close

Focus

Focus

Requiem For A Virtuous Woman

Wednesday, November 13, 2019 was different even unique. Not even the official activities of a work day could detract from its significance as people from all walks of life trooped to the Vault and Gardens in Port Harcourt to pay their last respect to a woman of peace and lover of humanity, Alabota Mabel Aya David-Charles (Nee Paul-Worika), as she was laid to rest amid eulogies and testimonies.

Late Mabel David-Charles, a generous woman, who lived for just 51 years, touched several lives in every remarkable ways, Known for her philanthropy, she was good to all manner of people, that came in contact with her.

Mabel’s passion for God was palpable as she served with delight in the Lord’s Vineyard. She portrayed a practical example of the Christian faith by reaching out to the less privileged, widows and needy in line with Jesus’ ministry of love and compassion. This was the testimony of Joseph in his address at the funeral service.

Born in Ogu in 1968, to the Paul-Worika family, Mabel attended the foremost Young Women Christian association (YWCA) Nursery school at Bernard Carr Street in Port Harcourt for her early year’s education and the Universal Primary Education School Abuloma, Port Harcourt. She also attended Community Secondary school, Kalio-Ama, Okrika and the Government Girls Secondary School, Umuola-Etche were she sat for the WASCE in 1986.

Mabel enrolled at the National Teacher’s Institute (NTI) to pursue a career in teaching. Her further foray saw her attend the Rivers State College of Arts and Science (Now Captain Elechi Amadi Polytechnic) for a national Diploma in accounting and in 2018, she bagged a B.Sc honors in Management from the University of Port Harcourt.

Speaking at the service, Rev. Daddi Jerry noted that the deceased was committed and faithful in the service of God adding that, she would be remembered for the value she added in the lives of those who came her way.

He charged Christian faithful to live an exemplary life at all times noting that the true essence of Christianity is in the value added to the lives of those they come in contact with.

Jerry said, “The Church has indeed lost a great woman. She dedicated her life to the service of God by reaching out to different persons at different times. She will be fondly remembered for the value she added to the lives of those who came in contact with her. The true essence of Christianity is in the value added to the lives of those who cross our path and Mabel demonstrated that. We take solace in the fact that heaven has received her”.

Senior Pastor of The Great Grace Ministry, Tourist beach, Port Harcourt, Prophet Joseph Somiari charged Christians to live a life worthy of emulation as they go about their business on earth.

Taking his reading from Ecclesiastes 3:1, Somiari noted that every individual has limited time to live on earth and as such should live with eternity in view, adding that, Christians should be more concerned about being at peace with God and not focus on what people have to say about them.

He further urged Christians to remain committed to the things of God and shun sin at all times as that alone guarantees a place in God’s Kingdom and prayed for the bereaved family, asking God to comfort them and fill the vacuum created.

Indeed, the heaven stood still, beaming its bright sunlight as a testament that she answered the call of her maker to return to him. Heaven took back a good woman. She will live large in the hearts of those she left behind.

read more
FocusFront Page

Why Hurry And Kill The Child Prodigy?

“My child is mature, big in body size, old enough to face pressure, brilliant.” These are some reasons a couple of ladies I met in a store gave for encouraging their children to skip certain classes in primary or secondary schools.

I believe a lot of parents want to be celebrated like the parents of the 14-year-old Nigerian prodigy called Joshua Beckford who graduated from the University of Oxford at a very young age, but I can’t but wonder how he would manage his educational achievements, taking into consideration his age.

Some of these young children end up being stuck in a situation they aren’t ready for or mature and experienced to handle. Some parents decisions are based on financial consideration. But for the parents, it’s just based on what I call “PARENTAL PEER PRESSURE”.  A lot just want to brag about what young age their children attained their educational achievements and are not concerned about how the children feel or if they actually understand what they are up or in for.

A single mum, who does menial jobs to cater for her two sons, shared how she was encouraged to allow her son skip a class but declined. She was told that her son was brilliant and would do well if he skipped to the next class. If a mother with little or no education and a meagre source of income could take the decision to ensure her son stayed back for the full 6 years in primary school, what’s happening to those I believe should know better.

Does anyone truly understand the pain, struggles, confusion these children have to deal with?  Is every child suddenly a prodigy or genius like Joshua Beckford?

In a bit of research on prodigies, how they grow and turn out when they eventually become adults, I took a particular interest in the violinist and conductor, Julian Rachlin. Rachlin said, “Being told you’re a genius at 11 years old can wreak havoc on a child’s mind. It’s very dangerous to be portrayed as that sort of prodigy because 99 percent of those prodigies don’t last very long. I have never been treated by my friends and family as a prodigy. I have been treated as little Julian who loves making music, so I never felt a prodigy. The life of a child prodigy can either go one way (the bad way, in which all the pressure leads to failure and a lifetime of misery) or another, in which you’re Mozart and people still buy your music 200 years after you die”

What happened to all the motherly love, instinct, affection, bond? I know a father would most times give consent to the mother when it comes to taking a decision on the child but how does a mother feel sending off a child at such tender age to face pressures that are not related to this age.

Another parent who pleaded anonymity shared her frustrations on how companies request that job applicants should not be more than 21 years with a minimum of 3-years experience. I couldn’t help but wonder at our system and policies. I encouraged the mother to positively engage her children. This they could achieve by finding out what the child is passionate about. Overtime, requisite experiences would be gained and documented.

In as much as I don’t support the age limit that some companies request, in terms of experiential requirements, I believe they are asking for individuals who can think on their own, who are solution-oriented with the tenacity and ability to function on their own with little or no supervision.

But parents need to understand that it takes time to nurture a child and by hurrying them, they are grooming half-baked children. It is important for parents to critically examine the effects of putting their kids under pressure before taking steps about pushing their children forward early; because the childhood of these children are stolen all in the name of wanting them to be competitive or to finish at a young age.

