Friday, 19 January 2018
Items filtered by date: October 2017

Twenty-four hours after a letter he wrote to President Muhammadu Buhari was made public, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, on Wednesday joined his colleagues for the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Our correspondents, however, learnt that the issue did not come up at the meeting presided over by the President.

“The minister was at the FEC meeting and the President presided. The issue did not come up at the meeting at all,” a source at the meeting said.

When asked the action Buhari had taken on the issue since the letter was dated August 30, 2017, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, insisted that he had no comment on the issue.

Another source however told our correspondent that nobody was sure yet if the President indeed got Kachikwu’s letter before its content became public knowledge.

“Nobody is sure yet if the President indeed got the letter. Who knows whether those who blocked the minister from seeing the President even blocked the letter from getting to him,” the source added.

Senate probes allegations against Baru

Meanwhile, the Senate on Wednesday began an investigation into allegations of corruption against the NNPC Trading Limited, a subsidiary of the national oil firm, which was accused of awarding a questionable petroleum importation contract.

The lawmakers are also probing the allegations of insubordination and unapproved award of $25bn contracts against the Group Managing Director, NNPC, Dr. Maikanti Baru, by Kachikwu.

The move by the Senate followed the adoption of a motion moved at the plenary by Senator Samuel Anyanwu and titled, ‘Allegation of corruption against NNPC Trading: Time to conduct a holistic investigation’.

The lawmakers also adopted another prayer of the motion, which called for a probe of the allegations against Baru in a petition to the President by the minister.

Kachikwu had written to Buhari alleging acts of insubordination and humiliation by Baru.

In the letter titled, ‘Re: Matters of insubordination and lack of adherence to due process by the GMD NNPC – Dr. Baru,’ Kachikwu alleged that the NNPC boss had repeatedly sidelined and disrespected the board of the national oil firm, which is chaired by the minister, among other alleged misdemeanours.

Moving the motion, Anyanwu said the Senate was aware that NNPC Trading Limited was a joint venture creation of the NNPC and Duke Oil, Hyson/Carlson (JV), NAP Oil (JV) and West Africa-Gas Limited (JV).

According to the lawmaker, Duke Oil was incorporated in 1989 in Panama and does not pay tax in Nigeria.

The lawmaker said, “The Senate is further aware that Duke Oil, compared to other major players in the sector, is still grappling with the basics of what it was registered to do in spite of massive support from the NNPC owing to large-scale corruption.

“We are aware of the decision by the current GMD to allocate almost all products to Duke Oil; this is in addition to its automatic inclusion in the lifting of crude oil, gas, etc., which made Duke Oil a money-spinning outfit that is accountable only to the NNPC.”

Seconding the motion, Senator Abubakar Yusuf called for an extension of the probe to the NNPC and all its subsidiaries.

President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, named Senator Aliyu Wammako as Chairman of the panel, while and Senators Tayo Alasoadura, Kabiru Marafa, Albert Bassey, Sam Anyanwu, Ahmed Ogembe, Chukwuka Utazi, Rose Okoh and Baba Kaka Garbai were listed as members.

Published in Headliners

A Zimbabwean journalist has been detained over a story alleging that used underwear had been distributed to ruling Zanu-PF supporters on First Lady Grace Mugabe's behalf, his lawyers say.

NewsDay reporter Kenneth Nyangani was likely to face "criminal defamation" charges, the lawyers added.

Zanu-PF MP Esau Mupfumi distributed the underwear, and said Mrs Mugabe had donated it, the newspaper reported.

There has been no official comment on Mr Nyangani's arrest.

It was unclear clear whether the complainant was the MP or the first lady, NewsDay reported.

Police in the eastern city of Mutare detained Mr Nyangani on Monday evening for "allegedly writing and publishing a story over the donation of some used undergarments" by President Robert Mugabe's wife, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said in a statement.

The privately-owned newspaper had earlier reported that Mr Mupfumi had handed out clothes at the weekend to Zanu-PF supporters in the Mutare area.

"I met the First Lady Grace Mugabe and I was given these clothes so that I can give you. I have briefs for you and I am told that most of your briefs are not in good shape, please come and collect your allocations today," Mr Mupfumi was quoted as saying.

"We have night dresses, sandals and clothes, come and take, this is from your First Lady Grace Mugabe," he added.

Worsening economic conditions in Zimbabwe are forcing many people to buy second-hand clothing, the AFP news agency reports.

It says such items include used underwear from Western countries which is chiefly imported from Mozambique.

Mrs Mugabe, the president's second wife, attracted widespread media attention in August when she was accused of attacking a model at a hotel in South Africa where her sons were staying.

