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NDDC: As The Pandora Box Opens

In his hey days of superlative penmanship through the pages of the now rested ‘Newswatch’ magazine, the late Dele Giwa once wrote that Nigerians had become ‘unshockable’ in the face of daily cascades of imponderable developments in the public space which often defy reality. Given that he lived in Nigeria when the country was considered apparently saner than now by many, it remains a matter of speculation, how he would have addressed some of the new-age outrages and the current state of the nation.

With today’s routine playout of high caliber impunity in abusing public trust, what would Dele Giwa have said of the country? For instance, what would he have said about the rather outlandish scenario of a serving Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (name withheld), collecting as in trophy-hunting, as many as 300 contracts from the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC)? 

It is required by law that Senators and other public officers who are elected to serve full-time in the service of the country, should resign from any other full-time engagement, in order to concentrate fully on their designated duties. Hence they are accordingly remunerated.

How then could this contract-swallowing Senator been able to combine his functions as a Senator with the impossible task of executing such quantum of contracts, given all the due process imperatives that remain inherent in such an exercise. Yet this is just one of the several instances of brazen looting of the public largesse, which has been the rule rather than the exception in the operations of the agency, since its inception in 2000.

Crime busters know that one of the most effective ways to dismantle a crime syndicate is to set the members against each other. Given the course of recent developments in the Commission, many wonder if the crime busters’ scenario is not playing out in the NDDC. Not a few observers acknowledge a similitude in the few developments there.

For instance, there is a growing consensus that the Presidential marching order on the forensic audit of the agency, may have triggered a widely spreading state of unease among some of NDDC’s culpable beneficiaries of past and present scams. These include implicated former and current contractors as well as consultants. Others are staff who had compromised their positions to defraud the system along with accomplices on the outside.

And it seems that the day of reckoning is already claiming casualties in the establishment. Indeed, is the NDDC’S Pandora’s box about to be uncovered?

For instance, the recent revelation about the contract swallowing Senator, came to light simply as a result of an ‘uncommon shaking of the table’ in the agency.

Although the affairs of the Commission had traditionally attracted controversy at every turn, recent hike in public interest in the NDDC followed a spate of misgivings expressed in several quarters over the nomination of members of a new board for the agency. The situation led to a meeting between governors of the Niger Delta region with President Muhamadu Buhari, where they actually called for a change in the way the affairs of the Commission were handled.

In response, the President directed the forensic audit to precede whatever remedial action he would take in respect of the agency. However, even before the Presidential audit has fully commenced, the agency is once more living up to its billing as a cauldron of intrigues.

This writer had in a a previous article, called on the President not to be deterred by any delay from the run of the audit, but continue with whatever measure he deemed fit to execute in respect of the agency, and which the audit would not impair. Hence the screening of the new board members by the Senate could be seen to be in order.

However, before the conclusion of the Senate screening of the nominees, came a development where Godswill Akpabio – Minister of Niger Delta Affairs (where the NDDC is now domiciled from the Presidency) appointed a three-man Interim Management Committee, to take over the affairs of the agency pending the resumption of the newly confirmed board members.

Apparently implied in the brief of the Interim Management Committee is the conduct of the presidential audit exercise. Meanwhile as the public is still contending with the Akpabio intervention, the cascade of the Commission’s in-house scum started hitting the public space, with the tale of the contract swallowing Senator, in the lead.

While it may have been out of place for the recent dispensation of convolutions in NDDC to fester, the resultant effervescence is nevertheless, unearthing interesting secrets of the agency with positive value for public interest. The mere oddity of the convolutions, has unearthed the culpability of the contract swallowing Senator, with the promise of similarly exposing other culprits whose identities as well as nefarious activities in respect of the mindless rape of the Commission, may soon hit the public space.

The question now is, what implications will the present run of events have for the future of the agency, especially in respect of the concern of the region’s governors as well as the various dispossessed communities there. This consideration qualifies for as much attention as can be mustered over it. After all, this is Nigeria where disorder often trumps over order in defining trending circumstances in the public space.

For one, the situation signposts the onset of a fresh round of power play, the vey syndrome that brought the NDDC to its ignoble degenerative state which requires the presidential audit and subsequent surgery. In the present circumstances, the Minister Akpabio intends to hold the driving seat firmly and may have proceeded to isolate and eject interests that reflect present or future hostility to him.

Incidentally, protests have come from some circles over Akpabio’s appointment of the interim management of NDDC even as the statutorily designated and now confirmed board designates are billed to resume. So offended are some of his critics that they have called for his sack by President Buhari.

Incidentally that too may not happen soon if it is the Buhari of present day Nigeria.

Hence Akpabio may remain to call the shots in NDDC for some time to come and as the beat goes on. Meanwhile this is a prayer for more shaking of the table and equally more revelations from the NDDC’s Pandora’s box please…

Courtesy Daily Trust on Sunday.