We should encourage our children to study, play and generally enjoy their childhood and grow up gradually and systematically. Those who are prodigious will stand out not one-eyed kings in the class of the blind. We should recommend, recognize, appreciate the laws and policies other countries practice and put in place. We should continue to yearn for a nation where such orderliness is observed and practiced. But with this attitude of racing the child down in education are we making or breaking the educational system in our country.

We have policies guiding and stating what age a child is supposed to start school. It is necessary for the relevant authorities in our educational system to ensure strict enforcement of those policies and punish defaulters. At the end of the day, children and their future is ours to protect. God help us to help our children and promote the greater good of our country and humanity.

read more
Focus

Nigeria Can Earn Big From Tourism-Alesa Monarch

His Royal Majesty, Sir Emperor J. D. Nkpe the King of Alesa Eleme in Eleme Local Government of Rivers State is a widely travelled monarch, who has savoured the allures of hospitality and tourism in various parts of the world. In this first part of interview, he shares his experiences and suggestions for the growth of the Nigerian tourism sector.

Your Majesty, you are widely travelled, how would you describe the Nigerian tourism industry?

Before we delve into the Nigerian tourism industry and its potentials, let me first of all tell you that many countries all over the world are making fortune from the tourism industry. The GNP of Kenya is derived from tourism. There is a place called the Island of Mars in London, it is attracting thousands of tourists to the country and contributing to the revenue of United Kingdom. Kenya for instance lives on tourism in revenue generation.

The wild life in Tazania, Kenya and other East African nation attract a lot of visitors from all over the world. Some of the visitors just come to see and behold animals like giraffe and pay money for it. In the United States, there are numerous places. In Dallas you have the Atlantic Forest in Denvy Dallas where you can go and see the aborigines and natural sits. They generate huge amounts of revenue for the state and country.

In Nigeria, we pay more attention to hospitality tourism, but we should also be calling for ECO tourism. We have a lot of forest here, like the one close here, the oldest forest in Nigeria which can be developed into a tourist site and it will yield money for the local government.

Nigeria is channeling a lot of its investment in tourism development only on the hospitality in the hotel industry  Even the hotels as an aspect needs to be categorised because what will attract a visitor to a place are many. No tourist will venture into a war torn, violence or criminal infested area. So the attitude of the people towards tourists matters. We must caution our people to always have broad mind on how to receive visitors into our communities and the country. People work all round the year and are looking for places around the globe to go and relax and enjoy. Therefore, the Nigerian Tourism Board must then come up with laws on how to attract tourists to the country.

You majesty, in what way do you think investment in ECO Tourism can be encourage and made beneficial to Nigerians?

ECO Tourism is a huge revenue earner in many countries. It is a place where you see nature in its natural state. In Kenya you will see where the French man who developed coffee started and where he stayed is still being maintained for people to visit and know how coffee production started and it is generating money to the government of Kenya. People go to Bahamas to have a taste of its ECO system and wild life environments. The US has a lot for taste of nature spaces where you still see the original state of when God created the earth; you are adding more value to the people as people visit there.

In Cameroon, in a place called Bulb, they are developing mega city there for people to come and spend time and money for the government.

In Nigeria, we can also have such here. In Rivers State, there is a small river around OPM Church, which flows down behind the State Government House. This river can be developed into a tourism site what we call an ECO site where you have boat ride. See what the Rivers state government has done on the pleasure pack.

It is a wonder land, comparable to what you have in the United States between Washington and Virginia Beach, and the seven sisters in Dallas. People need places to relax and heal hypertension which is one of killer diseases in Nigeria where people have little time to relax.

The government can invest in the tourism industry, in ECO system and wildlife development at least in partnership with individuals and organizations especially in the rural areas. People can move to the rural areas and relax and spend time on the local infrastructures in the areas.

Nigerian’s love good life and need local areas where they can spend their money. This is where the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) and other information units of the country should do more because Nigeria image has been dented all over the world because of negative things reported against the country. But, Rivers is a happy place. The state ministry of information needs to repackage our image to show it to the international community that we are peaceful state. We have contributed a lot to the development of this country and we must not be left behind in the development of the country. I am indeed proud to be a Rivers man.

Do you think Nigeria tourism has capacity to generate as much as the oil industry?

It is important we begin to think of developing the tourism sector because one day oil will cease to flow and it will have only the agricultural and tourism sector that will remain as our source of revenue. You can imaging the total revenue Kenya made from the beautiful and attractive hotels that tourists book all year round; not that they don’t have oil. Nigeria tourism is hampered by a lot of government and individual bottlenecks. There was a time I brought in some investors to Nigeria. I know what I went through trying to have the government accept my proposals to establish and develop a hospitality industry in the state. So tourism is one of the people and earn good revenue for the country.

Your majesty, where do we place the blame in the slow development of the sector, government or the private sector?

If you quantify what the Rivers state Governor Nyesom Wike has put into the development of magnificent Pleasure Park, you will know that it was a good investment well made. If he replicates these in the rural areas, it will bring peace to many local areas. You may ask how? When you take youths into such employment in the pack or they go in there to relax, they will not have the time to engage in kidnapping, cultism and other criminal acts so government should think of partnering with the private sector to develop tourism.

We have other tourist sites like the Port Harcourt Tourist beach, the Isaka games Village and others, How can government develop these?

The Port Harcourt tourists Beach should be given attention by the government so that those in the town area can have a place to relax just like the Pleasure Park. It can also be concessional to a private organization to mange and pay revenue to the government. The Isaka Games Institute can also be developed into a tourism centre but government must provide security for tourists and visitors. Security is key to tourist development. Infact every hotel in Nigeria should have a designed security system (CCTV) because a tourist who is staying in a 5-star hotel needs adequate protection.

