2013 In Retrospect

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The year 2013 has gradually come to an end and paved the way for a brand new year (2014). Like previous ones, it certainly must have begun with great expectations for most people. Gleefully, unlike 2012, it was not a year of natural or national disasters. There weren’t numerous plane crashes or widespread flooding which 2012 was reputed for.

On the average, the year can be said to be a fair one comparatively. It was characterised by some eccentric developments which indeed invigorated or intrigued Nigerians both at home and in Diaspora.

The year began with Nigeria’s steady cruise to glory in sports. The country had a blissful outing in sports particularly in football and athletics where the strength of the nation was proven fantastically at local and international levels.

On February 10, 2013, the Super Eagles, Nigeria’s senior national team, won the 29th edition of the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) final in South Africa beating Burkina Faso, after 19 years attempts at winning the trophy. It was a championship where Nigeria was never listed among tournament favourites.

In July 2013, Nigeria broke another jinx in African Nations Championships (CHAN) when it qualified to feature in the tournament slated for South Africa, the first time since its inception in 2009. Nigeria had beaten Cote d’ Ivoire 4-2 to secure a place.

This success continued between August 11th and 18th, 2013, when a Nigerian, Blessing Okagbare, won silver and bronze medals in women 200m and long jump respectively at the World Athletic Championship in Moscow.

While the nation was basking in the euphoria of the aforementioned successes in sports, the Golden Eaglets on November 8, 2013, again conquered the world in far away United Arab Emirates (U.A.E), trouncing Mexico 3-0 to lift the FIFA Under 17 World Cup for the fourth time, having won it in 1985 in China (maiden edition), 1993 in Japan and 2007 in South Korea.

The zenith of 2013 sports glories was the qualification of the Super Eagles for the next edition of the World Cup finals in June 2014 in Brazil. The country got to this stage when it beat Ethiopia with an aggregate of 4-1 to give it its fifth World Cup ticket.

It was indeed a year to remember with many troubling moments in the aviation industry. A major plane crash, a financial scandal and several other flops have left watchers of the industry in utter bewilderment. The anger they generated were so potent and consistent that they almost overshadowed the remodeling projects of some airports in the country.

The year was characterised by the grounding of the Bombadier Global Express aircraft with registration number 5N565RS by the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), belonging to the Rivers State Government, which conveyed the state Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi, at Akure Airport on 26th April, 2013 . The development caused so much uproar by Nigerians and deep controversy between the federal and Rivers State governments.

Similarly, a chartered helicopter by the Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomole, was grounded at the Benin Airport by the federal government on June 7, 2013. Oshiomole was on his way to Akwa, Anambra State, when the incident occurred.

A high profile incident in the aviation sector is the stowaway phenomenon that happened on August 26, 2013. On that fateful day, a teenage stowaway, Master Daniel Ohikhena, beat aviation security at the Benin Airport and hid himself in the wheel compartment of a Lagos-bound Arik Air aircraft and successfully landed at Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos. He was later arrested by security operatives for questioning.

Another high point of events in aviation this year was the fatal accident involving a Brazilian-made Embraer 120 aircraft with registration number 5N-BJY belonging to Associated Airline with 20 passengers made up of seven crew members on October 3, 2013.

The aircraft, which flew from Lagos, was Akure-bound. It was conveying the corpse of the late Ondo State governor, Chief Olusegun Agagu, and some members of his family when it crashed. 14 out of the 20 passengers perished. The crash once again threw the aviation sector into a quagmire with many questioning the air worthiness of the aircraft that fly the nation’s airspace.

Developments in the sector remain incomplete without mentioning the recent N255m bullet proof cars scam allegedly bought for the minister, Stella Oduah, by NCAA. Since then the issue has generated a lot of questions that have remained unanswered. Not even the three-man administrative panel set up by President Goodluck Jonathan to investigate the circumstances surrounding the purchase has been able to provide the needed succour.

The nation’s economic sector was not left out in the series of occurrences in the country. During the year under review, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group, Nigeria’s leading think-tank on economic policy and private sector development, hosted the 19th Economic Summit from 3rd to 5th September, 2013. The Summit focused on growing agriculture as a business which aims at turning Nigeria into a global agricultural force.

In November, 14 private successor companies received their certificates of ownership following the unbundling of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). The move brought an end to the many years of public ownership of electricity generation and transmission in Nigeria. This is expected to enhance the country’s fortunes and ensure uninterrupted power supply.

Also,2013 saw the death of literary icon, Prof. Chinua Achebe. His demise created a vacuum particularly in the literary space both in the country and international community. His funeral in May attracted several dignitaries from all walks of life. Late Achebe was known for his very famous book Things Fall Apart.

The entertainment industry also recorded some landmark achievements in 2013 with several events within and outside the country. Many award-winning movies were produced and premiered within and outside the country. The development has placed Nigeria’s movie industry on world map. Also, Nollywood celebrated 20 years of existence with series of activities and funfair.

