The Federal Government recently gave an insight into what Nigerians, particularly the people of the Niger Delta, should expect from the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs in the current dispensation when the Honourable Minister, Senator Godswill Akpabio, summoned the Interim Management Team of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) to Abuja for an interactive session.
The Minister, accompanied by the Minister of State, Barr. Festus Keyamo, was reported to have told the Mrs Ekwagaga Enyia-led team in no uncertain words that it would no longer be business as usual in NDDC.
Sen. Akpabio also disclosed that the debt profile of the commission was now in excess of N2 trillion and that the ministry under his watch was not only uncomfortable with the development but was poised to take measures to investigate the deals behind the figures with a view to determining the true obligations of the commission.
According to the minister, the Federal Government has decided to conduct a forensic audit on the humongous debt profile while expressing disappointment at the complete deviation of the NDDC from its core mandate of championing the development of the devastated region.
While The Tide is completely in sync with the minister on the proposed probe of the unbelievable indebtedness of the commission, we believe that the entire mechanism of the interventionist agency needs to be totally overhauled and streamlined for optimal performance and effective service delivery.
No longer can it be condoned or excused that while appointees, staff and contractors of the commission continue to feed fat and revel in inexplicable luxury, the generality of the people of the region the agency was set up to serve continue to endure squalor, excruciating poverty and environmental disaster of monumental proportion.
It is ironical that a commission that was established to “identify factors inhibiting the development of the Niger Delta region and assisting the member-states in the formulation and implementation of policies to ensure sound and efficient management of the resources of the Niger Delta region” among others, has itself been swallowed up in ineffectiveness, inefficiency and uncontrolled corruption. There is little doubt that the NDDC has become part of the problem of the Niger Delta rather than the agency raised to sort out and fix the developmental issues in the region.
“Established in 2000 with the mission of facilitating the rapid, even and sustainable developing of the Niger Delta into a region that is economically prosperous, socially stable, ecologically regenerative and politically peaceful”, the NDDC today probably has the greatest number of abandoned and/or uncompleted projects in the region, including the headquarters complex of the commission in Port Harcourt which till date remains virtually abandoned.
How can an agency that keeps its headquarters under perpetual construction while paying between N200 million and N300 million per annum to maintain a rented property be trusted to deliver on economic prosperity? The point cannot be overstressed that political loyalty has been the primary consideration, not only for appointment into the board and management positions in the commission, but contracts are also dispensed on the same basis.
A source in the commission recently disclosed to newsmen that the immediate past board of the commission awarded emergency contracts to the tune of more than N60 billion in five months without recourse to due process and without taking into account the revenue profile of the commission. And this has been the pattern over the years with most of the jobs very highly inflated, poorly or not supervised at all and many times not intended to meet real needs of the people.
In fact, the history of the NDDC has been replete with not only stories of bogus contracts, execution of substandard jobs, abandonment of projects, award and release of funds for fake and non-existent jobs and other sharp practices but also outright carting away of physical cash of the commission by successive officials.
The Tide strongly adocates a significant change from the sordid performance of the NDDC so far, it remains to be seen if the Akpabio-led Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs can muster the requisite political will to birth a refocused, reoriented, performance-driven and corruption-free commission that will be guided, inspired and motivated by the interest of the suffering masses of the region primarily as against the self-serving interest of the political class in power.
Furthermore, we believe that the members of the new board and management in the making, even though their appointment has followed the traditional politically-induced pattern, can choose to chart a new course and reinvent the NDDC to benefit the people of the region.
The narrative that the people of the region have no justification to cry marginalization and neglect because we have not been able to prudently manage accrued and accruing resources to address our needs must change. Apart from the constructive and well-intended criticism, let every one concerned in the running of the affairs of the NDDC be moved into positive action by the need to restore the degraded environment and compelling imperative of an enhanced overall living condition of the people.
Pains Of NIN Registration
Controversies have been trailing the ongoing National Identity Number (NIN) enrollment as the exercise imposes severe hardship on Nigerians in various centres across the country. The process has left a good number of people with frustration on an unprecedented scale.
NIN enrollment activities seldom succeed without physical altercations. An enrollee is expected to visit a designated (NIMC) centre to undertake biometrics after filling a form. Then they are asked to return for the NIN, usually after a minimum period of two weeks.