In places like Las Vegas, everything you are doing is under surveillance and being monitored by the security technology covering the areas. Also Hotels are properly supervised and highly equipped. People in the hotels are checked and monitored by health personnel to ensure the health and safety of the people and the environment. How many hotels in Nigeria do you have health officers checking the health of staff and visitors before providing them access to the premises of the hotels, and also to ascertain the hygienic condition of the food provided by the hotels? This is done to ensure that no visitor develops health challenges after holidaying in a country and eating their food. This is why the hotel environment must be monitored. Food sold and consumed by tourists must be monitored, to avoid food poisoning and other health challenges. This is what we should be showcasing in the tourism industry and the sector will generate huge resources to the country.

read more
Focus

N’Delta: What NDDC Probe Will Achieve

The trending story about the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) now, is that President Muhamadu Buhari has ordered its forensic audit that will cover virtually the entire life of the agency. Having been established in the year 2000, the presidential audit from 2001 to date, covers a span of 19 years in the life of an agency which took off from a bed of political intrigues, and has run amuck, under the subterfuge of sailing through the turbulent minefield of Nigeria’s vicious, cat and mouse game of majority and minority politics.

It had started seemingly as a response to the yearnings of the minority Niger Delta communities, to address their age-long criminal neglect by the ethnic majority powers at the centre. Its control had however been anything by the former, as their clout over its critical processes, routinely dispensed with much leverage from them.

In the process, the Commission had been allowed a spree of mindless looting of its largesse by various cabals comprising leading politicians at the country’s power centre and their local collaborators, as well as some of the entrenched members of staff who operate with or without the connivance of their fronts located outside the precincts of the organisation.

The governors of the NDDC state had met with the President recently where they discussed issues with him including their dissatisfaction with the operations of the agency. In response the President ordered the forensic audit as a preliminary step that would guide his further action.

However, both his body language and comments at the meeting with the governors, point to the fact that even before and after the expected forensic audit, it would no more be business as usual. The question now borders on how much change and how soon such would impact on the NDDC.

The poignancy of this question is underscored by the fact that not a few Nigerians see the agency as virtually irredeemable unless something drastic is done about it.

The extent of incorrigibility of the agency is accentuated by the fact that it hardly takes any significant effort to locate any aspect of its legion of infractions. Even as at this moment, a Senate Committee that is investigating an NDDC contract award for the clearing of water hyacinth invasion is contending with a mind-boggling, suspected fraud in which the contract that was initially awarded for N2.5 billion, eventually attracted a payment of N65 billion, under unclear circumstances. Meanwhile, efforts by the Senate Committee to get the Acting Managing Director of the NDDC Enya Akwagaga, to brief it helpfully on the unusual situation, had met with little success, leading the Committee to fix October 30th 2019 for her to come up with a more useful presentation.

Needless to point out that even before the advent of Akwagaga, who only recently ascended the position of Managing Director – albeit in an acting capacity, the NDDC had proved several times over, to be a cesspool of corrupt practices and a sink-hole for public funds. Several reports on the serial playout of shenanigans in the Commission, litter under the cover of several layers of dust on the forbidding shelves of the Presidency, without attracting commensurate reactions and even due sanctions for the erring and implicated persons.

Perhaps of note is also the seeming obduracy of some elements in the establishment such as the spokesman – one Mr Charles Odili who has been credited with the unfortunate statement that the Niger Delta governors who went to visit Buhari did so out of a desire to hijack the agency as they belonged to the opposition party, (ostensibly the Peoples Democratic Party – PDP). Seen in context, it is the doubt of this column that such a comment should have come from him by this time and in the present circumstances.

Perhaps unknown to Odili as the spokesman of the NDDC, the very governors he allegedly and erroneously accused of trying to hijack the Commission, enjoy statutory liberties to intervene in the affairs of the Commission, courtesy of the very law that set it up. The NDDC act provides that the governors of the designated states constitute a Niger Delta Advisory Development Committee along with two nominees of the President. The functions assigned the Committee are twofold. Firstly, is to advise the NDDC Board and secondly to monitor the activities of the entre Commission.

The dormancy of this Committee had remained a sore point in the relationship between the Commission and the respective state governors of the region. It is significant that even the recently sacked Acting Managing Director of the NDDC Professor Nelson Brambaifa, had spiritedly canvassed the reconstitution of the Advisory Committee to provide a nexus between the agency and the political leadership of the zone.

Clearly therefore the governors of the zone have a statutory basis for intervening in the affairs of the Commission while their isolation from the system could also have been a contributory factor to the recorded spate of recklessness in executing its mandate in the region. Hence, if the allegation of unfounded, attempted hijack of the Commission by the governors of the Niger Delta region was actually from Mr Odili, he really does not have any valid place in the organization, either as a staff or in any other capacity.

 However, more significant for now is the expected outcome of the Presidential forensic audit of the NDDC. Needless to state that Nigerians await the exercise with great expectations. Many Nigerians who have been in close contact with the political associates of the NDDC leadership easily attest to the sudden flight from rags to riches scenarios among such persons. Meanwhile, this is just as there is abundance of abandoned projects all over the place.

As outlandish as it may sound, public expectation borders on a complement of restorative measures. In one vein is the drastic restructuring of the agency back to its founding vision from which it derailed years ago. Secondly is the recall of several past officials to come and render account of their questionable stewardship, and a new operational template for the agency. 

Will all of these be possible under a Buhari Presidency – with all the weaknesses that have become its second nature; many are asking. Besides, given the humongous scope of the expected audit and the concurrent probe of aspects of the agency’s operations by both the Senate and House of Representatives simultaneously, would it not be most auspicious for the National Assembly to expand its search light to cover the entire span of 2001 -2019 as directed by the President. This is not only to minimize duplication of efforts by the two arms of government. It is also to prevent the executive arm from becoming a judge in its own case, by investigating its erring agency.

Meanwhile, Buhari does not need to wait until the end of the audit which duration for now is indeterminate, to respond to the cries of the Niger Delta states governors. A lot can be achieved by him to allay the fears of the region, in the interim.

Courtesy Daily Trust.

read more
FocusFront Page

Military Budget and the Fight Against Terror

The statement that “Whatever is worth doing is worth doing well”, is a universally accepted aphorism. Another saying that shares same connotation with the above is that associated with the legendary Socrates who said, “Man know thyself; the unexamined life is not worth living”.

The above sayings are central to the roles expected of every Nigerian in the current war on terror. We must recall the coincidence of this reflection with the news about the killing of one of the World’s terror masterminds and indeed the most prized terrorist after Osama Bin Ladin, Abubakar Al Baghdadi who presided over the murderous caliphate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

Al Baghdadi was killed by the United States Special anti-terror somewhere near the Syrian/Turkish borders. Recall too that ISIS has in the last two years assisted the Nigerian based boko haram terrorists who pledged allegiance to the now killed terror kingpin.

The question that calls for introspection and immediate actionable plan is what is the logical rationale of “starving” the military of operational fund in the 2019 budget with the allocation of a paltry N100 billion in the budget presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari.

President Muhammadu Buhari who has an illustrious military background as a former General in the Army who led troops to fight off insurgents that invaded a part of Nigeria has not set out to undermine the war on terror.

President Muhammadu Buhari has made it clear that he is determined to clinically ensure a quick end to the war and the eventual defeat of the terrorists. Even with his best of intentions, the presentation of a budgetary allocation of N100 billion has understandably triggered debate on the necessity of doing what is most critical to ensure that the war on terror is not undermined.

It is pertinent to state that Mr. President and the National Assembly should think out of the box and work out a healthy budgetary package for the Nigerian Military which must be transparently deployed in combating once and for all, the war on terror.

It is instructive to note that the institution which is suffering the heat of the terror due to the approach being deployed in tackling it is the Nigerian military. While it is agreed that one special role of the military is to support the State’s internal security apparatus in quelling internal insurrection, its traditional role remains protection of the nation from external aggression in defense of sovereignty. The implications of over utilizing the military internally are diverse including grave consequences.

Illegality, human rights violations, lack of popular support by the people and even the likelihood its mode of operation robbing off on other civil security agencies in the light of inter-agency collaboration.

This association has ability to influence the police to become brutal or increase the sophistication and aggression of the terrorists or terror groups who ordinarily should be weakened by intelligence of the police or other trained civil organizations in collaboration with the people with whom the criminals ordinarily associate and sometimes live among.

This, however, can be corrected by return to the legal foundations and basis for these organizations and legality in operation; only intelligence with the public support and not use of brute force and brutality, can win the war on terror. There is urgent need to demilitarize the domestic counter-terrorist approaches.

If the public is terrorized in the war on terror, the government will lose support in the war and that will complicate matters. The objective of the war should be well defined to be the people’s interest for the security and safety of the public. Often times the essentials to the success of the war are lost in the heat of emotion and stress occasioned by the havoc of the menace resulting in callous raids, arbitrary arrests due to lack of credible intelligence.

One option available to the USA during the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden was to bomb his hide out at Abbottabad in Pakistan but it was not utilized to avoid casualties of other occupants of the building. The lesson is very clear.

Even the attack on the world’s terror leader and most wanted man was not callous or reckless to avoid hurting the innocent.

Although a system founded on might has propensity for abuse, the root cause or aggravating factor of criminality is inequality which largely stems from government irresponsibility and  in responsiveness. No nation can successfully win a war on terror when its most active class are either unemployed or grossly underemployed and underpaid.

A youthful unemployed population is a threat to peace, stability and security. There is therefore a need for urgent steps to reduce cost of governance and increase employment.

Peaceful co-existence and security are the desire of all; this fact is evident in the communal nature of man. Crime is an alternative that some members adopt in response to the social malfunctions of the systems of society. It presupposes that any program meant to ensure the safety of that society would always be supported. The vulnerable percentage will also support the scheme if well implemented.

This is why it is disturbing that the budgetary allocation given to the military in the new budget circle is grossly insufficient. Already diverse sections of the news media are running with the news that there is disquiet in the horizon about this paltry allocation.

Understandably, the National Assembly Joint Committee on Army met with the leadership of the Army to discuss ways of improving the figure before the Budget is finally passed by the end of the year. The delegation led by the Chairman Senate Committee on Army, Senator Ali Ndume met with the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai and other senior Army officers behind closed doors.

Although details of the meeting were not disclosed, it was gathered that how to source funds for the Armed Forces topped the discussion. However, before the commencement of the closed session, Senator Ndume, said the visit was in continuation of the oversight functions of the Committee.

Ndume, who had condemned the N100 billion budget proposal for the Armed Forces as insufficient, stated further that following the leading role played by the Nigerian Army in the war against insurgency, “the Committee embarked on a fact finding mission and NEEDS assessment across military units and formations to know what is going on. “After our tour, we decided to come to the center so that we can talk especially now that the budget of the Nigerian Army is out for consideration”

It is expected that President Muhammadu Buhari who loves his primary constituency which (military) will hearken to the calls and upgrade the funding portfolio of the military just as the National Assembly should support this worthy call.

A less peaceful environment cannot produce economic progress and may continue to suffer retrogression and underdevelopment. One sure way out is for the government to channel more resources to ensure the military is adequately funded to counter insurgency.

