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Editorial

Loans Refund: Need For Prudence

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Towards the end of November last year, President Muhammadu Buhari, took another bold step to provide direct stimulus to cash-strapped states groaning under harsh economic conditions occasioned by the crushing recession in the country by approving a total of N522.74billion disbursement to states as reimbursement for over-deductions on external debt service. Earlier in the administration, the President had rolled out bailout funds in government spending to enable no less than 28 States settle arrears of outstanding salaries of civil servants and allowances of pensioners, who were being owed between four and 14 months of their entitlements.
A statement by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, said the debt service deductions amounting to some $4billion were in respect of the Paris Club, London Club and multilateral debts of the federal and state governments. Signed by the media aide to the minister, Mr. Festus Akanbi, November 21, 2016, the government said the reimbursements would be effected in tranches.
It would be recalled that the Federal Government reached a final agreement for debt relief with the Paris Club in October, 2005, during the Presidency of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. The former Minister of Finance, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, was said to have over­paid the financial institutions when Nigeria cleared debts owed the foreign creditors in 2005. But before then, accounts of some States had already been overcharged.
Following the realisation, some state governments had last year submitted to the Federal Government, claims of over-deductions for external debt service between 1995 and 2002 as a result of allocations on First Line Charge deductions from the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC). In response to the request for refund, Buhari directed that the claims be subjected to verification by the Debt Management Office.
Consequently, a team was established and given the mandate to scrutinise the claims and reconcile them with available records. The committee, having reached the conclusion of over-deductions in the accounts of aggrieved states, the President convened a meeting with governors of the states on December 2, 2016, during which an agreement was reached to pay 25 per cent, over the next 12 months, after due diligence and thorough scrutiny, the amounts claimed subject to a cap of N14.5 billion to any given state. The President also promised that balances due any state thereafter would be revisited whenever fiscal conditions improved. On account of that, the first and second tranches amounting to N388.304billion have already been credited to 35 States as at December 27, 2016, with the balance of N134.44 billion soon to be accessed.
Given the experiences in the past when extra-budgetary funds released to stimulate the economy, including the bailout funds to the states were diverted without regard for accountability and the due process, Buhari’s predication of the present disbursements on a viable structure, is indeed, commendable. Under the current structure, the President told the governors that his overriding concern is the welfare of the Nigerian people, considering the fact that many states are owing salaries and pensions, thereby causing considerable hardship on the populace.
He, therefore, directed that releases must be credited to an auditable, especially BVN-linked and verifiable accounts, from which payments to individual creditors would be made. He also pleaded with the governors to ensure that a minimum of 50 per cent of any amount disbursed be dedicated to payment of salaries and pensions while the remaining 50 per cent can be expended on pro-people projects and programmes.
And since the reconciliation process is still on-going with the final outcome likely to show an under or overstatement of claims, the Federal Government got the governors to sign undertaking, with a declaration that in the event that the amount already paid exceeds the verified claim, the surplus would be deducted directly from affected states’ monthly FAAC allocations.
Having taken such proactive steps, we urge the Federal Government not to see the current arrangement as a mere gentleman’s agreement but to monitor its implementation to the letter. We agree that as a federation, the Federal Government is not expected to interfere in the affairs of the states; however, nothing stops it from seeking to ensure that the released funds are not frittered away by state governments.
Now that more than half of the refund has been released, we demand that any state government that still fails to comply with the gentleman’s agreement should be denied the last tranche of the disbursements. The Tide also urges the leaderships of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to take special interest in the terms of agreements guiding the disbursements, and ensure they assist state governments to achieve judicious utilisation of the refunds.
In addition, we appeal to the state governments to utilize the reimbursements for over-deductions on external debt service as agreed, and not squander same as free money to fund unrealistic projects initiated to massage political egos of ruling parties and politicians. We agree that paying the salaries of civil servants and allowances of pensioners will enhance their spending power and lubricate the economy, thus, cushioning the effects of the recession on the entire citizenry.
We further advise the state governments to monitor the projects on which 50 per cent of the released funds will be expended very diligently. If for nothing, majority of Nigerians whose confidence in government is already fading are bound to respond positively to projects with direct bearing on their lives. We also urge state governors to shun the temptation of initiating unviable projects while ignoring those initiated by their predecessors for political reasons.
Governance is a continuum and the times demand patriotism and focus, not grandstanding. This is why we expect high level of transparency and accountability on the part of state governors, on what they intend to do or have already utilised the money on, simply because they owe the general public a duty to account for all their activities while they superintend the affairs of the states. This is our take!

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Editorial

For A Greater Rivers Utd FC

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About a fortnight ago, the Rivers State Government announced that one of the state-sponsored football
teams, Rivers United Football Club, Port Harcourt, would thenceforth, be under the Office of the state Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike. In addition, the governor appointed his Special Adviser on Real Madrid Football Academy, Barrister Christopher Green, as the sole administrator of the club.
Rivers United FC, the flagship of football club in the state and fondly called the ‘Pride of Rivers’, and campaigning in the top flight of the Nigeria Professional Football League (NPFL), transmuted from the structures of Sharks and Dolphins FCs in 2016, barely a year after Governor Wike came into power in the state.
Since becoming the amalgam of the former two heavyweight sides of the state, the current administration has tried to transform the club into one of the leading lights in club football in the country. In fact, the club has enjoyed unprecedented patronage, especially motivation, support and prompt payment of emoluments from the government. Governor Wike has severally demonstrated his willingness to ensure that the club lacked nothing in the bid to win and bring laurels to the state and beyond.
Only recently, the club joined the exclusive list of very few football clubs in the country that have enjoyed the luxury of travelling for domestic matches in ultra modern air-conditioned and branded luxury buses, a gesture that was also extended to their sister club, Rivers Angels FC. Unfortunately, Rivers United seems not to have reciprocated the immeasurable commitment, passion and magnanimity which the government under Governor Wike has showered without let on them.
The club under its former identities, even under less patronage, had tried to hold their own in the domestic scene, winning the league in 1999 as Eagle Cement, and in 2004 and 2011 as Dolphins Football Club, while also lifting the FA/Federation Cup trophies on four occasions in 2001, 2004, 2006 and 2007.
These victories, however, seem to have become a distant memory, which has made it desirable and pertinent for the club under its current identity to earn and celebrate glory imminently, if only to bring joy to the sports loving people of Rivers State and as effective recompense for the investment of Governor Wike on the club.
After failing to make the cut in the CAF Confederations Cup competition last season, losing on penalties in the last qualifying stage to Enyimba International FC in a derby match up, Rivers United is back on the continent, campaigning in the nascent 2021 CAF Champions League season, a step up from last year’s competition.
That is why The Tide believes that the decision to place the club under the Office of the Governor could not have come at a better time. More so, the appointment of Barrister Christopher Green, a versatile and experienced sports technocrat, would help drive the club to achieving their potentials.
It is expected, therefore, that, with the development, the club would enjoy closer supervision and response time from the governor. Also, the apparent proximity to their Number One fan and supporter would certainly galvanise the team and officials into going the extra mile.
Having an impeccable sports enthusiast as a Chief Supporter, one who truly understands the dynamics of sports, particularly football, has become an added impetus for not only Rivers United but the whole sector in the state. Indeed, Governor Wike has proven to be a sports apostle par excellence.
It is on record that his commitment to excellence, willingness to invest in sports development and promotion, and readiness to reward achievers in every sector, particularly sports men and women, are second to none. No wonder he was found a worthy recipient of the prestigious Power of Sports – Africa (PoS –Africa) award by the Association of International Sports Press (AIPs) in 2019. The establishment of Real Madrid Football Academy, Port Harcourt is also a testimony of Governor Wike’s commitment to the round leather game.
We are gladdened that this new move would be a tonic to the club, and some of the red tape that, perhaps, had slowed down delivery to the club and reaction to matters that affect them would now be a thing of the past.
For the players, technical crew and backroom staff of Rivers United FC, now is the time for a re-wakening: they must be ready to give their all for success. The opportunity to rise and achieve glory via the total support of the governor should not be allowed to yield naught. Rather, now is the time to take up the challenge and work hard. Nothing should be allowed to distract them from the tasks facing them both in domestic competitions and the continental scene. The yearnings of the teeming football loving Rivers people and the current administration must be fulfilled. In fact, the club should look up to the performance of some clubs in the top European Leagues which do not settle for second best owing to the quality of support they get from their benefactors.
Furthermore, we expect the new sole administrator to hit the ground running by reaching out and exchanging notes with the Sports Ministry under which the club has been all the while. He must be open to new ideas while bringing his wealth of experience to bear on the new assignment.
Interestingly, in his first outing, Rivers United achieved a rare away victory in the first leg preliminary round of the 2021 CAF Champions League game against Young Africans FC of Tanzania. Last Sunday at the Adokiye Amiesimaka Stadium, Port Harcourt, Rivers United did the double over Young Africans, again, edging them out via a lone goal. With the victory, Rivers United qualified for the next stage of the competition, where they must survive Al Hilal of Sudan to make the money spinning group stage of Champions League. All hands, therefore, must be on deck to ensure that the club builds on the morale and confidence boosting performance towards achieving the ultimate goal.
Rivers United, with the goodwill and backing of Governor Wike, should not only gird their loins and go for glory in all fronts, now is the time for a sustained dominance of national competitions and beyond, beginning with this season’s League and Cup and CAF Champions League glory. That is the only way to justify the humongous investment the governor has made to reposition the club for greater heights, and amass the much-needed laurels for the government and people of Rivers State, and indeed, Nigerians.