Still in 2013, Nigeria witnessed a solar eclipse on November 3. The National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA) had earlier predicted that the country would witness a partial solar eclipse on November 3. Solar eclipse occurs when the moon passes between the sun and the earth, and the moon fully or partially blocks the sun.

A challenge the Federal Government has been working very assiduously to address and surmount is the issue of Boko Haram insurgency in the north eastern part of the country which has made life unpredictable and brutish in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States where emergency rule is currently in place.

That the activities of Boko Haram which have left thousands of Nigerians dead in the past three years is a major source of concern in terms of safety of life and property of citizens, was underlined by the listing of Boko Haram and Ansaru as terror groups by the United States.

The designation was made formal on November 13, following two statements from the White House and the State Department.

This move by the US Government was not surprising if the killing of 32 school children in Potiskum by gunmen suspected to be Boko Haram operatives; Saturday July 6, is anything to go by.

Not done, the terrorist group recently on December 2, in an early morning raid attacked the Nigerian Air Force Base and other military formations in Maiduguri, fuelling suspicion in the military that the attacks had insider collaboration.

This is besides the internecine tribal conflict which regularly claims the lives of citizens on the now infamous “Plateau killing fields”

But as if these security challenges are not enough to keep the federal government on its toes, the escalating oil theft in the Niger Delta must, no doubt, be a source of concern to patriots. So far the country reportedly loses a whopping $1bn  daily to oil thieves who have invaded the Niger Delta as if the area is a “no-man’s-land”

This process which has grave implications for the nation’s economy and the ecosystem in the impacted region is not helped by our law enforcement system which appears to be helpless in the face of rape of our collective resources by a few untouchables.

But the most profound event of 2013 which impacted on the majority of Nigerians was the five month long strike embarked by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) from  April 2013. Their grouse: non-implementation of an agreement the Federal Government reached with the union in 2009.

The rot in our institutions in terms of infrastructure cannot be contested, but the level of corruption and the depravity which some lecturers exhibit in their relationship with their students is unacceptable and should begin to occupy the attention of the leadership of ASUU in our collective bid to sanitise our tertiary institutions.

It is gratifying, however, that the Federal Government and ASUU, just on December 11, 2013 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the resolution of the dispute which led to the strike. It was on this note that ASUU called off its five month strike.

Though details of the agreement were not made public, ASUU President, Dr. Nasir Fagge, revealed that the deal captured the main areas of the union’s demands, including the deposit of N200bn in a dedicated account in the Central Bank of Nigeria and the non-victimisation clause.

In the area of boosting the economy of the northern part of the country through improved transportation, the federal government had completed the dredging of the River Niger up to Barau, while River ports at Lokoja and Oguta have been completed. Meanwhile, the dredging of the Benue River from Lokoja to Yola is on.

But according to the Minister of Information and Communications, Labaran Maku, the most significant economic project for northern Nigeria done by any federal government for the north is the rehabilitation of the railway system from Lagos to Kano.

This has in no small measure reduced cost of moving bulk commodities like cement and petroleum products which corporate bodies now carry out through use of railway coaches. Besides, he promised that this year train services between Port Harcourt and Maiduguri would be in place as three contractors are handling the rehabilitation of the line with revenue from SURE-P.

However, it appears that in spite of these seeming progress made in the transportation and electricity sectors, critics allege that corruption was now growing in leaps and bounds in the polity with the leaders being the most offenders. For example, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria disclosed recently that Nigeria loses nearly $8 billion about N1.24 trillion per year to oil sector corruption despite the existence of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI). ERA/FoEN decried the fact that NEITI had failed to sanitise the Nigerian petroleum sector or reduce corruption level as Nigeria loses over 500,000 barrels of crude per day, costing the nation a whopping N1.24 trillion per year.

In the political scene, the year witnessed many political developments and upheavals that are bound to change the political alignment of the country.

A major disclosure in the political arena is the merger of four political parties into All Progressives Congress (APC). The four parties were Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and a faction of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) led by the Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha.

With the merger, Nigeria now has two major national parties. This means Nigerian now have an alternative party to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

The year also witnessed the factionalisation of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), following the victory of the Rivers State Governor, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi in the Forum’s chairmanship election. During the election, 19 governors voted for Governor Amaechi while 16 voted for the Plateau State Governor Jonah Jang, who is the factional chairman.

The Rivers State House of Assembly also had its share of turpsy turvy political situation inthe country. It was plunged into a serious crisis following the failed attempt by five lawmakers to impeach the speaker, Hon. Otelemaba Dan Amachree. Following the crisis, the Assembly was unable to open for normal legislative functions. This led to the taking over of its duties by the National Assembly.

 

Arnold Alalibo

President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi
President Goodluck Jonathan and Governor Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi