Monday October 6, 2014 was World Habi
tat Day. As it has become the tradition
of the United Nations since 1985, the first Monday of October every year is used to reflect on the state of cities and towns across the world as it relates to basic rights of all to adequate shelter.
The United Nations also uses the day to celebrate, draw attention to this all important human need as it reminds the world that people have the power and responsibility to shape the future of their cities and towns. The focus this year is on “Voices in the Slum.”
According to the United Nations, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have cut the number of slum dwellers by more than half across the globe, but that within the same period there has been rapid urbanisation with a resultant rise in slum population, especially in developing countries.
Like the United Nations, governments and peoples across the globe should be worried by the voices that come from the slums, but very little is even done to at least, listen to them. According to studies, in some cases as much as 70 per cent of the population lives under slum conditions.
Of course, the cities cannot fully function as one and provide the needed benefits of its elevated status, if it continues to cohabit with an overwhelming slum population. As the cities continue to collect ordour from the slums and expose themselves to the ill-feelings of the slums, the best interest of the population cannot be achieved.
Slums all over the world have the characteristic of poor and inadequate housing; poor sanitary environment and disregard for human dignity. In some cases, slums provide the hiding place for criminals and the training ground for social deviants and violent characters.
In realisation of this ugly situation, the Federal Government undertook a major offensive against persons that did things that tended to deface Abuja the nation’s capital. Of course, whole slum communities and illegal structures, markets and parks were removed.
A similar urban renewal exercise also took place in many States, including Rivers State where illegal structures and some water front settlements were demolished. In some places, streets blocked with buildings were re-opened, while high fences were pulled down.
But the success of those actions is what society is yet to enjoy. In some places, the displaced people simply create new slums because the authorities did not provide a credible alternative. In others, the operation just did not conclude and very little appears to have changed.
The Tide thinks that the authorities need to take advantage of the World Habitat Day to re-visit the accommodation needs of Nigerians across the board. The glaring housing deficit in Nigeria should concern the government just as the dehumanising condition under which a huge percentage of Nigerians live.
In Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, a lot has changed but the city is surrounded by un-healthy water brazing conversion, occupation and defacing of uncompleted public buildings by hoodlums still remains a key challenge.
The over-powering influence of urban slum is best typified by the oddity in the government estates at Orije and Oromenike, all in the high brow D/Line area of Port Harcourt. The peculiarity of this place is that the hoodlums that have turned the place to some den deny some legitimate allottees of the flats to take possession.
The case of persons, even from other states taking up open spaces for trading or residential purposes with impunity has become un-acceptable. But the failure of government Ministries, especially those of Housing and Urban Development to deal with the situation is simply scandalous.
While the inner-city of the once famous Garden City of Port Harcourt hosts the competition between finest houses and the most audacious slums, the fringes of the city are being developed without plan and without the supervision of the authorities.
We think that the issue of slum settlements in some States, including Rivers State should be addressed with all seriousness and sense of purpose. This is moreso because the negative influence from those slums has already started impacting on the health, safety and security of the cities.
As a way of urgently reversing the trend, government should quickly complete all on-going housing programmes and embark on more while ridding estates like the ones in Oromenike, Orije and Oyigbo, etc of hoodlums.
BPP’s Revelation On FG’s Inflated Contracts
A detailed report by the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) claiming to have saved N27 billion in 2018 through the reduction of inflated contract costs by government contractors evokes much sadness and signals Nigeria’s final descent into ignominy. The mind-boggling revelation was contained in the bureau’s 2018 annual report.
In addition, the report stated that the savings emanated from diligent scrutiny of awarded contracts by federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) before the contractors were issued the Certificate of No Objection by the bureau. A Certificate of No Objection is a document confirming that due process was followed in the conduct of a procurement process.
In particular, among the reprehensible ministries, the report listed the Ministry of Transportation headed by former Rivers State Governor, Rt Hon Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, and the Ministry of Power, Housing and Works equally headed by former Lagos State Governor, Barrister Babatunde Raji Fashola.
Digested in the report was the assertion that in 2018, a total of 86 No Objection Certificates were issued to MDAs for an initial contract sum of N1.421 trillion but was reviewed downwards to N1.394 trillion by BPP, hence, saving N27 billion from the awarded contracts.
From the saved sum, N22.22 billion, representing the highest amount of savings made from a single ministry, came from the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing with an initial request of N877.40 billion. Similarly, the bureau saved N1.37 billion on projects from the Transportation Ministry also from an initially quoted amount of N76.22 billion.
The findings likewise revealed that disparate initially quoted contract sums from the Petroleum Ministries, Finance, Defence, Interior Affairs, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Federal Radio Corporation were reviewed and a prodigious N1.576 billion was saved for the nation’s coffers. However, the Federal Capital Territory Administration, Ministry of Environment as well as the Ministry of Budget and National Planning were not indicted as savings were not made from them.
We entirely commend the action of these ministries in stoutly repudiating the lusciousness of procurement frauds and back-scratching ravaging the country.
The BPP’s report is perhaps a most disappointing confirmation that corruption is still deeply entrenched in government ministries, departments and agencies despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s avowed resolve to rid the country of the deep-seated culture of graft and usher in a new era of transparency in public office. It, therefore, stands to reason that so much hard work and tenacity are required if the government is to deterge the rot in the ailing bureaucracy.
It is scandalous that fraud in the procurement process has hamstrung the efficacy of public expenditure and the occasions to advance the quality of lives of Nigerians. Regrettably, it has been established by the World Bank’s Country Procurement Assessment Report (CPAR) that out of every N1.00 spent by the Nigerian government on projects, about 70 kobo is lost to underhand practices. This is mind-blowing, indeed.
These reasons precipitated the enactment of the first Procurement Act in 2001 which provides for the harmonisation of existing government policies and practices on public procurement to ensure probity, accountability and clarity in the procurement process. Had it been judiciously observed since its proclamation, the Act would have curbed corruption drastically.
That is why we applaud the bureau’s courageous report. We think that this recent disclosure is a congenial way for the Buhari administration to invigorate the anti-corruption war whose strides have come in fits and starts right from the inception of the regime.
If the BPP, a federal government agency, could uncover highly dubious activities of some MDAs, particularly in those ministries headed by Fashola and Amaechi, two choice members of the current administration, it indicates that regulatory bodies and institutions in our clime can operate independently if left unimpeded by the authorities.
Unfortunately, The Tide observes that procurement-related frauds advance unabated because concerned officers who conspire with bidders to breach the Act are not sanctioned thoroughly to deter them from their offences. In that case, we adjure the anti-corruption agencies to prosecute felons appropriately. Procurement officers, bidders and contractors should be held accountable for their actions.
The BPP has discharged its role in conducting efficient and integrity-based assessment of those inflated contracts. It has whistled against corporate malfeasance, vigorously proving to Nigerians that it can bite. It is left for the anti-graft agencies to conscionably investigate the offending MDAs and prosecute anyone found to be culpable, including members of the administration indicted for variegated financial crimes but who forfend themselves from prosecution.
Enough Of Xenophobic Attacks
Last week’s reported attacks by some irate South Africans on fellow Africans of other nationalities, roused very serious concerns from the Federal Government, well-meaning Nigerians and leaders of other African countries so affected.
Whereas the government had called for restraint while demanding from the South African authorities, explanations and assurances of the safety of Nigerians in the former apartheid enclave, there were Nigerians who felt that it was high time Abuja jettisoned diplomatic niceties and allow for reprisals. But for prompt security intervention, some had even initiated the process by attacking South African business outfits in Lagos, Uyo and Owerri.
South Africans had severally carried out xenophobic attacks on Nigerians residing and doing business in their country, mainly on the accusation that the latter engaged in armed robbery, drug pushing, prostitution, human trafficking and other illicit activities with which proceeds they finance their dominance of the informal sector of the country’s economy.