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Time To Listen To Gen Buratai

It’s time the country listened to its Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Tukur Buratai. The General has time again complained that his soldiers were increasingly being called upon to engage in purely police duties. He wished that it were possible to get the police to relieve his men of these out-of-line duties. Hat way; his men could then be re-deployed to critical military assignments for which they were best trained.

The indication now is that Gen Buratai is not alone on this matter. Not long ago, a panel of highly placed elder statesmen and eminent personalities put together by the peace NGO of former Head of State, Gen Abdussalam Abubaka, vindicated the army chief.

The panel included retired top army generals, career diplomats, civil servants and other intellectuals. For two days, they brainstormed on how to sustainably tackle the challenges of insecurity in the country. Their verdict: the military, especially the army, should stop performing police duties.

Then enter Alhaji Lawal Bawa, a retired assistant inspector general of police. In an interview with the “Daily Trust” edition of edition of June 30th 2019; he was asked what aspect of police duties he would want reviewed. His response: “I am not happy that able policemen are being sent to become orderlies to politicians. That should be changed. The politicians use them as orderlies. That should not be”.

His question remains pertinent: “Why should elected officials need protection from the very people they say elected them?” if that does not shake you, what about this?: “Today, you see Even Criminals (caps mine) applying for police orderlies”. “I think that shouldn’t be and policemen should be allowed to do their job”.

It is clear that Gen Buratai, Gen Abdusswalam’s panel and Alhaji Bawa, all have one mind, and it is firmly bent against the “policecisation” of the military, especially the army.

In addition to guarding top politicians and highly placed government officials, you will find soldiers and policemen guarding companies and top company executives; some private educational and religious institutions, even palaces. You are also familiar with them as escorts to fuel tankers, sundry goods trucks, revenue task forces etc. and, as noted by Alhaji Bawa, you may even have heard of them providing security for some alleged heads of cult and criminal gangs.

Not done yet, you also have them manning check-points either alone, on in a mix of personnel under the name “joint task force” (JTF). This is where the soldiers come into close contact first, with their police counterparts, and secondly the public at large.

Now, if you ask me, the involvement of soldiers with their police counterparts in joint assignments, especially check-point duties, is probably the worst thing that has befallen the army. Why! Before our very eyes, so to say, we see the hitherto very disciplined, no-nonsense soldiers outdoing their police colleagues in abhor able petty knavery at check points!

It was so saddening watching them at check-points extorting N100, even N200 from hapless motorists. Public outcry and strident condemnations kind of jolted the military command headquarters. It is to their credit that the command headquarters raised to the occasion. They installed signboards at some army and JTF check-points urging victims and witnesses to report any extortion to the commands through the stated GSM numbers.

That, somehow, appreciably reduced the extortions. It did not stop it entirely though. But the damage had already been done! The extortion virus contracted by some of the soldiers from their police colleagues will take some immunizing t get rid of completely and restore their lost professional integrity for which they were held in high esteem. For the policemen at these check-points, they will need to reassure the public that they too still have professional integrity of some sort to be restored.

Now, how about the sheer number of policemen and soldiers deployed to checkpoints along some major inter-state highways? First, the check-points here in Rivers State for instance, there are three major inter-state highways: the East/West (PH-Warri), Port Harcourt-Owerri and Port Harcourt-Aba highways.

On any of them, the first two especially, you would before now, find as many as five check-points within a two-kilometer distance. Many of them were within stone-throw or shouting distances from each other. And whether they were manned solely by soldiers or by JTF, you would find at least, five of them at each check-point.

In such massive presence deterred the criminals that operated along those highways, it would have been bearable. But they didn’t. The criminals still operated as if there were no check-points.

In addition to all these, you have a situation where a National or State House of Assembly member or top Government official visiting his constituency or home with as many as three to four Hilux convoy of well armed police, military or JTF squad.

For the greater interest of the country, we can do without this gross abuse of our mainstream security agencies. It is time Federal and state Governments mustered enough guts to end this misuse of soldiers and policemen. With the obvious exception of the President, Vice President, Senate President and his deputy, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of the Country, Governors and their Deputies, the rest top government officials should look elsewhere for orderlies.

Properly trained and equipped, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps can fill the gap left by the policemen and soldiers, even though the corps is locked in mortal combat with all manner of sundry criminals and bandits bent on sabotaging the country’s economic infrastructure especially in the oil industry.

A second option is the private security organizations. Already, some business organizations such as commercial banks are patronizing private security firms. Such massive patronage will boost the private security industry thereby enhancing the country’s overall security blue-print.

Besides, a bustling private security business will be the necessary incentive for our retired and retiring top police, military, DSS officers plunge into it. And why not! Many are already engaged in non-security ventures like agriculture, marine and transport etc.

Come to think of it, private detective business is largely unknown in our clime. With good incentives and assured patronage, the business could flourish. Before long, private security training and educational institutions could add to our existing ones.

If the recent order to the military, especially the Army and the Air Force, to quickly wrap up the North Eat war is to be successfully executed, then there is every need to give immediate ear to Gen Buratai’s call for his men to be relieved of police duties as a matter of urgency.