Also, it is important for the military to cleanse its house and ensure the effective utilization of its funds and provide security to Nigerians. Too much consumption of office and procurement funds cannot help the Nigerian military win the battle. It is important to state that military budget and procurement must be more transparent as the Boko Haram insurgency seem to be eating deep into the finances of our nation and the country cannot watch or raise their hand in submission.

read more
Focus

Budget And Grammar Of Stakeholder Relationships (1)

The 2020 budget proposal presented to the National Assembly by President Buhari calls for multi-dimensional analysis. The exercise should lead to better public knowledge of what percentage of past budgets since 2015, have been actualized. Unfortunately not enough questions are being raised in that direction so far. Even states where projects are supposed to be located, are quiet in the face of endless delays to Federal Government budgetary promises. No State has presented a well- documented update of unfulfilled promises in Federal Government’s budgets. Somehow our political elite think it doesn’t matter.

And we should know why that is so. It is so because promises made by State governments in their own budgets to the indigenes and citizens resident among them, are often met by large scale default. Of course, our local governments hardly have any budget worth the name! In Rivers State and other Niger Delta States, the culture of robust public participation in budget process appears to be dying out. The culture that helped to make Nigeria’s Second Republic vibrant ( 1979-1983), is steadily being suffocated in 20 years of our Fourth Republic ( 1999-2019). It is caused by a new age of de-politicization of our democracy.

Why is this happening at Federal, State & LG levels? It is partly because the poverty of the masses has created a paradox: the social calculation that enslavement will force the majority of our people to “shine ya eyes” as we say these days, in order for us to stay alert and get organized to fight for a fair share of public policy attention, is not going so. Rather the poor masses appear to have been driven into volcanic silence!

It is that in a strong sense, a budget is a statement of how government wants to influence stakeholder relationships The weight of public policy attention government is allowed to allocate, does the magic. When the poor are disconnected from public policy process, they cannot influence allocations in their favour. They become reduced to continuous suffering. It can be said that for over 100 million Nigerians each budget year since 1999, appears to have punished the citizens. It can be said that UN’s report on global poverty, shows that since 2015 the poor in Nigeria have been condemned into worsening servitude as a perjorative form of NYSC ( Now Your Suffering Continues)! By the same budget mechanism each year, Nigeria feasts the political elite so that less than 10,000 well- connected people can become millionaires and billionaires. They do so from Federal and State budgets, designed to deprive the masses of equitable provisions to become effective stakeholder groups.

So our argument here is to suggest the need for public discussions of each budget to shift attention from too much of its micro & macro economics, in terms of how much money is involved and what each budget can deliver. We need to give equal attention to who is going to get the bulk of funds and what will the average Teachers, Police, Soldiers, Drivers, Traders and other productive labour in our business environment get? 

A second argument we seek to raise here is to empower Nigerians to query the foundation of our budget at LG, State or Federal levels. Going by the reported lamentation of Babatunde Fashola ( SAN) who was President Buhari’s “Three Canon” Minister of Power, Works & Housing 2015-2019, each budget is held hostage by a huge gap between pronounced expectation and actual funds to do what was promised between 2015-2018. In simple language there has not been enough foundation in the economy to guarantee expected amount of money necessary to keep afloat each year’s budget by President Buhari’s administration.

Thus we seem to be coasting on a Public Revenue management philosophy, that budgets can be built on a foundation of pure sand. If this is true, one would have expected that the 2020 budget proposal would have provided for public revenue pillars that are cast in a mix of concrete and iron, to assure maximum strength in the national economy. It is deceitful for any national economy not to highlight what targets of productive capacity, its budget will strive to grow from its human population through deliberate investment in target industries & business Sectors.

Nigeria’s budget tradition now appears to be growing not human productive capacity but more of unproductive debts that gulp huge funds as debt servicing. In a brilliant analysis published on the internet, Dr Jekwu Ozoemena highlights a trend that the Federal Govt has long gone above World Bank debt servicing ceiling of 22% since 2014 when debt servicing hit 29%. From 2015, Nigeria’s debt servicing profile has climbed to over 67% per annum. That is beyond a 100% increase from 2015 to 2019. But there is more to worry about the government’s budget management philosophy.

Has the productive capacity grown to match debt servicing trend? So where is government building relationship with its budget engineering? What stakeholder groups appear to be placed at advantage? In a country where worsening mass poverty has provoked greater tension around issues of ethnic, religious, geographical and access to wealth of the political elite, it is crucial to examine two things: first how well do Federal Government budgets point to a better future for Nigeria? And secondly what stakeholder groups seem positioned to serve as engine of growth or positive “arrow heads” to carry the national economy to achieve such a better future for Nigeria?

Despite all the primitive propaganda by various political elite and the Master / Servant objective structure of our political parties, it is becoming clearer that Nigeria’s economy is not growing necessary productive capacities at either national or State levels since 1999. Everything else is cosmetic.  President Buhari’s administration is no exception of this tradition. The cosmetics are to disguise that Nigeria’s political elite have been busy on a 20- year old survival stampede, to corner the treasury under cover of APC & PDP divide.

In truth the political economy of our budgets seem to throw Nigeria deeper into internal distress & weakens our international relevance. At least here are six issue areas to support my position, ie: (1) Loss of national competitive capacity to pursue Sector leadership on a regional or global scale. In 2019 our nation cannot seriously claim to be a viable “emerging market”, as we project minimum relevance to other major players in the global market. From 1999 what business Sector did any state or the national economy strive through deliberate investment building, to control in Africa’s regional market?

Since President Buhari’s administration in 2015 what Sectors of the economy are Nigerians being groomed to dominate? The US and China are engrossed in a Trade War to improve opportunities for their national industries. So too the regional tension in Europe over BREXIT as Ireland, Scotland and other parts of Britain fight the agenda to favour their local economies.

