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Human right lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), on Monday, said President Muhammadu Buhari was under pressure by some political forces in…More...
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Nigerians may have borne the embarrassment with admirable equanimity, even with stoicism. But let President Muhammadu Buhari and his handlers…More...
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Kingsley Kuku, the immediate past Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan on Amnesty issues is the latest of former government…More...
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President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday said there was no truth in claims in the local and international media that he accused or…More...
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The All Progressives Congress (APC) on Tuesday expressed a strong support for President Muhammadu Buhari's decision to probe the immediate past administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, saying the revelations of mind-boggling corruption that are just beginning to emerge have made such a probe imperative.
"Some people have insinuated that the Buhari administration should ignore the massive looting of our patrimony and move on.
"We say no responsible government can afford to do that, because it will amount to endorsing corruption and impunity," the party said in a statement issued in Abuja on Tuesday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
Mohammed said in the oil sector alone, billions of dollars have been skimmed off by pathologically-corrupt public officials, wondering how the government of the day can meet its obligations to the citizens if it refuses to recover the huge funds taken away by thieving officials.
"It is an irony that those who are suggesting that the Buhari administration should turn a blind eye to the incomprehensible looting are the same ones accusing the government of not doing anything.
"It is even a cruel irony that the same party that presided over what is fast emerging as the worst governance in the history of our country is the same one that is daily bad-mouthing an Administration that is cleaning up its mess," he said.
He added that even if all the acts of corruption that were perpetrated during the tenure of the last administration are limited to what is now in the public domain, it is still absolutely exigent for the Buhari administration to do all it can to bring the perpetrators to book and recover the looted funds.
"Where does one start from? Is it the fact that the NNPC failed to remit 3.8 trillion Naira to the Federation Account or the mind-blowing stealing of 250,000 barrels of crude oil per day?
"Is it the fact that the NNPC itself does not know how many bank accounts it had or into which ones the payments for Nigerian crude are made? Could anyone have imagined that a government minister would steal the unprecedentedly-huge amount of 6 billion US dollars of public funds as being alleged?
"How does any sane person rationalize the fact that $1 billion was unilaterally and illegally withdrawn from the Excess Crude Account just because, as the immediate past Minister of Finance has disclosed, the President ordered the withdrawal?
"What about the billions of Naira waivers recklessly approved to dubious importers by the Jonathan administration?
"Is it not clear now that the stealing and the profligacy - more than anything else, including the fall in oil price - helped to drastically reduce the monthly allocation from the Federation Account from about
800 billion Naira to about 400 billion Naira, thus pauperizing the states and the local governments, and by extension the citizenry?
"Against the background of the stunning revelations, what message will any government be sending to its citizens and indeed the global community by looking the other way, when it could still recover some of the looted funds for the benefit of the people?
"This is why we are supporting the Buhari Administration's probe decision, and calling on all Nigerians to support ongoing efforts to get to the root of the matter," Mohammed said.
He maintained that it is now clear that the Jonathan administration cleverly delayed giving the then incoming Buhari government the handover note so as to avoid being asked critical questions pertaining to the unprecedented looting under its watch.
An impressive collection of organizations have come together to answer President Barack Obama's call at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit yesterday in Nairobi, Kenya, to advance entrepreneurship and economic growth around the world.
Representatives of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) and Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF) participated in a formal signing ceremony at the Summit, committing to lead the Spark Global Entrepreneurship initiative. Spark is a coalition that is seeking to mobilize like-minded organizations, companies and investors that collectively generate more than $1 billion dollars in private investment for emerging entrepreneurs by the end of 2017.
"The world is full of nascent entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas—but they need stronger ecosystems to help them unleash those ideas and grow them into game-changing startups," said Jonathan Ortmans, president of Global Entrepreneurship Network and one of three Spark coalition co-chairs. "Spark increases coordination and collaboration among startup support programs and amplifies their efforts."
The first wave of companies that have stepped forward include Citi, EY, GE, Google and IBM. Two African companies, Rendeavour, the continent's largest urban land developer, and SkyPower, the largest provider of utility-scale solar power projects in the world, have joined as well.
"African entrepreneurship has been the missing link in Africa's development. The actions of just one entrepreneur sends ripples across a community and entrepreneurship lifts people permanently out of poverty and creates social wealth," said Tony Elumelu, founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation. "We all know entrepreneurship, anywhere in the world, is not easy nor is success guaranteed. All stakeholders – the private sector, governments, NGOs and donors - must make a commitment to use their respective powers to address the hurdles facing African entrepreneurs. That is what Spark is all about."
Spark taps into the growing involvement of government programs in helping entrepreneurs start and scale new firms.
U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden announced the Spark initiative at the 2014 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Morocco and outlined the commitments of some of the most active and effective U.S. government programs such as the Presidential Ambassadors for Global Entrepreneurship, Young African Leaders Initiative, African Women's Entrepreneurship Program and more.
Spark is asking for commitments from organizations and individuals willing to "start the spark" by collaborating and contributing resources, networks, data and ideas to multiply efforts and help founders start and scale new firms.
"We are excited to leverage our in-market presence in nearly 50 countries to support Spark, inspire today's entrepreneurs and foster the next generation globally," said Vijay K. Tirathrai, CEO of Entrepreneurs' Organization. "Our organization provides numerous platforms to bring entrepreneurs together for enhanced learning and leadership growth. Spark is a natural extension of our commitment and we call on others to join us and affect positive change through entrepreneurial support."
In The Spotlight
The ordinary Nigerian may not be a soldier or military strategist; but it is logical to question the innocuous claim by President Buhari that, the recent spike of suicide attacks by Boko Haram that has killed over 1000 Nigerians in the last two months alone were signs that the murderous sect was losing the battle to the Nigerian military. This kind of glib talk is laughable where it not pathetic. The president was obviously trying to put a spin on what appears to be an embarrassing and shocking inadequacy by security forces, to end the orgy of violence that has claimed over 100 lives per week since May 29 when he took office. It is reckoned that the new administration was aware of the dire security situation and the expectation was that the killing, maiming and terror would at least have been contained. This has not happened. The reality must therefore be recognized and addressed very urgently and honestly, and the President needs to do more to reassure Nigerians of their safety.
The details of the new government’s counter-insurgency strategy may not be known yet, but ahead of his recent visit to the United States, the president in an opinion article published in the Washington Post newspaper wrote that: “Already we are beginning to see a degrading of Boko Haram’s capabilities as a fighting force. In recent weeks, it appears to have shifted away from confronting the military directly to an increase in attacks on civilian areas, as we saw only last week when an elderly woman and 10-year-old girl blew themselves up at a Muslim prayer gathering in northeastern Nigeria. We should not be confused by this change, hateful as it is: It does not mean that Boko Haram is succeeding in its aims - it shows that it is losing.” Amidst the ongoing carnage, it was evident the president was less than forthcoming in his assessment of the situation. Regardless of what might have informed the president’s state of denial, false hopes are unhelpful in this dreadful matter of Boko Haram.
Nigerians read Buhari’s statements with an admixture of cynicism and genuine apprehension. The president also said the insurgency festered because the past administration did not muster enough will to tackle it, and while expressing confidence that the insurgents would be defeated, he cautioned against public expectations of quick decimation of Boko Haram. Against the failure of the new regime to provide security as a basic ingredient of national governance, the question must be asked on behalf of Nigerians: is there something in the counter-insurgency effort that Nigerians need to know and no one is saying? Obviously, this indolence explains the lack of urgency, or modicum of seriousness, to match the bravado of the insurgents, but is this attitude an affirmation of the kind of Nigeria the new president desires? Was Mr. President just expressing in the most obscene manner his helplessness? Surely, no government with the resources available to Nigeria would respond so feebly to the tenacious effrontery of a rebel group wantonly violating its territorial integrity.
