept saying he still wanted to marry me. "I want to take care of her and make sure she comes back to good health in my arms, in our house," he said. Truth be told, I wasn't in a position to say Yes or No because my mind was so jammed with the faces of the three men, and with everything that had happened.

A few days later, when I was less sedated, I was able to look him in the eye. I kept saying sorry. I felt like I had let him down. Some people said it was my own fault for leaving the house in the morning. It was really hurtful, but my family and Harry supported me.

The police never caught the rapists. I went to line-up after line-up but I didn't recognise any of the men, and it hurt me each time I went. It set back my recovery - it was 10 steps forward, 20 back. In the end I went back to the police station and said: "You know what, I'm done. I just want to leave it."

Three months after the attack I was told I was HIV-negative and got really excited, but they told me I had to wait three more months to be sure. Still, Harry and I began to plan our second wedding.

Although I had been very angry at the press intrusion, somebody read my story and asked to meet me. Her name was Vip Ogolla, and she was also a rape survivor. We spoke, and she told me she and her friends wanted to give me a free wedding. "Go wild, have whatever you want," she said.

I was ecstatic. I went for a different type of cake, much more expensive. Instead of a rented gown, now I could have one that was totally mine.

In July 2005, seven months after our first planned wedding, Harry and I got married and went on a honeymoon.

Harry Olwande and Terry on their wedding day in July 2005Image copyrightTERRY GOBANGA
Image captionHarry Olwande and Terry on their wedding day in July 2005

Twenty-nine days later, we were at home on a very cold night. Harry lit a charcoal burner and took it to the bedroom. After dinner, he removed it because the room was really warm. I got under the covers as he locked up the house. When he came to bed he said he was feeling dizzy, but we thought nothing of it.

It was so cold we couldn't sleep, so I suggested getting another duvet. But Harry said he couldn't get it as he didn't have enough strength. Strangely, I couldn't stand up either. We realised something was very wrong. He passed out. I passed out. I remember coming to. I would call him. At times he would respond, at other times he wouldn't. I pushed myself out of bed and threw up, which gave me some strength. I started crawling to the phone. I called my neighbour and said: "Something is wrong, Harry is not responding."

She came over immediately but it took me ages to crawl to the front door to let her in as I kept passing out. I saw an avalanche of people coming in, screaming. And I passed out again.

I woke up in hospital and asked where my husband was. They said they were working on him in the next room. I said: "I'm a pastor, I've seen quite a lot in my life, I need you to be very straight with me." The doctor looked at me and said: "I'm sorry, your husband did not make it."

I couldn't believe it.

Terry places a ring on Harry's fingerImage copyrightTERRY GOBANGA
Image captionTerry places a ring on Harry's finger

Going back to church for the funeral was terrible. Just a month earlier I had been there in my white dress, with Harry standing at the front looking handsome in his suit. Now, I was in black and he was being wheeled in, in a casket.

People thought I was cursed and held back their children from me. "There's a bad omen hanging over her," they said. At one point, I actually believed it myself.

Others accused me of killing my husband. That really got me down - I was grieving.

The post-mortem showed what really happened: as the carbon monoxide filled his system, he started choking and suffocated.

I had a terrible breakdown. I felt let down by God, I felt let down by everybody. I couldn't believe that people could be laughing, going out and just going about life. I crashed.

One day I was sitting on the balcony looking at the birds chirping away and I said: "God, how can you take care of the birds and not me?" In that instant I remembered there are 24 hours a day - sitting in depression with your curtains closed, no-one's going to give you back those 24 hours. Before you know, it's a week, a month, a year wasted away. That was a tough reality.

I told everybody I would never ever get married again. God took my husband, and the thought of ever going through such a loss again was too much. It's something I wouldn't wish on anybody. The pain is so intense, you feel it in your nails.

But there was one man - Tonny Gobanga - who kept visiting. He would encourage me to talk about my husband and think about the good times. One time he didn't call for three days and I was so angry. That's when it hit me that I had fallen for him.