Nigeria is not showing sustainable national direction towards economic integration. It can be done through equitable enhancement of integration processes that cover target productive sectors in the 36 States. If each state is given commercially attractive incentives to domicile a set of sectors based on comparative advantage and competitive capacity building, Nigeria’s economy will begin to reunite the nation with it’s aggrieved parts. The country can move closer by the mechanism of one vibrant and huge internal market.

To be cont’d next edition.

Amaopusenibo Bobo Sofiri Brown, former National President of NIPR is Managing Consultant /CEO of GRAIN Consulting.

read more
Focus

A Confessed Killer And Victims Of Xenophobia: Matters Arising

Nigeria is part of a new world order in which so much information flows every minute. The age of the internet has created instant circulation of information. As a result, we do not have breathing space to pay adequate attention to all of what affects us. We tend to live for the minute, because more information is rushing down upon us every second. What we do not seem to understand is that such down-pour of information creates a convenient environment to mislead the public.

We easily lose sight of what should be important to society. People who hold political power seem to profit from this setting. They are able to manipulate public focus by simply letting tomorrow’s flood of information, carry away today’s topical issue that makes them uncomfortable or that threatens their interest. It becomes a crucial challenge of information management in our global economy of fast- moving reports, to sift out what is important and to project such for public evaluation and decision making.

It is the constructive way to handle a steady flood: we face tidal rumours, fake news, incident reports, data analysis, group bias disguised as objective accounts, inventions, miracles, disasters, hate speeches, and sales pitches, among other items in the daily market of public opinion. In this regard a recent news event has thrown up the need for us to give commendations to two groups. First is the Niger Delta women who organized a demonstration in PH. The second are the officers and men of the Nigerian Police. Let me explain.

I join to commend Niger Delta women who about a week ago, went on a non partisan “Black Day” demonstration in Port Harcourt. They were driven to the street by the horror story of young women murdered in hotel rooms. Their show of public anger and constructive action, can be seen to have influenced the posture & tempo of the Police on the matter. The women stood up as an active and conscientious stakeholder group for public safety and respect for the right to life.

They refused to accept an emerging official narrative that the victims were prostitutes, which narrative implied that it was okay to kill any prostitute in Nigeria. That action by them was the first victory for ordinary Nigerians who have no Police convoy as security. The women groups raised the flag of our popular will as citizens. We are confronted daily by the unspoken historical contradiction which Nigeria’s public policy projects: namely that the lives of some Nigerians who have state security, are more important than those of the rest of us who have none!

The angry but prompt response of our Niger Delta women to the Police, has stated in BOLD PRINT our popular will to see that we uphold a fundamental social principle that “the life of every Nigerian matters”! It may take time but Nigerians will assert a simple right that it is not OK to lose Chibok girls or Odi community, Leah Shuaibu and every victim of kidnapping as well as those who endure avoidable violence since 1999. 

Government policies  and incompetence have increasingly enthroned a feudal system that enriches a few among the political elite and inflicts upon society mass poverty, mutual distrust & a stampede for survival. Put together, the consequences of poor governance by government confront us on the streets of our urban centres and the unkempt village roads. Our governments violate the fundamental social principle that “every life matters” in Nigeria. How can each person’s life matter when we have no career jobs or secure income to give meaning to each new day? Our sons and daughters are now driven out to sell themselves into slavery outside our country, for the sake of each day’s meal.

Nigeria’s official devaluation of the life of her citizens became manifest over the explosion of Xenophobic attacks on our people in different countries. Next door to us in Ghana, many are languishing in jail for being Nigerians. You can’t do that to an American or British citizen. In South Africa the issue went one notch higher in August, with mass killings of Nigerians. Yet we faced the national shame that our Federal government could allegedly provide N30b unsolicited, just to fund each RUGA settlement expected to accommodate even non Nigerian Fulani as reported in the media.

But same government could not charter two or three aircrafts for prompt evacuation of anguished Nigerians who were victims of assualts in South Africa? We had to wait for a Nigerian to send an aircraft to fly Nigerians home! And what is the resettlement package for returnees? Has our National Assembly that wants more luxury cars, provided any reasonable budget for those citizens who became victims because our country betrayed them the first time? This is another betrayal, because no one speaks up for victims in our country.

That is why we must commend the Niger Delta women groups’ for their demonstration. Their action reminds us that our women today share the umbilical cord of their gallant great grand mothers. Those ones spoke up for victims of government in colonial Nigeria, when they led the famous Women riots in Aba and Opobo, to protest anti-people colonial tax policy. Today Niger Delta women groups have shown they can stand as active stakeholder groups.

The Niger Delta needs such true Stakeholder groups to fight for the lives and happiness of our people. The loud silence robs Niger Delta states of monthly oil revenue from Federal allocations. There is no dedicated percentage of such monies to invest in well designed emergency Marshall Plan that will plant two integrated industries in every Senatorial district in each state! The silence condones the daylight robbery of Marginal Oil fields allocated to Niger Delta States between 1999-2017. Where is any progress report by our State governments? Yet Houses of Assembly or legislators from Niger Delta are not asking any questions!

Let us join in commending the Police, especially the new Commissioner of police in Rivers State and his boss, the new IG. We are seeing what looks like a promise to usher in a new era when the Nigeria Police Force is made to be responsive to public concerns. Those concerns include the welfare and provisions for job performance to give professional fulfillment to every serving police man or woman as well as those on retirement. Why should Nigeria run a Police Force where only a few officers grow fat because they run “escort duty” to protect big men & to intimidate the Nigerian public? Under this new IG and the new CP in Rivers, we are beginning to see what looks like positive signs. They hold constant engagement with public groups & the Press. We are also seeing a Police Force that makes attempt to give quick response to situations. For instance, over disturbances in Ogoni, Ikwerre and Ndoki communities in Rivers State between June and August, the Police made substantive statements within 24 hours in each case. Statements by the Police PRO of Rivers Police Command now show a new streak of concern and empathy for victims as well as professional confidence and humility in the Police. These are good signs that should help to redefine the Police and policing in Nigeria.

