Mr Dimeji Sabur Bankole was two years as speaker of the House of Representatives, November 2, 2009. In July, 2009, a plot to unseat him was revealed at the plenary session of the day, bringing the total attempts to remove his leadership to at least four since he assumed office. But, somehow, he survived.
On that July plenary, a distraught Abdul Ningi (PDP/Bauchi) , a charismatic figure and former Leader of the House, had complained that someone was impersonating him. According to him, the person had sent text messages to some members asking that the leadership of the House be removed.
Interestingly, the person sent the text to him too. Distancing himself from the plot, Ningi had said that he was very embarrassed by the message. The deputy speaker, Bayero Nafada, who presided over plenary that day, cleared Ningi from the conspiracy, vouching for his integrity.
He told the Green Chamber that a powerful committee had been set up to fish out the culprit(s). It was then clear why Bankole did not preside over proceedings that day, though he had led principal officers into the chamber, and had even said the opening prayers.
The speaker immediately after the prayers stepped down for Nafada. He then started going from seat to seat, chatting up members, while proceedings went on. Many observers said it was a move to consolidate his friendship with those he wasn’t so sure of their loyalty.
And that observation was correct, since he avoided going to the woman (Patricia Etteh) whom he had replaced amidst rancour. He also shunned Independence Ogunewe, the man who does not hide the fact that Bankole is not his man, as the speaker not only suspended him but also stripped him of standing committee membership. But Bankole as since managed to have a firm grip over the House as he marked his second year as speaker.
Budget implementation: Civil servants as enemies of state
Last Tuesday, as he presided over proceedings of the House, Bankole, for the umpteenth time, upbraided the civil service over unremitted revenue and poor budget implementation. His words: “Now, it is obvious that the civil service is the problem.
It is painfully obvious. The records are very clear that the question of output (release of funds) had been significantly solved but it is now a question of desired and expected outcomes of the budget. The engine room of government, which is the civil service, has not performed.
“How come monies amounting to about N500 billion approved for certain projects is still lying fallow at the CBN? We have information that some roads contracts that were awarded in this years’s budget have not been executed three months after the contractors were mobilized. We need to begin to push further to see that the civil service works and need to do this with all of us on the same side.”
He said that over N70 billion was generated by government agencies and squandered. Bankole was indeed in his element, and he had his facts and figures. And that has been his posture over this issue in the last two years.
Achievements: Keen watchers of the House believe that the insistence that Nigeria could be richer if ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of government that generate revenue remit what they make to the Federation Account may be his biggest achievement since becoming speaker.
The Committee on Finance of the House which carried out investigations on revenues generated by MDAs submitted its report last month. According to the report, MDAs have generated at least N1 trillion in the last five years and squandered all.
Oversight functions: It is also believed that House Committees now take oversight duties more seriously. Bankole had purchased cars for members last year for that duty, though that action almost cost him his job. Last month, he threatened to sack any committee chairman that did not submit his third quarter report before November 7, 2009.
Faltering welfare: After an executive session, last July, members emerged grim-faced. Their remunerations had been slashed by almost half.
Reason given was that many new tax initiatives had crept into their take-home packages, thus eating up a good chunk. This clearly irked most of them, who, as politicians, pride themselves as belonging to the upper echelon of the “business”, and needed every kobo to meet up both personal and constituency demands.
Though it was explained that the problem was with the National Assembly Management, which did not explain beforehand how the deductions were made, many still believe that the leadership is lackadaisical to their welfare. But, somehow, the loyalty of members to their speaker keeps waxing stronger, invoking speculations that he must have devised a means of “settling” them.
Unspent billions: Unlike under the past regimes of the House when unspent funds of the two chambers of the National Assembly were shared among lawmakers on a formula based on rank, last year, the House returned N2.1 billion to the treasury. Though outwardly, members bragged that the House, which is the champion of returning unspent appropriation to the treasury, they still fumed in private. Those who have stayed long enough looked back with nostalgia to when such funds were shared.
Talking down on members: Some of the members said the speaker has penchant for talking down on members, both in and out of the chambers. And true, during plenary, reporters covering proceedings from the press gallery have been taken aback a few times by the manner an exasperated Bankole shouted down on recalcitrant colleagues. Most would sulk about their humiliation. At least one member had been suspended and stripped of committee membership when he refused to obey Bankole’s order to take his seat and remain silent.
The ghost of power probe: A monthly news magazine once published a story on the power probe instituted by the House which the leadership found unsettling. The magazine – The Lawmaker – , which the National Assembly subscribes to, was audacious to say Bankole should resign because of the way the power probe was handled.
The Lawmaker made many claims, saying that there were a lot of underhand dealings that led to the rubbishing of the power probe report. The magazine quoted members as swearing that that the truth about the power must be revealed. It turned out that it was mere wishful thinking. But, the power probe was the most inglorious project ever embarked upon by any chamber of the National Assembly since 1999. And, in view of that, Nigerians will forever hold the Reps in suspicion in whatever they do, no matter how noble and sincere. And that took place in the early days of Bankole assumption to power.
Dwindling image: At a press conference addressed by Dino Melaye and West Idahosa, both notable members of the House, on the eve of the failed attempt to remove the chief whip of the Reps, Emeka Ihedioha, and the House Leader, Tunde Akogun, last July, Idahosa, who was the chairman, House Committee on Petroleum Resources opened a slit for reporters, covering the House to take a peep into the storm waiting for Bankole to brave over.
Idahosa, a well respected Reps who has been there since 1999, said this at the briefing: “I have served under six speakers since coming to the House of Representatives in 1999, and we have had image problem with the public, But, today, our perception index is zero.
“We wish to apologise to the Nigerian people on the style of leadership that the House of Representatives has today. We are now serious about giving back the House the integrity and respect it deserves. We are now going to build a new House, based on strong moral strength, not this kind of House that is the boot of unkind, cruel cartoons.” Asked if the speaker was also a target, Idahosa said, “We are not dealing with that now. That situation has not arisen. We just want Nigerians to watch how we are going to remove the areas of complaint in the House for now. And these two principal officers must go tomorrow (June 23, 2009)”.
At that time, it was alleged that at least 250 members had signed for the removal of the two principal officers, just for the table to turn over on Melaye and his colleagues the following day. It was said that on the night of the eve of the “coup”, the speaker had personally reached out to members and begged them to sheath their swords. The two embattled principal officers were equally asked to go and “see” members that night. With that done, Dino and his men were left alone. And the plot failed.
Opposition not in 10:0 defeat now a myth
Ogunewe was one of the alleged architects of the plot to remove Bankole over the N2.3 billion car scam which the speaker scaled through. On February 26, 2009 after displaying what members agreed was rudeness to the speaker at that day’s plenary session, he was suspended summarily with not even a single voice of dissent.
But when the motion to suspend Dino was moved by Emmanuel Jime (PDP/Benue) on June 23, the House erupted. Those in support and those against the motion took on each other, until a compromise was reached, which led to Dino’s apology. The implication of that could be that the “enemies” of the leadership were regrouping.
It is was then established by many that there was a crack within the ranks of the Reps. Observers also posited that though it was decisive victory for the leadership of the House, the Dino incident was just another bullet in the arsenal of those waiting to unseat the leadership.
The defeat of the opposition, it appeared, was not a 10:0 win. But, today, it is very hard to imagine that another conspiracy to unseat the leadership of the House, will work based on the almost cult figure that Bankole seemed to have carved for himself among his colleagues.
What Do Nigerians Expect In 2022?
As the year 2021 was winding up with all its ups and downs, it was natural for people to state some of their expectations in the coming year, 2022. And what are some of these prospects?
Joseph Omeje, is an economist and lecturer with the Enugu State University of Technology (ESUT). He believes that human beings are usually very optimistic. Hear him: Yes, the economy of the country and globally is very bad but I expect that 2022 will be better than 2021 only that we have to plead with the political leaders to play the game of electioneering very gently. Let there be human face in whatever they are doing. We wouldn’t like to hear that the youths are being used to kill or to commit all evil in a bid for some people to realise their political ambitions. Our leaders should do their best so that we do not incur much human losses anymore. We have suffered a lot in the hands of these religious extremists and those who are pursuing their personal goals.
