Apparently dazed by the sweet wine of democracy, lavishly served Nigerians by the Jonathan Presidency, many seem to have found so much reason to redefine what rights mean. One such is the new penchant, sorry right of some to decide for Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan who to sack and who to spare.
Surely, one of the real pillars of any democracy is the collection of freedoms of various shades and colours, key among which is free speech, which though free, is also carved in such a manner that the right behind its use, does not infringe on others’ right to have their integrity intact.
That right it seems, is now daily misused to torment other public officers and indeed question their integrity.
Last week, this column had cause to enlist in the debate over the propriety of the summoning of President Jonathan by the House of Representatives, with the caveat that he did so in person. At the forefront of that campaign was the Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Mr Zakari Mohammed who was said to have quoted relevant portions of the 1999 Constitution in the most irrelevant way by deliberately choosing favourable opening paragraphs without the exceptions duly spelt out.
And only last week, the same Zakari, swimming in the euphoria of an untouchable, covered by legislative privilege a ‘know-it-all’, and a scavenger of others political heads, started the call for the removal from office, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke over what he considers, her regime of ineptitude, which in his view, led to the distasteful running of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) by its leadership.
The only reason deducible from Zakari’s argument is that the NNPC leadership was corrupt in the management of the oil subsidy regime because the Petroleum Minister is inept, unqualified and indeed compromising. This is in spite of the fact that the House’s Ad-hoc Committee which probed the subsidy regime did not expressly find Allison-Madueke culpable in any way.
If expanded, Zakari’s argument seemed to imply that the House’s Ad-hoc Committee chairman, Hon. Farouk Lawan, who probed the subsidy programme, and who is now facing accusations of demanding and accepting a $620,000 bribe from an industry chief, did so, if he did, simply because the House’s speaker or leadership is inept, unqualified and indeed compromising. Would it therefore, be proper to call for the removal of the Speaker of the House?
Curiously, those calls for Diezani’s head, made more headlines after, following recommendations of the presiding Minister, President Goodluck Jonathan sacked and replaced the Group Managing Director and indeed Board of the NNPC. That action, according to Presidency sources, was meant to inject fresh blood into the plans to implement reforms in the sector.
More importantly, the idea of an oil subsidy regime probe would not have been necessary, if President Jonathan, through the Petroleum Resources Minister had chosen to keep mum, as did many others before him, earn a little more from loots of key industry players and begin the search for other juicy avenues of wealth generation. But inundated with discrepancies in reports from the subsidy regime, it was indeed the Presidency that not merely proposed, but indeed announced the removal of fuel subsidy as a means of saving the country, the high level of waste through corruption.
But rather than earn the respect, commendation and indeed the support of notable Nigerians, particularly members of the National Assembly like Zakari, the opposite is what the gullible public is being fed with as truth, on daily basis.
Unfortunately for such arm-chair critics, many others have refused to be deceived by their campaigns of calumny because, as they want Nigerians to believe, if the Presidency was corrupt, intended shielding any corrupt marketing company or was benefiting from the subsidy, why would the same President move to cancel the subsidy programme? Would he not rather be quiet and reap billions from the programme by simply looking the other way?
Importation of refined petroleum products did not start with the Jonathan Presidency, neither did the payment of subsidy on such import. But unlike many before him, Jonathan instead, with the recommendation and support of Diezani Allison-Madueke elected to pursue the subsidy removal agenda to high levels before the ill-conceived nationwide strike called by labour early in the year.
This is why it is puzzling that some Nigerians, could buy the thorn kite flown by Zakari Mohammed to test the political waters. Or is it intended to force another change that would be beneficial to Zakari’s sponsors against the hopes, fears and yearnings of the oil producing South-South region?
Interestingly, penultimate Friday, President Jonathan announced the removal of the National Security Adviser, General Andrew Owoye Azazi (rtd) along with the Defence Minister, Bello Haliru Muhammed in response to similar calls, or so it appears. Expectedly, the Federal Government has since replaced Azazi, who hails from the South-South Zone with Col. Sambo Dasuki of the North while, two others from the same North are now being considered for replacement of Haliru Muhammed.
These changes, favourable as they are to Zakari and his ilk, are not so to others. Now, the agenda seems to be to arm-twist the Presidency into doing-away with Diezani Allison-Madueke. Should that happen, there is no assurance that the replacement will come from the same South-South just as Azazi’s did not source replacement from where the former left.