She has denied any wrongdoing.

Published in Headliners

IT is not very often that a state helmsman gets more popular after office, certainly not in this clime. But that is the story of Rahman Olusegun Mimiko, astute medical practitioner, politician and visionary. The Ondo-born, University of Ife- trained Mimiko turns 63 today and he and his multitudes of admirers home and abroad can look back with pride, and to the future with renewed optimism. This is not just because the story of his unparalleled landmarks in various sectors are still being told, often with awe, by the appreciative public. The heart of the deal is that up and coming politicians and political leaders are learning how to lift the people out of the morass of despair by replicating the Caring Heart agenda evolved and institutionalized by Mimiko in Ondo State.

Since leaving office in February 2017, the former Ondo State governor, widely acknowledged as one of the most iconic achiever-governors that the Nigerian nation has ever produced, has become the toast of local and international organizations. He has been to the United States to preach the gospel of free maternal healthcare, among others, offering refreshing paradigms and drawing wide applause from specialists, governments, eminent individuals and organizations. He has also travelled to the United Kingdom on two separate occasions, showing that with the right ideas and the political will, progress is possible. And by progress he means self-evident development: taking the people away from the realm of statistics in government departments and agencies into the realm of active participants in the development process. This is why, as he turns 63 today, the gist is not that he achieved milestones in governance—that is taken for granted by fair-minded observers all over the world—but that he is showing the pathway to a greater future.

For instance, speaking penultimate Friday at the Chatham House, London, after delivering a paper on “Improving Access to Health Services for All” using his achievements in maternal and child health as a case study, Mimiko called for a major stakeholders’ meeting where there will be an agreement on a universal health package that every state in the country can afford, with eligibility criteria created for those who build on it. Just who will debate the point that “safe motherhood is a gender parity tool”?

In any case, delivering the Keynote Address during the Maiden General Meeting and Scientific Conference of the Association of Fetomaternal Medicine Specialists of Nigeria(AFEMSON) held at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja on July 21 this year, Mimiko had insisted that to address the perennial tragedy of deaths during childbirth in Nigeria, the federal and state governments must ensure universal health coverage for every Nigerian, beginning with women and children’s health issues. His gospel: every Nigerian should have access to the healthcare that they need, not the one they can afford, and without engaging in catastrophic spending. Hear him: “Evidence abounds today that the issue of maternal health is regarded as a human right. In Nigeria, if you add the unpaid work of women to our GDP, you will realise that women rule our society. We must accept the morality that government has a responsibility to finance universal health coverage, beginning with maternal and child healthcare. Our shared humanity places the burden on us to have shared responsibilities for safe motherhood.”

That was no empty talk: the Abiye programme of his administration provided free healthcare from pregnancy to delivery. Pregnant women were given free phones through which they accessed the health rangers who treated them for free at home. Even Caesarean operation, where needed, was free. It is no wonder then that Abiye became the World Bank’s benchmark for maternal care in Africa. That is not all. During the 51st Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference of the International College of Surgeons (Nigeria National Section) held at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, Oyo State, Mimiko provided a strategy for saving the lives of victims of road traffic accidents in the country. He further pointed out that road traffic accidents are the greatest killer of Nigeria’s young adults from age 15 to 29. The former Ondo helmsman showed how comprehensive emergency medical services could be deployed to curb the public health epidemic. First, Mimiko said, at the level of attitude, over-speeding, drunk-driving, not using safety belts and all such habits must be tackled. In Ondo State, Mimiko built a model motor park with a waiting room, and with no alcoholic beverages on sale. This changed the psychological environment of motor parks in the state. If, as Mimiko argued, the number one trigger of road transport accidents in Nigeria is the psychological environment of motor parks, then it follows that this environment has to be re-engineered. This is the preventive strategy.

Next, in designing roads, as a preventive measure, there should be walkways for pedestrians and motorcyclists must wear crash helmets. Then, there must be appropriate infrastructure: the nation must have base stations where ambulances with advanced life-saving gadgets are appropriately located round the townships. There must be communication centres with universal numbers that anybody can call in case of accidents. Then, there must be trained paramedics and extricators/rescuers with the kind of advanced equipment that the Mimiko government used in Ondo State, which can tear apart any vehicle and rescue accident victims. After rescuing the victims, there must be designated trauma centres with the necessary personnel. More important, every victim of road traffic accidents must have universal, unfettered and unhindered access to care, especially in the first few hours after accidents. Here, treatment comes before payment. If you doubt that all of this is possible, just visit the Trauma Centre in Ondo, Ondo State. You will marvel at the network of advanced life support ambulances located in stations specially constructed to allow them access to the highways. Whenever there is an accident, within 10 to 15 minutes of receiving a distress call, the ambulances are at the accident scene, with paramedics and extricators/ rescuers. And so lives are saved.

