What Manner Of Amnesty?
Shortly after the amnesty pact was signed and the unconditional pardon to repentant militants, the story in all the sections of the Nigerian media was that the present administration has indeed created a peaceful environment for meaningful development to take place in the Niger Delta.
But the current wave of crime, kidnap of oil workers, particularly, expatriates and blowing up of oil pipelines, belonging to Chevron in Escarvos in Delta State, are all indications that the environment may not have peaceful afterall for meaningful development to start unfolding in the Niger Delta. More worrisome is the recent case of kidnap of three Britons and a Colombian in an ambush by gun men in Abia State. The Nigerian Police have said that the fresh information they received from the abductors was that SPDC should pay N300 million ransom to secure their release.
According to the police spokesperson, the contractors live in Port Harcourt in neighboring Rivers State.
The spokesperson said the police are closing in on the gun men who kidnapped the expatriates. Already reaction had started to trail the current wave of crime and activities of armed militant group in some part of the Niger Delta States. The Royal Dutch, Shell (SPDC) whose Nigerian operations have been hampered due to years of unrest in the Niger Delta region, said it is no longer looks to its Nigerian operations to drive growth in its oil and gas output.
The company Chief Executive, Peter Voser in comments posted on the company’s website noted that Nigeria remains a heartland for Shell, but the company has to shift oil out put growth to other region.
Now the current wave of crime in some part of the Niger Delta region raises questions about the sincerity of the repentant militant groups and the Federal government involvement in the amnesty deal. Does it mean, if Mr. President, the initiator of that amnesty pact is absent, the amnesty would not work? Does the militant groups work for the interest of Niger Delta people?
Are the Niger Deltans not aggrieved in all the cases of criminality in the region? Why then does the militant groups portray themselves as freedom fighters while they still carry out ambush on expatriates and blow-up oil flow stations?
Did the militants ever contemplate that they are part of Nigerians and whatever affects Nigerians affects them? I do not know the answer to these questions. But the fact remains that since armed militant groups own responsibility to the kidnap of oil expatriate workers and blow up of oil flow station is an indication that “Things had Fallen Apart”, because the centre of the amnesty agreement pact could not hold.
Worse still, after the rather embarrassing signing of the supplementary budget in a foreign land by Mr President on his sick bed, most part of the budget for the amnesty deal have not been implemented. Overtime, I have come to learn by experience that government have a good plan, but implementation takes a period of time or sometimes swept under carpet by successive administration. Don’t this administration know that there is a lot of stinking stuff under the carpet? Who then is to implement the supplementary budget in the absence of Mr President. The tall expectation of every Niger Deltans is a genuine eagerness on the part of the Federal government to transform the long-neglected but oil-rich Niger Delta region. The Federal government started on a good note by granting unconditional amnesty to repentant militants, thereby creating a peaceful environment, for any meaningful development to take place. But delay in implementation of every aspect of the supplementary budget that had to do with development and rehabilitation of the repentant militants could take the wind out of the sail, and the creeks may become unsafe.
Determined not to take the wind of the amnesty deal out of sail, Mr President before he went on medical treatment abroad, gradually unfolded his post-amnesty plan for the region. Just as many critics were asking what next, Mr President signed a N33 billion contract with Messrs Julius Berger Plc and Team Nigeria Ltd (Consultants) for the completion of the remaining 22km Ajokuta-Warri rail line and the comprehensive rehabilitation of the completed portion. This is coming 22 years after the project started. The Minister of Transport, Alhaji Isa Bio said the contract award is a demonstration of the government commitment to the rapid transformation of the Niger Delta region.
Similarly, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) recently approved N179.13 billion for the execution of 44 projects by the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, in the nine states it covers. The projects include construction of bridges, roads, drainages, hospitals and the acquisition of hospital equipment, provision of portable water and education facilities.
Among the ambitious projects that the government has lined up are the completion of the expansion of the East-West highway; the construction of the East-West highway; the construction of the East-West coastal roads, from Calabar to Lagos; the coastal rail line; inland water ways, transportation; reclamation to link some oil-producing communities and environmental clean-up activities. The projects also include a N14.9 billion contract for the development of the newly established Federal Polytechnic of oil and gas, sited in Bayelsa and another N5.72 billion for the upgrade of the Petroleum Technology Institute (PTI) sited in Effurun.