Unconventional war may be new to Nigeria, but the intelligence apparatus ought to, by now, have overcome initial setbacks and become proactive in operations to stave off senseless attacks on hapless Nigerians. The increased dimension of the Boko Haram attacks and their havoc-wreaking tactics of using teenage girls as suicide bombers are too devastating to be considered as evidence of desperation as the president would want the world to believe. The toll of Boko Haram killings, bombings and kidnaps is unquantifiable. If the President can afford to put a bold face on the precarious security situation, then it is pertinent to question his willingness to frontally address the insurgency, beyond mere lip-service.
Irrespective of the state of mind of the president, a war between Nigeria and Boko Haram has been raging and the insurgents are not losing; rather they seem to be winning. Not only have people been massacred and villages sacked, territories are also being occupied and flags hoisted to establish the occupation of conquered lands. All the territory recovered by the Jonathan administration is now being threatened or has been retaken by Boko Haram in the last few weeks. This is the simplest understanding of winning. So, the president should not be deluded that he is grappling with a mop-up operation; rather the country is contending with a murderous band of religious bigots and fanatics. This, by all means, demands whatever resolve Nigeria can muster to confront it.
While the efforts of the Nigerian security forces on the frontlines are commendable, the security forces ought to assume more offensive posture in engaging the fundamentalists. The past weeks have largely seen the army only responding to the activities of the terrorists. Why would soldiers wait to be attacked before reacting? Much as the men in the trenches are doing their best in the prevailing circumstance, the ease with which the insurgents have operated is worrisome. The standing view is that Nigeria is not asserting with the necessary force, the full authority and power of the state in dealing with Boko Haram. How can the president claim the terrorists are “losing” to the army only for the insurgents to thumb their nose at government by more sustained acts of violence?
To extricate himself from this debacle of denial, the president must face the painful truth about the nation in crisis and be realistic and should stop playing the ostrich. He must be humble enough to realize that all is not well with the polity; and that leadership has a lot to do with the problem. The President must also face the shameful situation that given its resources, the government has not acted as sagaciously as a country of right thinking leaders. Above all, the president should be under no illusions that Boko Haram could be dealt with military force alone. It is just as well that Mr. President has opened the door to dialogue with Boko Haram leaders. But with all the soft and hard power available to it, the Nigerian state should not negotiate from a position of weakness. It is not done. It must not happen.
While pursuing the military option, there is need to mobilize religious leaders, particularly in the north, to explore a way out. Other non-confrontational options should not be ruled out; but the nation must never again be taken for a ride because Boko Haram is not losing the war. In any event, the group has been vigorously pursuing its grotesque campaign of human savagery and barbarism with remarkable success. The worst is already happening, and the President cannot continue to treat the unending bloodbath flippantly. Boko Haram has declared a caliphate over captured areas; hoisted its flag and instituted quasi-administrative structures to govern the territories under its control. Nothing can be more suggestive of Nigeria’s threatened disintegration than those acts. And the President should make no pretence about it. What is now required is the political dexterity and strategy to prosecute the war. In this regard, the President must rise up to his responsibility as commander-in chief.
In The Spotlight
I didn’t vote for President Buhari in the last election, though I know that Nigeria needed change. I just disagreed with the change agent due to reasons I have explained in various write-ups in the lead up to the election. I didn’t vote for Jonathan either; the PDP as was constituted and operated just wasn’t a Party I could even consider for anything. In the end, I voted for one of the lesser known Parties.
But Buhari it is. The majority vote will always prevail and that is respected here without any equivocation. So we move on.
As we move on however, it is becoming a struggle not to be uncomfortable in the way things have unfolded and in the way they are playing out. Some of the reservations expressed by some of us are now rearing their ugly heads. Contrary to his inauguration speech, and contrary to reasonable, logical expectations, Buhari hasn’t put a fully functional government in place. This is already the end of July.