NIMC officials, their cronies and security agents among other concerned personnel, have made the process a fiendish complexity for Nigerians in dire need of the registration by extorting them. In some enrollment centres, there are stipulated amounts of money NIMC officials demand from applicants to get them registered.
In other centres, NIMC officials work in close collaboration with security agents to perpetrate the illicit act. The officials usually demand between N500 and N5,000 depending on the corresponding multitudes in the affected centres and the exigencies of the enrollment. Those who pay the money are given preference while others who fail to comply wait perpetually in exasperation.
Some applicants get desperately far to refuel NIMC generators to prevent officials from finding reasons to end registration for the day. Those who cannot bear the rigours of waiting and returning each day, gratify men of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to expedite the process. The resentment has made many Nigerians move to other cities to have their enrollments effected.
In profoundly populated areas across various states and cities, the enrollment modus has been tough on applicants, particularly with the development that requires students seeking university admission to have NIN as a criterion.
The Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) had in September last year directed prospective candidates for the 2020 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) to enroll for NIN in order to check examination fraud, address the challenges of underage and multiple registrations, and cut down enrollment costs.
However, in a sudden wrench, the examination body announced a pull back from the initial plan to implement the policy with effect from next year, citing technical issues, stakeholders’ concerns, and difficulties faced by candidates in the NIN registration.
Going by the galling experiences of Nigerians in the NIN centres, it is doubtful whether the NIMC/JAMB collaboration will be successful. While registration centres are few and far between, the NIMC grossly lacks adequate staff and equipment to discharge the exercise.
Given the grisly situation, the House of Representatives advised JAMB to suspend the NIN-for-UTME policy. While we commend JAMB for putting off the scheme to next year, we urge the Board to extend the time furthermore until there are enough awareness and preparations.
To facilitate efficient NIN registration process, therefore, we suggest that more centres be created across the country while additional equipment and staff be mobilised for the exercise. We equally urge NIMC to end the massive corruption in the registration centres and hope the culprits get the sanctions they deserve.
Also, the commission needs to establish active collaboration with states and local governments for valuable and less-stressful registration. It is unbelievable and quite grotesque that policy administrators in this country only mull over the benefits of policies without any careful consideration for their execution.
We recall a recent statement by the Director-General of NIMC, Aliyu Aziz, admitting that the NIMC had succeeded in registering only 35 million Nigerians. We are doubtful if half of this number has been issued the permanent registration card. For a country of about 200 million people, the performance of the commission in this task is hardly good enough.
The Tide deeply deplores the chaotic nature of the NIN registration exercise nationwide and impetrates the authorities involved to ensure that the task is seamless and less hazardous. There is a need for those in charge to simplify the registration process. We hope that NIMC management is aware of the many obstacles that stand between Nigerians and a successful NIN registration.
Remembering Our Fallen Heroes
The 2020 Armed Forces Remembrance Day celebration activities which began on Wednesday, October 16, 2019 with the Emblem Appeal Launch by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Federal Executive Council Chambers, Abuja, climaxes today with the President, state governors and chairmen of local government areas expected to hold ceremonies in the Federal Capital Territory, state capitals and local government headquarters.
Formerly held on November 11 (also known as Popy Day) across countries of the British Commonwealth in honour of fallen heroes and veterans of World Wars I and II, the date of the annual ritual was changed to January 15 to commemorate the day the Biafran troops surrendered to the Federal forces, an event that effectively ended the 30-month Nigerian Civil War in 1970 and brought Nigeria back to a united country from the brink of division.
Speaking at the 2020 Armed Forces Remembrance Day church service in Abuja, last Sunday, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, on behalf of the Federal Government, hailed the military for not only keeping the country safe but also preserving it for posterity while expressing the central government’s commitment to improving the lives of officers and men of the armed forces through enhanced budgetary provision.
According to the Vice President, “The government is determined to better the lives of the military men and officers by improving the budget of the armed forces. We thank you for your faithfulness and pray God to bless and protect you”, adding that their labour would never be allowed to go in vain.
In the same vein, the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, paid glowing tribute to the roles played by the Nigerian Armed Forces in keeping the country united and safe from external aggression and ensuring internal security and socio-political stability.
The governor vowed to continue to honour, applaud, appreciate and reward heroic accomplishments of the men and officers of the Nigerian Armed Forces and charged them to uphold highest professional standards in all their engagements in order to maintain their integrity and enjoy the desired respect and regard from the populace.
For Governor Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State, “the military martyrs paid the supreme sacrifice for Nigeria to remain one and for us to sleep with our too eyes closed. Let us look around us; let’s find a widow; let’s find a widower; let’s find an orphan of a fallen soldier; let us reach out to them”.
He added that “As an administration, we shall continue to support the Nigerian Legion. We shall continue to appreciate all our fallen heroes”.
The Tide joins these and millions of well-meaning Nigerians in raising the banner of encouragement, commendation and appreciation to the men and women whose sacrifices of personal and collective comfort, convenience and blood have kept our nation together, still striving and thriving.
Indeed, we recognise that the very existence of any nation (chief of all, Nigeria) is fundamentally predicated on the courage, bravery, gallantry, selflessness and sacrifice, including the supreme sacrifice of the crop of individuals who dedicate their lives to ensuring that the lives of the rest of their compatriots run safely, securely and smoothly.
This is why we urge government at all levels, corporate bodies and all Nigerians not only to celebrate and pay homage to our fallen, falling, surviving and fighting heroes just today but to mainstream it in our national, collective and individual activities and consciousness.
To this end, we strongly appeal to the Federal Government to endeavour to do more in the provision of modern and state-of-the-art arms and ammunition to the armed forces in order to give them a strong advantage over the Boko Haram and ISWAP forces threatening the territorial integrity of our country. In addition, government should continue to do all it takes to motivate, boost confidence and ensure the sustenance of very high spirits in the troops, including adequate medical care for the injured, befitting treatment for the fallen and prompt and adequate care for their surviving dependants.
Government needs to creatively evolve a system that guarantees a reasonably decent and dignifying living condition for all ex-service men in Nigeria. Gone and forgotten should be the days when retired military personnel go through dehumanising experiences to get their retirement benefits, die while trying to secure same or are consigned to a life of slow, painful death due to conditions foisted on them by material destitution.
We as well urge corporate bodies to not only support and assist the Nigerian Legion but to engage legionnaires in duties they are fit and qualified for. On the part of private citizens, we’re convinced that according servicemen and their retired counterparts courtesies and privileges at public places especially, will boost their morale, make them feel appreciated and spur them to do more for the peace, safety and security of our country.
Finally, truth be told, the Nigerian military have a lot to do to regain the glory, esteem and awe of the service in the estimation of the Nigerians. This is why the admonition of Governor Wike to return to the path of professionalism and complete avoidance of involvement in strictly civilian activities like politics and sundry issues should be taken to heart.
The parlous security situation in the country calls for all hands to be on deck and the army of ex-servicemen who are still able and fit should respond to the need of fatherland by making themselves available for engagement in vigilante activities by state and local governments.
As the nation celebrates this year’s Armed Forces Remembrance Day, The Tide wishes to remind our political leaders and security forces that the task to keep Nigeria one, undivided, peaceful, politically stable, cohesive and economically prosperous is still work-in-progress. All that is needed for victory in this regard is for everyone to do their bit with sincerity of purpose and commitment to the common good. It is the only way to make the labour of our heroes past count.
Since after the chain of events that led to the invasion of the United States Embassy in Teheran and the holding of 52 embassy staff hostage by irate Iranians in 1979, relations between the two countries have remained largely volatile.
The US had since designated the Islamic Republic as a state sponsor of terrorism which often uses its foreign-based militia formations to attack American citizens and sabotage Western interests, particularly in the Middle East. For this reason, Washington DC had rallied other Western nations to impose series of economic sanctions and travel bans against Teheran and some of its top state functionaries.
America and its major allies, including Israel and European Union member-countries have been at the forefront of moves to ensure that Iran does not develop its nuclear capabilities beyond the limit allowed for civilian purposes. International nuclear experts had always visited the Arab nation to monitor its nuclear projects development. And previous US Presidents had also worked with the international community to pursue any nuclear agreements reached with Iran.