Tonny and Terry GobangaImage copyrightTERRY GOBANGA
Image captionTonny and Terry Gobanga

Tonny proposed marriage but I told him to buy a magazine, read my story and tell me if he still loved me. He came back and said he still wanted to marry me.

But I said: "Listen, there's another thing - I can't have children, so I cannot get married to you."

"Children are a gift from God," he said. "If we get them, Amen. If not, I will have more time to love you."

I thought: "Wow, what a line!" So I said Yes.

Tonny went home to tell his parents, who were very excited, until they heard my story. "You can't marry her - she is cursed," they said. My father-in-law refused to attend the wedding, but we went ahead anyway. We had 800 guests - many came out of curiosity.

It was three years after my first wedding, and I was very scared. When we were exchanging vows, I thought: "Here I am again Father, please don't let him die." As the congregation prayed for us I cried uncontrollably.

A year into our marriage, I felt unwell and went to the doctor - and to my great surprise he told me that I was pregnant.

As the months progressed I was put on total bed rest, because of the stab wound to my womb. But all went well, and we had a baby girl who we called Tehille. Four years later, we had another baby girl named Towdah.

Terry and her daughtersImage copyrightTERRY GOBANGA

Today, I am the best of friends with my father-in-law.

I wrote a book, Crawling out of Darkness, about my ordeal, to give people hope of rising again. I also started an organisation called Kara Olmurani. We work with rape survivors, as I call them - not rape victims. We offer counselling and support. We are looking to start a halfway house for them where they can come and find their footing before going back to face the world.

I have forgiven my attackers. It wasn't easy but I realised I was getting a raw deal by being upset with people who probably don't care. My faith also encourages me to forgive and not repay evil with evil but with good.

The most important thing is to mourn. Go through every step of it. Get upset until you are willing to do something about your situation. You have to keep moving, crawl if you have to. But move towards your destiny because it's waiting, and you have to go and get it.

Posted On Sunday, 02 July 2017 00:03 Written by
The spectacular success while it lasted, of Chukwudi Onuamadike, alias Evans, in his line of ‘kidnapping business’ necessarily elicits endless questions and speculations about the nature and the values that, made possible his exploits and on the other hand, the capacity of the state and its law enforcement apparatus to assure the most fundamental purpose of government which, to quote the extant constitution of the country is ‘the security and welfare of the people’. Nevertheless, the Nigerian Police must be commended for diligence and the arrest of Evans.

For nearly a decade since he started in 2008 but created his own gang in 2015, Evans roamed in what may be described as a derring-do manner, the length and breadth of the land taking on ‘jobs’ as he called kidnapping, from informants and collaborators. He made millions in local and foreign currencies, acquired foreign citizenship, owned luxurious houses complete with bullet-proof doors and Jacuzzi-equipped bathrooms within and outside the country, expensive cars and personal accessories, and generally lived it up like a genuinely successful businessman. He lived in a respectable, upscale neighbourhood too while his family lives abroad. Given the prevailing money-centered ethos of this society, Evans was, until caught, the kind of man who might be invited to sponsor or chair the wedding of a young honest couple, launch a book titled The evils of Kidnapping, give a lecture on the evils of criminality, or even donate to the fund-raising of a religious organisation. If Evans is not a traditional chief, with an honorary doctorate to boot, it is only because he has not sought to pay for it. Alas, this was a criminal of so sufficiently heinous type as to be punishable with death in some states of the federation!

The sordid details of Evans’ operational methods- information gathering mechanism, groups with sectional heads in different locations, weaponry, detention houses and camps, cooks, huge proceeds and more, are still being revealed. One thing is certain: More than other kidnappers who have been caught by law enforcement agents such as a certain Terwase ‘Ghana’ Akwaza in Benue State, Samaila Madu in Edo State and one ’Vampire’ in Imo State, Evans was a smart, calculating, sophisticated, cold-hearted criminal whose life purpose appeared to make big money irrespective of the darkness of the source. But only for a time and a season.

