While addressing stakeholders at a special session of the National Economic Council (NEC) meeting at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja on Thursday,, March 22, 2018, the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr Bill Gates faulted the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) of the Federal Government.
He is reported to have said that the ERGP, which must reflect the people’s needs, should also give priority to human capital development over physical capital as it is designed currently.
The founder of Microsoft Corporation and one of the richest men in the world is said to have told the meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo that “To anchor the economy over the long term, investment in infrastructure and competiveness must go hand in hand with investments in the people.
“People without roads, ports and factories can’t flourish. And roads,, ports and factories without skilled workers to build and manage them can’t sustain an economy.”
To underscore his call for intervention in the healthcare services and education to the people of the country, Mr Gates lamented that Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth, with the fourth worst maternal mortality rate ahead of only Sierra-Leone, Central African Republic and Chad.
In the face of this, right after the meeting at the Presidential Villa, Governor Nasir el-Rufai told newsmen that Mr Gates assessment was incorrect.
The Kaduna State governor and chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), said “it is not correct to say that the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan does not give primacy to human capital, it is not correct.”
Even though Governor El-Rufai admitted that “if a child loses quality education, he is done for life. If a child doesn’t get quality healthcare in the first two years, he is destroyed for life, he said “it is not the ERGP that needs adjustment, it is the budgeting that needs to be ramped up in these two key areas because these are where problems are.”
Of course, Nigerians across all strata and segments of the society have since been engaged in heated arguments and discussions over the issue.
However, the National Project Coordinator of the International Trauma and Critical Care, Managers of the Prof. Kelsey Harrison Hospital in Port Harcourt, Dr. Sidney Ibeanusi has advised the Federal Government not to see Bill Gates’ statement as an attempt to diminish the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari but as a constructive criticism aimed at goading the government to turn things around for the good of Nigerians.
In an exclusive interview with The Tide in his office in Port Harcourt, Dr. Ibeanusi said Mr. Gates observations, though scathing, should be taken seriously since the American was neither a Nigerian nor a politician and therefore could not have been influenced by political calculations in making utterances.
The expert in trauma medicine regretted that politics was getting too much in the way of government’s ability to deliver critical welfare services to the people of the country and called on the authorities to redirect and refocus their attention towards giving Nigerians a new lease of life.
“He is not a Nigerian and he is not a politician that you’d say he is playing politics with words”, he said adding that “Government should take it as constructive criticism and not to look at it as if somebody is out to demean the government”.
According to him, the facts upon which Mr. Gates based his criticism were in the public domain locally as well as the international community and therefore the Federal Government only needs to face the truth and make adjustments in order to reverse the ugly trend and avert grim consequences for the country in the near future.” The health sector has not fared well just like the education sector in terms of budgetary allocation. The government may be working on that but so far it’s been a struggle and this is showing in terms of statistics coming out of the country” he said, stressing that Mr. Gates should not be condemned for declaring Nigeria as one of the worst places in the world to give birth.
“You heard last week, Bill Gates who is partnering Nigeria in terms of polio actually said that Nigeria is one of the worst places to give birth in terms of survival. That is an indictment actually but I don’t think he should be crucified for that”, he said .
According to Dr. Ibeanusi, the Federal Government needs to nmuster the political will to set things right by investing more in healthcare and education as, in his opinion, all other sectors are bound to take their bearing from these.
“I think that part of what we need to do is to invest more in health, invest more in education (and) then you will get others right.
“If your children are dying before they get to age of five years or they’re getting stunted, it will affect the quality of human beings you turn out later”, he emphasised.
“I think the government needs to do something and do that urgently” in the area of not just adequate budgetary provision but the implementation of appropriated allocations, he said, adding that “As a country, we should actually first of all look at capacity building, look at investment and resource provision and then provide the enabling environment. You cannot have a system where you have a private sector that comes in today and then you come up with laws that will stifle them. It will discourage more persons from coming”.
Dr. Ibeanusi said that Ghana was fasting becoming very attractive to investors in the health sector and warned that except something was urgently done by the Federal Government, the West African neighbors would soon become a destination of choice not only for those seeking medical solution but for experts as well, including those from Nigeria.
He said the Vice President Yemi Osinbajo did not miss the point when he indicated that the government appreciated what Mr. Gates said and expressed the view that they were going to tackle the matter head on.
“I think that should be the approach, take it head on; look at the things we haven’t done and start doing things we should do right away rather than saying it is in the pipeline,” he said, pointing out that with as little as N10 billion annually, the Federal Government could provide free emergency medical care for all Nigerians.
“What it takes to provide emergency medical services to Nigerians free may not be more than N10 billion every year,” he noted, insisting that “that alone can provide emergency medical services to every person in this country. Within 24 to 48 hours, you have an emergency, you walk into a hospital and get treated and nobody asks you for a kobo.”
He, however, lamented that Nigerians were dying needlessly for lack of money to pay for medical expenses even though government could do so little to save them.
“A lot of Nigerians die because they don’t have money to access medical care. They go to the hospital, they are not able to pay deposits and by the time they leave there to another hospital, they die on the way,” he noted with regret, adding that sometimes the situation catches up with the politicians as well.
“You are aware that recently a Senator slumped and died before he could get to the hospital. If he had had medical personnel nearby, probably the person would have tried to keep him alive until appropriate help arrives.
“When these things are lacking, we are all exposed to becoming victims of our own inefficiency, of our own inability to do the things we ought to do. And I think every politician should think twice, if it is not you today, it could be your brother, it could be your sister, it could be your parent,” he cautioned.
While he admitted that politicians had a right to play politics, Dr Ibeanusi argued that healthcare services and education are fundamental rights of the people that must not be politicised irrespective of the government in power.
“You know politicians always talk about numbers, how many votes and all that. But things like health care, things like education don’t talk about numbers; those are social services and these are fundamental rights of the people.
“Whatever government in power should focus on them,” he reiterated.
Osun Election Tribunal Affirms Certificate Forgery Against Adeleke
The Osun Election Petition Tribunal said that the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its candidate in the July 16 governorship election, Adegboyega Oyetola, were able to prove a case of forgery against Governor Ademola Adeleke.
The tribunal, however, held that the forgery case was not enough to disqualify him from contesting the election, adding that the PDP candidate had acquired additional qualifications.
Delivering the majority judgement, the tribunal, led by Justice Tertsea Kume, noted that the petitioners were able to prove a forgery case against Adeleke as EC9, which is the affidavit in support of personal particulars about the governor told “a lie about itself.”
Interestingly, the only member of the tribunal, Justice B.A. Ogbuli, who gave a dissenting ruling on the judgement, aligned with the position of the majority judgement on the issue of disqualification.
The tribunal held: “Respondent through Mrs Joan Arabs produced FILE D which was tendered in evidence. The said exhibit FILE D is in respect of the election conducted by the 1st respondent in 2018.
“Exhibit EC9, as earlier indicated, is the affidavit in support of the personal particulars of the 2nd respondent which he presented to the 1st respondent for the election of the 16th of July, 2022.
“On page two of exhibit EC9, the 2nd respondent (Adeleke), in his handwriting, wrote under (1) School Attended (Educational qualification with dates: Thus: 2. Secondary Ede Muslim Grammar School, Eede – attended 1976 – 1981, Penn Foster High School Diploma -2021”.
“3. Higher Atlanta Metropolitan State College – BSC Criminal Justice 2021.
“On page 4, of exhibit EC9, there is a letter of attestation from Ede Muslim High School dated 22nd of May, 2016.
“Learned counsel for the petitioners, as earlier stated, referred to the different names in the schools reproduced above and the evidence admitted by RW2 under cross-examination, that Osun State was created in 1991, and as such, any evidence that a qualifying certificate or document stating that it was from Osun State in 1981 is a forgery”.
Meanwhile, the PDP, Saturday, alleged that the tribunal judgement that sacked Governor Ademola Adeleke was way billed by the APC.
Addressing journalists in Osogbo, the party leadership, led by the State Caretaker Chairman, Dr Adekunle Akindele, said the judge abandoned legal arguments and submissions to dwell on the trivial as the foundation for his pronouncement.