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Editorial

Trans-Kalabari Road Kidnap: Not Path To Go

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The recent abduction of Lubrik Construction Company’s expatriate staff working on Trans-Kalabari Road by unknown miscreants is deplorable and profoundly distasteful. According to reports, three policemen assigned to the employees were viciously exterminated. The sad incident, said to have occurred on Thursday, September 9, along Sama Road, in Asari-Toru Local Government Area of Rivers State, is painfully bewildering. It is absolutely the product of disordered minds to ward off the Kalabari people from benefiting from the generosity of Governor Nyesom Wike.
Unfortunately, such an action could be considered at a moment when the governor is trying harder to ensure that progress takes place in every nook and cranny of the state. Several projects are underway in communities across the state with little or no abduction claims. Why Kalabari land? The Kalabaris are known to be peace-loving, who know how to protect what is theirs. Why did they let this happen to such an extensive project as this, which bears direct impact on their lives?
We denounce the kidnapping and appeal to the police, including all Kalabari leaders, elders and the youth, to go after those answerable for this reprehensible and senseless enterprise. The Kalabaris should remember that they patiently waited for 15 years to witness the actualisation of the road project and must hold on to it pertinaciously. Henceforth, youths from the area should be mobilised to secure all government projects in Kalabari Kingdom, specifically the Trans-Kalabari Road, to preserve it from brigands.
Before the onset of the Wike government, Rivers State had long endured abandoned projects, both at conceptual and advanced stages. The Trans-Kalabari Road had been a neglected project from the time of Dr. Peter Odili when it was awarded for the first time for N9billion. The project was deceased even before it was perfectly visualised.
Former Governor Rotimi Amaechi also signalled a N21billion contract for the same road in December, 2012, and committed to mobilise the contractor to the location by January, 2013. That also didn’t take effect. Yet, this was the same government that used about a whopping N40billion on a white elephant project (the Rivers Monorail) which remains blight for the past six years and deserted even before he left office in May, 2015.
However, in March, 2021, the present government declared a contract for the development of Phase 1 of the project at N13.6billion. On June 24, 2021, Wike eventually flagged off the road with a span of 14 months. The road will link six communities and would be reinforced by an irrevocable standing payment request of N1billion that would be paid to the contractor monthly.
At the initiation of the project, the Chief Executive of the state pleaded with the Kalabaris to give up everything that might imperil the realisation of the initial phase of the venture. The governor spoke at the flag-off of the road at the Degema Waterfront, saying, “Do not allow saboteurs to come and kidnap the contractors and sabotage the road. If I hear that the contractors are being harassed, then it is you”.
Thankfully, the ongoing work has offered an end to the relentless promises that previous governments had made to the people about the execution of the contract. Sadly, the governor’s impassioned appeal was never taken to heart. This untoward incident could prolong the culminating date of the project, thereby, undermining the confidence of the sons and daughters of Kalabari, who look forward to the realisation of the historical undertaking.
While we demand the prompt and outright release of the expatriate, we regard the hard-featured occurrence as a huge challenge to establish reciprocity and tranquillity within all the Kalabari project communities. We strongly advise all adversaries of the Kalabari people and Rivers State to stay clear from all project locations and amenities. Law enforcement and stakeholders of the Kalabari Kingdom should enhance their endeavours to emancipate the expatriate worker.
In 2019, three Lebanese expatriate workers from the Raffoul Nigeria Limited were kidnapped in Andoni. Governor Wike immediately reacted by issuing a 72-hour ultimatum to some traditional rulers and the chairman of Andoni Local Government Council at the time to ensure the release of the engineers working on the Andoni Unity Road or be stripped. The threat paid off, as attempts were stepped up, and the men regained their freedom. We call on the governor to apply a corresponding measure in the Trans-Kalabari Road abduction saga. 
Chairmen of the three local government councils of Asari-Toru, Akuku-Toru and Degema have to work collectively to bring off the freedom of the abducted worker and not stick around, expecting the governor to prompt them to act. They need to take steps to protect contractors and workers labouring on projects in their communities. As chief executives and security officers of their respective councils, they must make certain that contractors are not seized under their watch.
Contractors and workers at construction sites must rely less on the government to assure their security. They need to discover ways to secure themselves against delinquents and portentous gangsters. The first step is to broach a security scheme that will provide a policy for an emergency and ensure that all their workers realise how to react and whom to call. Installing surveillance cameras can help monitor the site as a whole and protect lives and equipment.
Wike has always prognosticated a proclivity to move further projects to Kalabariland. But, the activities of kidnappers in the area can dissuade him. The Kalabari people should see themselves too sophisticated to tolerate brigandage in their midst. Hence, they must close ranks to bring an end to the actions of miscreants who aim to see that the development of the area is nixed. Given that the criminals did not emerge from the sky, they have to be detected.