This is a significant departure from the previous half-hearted approach to the massive developmental challenges in the region, that produces over 90 per cent of the wealth of the nation. It remains to be seen how fast the government is willing to implement this policy programmes.
In essence, the concept of massive developmental challenges remain elusive if there is no political will to implement them. The ultimate expectation of every Niger Deltans is the implementation from the drawing board for the massive developmental projects to practical stage, where the long-neglected Niger-Delta region would start to receive a beehive of construction activities.
Again, the Federal government should revisit and implement immediately the Master Plan accepted by all stakeholders as the way forward, provides a fine blend of mega and small projects required for the quick transformation of the region. This widely acclaimed master plan for the region took four years to be produced by national and international experts. Indeed it is a worthy road map that should be adequately funded in order to translate the lofty plans into tangible projects and programmes.
Anything other than that is a fraud.
Expectations From Governor Fubara’s Administration
According to the Bible book of Ecclesiastes Chapter 9:10, Expectations From Governor Fubara’s Administration“whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work in the grave where you are going”.
This Bible verse is not only apt but a transcendental truth that is applicable to all humans as there is no work in the grave.
The Presidential, National Assembly and Governorship elections have all ended, candidates declared winners and losers.
As former President Buhari put it: “Those who are aggrieved should go to court.
Indeed, PDP Presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and the Labour Party counterpart, Peter Obi are all in court to seek judicial solution to alleged manipulated election results.
Truly, going to court is the correct thing to do in a civilized society and not to plan assassination and another campaign of calumny.
To this end, the Presidential candidate of APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has been sworn-in as President while Amaopusenibo Sim Joseph Fubara of Rivers State and his Deputy, Prof. Ngozi Odu have been sworn in accordingly.
As is stands, government has been formed with much expectations from the citizens and so it is in Rivers State.
At the National level, the inauguration speech of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, saying that fuel subsidy is gone is already generating much heat than light.
In Rivers State, former Governor Nyesom Wike’s superlative achievements in infrastructural developments particularly construction of roads, flyovers, bridges, among others is applauded.
Be that as it may, no one government or person can address or proffer solutions to all the challenges of citizens, therefore, much is expected from the government of Amaopusenibo Sim Joseph Fubara.
It is, therefore, pertinent to support the leadership through constructive engagements, criticism, suggestions and advice than to wait for mistakes and errors to condemn.
In other words, fault finding in a person or government is not the best but to support the government.
This is why it has become sinequanon to offer suggestion and advice to produce a virile society.
In fact, the Bible notes in the book of Luke Chapter 14:28 “Which of you desiring to build a tower who does not first draw a plan and cost analysis whether he can complete”.
It is therefore, instructive to know that a plan and cost analysis are not applicable alone to constructing physical structures such as building road and flyovers.
This means that in government profit and loss are not limited to raw cash alone even though cash at hand is required to run government projects and programmes.
Gorvernor Sim Joseph fubara and his Deputy, Prof. Ngozi Odu must see the need to mobilise, galvanise and link Rivers people together.
Through proper public communication, information (management) dissemination and through its State-owned media such as Radio Rivers, Rivers State Television and Rivers State Newspaper Corporation, publishers of The Tide Newspapers as well as surrounding private media.
The State media should not be used for the issuing of government press releases alone to serve as avenue to promote resonance and engagement.
For instance, in the Words of the pioneer General Manager, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Lord Reith while commissioning the BBC Empire Service (BBC World Service) in 1932 said: “The World Service would become a co-ordinating and connecting link between the scattered parts of British Empire”.
It is noteworthy that the British government at the time adopted the use of radio broadcasting to coordinate the colonies and not just by issuing commands through press release and appearing as guest on private and public radio stations of other foreign governments.
Similarly, the government must adequately fund, support and promote agriculture in the area of food supply and security, soil classification in the State, animal husbandry and livestock, fisheries and food processing to value addition.
Rivers State has no business with food scarcity with erable land in Ogoniland, Ikwerre, Emohua, Etche, Abua, Ahoada East and West while the entire coastal communities of Bonny, Opobo, Nkoro, Andoni, Kalabari, Okrika, Bille, Soku and the Orashi region are potential source of fish supply inter-allia.
Transportation is strategic in the distribution of goods and services by commuters.
It is pleasing to observe that the immediate past government of Chief Nyesom Wike constructed some roads and bridges which help to connect urban centers to the hinterland.
The government of Sim Fubara should invest in the provision of low cost houses for civil and public servants in the various suburbs and outskirts of Port Harcourt City because it is easy to deduct rent at source from their salaries in accordance with their years of service.
Security of lives and property remains the main function of government as this is the hallmark of government.
In this regard, government must be seen to promote business activities in secluded areas making them a behive of tourism and trade destination.
Government should consider funding adequately and equipping credible vigilante groups rather than donating security equipment and gadgets to security agencies which in turn relocate them to Abuja, Lagos and other parts of Nigeria and leave the State vulnerable to kidnappers and anti-social activities.
Better still, there is the need to rejig the civil service in the State and renovate the Secretariat Complex particularly, the provision of electricity, water and plumbing infrastructure.
It is good news that Governor Sim. Fubara has visited the secretariat and promised better days ahead.
Since everybody cannot be governors, deputy, national and State Assembly member, Head of Service, Secretary to Government and Permanent Secretaries, it is expedient to promote civil servants, pay regularly salaries, increments, pension and gratuity to enable every one grow at his or her level and reduce banditry and bitterness in society.
Above all, leaders in positions of trust should regularly engage stakeholders and take advice rather than considering every divergent views as enemies and detractors.
A stitch in time saves nine.
By: Baridorn Sika
Sika, is a Port Harcourt-based journalist and public affairs analyst.
Irony Of Buhari’s Exit
The immediate past administration at the Federal level was known for always making statements which later turned out to be comical prank or “April Fool”. Recall that the former President and Minister of Petroleum Resouces, Muhammadu Buhari had, eight months to the expiration of his tenure as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria assured Nigerians that he would leave Nigeria on May 29, 2023 a better country than when he took over from his predecessor, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, in 2015. Since he made that statement, many people analysed the feasibility and workability of his assurance considering the state of the economy and other sectors of the country that are in comatose vis-a-vis the short time left for him. The economy, to say the least, was depressed, worsened by high rate of inflationary trends. The cost of living was all time high during President Buhari’s eight years of “Pluto-Democratic” (a democracy run by few rich people) administration.
The education sector did not fare well either. Universities in Nigeria suffered one of the worst neglects in the annals of the history of Nigeria. Public universities were shut down for about eight months. The protracted face -off between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Federal Government lingered and is not resolved because the former administration under Muhammadu Buhari did not make reasonable efforts to meet the core demands of the Academic Staff Union of Universities. Consequently, students’ academic programmes were extended: students that would have graduated last year and of course every other student, are still one year behind. No thanks to Buhari’s administration.
Rather than addressing the salient issues of welfare, infrastructure and quality manpower for better productivity, the Federal Government recognised two other trade unions within the university sector with the intent to whittle down the influence of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, -an act which labour leaders and human rights activists described as repugnant to extant Labour laws in the country and diversionary. No thanks to Dr. Chris Ngige, the maradonic Labour Minister of President Buhari’s administration. Nigerians will not forget in a hurry the draconian currency swap and Naira Redesign that posed great hardship on the people. For the first time, Nigerians bought their own money, paying outrageous charges to access money in their own accounts.
During the immediate past administration, prices of petroleum products were upwardly reviewed five times. The premium motor spirit price of N65 per litre which the Buhari administration inherited in 2015 from Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s administration was N295 per litre upon Buhari’s exit. Today, it is about N600 per litre. Diesel is a scarce commodity sold at exorbitant price, thus, negatively impacting the cost of production. Of course, it is not saying a new thing that several industries have scaled down production capacity, other small and medium scale businesses that thrived before the inception of the Buhari’s administration in 2015 are either gasping for breath for survival or moribund because of high cost of petroleum products occasioned by its unavailability. Before the inception of Buhari’s administration, kerosene was not only available, it was dispensed at petrol stations at N50 per litre pump price which was user-friendly.