Economically, Nigeria will do better once there is security. The insecurity problem in the country is something that government can tackle if they want. Once the security situation in the country is improved so as to allow farmers go back to their farms and Nigerians go about their businesses freely, then the nation wouldn’t be as bad as it was in the last year. Government should dialogue with agitating groups. Whatever is the problem let them discuss it so that there will be peace in the country. When there is peace, the economy will improve. I believe that political solution is much better than judicial solution.
I also expect that government should take a second look at the idea of giving out money in the name of allowances. What is N5000.00 for a household or even an individual in a month? Instead of all these handouts, government should create an environment where people can get employment. When we were growing up I know that some states had stakes in businesses. In my own state, Enugu, we had cashew industry, aluminium roofing sheet industry and all that. All these are moribund now. If all these can be revived and new ones added, you will see that there will be a lot of jobs. And once you have job opportunities for the youth, you will see that even the problem of insecurity will reduce and per capita income will increase and the economy will improve.
It is also my expectation that the excessive borrowings will stop. We have borrowed enough. It’s true that no country can do without borrowing but when we keep borrowing and we are not putting it into real investment portfolio or productive sector so that it helps the economy to grow, then there is a big problem. And how do we intend to pay back these loans? We heard what happened in Uganda recently. The Chinese government has taken over the only international airport they have because of their indebtedness to China. What if the same thing should happen to Nigeria?
For Mrs Dorathy Mayford, a civil servant, the experiences of the previous years have taught her not to have any expectations from the government, the society or individuals as doing so affects her health negatively. “I have learned that the best way to live is without having any expectations from life. Expecting good from our leaders in Nigeria will end up getting you disappointed. For some years now workers in the state and the nation have expected that their salaries will be increased to enable them cope with the prevailing harsh economic realities in the country. Civil servants in the state have expected that they will be promoted but these expectations were never met. So, I have decided that in order to stay healthy and happy, I will not expect anything. I only put my trust and hope in God because only He will not disappoint or fail me.”
A technician, Mr Malachy Amadi, expects that there will be plenty of money in circulation in the country in 2022. In his words, “2022 is a year preceding an election year. It will be a period of campaigns and the politicians will bring out all the money they have been stealing from government’s coffers and saving. So, there will be a lot of money in circulation and that will make life better and easier for the masses.”
Joel Ogwuche, a stock broker, projects that Nigeria will be a better society, a well-planned environment where people can begin to make plans for the future. “As it is, presently, nobody can plan for tomorrow in this country because of several policy summersaults. Those in authority change the existing policies at any time and introduce new ones without even notifying the citizens. Nobody can make a sustainable plan in this type of environment. So, I expect that in the coming year, our leaders will begin to do the right thing for the benefit of the entire citizens and not for a few individuals”, he said.
Miss Grace Moses, a housekeeper, is of the hope that in 2022, security would be a major concern for those in the authority both at the federal and state levels. Grace, an indigene of Kaduna State, working in Port Harcourt, narrated that many people from her state have been forced out of their state and into other major cities around the country where they engage in all kinds of menial jobs to survive. According to her, the prices of food and other commodities are rising daily in the country because farmers have been driven away from villages by Boko Haram militants disguised as Fulani herdsmen and other criminals. She, therefore, expects that in 2022, the problem of insecurity will be given a sincere, adequate attention so that people can go back to their villages.
Jake Baridon, a legal practitioner expects the national and state assemblies to be on the side of the masses and make laws that will benefit the generality of the people instead of being “rubber stamps”. He continued, “I personally will expect the National Assembly to override President Muhammadu Buhari’s veto on electoral bill. The bill, as far as I know, represents the desire of the electorates in the country and it is wrong of Mr President with withhold his assent for the second time for some flimsy reasons. The year 2020 should be a period for us to start seeing vibrant law making, practical separation of power and checks and balances in our nation. These people have been dormant for a long time and it is high time they showed that they can not only bark but that they can also bite.”
