The screening of ministerial nominees particularly the former Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi has drawn knocks and commendations from Nigerians. JONATHAN NDA- ISAIAH writes
The stage was set for a showdown between senators of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party( PDP) over the screening of former Rivers State governor, Rotimi Amaechi. Prior to his screening, the screening of the other nominees had not generated any controversy.
Amaechi is probably the most popular politician in Nigeria right now due to the debate that his screening has generated.
Popularly called the “Lion” because of his bold and fearless disposition and having fought and won many political battles, his celebrated battles with former President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife Dame Patience, are well documented.
As predicted by many pundits, the current Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, has deployed all the weapons to frustrate the screening of Amaechi. Stopping Amaechi’s screening will be seen as a personal victory for Wike and also a victory for the PDP, as Amaechi is seen as a personal favourite of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The PDP senators had vowed to stop Amaechi’s screening on the grounds that he has not cleared himself of the corruption charges against him. But political watchers view their opposition to his screening as political due to his spat with former President Jonathan and being the director general of President Buhari’s campaign organisation.
It will be recalled that Senator George Sekibo submitted a petition to the Senate against the screening of Amaechi which was referred to the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges for further legislative work.
Sekibo had in line with senate tradition , raised order 41 of the senate standing rules to make presentation of a petition from some of his constituents.
But the moment he mentioned that the petition written by a group called The Integrity Group from Rivers State was against Rotimi Ameachi, all the APC senators spontaneously tried to shout him down by shouting “No!, No!, Dead on arrival!”etc. with their PDP counterparts, firing back by shouting “allow him!, allow him!….”
The fireworks between senators across party divides over the petition continued when the Senate President , Bukola Saraki asked Sekibo whether issues raised in the petition against Ameachi are being litigated upon in the court or not?, to which the APC senators shouted “yes”, while the PDP senators shouted “No!”
Upon which he asked Sekibo to lay the petition before the Senate and forwarded it to the Senate Committee on Ethics , Privileges and Public Petition to look into it very critically and report back to the Senate.
The Integrity Group in the voluminous petition signed by one Livingstone Wechie, requested the Senate to reject the nomination of Rotimi Ameachi as a minister on the grounds of alleged corruption , criminal breach of trust , unlawful enrichment and conversion of over N70 billion Rivers peoples money when he served as Executive governor of the state between 2007 and 2015.
According to the group, details of the N70 billion allegedly stolen by Ameachi when he was the governor of the state, have already been forwarded to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission and other related offences (ICPC) for the needed investigation and prosecution.
The group added that all efforts made so far to recover or get Ameachi to account for or explain to Rivers people , the whereabouts of the over N70billion allegedly embezzled by him, have been resisted with impunity.
They further said that their move against Ameachi is neither with prejudice nor any form of political motivation, as being alluded to by mischief makers, saying “ we shall not relent and we will not stop at nothing to support the Nigerian Senate and the National Assembly in the fight against corruption , particularly in ensuring that anyone no matter how highly placed, is brought to justice.
“Our evidence and facts against Ameachi on afore stated allegations remain incontrovertible,” they added.
PDP, APC Senators trade tackles
LEADERSHIP gathered that the findings of the report divided the committee who were split among party lines.During the week,the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) senators after their meeting resolved to oppose the screening of Amaechi and it was alleged they even vowed to stage a walk-out if the senate decides to go ahead with the screening . However, Senate Leader, Ali Ndume dismissed the threats by the PDP, stating that PDP lawmakers cannot stop Amaechi’s screening.
Speaking to Senate correspondents, Senator Ndume insisted that the PDP cannot disqualify Amaechi based on triviality, adding that it must be based on constitutionality.
According to him the 8th Senate belongs to APC and PDP senators are in the minority. “We are practising democracy in a changed environment. That is to allow the minorities to have their say; but you know that the majority will always have its way. “
He said: “We have 58 senators, the Senate president excluded, and they have 48 senators and Amaechi is an APC candidate and the constitution is very clear. Until there is conviction, you are considered innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt by a competent court of law. Unfortunately, you cannot confirm or disqualify Amaechi, we are the only ones that can do that and PDP cannot disqualify Amaechi based on triviality, it must be based on constitutionality. “
On whether the report of Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges will decide Amaechi’s screening he said : let me add that the Ethics and Privileges report is not the determinant of Amaechi, it is the Senate. Even if they write their report, it has to be laid before the Senate which will decide on the report. It is not the report that will decide the fate of Amaechi. Whatever the Committee recommends to the Senate, it is the Senate that will decide.”
Fireworks in screening
After weeks of stalling, the Senate on Thursday screened Rotimi Amaechi, alongside four other nominees.
Amaechi’s screening was delayed after senators representing his state, led by Senator George Sekibo, wrote a petition against the ex-governor, accusing him of financial crimes. The petition was submitted to the Senate Ethics Committee for investigation.
The report of the Senator Samuel Anyanwu-led committee was laid before the Upper Chambers but the content of the report was not considered before the screening of Amaechi began.
This decision irked senators of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), led by the minority leader, Godswill Akpabio, who subsequently announced their decision not to participate in the screening of Amaechi. Their decision came after the nominee had concluded his opening remarks.
Rising on Order 43, point of personal explanation, the minority leader said: “The PDP senators and the caucus seated here will not have any questions for the nominee because we have just received the report on allegations of corruption and such and do not know the content because it has not been considered.”
He then went further to ask if that was the general decision of the caucus, to which they responded in the affirmative.
Following his announcement, the Senate leader, Sen Mohammed Ali Ndume, citing Order 53, noted that though the usual practice was to distribute copies of reports of committees to senators to peruse and make contributions to Thursday’s event was an exception since the report only had to do with a screening process and, as such, it is not compulsory to go through that process.
He then added, “I am glad you are not asking the nominee questions; so, as a former speaker and former governor, we can as well ask the nominee to take a bow and go.”
His statement was greeted with shouts from the opposition. Attempts by Senator Akpabio to rephrase his earlier statement was shouted down by members of his caucus who kept screaming ‘no, no’.
Senator Ndume then rose to further explain that his role as Senate leader made it his duty to “market” Amaechi to the senators, and added, “If you people that have been asked to ask questions don’t want to,” but he was cut off by angry voices protesting his reference to them as “you people.”
At this point, the Senate president, Dr Bukola Saraki, intervened and urged the senators to respect the practice of asking former members of the legislature to take a bow. He asked them to give Amaechi “what we have always given to those in the legislative arm of government.”
I was never indicted by a panel – Amaechi
Meanwhile, Amaechi denied that a government panel indicted him for corruption, saying the white paper released by the Rivers State government should be ignored.
He said, “I came here with a copy of the so-called panel report. There is nowhere that the panel indicted me; nor the government white paper. I am ready to tender this report before the Senate. I was ready for the questions on it and I brought the panel report so the Senate can juxtapose it with the white paper.”
While responding to questions from senators, the former Rivers State governor and former speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly, said his fight for more allocation of resources to the Niger Delta was hinged on the belief that “the resources are in the Niger Delta and they should have their fair share of the resources.”
Speaking on the issue of massive unemployment, he said, “Nigeria cannot continue to be what we are if we continue to rely on oil. For me, I agree with the president that there is the need to invest in agriculture. When we went to Germany, there were no natural resources that we met. If we invest in agriculture and technology, you will hire as many workers as possible. In the course of the campaigns, I discovered that in Borno, we saw water melon that grew naturally. If you plant just 100,000 hectares of water melon in Borno, you can be sure to engage more than 30,000 workers. You can do a similar thing around Kano and other parts (of Nigeria). (We have to) look at what crops can be instituted in which area and you encourage farmers with funding because the problem is the fund from the banks and the interest rate. So, government must invest in that regard.
“We must diversify the economy. Mining is another area that God has blessed us. And we also need to invest in education because some of these people are unemployable. We need to invest hugely on education. We did that in Rivers State. For four, five, six years, our budget was highest in education in Rivers State. So, if this happens, we will employ quite a number of workers.
“Secondly, we must improve on the social rights of the people. If you improve on the social rights of the people, there will be peace. If you have peace, there will be investors. You must have power (electricity). If you don’t have power, there will be no industrialisation. We don’t need rocket science in solving (the problem of) power supply. We should just look at what the problems are, remove corruption and invest in power. The reason why most people don’t invest in Nigeria is that the cost of production by far outweighs the benefits you will make from your business.”
Amaechi added that he had been in the forefront of the clamour against fuel subsidy, saying that during his leadership of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, he led a case against it because it was abused.
“The Governors’ Forum acted as a check to executive recklessness. We checked the excesses, including the expenditure of the oil subsidy. There is a case in court up until now stopping the federal government from drawing money from the Federation Account to fund oil subsidy because we believe that if we stop federal government from spending states’ and local governments’ money, the federal government will not be able to bear the cost and we, therefore, wanted to remove oil subsidy because of the level of corruption.
“The case is yet to be heard. The radical posture of the Governors’ Forum led to the former president asking me that I have turned the forum into a union, but all we were doing was to defend the rights of the people of Nigeria.”
Amaechi’s screening became the trending topic since Thursday on all social media platforms in the country. LEADERSHIP sought the views of some social media commentators.
In his contribution, Haruna Lawal posited that the governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike and his three senators fail to understand that by opposing Ameachi’s nomination they also have made him more popular, acceptable, loved and made the screening easy for the man.
Explaining further, he said, “In practice the senate can’t stop a nominee of the president except the nominee has a criminal case that has been established in a competent court or has shown crass lack of capacity during the screening, which in most cases is impossible.
“On this, Wike and co have failed to understand that it is not every battle he should fight, like the governors of Ekiti and Bayelsa did, they should have followed in that direction and probably would have saved their faces. The screening was not as explosive as it should have been as a result of all the activities of Wike and co. It’s over, we look forward to Ameachi’s performance.”
According to another political commentator, Bello Shuaibu, Amaechi screening should not have warranted all the hoolaboo it generated .
“Everything against him are mere allegations; no court of competent jurisdiction has found him guilty of anything. So why the noise? Local “Rivers State politics was just at play,” he said.
Raliat Ibrahim stated that the ministerial screening has been interesting and impressive so far, adding that the quality of questions asked by the senators and the responses given by the nominees is a pointer to the fact that the crop of political office holders that will serve Nigerians in the present dispensation have a direction.
According to her, with their impressive resumes, the nominees, if well directed, should be able to rebuild Nigeria.
On the controversy generated by Ameachi’s screening she said: “While the nomination of Rotimi Amaechi raised eyebrows and negative comments across board, with some seeing it as a form of compensation for his role in the emergence of Mohammadu Buhari as president, there is no doubt that he will contribute positively to the change agenda.”
“It is becoming clear that people are beginning to take a cue from Mr President’s disposition towards a better Nigeria, hence, the dedication and passion shown by senators, and Nigerians alike, towards the process of screening worthy individuals to man various ministries of the federation.”
States must rise to the challenges of the time. It is a call to duty and a clarion call to action, should they not be prepared for the challenge, they are likely going to be worse off than they were before the bailout loans. The Osun example provides a template that must be watched.
“Every adversity in life makes us bitter or better, every problem comes to break us or make us. The choice is ours whether we become victor or victim” – Anil Sinha.
Adversity can be turned into opportunities if only there is a determination to do so. As the quote above depicts, adversity has the tendency to bring out the latent talents which would have otherwise remained dormant in prosperous circumstances.
It is a thin line between people who make use of adversity and break records and those who breakdown due to adversity. Recessions generally occur when there is a widespread drop in spending. This may be triggered by various events, such as a financial crisis, an external trade shock, an adverse supply shock or the bursting of an economic bubble. At a point in time, the economy of most countries in the world were affected by a downturn, a period of global economic slowdown or declining economic output.
It’s no longer news that most states in Nigeria are seriously challenged and state governments up until now are finding it hard to meet up with their major obligations, including payments of salaries and pensions and embarking on capital projects.
For some time, the revenue accruing to states from Nigeria’s treasury have been dwindling steadily, owing to the glut in the international oil market.
The continuous decline in monthly revenue to states from Abuja on one side, and the fact that most of Nigerian states are servicing or repaying one loan or the other to service on the other hand, has called that states begin to look inward, from all angles, on how they can boost their finances to meet up with the obligations and challenges of paying workers’ salaries, running governments, and at least providing basic amenities to their citizens.
For Nigeria, the state of affairs at the moment is not new. The oil boom had given way to oil doom in the middle of the 1970s, as the glut in the international oil market sent the oil prices tumbling and crashing. With this came the fall of many economies, the Nigerian one inclusive. A mono product economy, an oil based country cannot withstand the shocks associated with global recession.
Several governments that have served the nation came up with different cushioning measures to salvage the situation. Alhaji Shehu Shagari as the President of Nigeria initiated a series of Austerity Measures and Stabilisation Policies in 1981.
General Buhari and Idiagbon in the 1980s introduced a comprehensive package of austerity measures, where it closed the country’s land borders for a period to identify and expel illegal alien workers and placed severe restrictions on imports and heavy penalties on smuggling and foreign exchange offences.
There was the regime of General Ibrahim Babangida that introduced the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) which promoted floating interest rates, the relaxation of the Indigenisation Decrees, control of the rate of growths of money supply by squeezing domestic credit, the placing of an embargo on appointments, the freezing of wages and a deregulated the economy in general. At the same time, funds to the educational sector was cut by about 35 percent, with schools closed or merged, subsidies removed from social services, petroleum and related products, and emphasis placed on regular debt servicing.
The present situation calls for toughness on the part of the states of the federation, “tough times don’t last, tough people do”. To stay buoyant, they must look internally on how they will steer the ship of their state through the stormy weather and land at a safe harbour.
Recently, the Government of Osun, in a bid to stay afloat in the face of the paucity of funds, has introduced some belt-tightening measures to cope with the current challenges posed by the development. The governor of the state, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, having brainstormed with the critical stakeholders, agreed that certain measures be implemented.
Some of these include the suspension of overtime allowances to workers; the creation of Osun Teachers’ Establishment Office, and the automatic conversion of University graduate teachers as Education Officers, while National Certificate on Education holders would be Education Assistants all over the state.
Other measures introduced by Aregbesola include certificate-based transfers and the diligent collection of Internally Generated Revenue to achieve an increase in the IGR of the state for government to meet its financial obligations to workers and the people of Osun.
The state holds that it is embarking on the measures to ensure its liquidity and safeguard the regular payment of workers’ salaries. Of course, the government’s suspension of the payment of the 25-35 percent overtime allowance being enjoyed by staff of some agencies of government are likely to be frowned at. But in the face of dwindling resources, what choices could open to the government in carrying on the basic duties of governance?
Under the new regime, only teachers deployed to remote towns and villages will continue to enjoy any form of extra allowances in Osun.
In line with these reforms, the governor approved the establishment of the state Teachers Establishment which would be responsible for the appointments, promotions, discipline and administration of salaries and allowances of elementary and middle schools’ teachers with district offices across the state for proper monitoring activities.
Osun also approved that the office of the Auditor-General for the State and Local Government, which shall henceforth verify the payroll of the entire workforce of government two weeks before the monthly computation of salaries by conducting visitation to all government offices.
Verifying the payroll every month is part of the measures aimed at cleaning up the payroll and removing ghost workers while staff verification will also help government do away with overstaffed personnel, eliminate laziness and idleness, block all avenues for embezzlement and leakages, and make government work.
Expectedly, the government of Osun may have drawn the flak for these bold moves but as in many of the initiatives it had bold-facedly engaged, the state wont have alternatives but to follow this track if it must survive the blowing wind of economic crisis. One of the major obstacles to development in Nigeria is the massive loss of revenues through corruption, tax evasion among others.
Other state governments should emulate Osun by trying to plug all leakages in collectible revenues and ensure full and transparent disclosure of same. It is in this light that the electronic payment of all revenues must be adopted if all forms of crafty means of state funds conversions are to be averted.
Under the new belt-tightening measures, the office of the Head of Service shall, in earnest, begin the collation of the names of officers in the core civil service and local government services with certificates in Agriculture, Medical Sciences and Education for immediate re-deployment to where their knowledge and skills would be relevant.
Agriculture was the mainstay of the country’s economy before the discovery of oil in Nigeria. The discovery of oil affected agriculture so much that people played down agricultural activities to the detriment of the nation’s economy.
Government at all levels must in earnest begin to encourage people to go back to farms. This development must focus on commercial agriculture with the establishment of different funds to revive some of the moribund agricultural programmes.
Again, electronic devices will be installed in all government offices and public schools, and every official of the state must be bound to check-in and out of their duty posts via these devices.
With this, workers must modify their approach from seeing a government job as mere social security to a profitable venture; not for financial gains but for the business of providing social services.
They must be production minded; the helpful force of every agency of government must be felt in its own area of assignment and responsibility.
In education, teachers products must be found to be worthy in learning and character; in healthcare, health workers work must be reflected in a healthy citizenry. In agriculture, it must be in guaranteed food security and expulsion of hunger. This is why I cannot agree less with the Governor of Osun when he spoke at the inauguration of the Hassan Sunmonu committee on the apportionment of revenues two weeks ago. To Aregbesola and to all right-thinking people, there must be real work to show for public work.
Government in all tiers must start measuring performances as they are entering into a period of adjustment where they must get much from little, and achieve more with less.
States must rise to the challenges of the time. It is a call to duty and a clarion call to action, should they not be prepared for the challenge, they are likely going to be worse off than they were before the bailout loans. The Osun example provides a template that must be watched.
THREE months after leaving office and amid accusations of misdeeds by his government, former President Goodluck Jonathan has said he worked with a great team.
Jonathan’s appraisal of his cabinent was contained in separate congratulatory letters to the new President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina; and the Vice-President of the World Bank, Ms Arunma Oteh.
Akinwunmi served as agriculture minister under the Jonathan administration while Oteh served as the Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Jonathan said Adesina’s appointment “attests to the fact that my administration had a good team that managed the affairs of the country.”
But the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, on Sunday, said it would have been disastrous for Nigeria if Jonathan had been re-elected in the March 28, 2015 presidential poll won by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Tinubu, in an article to mark Buhari’s 100 days in power, said Nigeria would have collapsed if Jonathan had won re-election.
In his letter to his former aides, Jonathan however celebrated his time in government.
To Adesina, he wrote, “Given your exemplary record of performance, while serving as the Honourable Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development in my cabinet, I have no doubt that you will deploy your energy and the bank’s resources to ensure that Africa experiences a new era of accelerated development.
“You were not only a critical voice in my economic team, you also walked the talk and earned the praise of our countrymen and women by ensuring that Nigeria’s quest for self-sufficiency in food production became achievable dream.”
The former President, in his letter to Oteh, praised the former SEC boss’ knowledge of capital markets.
He described her as being conversant with the challenges of the economies of emerging markets.
He stated, “I am delighted that you are going to your new job, fresh from the experience of having led the recovery and growth initiatives of the Nigerian Bourse in the wake of the decline, occasioned by recent global economic recession and financial crisis.
“This is a clear testimony to your capacity, high integrity, and tenacity of purpose. It is also a vindication of the decision of my administration to stand by you, believing in your abilities and competence, even when questions were being raised in some quarters over your choice.
“I am convinced that the experience you gathered as Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Nigeria gave you deep insights on how to tackle the peculiar challenges of a developing nation.
“The World Bank can draw from this to ensure that its future partnerships with emerging economies in Africa and other parts of the world are anchored on policies that will lead to sustained growth and development, which is a sine qua non for lifting millions of people in the developing world out of mass poverty.”
It will be recalled that the House of Representatives had in July 2012 asked the Federal Government to remove Oteh.
The lawmakers made the call in their adoption of the report of the House ad hoc committee, which probed the near-collapse of the capital market.
The report was debated and adopted barely 24 hours after the Federal Government recalled Oteh from the suspension slammed on her on June 12 by the Board of the SEC, which indicted her for mishandling the Project 50 of the commission.
The report faulted Oteh’s appointment as DG on the grounds that she was not qualified and that she lacked the competence to manage human and material resources.
But the Jonathan Presidency had said that the government’s decision to bring back Oteh was independent of the House decision and that due process was followed in her recall.
Tinubu, who is a former Governor of Lagos State, said the banking system and the entire economy would have collapsed due to the several acts of corruption perpetrated by Jonathan’s men.
He said, “Change means fighting corruption in all of its manifestations instead of consorting with it. No longer shall the public treasury, meant for the wellbeing of the many, be treated as the private reserve of the few. Nigeria is now 100 days into President Buhari’s leadership.
“I shudder to think where we might be had the prior administration been allowed to govern even 100 days more, let alone another four years.”
He said Jonathan’s refusal to intervene in the economic crisis in different states showed a lack of understanding of the economy.
He added, “By approving a package of emergency fiscal and financial relief, he (Buhari) has stopped the slide of numerous states into economic depression and imminent bankruptcy. By enabling the payment of back salaries to state government civil servants, he has saved millions of Nigerians from sinking into hunger and poverty.
“The former government should have taken these step months ago, even before the election. However, it let a bad situation fester into impending calamity. Had that government remained in office, it would have allowed the states to slide into bankruptcy, triggering a financial crisis that would have engulfed the banking system if not the entire economy.”
But the Peoples Democratic Party has supported Jonathan’s assessment of his administration, saying, “The former President has hit the nail on the head.”
National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Oliah Metuh, said that Jonathan’s assessment of his team and administration was based on evidence.
According to him, the international appointments given to members of the Jonathan team are pointers to the fact that those in the team are not only competent, but also capable.
He said that the achievements of the Jonathan administration were practical and could not be politicised and that they were evident in all sectors, including agriculture, economy and communications.
In his reaction, the Executive Secretary, Anti-Corruption Network , Ebenezer Oyetakin, said that Jonathan’s self-assessment was meant to achieve image redemption.
He said, “We should however appreciate Jonathan for conceding defeat. No doubt, someone like Adesina is an exceptional person among the former President Jonathan’s team. No doubt too, some others would be good persons in his team. The Jonathan’s letter to them, while we can see it as deserving and in good will to the duo, smacks of a desperate attempt at cheap image redemption.”
On his part, a United States-based activist, Smart Ajaja, described the assessment as an affront to Nigerians.
“Nigeria needs to be told the truth in very harsh and caustic language. This statement from ex-President Jonathan is an affront on the sensibility of Nigerians, taking cognizance of the crass corruption that dogged his presidency,” Ajaja said.
But Kayode Ajulo, a legal practitioner and Executive Director of the Egalitarian Mission Africa, said, Jonathan’s administration “paraded some of the best brains in the land as he also made some unfortunate appointments.”
“In fact, his team could be best described as a cacophony of personalities, an amalgamation of the good, the bad and the ugly appointees. Today, what should be of concern is the review of the gains and the mistakes of the administration and to use same to chart a new course for the Buhari’s new administration to ensure a better Nigeria,” he added.
Vice-President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo on Tuesday said the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration would soon commence giving primary school children free meals.
The vice president said the free feeding scheme was a core project of the Federal Government that would in turn yield about 1.14 million jobs and increase in food production.
Osinbajo said this at the 45th Annual Accountants Conference in Abuja.
He said the government would be investing more in the people, education and job creation.
Speaking on the topic “Repositioning Nigeria for Sustainable Development: From Rhetoric to Performance,” Osinbajo said that the multiplier effects of the introduction of the school feeding scheme would help to create 1.14 million new jobs; increase food production by up to 530,000 metric tonnes per annum, as well as attract fresh investments up to N980bn.
He said, “One of the most important interventions required in the education sector is capacity building to improve teacher quality.
“This programme is intended to drive teachers’ capacity development; boost basic education; attract talents to the teaching profession. Better educated population increases economic potential for productivity.”
“The All Progressives Congress has made a commitment to provide one-meal-a-day for all primary school students; that would create jobs in agriculture, including poultry, catering and delivery services.”
The vice president decried the high rate of employment in the country in spite of the fact that Nigeria had recorded high oil prices, Gross Domestic Product and foreign reserves during the previous administrations.
This, according to him, has made it clear that such figures, including a rise in revenue by itself, do not create jobs or significantly reduce poverty level in the country.
“So, why are most (of our people) poor despite rising revenues and GDP growth? Our main revenue earners, the extractive oil and gas economy, do not by themselves create many jobs. Such is the irony of a top-down economic model; when the major revenue earner is extractive and the value chain is poorly developed,” he argued.
Osinbajo also said there was need for the government to improve the power sector and have a one-stop shop for approvals of investments.
Other areas of focus in the Buhari economic plan, as espoused by his deputy, are innovation and fighting piracy; diversification of the economy in the areas of agriculture to achieve self-sufficiency in rice and wheat (staples) production; manufacturing; entertainment and technology.
On the power sector, he noted that “despite the challenges, there have been measurable improvements over the past three months (June to August 2015).”
He said, for instance, there had been a 26 per cent increase in operational generation capacity (June to August 15, 2015 compared to January to May 2015); decrease in pipeline vandalism, boosting of gas supply; and a 10 per cent reduction in transmission losses.
Other achievements in the sector, he said, included reduction in red tape to remove delays; blocking the 450MW Azura-Edo IPP and the 500MW Exxon Mobil Qua-Iboe IPP; and the imposition of a September 2015 deadline for the submission of the DisCos’ revised tariff trajectories.
The vice president said there was no going back on the Treasury Single Account policy of the Federal Government, saying the TSA would address issues of non-transparency, especially among revenue generating agencies.
He frowned at the activities of revenue generating agencies of government that did not remit funds into the Federation Account as and when due.
Sir, science capacity building is essential for effective long-term development of a nation. A recent research puts Nigeria’s scientific literacy below 10%. This is way below what is required in the 21st century. Yet, one must also admit that there is a high degree of cultural and religious misconceptions about Science. In most schools, teaching science has converted from exciting student’s curiosity to become thinkers, to a dictation of science stories, which many students often consider stories of magic, miracles or myth. These factors strongly hinder the curiosity of students to be open to new discoveries and enjoy the fascination and excitement in science.
