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Editorial

More Laurels For Wike

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Less than four months to the end of his administration, the Rivers State governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, was
yet again honoured with a prestigious award last Saturday at the Eko Hotels and Suites in Lagos by the Independent Newspapers Limited (INL), publishers of Daily Independent, Saturday Independent, and Sunday Independent titles. The event was a gathering of who-is-who among eminent Nigerians.
The national stable also bestowed awards and honours on some illustrious Nigerians and corporate organisations who have used their positions to serve humanity. According to sources from the newspaper, the distinguished individuals and organisations were cautiously picked by the Awards Committee of INL and were affirmed to have used their positions and privileges to serve the people and demonstrated true character as genuine servants of the public.
Bearing the theme, “Celebrating Nigeria’s Best”, the 2022 edition was unique and further hollowed the successes recorded in the previous awards as the recipients were selected purely on merit as they ranked among the very best in their different endeavours in their courses of service to humanity. Leading at the award ceremony was Wike who was deservedly revered as Independent’s Man Of The Year.
This award did not come as a jolt as Wike has demonstrated his love and desire to see the good of the ordinary man in both his immediate Rivers State and Nigeria in general. The governor has developed Rivers to the extent that President Muhammadu Buhari honoured him with the ‘Infrastructure’ Award. He has been very vocal in championing the course of Nigerians, especially with the effects of the current economic crunch induced by the redesigning of the naira and fuel scarcity, where he has remained relentless in pursuit of succour for ordinary Nigerians.
As early as 2017, barely a couple of years into his administration, Wike had already carved his indelible niche in the annals of infrastructure delivery in the country. No wonder Nigeria’s Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, christened him “Mr. Projects” in recognition of his tremendous achievements in such a short period when most of his first-term colleagues were still trying to find their feet and settle down to the nitty-gritty of their new mandate.
Needless to say that in the more than five years that have elapsed since the Vice President’s uncommon acknowledgement of Wike’s pragmatic leadership, the Rivers governor has accomplished an outstanding galore of breathtaking, fabulous, gigantic infrastructural projects across the length and breadth of Rivers State. This has not only transformed Port Harcourt and its environs into a befitting capital city but also provided comfortable access and passage into many ancient kingdoms, hitherto accessible only by sea.
The 12 flyovers (some already completed and in use while others are nearing completion and will all be completed before his tenure is over), criss-crossing the milieu of Port Harcourt and its environs, the massive state-of-the-art Nabo Graham Douglas Campus of the Nigeria Law School complex, Dr. Peter Odili Cancer and Cardiovascular Diagnosis Treatment Centre, the impressive Mother and Child Hospital, the iconic Real Madrid Football Academy are some projects.
Others include Sakpenwa-Kono dual carriage expressway, Opobo Unity Road, the reconstructed jetties, the renovated schools, and the rehabilitated internal roads across the state are some projects on the list that are just too comprehensive to reel out. Indeed, the governor’s generosity and humanitarian acts both within and across the country have now become legendary. Wike has done all these, despite the poor state of infrastructure he inherited from his predecessor and the setback caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which ravaged the entire country.
We recall similar recognitions and awards to the amiable Rivers governor. Apart from the honours from some national newspapers, he has in his kitty awards, including Human Rights Award by National Human Rights Commission; 3G Ambassadors Award; Bayelsa Media Network Award, and the ‘Best Governor’ by Nigerian Social Media Awards. The Nigerian Social Media Awards, the brainchild of Francis Amirize, was created to recognise personalities, brands, and services having the most impact on the social media space in Nigeria.
More than seven years, Governor Wike’s regional importance and growing national status as a political titan, a visionary game changer, and a developmental leader has grown in leaps and bounds. He has also transformed Port Harcourt and Rivers State into a buzzing matrix and solid base for the resolution of political conflicts and a bastion for results-oriented, functional leadership. This is against the backdrop of a progressively dysfunctional and administratively dystopian national leadership.
Recognising Wike’s onliest attributes, Diversity Bridge Builders Collective (DBBC), a coalition of advocates for true inclusion, zero prejudice, and peaceful coexistence recently declared that the Rivers State governor was an assertive leader with a strong character and virtues of firm and effective leadership. DBBC said it all. Rather than vilify the man with such attributes, he should be applauded for being a leader, who does not give oxygen to laxity, indolence, and underwhelming performance in public office.
The current day Nigeria, with all its self-inflicted multi-faceted challenges, decadence, hopelessness, and widespread disillusionment requires a decisive, vibrant, fire-brand, assertive, and result-oriented leader like the Rivers Chief Executive. This is in contradistinction to the incumbent, underwhelming, indecisive leadership characterised by uninspiring lethargy, evasiveness, and nonchalance at the federal level. Wike’s attributes present him with a remarkable edge over other leaders in the country.
Most veritably, Governor Wike cannot be compared with his counterparts. There is no state in Nigeria where projects have been inaugurated like Rivers. The governor has turned it into a project commissioning state. Almost all notable political, traditional, and economic leaders commissioned projects in the state. From roads to hospitals to schools, to courts, and special projects, dignitaries from other parts of the country inaugurated projects that enriched the lives of Rivers people. Wike has candidly raised the bar of governance.