Citing many examples of bias and personal hatred for Adeleke by the Tribunal Chairman, the party accused the Benue-born judge of serving as the mouthpiece of the petitioners during the hearing and of personal attacks on the governor in the ruling, citing the reference to Buga dance in the judgement.
“Even if the judgement was way billed to him as we suspected by his petitioner collaborators, he should have disguised and exercised some restraints by expunging the foul languages obviously written for him in local parlance of Buga lyrics to disrespect an elected governor. He shouldn’t have gone so low, low, low!,” Akindele said.
“This is more so, when he’s expected not to be too carried away or in the least, to be aware that his warped position was a mere starting point in the legal tussle in this context as provided in our extant laws.
“For us as a party, we understand the desperation of those behind the Jankara judgement. We understand the trap they tried to set against the BVAS innovation in our electoral system. We understand the desperation goes beyond the Osun election or Governor Ademola Jackson Nurudeen Adeleke.
“The evil plot is ultimately against the coming general election where in their usual fraudulent habit, millions of voter cards have either been cloned, registered with ghost names and are being made ready to be deployed especially for the presidential election, in which they could smell their total rejection far ahead of time.”
2023: Police Get N64bn For Operations, Deploy APCs, Others Nationwide
A total of N64 billion has been approved for the Nigeria Police Force as operations fund for security management for the forthcoming general elections.
This is as the Force Headquarters has dispatched anti-riot weapons, water cannons and Armoured Personnel Carriers, among others, to the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory to ensure watertight security during the elections.
Police sources confirmed to The Tide source that all the commands and formations across the country had got their share of the arms and ammunition unveiled by the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Baba, in Abuja.
The sources, however, noted that the total number received by each command and formation could not be disclosed for security reasons.
One of the sources said, “The HQ has deployed all the anti-riot weapons, water cannons, APCs, and other arms and ammunition in all the 37 commands and police formations in preparation for the elections.”
Another source said, “We have got the arms and ammunition, including water cannons, APCs and anti-riot weapons, and we’re fully prepared for the election security management. But we can’t declare the total number that we got for security reasons.”
Our source reports that N2.98 trillion was provisioned for the police, military, intelligence and paramilitary services as recurrent and capital expenditures for defence and security in the 2023 approved budget to tackle insecurity, which represents 13.4 per cent of the entire N21.83 trillion budget.
The N64 billion police operations fund for the elections was contained in the N21.83 trillion budget approved by the National Assembly and signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, January 3, 2023.
Meanwhile, the Force Headquarters has confirmed the deployment of the equipment and given assurance of security before, during and after the elections.
It also noted that it had continued to deploy adequate personnel to ensure security during political activities, as political parties demand more police presence at campaign venues.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, said, “There is no cause for alarm as we have shared a large number of equipment, most especially anti-riot equipment such as APCs, water cannons, tear-smoke, pepper sprays and some nonlethal weapons.
But we won’t want to be specific about the actual number deployed because we don’t want to reveal our strength to the enemies, but every command has got its share, and we are sure that they will be of great help.
“The distribution still continues; in fact, we have just concluded the sharing of kits and accoutrements to all commands dealing with departments at the FHQ, Abuja and Lagos annex. So, our personnel are good to go, and we are still planning to share more as we expect deliveries of additional tools for the general elections.”
Security experts have said the deployment of anti-riot weapons, water cannons, APCs, and other arms and ammunition to the 37 state police commands and formations in preparation for the elections was proof that the police were in charge of election security management in the country.
A security expert, Chidi Omeje said, “This is good news for Nigeria and Nigerians. Nigeria is a democracy, and constitutionally, the police are supposed to be the de facto security agency in charge of internal security and election security management.
“This recent deployment of arms and ammunition and the N64bn provided for the police in the 2023 budget for election security management is an indication that we are on the right track as a country, and if the police stay true to the course, and if the N64bn is adequate for the police, then we’ll achieve peaceful, safe, free, fair and credible elections this year.”
Meanwhile, the police high command has stated that it will provide extra security cover for the political parties, which are only required to make requests.
Adejobi said, “We have been deploying personnel in various political activities so far, and we will continue to do so. Other security agencies have equally deployed adequate personnel to augment our power.