And even in politics, the man popularly called Iroko is becomimg more popular. The people of Ondo State are now appreciating him better for his strides in health, education, urban renewal, industrialization, sports and culture, among others. They know that he served them eloquently well, and are thankful to God that even at 63, he is still rearing to go, demonstrating an incredible burst of energy. A loyal and unrepentant disciple of the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Mimiko is arguably the most consistent advocate of the restructuring of Nigeria among the nation’s governors since the return to civil rule in 1999. Time and again, he has shown that Nigeria can only work when the component units are given the freedom to chart their paths to the future within a federalist framework.

Speaking in August at a colloquium organised by the Island Club, Lagos, Mimiko averred that the agitation for restructuring should not be viewed as an attack on the North but an attempt to decentralise power. He said: “Restructuring is not about the North against the South. Restructuring is decentralising power to make way for distribution and consumption arrangement so that every federating unit can increase its fiscal resources for development. We need to have state and local police to protect the lives of citizens and property. Let the states control their resources.” This is a point with which all true progressives in the country are in agreement. As he adds another year today, it is clear that Mimiko has demonstrated to a large extent that he came to Ondo State to serve the people. In so doing, he has become a reference point not only in Africa but the world at large, which is why, for instance, the United Nations honoured him with its UN Habitat Award in Italy. The sun, truly, is still shining for this gentleman who gave his all to better the lives of his people.

Akinmade is a former Information Commissioner, Ondo State.

http://www.tribuneonlineng.com/mimiko-63-still-shining/

Published in Parliament

One of the things I love doing is driving through the streets and towns of Ekiti State. It was a dream when I was a boy with no hope of ever getting behind the wheels of a car. It’s a hobby now that I am an adult. I love to drive as the soft morning breeze wafts through the air. Ekiti is a small state blessed with green vegetation. The morning air is pure and does wonders to the soul. Our elders used to say if you listen well, you could hear the voice of the angels whistling through the winds.

You can drive the length and breadth of my beloved state in an hour. If you’re an indigene of Ekiti or a resident of the state or someone who has had the good fortune of visiting with us, you will know what I mean. You think better driving the length and breath of the state as the sun rises over those glorious hills and mountains. Our towns have different names, from Omuo to Efon, from Emure to Iye but we are one.

I enjoy the easy banter with folks in the towns and villages. Our people are welcoming and prosperous. All they need is a chance, an opportunity. It takes me back to a time not too long ago, a time when boys could dream of bright futures and girls shaped their destinies.

I am a poster child for what is possible in Ekiti. I was born with little. Try hard as my parents did, we couldn’t afford much. But, we had something money couldn’t buy. We had hope. And, it wasn’t just me. It was most of the kids I know on the streets and in school. We knew if we kept good grades, we will keep moving forward.

But, those days are long gone. These days, driving through the streets is not the joy it once was. You have to cut through the cloud of gloom and doom that hangs over the state. Then you have to deal with the hopelessness etched across the faces of the children, youth and elders.

This is not the Ekiti of my youth. It is not the Ekiti of my dreams. And, we don’t deserve to live in this Ekiti fostered by a man who forgot the spirit of brotherhood that moved the state to the cusp of greatness before the vultures came.

The future of any society lies in its children and youth. Sometimes I wonder what sort of future are we leaving to them. Our fathers laid a great foundation for us to build a better future. That future is today. But, has our leadership in Ekiti laid a good foundation for the children and youth of today? Can the emperor really say he’s leaving the leaders of tomorrow a fair legacy?

I talk to a lot of the youth. A lot of times they seek me out – all over Ekiti and outside the state. I get tons of emails from many outside the country. Sometimes I seek them out. And they all have two questions – how did we get here? How do we get away from here?

How do you sow hope in the midst of crushing bleakness? How do you tell a child to hold on a while longer and that better days are coming? How do you convince the youth that there’s something at the end of the dark tunnel and it’s not the brainless insanity of the last few years?

It’s tough to preach hope when the emperor who specialises in doom snatches opportunities provided to the youth and children and dump them in his basket of failures. Take the case of the Home Grown School Feeding Programme of the Federal Government, for example. This was a no-brainer. The Federal Government had designed the programme to encourage kids to go to school by providing them a free meal, nourish them and improve their performance. It was designed to increase school enrollment and encourage local farmers to go back to farm and increase food production.