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Editorial

CBN And Nigeria’s Cash Crunch

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Nigerians have, again, been thrust into desperation as they grapple with cash shortage that has cast a dark shadow over their daily lives. Months after the Supreme Court’s ruling permitting the coexistence of the old and new naira notes, the crisis persists, leaving countless individuals struggling to secure basic necessities.
The scarcity of naira notes has partially crippled commerce throughout the country, especially in the informal sector. Businesses are incapacitated, unable to complete transactions efficiently, resulting in a slowdown of economic activities. Some people are left in dire straits, desperate for cash to meet essential expenses such as food, transportation, and healthcare, among others.
The cash crisis has created a fertile ground for unscrupulous elements and businesses to engage in predatory tactics. Retailers are exploiting the despair of consumers by overcharging for goods, while others hoard cash to sell at inflated prices. This rampant profiteering has further burdened the already strained financial resources of many Nigerians.
It is deeply concerning that while the citizens are still contending with the fallout of a failed disastrous currency redesign policy last year, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has initiated another misguided scheme that has exacerbated the scarcity of the legal tender. This ill-conceived move is implemented at a time when Nigerians are already struggling with inflation, rising unemployment, and declining living standards. The CBN’s actions have only served to compound their plight.
The timing of the plan is particularly cruel and demonstrates a fundamental lack of consideration for the well-being of ordinary Nigerians. The Central Bank has failed to adequately assess the severe consequences of its policies on the lives of citizens, who are now compelled to endure an atmosphere of uncertainty and hardship.
Despite the apex bank’s assurances of sufficient naira notes in circulation, the cash dilemma continues to torment Nigerians. The situation has worsened following introduction of withdrawal limits by the nation’s financial authorities, leading to an increased reliance on Point-of-Sale (POS) terminals. However, this dependence has come at a steep cost.
POS service providers have taken undue advantage of the shortage by imposing exorbitant charges, further burdening consumers. The surge in charges has negated the convenience of POS transactions, driving up the overall cost of obtaining cash. The CBN’s claims of adequate cash supply ring hollow in light of the predatory practices of POS operators.
Currently, naira scarcity has gripped major cities across the country, with Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) running dry and commercial banks introducing withdrawal limits. Consequently, POS operators have compassed the moment to exploit the situation. Investigations have revealed that some bank officials who own POS businesses, channel cash meant for the public to these outfits. This is economic sabotage. These unpatriotic Nigerians must be identified and punished appropriately.
The Acting Director of Corporate Communications at the CBN, Mrs Hakama Sidi Ali, has acknowledged that there has been a rise in the amount of money in circulation. However, she claims that the scarcity of cash is due to individuals hoarding it. This explanation contradicts the actual situation on the ground, as numerous banks have been unable to fulfil the daily requests for cash withdrawals.
This is why it is required for the Federal Government to promptly intervene and resolve the difference between what the Central Bank asserts and the actual availability of cash. They should contemplate raising the limits for cash withdrawals, improving access to banking services in areas that lack sufficient coverage, and partnering with mobile money platforms to offer alternative payment options.
To restore confidence in the banking system and help Nigerians affected by the current liquidity crisis, it is necessary to make coordinated attempts to increase the amount of cash in circulation. This can be achieved by taking strict actions against unfair point of sale charges and implementing measures to safeguard consumers from excessive profit-making. The Central Bank can address the liquidity crisis by implementing these steps, and provide relief to the suffering population.
While we promote alternative modes of payment, including electronic channels, to reduce pressure on cash, the authorities must recognise that resolving the cash crunch is not merely an economic issue. It is a matter of social justice. Every Nigerian deserves easy access to their hard-earned money without being subjected to inordinate drudgery. The government has a moral responsibility to address this crisis swiftly and effectively to restore financial stability and ensure the well-being of all its citizens.