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Another Opportunity For Fashola

When he emerged as the favourite of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, then incumbent governor of Lagos State, not many persons gave Babatunde Fashola, a chance. But he soon became governorship candidate of then  Action Congress (AC) in 2006, and eventually the thirteenth governor of Lagos State.

Subsequent to his outstanding performance as governor of Lagos State and as an intensely loyal party supporter, President Muhammadu Buhari appointed him minister in 2015. He was put in charge of the ministry of power, works and housing, a task considered too daunting for one person to take on. Consequently, his debut performance fell below par.

Surprisingly, the former governor was one of 14 ministers from Buhari’s first term who were reappointed last month by the president for his second term administration. During the official inauguration of the 43 ministers on Wednesday, August 21, 2019, the president announced that Sale Mamman would head the ministry of power.

Regardless, Fashola still held on to the ministry of works and housing, with Abubakar Aliyu declared as the minister of state for the ministry. With this appointment, Fashola has been divested of his three-in-one portfolio which weighed heavily on him and was responsible for his lacklustre accomplishments.

As works and housing minister, he will certainly be faced with challenges one of which is to give careful attention to housing and construction of roads in his second ministerial journey. Housing provision and road infrastructural development suffered a huge setback in his last tenure because of his focus on power.

With the timely eradication of power from his schedule, the former Lagos State governor will no longer be extenuated if he fails to strategise better and devote more energy to his assignments and facilitate the completion of many of the major road projects in the country.The truth is the lack of early and regular maintenance of our roads have increased accident rate and elevated criminal activities nationwide. But beyond the completion of roads within appropriate time, a new innovation in financing road development projects is long overdue.

Equally critical is housing. This sector under Fashiola’s watch deserves special attention. It is time the federal authorities considered seriously getting involved in social housing which is the global trend. If this novel development is put on ground, substantial impact by the ministry will be made on Nigerians.

Addressing the issue of allocation of houses to beneficiaries to undermine the activities of speculators who profiteer and sabotage the process is imperative. Also, Nigerians deserve a functional mortgage to enable them to take up space in housing schemes across the country.

Since after Buhari’s re-election in March this year, some Nigerians and real estate experts have been clamouring for the separation of the ministry of power, works and housing to enable the government concentrate on the three critical sectors of the economy. With a partial disengagement done, it is expected that issues in the sector will be addressed.

The combination of the three huge sectors into one ministry was one of the biggest mistakes of the Buhari’s administration’s first tenure. Following the error, obstacles in the sector, especially housing and roads, were inadequately undertaken.

But with the imperfect unbundling of the ministry, the construction industry will benefit since its initial encumbrance has been taken away. If things will be done properly, now is the time for Minister Fashola to take stock of all federal road projects and housing schemes across the country and give them the mandatory consideration.

Those uncompleted housing estates in the country may now be built. We need to give necessary publicity and professional involvement to those projects that are unknown to professionals in the industry. Thus, the structural conditions of houses in the various housing schemes have to be examined. Some of them are of low quality such that when occupants move in, they are faced with early maintenance crisis.

The predicaments of housing and construction industry in the country seem so complicated or compounded that they defy conventional approach. Deep ratiocination and strategy might not solve them except through a radical means that will require a strong political will which one is certain Raji Fashola might want to demonstrate to justify his undeserved second chance.

Alalibo lives in Port Harcourt.

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Mbeki And The Xenophobic Choir

Recent statements by former South African President, Thabo Mbeki, denying the targeting of Nigerians and other Africans in the latest wave of xenophobic attacks in South Africa, should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with his career as a public administrator.

As a leader, Mr. Mbeki has a long and tragic history of denialism. His standard reflex in moments of crisis was always to bury his head in the sand, while reality hovered perilously all around him.

Throughout his time as President of South Africa, Mr Mbeki strongly denied the existence of HIV/AIDS, and used every State institution to frustrate or stop the sale and distribution of antiretroviral drugs to HIV-positive South Africans.

As part of his so-called ideological battle with “Western” science, Mr Mbeki alarmingly prescribed the consumption of “African” beetroot to those ravaged by the AIDS epidemic.

The disastrous toll of Mr Mbeki’s intransigent AIDS policy on the fabric of South African society is still the subject of research and tabulation by experts around the world.

But according to a 2008 report by researchers in Harvard University, Mr Mbeki’s antiretroviral denialism led directly to the deaths of over 300,000 HIV- positive South Africans.

The report also found that 35,000 HIV-infected children were born during the period in South Africa, because Mr Mbeki rejected vital drugs that could have prevented mother to child transmission of the disease.

As South Africa erupts in yet another xenophobic violence, Mr Mbeki is back to lead the choir of deniers.

As someone who attended and taught in South African universities for the better part of a decade, I can say without a doubt that not all South Africans are xenophobic.