I have previously written to you after your electoral victory about the need to change this trend by supporting and promoting science as one of the goals towards long-term national development (See http://leadership.ng/features/428456/a-letter-to-president-elect-general-muhammadu-buhari). Today, I write to reiterate on my previous propositions and to plead specifically with you to consider some qualities for your proposed Ministers for Health, Education and Science and Technology. To begin with, I belong to a group of continental scientists under the umbrella of TReND in Africa (www.trendinafrica.org), who since 2011, have voluntarily supported Africa, mostly Nigeria, with laboratory equipment, free summer courses for scientists and teachers, and science outreach programmes. I mainly belong to the outreach team, through which we have run dozens of school outreach activities, educated thousands of students in Nigeria and other African countries. I also did my studies up to the undergraduate level in Nigeria, and now doing my Ph.D. in Neuroscience in the UK. Hence, I am relatively familiar with the current state of our Education, Scientific Research and Health.
Sir, considering the significance of the education sector, your education Minister should be in-touch with the disparity between the education system in the West and Africa, have definite answer on how to minimize or tackle this vast gap; should be tough and ready to fight indiscipline and corruption. Evidence from our events shows that students readily respond to our outreach strategies and often asked questions that only future scientific discoveries could answer. This clearly demonstrates the curiosity within young Nigerians, which if properly utilised can ignite a generation of talented scientists. Let me also stress that scientific research to diseases has gone increasingly molecular, informing why in the West, young students are taught at the earliest stage about cutting-edge sciences. An obvious example is the case of Krtin Nithiyanandam – a 15-year old British schoolboy who recently developed a test that could diagnose Alzheimer’s disease ten years before symptoms appear.
This demonstrates the high level at which the system in the West grooms students to become thinkers at a very young age. Nigeria should be ready to develop similar strategies, such as the introduction of science fair project into our school curricula. With the support of the University of Sussex and Cambridge, UK Biochemical and Physiological Societies, TReND’s outreach team is set to launch a project through which selected primary and secondary schools in North-eastern Nigeria will get free microscope and low-cost equipment for measuring electromyogram in science teaching. Such approaches would potentiate the development of future scientists that can challenge the numerous scientific problems facing Africa. These equipment are affordable; nothing, therefore, prevents the education sector from ensuring that our schools are well equipped for hands-on science teaching. Another aspect bordering on our science is the emphasis on curricula theoretical rather than practical education from primary school to the university. This has to be modified by employing state-of-the-art approaches for teaching.
I have previously written on the dilemma of Discrimination, Inadequacy, Corruption and Sabotage (DICS) in the academia. Many institutions condone discrimination, corruption and sabotage in dealing with research funding made available to schools. Despite the TETFund intervention, evidence suggests that some schools have failed to provide the most basic subscription to online journals. Others have resorted to award research support only to family and friends. These have strongly affected the zeal of motivated scientists, setting back the little progress made. Moreover, the funds presently made available for research development in institutions are inadequate compared to what is obtainable in other places. Some modern day laboratory equipment needed to run standard experiment cost millions of Naira, while some reagents required for a single experiment cost hundreds of thousands. Hence, the success of standard scientific research is largely dependent on support fund. This need to be increased many folds and the way and manner of allocation should be through on time and rigorous unbiased peer review process. All these demand proficient, competent and trutsworthy representatives in the educational sector, who would recommend and guide robust policy decisions, while adapting to changes and reforms.
Sir, history has shown us that the advancement in science is a panacea to development in other sectors of the society. While we have many indigenous talented scientists at home and abroad, they need the right science infrastructure if their talents is to be harnessed towards nation building. A clear example is a recent phenomenal discovery made by the Professor Isa Hussaini’s laboratory at the University of Maiduguri. Hussaini’s team made an in-depth research which identified Nigerians medicinal plants that demonstrated strong anti-cancer properties in vitro, way better than the currently used cancer drugs. If they replicate their findings in animal and human trial, this would be a big boost to the reputation of Nigeria, considering that cancer is a notorious disease affecting millions worldwide. Sir, there is no argument to the fact that developed nations prioritize scientific research. The United States and the United Kingdom for instance invest billions of dollars towards research per annum. Nigeria needs a Minister in the science area that would be willing and would go the extra mile in listening to, and supporting ingenious scientists. Being that science is a multifaceted field, there is also a need to have science advisers that can provide guidance on different aspects of the discipline. These advisers should be selected not just based on their integrity, but their knowledge and experience, which can be easily accessed by their international publications, influence and contributions.