With all these, one expects that men like Zakari will commend President Jonathan for exercising the discretion to remove Gen Azazi, once mentioned to have been responsible for the president’s earlier leap from Director in OMPADEC to running-mate to former Bayelsa State Governor, Diepriye Alamieyesigha. Many before him, would naturally place such personal relationship far above national interest, but no. As usual, none of that would be mentioned nor heard from those whose only past-time seems to be calling for other’s jobs in the name of fighting corruption, an exercise that should require more introspective by those who sit in judgment over others.
This is why recent calls by a few, for the sack of Diezani Allison-Madueke as Petroleum Resources Minister must be viewed for what it is – misguided, selfish and unpopular and indeed surely, a demonstration of crass insensitivity to the yearnings of the oil producing Niger Delta.
Happily, there are still Nigerians, even from the Northern parts of the country who can still stand tall above the now familiar destructive North-South sentiments and who at all times still choose to voice only the truth and whatever can foster excellence and national integration.
One such is former Petroleum Minister, Dr. Rilwanu Lukeman who has repeatedly described the contributions of Diezani Allison-Madeuke to petroleum sector, as a great asset. Indeed Lukeman, like many other well-meaning Nigerians, including key players in the petroleum industry consider the current Minister of Petroleum Resources as qualified, diligent and very patriotic and thus, most suited for the much needed reforms now gradually unfolding.
This is why many are at loss over what informed Zakari’s views on certain issues: over-dose of democratic wine, the type Obasanjo denied many? Or merely sentiments intended to heat-up the polity; as earlier threatened by top-Northern politicians, to make Nigeria ungovernable, or does Zakari have his own agenda as distinct from both and by extension that of the House of Representatives?
These are challenging times when everyone should join hands with all well-meaning Nigerians and the government to defend the unity, (even in our diversity) of the country and not fan, recklessly, the embers of artificial divides. Democracy, it must be said, does not necessarily mean limitless freedom to voice any and every thing one wishes to voice on others. That right is also limited by the rights of others to defend their integrity and reputation.
More than that, membership of the House is no guarantee to determine what the executive arm should do or how to run the government. We must apply some civility in the way we castigate others for our own personal aggrandizement.
My Agony is that the likes of Zakari are unmindful of the reality that anytime one goes head down to spy on other’s under pants, his, is at once open to similar, if not more elaborate probe. That indeed is what the Reps themselves are battling to come to terms with over Lawan’s unease.
Soye Wilson Jamabo
90% Of Money Laundered Via Real Estate, EFCC Reveals
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says about 90 per cent of money laundering is done through the real estate sector.
The commission’s Chairman, Abdulrasheed Bawa, stated this while featuring on Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily, yesterday,
According to him, although the sector is monitored via the special control unit, more needed to be done.
According to Bawa, “One of the problems we have now is the real estate. 90 to 100 per cent of the resources are being laundered through the real estate.”
He said there are so many issues involved, but that they were working with the National Assembly to stop what he called “the gate keepers” as there would be reduction in looting if there is no one to launder the money.
Bawa, the EFCC boss, gave an example of a minister who expressed interest in a $37.5million property a bank manager put up for sale.
He said, “The bank sent a vehicle to her house and in the first instance $20million was evacuated from her house.
“They paid a developer and a lawyer set up a special purpose vehicle, where the title documents were transferred into.
“And he (the lawyer) is posing as the owner of the property. You see the problem. This is just one of many; it is happening daily.”
The EFCC chairman also revealed that he receives death threats often.
Asked to respond to President Muhammadu Buhari’s frequent “Corruption is fighting back” expression, Bawa said he was in New York, USA, last week, when someone called to threaten him.
“Last week, I was in New York when a senior citizen received a phone call from somebody that is not even under investigation.
“The young man said, ‘I am going to kill him (Bawa), I am going to kill him’.
“I get death threats. So, it is real. Corruption can fight back,” he said.
On corruption in the civil service, he said there were a lot of gaps, especially in contracts processing, naming “emergency contracts” as one.
Bawa said, “A particular agency is notorious for that. They have turned all their contracts to emergency contracts.”
However, he said, EFCC has strategies in place to check corruptions, one of which is “corruption risk assessments of MDAs”.
According to him, “I have written to the minister and would soon commence the process of corruption risk assessments of all the parastatals and agencies under the Ministry of Petroleum Resources to look at their vulnerability to fraud and advise them accordingly.”
Asked if the scope of corruption in the country overwhelms him, Bawa, the EFCC boss said, “Yes, and no.”