But there is an increasingly virulent strain of xenophobia in sections of South African society that is impossible to ignore. It is visible and dramatic enough in the streets of South Africa to cause a sense of moral panic.

Rather than confront the problem, Mbeki and other leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) are staging an escape from this unglamorous truth about South Africa.

For those who may be genuinely confused about the dialectical meaning of “xenophobia” in the context of the latest attacks, let me explain.

It simply means that there is an identitarian dimension to these killings and attacks. Foreigners (particularly Africans from other countries) are killed and their shops looted because they are foreigners in South Africa.

So these are not ‘general’ crimes, there is a clear particularity to the killings. Foreign Africans are the target, because they are seen as a “problem”.

A sub-set of this xenophobic sentiment is the “criminalization” of the Nigerian identity. Mr Mbeki actively promotes this dangerous stereotype by referring specifically to “Nigerian drug dealers”

But there are South African, Tanzanian, Namibian, Zimbabwean, American, Pakistani, and other drug dealers and criminals in South Africa. Why not fight criminality through vigorous intelligence gathering and convictions in the courts?

Why is Mr Mbeki endorsing the hateful and indiscriminate jurisprudence of the streets?

In addition to his chronic denialism, Mr Mbeki seems to have also lost his sense of irony.

As anti-apartheid refugees, Mr Mbeki and many of his ANC colleagues lived in Nigeria for many years, and were supported with State funds. Mr OliverTambo, the leader of the ANC at the time, traveled around the world on a Nigerian diplomatic passport.

The truth is that South Africa owes Nigeria and the rest of Africa a moral debt that it can not repay.

As the Buhari administration considers its response to the plight of Nigerians in South Africa and elsewhere in the world, it must resist the temptation of cheap or violent reciprocity.

Nigeria’s best response must be to finally rise to the challenge of building a just, equitable and prosperous nation.

Dr Tam-George, a former commissioner for Information, Rivers State was a Lecturer at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

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Revolution, Change And Democratic Leadership

In all the years that President Buhari sought to be president, he was engaged in one form of protest or the other. As a matter of fact, his running mate in the 2003 elections, Senator Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, allegedly lost his life after one of the rallies organized by the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) where they were said to have been tear gassed by the Nigerian Police. The party went to court and it was held that Nigerians have the right to protest and that police permission is not required. In 2014, Buhari alongside other prominent members of the All Progressive Congress, protested against the security situation in the country.

Since his emergence as president, things have gone different. Nigerians have had to endure hardship under his watchful eyes. For a man who sought to be president three times, before clinching it at the fourth attempt, it is disheartening to see things go so bad considering that he rode on the back of change. Today, many of those who supported him to emerge as president, are either his worse critic or have chosen to be indifferent.

During his inauguration in 2015, the president said he belonged to nobody and to everybody. Many Nigerians celebrated. They were however, to know the import of that statement; that the president “no send anybody or anything” like they say in pidgin. Despite the lamentations of the people, things are still the way they were even worse. The promised change that brought the government seemed illusive.

Months after being sworn in for a second term, there are no signs that the next level would be different from the change mantra. As a matter of fact, the next level may actually be worse; and some Nigerians, tired with the state of affairs, called for protest, although tagged a revolution. What did government do? They sent officers of the DSS in the dead of the night to arrest the leader, Omoleye Sowere. Will a government that has kept faith with the people and delivered on its campaign promises be jittery of any protest? Their argument is that he called for a revolution which is a treasonable act.

But President Buhari was a chief protagonist of a revolution. As recently reported, during the Arab Spring in Egypt, Buhari through his spokesperson Yinka Odumakin, in 2011, praised the Egyptian revolutionaries and called them “the forces of change”. He also praised the Egyptian army for not allowing themselves to be used to duly thwart the forces of change. He then went on to say “the time has come for our own security forces to demonstrate similar valor by putting national interest above that of individuals when there is a clash between the two”.

The way the police clamp down on protesters and the manner in which the SSS picked the leader of the #RevolutionNow, one cannot but ask if the president means what he says?

The scuttled #RevolutionNow protest by security agencies was clearly undemocratic. Nigerians these days, feel trapped inside an Orwellian reality. Moreover, if the government is confident, they should not get away with their delusions that Nigerians ignored the protests because they believed in the promises of the present administration.

It is the belief of many that democracy should guarantee good life. A stable democracy piloted by visionary leaders see issues in their broader and more complex perspectives.

Instead of Nigerians to forget the hardship experienced during the military era, hunger, diseases and ignorance have become the lot of citizens under our democracy. Life has become a thing to endure rather than enjoy. Or how else could we call the brutality of journalists at the #RevolutionNow protest; the Fourth Estate of the Realm has become a punching bag for the police and other security agents.

This kind of rascality has no place in a democracy. Dragging journalists on the bare floor by police is uncivilized, and against the rule of the law. In a democracy, journalists need to be accorded more respect and enough regard by security agencies. A responsible government with professional police must know how to separate protesters from journalists, even though protesters do not deserve that kind of treatment from our security agencies.

