Abdusalami looted more than Abacha; Obasanjo is no better – Bakare

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Abdusalami looted more than Abacha; Obasanjo is no better – Bakare

*Full text of Tunde Bakare’s speech at SNG’s June 12 commemoration

The convener of Save Nigeria Group, SNG, and Senior Pastor of Latter Rain Assembly, Tunde Bakare, has said that General Abdulsalami Abubakar, looted more funds than General Sani Abacha.
Speaking at SNG’s event at the Sheraton Hotel, Lagos, to mark the 20th anniversary of June 12, Pastor Bakare said “It was Nigeria’s first taste of a renascent democracy after so many years of military rule, coups and counter-coups. It was an election whose callous annulment shook the nation.”
The late M.K.O Abiola, was believed to have won the 1993 election, which was annulled by the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida.
On his part, Information Minister Mr Labaran Maku, disclosed that he knew the June 12 election would fail. He said that he wrote in his column as an editor, a week before, that the election would be annulled.
He however did not say if he had a prior information from the military regime of that time pointing to a possible annulment.
The theme of the SNG event was “Democracy Audit”. It attracted the presence of Labaran Maku, Former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, Jimi Agbaje, Yinka Odumakin, Okey Odumakin, Dr Annkio Briggs, Dino Melaye and others.
Below is the full text of Tunde Bakare’s speech:
From Hope ’93 to 2013: How Far Has Democracy Brought Nigeria?
PROTOCOLS: “How time flies!” is a cliché that expresses surprise – pleasant or otherwise – about how quickly the seasons of our lives turn. Today, I am struck by the same sense of wonder that an entire 20 years have passed since the 1993 presidential elections in Nigeria. For those of us who were already adults in 1993, today brings a lot of nostalgic feelings, reflection and, of course, gratitude. From 1993 to 2013, a lot of water has passed under the bridge of our lives and nationhood. The water has not only altered the sands of time; it has also washed a lot of debris to our very doorsteps and splashed dirt on our faces.
The 1993 MKO Abiola vs. Bashir Tofa election, conducted exactly 20 years ago today, is popularly termed the freest and fairest in the history of Nigeria. It was Nigeria’s first taste of a renascent democracy after so many years of military rule, coups and counter-coups. It was an election whose callous annulment shook the nation. Since then, the country has witnessed a lot of changes – for better, and for worse. However, none of those occurrences have left the country exactly the same.
The 10-year period between the coup that kicked the Shehu Shagari-led government out of office and 1993 when the presidential elections were held, were the years of the locust and the cankerworm combined. The depredation of human and natural resources that led to economic and political stagnation fuelled agitations for democratic rule in Nigeria. People earnestly yearned for relief from the abyss of despair they were drowning in and the 1993 election provided a leeway. Little wonder, then, that Nigerians invested their hopes and dreams in that election. It took place at a defining moment in Nigeria’s history, making and marring her simultaneously. Who can easily forget the hope and excitement that pervaded Nigeria during that period? Nigerians who had long been enslaved by the chains of despotic military rule were full of great expectations. They desired meaningful leadership; one to serve as an antidote to the rudderlessness and repression the then military government epitomized. Life was relentlessly harsh, as various ill-thought and poorly executed economic policies had devalued both the naira and human lives. The country greatly declined in all spheres; intellectuals and professionals migrated to other shores to seek reprieve from the strangulating hold the country had on their intellectual enterprise. Their leaving stripped the country of valuable human resources. For those who remained at home, surviving the persistent anguish came before any thought of nation building.
The various military and even civilian governments had so badly ruined the country such that when Nigerians began to clamour for self-rule, what they actually wanted was governance in which they could invest; one chosen by them and for them. Democracy was fashionable because of its many prospects – at that time, we were made to believe it held the key to a better life, a better-developed nation and, consequently, a more meaningful national existence. Thus, Nigerians trooped out expectantly on June 12, 1993. They eagerly cast their votes and patiently awaited the results. They believed, and quite rightly so, that their redemption had come.
In retrospect, we can say that the over-enthusiasm around the June 12 elections could not have been otherwise. The country was in dire straits and when Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola came with a message of hope, Nigerians were quick to latch on to it. After all, what other glad tidings would have sufficed for a people who had been cheated, robbed, raped and banished to live in the valley of hopelessness and wretchedness? Hope ’93 was born and MKO would become its symbol and an icon of redemption. MKO represented people’s longings and that largely explains why Nigerians saw their hopes reflected in him: He was rich, successful, and colourful, seeming to be everywhere at once. He was also a famous philanthropist whose generous hands spread from education to sports and entertainment, and even to the movement for reparation for Africa. MKO once said that he gave out of a sense of duty, not charity. He became the physical logo of change that Nigerians were earnestly seeking. He personalized both their innermost longing and outward craving for change to the extent that people reasoned that if he became president, he would probably not be one of those leaders whose first port of call would be to loot the treasury. MKO was set to be Nigeria’s redeemer, as it were, and people enthusiastically crowned him a messiah.