Then enter President Donald Trump in 2017, riding on his ‘Make America Great Again’ campaign slogan. The tough-talking US leader would brook no nonsense from any rival world power, let alone Iran. He wasted no time in pulling out of the international nuclear deal with the Gulf State. What’s more, he is currently embroiled in trade disputes with China, Canada and Mexico, among others. Domestically, there has been no respite for Trump as opposition Democratic Party members of the US Congress are daily plotting to impeach him out of the White House via a Senate trial.
Just a few months ago, President Trump came close to unleashing US might on Iran when he ordered a military strike against the latter in retaliation for the downing of a US drone over the Strait of Hormuz. He was, however, reported to have recalled the mission at the last minute on the excuse that no American life was lost in the drone tragedy.
But the situation was different penultimate Friday, as the world was shaken by news of the killing of an Iranian military commander and head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps elite Quds Force (the corps’ foreign operations arm), Lt-General Qasem Soleimani, along with Iranian-backed Iraqi militia leader, Abu Mahdi Muhandis, near Baghdad airport.
Ordered by Trump, the killings which sparked massive street protests both in Iraq and Iran were carried out by a drone strike over the accusation that Soleimani had previously killed thousands of peaceful Iranian protesters and the suspicion that he was planning an attack on four embassies in the Persian Gulf region.
While Iran saw the elimination of one of its finest military officers as an act of war and, therefore, swore to retaliate, their equally angry Iraqi counterparts, fearing that Iraq would naturally become the theatre of any military confrontation between the two muscle-flexing nations, demanded that the US withdraws its forces from their land.
Iran made good its threat on Tuesday by firing more than 15 missiles at US military bases inside Iraq, despite the United Nations’ and other sovereign calls for the exercise of restraint by both sides. Iran’s action came after its parliament placed a bounty on Mr. Trump and unanimously designated the US Army and its defence chiefs at the Pentagon as terrorist entities.
Trump who had earlier threatened to hit 52 Iranian targets, including cultural sites, in the event of an Iranian reprisal, scaled down his threat with the claim that the Iranian missiles did not cause any collateral damage, after all. But analysts think that his capitulation may have resulted from international condemnations by those who feared that his Iranian targets could include UN-designated World Heritage Sites.
He would rather tighten the sanctions noose on Teheran while calling on his compatriots in the Middle East to leave the region immediately. US ships and airliners were also advised to steer clear of the region.
The implication of all this is that Trump, who recently boasted that the US was now less dependent on foreign crude oil and, as such, didn’t need to station so many troops abroad is now being forced to consign more American soldiers and equipment to Iraq.
Also, many gainfully employed US citizens in the Middle East will now have to suffer the inconvenience of having to abandon such jobs and hastily relocate with their families in response to their President’s recent directive.
Again, back in the US homeland, travelling Iranian-Americans are said to have come under demeaning security scrutiny, particularly by Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officials.
Elsewhere, there is this growing apprehension that any further escalation of the crisis may result to yet another world war.
Iran is known to have the largest population of Shia Muslims in the world. And, as such, anything affecting the country is very likely to resonate in places with sizeable Shia populations across the globe. Apparently thinking in this direction, the Nigerian government was reported to have beefed up security, especially at the US and Israeli Embassies and Consulates in the country.
The Tide joins the UN and other peace-loving countries to demand a de-escalation of hostilities between the US and Iran while efforts should be stepped up toward exploring an enduring diplomatic solution to any sticking issues. Already, the current crisis has led to the loss of about 56 lives during a stampede at Soleimani’s funeral. This was quickly followed by the 176 victims of a Ukrainian airliner which crashed immediately after take-off from Teheran airport on Wednesday. After initial denials, an Iranian military outfit has finally admitted responsibility for the tragedy, blaming it on human error. This has prompted a massive anti-government demonstration in the nation’s capital.
As a region with the world’s highest reserve of hydrocarbons, situations in the Middle East often act to influence the global price of petroleum. Nigeria’s economy, being highly dependent on revenue from the sale of this product, remains pitiably vulnerable.
Just as we fear that the current US-Iran crisis may embolden Iran to revive its secret uranium- enrichment programme, we can only pray and hope that the situation does not escalate as to claim more human lives and hurt global oil and gas prices any further.
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