It is also important to draw your attention to the numerous challenges in Nigeria’s Health sector, the topmost being the absence of proper patient care facilities and lack of state-of-the-art equipment for diagnosis of diseases. The near absence of scientific research on diseases has exacerbated this problem. Hospitals are supposed to serve not only as beds for treatment but also as centres where significant research into causes and cure for diseases are done. This is a common practice in developed countries of the world, and I think we have what it takes to pursue and have same. Your recent policy initiative to convert some hospital to oncology centres is a commendable and promising step towards reforming the system. What is crucial now is for these centres to be home for intense research between basic and medical scientists in the quest to advance aspects that border on understanding the cause, management and cure of cancer. Furthermore, understanding diseases and finding cures is a collective effort between basic and medical scientists. The inherent rift between these two groups of professionals should also be tactically addressed in a way that conflict would be replaced with cohesion and harmonious working relationship. I have previously written about this unwarranted institutional discord (See http://leadership.ng/news/408473/rift-medics-asic-scientists-nigeria). The lamentable state of this is seriously affecting our health research, as it hinders collaboration between basic scientists and the medics. Respect and cooperation between both are important, as they must collaborate for any proper research to be successful. An obvious example is the cancer discovery made in the Isa Hussaini’s laboratory. Professor Isa Hussaini is a Pharmacologist, and his team is comprised of Medical doctors, Surgeons, pharmaceutical Chemists, Pharmacognosists and medicinal Herbalist. This indicates the clear benefit of collaboration, and why respect and collaboration between the basic scientists and the medics is imperative. Sir, I urge you thus to nominate a very competent, research-minded and reputable Minister in the health sector who is capable of mending this rift and support the upgrade of our hospitals and restore discipline in the system.
Sir, based on all these, integrity and patriotism should not only be the selection criteria for your Ministers in the Health, Science and Technology and Education sectors. Excellence, reputation and exposure to contemporary advancement across the globe should also be part of this criteria. I quote Christopher Bond who said “Advances in technology will continue to reach far into every sector of our economy. Future job and economic growth in industry, defence, transportation, agriculture, healthcare, and life sciences is directly related to scientific advancement.”
Mahmoud Bukar Maina is TReND’s Coordinator for Outreach, a Ph.D. Neuroscience Student at the University of Sussex, UK
Speculations are ripe and rife that no persons of Igbo extraction has scaled through into the incoming cabinet of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State. According to news reports culled from EMPOWEREDNEWSWIRE.COM and published by SUNDAY PUNCH newspaper today, a speculative list of 15 people (see below) has been released and going viral online.
Dr. Oluranti Adebule (Deputy Governor) – Ministry of Education
Mr. Samuel Ojo – Chief of Staff
Mr. Tunji Bello – Secretary to the State Government
Engr. Ganiyu Johnson – Ministry of Works and Infrastructure
Prof. Ademola Abass – Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment.
Mr. Folarin Coker – Ministry of Waterfront Infrastructure Development
Mr. Sulaimon Oriyomi (a.k.a Oris) – Ministry of Local Government and Community Affairs
Mr. Paul Kalejaiye – Ministry of Agriculture.
Mrs. Lola Akande – Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation
Mrs. Modupe Akinsola – Ministry of Tourism
Dr. Dayo Mobereola – Ministry for Transportation
Mr. Gbolahan Lawal – Ministry of Environment
Mr. Abdullateef Abdulkareem – Ministry of Home Affairs
Mr. Idowu Ajanaku – Ministry of Information and Strategy
Mr. Mohammed Kabiru
Ms. Ramotallahi Akinola-Hassan
Mr. Kazeem Adeniyi
Mr. Adekunle Salvador
Nobody from Government has confirmed the authenticity of the vagabond list, but insiders who chose to speak based on anonymity insisted special advisers were not included in that list yet and that the list is fake and yet to include some notable nominees.
Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, may announce members of his cabinet this week, SUNDAY PUNCH has learnt.
It was gathered that 15 names have been pencilled to head some of the 20 ministries in the state. The state Deputy Governor, Dr. Oluranti Adebule, will head the education ministry.
Adebule, who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Education degree in Islamic Studies (1992), also has a Master of Education degree in Curriculum Studies (1997), both from the Lagos State University.
Ambode, soon after his inauguration on May 29, had announced Mr. Tunji Bello as Secretary to the State Government; Mr. Samuel Ojo as the Chief of Staff; Mr. Abiodun Bamgboye as his Principal Private Secretary; and Mr. Habib Aruna as his Chief Press Secretary.
A source close to Ambode, informed SUNDAY PUNCH on condition of anonymity that barring last minute changes, a former representative of Ikorodu Constituency II at the state House of Assembly between 2011 and 2015, Mrs. Modupe Akinsola, may step in as Commissioner for Tourism.
Also, erstwhile Special Adviser on Central Business District to former Governor Babatunde Fashola, Folarin Coker, has been purportedly named to serve as Commissioner for Waterfront Infrastructure Development.
Similarly, another former Special Adviser (Rural Development) to Fashola, Paul Kalejaiye, is said to have been named as the incoming Commissioner for Agriculture. Kalejaiye, a two-time House of Representatives aspirant, was a prominent member of Ambode’s campaign team.
In the same vein, Mrs. Lola Akande, is said to have been named as the would-be Commissioner of the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.
Akande, who gave up her ambition for House of Representatives membership, served as Deputy Majority Leader in the Lagos House of Assembly, where she represented Ikeja Constituency II from 2007 to 2015.
The Managing Director of the Lagos Metropolitan Area Transport Authority, Dr. Dayo Mobereola, is believed to be the incoming Commissioner for Transportation.
The source also revealed that a former Senior Special Assistant to Fashola, Mr. Mohammed Kabiru, would be among the new commissioners.
Others said to be on the appointees’ list include two-time Special Adviser to Fashola on Works and Infrastructure, Mr. Ganiyu John (Ministry of Works and Infrastructure); former Senior Special Assistant to Fashola on Public Affairs, Mr. Idowu Ajanaku (Ministry of Information and Strategy); former aide-de-camp to APC National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Gbolahan Lawal (Ministry of Environment); and a former Special Adviser to Fashola on Political and Legislative Powers from 2007 to 2011, Mr. Abdullateef Abdulkareem (Ministry of Home Affairs).