We all know how the story of that election ended. The June 12 story, actually, did not end. Its resilience is why we are here today. IBB’s annulment of that election was, among many instances of wickedness, a strategy to crush the hopes of the people and indefinitely postpone change. Change would have empowered the people and IBB forestalled this when he chose the cowardly option of annulment. The year 1993, however, was not only about annulled elections and expectations; it is instructive to note that it was a year of pushbacks and many acts of resistance that claimed many human lives and material goods. Nigerians did not merely roll over and play dead when their hopes were annulled; they actively resisted.
One other feature of Hope ’93 we are not likely to easily forget is the campaign song. The ‘MKO-is-our-man’ jingle – remember it? That catchy tune was a song of lamentation from a figure that symbolized the aspirations of many Nigerians, and we shall call him/her Citizen X for the purpose of this piece. In mathematics, X stands for the unknown and will here represent millions of faceless Nigerians who remain impoverished under the deteriorating Nigerian structure. In that jingle, Citizen X aptly articulated the manifestations of the many problems bedevilling Nigerian in a way that facts, figures and data graphically represented on endless bar charts and pie charts would never appropriately convey. Citizen X’s lamentation captured the agonizing conditions of Nigeria using the best rubric – human indices – in a way that all of us could – and still can – relate to his angst.
He sings: no work, no food, no house, no light, no potable water, no viable means of transportation. He laments that there are neither functioning schools nor resources in our hospitals. The entire country, in short, was dysfunctional. This jingle, though a campaign massage for a candidate who was seeking the highest office in the land, spoke factually to the Nigerian situation of 1993. Now, let us fast forward to the year 2013 and ask how things are different. Are we better off as a nation? If so, how far have we travelled from the point of citizen X’s lamentation? Do we now have better employment indices? Is there food security through the length and breadth of Nigeria? Is our housing problem a thing of the past? Do we have potable water in our cities and rural areas? Is there regular and uninterrupted electricity supply? Do we have improved transportation facilities? What of education? Do we have more and better schools?
Are our hospitals any better?
How many of the various yearnings of Citizen X in the campaign jingle – which also represented the yearnings of Nigerians – have been realized? The question of infrastructure is just one chunk – albeit a huge one – of the many factors afflicting Nigeria. Apart from physical infrastructure, how far has Nigeria gone in the provision of social and political infrastructure? The question of social and political institutions is germane because they determine whether the infrastructures Citizen X desired and articulated will be realized or not. It is therefore pertinent to audit how much democracy has done for – or to – Nigeria. Have we indeed travelled far or have we merely been circling around the same mountain, barking at the same wrong tree and yet still hoping for a better outcome in our national lives? At this time, let me pose the question again: From Hope ’93 to 2013, when Nigeria has now attained 14 years of unbroken civil rule, how far have we come as a nation? If 1993 signified Hope, what can we say for 2013? Angst? Or what exactly?
Question: Is 1993 better or worse than 2013?
The oil boom of the 70s was one of the critical junctures of our national life. It was a great chance to set the country on the path of development that ended up as a missed chance. Opportunity was turned to dust because of the short-sightedness of our leaders.
The succeeding years did not fare better and we still grapple with basic issues up till this moment. In the period that followed the 1999 return to civilian rule till now, we have seen semblances of boom. Telecommunications, for instance, has revolutionized our social and economic lives. There was a time when the Nigerian banking system was on a steady rise. The stock market was once a choice destination for every Nigerian that had money and was willing to invest. Many of these ‘booms’ have more or less fizzled out and Nigerians have lost more than they have gained.
The country remains impoverished by many indications. We have blamed various factors for this, most of which are planked on the forces of institutionalized corruption, poor leadership, maladministration, and how they collaborate to cripple us. We also know that the quality of followership itself has not helped matters. Nigeria, as a whole, is in a state of steady decline. The sad part of this is that we are hardly digging our way out of the rut. Instead, our energies are expended on promoting mediocrity packaged as excellence. For instance, these days, what the political class dubs ‘dividends of democracy’ is largely the statutory duties of state administrators overblown out of modest proportions. The wider issues that challenge Nigeria’s development, such as dysfunctional state institutions, are happily neglected. The result? It is all around us: a broken down system that is programmed to self-destruct.
Robinson and Acemoglu in their seminal work Why Nations Fail have brilliantly given all the reasons why some nations are rich and others are poor, divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, and food and famine. They correctly argue that institutions matter for development and prosperity. Their submission that institutions which hinder development come about and persist because they benefit powerful elites is truer of Nigeria than any other nation.
All nations that are wealthy today – and some of them are not as rich as Nigeria – have developed institutions that enable prosperity for all based on the scope of their skill, education, dreams and ideas. These institutions free them from the whims and caprices of narrow and selfish elites. In our case, we have only encouraged institutions that hamper growth and development and consequently breed impunity. One of such is the corruption industry which has ensured that the easiest way to become a billionaire in our clime is pilfering public funds, and not through diligent enterprise.