“The number of personnel that we have been deploying is enough for any normal and peaceful rally or campaign, except if the political parties claim or try to send a message that rallies won’t be peaceful, and they need to answer to that.
“We don’t require any conditions from political parties before we deploy personnel. All we want them to do is to inform the police in various places of their planned rallies or campaigns, and to make sure that they are peaceful.
“We expect them to be law-abiding and respect the peace accord already signed at all levels. Everybody in Nigeria is equal before the law and has rights as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. So, we preach peace, we want peace, and we will enforce the law to have peace wherever necessary.”
The Ogun State Police Command said it had yet to arrest any suspect in connection with the attacks on INEC offices in the state last year.
Wike, OBJ List Path To Sustainable Democracy In Nigeria
Amidst the deepening anxiety, tension and expectations preceding the forth coming general elections in Nigeria, critical stakeholders have raised concern over the imperatives of a smooth transition to strengthen democratic culture in Nigeria.
Among the key stakeholders who raised their views on the way forward for Nigeria’s democracy were the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, and former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who spoke at the Port Harcourt International Conference, sponsored by the Rivers State Government with the theme: “Deepening Democratic Culture and Institutions for Sustainable Development and Security In Nigeria”, held at the Obi Wali International Conference Centre in Port Harcourt on Thursday.
Addressing the conference, the Rivers State Governor said Nigerians are desirous of a credible transition process with the 2023 general elections becoming the litmus test to actualise the dream of an egalitarian society and political leadership emanating from popular choice.
Governor Wike noted that Nigeria’s evolving political history has been prone to some institutional challenges that had hampered the processes but urged Nigerians to keep faith with democratic culture by ensuring that the 2023 general elections make a difference in other to avert a further drift into political disequilibrium and social disorder.
Governor Wike noted that Nigeria’s former President, late Umaru Yar’Adua acknowledged that the election that brought him as President was fraught with glaring irregularities and promised some electoral reforms in the country.
According to Governor Wike, the anomalies in Nigeria’s political transition grew unabated with litigations trailing the outcomes of the 2011, 2015 and 2019 general elections, as the compromise of the electoral process by the electoral umpires negated the principles of fair contest and denied citizens their constitutional rights to elect the leaders they could trust and hold accountable to stewardship.
Thus, the emergence of leaders outside the people’s will, he noted, was illegitimate and bred autocracy , abuse of political power and constituted existential threat to the peace and stability of the nation.
“None of the defeated contestants believed they lost fairly and blamed the umpire, the security agencies and politicians for undermining our democracy with brazen electoral fraud.
“In Rivers State, we battled the military in 2016 and 2019 re- run and general elections with pure courage and determination to secure our victory and retain our mandate with the sweat and blood of innocent citizens”, Wike said.
Governor Wike emphasised that deepening democratic culture and institutions for sustainable development and security in Nigeria can only be achieved through a credible electoral process anchored on popular will, not a skewed process that undermines the will of the people.
Governor Wike expressed hope in the new electoral law, especially with the provision of the use of technology as a measure of checking electoral frauds. He added that political parties must also conform to democratic norms through their internal practices and external electoral behaviour.
He charged Nigerians to move out of the culture of indifference and docility and be courageous enough to stand for justice, participate actively in the democratic process and defend their votes, and urged the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) and the security agencies to be impartial in the discharge of their functions.
In his key note address, former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo said despite Nigeria’s chequered political evolution with twists and torns, there was still hope for a more credible and sustainable democratic process in the country.
Speaking on the topic “Respecting the Principles of Democraty”, the former president said Nigeria needed a strategic move to deepen it’s democratic culture.
To strengthen the country’s democracy, Obasanjo said political leadership should not be opportunistic but laden with a high sense of responsibility with critical stakeholders such as the intellectuals and technocrats playing pivotal roles in the polity as opposed to a system that favours minions and other characters lacking in leadership acumen.
He also cautioned against the arm-twisting and gauging of the opposition, stating that such tendencies could stifle the country’s democratic growth. He pointed out that the democratic practice exhibited by Nigeria’s political class has deepened contradiction, negative coalitions, distrust, disloyalty and unpatriotic tendencies within and between communities and constituencies all over the country.
By: Taneh Beemene
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