Many reasons can be offered for his staying power in his kidnapping enterprise. For one, and this cannot be denied him, Chukwudi Onuamadike treated kidnapping as a structured business and he invested in recruitment, arms, including the assault rifles AK 47, AK 49 and thousands of rounds of ammunition, multi-million naira high-end phones equipped with anti-tracking device so that his conversations with his operatives in the field could not be monitored. He kept his gangs ignorant of each other and only gave the most limited information necessary to execute assigned duty. And he made working for him worth the risk too, saying ‘I usually pay Uche N20 million for every operation’ and N2 million to others on every operation.’ It is no wonder that he was not caught through whistleblowing, of course, of the security officers.

Evans has been able to gather information on people through the Internet. Again, the cheap vain and senseless urge of some people to flaunt material achievements overexposes them to men of criminal intentions.

It is certain that the Nigerian legal and cultural system is yet to, as a rule, interrogate, the source of wealth of any man or woman who appears to live lavishly without an identifiable source of income. In some other societies, the first question asked of a man who flaunts wealth is ‘what does he do?’ And if he is said to be a businessman, intelligent people ask further what line of business. It is regrettable that here, any man who is rich by whatever means is admired, eagerly courted and revered by even those who should know better.

Again in other climes, a big house, a big car and other display of wealth attract, naturally, the attention of the tax man who would politely request to know how much the person earns vis-à-vis his/her tax returns. It is not difficult therefrom to detect a criminal. Again, not so here. With the right price, the inquisitive official, who may be poorly paid anyway, can be paid off with more money than he earns in a year.

In this same country, but in another age, by the dictate of social mores and norms, parents would frown at their children owning things that they could not explain how they were acquired. The times are different now and parents gladly benefit from the proceeds of crime by their children.

Modernity and urbanism has encouraged a lifestyle of individualism. Neighbours hardly know or interact with one another especially in the estates of well-to-do- families. Thus, a respectable judge may be living next door to a vicious but successful armed robber or an Evans. This may be good for privacy, but it can endanger collective safety. Unless of course, there is in place, a know-your-neighbour mechanism, as well as some neighbourhood security structure.

Nigerians must also consider the socio-economic conditions that make possible rampant kidnapping. Jobs are scarce because the funds to create openings have been stolen by the managers of national business. Those lucky to hold jobs are poorly paid, or are not paid as and when due. Opportunities for self –employment are constricted by an economic system skewed against the average citizen. It is easier to make money by crooked means and flaunt it. These of course, are no excuse but the sad reality.

The police have done a good job to track Evans and arrest him. It is evident that, given the right equipment, training, and incentives, the Force can do great things. But with only 300,000 personnel in 5,303 divisions, it is still numerically inadequate to maintain law and order among a Nigerian population of 178 million. Government must move very quickly to empower the police force because, it bears repeating that security is one of the two primary purposes of government’s existence.

The point must be made that with a stream of self-confessions and revelations, the Evans story is assuming a saga of a man with exploits of sorts. This is needless. The police can assemble sufficient information from confessional statements to open a case against Evans and his gang. Let the prosecution begin forthwith.

By The Guardian Editorial Board, NIGERIA
Posted On Thursday, 29 June 2017 01:23 Written by

The executive order issued recently by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, may have yielded fruits as the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), has since cancelled multiple checks at the Murtala Muhammed International Airports in Lagos. The development would give relief to passengers travelling through the airports, who hitherto, were subjected to multiple checks and levies by different agencies of government.

Travelling through the Nigeria’s airports has often been a nightmare compared with airports in other climes, where passenger screening is performed largely at just one point. FAAN should therefore hasten to extend the cancellation to all other airports in the country to enhance smooth travel and give Nigeria a better image.