Today, kerosene is out of stock and unaffordable. A 20 litre Jerry can of kerosene presently sells for N16,000 as against N1,200 former president Muhammadu Buhari inherited. As at 2015 when the outgone Federal Government came to power, a bag of quality rice was N6,000. At the exit of that government, it is N46, 000 about 800 percent increase. The former administration came to power on the mantra of ridding the country of the “corruption of Goodluck Jonathan’s administration” but it has produced some of the most corrupt leaders and abysmally corruption cases in the country so much so that the Dr. Jonathan’s administration that Buhari’s administration accused of corruption, comparatively enjoyed acceptance and popularity. Life was better in the alleged corrupt administration of Goodluck Ebele Jonathan than the “corruption intolerant” Buhari administration that people demand a corrupt administration with better life than a saintly administration with penury and hardship. It was a clear case of the proverbial kettle calling the pot black.
As at June 2022, Nigeria was the fourth most indebted nation in the world with a 13 billion dollars debt stock according to International Development Association. Nigeria was also rated among the first ten most corrupt countries in the world by the Transparency International. What happened to the public servants pension contributions? The number of out-of-school children is on a geometric increase. For instance, within one year of former president Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, 20 million children were out of school in 2022 as against 10 million in 2021. Speculatively, the number shall have increased to 30 million by 2023 because of unemployment, depressed economy and unbearable high cost of living making parents not to be able to provide for the basic necessities of their children, including their educational needs.
Today, the value of Nigeria’s currency has comparatively dropped to about N515 per dollar in the official market as against N295 per dollar as at 2015. Nigeria experienced the worst incidents of insecurity during the administration of Buhari than the preceding administration, so much so that the clamour for State Police, regional security and internal or neighborhood security outfits were vigorously pursued. The sanctity of life was compromised as faceless people killed with impunity. As at 2015 only one incident of Boko Haram invasion of school was recorded. And that was the Chibok girls. During the administration of Buhari about five cases were recorded. Buhari was the substantive Minister of Petroleum Resources for eight years, yet he could not revamp existing refineries in eight years.
But the Dangote Group built the largest single train oil refinery in the world in the same period with the nation’s equity fund. Yet with such unfriendly indices which smack of a sickly and failed state, the former president Muhammadu Buhari in his farewell address to Nigerians on Monday May 29, said: I am confident that I am leaving office with Nigeria better in 2023 than in 2015. Is it a joke or a prank on the sensibility of Nigerians. Should any conscientious and analytical mind agree with the position of former Mr. President? In my considered but candid opinion, the answer is No!
By: Igbiki Benibo
Who Is Afraid Of Subsidy Removal?
Within a few hours things changed – some marketers shut their petrol stations, the price of petroleum motor spirit (PMS) tripled; transportation fare, food prices soared. It was just a pronouncement by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu during his inaugural speech that subsidy on petroleum is “gone” and the economy and welfare of many citizens took a worse turn.Nigerians are quick to condemn the insensitivity of the government to the plight of the people but the citizens are not any better. Many Nigerians capitalize on any given opportunity to make “quick” money even at the detriment of their fellow citizens. How their actions will affect their neighbours and other citizens is the least of their worries. Otherwise, how come petroleum marketers who were selling petrol at the official pump price of N195,00 or a little above that raise the price to as high as N600, N800 or even N1000,00, depending on the location and filling station, at the mere mention that petrol subsidy will be removed? Why should taxi drivers, some of whom bought fuel at the official price, hike their fares by almost 300 per cent? How can the traders on hearing the announcement triple the prices of the items stocked in their stalls and shops? The worse is that the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited who would have come to the rescue of the populace is also a culprit of the same offence. Quickly after the president’s pronouncement and despite the refutation by the government that Tinubu did not say that subsidy removal will take immediate effect, NNPC filling stations adjusted their fuel pump prices to N511,00 per liter.The Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mele Kyari, earlier in the week while appealing to Nigerians to stop panic buying of petroleum products, said that there was sufficient supply of petroleum products. One would want to believe that the “surplus” fuel on ground, which apparently is old stock, was subsidised. That being the case, why should the pump price be hiked? What will happen to the excess money realised from this increase?Nigeria is a tough place to live in presently. The disruption the president’s pronouncement has done to the economy, the misery brought to the citizens is unimaginable but Nigerians should not make the situation worse for one another through extortion.