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Editorial

Lessons From UK Polls

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The United Kingdom’s general election of July 4 marks a turning point in the nation’s political land-
scape. It highlights the resilience of its democratic traditions. The peaceful transition of power from Rishi Sunak to Keir Starmer reflects the strength of Britain’s political institutions and the electorate’s ability to effect change.
Moreover, the landslide victory of the Labour Party signifies a potential shift in the country’s ideological trajectory, prompting a reevaluation of its political, economic, and social future. As the nation navigates this pivotal moment, the smoothness of this transition serves as a testament to the stability and adaptability of Britain’s democratic infrastructure.
One of the most striking aspects of the new cabinet is the representation of women, with 11 out of 19 cabinet members being female. This stands in contrast to the situation in Nigeria, where women are severely underrepresented in government, particularly in the Northern states where female participation in politics is almost non-existent. The success of these women in the British political arena serves as a quintessential example for Nigeria, where patriarchy still holds sway and gender equality in politics remains a distant dream.
Eight Nigerian-Britons emerged victorious in the parliamentary elections, garnering adulation from Nigerians both at home and abroad. Their success highlights the importance of merit-based selection in politics, as each Member of Parliament (MP) won their seat on the basis of their personal qualifications and achievements. Unlike in Nigeria, where political appointments are often influenced by money, party leaders, and other extraneous factors, the British system values the power of the voter and respects the rights of every citizen to participate in the democratic process.
The diverse backgrounds and professional expertise of the Nigerian-British MPs further underscore the importance of competence and performance in politics. These individuals, ranging from engineers to lawyers, have earned their seats through hard work and dedication, rather than through political connections or nepotism. Their success should serve as a wake-up call to the Nigerian political system, where the average age of politicians is over 60 and where professional qualifications are often overshadowed by tribal and religious affiliations.
A veteran politician and one of the leading Nigerian-British MPs, Kemi Badenoch, exemplifies the success that can be achieved through hard work and dedication. Despite the challenges faced by her party in the recent election, Badenoch was re-elected on the basis of her qualifications and track record in office. Her appointment as Secretary of State for the Department for Business and Trade is a testament to her capabilities and leadership skills.
The current political climate in Nigeria stands in sharp contrast to the achievements of Nigerian-British professionals in the political sphere. Through their perseverance, commitment, and professional knowledge, Taiwo Owatemi, Chi Onwurah, Kate Osamor, Bayo Alaba, Josh Babarinde, Florence Eshalomi, Helen Grant, and Kemi Badenoch have all been elected to the legislature. This is in contradistinction to the state of affairs in Nigeria, where many politicians are viewed as “professional politicians” who lack distinguishable credentials or sources of income.
Nigeria’s electoral system is radically different from that of Britain, where candidates accept the results of the poll without filing lawsuits. Britain’s electoral procedure is also transparent and effective. But in Nigeria, courts are routinely called upon to resolve electoral disputes since elections are frequently tainted by violence, corruption, and legal problems. Nigeria’s electoral process is not credible due to the absence of intra-party democracy and the involvement of cronies and godfathers.
While the political achievements of the elected Nigerians are commendable, they also serve as a sobering reminder of the weaknesses in our democratic system. After all, competence and performance ought to be the main determinants of electoral success, not religious and tribal affinities as they frequently are in Nigeria. The achievements of these Nigerian-Britons should compel a reassessment of Nigeria’s political environment, highlighting the necessity of a more efficient and responsible democratic system.
Unfortunately, the high rate of litigation in Nigeria’s elections threatens the country’s democratic process, creating tension and uncertainty from pre-election disputes to post-election challenges. This undermines voter choices and trust in the electoral system, raising concerns about the judiciary’s independence. Electoral reforms promoting transparency, accountability, and timely dispute resolution outside the courts are needed to strengthen democracy in Nigeria.
Our nation’s democracy is at a critical point and must evolve to survive. We need to shift away from costly campaigns and prioritise electoral integrity by safeguarding voter rights and promoting transparency. By addressing key national issues, Nigerian politics can become more sustainable and effective. These reforms are essential for our nation to progress towards a more inclusive and representative government.
Nigeria and other countries grappling with democratic government ought to take note of the Nigerian-British MPs’ accomplishments. Political leaders must be held responsible for their acts, and citizenship entails both rights and obligations. To be a really democratic society, where the power of the vote is honoured and protected, a society should be based on competence, performance, and transparency. Then and only then, regardless of origin or background, can we aspire to create a brighter future for every citizen.