Managing Director of FAAN, Saleh Dunoma, disclosed in Lagos, after a meeting with all the security agencies, that FAAN had cancelled multiple checks of passengers and luggage at airports nationwide to improve free movement and passenger experience.

Consequently, the multiple checks by the various law enforcement agencies had been harmonised in line with the executive order.According to Dunoma, the Murtala Muhammed International Airport (MMIA), Lagos had been chosen to begin the implementation, being the busiest airport in the country. Henceforth, a single screening unit would be seen at the departure halls of the airport.

Dunoma stressed that all the agencies had come together to effectively and seamlessly implement the order without compromising security procedures. This is indeed very important as there should be no security lapses as a result of the new arrangement.Under the new regime agencies would check luggage of passengers at designated areas and not within the departure halls as was the case before.

Last month, Acting President Osinbajo endorsed and signed three Executive Orders expected to boost the ease of doing business in Nigeria. The development is expected to increase patronage for locally manufactured goods and remove all bureaucratic bottlenecks that stifle business growth in the country.

The three executive orders touched on the promotion of transparency and efficiency in the business environment; timely submission of annual budgetary estimates by all statutory agencies, including companies owned by the Federal Government; and support for local contents in public procurement by the Federal Government.

Certainly, Osinbajo should be commended for the move to remove the bottlenecks that have so far hindered business dealings in Nigeria. It would be recalled that Nigeria ranked 169th position in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business index for 2017 out of the 190 countries surveyed.

The report indicated that Nigeria moved up by only one point from 170th position on the 2016 ranking. This, obviously, is not a favourable commentary on Nigeria, Africa’s giant. It is little wonder then that business activities in Nigeria are low and the economy is not as it should be.

The World Bank report, for instance, revealed that  Nigeria ranked 138th position in terms of  Starting a Business,  174th position in terms of  Getting  Construction Permit, 180th position in terms of  Getting Electricity, 182nd position in terms of Registering Property,  44th position in terms of Getting Credit, 32nd position in terms of Protecting minority investors, 182nd position in terms of Paying Taxes, 181st position in terms of Trading Across Borders, 139th position in terms of  Enforcing Contracts, and 140th position in terms of   Resolving Insolvency. It is only in the area of access to credit that the country moved up to 16th position.

The implication is that the country has a lot to do to redirect and quicken the tempo of doing business. Given the magnitude of the problem, what the FAAN is doing is just a little token but, certainly, a good starting point.

Carrying out passenger screening at one designated point would help decongest the airport departure halls apart from removing undue delays caused by multiple checks by different agencies of government.

The World Bank report has given an insight into how much improvement that is needed to make things work well. From starting a business to registering property and resolving insolvency, as the case may be, improvement is needed.

This demands a total overhaul of the business environment and a new business culture. The problem applies not only at the federal level but also in the states and local governments. FAAN should, however, diligently implement its reform at the airports to serve as a shining example to other areas of the political economy that suffer opaqueness.

Posted On Tuesday, 27 June 2017 00:57 Written by

On behalf of my wife, family and government, I wish Muslims in Ghana and around the world Eid Mubarak.

We thank Allah for seeing us through one month of fasting, prayer and devotion. I have no doubt that after nights of intense prayer and devotion, Allah would increase his favour upon our country and, insha Allah, by the next Ramadan our country would be better than it is today.

The month of Ramadan has certainly drawn us closer to Allah than we were before. It has also taught us the virtues of prayer, patience, piety and faith. These are virtues that we need all year round. I, therefore, urge all of us to hold fast to these values and not lose them merely because we are no longer in Ramadan.
Above all, let the spirit of friendship, brotherhood and love that characterized our activities in Ramadan continue to influence our relationship with our fellow Ghanaians. With a sense of unity of purpose, we shall realize our goals.

I wish you a happy celebration and may Allah make our nation great and strong.

Posted On Monday, 26 June 2017 23:51 Written by
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