But these welcome signs are far from substance. They cannot lead us to be confident that our Police Force is now on the road to prevention of crime & pursuit of social justice. They need to show us daily that those two principles are now manifest positive pillars of a new foundation of law and order in our society. We want stakeholder groups that can make sure the police do so, in order to save Nigeria. A good example is the case of the “self-confessed” killer. He was promptly brought into custody and presented to the public. But too many questions are begging for answers.

The position that the suspect has confessed, is too easy as an explanation of the horrendous crime of killing people. How is it possible that he alone kills a woman (not to talk of all those women) and walks out of each hotel without footprints? Where did he go after each confessed killing? How is it possible that not one of the victims put up a fight, not even to leave scratch marks as the signature of a death struggle on a beast who devours the innocent? Why did he need to kill only young women? Between each killing where did he stay and who funded his hotel trips?

We just want to be sure that our Police and society are not being sold a dummy.

A suspect whose “confession” could throw dust in the public space, is a real decoy for the real enemy to lie low and wait to strike again!

Amaopusenibo Brown, former National President of NIPR is the Managing Consultant / CEO of GRAIN Consulting.

read more
Focus

How Kula Emerge From Fishing Port To Developing Kingdom

The Amanyanabo of Kula Kingdom, King, Sir Dr. Kroma Amabibi Eleki (JP), Sara XIV, has revealed how the community referred to as a big fishing pond, emerged from it’s over 28years crises, to become the fastest developing kingdom in the Niger Delta.

Speaking at the launch of his autobiography, Destined to Rule in Port Harcourt, King Eleki who spent over seven years in exile during the over 25 years tussle for the Amanyanabo stool, said the struggle adversely affected the kingdom and induced hatred and stagnation of developments in the area.

The king stated that the bold steps he took on ascending the throne has brought spectacular changes and catapulted the kingdom to enviable urban community.

He catalogued the achievements and development in the kingdom to include; return of relative peace and unity as youths who caused mayhem and crises in the country have now united and embraced peace, the construction of two internal motorable roads namely the King Sara roads and Elekiye-Amabibi road.

According to the Amanyanabo, several houses were demolished and their owners resettled in modern three bedroom bungalows sponsored and constructed by oil giant Chevron Nigeria Limited in conjunction with the ministry of the Niger Delta.

As part of his development plan for the kingdom, a Donald Trump Boulevard is under construction, comprising an eight-lane carriage way starting from the Atlantic shore to the community waterside to link the 86.5km expressway from Kula to Degema, courtesy of Belema oil producing limited.

Belema Oil, he added, has also provided 1.5m litres capacity industrial water project, fabricated and constructed by engineers from South Africa.

Through the efforts of the Niger Delta support programme, a world class water project is being constructed and nearing completion.

The king also listed the recent movement of the Headquarters of Belama Oil to Kula, asserting that massive bush dealing has already began, while structural constructive are ongoing at the location, Atlantic island, in the community.

He added that preparation for the location of the Belema Oil Terminal approved by the Federal Government to be sited in Kula is at advanced stage.

The Amayanabo also listed the massive dredging and sand filling on going at the Robert Kiri, where the Belema Oil Refinery would be sited; explaining that enumeration and cost implication for resettlement of occupants of the area has been worked out.

The kingdom, according to the Amayanabo has also benefitted from what he termed unprecedented scholarship awards from primary to post graduate studies to indigenes of the community in addition to massive employment of over 500 youths of the community in surveillance contracts and other areas.

On the power problems in Kula, the monarch stated that four giant generators of 1,250kva has been procured for the community by Belema Oil Limited for which land have been allocated by the kingdom to build the power house and staff quarters.

King Eleki told the gathering that since he ascended the throne, a yearly praise and thanksgiving has been held in Kula on every December 30, to appreciate God for protection and provision to the community.

HRH, King Sir, Dr, Kroma Amabibi Eleki (JP) was installed the Amayanabo of Kula Kingdom on January 31, 1982, was admitted into the Kalabari Council of chiefs in February 5, 2007, spent over 25years in legal tussles in over 23 court suits over the throne many of which ended up at the Supreme Court of Nigeria.

read more
Focus

Policing In The Rain …Without Coats

Advocates of reforming the Nigeria Police Force may have found a new voice added to their ranks as President Muhammadu Buhari himself tacitly wades into the matter of welfare of policemen across the country.

According to media reports, while commissioning some roads in Katsina State last week under the rain, the President noted that while the soldiers on duty were kitted in rain coats the policemen who were similarly on duty at the event, were bereft of such protective gear.

The report went further to state that when he turned to an Assistant Inspector General of Police for an answer and failed to get one, he offered to take the matter up with the Inspector General of Police himself.

For this gesture, the President deserves acclaim from both his critics and supporters alike. Clearly, against his background of a military top brass who had participated actively in and reviewed numerous parades, and is still doing so today as Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, the sorry sight of Nigerian police officers standing bare under rain across the country as they man the numerous check points is not lost on him.

Just as it is not strange to the ordinary citizen, Buhari himself must have also been confronted with the sight several times over. Yet the sense of purpose and courage to speak up on it and the offer to raise the matter with the IGP, offer the hope that the last may not have been heard of the matter.

Mundane as Presidential attention of Police officers not wearing raincoats while on protection duty may seem to some observers, the matter goes beyond that context.

Its significance manifests in at least two dimensions. Firstly, it latches on to the quality of service in terms of protection that can be provided by the policeman guarding the streets we all take the safety of for granted. How comfortable is such a cop who may be marking his beat along the street and suddenly encounters a torrential down pour and there is nowhere nearby to take shelter from the element. In the second vein it is about the policemen that escort the high and mighty in society, with their valuables across rough and ordinarily impassable terrain.

It is easy to see such officers appear haggard, roughened and betraying insensitivity of their bosses, even as they provide same with the airs of invincibility with their escort services. There are even instances where these officers escort some big time show-offs to their homesteads and fire tattoos to mark the arrival of their sponsors as self-styled tin gods. Yet hardly do the beneficiaries of such services bother to ask about the provision of raincoats for police officers.

In a similar context it could be asked how Nigerians react when policemen who are supposed to be on duty vanish when the rains come or other contingencies occur? Needless to note that in most instances the citizens retire in a sense of helplessness over control of the officers. How many of such citizens will accept that the disappearing police officers may actually be taking shelter albeit briefly from the rain elsewhere, due to lack of simple raincoats.

Besides while the issue may be just raincoats today, it still be lack of some other basic equipment that would make the job easier for them, thereby raising questions the deeper question over the welfare conditions under which our police officers operate across the country.

With respect to the disposition of the authorities to police reforms in this country, a wide cross section of the citizenry has actually given up hope that much can be effected. What with the welter of initiatives that have yielded poor results, and the fact that Presidency has in its custody shelf loads of sundry recommendations from different panels and study groups which are gathering dust awaiting implementation? Interestingly, it can be recalled that it was in respect of some of the recommendations on Police welfare that the President in November last year approved an upward adjustment of rank salaries for the Police.

In approving the salary increase the President had noted that the gesture was “part of the commitment of the administration to give attention to the welfare and operational needs of the Nigeria Police Force with a view to restoring its lost primacy in the internal security framework of the country”.

Seen in context therefore, Buhari’s query over poor kitting of policemen fall in place. Against the backdrop of the foregoing lies the challenge of actually improving the welfare of the cops starting with the issue of basic gear.

Although the trending aspects of the police reform conversation may feature the grander issues of control of state commissioners by governors, state police and other exotic stuff, the simpler matters like kitting of the men and women on call also matter and do not need fresh laws to effect. Just as the President has expressed concern over policemen working in the rain in Katsina so is the situation across the country with some even featuring worse conditions.

In the Niger Delta region with its inclement weather some police officers not only work the rainy terrain without raincoats, but even live with their entire families in inhospitable shacks that rise and fall with every rainfall.

Courtesy DAILY TRUST on Sunday.

read more
Focus

Trump Cancels Aviation Safety Initiative For Nigeria

President Donald Trump’s cancellation of the Safe Skies Africa initiative for Nigeria and other countries has raised fresh concerns for safety in local air travel, especially the sustenance of gains already made.

Nigeria holds a record of three-year zero fatal accident in commercial air transport. She, however, risks setbacks without sustained safety awareness campaigns, training and retraining of investigators and operators on emerging dynamics of modern aviation.Against this backdrop, the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) Nigeria, has appealed to multinational bodies like the African Development Bank (AfDB), to sustain the programme through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

The Trump administration at the weekend, finalised plans to cancel about $4 billion worth of foreign aid funding, to decrease what it believes is wasteful spending, and make foreign aid more conditional on support for U.S. policies. The Safe Skies for Africa, already penciled to give way, was created by the White House under President Clinton two decades ago. The aim is to improve the safety, security of aviation, develop relevant policies and programmes for the continent.

The intervention costs the U.S. Departments of State and Transportation about $1.2 million yearly for the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) experts to hold safety symposia and programmes in African countries.

Managing Director of NTSB, Dennis Jones, at the two-day safety symposium, concluded in Lagos at the weekend, described the programme as a success-factor in air travel safety and security in Nigeria, among others. Jones said after spending 20 years in Africa participating in accident investigations, conducting workshops, helping improve accident investigation programmes, and training investigators, he had seen an increase in commercial air service between the United States and Africa, especially where none existed before, improved investigation quality, and a reduced rate of accidents involving commercial aircraft.

Chief Executive Officer of the AIB, the local host of the programme, Akin Olateru, said he had been informed that the U.S. government henceforth ceases to sponsor the programme, though he would not comment on the rationale for the decision.Olateru, who expressed grief on the development, said African countries also need to look inwards to independently strengthen their aviation safety programmes.

 “It is unfortunate that the U.S. will no longer sponsor this programme that has benefit Africa greatly. I think we Africans can put our heads together to help ourselves. The reason is when an aircraft goes down, it does not distinguish nationality.”It is my initiative to get the AfDB to sponsor this project for safer skies for Africa. I had a meeting with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) President speaking on how the AfDB can sponsor the Safer Skies for Africa through ICAO. It is so because AfDB can sponsor only through an unattached independent agency like ICAO. And for the next meeting clear-cut modalities can be put in place to get this sponsorship running,” Olateru said.

Aviation Security consultant, Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd), congratulated the AIB for organising the programme for the industry, saying that it was the remit of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) to have organised such. Ojikutu said Nigeria didn’t need the U.S. fund to organise safety and security programme because NCAA should ordinarily hold such at least once in two years.

Unfortunately, “NCAA has not fully enforced compliance to safety recommendations from AIB’s accidents investigations and that should be worrisome to the industry stakeholders. So, if NCAA would not, with 58 per cent share from total charges in the sector, and AIB with only three per cent share of the generated fund has to do NCAA’s duty, then let us appreciate the AIB.

 “For me, we don’t need the AfDB sponsorship for such programmes. We should stop giving the aviation global community the impression that we are prodigal with our earnings. NCAA has sufficient money from all its earnings to sustain yearly safety symposium for the operators in the sector,” Ojikutu said.

read more