He also expects the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government, the police, the EFCC and others bodies to play their respective roles in fighting corruption in Nigeria, adding that the high rate of corruption in the country is disturbing and if nothing is done to check it, the future of the country will be very bleak.
Arinola Moyo, a youth corps member, says she wants to see true leadership in the country, especially at the federal level. In her words: it’s been as if we don’t have a true leader since the current government came on board. Every time you hear the Presidency said this, the Attorney General of the Federation said that, Lai Mohammed said that. You hardly hear from the President, making it seem as if these people are the ones ruling the nation. So, I want to see more effective leadership in the country.
“Government should also do something about the high unemployment rate in the country. Thousands of graduates come out from schools every year without jobs for them. That is why some of them join Internet fraudsters and other bad gangs.
“I also expect federal and state governments to implement the recommendations of the various judicial panels on #EndSARS. This issue is so delicate to be swept under the carpet.” Moyo said.
Christian Chidi is a businessman. He expects that with the issue of COVID-19 being curtailed, life will come back to the business sector in the country. According to him, since the advent of the pandemic two years ago, business has been dull with many oil companies working from home and many private companies folding up.
A housewife, Lady Pep Iroh, is projecting that, come year 2022, adequate attention will be paid to the problem of soot in Port Harcourt which she alleges is causing serious health issues for the residents of the city.
Pastor Godswill Abalagha envisions that the grace of God will be abundant for the nation and the citizens in 2022 to help see them through all difficulties and challenges. He, however, advised Nigerians to turn away from their wicked ways, including stealing government’s money, shedding of blood, kidnapping, corrupt practices and rather seek the face of God.
By: Calista Ezeaku
…Creates Two New Offices In Govt House
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of two new executive offices to guarantee efficiency and effectiveness of activities at the Government House, in Port Harcourt.
The governor’s action was made known in a statement signed by the Special Assistant on Media to the Rivers State Governor, Kelvin Ebiri in Government House, Port Harcourt, last Monday.
The terse statement reads, “To ensure activities are functioning efficiently and effectively, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike has announced the creation of the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff, Government House, Port Harcourt.
“The Deputy Chief of Staff will be in charge of the Logistics, Correspondence of the Governor and Legal Matters.
“Similarly, he has also announced the creation of the Office of the Special Adviser on Aviation”.
Accelerating Gender Parity In Nigeria
In virtually all societies, women are in an inferior position to men. Sex or gender determines more rights and dignity for men in legal, social and cultural situations, These are reflected on unequal access to or enjoyment of rights in favour of men.
There are also the assumption of stereotype social and cultural roles.
In Nigeria, gender inequality has been for decades in spite of modernization and the fact that many females have done better than men in many spheres.
Analysts are convinced that gender inequality is largely influenced by religious and cultural beliefs, as some cultures and religions still hold strongly that women are the weaker vessels created mainly to be home keepers and child bearers.
Analysts are also worried that gender inequality negatively affects status in all areas of life in society, whether public or private, in the family or labour market.
Although the Global Gender Gap Report 2018 by the World Economic Forum (WEF) shows some progress amongst the 149 countries that were indexed, the progress toward closing the gender gap is slow, because it will take 108 years to close the gender gap and another 202 years to achieve parity in the workforce, according to the report.
The report benchmarks the 149 countries on their progress toward gender parity across four dimensions – economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.
A number of initiatives have been made by corporate organisations and governmental and non-governmental organisations to address gender imbalance in Nigeria.
One of the latest is the launch of First Women Network (FWN) by the First Bank of Nigeria Ltd., in commemoration of the 2019 International Women’s Day (IWD).
IWD is celebrated globally every March 8 to recognise social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
The celebration is also a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
The global theme for the 2019 celebration is “Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change” while the theme for the social media campaign is “#BalanceforBetter”.
According to the bank, the FWN initiative is an avenue for career management and mentoring for women to enable them to balance their career with private endeavours.