The latest attacks were said to have been conducted on a much larger scale as it targeted not only Africans but also Asians, resulting in shops and vehicles being burnt and wares looted wantonly as aggrieved youths went round physically assaulting foreigners in the big commercial centres, including the Gauteng Province of Johannesburg.
The Tide condemns these persistent attacks on Nigerians and other foreigners in South Africa, including the ongoing reprisal attacks in some of the countries whose citizens were victimised. It is regrettable that Nigeria has lost about 120 persons to such attacks between 2016 and now. Much as we cannot vouch for the conducts of these compatriots and other nationals residing in the Southern African nation, we think that the law enforcement agencies should do well to apprehend and prosecute anybody who is suspected to constitute a nuisance while residing therein, including Nigerians.
We find it difficult to imagine that a country which benefitted huge moral, diplomatic and financial support from Nigeria and other African countries during her many years under white supremacist regimes could turn back so soon to attack the same people that showed her such commitment and solidarity. We are particularly saddened by the tepid response of the South African police while the attacks lasted. The report that less than 130 persons were arrested in the course of the recent mayhem is surely laughable.
To be sure, there are also South Africans and South African businesses domiciled in Nigeria and elsewhere across the African continent. Prominent among such firms in Nigeria are the telecommunications giant, MTN, Multichoice, Shoprite, PEP and Woolsworth. Many Nigerians do not even know that some of the blue-chip banks in the country are of South African origin.
Only recently, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) sanctioned MTN and a few other network providers for violating some SIM card registration provisions. MTN was to pay about N1.4 trillion but ended up paying far less than that amount. And in tranches, too! Why did Nigerians not take to the streets over such obvious economic sabotage?
Not long after that, some banks were listed for sanctioning by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) accused of assisting the telecoms giant to covertly repatriate money out of the country. Again, more than half of those banks are South African-owned or affiliates. A similar case arose between Multichoice and the Consumer Protection Commission (CPC). Yet, Nigerians never harassed anybody.
Unlike previously, we commend the Federal Government’s reaction to the xenophobic attacks against Nigerians this time. The swift recall of the country’s High Commissioner, Ambassador Kabiru Bala, and later, the dispatch of a special envoy to Pretoria, were, indeed, most welcome steps. The sustained demand for victims’ compensation is another commendable exercise, coupled with the provision of evacuation arrangements for Nigerians who may wish to return home. President Muhammadu Buhari’s boycott of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Cape Town in the middle of the assaults also served to demonstrate Nigeria’s angst.
Even so, we advise government, at all levels, to begin to make arrangements for the rehabilitation of these returnee compatriots who have practically lost all their means of livelihood in a hostile foreign land. If Nigerians could afford to spend petro-dollars and pay the so-called ‘Mandela Tax’ to help fund the African National Congress (ANC) during the years of apartheid, they can equally afford to accommodate their now helpless kit and kin.
We fear that the Federal Government’s plan to attach security personnel to the Nigerian High Commission in South Africa and possibly embed some into that country’s police force may not yield the expected result of pre-empting and forestalling future xenophobic attacks on Nigerians. This is because no country would readily want to compromise its security establishments, least of all South Africa whose police seem to have turned a blind eye over the reported killings, burnings and lootings in that country.
Uncoordinated individual efforts can hardly serve to call the bluff of these South Africans. The Federal Government should rather rally the other affected African nations to take a collective action whenever any of their citizens is extra-judiciously targeted in the future. This way, President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ruling ANC and, indeed, all South Africans will begin to learn to respect and protect other nationals and their business interests in the country. Enough is enough!
Rivers Mosque Saga
The Tide was taken aback a few days ago by the vituperations of some Nigerians, particularly a distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic, Senator Ibrahim Shekarau and Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, directed at the person of the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, over alleged demolition of a mosque in Rivers State. Regrettably, both of them and other uninformed persons were largely reacting to fake news.