Our kids in Ekiti were denied that opportunity until I started screaming for all to hear. I had to challenge the Governor in the presence of the Vice President about it for reason to sink into him. And, it’s not just our children that were losing out. The entire state was. We have lost dozens of months where our farmers could have earned income providing the food for the children, our caterer could have been employed cooking the food and the lives of the people would have been tremendously better.

I often wondered what would have happened if I was born into this age of gloom, when the only thing that seems waiting at the end of the tunnel is doom. These kids know leaders who are everything but leaders. I knew leaders who were men and women of honour. Chief Obafemi Awolowo. Pa Adekunle Ajasin. Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti. Professors Banji Akintoye and Sam Aluko, Ewi Aladesanmi Anirare and Lady Deborah Jibowu.

These kids these days have not been that lucky, especially in the last few years. So, when some kids came to me the other day lamenting our great State and the future, how they love the State but don’t like the way it’s been dragged through the mud, how they’re tired of being the laughing stock of the nation, my heart bled for the State. But, that wasn’t all of it. One of the kids asked me, what would I tell the children of Ekiti.

How can I convince the youth that tomorrow will be better? It was a question that gnawed at my soul. These are kids who just want their state and their leadership to do right by them. They don’t want too much. They just want to be able to live in a land of opportunity because they know when there is hope, with their sweat and determination they will create plenty.

I told them what my father once told me. That when all the chips are down, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and go to work. I am rolling up my sleeves and getting ready to go to work. With our sweat and determination we will make Ekiti great again. I told them to spread the news – tell every kid in Ekiti it is time to roll up their sleeves and sing songs of freedom. Hope is coming to Ekiti.

http://guardian.ng/opinion/ekiti-time-to-roll-up-our-sleeves/

Published in Parliament

Destiny is not a matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.
-William Jennings Bryan American lawyer and statesman.

 
Moods come and go, but greatness endures.
-George H.W. Bush

The vote is the most powerful instrument ever derived by man for breaking down injustice.
– Lyndon Baines Johnson.

Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.
-George Bernard Shaw.

The next election is fast approaching as horse trading has started between registered political parties and individuals seriously interested in participating in one election or the other. Thus, it is an election year in which many winners and losers will emerge. Eligible voters must realise that the type of government they have in vogue is the totality of their decisions.

Australia is a country with the highest voting turnarounds in the world. This is because the country insists that voting is a civil duty of citizens and not just a privilege. Any voter who failed to vote during an election and without acceptable reasons pays a fine. I wish such an enviable principle is established in our constitution for every citizen to accept voting as a civil duty and not just a privilege. Thus, if you did not exercise your voting right, then you should be told to ‘Shut-up’ when you dare criticise the running of government or join the group of people who say ‘politics is dirty’ a statement credited to Woodrow Wilson, Ph.D, LL.D, 28th president of United States of America (1913 – 1921). We must remember that the candidates who win elections have the power to change your life by the laws that they pass during their regimes.

In the future elections, we must vote for people that are considered as honest, with moral visions, concerned with clues of solving our social problems and will not ‘eat the national cake alone’. It is always advisable to find more about political candidates from friends, neighbours, internets, newspapers, and so on, before voting for them. It is a known fact that politicians are completely different human beings when it comes to requesting for votes from people. Some of their campaign slogans and promises are full of deceits, lies, dirty tricks, slanders and insults, including character assassinations; with the intention of mocking their rivals, that they consider as political ‘puppets’ just to win votes.

They play fast political games and come out loose with actual truths while using different tactics to portray themselves and party in the best possible light, portraying their opponents as fools who will lead the country to political ruin if elected. They have enough and unaccountable looted funds to advertise themselves in local and foreign newspapers, television programmers, magazines and as well organized social gatherings for distribution of money with dubiously acquired resources while their political rivals are masqueraded as enemies of progress. By so doing, the morality of politicians is grossly debased while intense campaign of calumny blinds people for the purpose of votes catching.

At the end of votes counting, electorates will see different alignments cropping up. The tension for seeking votes has gone and politicians calling themselves different names are now sitting at both sides of the political table to dine together while the poor voters are neglected like a dirty pond and without further recourse for decision making. The next brazen item on the political agenda is corrupt political bargains and betrayals at the electorates’ expense. Unfortunately, we could hardly find credible alternative in a highly traumatised political setting like ours. When we examine the past records of politicians knocking at electorates’ doors for votes, they are bunched under recalcitrant group of those making unending and unfulfilled promises with enticing envelopes to buy voters’ conscience. With this political development in Nigeria, we must be sorry for ourselves and the nation at large.

We are rightly informed that political elections are the sure foundation of democratic society to provide legitimacy to the government. Also, they are meant to give reasonable opportunity to the entire citizens to participate in the democratic process. From the perspective of electioneering process and candidates’ eligibility (qualifications, nominations, dispute resolutions, etc.), involvement of electorates cannot be pushed aside in a jiffy.

Therefore, it is the right time that Nigerian electorates stop regarding elections as mere window dressing national affairs that do not deserve their attention or participation. When electorates ignore sensible reasons to cast their votes, criminally-minded politicians can make dubious arrangements to ‘stuff up’ election boxes with ‘ghost votes’ or jettison the actual results to announce dubiously motivated and overwhelming victory. Nobody has the will to fight after the ruling government is swept from power following a free and fair election. This is not only peculiar to Nigeria but also advanced countries. In Japan (where Democratic Party that held power from 1955 to 2009), the government was defeated by the opposition and that situation resulted to serious in-fighting. Similarly, there was an election dispute in United States of American when the Republican party (1861 – 1933) was replaced by the Democratic Party. This teaches us that voting during elections is the right of citizens to change their leaders.

Today, there are many angry Americans are or in the ‘near state of despair’ with themselves on the last presidential election in which president Donald Thump won. Even though Sir Winston Churchill once commented that “democracy is the worst form of government”, we were told that other forms of government that were tried before have not been better. It has shown that democracy “is not just essential but also noble, and in fact, worthy of our devotion.” The African American federal appellate judge once noted that democracy is “becoming, rather unbecoming than being itself. It can easily be lost and never was it fully won. Hence, the essence of democracy itself is the eternal struggle.”

Our voting pattern is not different from what obtains in other democratic countries. People sometimes vote for their preferred parties while others vote for personalities. It is a known fact that voting consumes time and money that do not come easily to many people. Hard earned money is never easy to ‘waste’ on elections. the consequence is that many unpopular candidates are presented for elections because they can raise required funds for sponsorship.
To be continued tomorrow.

Okunrinboye wrote from Washington D C.

http://guardian.ng/opinion/nigerian-election-as-basis-for-political-struggle/

Published in Parliament
Wednesday, 04 October 2017 00:12

By RAY EKPU: Does Buhari have it?

When the Union flag was lowered and the Nigerian flag raised 57 years ago there was a sense of euphoria. Many former colonies had to fight a war of independence in which many lives were lost but we were spared that trauma. So it would be fair to say that Nigeria got its independence on a platter of gold. But that gift was thrown away six years later. The war we didn’t have before independence we had it after: the Biafran war.

That war which lasted for 30 months and cost one million lives still haunts us today like an unscrutable mystery. At the end of that war General Yakubu Gowon had on Biafra’s surrender announced that there was “no victor and no vanquished.” He also established a three-pronged programme of reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction, as a way of bringing the war weary Easterners from the cold into the comfort of the Nigerian family again. The rebel leader, Emeka Odumgwu-Ojukwu, who had fled to the Ivory Coast remained in exile for 12 years. When President Shehu Shagari pardoned him he was allowed to return to the country without any pre-conditions. That gesture represented the final nail in the coffin of secession.

The Igbos who were the major victims of the war or of its cause in the first place have never felt convinced that they have been fully reabsorbed and their rights as full-fledged citizens of Nigeria fully restored. This argument has gone on for years and many Nigerians on the opposite side of the war are convinced that the Igbos having fought and lost a war could not expect to be treated as if they had won the war. War is a serious business that often comes with serious and dangerous consequences. In the political arena, the Igbos have produced a vice president, several Senate presidents, a Central Bank governor and a number of ministers that took charge of important portfolios. In the security sector, two Igbos had become the Inspector General of Police, while another Igbo man had occupied the strategic position of Chief of Army Staff. But many Igbos have argued that they have been denied the top trophy: the Presidency.

The Presidency is the top job in the land and many people from various parts of the country covet it. No one is likely to wrap it like a parcel with a ribbon around it and donate it to the Igbos. If they want it they must work for it by networking with other groups and doing the necessary horse-trading. However, I believe that their flirtation with secession through MASSOB and IPOB is clearly the wrong way to go. If the thesis is that an attempt, even a half hearted attempt, at secession will induce the political decision makers to donate the presidency to the Igbos it is a fraudulent thesis. In fact, on the contrary the agitation for secession will rather damage almost irreparably the case for an Igbo presidency. My advice to the Igbos is for them to begin to mend fences now instead of allowing Nnamdi Kanu and his gang to put a fly in the Igbo ointment.