We’ve Spent N9bn To Upgrade RSUTH, Wike Confirms
The Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, says his administration has spent N9billion in upgrading structures and installation of new equipment at the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital (RSUTH).
He said the fact that 40 per cent of the 2021 budget of the state is dedicated to provision of quality healthcare delivery was a further demonstration of the priority placed on the sector.
Wike made the explanation at the foundation laying ceremony for the construction of a Renal Centre at RSUTH, last Friday.
The governor said he made promise to Rivers people that the best would be provided to them in all sectors of the society within his capability because of the mandate they gave to him.
“As we came on here, I just looked around and I see the changes in this teaching hospital. I can say that we have put not less than N9billion in this teaching hospital.
“If you look at the budget, the health sector alone, what it’s taking from the Rivers State Government is not less than 40 percent of the 2021 budget.”
Speaking further, Wike said the state government cannot afford to implement free medical service programme in the present economic circumstance.
While dismissing the request for a subvention for RSUTH, Wike, however, commended the chief medical director and his team for their commitment to turnaround the fortunes of RSUTH.
“I have never seen anywhere that health services can be totally free. They’re telling me that people who come here can’t pay. I have never declared that this state is going to take over the health fees of anybody.”
Also speaking, the former Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, who performed the flag-off, noted that Wike’s achievements in the health sector in particular, surpass what former governors of the state had done.
Sekibo said that the governor has given equal attention to every section of the health sector by providing complete health infrastructure that was positioning the state as a medical tourism destination in Nigeria.
Earlier, the Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Prof Princewill Chike, lauded Governor Nyesom Wike for his interest in the health of Rivers people.
He noted that the renal centre, when completed, would become another landmark development project in the health sector that would handle and manage all kidney-related ailments.
In his remarks, the Chief Medical Director of the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Friday Aaron, commended Wike for approving the renal centre.
Aaron explained that chronic kidney disease was a major burden globally with estimated 14 million cases in Nigeria.
According to him, over 240,000 of these cases require renal replacement therapy in the form of dialysis and renal transplant.
The CMD said the building that would house the centre was expected to be completed in six months and consists of two floors.
The ground floor, according to him, would house the haemodialysis unit with eight haemodialysis machines.
He further explained that the first floor of the centre would house the surgical component where most of the sophisticated equipment for kidney transplant would be installed.
Aaron said Wike has released the funds required to build, equip the centre as well as for the training of personnel locally and internationally.
Power Generation Falls 23% To 3,172MW
Power supply in Nigeria has failed to improve on last week’s performance, as it fell by 22.9 per cent from peak generation of 4,115Megawatts on Saturday to 3,172.20MW as at 5pm, yesterday, latest data from the System Operator has shown.
According to the data, most power plants were operating far below capacity due to gas shortage with Olorunsogo Power Plant 335MW capacity; and Sapele Power Plant, 450MW capacity; completely out.
Egbin was generating at 746MW; Omoku 37.20; Omotosho (NIPP) at 105MW; while Afam was generating at 80MW.
The data showed that on the average power generation in the past seven days were 4,120.9MW on Sunday, June 6; 4,249.4 on Monday, June 7; 4,000.9MW on Tuesday, June 8; 3,720.7 on Wednesday, June 9; 3,517 on Thursday, June 10; 3,765MW on Friday, June 11; and 4,115MW on Saturday, June 12.
The International Oil Companies (IOCs), had last warned that despite Nigeria’s huge gas reserves a lot needs to be done to attract investment to the sector to develop gas reserves to boost power generation in the country.
Speaking at the just concluded Nigeria International Petroleum Summit, the Chair, Shell Companies in Nigeria/MD SPDC, Osagie Okunbor, said with 203trillion Cubic Feet of gas reserves, what was needed in the country is to deliver projects that would produce the gas.
“The challenge is not just growing the reserves but in producing these reserves for the benefits of our country. Essentially growing the reserves and delivering on the production is a function of two or three elements.
“I like to see infrastructure that is required for the development of these resources at two levels. Soft infrastructure is often the one that is more important than and that is the one that is actually drives most of what you see at site.”
“Soft infrastructure refers to the enabling environment and nothing pleases me as much seeing both the Senate President and the speaker of the house give very firm commitments about trying to pass the PIB this month.
“That is probably the big one of the enabling environment to provide the kind of stability we also need all sorts of other issues we need to that we have discussed severally in terms of sanctity of contract, stable policies and collaboration and I think we are well on our way there”, he added.
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