The Governor of Imo State, while addressing newsmen on Wednesday, observed that removal of subsidy was a key point in the manifesto of all the major contenders in the recently held presidential election in the country. He noted that both the candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the All Progressives Party (APC) and Labour Party (LP) promised to remove fuel subsidy if elected president of Nigeria. That is a fact. Nigerians heard them but failed to reject it at that time. We all hailed it believing that subsidy was the root of Nigeria’s economic woes. Do we then not have a share in the calamity that has befallen the country? The few knowledgeable people who cried out that removal of subsidy would do the nation more harm than good were not listened to. I recall a particular public affairs analyst, Majid Dahiru, constantly insisting that the issue of energy security should not be toyed with. According to him, any country that does not have energy security (availability of petrol, diesel, electricity at an affordable price), cannot prosper economically and is bound to have challenges of peace and security. He and his likes also insisted that most developed countries have been able to attain food and energy security through subsidy because if you do not subsidise the prices will go up, the cost of production will rise in addition to other spiral effect on the economy and the well being of the citizens just as it is currently in Nigeria. Unfortunately, Nigerians were meant to believe that subsidy is injurious to the nation’s economy. The people that should know better, told the masses that only the rich were benefiting from fuel subsidy and that it has no impact on the lives of the poor. Some argued that only the people in the cities were gaining from subsidy because those in the rural areas were already buying the product way above the official pump price. Because of the corruption angle of the subsidy over the years, the inflated cost of the imported product and all that, it just felt like removal of subsidy was a blanket approach to cleansing the system.
Today, we know better. We have seen that the consequences of subsidy removal are more on the poor, low-income earners than the rich. In a viral video on the social media, some motorists queued up at an NNPC filling station here in Port Harcourt on hearing the news of the subsidy removal, hoping to get the product at the old, official price but when the gates of the gas station were opened and the new price was unveiled, none of them could drive in. How many rich people are complaining about the effect of the subsidy removal on prices of food stuff, transportation and other things? The President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Joe Ajero, has been in the news in the past five days, expressing the displeasure of Nigerian workers over the latest development, insisting that Tinubu must take the country back to where it was before May 29 and that if there must be any form of subsidy removal, government must negotiate with the workers, the market men and women and other Nigerians. That is a good step. Nigerians must insist that the government must work. That means, the government must fix the Nigerian refineries. Government must deal with oil theft, insecurity, corruption and other factors responsible for the country not meeting up with her OPEC quota of 2.4million barrels of oil per day. The government must have the political will to deal with corruption which has kept the nation in this sorry state. Otherwise, there is no guarantee that the money that will be saved from subsidy removal, if it must take place, will not be mismanaged. Most importantly, government should start cutting waste by cutting the cost of governance. The president and the state governors can function effectively without the fleet of cars at their disposal. President Tinubu is said to be one of the richest men in Africa. So, it can be argued that his aim of wanting to occupy the topmost position in the country is not to enrich himself. He has seen it all in life. So, he should make a name for himself by prudently managing the resources of the country for the wellbeing of the citizens.
The president should not be adamant on carrying out any plan, policy or decision that is inimical to the wellbeing of the generality of the people. He should have a listening ear and always consult widely in all his dealings as he promised during his inaugural speech. If the fuel subsidy must go, let it be done in such a way that it will be less painful on the poor suffering Nigerians. He should listen to some constructive advice offered by some well-meaning individuals and groups, which include ensuring that our refineries are operational and or at least waiting for Dangote refinery to come on stream to help keep the fuel price from spiraling out of control. There should be a holistic approach to solving our national problem which should include good governance and appointing the qualified, capable hands into offices. The time for political patronage is over. There must be the assemblage of capable Nigerians from different ethnic groups, religions and political parties with a burning desire to save the nation from further sinking. This way, Nigeria’s economy will blossom and there will be enough money to continue to subsidise petrol and other things that will make the life of the citizens more meaningful and Nigeria a country we can all be proud of.
By: Calista Ezeaku
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