The two major parties, APC and PDP have allocated the presidency to the North. If the Igbos choose to contest for the presidency in the PDP they will have to wait until 2027. But if they want to run in the APC they have to pray that President Muhammadu Buhari runs again in 2019 and successfully brings his second term to an end in 2023. If someone else from the North runs in 2019 he will go for two fresh terms which will terminate in 2027. But the Igbos can choose any of the minor parties as a platform but the chances for success on such party platforms are extremely slim. The starting point is to rein in Nnamdi Kanu and his gang and begin to build trust as they network with other political and ethnic groups in the country.

At present, Nigeria is in a state of confusion arising from agitations from different groups in the country. Old questions about the Nigerian condition have arisen and these questions are begging for new answers. The reason for the search for new answers is that the old answers have not been adequate in laying to rest the ghosts of these questions. Ours is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious community. In such a heterogeneous polity with several nationalities each with their own set of values and expectations, there will always be differences of opinion. The problem is often how to find many points of convergence and reduce the many areas of divergence so that all groups can find comfortable accommodation within the polity. As of now no group is certain that it has found its comfort zone. That is why we have several discordant tunes.

It is most unlikely that we can all agree all the time on all the issues that confront us and affect our lives. But we must understand where we all stand and where we all want to go. We must search for shared beliefs, shared expectations, shared goals and common grounds. We moved from centrifugalism instalmentally in the 60s into the extreme centripetalism that the military bestowed on us. This has brought a political gridlock that manifests itself in unpaid bills, new foreign and domestic debts, unsettled staff salaries and pension benefits, spiraling inflation, corruption, unemployment, crisis of rising expectations and high crime and many other dysfunctionalities. These have combined to put pressure on the country’s unity and sense of oneness. This has also made the search for a new direction urgent, very, very urgent.

A lot of things are wrong with our country and these are problems that have been with us for many years. A time like this offers us an opportunity for introspection. The World Bank says that about 67 per cent of Nigerians go to bed everyday on an empty stomach. That is a dangerous situation because a hungry person can become an angry person. Besides, there is a long unemployment and underemployment queue whose estimate is more than 25 per cent. That means that we all are sitting on a keg of gunpowder. The worst aspect of the problem is that the opportunities are shrinking further as factories close shop or trim their operations and show some of their staff the exit door. We have been told that the economy has made its exit out of recession but we need to stimulate it for optimal growth so that we can begin to experience some worthwhile improvements in no distant date.

Every year we go through the ritual of drawing up, presenting and defending the national budget. Most of the time these budgets are passed in the middle of the year. This means that there is often not much time for implementation before the year draws to a close. Then the ritual starts again without any information to the public on how much of the previous year’s budget was actually implemented. This year’s budget had experienced some hiccups which led to its late passage. Even when it was passed with all the padding that was done by the legislators no one was truly sure what was eventually approved by the executive. Isn’t there a way of reducing these uncertainties and the acrimony that reduce budgeting to the science of voodooism?

How can we make our governments work better so as to reduce the level of poverty, disease, ignorance, corruption, terrorism, cultism, infrastructural decay etc when the bulk of our budget, about 80 per cent, goes into recurrent expenditure? With only 20 per cent left for capital projects how much can we achieve to turn around a country with decaying infrastructural facilities? Pretty little. So it is clear that as a nation we are living above our means; we are piling up debts, foreign and domestic again, we are mortgaging our future and the future of our children. Our governments and parliaments are engaged in conspicuous consumption not minding the dire state of the economy and the poor state of its people. No one expected that at 57 Nigeria’s economy would be in the bind in which it is now considering our massive mineral and manpower resources. But it appears the presence of such solid and liquid mineral resources has unbelievably become a harbinger of doom, a disincentive to hardwork and creativity, a curse from which we have made very little effort to exit.

The little piece of good news is that there has been some encouraging happenings in the agricultural sector. If we do not take our eyes off the ball in that sector we may be self-sufficient in food production before 2019. That would be a good legacy for the Buhari administration and an indication that oil or no oil we can survive. And thrive.

Buhari is President at a momentous time in the annals of our country, a time during which the very existence of the country as a unit is being challenged once again. The nation expects him to be a great bridge-builder and unifier and one with a vision of a greater Nigeria. That vision demands that he rises above the din of ethnic and geographical irredentists and comes up with a life changing transformation agenda for Nigeria. That demands courage and the right dose of political will. The next two years will reveal whether he has them or not.

http://guardian.ng/opinion/does-buhari-have-it/

Published in News & Stories

IT was simply impossible not to empathise with the Minister of Education, Mr Adamu Adamu’s sense of indignation during the celebration of the International Literacy Day. In a moment of agonising self-indictment, he admitted that the number of illiterates in the country had literally hit the roof under his watch, being “between 65 million and 75 million.” The minister revealed this when he paid a courtesy call on Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State at the state capital, Birnin Kebbi, during the two-day International Literacy Day Conference organised by the National Commission for Mass Education. Represented by the Director of Basic and Secondary Education in the Ministry of Education, Mr. Jonathan Mbaka, the minister said that with the estimated population of Nigeria at 170 million, the number of illiterates was too high. He said: “Education is the bedrock of any country’s development and any country that does not educate its populace is bound to fail. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, we have a large population of illiterates; the figure, considering our population, is unbecoming.”

This dismal figure represents just a tad below 45 per cent of the country’s estimated population and that is alarming, to put it mildly. What makes the situation worse is the staggering figure of out-of-school children in the country, as the states from the southern part of the country have also joined in producing the league of illiterates. Even at that, the rate of school dropouts is also very high. Confronted by existential problems, children who were once enrolled in schools have been leaving schools to fend for themselves even when public schools have been failing to impart qualitative education to those who attend them. In other words, it may be misleading to assume that children enrolled in schools are getting educated enough to become assets to the country. Many of them are hardly benefitting from the poor and crude infrastructure and personnel in these schools and the government appears to be oblivious of the damning reality.

The situation is really a quandary. Rescue is a far cry away because if school leavers at different levels are regularly left despondent, desultory and without any gainful employment, it will be difficult, not to say impossible, to persuade others that attending schools is actually a good option. It would seem that the fundamental question of the philosophy of education, that is, “education for what?”, should be addressed by governments at all levels, as the notion that education is merely to access white-collar jobs is not really helpful after all. Equally unhelpful has been the practice of rampant, automatic promotion in public primary and secondary schools which makes pupils to write public examinations which they are not prepared for.

Governments at all levels should be single-minded about mass literacy, as opposed to having certificates for the purposes of employment. It is vitally important even for those doing menial jobs to be literate. We think that massive public education and campaigns are necessary in this direction. Of course, there are agencies of government saddled with the task of achieving mass literacy and encouraging adult learning, and it has now become imperative to assess their activities and impact on the people. The fact that some people do not have certificates should not mean that they are unable to read the prescriptions on their drugs or cross the road at the prompting of traffic lights.

The National Commission for Mass Education must register its relevance in terms of performance. Making people literate should be clearly separated from formal education. The commission should be able to draw the line and come up with programmes that will be accessible to both the old and young populations. A situation in which about 45 per cent of the country’s population are virtually illiterate should bother the authorities. We think that the way to go is to encourage people to go to school, adults for adult literacy programmes and the youth populations for regular education. The government should also equip the nation’s schools and motivate the teachers to make learning a delightful experience.

http://www.tribuneonlineng.com/nigerias-75-million-illiterates/

Published in News & Stories

By its very nature, a library is an indispensable resource of any institutions of learning. It is a collection of sources of information and similar resources, made accessible to a defined community for reference or borrowing. Before the (digital) big data age, a library consists of a building, room or virtual space where a vast array of information resources are stored and accessed for study. In its simplicity, a library is a basic necessity for schools and other educational institutions for the purpose of acquiring knowledge.

Which is why most functional, effective and result-oriented school systems always have library resources, which include books, newspapers, periodicals, maps, films, prints, documents, CDs, cassettes, videotapes, DVDs, e-books, audio books, databases.

The information and resources in a library could be limitless depending on the scale and purpose for which it was set up. Libraries could be organised and maintained by a public body, an institution or individual to serve the same purpose. 

But in Nigeria, there is nowhere citizens can actually turn to find good libraries. Only very few private schools maintain some semblance of good libraries. Public libraries in schools from federal to local government councils have disappeared. In fact, in the 41-year-old Abuja, the national library project is the most neglected project scheme in the central business district (CBD).

It is against this backdrop that a recent promise by the Federal Government to provide adequate funding for school libraries makes some sense. Somehow, it is strange that the issue of library is being treated as a separate issue from the decadent education system: the two are inseparable. Talking of a school without good libraries has been part of the reasons for the downward trend and absence of competitiveness in education here this newspaper commented on two weeks ago. Sadly, most schools in the country are in that quagmire.

That is why the government’s promise to fund libraries shouldn’t be mere rhetoric considering that there had been similar impromptu promises that were not fulfilled. Again, we are in a tenure midterm ambush when political leaders make empty promises to win public support for next elections. That shouldn’t be the case.