In the 20 years between June 12, 1993 elections and today, Nigeria has earned enough money to create a Dubai in each of the six geo-political zones and make our citizens some of the most prosperous people on earth, but what we have instead is collapse of infrastructure, deepening poverty (70% rate from 45% in 1999), social dislocations, high unemployment rate and violent crimes. One of the sorest spots in the Babangida administration was the $12.4b gulf windfall which we have not been able to do anything about, among several other allegations. We have lost count of countries that have made returns to us from the various Abacha loots, yet only God knows if we have not been re-looted.
When Obasanjo came to power in 1999, he set up the Kolade Panel to review the contracts awarded by the 8-month administration of Gen. Abubakar Abdulsalami. That panel discovered that Abdulsalami looted more than Abacha month-for-month, but nothing happened. Obasanjo himself went on a corruption binge, which made Transparency International, a body he chaired the Nigerian chapter before assuming office, decorate Nigeria as the most corrupt nation on earth under his watch. The $16b power project scam stands out among other trophies of corruption in those eight years like Halliburton, PTDF, the National ID scam, Siemens, and the 3rd term heist. Today, Obasanjo is gallivanting around on another leadership recruitment exercise for the country.
Furthermore, the present administration has not explained to us how oil marketers amnestied almost N3 trillion naira from our treasury (a House of Representatives report says so) in a year we allocated N245b for subsidy. Not a single head has rolled in either the Ministry of Finance or the NNPC and we’ve seen on television how the trial of the ‘subsidy thieves’ could very well be mistaken for
The Night of a Thousand Laughs.
The state pardon granted to former Bayelsa Governor Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha perhaps says what the official position on corruption is. The EFCC presently lies comatose at the sight of political corruption, baring its fangs at only petty crooks. People now look up to Britain to help us deal with our corrupt like it did in the cases of James Ibori and Erastus Akingbola.
Corruption festers at all levels of government in our country today with the tin gods called governors running their states like personal estates and neglecting the welfare of the people. We hear statements like “My jet costs only N7b!” as the official anthem of governors blowing fortunes within the Nigerian airspace on frivolous trips. The 18 percent monthly allocations to our local governments have become money flushed down the drain. Our governors have mostly turned that to slush funds while the council officials pocket a large chunk of whatever is released to them. Expecting any meaningful development from this paradigm is the equivalent of waiting for the 8th wonder of the world.
The consequences of a malfunctioning system are everywhere. Nigeria runs a system that is so badly fragmented – from agriculture to manufacturing to transportation and infrastructure, there is no clear link that enables one aspect of the economy corroborate another, and effectively, too. The various parts of the country cannot leverage on each other’s individual strengths to derive mutual advantages. The physical and social infrastructures that should enable interregional trade are largely missing.
Businesses hardly thrive and cottage industries that are supposed to provide an employment base are virtually non-existent. Overall, we run a country that appears to thrive from time to time, even though it sits on a foundation of nothing. We have continually frittered away both money and opportunities due to our national myopia. Our problems persist; our redemption appears more and more elusive.
To return to the question I asked earlier, are we better off in 2013 than we were in 1993, or does it merely seem that way? Why is it that Citizen X’s basic needs in 1993 are still Citizen X’s basic needs in 2013? Why are Nigerians still dealing with the same nagging issues at the same unsophisticated level they were in 1993? During the presidential debate of 1993, MKO vowed that in five years’ time, no Nigerian child would go to bed hungry. Two eventful decades after he made that bold assertion, Nigerian children are not only going to bed as hungry as ever, some of them are now sitting on bare floor classrooms and are practically being threatened with extinction. A recent World Bank figure put the poverty rate at 65.7 percent.
This figure is a source of puzzlement for even the officials of that institution who wonder why, despite the much touted increase in economic activities and decline in the poverty rate, the effect has not reflected in the lives of the common Nigerian. Ours is a classic case of economic development without growth.
The human indices of Citizen X in 21st century Nigeria loudly dispute all the figures Nigerian officials excitedly bandy about as proof of their executive productivity. With all the evidence of dwindling quality of life around us, our leaders still celebrate the delusion that we are the fastest growing economy in the world. It does not quite matter to them that every aspect of our lives says otherwise. The figures are fine, but the people are not. As we have often said on this platform, no one in his right senses can conclude that Nigerians are poor because our people do not work hard. Indeed, they work hard but productivity is low and the cost of doing business is very high. Neither can anyone blame the daunting poverty of the majority of our citizens on lack of natural resources in certain parts. The resources are all over-abundant but they have been used hitherto to enrich the elite. Our people know it and feel it. Our poverty is OPTIONAL. The primary reason our people are poor is because their leaders make poor policy choices, and they do so because of their apparent lack of capacity as Chief MKO Abiola succinctly put it in his Epetedo Declaration on June 11, 1994. Hear vintage MKO:
“We are sickened to see people who have shown little or no personal achievement, either in building up private businesses, or making success of any tangible thing, being placed in charge of the management of our nation’s economy, by rulers who are not accountable to anyone. Enough of square pegs in round holes!”
So, today, 20 years after the hopes and aspirations of the poor Nigerians who trooped out to vote on June 12, 1993 were dashed, our major problem remains the leadership’s apparent lack of will, courage and capacity as well as integrity to secure this nation and manage it well. While excruciating poverty pervades the entire landscape of our nation, the poor majority have no means of holding the government accountable, just as the Good Book says:
Ecclesiastes 4:1-3 (NKJV):
1 Then I returned and considered all the oppression that is done under the sun: And look! The tears of the oppressed, But they have no comforter– On the side of their oppressors there is power, But they have no comforter. 2 Therefore I praised the dead who were already dead, More than the living who are still alive. 3 Yet, better than both is he who has never existed, Who has not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.
Top on the list of the vulnerable and the oppressed is the Nigerian child who still cannot get qualitative education at all levels in 2013 if his or her parents are not part of the monied class.
Recently, the Minister of Education announced that, as things stand, universities are currently experiencing a shortfall of resources and cannot afford to take in more candidates. But that is even at the university level. Basic education in Nigeria, purportedly free, is merely poor education given to the children of the poor so that they can remain poor and ignorant. While we speak of the decline in the quality of education, we should also talk about the rate of unemployment in the country. Unemployment figures are rising and the World Bank recently published that the unemployment rate in Nigeria is at a shocking 56 percent. The NLC leader says it could even be up to 60 percent. If we were to add this figure to the number of those who are not gainfully employed, we would be further shocked. We have an army of youths that are angry and frustrated. Their band grows daily as the means to redress their angst shrinks. As a nation with a high proportion of youths, our army of unemployed youths is tantamount to playing with matches near combustible material. We are inadvertently raising an army of crime entrepreneurs.
The issue of medical care is another recurring deficiency in our society. For one, it is no longer a shame that our leaders are always quick to run out of the country to take care of their myriad maladies. In fact, it seems more fashionable to die abroad than at home. For the rest of us who have no options beyond Nigeria, it is a matter of leaving ourselves in the hands of God. The First Lady of the country has travelled consistently to treat an undisclosed ailment and she gleefully celebrates the God who kept her alive in a foreign hospital, sustained by modern machines and well-trained doctors. Her medical bill was paid for by the sweat of taxpayers who are themselves dying at home.
Let’s talk about power supply. This is one sector where Nigerians, youth and non-youths alike, earnestly demand a change. This also happens to be where they are consistently let down. There are sordid tales of corruption in this sector that run into billions of dollars, much of it stolen by the so-called Fathers of Modern Nigeria and their cohorts. The area of power supply is one where Nigerian leaders over the years have single-handedly manifested their wickedness of heart and their apparent nonchalance about Nigeria’s development. The inconsistency in their promises about this sector is galling. We have seen how they have blatantly embezzled the money that is meant to bring us light and still turn around to sell us darkness in the form of generators. The latest promise right now is that the megawatts will double by December. May God keep us all till then and beyond.
So, if the hankerings of Citizen X remain unrealized, what, then, has Nigeria gained all this while? What are the benefits of 14 years of unbroken democratic rule that make all the sacrifices of MKO and other Nigerians who gave their lives in the struggle a worthwhile endeavour? Why did we reject the military government only for us to arrive where we are today – a place not quite far from where we started out? Or is 20 years – out of which we have had 14 years of democracy – too small to have had our yearnings realized?
To be sure, Nigeria’s democracy has not been without its gains. For a moment, I will look at the bright side and express some gratitude that the stranglehold placed on the nation by various jackboots is no longer there. What strangles us these days is poor leadership. There are certain gains that democratic rule in Nigeria has afforded us and they must be acknowledged despite all the shortcomings of Nigeria’s version. For example, we have freedom of speech far better than we did in the past. There is also a much freer press than we had in the past. The recent case of Leadership Newspapers vs. The Federal Government shows us how far we have come. Some 20 years ago, that would have been a totally different story and a totally differently outcome from what we have now. To an extent, too, there is a judiciary that still manages to serve as the last hope of the common man. Once in a while, a public official even manages to get sent to jail for economic crimes. These are the gains of democracy in Nigeria and though they might appear insignificant or inadequate, they still constitute a step forward compared to where Nigeria travelled from to arrive here. We have even progressed enough to have the Freedom of Information Bill signed into law. The relative freedom Nigeria currently enjoys is worth its weight in gold. Despite all that Nigeria has been unable to achieve, we can comfortably gather here today to talk of June 12 because we have a semblance of democracy. For that, we should be grateful to those who sowed their blood for this freedom.