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Editorial

CBN And Nigeria’s Cash Crunch

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Nigerians have, again, been thrust into desperation as they grapple with cash shortage that has cast a dark shadow over their daily lives. Months after the Supreme Court’s ruling permitting the coexistence of the old and new naira notes, the crisis persists, leaving countless individuals struggling to secure basic necessities.
The scarcity of naira notes has partially crippled commerce throughout the country, especially in the informal sector. Businesses are incapacitated, unable to complete transactions efficiently, resulting in a slowdown of economic activities. Some people are left in dire straits, desperate for cash to meet essential expenses such as food, transportation, and healthcare, among others.
The cash crisis has created a fertile ground for unscrupulous elements and businesses to engage in predatory tactics. Retailers are exploiting the despair of consumers by overcharging for goods, while others hoard cash to sell at inflated prices. This rampant profiteering has further burdened the already strained financial resources of many Nigerians.
It is deeply concerning that while the citizens are still contending with the fallout of a failed disastrous currency redesign policy last year, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has initiated another misguided scheme that has exacerbated the scarcity of the legal tender. This ill-conceived move is implemented at a time when Nigerians are already struggling with inflation, rising unemployment, and declining living standards. The CBN’s actions have only served to compound their plight.
The timing of the plan is particularly cruel and demonstrates a fundamental lack of consideration for the well-being of ordinary Nigerians. The Central Bank has failed to adequately assess the severe consequences of its policies on the lives of citizens, who are now compelled to endure an atmosphere of uncertainty and hardship.
Despite the apex bank’s assurances of sufficient naira notes in circulation, the cash dilemma continues to torment Nigerians. The situation has worsened following introduction of withdrawal limits by the nation’s financial authorities, leading to an increased reliance on Point-of-Sale (POS) terminals. However, this dependence has come at a steep cost.
POS service providers have taken undue advantage of the shortage by imposing exorbitant charges, further burdening consumers. The surge in charges has negated the convenience of POS transactions, driving up the overall cost of obtaining cash. The CBN’s claims of adequate cash supply ring hollow in light of the predatory practices of POS operators.
Currently, naira scarcity has gripped major cities across the country, with Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) running dry and commercial banks introducing withdrawal limits. Consequently, POS operators have compassed the moment to exploit the situation. Investigations have revealed that some bank officials who own POS businesses, channel cash meant for the public to these outfits. This is economic sabotage. These unpatriotic Nigerians must be identified and punished appropriately.
The Acting Director of Corporate Communications at the CBN, Mrs Hakama Sidi Ali, has acknowledged that there has been a rise in the amount of money in circulation. However, she claims that the scarcity of cash is due to individuals hoarding it. This explanation contradicts the actual situation on the ground, as numerous banks have been unable to fulfil the daily requests for cash withdrawals.
This is why it is required for the Federal Government to promptly intervene and resolve the difference between what the Central Bank asserts and the actual availability of cash. They should contemplate raising the limits for cash withdrawals, improving access to banking services in areas that lack sufficient coverage, and partnering with mobile money platforms to offer alternative payment options.
To restore confidence in the banking system and help Nigerians affected by the current liquidity crisis, it is necessary to make coordinated attempts to increase the amount of cash in circulation. This can be achieved by taking strict actions against unfair point of sale charges and implementing measures to safeguard consumers from excessive profit-making. The Central Bank can address the liquidity crisis by implementing these steps, and provide relief to the suffering population.
While we promote alternative modes of payment, including electronic channels, to reduce pressure on cash, the authorities must recognise that resolving the cash crunch is not merely an economic issue. It is a matter of social justice. Every Nigerian deserves easy access to their hard-earned money without being subjected to inordinate drudgery. The government has a moral responsibility to address this crisis swiftly and effectively to restore financial stability and ensure the well-being of all its citizens.

Continue Reading

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