The aim, according to the bank, is to address gender gap and increase women representation in its senior and executive levels, as well as encourage women to tap into opportunities and contribute to nation-building.
The bank’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr Adesola Adeduntan, explains that First Women Network is targeted at the banks’ staff and customers, among others.
He believes that women can achieve more if given the necessary strategic support, hoping that the initiative
will increase the bank’s productivity and profitability.
Adeduntan notes that the initiative is also a demonstration of First Bank’s adherence to the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Sustainable Development Goals which mandate increased women representation in all banks.
The sustainable goals require that the financial services sector should adopt a quota system to increase women representation on boards to 30 per cent and that of senior management level to 40 per cent by 2014.
Adeduntan is optimistic that the FWN will address six key area – career management, personal branding, mentoring, welfare, financial planning and empowerment.
He is convinced that the initiative will address gender disparity at the workplace.
“It is commonly agreed that gender parity is an essential factor influencing the advancement of institutions, economies and societies.
“Studies have shown that gender parity in corporations promotes increased performance and returns on investment.
“The need to invest in composite women empowerment and enhance their contributions at senior management levels to achieve organisational goals cannot be over-emphasised,” the CEO says.
For him, it is paradoxical that the presence of women in paid employments continues to increase, yet the progression of professional women to positions of leadership and management remains slow.
“Gender gaps persist in economic opportunities and political participation in many countries.
“This is part of the reasons for this women network initiative,” he notes.
The chief executive officer wants employers of labour and the entire society to encourage women to advance, excel and contribute optimally in workplaces and communities.
Mr Abiodun Famuyiwa, group head, Products and Marketing Support, promises that First Bank will continue to promote female entrepreneurship for national growth and development.
“We recognise that promoting female entrepreneurship and independence is key to economic viability of every home in the country,” he says.
According to him, FWN is a further demonstration of the bank’s commitment to women empowerment after the launch of FirstGem in 2016.
He is satisfied that FirstGem is providing opportunities for women to achieve their financial goals and aspirations through with access to support funds, free business advice, specialised trainings on business development and insight on business development.
For Mr Lampe Omoyele, managing director, Nitro 121, an integrated marketing communications agency, points out that courage is important in addressing gender imbalance.
“For gender imbalance to be resolved, there has to be courage, vision, values and character,” he says.
He is convinced that women should have courage and confidence in taking risks within organisations.
Omoyele advises that women must not play the victims.
“Ultimately, whether you are a female or male, what is going to sustain you is your character and values.
“You need to have values; character is important in the balance that we live to, and it sustains you as you move into the future,” he adds.
The Chief Executive Officer, Standard Chartered Bank, Mrs Bola Adesola, wants women to take advantage of FWN to make their lives better.
She urges women to aspire to grow in their endeavours and refuse be limited because of their gender, stressing that they should use all resources at their disposal to grow.
For the bank chief, FWN is not a silver bullet to creating the first female chief executive officer of First Bank, but about opportunity.
“So, it is important that as women, we take advantage of it,” she urges.
Ms Cecilia Akintomide, independent non-executive director, FBN Holdings Plc, is dissatisfied that Nigeria is still far in gender balancing.
Akintomide says Nigerian women are still being restricted from working in some places and owning some property.
According to her, restrictions are rendering 50 per cent of Nigeria’s population – mainly women – economically unviable.
A First Bank customer, Mrs Ifeyinwa Okoye, lauds the FWN, and urges the bank to ensure that its customers – the secondary target of FWN – benefit from it.
Okoye describes women as critical to economic growth and development but regrets that many women were lagging behind in their endeavours because of gender inequality.
She wants the banks to enlighten its customers on FWN for maximum results.
“If you empower a woman, you empower a nation.
“Empowering women is especially effective because the benefits are felt throughout the whole community,” she argues.
Analysts call for more strategic support for Nigerian women to enhance gender parity.
By: Chinyere Joel-Nwokeoma
Joel-Nwokeoma is of the News Agency of Nigeria.
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