Despite these gains, there is a still a lot missing in our governance. We still haven’t come sufficiently close to free and fair elections; a lot of people are disenfranchised by poverty and illiteracy; we are largely excluded from the governance of our own country; and, very critically, we lack good governance. Nigeria is far behind in almost every index that signifies progress and only takes the lead in the ones that signal retrogression. Right before our eyes, our lives keep plummeting like the Nigerian stock market. We are far from the yearnings we have cried for and now even hope sometimes seems to be a luxury. And when we speak of hope, I do not mean individualized hope which religious leaders and motivational speakers sell to their devotees telling them that their success can be achieved in isolation of the society in which they live. No, not that kind of unhealthy hope that merely opiates. When we speak about igniting hope of a better life, I mean one based on attainable and sustainable indices. But how do we get there?
It’s 2013, but where do we go from here?
If, after 20 years, the basic yearnings of Citizen X have not been realized, how can we then hope for a truly modern society with intangible attributes of citizenship, accountability, equality, rule of law, transparency and social and infrastructural development? How long can we stay around the same mountain going over the same old issues while we neglect the bigger visions that can propel our society from its third world status? In short, how do we begin to move from this point to build a strong and healthy nation? That question can be answered by asking how we got here in the first place. The path that brought us here is, as we indicated earlier, one of inordinate recklessness. What can take us out of here should therefore be the opposite. There is nothing accidental about success achieved in the process of building a nation; it takes a lot of hard work and dedication and it occurs only when people have a vision, lay out a plan and then work towards it.
I must say, however, that it is possible for a country to achieve a certain level of development in spite of itself, policies and internal contradictions. When it does, such a government becomes comfortable and spins a web of a false sense of prosperity around itself. It convinces itself it has enough to get by and will contend the need to build lasting institutions and structures. It will, from time to time, produce chest-thumping abracadabra figures of growth and development as indications of its performance and also as a form of defence against criticisms of its shortcomings.
It will blame its perceived opponents for distracting it from the task of nation building; it will insist, in the face of hardcore reality, that the government is doing its best and that change does not come in a day, and that someday, somewhere down the line, things will change with automatic alacrity. It might even resort to rhetorical flourish such as promising to go on exile if a bridge is not built or boasting that people will soon throw their generators away. Those are the strategies of a poorly functioning government; all talk and very little to show for it. In fact, to ward off its critics – the constructive and the destructive – it employs mordacious attack dogs and lions to caterwaul against perceived and real enemies. It spends so much time on politicking and carrying out acts of vindictiveness against political threats, missing the most important factor it should focus on: institution building. Institution building is critical to whether a country will succeed or fail. And if it succeeds, institutions determine whether it will be sustainable or, as the case of Nigeria shows us, be wrecked somewhere along the line. The reason we have Angst 2013, in place of the hope that pervaded 1993 when Citizen X made a call in the jingle I referred to earlier, is because his desires are interwoven with the social and political technology that will guarantee them. Those are presently sorely lacking in Nigeria. And, as long as we do not get these basics right, the best we can achieve is occasional successes snatched from the rubric of failure.
At this point I can hear the audience pose the question of what needs to be done: How and where we proceed from here? The answer is simple and yet quite complex. For one, there are no new solutions to be proposed other than to refer us to the ones we have highlighted in the past: build institutions, stop corruption, decentralize Nigeria, block government wastage, be more focused on meaningful governance, erect democratic structures, strengthen the citizenry through education, cultivate leadership that focuses on state building, articulate visions and project ideals, and be focused on the people because that is what democracy is all about. The quest for the benefits of democracy is what made people queue in the sun on June 12, 1993 and the reason we are gathered here today. It is not difficult to see that the many failures of Nigeria, from terrorism to state-sponsored poverty are symptomatic of the institutional dysfunctionality in Nigeria.
Elections of themselves are no substitute for real democratic structures, no matter how much time and resources we expend on them; democracy runs deeper than the superficialness with which we are currently burdened. That is why it remains the best option for Nigeria and the more reason we should work at it. 20 years is a long time in the life of a nation and one that should not be spent merely travelling fast to nowhere. In certain ways, the point we are in Nigeria can easily be characterized as a rocking chair marathon; we have moved, even at varying speeds, but have remained firmly fixed at the same spot. This needs to change and very urgently, too. Nigeria can no longer afford to waste more time than we have already.
I thank you all, while I pray for a brighter and better Hope 2013 and beyond. Need we be told that we must work for it? Yes, we must. All the very best in our collective future.
Pastor ‘Tunde Bakare
Convener, Save Nigeria Group (SNG)
Lagos, Nigeria

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Asiwaju Bola Tinubu Discusses Democracy, National Development and the People in London(Photos)

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Asiwaju Bola Tinubu Discusses Democracy, National Development and the People in London(Photos)

Former Lagos State Governor Bola Tinubu discusses Democarcy, National Development and the People in the House of Commons.
Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu delivered a presentation during the British African Diaspora Conference which took place in the House of Parliament on Monday, 10th of June 2013.
The event that focused on “Democracy, National Development and the People” gave Senator Tinubu the floor to address the current state of Nigeria in the context of Democracy. He also spoke of what he and his party plan to do in their bid for presidency and what needs to be done to make Nigeria the giant it is always looked upon as being.
Tinubu touched on subjects like power supply in which he said, “No nation can develop economically and meet the needs of its people without uninterrupted energy supply. To improve energy supply we would need Independent Power Plants in designate industrial zones to reduce the horrendous power component of the cost of local manufacturing.”
He also spoke on the encouragement of small businesses saying, “We will emphasise and promote the growth in all sectors in the first four years by making small business the engine o growth. Foreign investments will ride on the back of thriving local investments, initiatives and stable polity.” Tinubu especially emphasised the use of agriculture as a means to provide jobs. “We firmly believe that agriculture will provide food for subsistence and export. Most importantly , it has the potential to create millions of jobs for both the illiterate and literate population”, says the senator, “it is from agriculture that we can fight hunger and process raw materials for the industrial sector.”
On the topic of democracy Tinubu says “democracy is the best form of governance because it counters that most dangerous human frailty: the temptation of leaders to accumulate power for the sake of accumulating more power.” Tinubu then went on to address the problem with Nigeria becoming a full democracy and stated that the improvement of the electoral system is mandatory to ensure no foul play or manipulation during elections.
When discussing national security, Tinubu spoke of the lack thereof by the “Jonathan government”. “The government promise peace and security but under its in watchful eye, insecurity has grown”, says Tinubu, “The Jonathan government set up a special committee on Boko Haram and Security matters but sadly before they could perform, he declared State of Emergency in three Northern states: Yobe, Borno and Adamawa.”
The answer to all these problems is simple to Senator Tinubu as he shares, “For 14 years, the PDP led government cannot turn anything around. A new leadership is required to put a stop to this.” For the reasons mentioned when discussing the development of the nation on Nigeria, Tinubu states that, “the members of the progressive opposition political parties have decided to put aside personal ambition (including my own ambition) to form a new party, the All Progressives Congress, APC.”
The conference which was followed by a warm reception allowed the opportunity for people to have questions answered  by Senator Bola Tinubu as he greeted and sat with the people instead of the high table set out for him and snapped pictures with all who approached him.

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Reuben Abati is sinking with Jonathan’s regime-CPC

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Reuben Abati is sinking with Jonathan’s regime-CPC

Reuben Abati, spokesperson of the president and Rotimi Fashakin, spokesperson of the CPC engage in a war of words.

The ongoing war of words between the presidency and the opposition Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, continued on Wednesday, with the latter expressing ‘pity’ for presidential spokesman, Reuben Abati, saying he has decided to ‘sink’ with the Goodluck Jonathan regime.

Mr. Abati had while responding to an earlier statement by the CPC spokesman, Rotimi Fashakin, called the latter a “brainless ignoramus” and a shame to his family.

In response, Mr. Fashakin said it is unfortunate that Mr. Abati had resorted to ‘unmitigated incivility’, saying it is apparent the president’s spokesperson’s career as a journalist is over.

“As a Party, we really sympathize with Abati for the dislocation in his career path and the utter misadventure the media aide appointment has turned out for him. The future, as a practicing Journalist, is bleak and the past cannot be recalled. He is stuck in the conundrum of a sinking regime. Unfortunately, his choice is to sink with it,” Mr. Fashakin said adding that “the intemperate and vile verbiage” of Mr. Abati, “was symptomatic of a pathetically disoriented presidential lackey”.

“The trajectory of Abati’s career as a Presidential aide reveals a beginning scripted in deception and, undoubtedly, can only be sustained by deception. It explains why, in his current circumstances, he cannot be expected to deal in the truth. The Palace appointment, as a fitting reward for a hatchet job in mendacious writings in his regular Newspaper column during and after the April 2011 elections, is to him, something that must be desperately clutched unto.

“We understand; only appalled by the descent to uncouth and gutter language! Reuben Abati just showed, in his last statement, lack of training for his job function and an inbred atavistic incongruence,” the statement added.

Abati explained nothing

Mr. Fashakin also said Mr. Abati failed in his attempt to explain the circumstances leading to the president’s inability to address the summit.

“President Good-luck Jonathan, as head of the Nigerian delegation, left the country for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to attend the AU summit. In diplomatic arena, that was the Primary objective of the delegation. This presupposes that any other business is secondary,” he said.

He also said, Mr. Abati himself, had confirmed that the president had indicated interest to address the summit but chose instead to attend to other matters which he considered more important than the primary objective of being in Addis-Ababa.
Mr. Fashakin also said Mr. Abati’s explanation that Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister had adequately represented the president is appalling.

“We shudder to think that all the Nigerian Tax payers’ funds used in paying the humongous estacodes for Reuben Abati and his colleagues on the President’s entourage was for mere submission of a statement after the summit”.

No President in Ethiopia was represented by a Minister.

Mr. Fashakin also said no president that travelled to Ethiopia for the event mandated their ministers to represent them, as claimed by Mr. Abati.

“ We know Dr Samura Matthew Wilson Kamara, Sierra Leone’s foreign minister, represented his President, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, who was unavoidably absent at the summit. Abati failed to tell us the other foreign ministers, aside Nigeria’s, that represented Presidents who were physically present for the AU summit! If we may ask: is submission of a statement by a foreign minister after a conference coterminous with the President, using the stage, to articulate the Nation’s position on the regional discourse?” he asked.

Odedina Taofeek
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Good luck, Governor Amaechi

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Good luck, Governor Amaechi

The drama involving Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State and certain political goons is approaching a climax. What started as a governor-family affair has, somehow, managed to infect the rest of us. The Nigerian Governors’ Forum, as some commentators have argued, might be extra legal, “unconstitutional” and have no immediate relevance, but so far, the governors have managed to keep us entertained with their trifling. They have also given us an insight into why — as long as their present political occupation subsists — 2015 might just be more of the same.

What should have been a simple election among less than three-dozen presumably enlightened adults has morphed into a major creek brawl with two sides laying claim to the exalted throne of the NGF. It is shameful and reprehensible but the Peoples Democratic Party long lost its self-censor device. If anyone had any hopes — or delusion — that the Nigerian political actors have the moral conviction to do anything differently in the forthcoming elections, this latest NGF battle royale loudly says otherwise.

If Amaechi maintains his staying power, things could get more exciting –and perhaps predictable — in the next few days. No one will be surprised if the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission suspends its yearlong hibernation and goes after Amaechi with uncommon vigour. They will animate his skeletons to start crawling out of the cupboard. You need not be a prophet to predict the turn of events in altercations between the President and the lesser gods; the PDP uses the same worn script all the time.

On Monday, the PDP’s National Working Committee suspended Amaechi’s membership of the party for his “failure” to rescind the dissolution of the elected Executive Council of Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State. I wonder why, of all possible disciplinary actions, they chose that path. And, why at this time? Considering that Amaechi became a governor in his first term through a Supreme Court judgment that planked his electoral victory on his party membership, you know the PDP’s move reeks of mischief, or vengeance.

Amaechi himself is no stranger to hot water. As Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly and, later as the governorship candidate of the PDP, to a two-term governor, he has fought a few good fights and bloodied some noses in his political career trajectory. As governor, he is no longer an outstanding performer, at least, relative to his first term.

His battles, if not anything, will enable him to wear a victim complex and very soon, join the Jeremiah Club currently dominated by ex-governors — Ayo Fayose, Peter Odili, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, (and perhaps in future, Timipre Sylva) — who do not lose an opportunity to lament that they were hung out to dry because of political machinations.

At a recent inter-party summit, Amaechi himself was already talking in obituary terms. When he said, “Even if I am removed tomorrow, I am satisfied…,” he all but admitted that the weight of the PDP was crushing him. At this point, he has two choices: One is to renounce his attempt at independent-mindedness and grovel before the PDP graven image. This is the thrust of advice offered him by Alamieyeseigha -and that is one man who should know, having being through the proverbial valley of the shadow of death.

Alams said he told Amaechi, “After God, next comes the government…” It is a loaded statement that pithily explains why Governor Godswill Akpabio is naturally obsequious where President Goodluck Jonathan and his interests are involved, and also why Governor Olusegun Mimiko is a member of Labour Party by day and a PDP member at night.

The other option available to Amaechi is to face the fiery furnace being heated up for his sake. However, unlike the fable of the three Hebrew children, I am not sure there is an angel anywhere coming to rescue him. If things get too hot, other governors who stand by him now will not hesitate to beat a tactical retreat. Who wants his balls crushed by the almighty government? As Nigeria is presently constituted, the government, especially the one domiciled at the centre, is not next to God; the government is God.