As we say around here, nothing spoil. The only harm I saw were incompetent governors (who are unable to manage quite sizable resources) dancing around the President, taking advantage, and getting off easy. The mound of flip flops and reversal of official pronouncements have only meant a slight loss of face; nothing major.
However, I began to panic when I read a news report that Buhari has approved an exchange rate of N160 to $1 for Christian pilgrims. This report was publicised widely and with plenty of fanfare.
To me, it is another indication that the president sorely needs all the help he can get. He needs technical advisers and a seasoned cabinet like a fish needs water.
But the President has already and unwittingly set up his eventual Ministers for failure. They can’t win. Expectations are just too high now. Ministers would still have to be Nigerians, working in Nigeria. The current perception is that Buhari is searching for the best of the very best – folks with no blemishes at all but blessed with superpowers. Optimal performance bothering on miracles would be expected from these Ministers and other appointed government functionaries. How could anyone go into a job like that? It is unrealistic and quite unfair.
All the same, I am becoming increasingly convinced that the president created this governance lacuna in order for him to have unfettered, unchallenged (dictatorial, if you will) shot at managing the country for a while before Ministers, Advisers and other technical and legal people are brought in and begin to rein-in some of his more impulsive and autocratic tendencies.
It seems to me that Buhari wants to get in a few military-style diktats, strong-arm a few people and peoples before settling down to normal democratic governance. Because, so far, the only things on the table are hunting down people, dire innuendos and promises of persecution.
As has been whispered all along, the president has finally confirmed that he intends to probe just Jonathan’s government. It is only that government that is corrupt in Nigeria’s recent history. Obasanjo is living large. The bribees from the Halliburton scandal are the major stakeholders in Nigeria’s present day change project. Even the scions of Abacha are running loose, obscenely flaunting stolen wealth. No problem with that. No investigations. Now tell me; how are certain sections of this country supposed to feel? Does this not seem like the start of marginalisation and dehumanisation of the usual suspects all over again?
Even madam Patience Jonathan was comprehensively humiliated at Port Harcourt airport last week when she attempted to use the VIP waiting area. She was refused access by security personnel citing “orders from Abuja.” How petty! If a former First Lady cannot use an airport’s VIP lounge, who should? I suppose Rotimi Amaechi is using his APC mates to exact revenge. Anyway, there is God o.
The inclusiveness that was pervasive in the last four years is fast dissipating. Perhaps someone needs to remind the President that we are in a thriving democracy. The opposition and opposing voices are not supposed to be treated like conquered prisoners of war, or like burnt offerings.
Which brings me back to the issue of the pilgrims’ exchange rate.
I could have sworn that I heard candidate Buhari campaign that he would scrap government’s participation in, and subsidy of religious pilgrimages. But he has only gone and directed that pilgrims should exchange N160 to the dollar.
What this means is that a pilgrim with N400,000 who would have received $1,740 at the normal exchange rate will now get $2,500 under the Buhari plan. The government will cough up the difference.
Last year, about 14,000 Christians made one form of pilgrimage to one place or the other. 76,000 Muslims went to Mecca. If we do the math, the government is going to end up subsidising around a further $68 million or N13.6 billion on top of whatever is already subsidised for these pilgrimages.
Can you see why the president needs Ministers and other technical people like yesterday?
Furthermore, a pilgrim with N500,000 would get $3,125. In theory, this person could turn around and sell back dollars on the black market and make a profit of $1,000 or N237,000. Now, an…emm…shall we say, enterprising Pilgrims Board official can fund 100 people into this scheme and he is looking at a cool N23,700,000 million per pilgrimage cycle. The Christians alone run four pilgrimages in one year! Heavens only know what they are looking for.
Please, please, we do not desire on a national scale a situation like that which currently exist in Osun State. The struggling governor of that State, Arigbesola, who has not been able to pay workers salaries in like forever somehow manages to find money every year to pay for Osun citizens transportation during sundry religious holidays; no audits, no questions asked.
By Michael Egbejumi-David