Penultimate week, news of the demolition of a mosque in the Trans-Amadi area of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on the orders of the State Governor had made the round in the country and many mischief makers tried to cash in to try to vilify the state and its governor. That the governor explained that no mosque was demolished was conveniently ignored by those who were bent on using the unfortunate fabrication for selfish and sinister motives.
In fact, several individuals, journalists and groups who visited the site of the so-called demolition were unanimous on the verdict that no mosque was, in actual fact, demolished. A Northern group, the Coalition of Northern Youth Groups (CNYGs) only last week described the phantom mosque demolition as a falsehood orchestrated by politicians to fan the furnaces of ethnic, religious or regional division just for self-serving and fiendish gains. According to the national convener of the group, Mohammed Sanni, their investigations showed that the structure being labeled a mosque was a personal building of an individual who did not obtain necessary permits for his structure sited on a disputed land.
On Monday, Ekiti State Governor and Chairman of Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF), Dr Kayode Fayemi, was in Port Harcourt to see things for himself and equally confirmed that there exists no sign of any building demolition on the disputed land in Rainbow Town.
We are, therefore, shocked that the mosque saga would generate such a furore and outpouring of misguided emotions by uninformed individuals and persons who deliberately chose to stand facts on their heads. Indeed, the piece of land in question has been a reason for dispute between the state government and the registered Trustees of Trans-Amadi Mosque, Port Harcourt, even during the days of Governor Wike’s immediate predecessor.
Moreso, there is an existing judgement by a court of competent jurisdiction on Tuesday, November 27, 2018, conferring ownership of the land on the state government. It is, therefore, worrisome that a group would be tempted to lay illegal claim where it ought not to, and equally bandy fake news in a politically and ethno-religiously unstable atmosphere that is currently the lot of the country.
We, therefore, think, that it is uncharitable for a group to lay claim to what is not theirs or even force themselves against the judgement of a court of law, while it is highly irresponsible for leaders, particularly political leaders, whose opinions could easily sway the gullible, to comment or dabble into sensitive issues without the right information.
It is obvious that Shekarau and Ganduje have ulterior motives, either against Governor Wike or Rivers State or both. That is why they chose to prey on the ethno-religious sensibilities of the people with their unguarded comments. We believe that there is no need for any individual or group to whip up religious sentiments as no community, state or country can afford the pang of religious crisis. It is, indeed, regrettable that critics of Governor Wike, for want of reasons to discredit him or pull him down, would choose to play politics with religion and misrepresent facts. Conflagration, when ignited, may not respect boundaries or limitations set by those who fanned its embers.
Rivers, a predominantly Christian state, has been living in peace and harmony with people of variant religious beliefs, particularly Moslems. Currently, the state harbours over 130 mosques and Moslems residing here practise and profess their faith without hindrance. In fact, a Muslim cleric in Port Harcourt, Ustaz Yahaya Imam Abdullahi, recently assured that Muslims were not under any form of attack in Rivers State. Even Mohammed Sanni of CNYGs has equally said, “The Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, is a very good friend of the North and a brother to the Muslim community, therefore, it is mischievous for anybody to run to alter the narrative”.
Thus, we expect not only Muslims in Rivers State and beyond to reciprocate the cozy atmosphere engendered by the government in the state, but all residents and dwellers so that peaceful co-existence and religious tolerance would be sustained.
We do recognise the right of the Trustees of the Trans-Amadi Central Mosque to pursue what they believe is their right. But with the existing judgement of a Rivers State High Court and the Trustees’ reported move to the Appeal Court, it is expected that nobody should take the law into his own hands. The legal process must be allowed to run its full course.
Eminent Muslims and leaders such as Shekarau, Ganduje and, indeed, all well-meaning persons, rather than grandstanding, are expected to urge parties in the dispute to observe due process and obey the law.
The call by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, for an amicable resolution of the issue is key in moving forward. It is only imperative, therefore, that due process must be observed. In so far as the Rivers State Government has a court judgement in its favour until such verdict is vacated and a contrary judgement issued, the status quo remains.
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