That people were willing to come out and protest against this government after completing four years in office, and three months after assuming a new mandate should make the president carry out a deep introspection, considering that many would have gladly laid down their lives for him four years earlier. Sadly, the body language of the president speaks loud and dashes many hopes that any lessons are being learnt as we continue to struggle to make meaning of our democracy.

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On Implementing Salary Increase For The Police

President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress, (APC), made several promises to the electorate when they campaigned for the 2015 general elections. The promises contained in the APC manifesto and other campaign materials were public documents.

In the highly competitive election that post-dated the campaigns, Buhari defeated former President Goodluck Jonathan. Many Nigerians were elated by the euphoria that followed the victory believing that the “messiah” that would take them from the woods to the “Promised Land” had arrived;  that the ’change’ which he and his party promised would certainly transform the country.

Soon after the inauguration of the APC government, its former National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, told Nigerians to hold the party accountable if promises made were not fulfilled and the chairman’s declaration was published in some national newspapers.   It was for that cause the PDP once advised the federal government against issuing any New Year message to Nigerians since they had not fulfilled any of the promises contained in their previous messages.

According to the Peoples Democratic Party, Nigerians had become overstretched by what it called “litany of woes” visited on them in the last few years by the APC government and noted that “it would be the height of callousness” for the party and its government to “spew another round of propaganda and false hope” in the name of New Year messages.

However, one pronouncement by the president that is too important to ignore is his promise of an increase in the salaries and allowances of men of the Nigeria Police Force. Several months after that promise and approval, members of the force are yet to receive a pay rise. The directive has yet to be implemented going by complaints by the rank and file over the continued receipt of old salaries since November 2018 when an enhanced salary structure was supposedly approved for them.

By the approval of the Rank Salary Structure Adjustment, salaries, allowances and pension of policemen were expected to be increased though the percentage of the increment wasn’t disclosed. This pawn can best be illustrated as a hollow promise.  The deferred accomplishment of the presidential directive only demonstrates how the federal authorities deal with the welfare of the police.

No doubt, the non-implementation of the new salary structure has unnerved many, if not all members of the police force. The question is if the pay rise was meant for the political class, would it not have been implemented within weeks? Wouldn’t the president face impeachment threat if he failed to enforce it?

It is unfortunate that the government would hastily pay the furniture and car allowances for members of the National Assembly while ignoring the police who are maimed and killed daily for our sake.   Low remuneration has long been identified as one of the reasons the police compromise on their sworn duties to enforce and uphold the law. Therefore, an increase in their salaries and allowances would go a long way to discourage such misconduct.

Remember, the non-implementation of the pay rise clearly demonstrates the questionability of the much-touted commitment to national security by the regime. Of course, it is an indictment on the often-avowed dedication of the federal government to end the insecurity crises in the country.

It is imperative and urgent that the president understands he cannot run hot and cold on this matter. He cannot be pledging to end insecurity on the one hand, and, on the other hand, subject those who would bring about the attainment of such a promise to abject penury and deprivation.

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Governors Should Do More About Security

Pending when our practice of federalism gives us the courage and political will to empower the states to operate their own police and security outfits, there is a need for state governors to rise up with greater resolve and creativity to deal with the issue of insecurity in their various jurisdictions.

While some states may be seen as being more peaceful than the others, there is no state in Nigeria that is not suffering from the challenges of crimes perpetrated by kidnappers, cultists, pirates (in the coastal states), oil bunkerers and pipeline vandals in addition to the menace of armed herdsmen which remains the nation’s greatest threat after the Boko Haram/Islamic State in West Africa Province, and Islamist terrorism which still holds the North by the jugular.

It is dangerous to leave all security challenges at the doorsteps of the Federal Government as  the current security architecture centrally anchored by the Federal Government has repeatedly failed to secure Nigerians.

It was for this reason that most state governors since the days of military rule spend  humongous security votes to purchase a wide array of security equipment including  patrol vans, communication gadgets, arms and ammunition, gunboats, bullet-proof vests and special welfare packages for the various special anti-crime squads for the Police, Army and in some instances, Navy to help checkmate activities of criminals in their states.

It is difficult to imagine the state our security would have fallen to if the governors had completely allowed the Federal Government to fight insecurity nationwide from Federal budgetary allocations alone.

The logic of the central command of our security architecture can no longer hold water in a modern Nigerian society beset by poverty-related crimes and prowling foreign agents of terror and destabilisation. If it worked during the military era when life was better and the society had not lost its innocence, it can hardly work in today’s globalised arena.

Every stakeholder in the system must be allowed to play their respective roles to promote the security of lives and property of everyone irrespective of their stations in life.

THE first and overriding article of public interest in governance is the security of the citizens. Section 14(2b) of the 1999 Constitution as amended) states: “It is hereby accordingly declared that: the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government”.

We have three tiers of government; Federal, State and Local Government. For the security architecture of the country to be arranged in such a way that only the Federal Government feels entitled to usurp the exclusive power to command the apparatuses of security in the country is asynchronous with constitutional democracy.

It is an enduring offshoot of our military past which we have continued to practice to the detriment of the security of lives and property of our people. The same warped thinking is responsible for the situation whereby the Governors are described as the “Chief Security Officers” of their states, yet  do not have the power to deploy the Nigeria Police or possess a State Police they can deploy when the security of the citizens in their state is threatened.

The danger is that whenever the Federal-controlled Police decide to play their roles in a partisan manner the security of a section of the citizenry is compromised.

Many state governments have struggled against the odds to create security outfits through the legislative instruments of their state assemblies to tackle security threats.

In Abia and Anambra states, the Bakassi Boys (which grew out of communal efforts) were transformed into vigilante services and went far in curbing crimes.

In Kano, the Hisbah outfit was created to implement the Sharia Laws enacted by the State Assembly. Also in the North East (especially Borno State), the Civilian Task Force (Civilian JTF) was created to assist the military in the anti-Boko Haram war.

In many South-Western states, governments have quietly worked with non-formal organisations to provide security. Lagos state has a neighbourhood watch scheme. The attempt to establish same in Rivers state has suffered frustrations.

All the efforts were attempts by pro-active governors to take primary hold on the security of their states pending the intervention of the Nigeria Police (and sometimes the Army). More of such efforts being made across the board will be a welcomed development.

The ultimate task however, is to amend the Constitution to redefine and share security powers and responsibilities among the federal, state and communal entities taking cognizance of the individual’s right to self-preservation.

The governors should continue to lead this agitation, and the Nigerian people are right behind them. This is what security in a democratic society is all about. This is the only way that Nigeria can truly be secured.

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WAEC Rankings On Rivers Vindicates Wike

As a Former Minister of State for Education and later Supervising Minister of Education, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike knows the right techniques and routes towards improving the education sector of the state.

From 2015, when he took over as governor of Rivers State, he has tactically approached the challenges in the Education Sector with a view to addressing the deep rot he inherited from the failed immediate past APC Administration in the State.

The WAEC rankings for Rivers State since 2016 shows the improvement in the quality of investment in the Education sector. Ordinarily, the Rivers State Governor continues to work on the system quietly, without emphasising the sustained improvement achieved.

The fact for the sustained improvement is emphasised by this data on Rivers State position on WAEC ranking for the 36 states and Abuja: 2016— 4th, 2017— 2nd, 2018— 4th, 2019—-4th. The facts speak for themselves. In Rivers State, Governor

Wike has prioritised education because it is the best legacy any Administration can leave for future generations. With a high percentage of investment in basic and senior secondary education by the Wike Administration, Rivers State can only remain among the top states in WAEC Ranking.

Though opposition elements are unwilling to accept the reality of the strategic sustained growth in the education sector of Rivers State, the 2019 WAEC Ranking is a confirmation that the Wike Administration is on the right track.

Over the last four years, educational facilities in 23 Local Government Areas have been developed and equipped. More schools have been slated for reconstruction by the Rivers State Government. They will be equipped for functional learning. These schools are spread in all the 23 Local Government Areas of the State. By the time Governor Wike concludes his second term in 2023, over 1000 basic and senior secondary schools would have been reconstructed and equipped.

Beyond the reconstruction and equipping of schools, the Rivers State Government under the leadership of Governor Wike has engaged in the training and retraining of teachers. The training and retraining programmes have been driven by the Rivers State Universal Basic Education Board, the Rivers State Senior Secondary Schools Board and the Ministry of Education.

The Administration also subsidised the registration fees for Rivers State students undertaking the West African School Certificate Examination (WAEC) and the National Examination Council Examination (NECO) and sustained provision of science equipment, chemicals, materials and consumables to all secondary schools in the State for WASSCE and NECO examinations.

For the UTME Examinations, beginning 2020, the Rivers State Government will bear the cost for Indigenes and non-indigenes. The empowerment of the future generation through education is a deliberate policy of the Wike Administration. The results that are streaming in yearly, are planned for the good of Rivers State.

To expand the scope of quality Basic and Senior Secondary Education, Governor Wike inaugurated Committee for the Accreditation and Approval of Private Schools in Rivers State to embark on a comprehensive assessment of schools with the objective of enhancing the standard of education.

Inaugurating the committee, Governor Wike said that the basic and senior Secondary Education levels are important to the development of education. He said: “I plead with you to be committed to delivering on this assignment because it is critical to the development of education in the state.

“I respect members of the committee and urge you not to allow anyone to offer bribes to you. How much can they give to you, that will convince you to mortgage the future of Rivers children?”

Governor Wike said the State Government is committed to ensuring that private schools are of approved standard , with the right facilities and qualified teachers.

The ultimate goal of Governor Wike’s investments in the education sector is to create a knowledge based society and develop an economy that is beyond the Petroleum Deposits of the state. From 2016 to 2019, the progress of Rivers State in WAEC shows that Governor Wike’s success is not a flash in the pan. It indicates that the future of Rivers States is secured. Rivers State is in safe hands.

It is true that the state is yet to get to the desired destination in the education sector. However, it is also more significant that the journey to the destination is on the right track. Governor Wike is effectively lifting the State to the desired position as he promised Rivers people since 2015.

Nwakaudu is spokesman of Governor Nyesom Wike.

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Presidential Policy Retreat: Beyond A Talk-Shop. Monima Daminabo

If it was intended to change some of the unedifying narratives associated with the present administration of President Muhamadu Buhari, the recently scrambled Presidential Policy Retreat that was held during the week in the Presidential Villa, remains a welcome development, even if it may not have lived up to its billing. Under the name of a Presidential Policy Retreat, the ordinary interpretation of is mission is a platform for providing the President an opportunity to brainstorm directly with designated, mission critical government officials and other so disposed members of the society, in order to obtain critical insights from same.

In the Presidential system of the United States where the dispensation enjoys a full panoply, a presidential retreat is what all serving Presidents of that country look forward to and participate in periodically, as it provides the opportunity for refreshing and recharging them for better service delivery. In that context a Nigerian version of the programme constitutes an eloquent testimonial for Muhamad Buhari as a listening President.

 The President had used the opportunity of the retreat to celebrate once more the strides achieved by the government in the first term, especially in the fields of agriculture and some other areas of national life, and looked forward to the forum articulating valuable insights that will drive the second term of his tenure. Just as well his valedictory address to the retreat at its end on Thursday captured his satisfaction with the run of the programme. Nevertheless, from a dispassionate perspective features a complement of operational glitches which if they had been considered and addressed earlier would have maximized the dividends from the exercise.

Firstly, is that the timing of the forum preceded the confirmation and subsequent full deployment of the ministers who as statutory members of the President’s cabinet and therefore operational agents, raises the significant question of who bells the cat, with respect to carrying out whatever resolutions and plans of action from the forum. For as at the time of the retreat, the ministerial nominees were still at the screening point in the Senate, awaiting confirmation for deployment.

Except that the ministers are intended to be deployed eventually as metaphorical ‘errand boys’ whose role in the policy formulation template can be dispensed with, the retreat should have been delayed until the ministers are fully on seat, and therefore disposed to more profitable participation in such an all-important, top level parley. Given the humongous scope of the challenges facing the country from different fronts, the least that should be done is the mobilization of as many assets that can be mustered for appropriate deployment. 

Without doubt the ill-timing of the retreat also manifested in a second glitch which borders on the less than optimal attendance as well as participation by critical assets in the parley. As reported in the media, the attendance was sub-optimal for a parley of its scope and rank, not to talk of the nationwide spread of the various interests in the country.

Specifically, the participants featured beyond the Presidency, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and some other leaders of the institution, 11 out of the 36 state governors, representatives of the private sector led by Aliko Dangote, the APC top hierarchy led by the National Chairman Adams Oshiomole and some members of the academia. From this body the President demanded high impact recommendations with which the administration hopes to make “life more meaningful for Nigerians” during the second term in office.

According to the President, the ministers will be availed the outcome of the parley whenever they are deployed. How such a scheme will serve the best interests of the administration constitutes a mystery in the annals of world best fit administrative practice, as cabinet ministers are not expected to serve as a latter leg in a relay race with respect to matters of governance. As the actual operatives that will be eventually tasked with the responsibility of implementing whichever policy of the administration, the retreat should have been delayed enough to allow them land on the same page with any contributor and delivery.

 On a critical note it would also seem that the organisers of the present retreat may have discountenanced whatever legacies from the Buhari first term, as well as similar brainstorming exercises even before the Buhari Presidency. It is beyond conjecture that lying on the shelves of the Presidency are uncountable reports and other resources that capture the problems of the country, many of which have been age long in tenure.

The challenge facing the country now and which will make any new Presidential Policy Retreat is one that is targeted at ‘how to’, ‘when to’ and ‘by whom’, with respect to solving the country’s problems. It needs to be appreciated that much of the country’s today problems are challenges of the past which were not resolved and have metamorphosed into what they are today. Needless therefore to dwell fortuitously on the outcome of any magic wand from a fresh retreat, beyond the extant ones waiting for implementation.

 A significant aspect of the terms of reference of this Presidential Policy Retreat is that they easily compare with those of virtually all past fora of such magnitude. Often too the resolutions and recommendations are also similar, if not a simple repletion of past editions. In deed in most cases only the organisers and participants in designated retreats are different from previous ones.

 For instance, hardly can any major differences in insights and recommendations, be located in the National Conferences of 2005 and 2014 under Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan, respectively. It is significant that even in the current parley organized by Buhari during the past week, some of the participants were active in at least the conferences of 2005 and 2014. Hence beyond rehashing the positions of the past, hardly can any other good come from the parley as they cannot re-invent the wheel.