There are so many reasons this library revival project should not be a pipe dream. In the first place, most citizens as we often do here, have been concerned about little or no attention that governments at all levels pay to education. Specifically, all our institutions of higher learning are poorly rated in global and continental contexts. Yet, our students who go abroad for undergraduate and graduate studies are daily reported as beating world records in academic pursuits. The records should have been beaten at home in our schools. Nigerian power elite members usually travel abroad for even short-term skills acquisition courses in foreign universities that have some global brand equity. What is worse, when it comes to graduate employability index in global context, Nigeria is nowhere to be found.Even most of the private primary and post primary schools that are doing well here, there are foreign labels such as “British and Montessori Schools.” Just in the same vein, some of them are foreign missions such as Loyola Jesuit’s. Sadly, our public officers elected and hired to take care of these institutions get their wards admitted into these “glocalised’’ schools in the country. This is shameful and unacceptable.

Again, we would like to call on the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, who promised the library revival project during the 2017 National Readership Promotion Campaign, organised by the National Library of Nigeria in Abuja to be a promise keeper. Education is on the concurrent legislative list. And so, all the 36 states and 774 local governments that actually have more schools should not be left out. They should note that without quality education, there will be no development on any fronts. They should therefore pay attention, not only to the equipment of libraries, they should also equip the schools and teachers to have an all-round development in education.

After all, the event that set off the pledge for the revival of the libraries, had as its theme, ‘‘Working together to build a virile reading nation: Challenges and Strategies,’’ and was aimed at promoting reading culture in the country.

But it is hard to agree with the minister’s observation on the occasion that the present generation of Nigerians is to blame for the poor reading culture. What have the elders including the minister bequeathed to the present generation? Are the elders too reading to solve the problems of society? If the elders had had a reading culture, would all the libraries have collapsed?

Education administrators and policy makers should note that traditional libraries are not common anymore. What is in vogue is the development of virtual libraries known as e-libraries, which can be accessed from any locations through the Internet. That is the direction the world is going and Nigeria should not be left out. Governments and private proprietors should ask for experts who will help them develop some e-libraries while re-equipping the old ones where necessary. After all, it is said that, “a library is the great gymnasium where we go to make our minds strong.” But ultimately, there should be commitment to funding education in a radical manner that can deliver employable products of our schools for development.

http://guardian.ng/opinion/a-time-to-build-modern-libraries/

Published in News & Stories

A crisis of confidence has erupted in the oil and gas sector between the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Edmund Ibe Kachikwu and the Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru.

The minister also accused the GMD of awarding $25billion contracts without consulting either his office or the NNPC Board.

He accused Baru of alleged insubordination, lack of adherence to due process and running a “bravado management style.”

Kachikwu said he was being sidelined by the GMD and other heads of parastatals on major decisions and appointments.

He asked President Muhammadu Buhari to call the NNPC chief to order to ensure due process and transparency in the oil and gas sector.

He also presented five prayers to President to save the oil sector from collapse.

The minister said he was always blocked from seeing the President.

 

Published in Business and Economy
Tuesday, 03 October 2017 12:20

Cameroon internet shut for separatists

Internet services have been shut down in Cameroon's English-speaking areas after clashes involving separatists.

Security forces opened fire on demonstrators who were calling for independence at rallies on Sunday, killing at least eight people

A BBC reporter in Bamenda says the city is now in lockdown with no cars or people on the streets.

The authorities blocked the internet for three months earlier in the year amid similar unrest.

Main opposition leader John Fru Ndi told the BBC he believed that at least 30 people had died in clashes.

At least 50 people were wounded and about 200 arrested, reports say.

President Paul Biya, 84, has condemned the violence and called for dialogue.

Two dozen police in body armour, helmets, and shields walk down a street away from the cameraImage copyrightAFP
Police in riot gear patrolled the streets of Buea on Sunday

The divisions in the central African state date back to the post-colonial settlement.

Cameroon was colonised by Germany, then split into British and French areas after World War One and was eventually reunified in 1961.

Since then the English-speaking minority has always complained that it has faced discrimination.

Protests over the last year were prompted by the imposition of French in schools and courts in the English-speaking North-West and South-West regions.

Map of Cameroon

Sunday's rallies were held on the 56th anniversary of reunification of the country, with activists calling for the release of prisoners arrested in earlier demonstrations.

The BBC's Randy Joe Sa'ah in Bamenda says MTN, the country's biggest mobile-phone operator, sent out text messages on Sunday evening, saying it had problems with its internet connections.

But many suspect the internet is again being deliberately blocked by the authorities embarrassed by the protests.

Our correspondent says anyone caught out on the streets in Bamenda is being arrested and security forces are reported to be breaking into homes in Bafute, 20km (12 miles) north of the city, making arrests.

A study last week found that government shutdowns of the internet have cost sub-Saharan Africa nearly $250m (£186m) since 2015, undermining economic growth and affecting the delivery of critical services.

Published in Headliners
Page 9 of 11

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