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Fuel Subsidy Scam: Should FG Adopt Report?

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The Farouk Lawan-led House of Representatives Probe Committee on fuel subsidy recently submitted its report to the Presidency which indicted some major oil companies and highly-placed Nigerians, including top politicians.

Our Staff Writer, Calista Ezeaku and Photographer, Dele Obinna, went round the city to seek people’s opinion on whether or not Federal Government should adopt the report. Their response:

Prince Emmanuel Ogba,   Niger Delta Youth

Coalition

I think the report should be fully implemented by the federal Government. But the issue of dragging the Minister of Petroleum, Dizeiani Allison-Maduke, into it is very wrong. They are just trying to rubbish her name because right from the onset, she was the one kicking against subsidy. She was the one that made Nigerians know that the money being spent on fuel subsidy was much, revealing that there was a certain cabal benefiting from that. So they should not rope her in because she insisted that they should do away with subsidy.

That is very wrong because she is the only person we have there in the Petroleum sector. And being a Minister of the Niger Delta, she cannot sabotage her people.

I’m not trying to defend her because she is from the Niger Delta, if she was from the North I will say the same thing.

But if at the end of the day she is found guilty, she should face the penalty. The Niger Delta Youth Coalition is coming up with a protest in favour of Dizieani on Wednesday.

Dizieani was not indicted in that report, so they should not rope her in. The House of Representatives want to rope her in but from the report from the NNPC, she was not involved in all those things they are talking about.

So the federal government should adopt the report and the companies and individual, indicted should be prosecuted.

Mr. Koshi John – Media Worker. Yes, the report should be adopted because the way I look at the law makers, they are fighting for the masses. The other way round, I look at it from the angle of government not being willing to make effort to see that the masses benefit from the natural gift from God, because the removal of subsidy on fuel early this year, has affected every aspect of our life. And the worst part of it is that the money realised from this is being shared by just a few group of people, without the general people seeing the benefits of the fuel subsidy removal.

So, the report should be adopted because that was what the committee was set up to do. The report should be adopted immediately and all the people indicted should be brought to book. They should be prosecuted because this is something that is causing serious damage to the country.

Proper action should be taken on them so that other people watching them, should not be found doing the same thing tomorrow. Nobody indicted in that report should be excluded just because he is from  Niger Delta or whatever. Once anybody is found guilty, he should be brought to book.

But can federal government adopt the report and prosecute the indicted persons? That is where Nigerians are discouraged. The fact is that we don’t even have confidence in them (those in government) any more. In Nigeria, only the common man is always brought to book. That is why, when we heard about James Ibori’s judgment in London, we were very excited. And how I wish that could be done here in Nigeria. Government officials embezzle public funds, saving the money for their generations yet unborn, while the people who own the money are suffering and they are watching the masses languishing in poverty.

So, to me, the people indicted in the report even deserve death sentence. When the fuel subsidy was removed in January many people resigned from their working places because the cost of transportation became higher than their salaries.

And when you resign there is nothing for you to do to earn a living and some of such people were committing murder, sad enough a few people are benefiting from the system. So they (the indicted persons) should not be spared at all.

Mr. Akpos Etioms – Insurance under writer. I think this is a very trying time for this administration, especially for Mr. President, because this is an issue that will put his credibility to test, especially as most of the people indicted contributed a lot to enthrone the President.

But what I will say there is that I want the President to ensure that the country holds him in trust because he was elected by the generality of the people. And this fuel subsidy is a national issue that affected the entire nation, especially at the beginning of this year when the fuel subsidy was removed.

So, whoever was indicted should be brought to book, irrespective of how highly placed the person may be. That will give the citizens the assurance that this government is actually a government of the people. So I think the government should take action now.

In the past, government had deceived the people but this time around the people especially the civil society groups, Labour Congress and other organised groups in the country have risen to their rights. They have said it openly that the President should take action, because one of the reasons for the January fuel subsidy strike was the cabal that has robbed the society, that has drained the economy of the country. Civil Society groups and labour have come out openly to tell Mr. President to take action now.

So, I believe government will take action now.

Dr. George Ellah – Medical Practitioner. The report should be looked into and the National Assembly should act on it because the Committee was set up to help us find a way out of the fuel subsidy problems. Some people in some quarters say there is no fuel subsidy, others say there is fuel subsidy.

Infact recently I read in one of the newspapers, where Prof. Tam David-West was saying that there’s nothing like subsidy. For such a highly profiled person to make that kind of comment, it means that there’s something we need to look critically into.

So, that report should be looked into. Infact a white paper should be published so that the public can really know and understand what is going on? What has been happening, what the present situation of things are? And where we have to go from here?

Some people say that some of those indicted in the report were those who sponsored President Goodluck Jonathan’s election, if that is true then it is common sense that it may be difficult for him to do any thing against them.

However, justice is justice. And justice delayed is justice denied. The President must at this point in time, look at the general interest of Nigerians. One person is not above the whole nation. We are talking about the life and welfare of 150 million Nigerians that is at stake in this matter.

While some of those people may have sponsored the election of the President, what the President should do at this point in time is to take a bold step and do act in the interest of Nigerians.

He must take this hard decision and make sure that no offender goes unpunished.

Mr. Obirido Abat – Businessman. I think the normal course of action should follow, that is justice. Because if this trend continues, we shall have no nation. Some highly placed persons who had opportunity to have contracts, to do business with government did not do it decently, then the full weight of the law should follow, otherwise this nation will not survive.

If we continue this way, watching people take away what belongs to the public, what belongs to 150 million Nigerians and nothing is done, there will be a time nothing would be left at all. It has already been said that this nation is a failed state and these are features of a failed state. And if we don’t arrest this trend then there will be no Nigeria for us again.

I don’t see this report going the way of previous reports, because this is from the National Assembly. In the past the National Assembly seemed indisposed to handle corruption issues. This is the only regime the national assembly is waking up to tackle corruption issue. So, I think since the general public and the national assembly have woken up, it will not go the way of the past where reports were submitted and no actions were taken.

I want the federal government to put necessary machineries in motion. I know that the EFCC is already at work. Nobody, no organisation should be spared so that this trend of corruption will stop. It is corruption that is killing this nation. If you remove corruption, this country will be one of the best countries in the world to live in. Any body, any organisation that was indicted should be tried.

Mr. Biragbara Jolly – Businessman. In my own view, those indicted should be prosecuted, so that others will learn lessons from them.

We have seen some past African leaders prosecuted for offences committed while in office. Things like that can also happen in Nigeria. Let government sit up. Let the President show Nigeria a difference. He said this is a transformation government, let the right thing be done. Justice should prevail.

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Opinion

Taking The War To The Enemy

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Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot that it do singe yourself – King Henry VIII.

On July 30, 1966, a message intercepted in some monitoring quarters read as follows: “It is not over yet. Battle will be taken to the enemy’s home camp”. Without giving away further details, any serious investigator can find out what happened in Nigeria between July and December 1966, commonly called counter or second military coup in Nigeria.
When the current Inspector General of Police came to Rivers State recently to flag off a security outfit, there was a statement about taking the war to the camp of the enemy, rather than wait to be attacked first. Without revisiting the Nigerian Civil War, what gave rise to it and matters arising from it, there is a need that we be honest with ourselves. Being honest with ourselves would include admitting that the intercepted “top secret” message of 1966 was a clarion call in some quarters. In a similar way, it would be naïve to ignore certain utterances and actions coming from some quarters since 1966.
A hackneyed idiom that “Rome was not built in one day” is a reminder that the task of nation-building takes quite some time, patience, honest collaboration and patriotism. Yes, mistakes had been made in the past which included tolerating and pampering wrongs that were swept under the carpet. Similarly, we did not have the courage to tell ourselves that a war indemnity was cleverly imposed on a certain section of the country, since 1970.
Let us admit that what was known colloquially as the “Kaduna Mafia” came into existence and in connection with the intercepted security message of July 30, 1966. What became alarming to the few people privy to that message was a threat that “future generations will continue to pay for this audacious assault”. What was the audacious assault? That would be revisiting the military coup of January 15, 1966, which had been interpreted in some quarters as an assault on the North, by Igbo Army officers. Was it?
Let us admit that despite the “revenge coup” of July 1966 and the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970), that threat about future generations continuing to pay some price was neither empty nor is it over yet. The tag of hate speech would definitely not include saying the truth, so long as the way the truth is revealed does not jeopardise national security or unity. The purpose of what is being said here is to admonish that when vengeance is taken too far, it can become counterproductive. That is the essence of the quotation at the beginning of this article, coming from Shakespeare’s King Henry VIII.
Those who have taken the pains to study the trends of the decline of various powers and regimes in history, would have cause to express some fears about the future of Nigeria. The habit of showering praises and flatteries on rulers and leaders rarely demonstrates utmost good faith or patriotism. Rather, any leadership that thrives on and encourages such practices rarely hears the footprints of the ants. It takes deep introspection to be able to explore the “grapevine” in any system of management.
To say that security is a major challenge in the country currently is correct to the extent that prejudices can be kept aside in any effort to explore what brought us to where we are now. Surely, every country has its peculiar challenges which also include security. In every genuine effort to address security issues, it is expedient to look inwards in an honest self-examination. While it is easier and more common to blame everyone else when things begin to fall apart, wisdom would demand that we search ourselves first before pointing fingers at others, using the language they understand.
For quite a long time, a few honest Nigerians have been pointing out where things are going wrong in the country, with nothing serious being done to look into them. The most current is the Petroleum Industry Bill about to be signed into law. One Rev. Canon Chuka Opara, apart from pointing out how Southern lawmakers allowed themselves to be outwitted by their more alert Northern counterparts, said something revealing: “never you be eager to befriend anyone whose desire is always to cheat you” – ref. The Tide newspaper: Monday 12/7/2021.
To put the matter bluntly, there is a growing awareness in Southern Nigeria that there is a cheating game going on in the country. Was Femi Fani-Kayode wrong to say that “President Buhari’s Fulani cabal has conquered Nigeria?” After an unguarded statement by one Badu Salisu Ahmadu that there is a standing Fulani Strike Force ready to take over Nigeria, was he arrested or interrogated by security agencies? Neither did Dr. Obadiah Mailafia cry wolf when there are none.
It was late Senator Francis Ellah who raised the issue of a clever imposition of some penalty on South-Eastern Nigerians arising from the Biafra issue. But rather than address the issue with honesty, there have been series of acts of subterfuge and intimidation, making the people feel more bitter and estranged. Neither do we have the honesty to admit that the rising agitations from that part of the country has to do with disenfranchisement of the people of their natural resources. The issue of resource control is obviously dead now.
The more brazen acts of disrespect for the rights of South-Easterners include the invasion of their farmlands by marauding cattle, with no visible action seen to be taken by the Federal Government to check the impunity of herdsmen. Rather, there were appeals for Southern states to provide lands for Ruga and ranching, as if cattle business is state business rather than a private one. Even with a belligerent attitude of the organised body of cattle dealers, Miyetti Allah, the impression Southerners get is that they are being treated like a conquered people.
Partisan politics apart, the impression must not be given that the APC-led Federal Government is out to intimidate or oppress South-Easterners. Currently, the Ijaw ethnic nationality is holding consultations on how to leave Nigeria, quite apart from the Sunday Igboho issue. The time has come to ask if a section of the country is not unwittingly creating or heating the furnace so hot for us to bear. We were told that there was no victor, no vanquished in 1970, but there are overlords.

By: Bright Amirize

Dr Amirize is a retired lecturer from the Rivers State University, Port Harcourt.

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Opinion

Big Brother No More

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The Sierra Leonean High Commissioner to Nigeria, Dr Solomon Gembeh, was recently reported as saying that Nigeria spent over $13 billion on the liberation of his nation and Liberia. According to him, Sierra Leone would remain ever grateful for Nigeria’s ‘big brother’ interventions in the fratricidal wars that were launched by rebel groups in the two contiguous West African neighbours.
Gembeh emphasised that Nigeria’s assistance came out of goodwill, with nothing demanded in return, unlike a situation where such help (especially from Western nations) was paid for through the staking of national assets. He said that funds from Nigeria and the African Development Bank (AfDB) were efficiently being used to train Sierra Leonean children, particularly the girls.
“We provide what we enjoyed when we were in primary school, we enjoyed lunch served; you have free buses to take you to school; you eat there; and there are teachers everywhere.
“People are beginning to get computers, trying to get Internet services all over the schools; places that are hard to reach you make sure that they don’t walk so many miles to get to school,” said the diplomat.
Gembeh used the opportunity to remind the Nigerian government of its unfulfilled funding pledges to his country and hoped that such friendly aid would help restore the education system for a generation of Sierra Leonean children who lost a decade of proper schooling as a result of the civil war.
It would be recalled that the Liberian and Sierra Leonean Civil Wars were fought mainly between militia groups which craved to control the rich diamond mines in these countries. It actually started in December 1989 when Charles Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) attempted to oust the military government of Sergeant Samuel Doe.
The internal struggle spilled over to Sierra Leone when a splinter gang of the NPFL, known by the ULIMO acronym, which occupied Liberia’s western region crossed the border into Sierra Leone to fight Taylor’s forces from there. The Sierra Leonean Army would have none of that in their country. But ULIMO was too hot to handle. So, Guinea and Nigeria had to ship in military supplies to help Freetown chase out the intruders. While this lasted, an indigenous rebel group, the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) led by Foday Sankoh and suspected to be supported by Taylor, sprang up in 1991 to take up territory of its own. And that was how a brutal civil war ensued in the once tranquil former British colony.
A multinational force was raised by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), named as ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG), to restore and monitor peace in both countries.
In her usual character to always play the big brother in Africa, it was reported that Nigeria had readily opted to contribute the bulk of the troops and materiel that went into the regional peacekeeping effort. This obviously accounted for her anger and immediate takeover of the ECOMOG high command when President Doe was captured, brutally tortured and killed under the nose of a Ghanaian commander, Lt. Gen Arnold Quainoo.
One is not averse to Nigeria playing major roles in regional and global affairs. After all, isn’t that the dream of every patriotic citizen of any country? I still remember a CNN footage of troops of the Nigerian ECOMOG contingent fanning out in the Liberian capital as they were ferried ashore from a warship and under heavy attack by Taylor’s men. Honestly, I had never felt prouder of our soldiers as they moved quickly to liberate Monrovia and save people from further anguish. It reminded me of those pictures of World War II Normandy Landing in 1944.
If indeed Sierra Leonean primary school kids are beginning to be bused to school where they eat free lunch, have access to good teachers and Internet facilities as claimed by Gembeh, then they can be said to be already ahead of their Nigerian contemporaries.
Down here, reliable statistics have always placed the number of our out-of-school children at a conservative 10 million. Some of those considered lucky to attend school do so trekking long distances or paying their ways to and from school. Save for the few states where a federal government-sponsored school-feeding scheme has been introduced, Nigerian kids mostly fend for themselves while in school. As for Internet access, many rural kids may not even have seen a computer since registering at school.
Liberia, Sierra Leone and other beneficiary countries should please make do with whatever helps that came from Nigeria in their most trying times. They should forget any outstanding pledges because the so-called big brother is now in some dire straits of his own and wishes that those beneficiary nations begin to act as big uncles to him. And who said Nigeria is not at war right now; what with al-Qaeda’s Boko Haram/ISWAP insurgents in the north east and the itinerant bandits elsewhere in the land? Surely, Abuja will greatly appreciate a return of any previous favours and goodwill at this time.
What’s more, during our major bloodlettings in the 1960s only Ghana’s General Joseph Ankrah made any serious attempt to try to mediate between Colonels Yakubu Gowon and Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu in order to avert the kind of carnage that was witnessed in the Nigerian Civil War. The rest of Africa took sides on the sticking points at Aburi or were simply not interested; including the then Liberian President William Tubman and Prime Minister Siaka Steven of Sierra Leone who were not moved by pictures of gravely kwashiorkored Biafran kids.
Enough of this African big brother histrionics, please. Even the US is rethinking her global big brother posturing.

By: Ibelema Jumbo

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Opinion

For A Stronger Opposition Party In Nigeria

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For want of a better phrase, I will describe this week as a period of “push me, I push you” for the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition party in the country, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
It started with the PDP Governors in a communiqué at the end of their 11th meeting in Bauchi State on Monday, accusing the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration and the APC of turning the Presidential Villa to the new APC headquarters and using underhand tactics to arm-twist some PDP governors and other stakeholders to join the ruling party.
Then the Presidency which in its usual manner cannot take such allegation lying low, through the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, lampooned the opposition party, boasting that “between now and 2023, there would be more confusion in their ranks and there would be more depletions in their ranks, so that is why they say anything,” he said.
According to him, “We were in this country when President Obasanjo was in power and the BOT meeting of the PDP used to hold at the Presidential Villa.
“We were here when President Yar’Adua, and President Jonathan was there, they held meetings at the Presidential Villa. What are they talking about really? Meaning, yes, we (the APC) are using the villa as a party office today because you (the PDP) used it in the past.
 So we are still where we were in 2015 when PDP left office. Nothing has changed? The wrongs of the now opposing party are still being perpetrated despite all the promises to bring about change? Maybe this mentality of “business as usual” is the reason the three major campaign promises of the ruling power tackling insecurity, improving the economy and fighting corruption are yet to be realized.
From the realities on the ground, it is obvious that the country is not any better today than it was six years ago. We have seen a complex form of insecurity threatening to tear the country apart. Many citizens have been sacked from their ancestral homes by bandits, herdsmen or whatever they are called; hundreds of people are being killed every day, kidnapping for ransom has become a lucrative business; many farmers can no longer go to their farms for fear of being raped, maimed, kidnapped or killed.
 Economically, there is little or no visible improvement. Currently, Nigeria is topping the list of countries with the most people living in extreme poverty in the world. Unemployment rate is on the increase and the value of the Naira continues to depreciate. Corruption is now the order of the day. Some people liken corruption in the country to cancer that has destroyed every part of the body.
Yet, all we hear is that the government is doing a lot for the country. The Presidential spokesman, Adesina, announced a few days ago that the Buhari government will unveil massive infrastructure in the country by 2022. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and see what they have in stock and what impact it will make in the lives of the numerous poor citizens.
But the desired change is not the responsibility of the APC alone. Put differently, the blame for the lack of change should not go to only the ruling party.  Has the PDP as the main opposition party been able to put enough pressure on the APC to bring about change? By this, I do not mean the frequent press releases and communiqués whose impact is hardly felt.
Has the PDP demonstrated good governance styles in the state they control which can put pressure on the APC to sit up?  In the aforementioned communiqué the PDP governors supported the need for a free, fair and credible election in the country and asked the National Assembly to entrench electronic transmission of results of elections in the nation’s electoral jurisprudence.
The big question is, have these governors done the same in their various states?  Have they given free hand to their respective State Independent Electoral Commissions (SIECs) to conduct free, fair and credible elections that will be acceptable by all or they have made their state electoral umpire an extension of their political party? 
Yes, it is good to criticise the federal government and the party in power when things are not going as expected or when their actions and inactions are causing untold hardship and pain to the citizens, but as leaders of government in opposition party controlled states, the governors need to go beyond criticisms and attacks.  A lot of Nigerians will like to see them exemplify their own alternative good governance style so convincingly that people in states controlled by other parties will want to support or vote for PDP candidates in their areas so as to be able to enjoy good governance.
Again, the PDP governors demanded Electronic Transmission of 2023 Election Results and many have been wondering why, as a party, they can support such a course while some senators elected on the platform of the party voted against it and some stayed away on the day the Senate voted to decide the inclusion of electronic transmission of election results in the proposed amendments to the Electoral Act.
It is, therefore, time for the leaders and members of the PDP to come together and think of a better, more effective way to play their opposition role if they must effectively challenge the APC in the next election. The ongoing zonal congress of the party should be free and fair, devoid of imposition of candidates or overbearing influence of the party heads so that the party will be united and not fractionalised, going into the 2023 General Election.

By: Calista Ezeaku

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