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Editorial

That Desecration Of NDA

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The contumelious assault on the headquarters of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna, by gunmen in the early hours of Tuesday, August 24, is possibly the most menacing sign that the Federal Government may have lost total control of the ungraceful security predicament faced by Nigerians. With this tragic incident and many others counting, obviously, the North-West may have increasingly evolved into the new terror epicentre, as the Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorism ostensibly dies down in the North-East.
According to media reports, the gunmen took advantage of a chasm in the NDA’s perimeter fencing and stormed the location along Airport Road, Afaka. They gained access to the residential area where two senior officers (Lieutenant Commander Awolor Wulah and Flight Lieutenant Chinecherem Okoronkwo) were shot dead. They also abducted another officer, Major Christopher Datong. The NDA is just steps away from the Federal Forestry Mechanization College, Afaka, where a gang of bandits kidnapped 39 students last March.
Indeed, the NDA, an institution that engenders young men and women to become gallant military personnel, should not come under an invasion of that dimension so easily. The onslaught was a rude reproach to the military, and by extension Nigeria. The Armed Forces ought to have carefully studied earlier raids and taken steps to safeguard their men and institutions. That this did not happen was indicative of imprudence on their part.
The inability to repel or capture the assailants highlights the shortcomings of our security system and demonstrates how daring terrorists or bandits are. Are there moles inside the Army? How would bandits attack a military institution without any effort or considerable resistance? We are asking because there has always been lingering suspicion that people are undermining the endeavours of our military, particularly in the ongoing anti-insurgency and banditry war.
While we vehemently denounce the incursion and call for the perpetrators to be apprehended and prosecuted, we urge that every effort be made to salvage the kidnapped major in the attack. The military must note that the continuous assaults on their men and formations are not only disconcerting, but hazardous as they erode the confidence of Nigerians in their ability to keep them safe. Something has to be done about that. These relentless attacks should be considered acts of terrorism and properly addressed.
In the aftermath of the NDA ambuscade, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Lt-Gen Lucky Irabor, assured Nigerians of updates on the search and rescue of the abducted officer, and added that “the Armed Forces of Nigeria will continue operations to ensure that all those involved in the dastardly act are brought to justice”. Much as Irabor’s words may be soothing, we believe more can be done to reassure Nigerians that the military is in firm control.
It was reported that the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) was investigating the unfortunate attack. It is a step in the right direction. But characteristic of the government, it should not take eternity to conclude. We call for a thorough inquiry and all those found to have pitched in to the success of the onslaught either through their actions or inactions must face the law. Also, the findings should be released to the public to instil trust in the inquisition.
Nigerians have consistently been experiencing fear and anguish. Most people are afraid of the road these days. Anytime they have to travel, their hearts are always tucked in their mouths. It was no surprise that in 2020, our nation was considered the third most terrorized country in the world for the sixth year in a row. Sadly, and most ignominiously, the authorities have never been perturbed by such unenviable rankings.
Millions of scared Nigerians are wondering what truly is going on. What is happening to our once mighty Nigerian Armed Forces, which were able to keep the nation one during the Civil War between 1967 and 1970, and return peace to war-torn Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Mali and even Libya? Why can the once dominant military power in Africa no longer defend itself from ordinary armed thugs on motorbikes that have clearly become a new frontier for terrorism?
Could it be the insatiable greed of the leaders? Could it be that top military officers have been compromised or put in jeopardy and are politicking with issues as sensitive as security? Have our soldiers lost the will to fight gallantly? Or are their weapons obsolete and can no longer withstand the sophisticated projectiles of their enemy? Or could it be that the military is no more as potent as it used to be back in the day? Those critical questions deserve responses.
What is most perplexing is that the security of our country is degenerating vis-a-vis the ever-increasing military allocations. Official figures indicate that more than N5trillion of our annual budgets have been spent on the military for our defence in the past six years. Allocations to the police and other security agencies not inclusive. All seems to have gone down the drain without a corresponding output.
These bandits have to be regarded as terrorists and treated as such. Lately, they have become very unsparing and appear a step ahead of our security agents. Therefore, they should be handled ruthlessly. Those behind the attacks must be fished out. The criminals must be properly defined, chased after, and apprehended, including their patrons. This can be accomplished by the military intelligence.
There is no doubt that the NDA attack is a special message that the bandits are sending to Nigerians to prepare for more deadly onslaughts. So, the security agencies must brace up. This is to say the least, very hair-raising, and the Federal Government must sit up to protect, not only the military establishments, but the country in totality. Hence, there is a pressing need for a change in our security architecture.
All patriotic Nigerians should be troubled by the attacks on the NDA and other military establishments as they undermine the sovereignty of the country. As a result, security agencies are expected to grow with renewed fervour to tackle this failing condition in the nation. Insecurity is the biggest challenge every government has to deal with, and should not be treated lightly. Additional tactics must, therefore, be deployed to hammer away terror and banditry in the land.

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