It would have been most refreshing if the President can return merit to the recommendations of the past conferences, which he rejected at the start of his tenure, and seek their implementation. Seen in proper context, his earlier rejection of the reports of the various conferences organised by his predecessors, was an affront on Nigerians at large, who collectively worked on them, and not necessarily against the seemingly targeted predecessors in office.

In the absence of resorting to the earlier conference reports, with a view to teeing in from them in terms of implementing their recommendations, any fresh parley by him, will hardly be seen by observers, as anything beyond another sterile, talk shop.

Courtesy: Daily Trust on Sunday.

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Resolving Edo Assembly Meltdown. Monima Daminabo

For some weeks now the EDHA has been embroiled in a power tussle over control of its soul – a contest which is largely believed to be a proxy war between interests that represent the incumbent governor of the state Godwin Obaseki and the National Chairman of the ruling APC as well as the immediate past governor of the state Adams Oshiomole. Out of a total of 24 members, 11 are purportedly loyal to Obaseki while the remaining 13 are believed to stand for Oshiomole.

So protracted is the tussle that almost one full month after the statutory proclamation by the governor for the house to be inaugurated, events have taken a turn for the worse, leaving the institution a theatre of the absurd instead of the temple of democracy it was intended to be. Specifically, the 24-member house had nine of them sworn in on June 17th 2019, who proceeded to elect as Speaker Frank Okiye, while two additional ones two days later. The remaining 13 members have been floating in political limbo since then.

On Wednesday last week the House of Representatives in plenary adopted the report of a Special Committee set up by the Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila to investigate the matter and report back to the House. Adopting the recommendations of the Committee as presented by its Chairman Abdulrazak Namdas, the House issued several directives. Firstly, The Governor should re-issue the proclamation to inaugurate the EDHA again pursuant to a proper inauguration, ostensibly to allow for the entire members to be inaugurated at the same time.

Secondly the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and the Director-General of the Department of State Security Services (DG-DSS) should with immediate effect, seal up the EDHA premises and secure the place. Failure of these measures to resolve the situation, the National Assembly will have no other option than to take over the functions of the EDHA until a time when the former considers the situation conducive for return to status quo.

In the context of parliamentary practice, hardly can any situation be more drastic than the foregoing in the face of imminence of a meltdown of democracy in the state. Yet the EDHA is after all a pawn in a political power play, which originated outside its precincts and is at best a classic instance in which the political class has conscripted it for the purpose. It is an open secret that following the soured relationship between Oshiomole and Obaseki, the former had been ill-disposed to supporting the governor and is seen as extending his displeasure to frustrating the later’s aspiration to seek a second term in office, in respect of which polls are due later in the year.

The crisis in the EDHA is therefore only another face of the fight between these two hitherto political bedmates now turned adversaries. And that is the raw nerve that has heightened public concern over the matter. Put succinctly, it is the degeneration of the crisis from elsewhere into the hallowed precincts of the EDHA that has induced the National Assembly to intervene and adopt drastic measures to resolve the matter. The more disturbing element in it that it was Oshiomole that facilitated the ascendancy of Obaseki to the exalted seat of governor of Edo State.

Besides, both of them had worked closely during the days of Oshiomole as governor when Obaseki served as the Chairman of the former’s Economic Council. The question on many lips is whether Oshiomole has also succumbed to the bug of ex-governors fighting to pocket their erstwhile protégés and immediate successors, and try to destroy the later when such prove unyielding? However, with several glitches along the course of the matter, the expectation over the utility of the intervention by the House of Representative remains doubtful.

Firstly among such glitches is that the request by the House of Representatives for a fresh inauguration proclamation by the governor, is largely seen as illegal as the first one of June 17th 2019, constitutes and captures the only role the governor should play in the drama. Secondly the order by the House of Representatives to the Edo State governor did not enjoy any concurrence of the Senate, which makes it a one-legged resolution, and therefore a constitutional illegality.

 Except where specifically stated resolutions of the National Assembly enjoy legitimacy only when they enjoy the corresponding participation of the two chambers of the institution. Thirdly the Edo State government has cited a subsisting court ruling barring security agencies from interfering with the normal operations of the EDHA. Hence the security agencies can only operate there if there is an instance or threat of breakdown of law and order. 

It is against the backdrop of the fore going that the APC hierarchy remains the most suitably disposed authority to intervene and resolve the matter. The party leadership should put its foot down and save its interests in Edo State, even if it is for the purpose of shoring up its fortunes with respect to the  upcoming governorship polls.

 Both Obaseki and Oshiomole are critical stakeholders in the fortunes of the APC and should be amenable to yielding personal interests for party for the bigger goals of the party. Most significantly, this is also where – by virtue of his position as the Chairman of the party, Oshiomole should blink first and allow the governor Godwin Obaseki room to operate.

As the sages have said, “discretion is the better side of valour”. Needless therefore to emphasise that the bigger onus for resolving the matter, lies with Oshiomole, as he will be ultimately culpable, in the circumstance of any untoward fallout from this crisis for the APC.

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