The Chairman of Bariga Local Council Development Area, Mr. Sulaimon Oriyomi, also known as Oris, was also said to have been named as the Commissioner of Local Government and Community Affairs.
It was further learnt that a member of Ambode’s governorship transition committee, Prof. Ademola Abass, who is also a member of the Board of Trustees at King’s College, London, would head the Ministry of Wealth Creation and Employment.
Others said to have been considered to head ministries include a former representative of Amuwo-Odofin Constituency II (2011-2015), Ms. Ramotallahi Akinola-Hassan; erstwhile Deputy Director-General of Ambode’s campaign organisation, Mr. Kazeem Adeniyi; and a former Special Adviser to Fashola on Parastatals Monitoring, Mr. Adekunle Salvador.
The Adamawa Government on Friday announced that it had earmarked N200 million to engage prayer warriors to seek divine intervention toward ending the state’s lingering security challenges.
Alhaji Abdurahman Jimeta, Chief of Staff, Adamawa State, disclosed this in a media chat aired on the Adamawa State Television in Yola.
Jimeta explained that the money was sourced from the state and Local Governments joint account.
“We have earmarked N200 million for prayers to seek for Allah’s intervention in tackling the Boko Haram menace and other insecurity challenges threatening the stability of the state,’’ Jimeta said.
He said that part of that money, which would be spent as security votes, would go into assisting local vigilance teams and security operatives.
On agriculture, he explained that the state government had ordered fertilisers worth over N3 billion for the 2015 farming season.
He called for massive support toward the success of government efforts for a peaceful and stable Adamawa, adding that not much could be achieved in an atmosphere of chaos.
**Our government is people oriented. We won’t stop school feeding, free education” – Aregbesola
It was a gathering of representatives of every spectrum of the society, including traditional rulers, prominent indigenes, present and past government officials, leaders of formal and informal business unions, market women, students union leaders, opinion leaders, religious leaders, artisans, leaders of state civil service, civil society Organisations, Labour Union Leaders and all other relevant stakeholders in the
They all spoke frantically on issues bothering their minds, relating to governance generally in the state.
Chairman of the conference who was the first Secretary to the State Government and Head of Service, Chief Moses Inaolaji Abowaba said participants at the summit came upon their belief in the seriousness and commitment of the Aregbesola government. “For once we see somebody who is passionate about the development of Osun. We are here without any sentiment but because if anybody has done well we should acknowledge it, he said.
Mr Abowaba noted that governor Aregbesola demonstrated foresightedness by his action plans, through which the state reached curent level of development.
Governor Rauf Aregbesola who declared the conference open recalled that former governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola had earlier on broached the idea of a gathering where stakeholders would discuss development in the state. “That is why, when the idea was later suggested by our people from the House of Representatives I advised them to communicate with former governor Oyinlola as an adviser, Governor Aregbesola said.
He urged participants to discuss without any fear of intimidation.
He however cautioned against any fowl discussions. He added that the gathering was “another open forum where everyone should be free to say it as he sees it without any fear of intimidation.”
Summary of the deliberations was captured in a communique which was ratified by the gathering.
– That the infrastructural development of the State of Osun is essential, irrevocable and should go on without compromise within the limit of available funds.
– Government should evolve all possible policies and programmes by which the economy, hence revenue realisable by the State of Osun could grow.
– In the face of dwindling revenue from the federation account, all Osun people must resolve to collectively ensure that there is tremendous improvement in the internally generated revenue.
– All the people and businesses in the State of Osun must patriotically pay their taxes and rates before being compelled to do so.
– Loopholes in the way revenues are collected should be blocked.
– There is an urgent need to review the cost of governance particularly to ascertain accurately the Cost of the various components, salaries, allowances and overheads encompassing recurrent expenditure of the Government of Osun.
– There should be feedback mechanism on government policies and programmes so as to evolve prudence, transparency and accountability in fund management.
– Government should consider diversification of the state economic base. There should be an improvement in the on-going efforts in the area of agriculture, mining and tourism.
– Government should embrace Public Private Partnerships (PPP) where the State has comparative advantage especially in the Areas of Agriculture, Mining and Tourism.
– There should be more efforts at ensuring that government patronises more competent and efficient local contractors so as to create more wealth within the economy of the State of Osun.
– The state Public and civil Servants should cooperate with government with a view to ensuring efficient and effective service delivery.
– In line with the objective to revisit the cost of Governance, Government should follow up with the declared readiness of Labour leaders to allow verification and audit of staff strength in the state with a view to confirm actual number of workers and the salary bill.
– Public servants in the state should be motivated to work efficiently as would be expected of them while reduction in the use of consultants should be exploited.
– Parents through the platform of Parents Teachers Association (PTA) should be made to contribute token to augment the laudable free education policy of the state government.
– Government is commended on its efforts on growing commercial activity within the economy of the state through the micro-financing programme through the provision of soft loans to small and medium enterprises. Government is encouraged to do more in this respect.
– Commended Government for its various youth empowerment programmes.
– The conference commends the Osun Legislators’ Forum for its effort in organising and sponsoring this conference and enjoins them to make it an annual event.