As is being surmised here and there, does this PDP vs. Amaechi fight really signify the end of the PDP? Hardly. In certain ways, the squabble is a blessing for the newly formed All Progressives Congress but I do not yet see how it goes farther. The PDP’s in-built resilience is based on how many political lives hang around its continued existence. Its members will do anything to protect their party even if it means sacrificing Amaechi. He is not critical to the survival of the PDP neither is he bigger than the party. He will be used as a parable to whip other members into line, to teach them never to “break ranks”. Like others before him, they will use Amaechi to demonstrate to other members that they are, because the PDP is.

It is of course, very tempting to take sides with Amaechi. The media are gradually constructing him as some kind of David who is facing a well-armed Goliath with mere sling and stones. It is a fabrication that subtly obliterates the road that led us to this place. Amaechi, last time I checked, is a member of the PDP and a beneficiary of all the political capital and the repressive might the party wields. He is as much a Goliath as the PDP itself. Not too long ago, did he not immodestly announce that his “official” jet cost N7bn, and not the N9bn being speculated in the media? Where was his conscience when he was acquiring this adult toy with which he has been attending one private party after another all over the place? Just in 2012, he was hopping from media house to media house trying to buy support for the fuel subsidy removal. His argument then was that most of the state allocation funds went into recurring expenditure and governors needed the extra money that was being spent on subsidising fuel. Yet, he could afford a jet?

If there is any David here, it is the longsuffering Nigerian masses that will, one way or the other, bear the brunt of this rhubarb. Unless I see how this all comes down to the benefit of Nigerians, especially as it affects the price of fish in the market, I have no shred of pity for any side. The best I can do is wish Amaechi good luck. And lots of it too!

Odedina Taofeek
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Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan and N1.5 Trillion

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The Verdict By Olusegun Adeniyi. Email, olusegun.adeniyi@thisdaylive.com

The Senate Committee on Public Accounts last week revealed how the Federal Government under President Olusegun Obasanjo; his successor, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and current President Goodluck Jonathan grossly abused public funds from some Special Funds Accounts to the tune of over a trillion Naira. Certain that there was more to the story beyond the headlines, I had to work my contacts in the Senate to secure a copy of the report. Aside reportorial curiousity, my interest also stemmed from the fact that I served under one of the three presidents who incidentally is no longer in a position to defend himself.

Having read the 17-page executive summary as well as the 179-page full report, including the verbatim transcript of the public hearing conducted by the committee, I can say very quickly that the issue is not that of stealing of public funds but impunity (which I dare say is a very serious offence, especially in financial matters) while more than 95 percent of the infractions documented in the report happened under President Obasanjo between 2002 and May 29, 2007. Even when these special accounts were established for specific interventions and attracted statutory financial accruals–each running into hundreds of billions of Naira within the period in question, they were administered almost as slush funds.

Chaired by Ahmad Lawan, one of the longest serving lawmakers in our country today, (having spent two terms as a House of Representatives member between 1999 and 2007 before he was elected to the Senate where he is currently serving his second term), the Public Accounts Committee is one of the most productive committees in the Senate and it has done extensive work on the management of the Federation Accounts. It is therefore no surprise that its report, which is very detailed, would raise some dust.

However, the critical issue is that of transparency and accountability in the management of public funds in our country and from the report, it is easy to see how certain individuals sometimes act as though they are above the law. The weakness of the National Assembly is also very glaring if almost $10 billion could be spent outside the appropriation process, and in a most cynical manner that conforms with neither the extant laws nor the purposes for which these monies were earmarked. Even when the lawmakers ordinarily hold the power of the purse, we have unwittingly created a system where about a billion dollars could be spent annually by the president almost as he wished without clear guidelines.

Of the three special accounts looked into, the first is the 3 percent “Development of Natural Resources Account” which belongs to the Federal Government and was established to fund the development of alternative mineral resources to oil and gas. Essentially, it was to develop the solid minerals sector and within a period of ten and half years, (from January 2002 to June 2012), the sum of N873,400,023,790.19 had accrued to the account out of which N701,489,494,960.61 had been spent by official record, leaving a shortfall of about N162 billion.

The second account is the 1.46 percent “Derivation and Ecology Account” which also belongs to the Federal Government and was established to intervene on general ecological problems in the country. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and state governments are the intended beneficiaries. Within the same period of ten and half years, (from January 2002 to June 2012), a total of N389,983,433,066.07 had accrued into the account out of which payments of N329,866,978,298.92) had been made. That also leaves a shortfall of slightly more than N60 billion.

The third account is the 0.72 “Stabilization Funds Account” which belongs to the three tiers of government (Federal, States and Local Government). Within the period under review, (from January 2002 to June 2012), N255,487,900,570.38 had accrued into the account with payments of N203,810,308,096.99 made, leaving a balance of over N52 billion.

It may be important at this point to trace the origin of these accounts and how they have evolved over the years. They derive from a modification order made by the Supreme Court on May 29, 2002, changing the revenue sharing formula among the three tiers of government. Before then, the arrangement was based on: Federal Government- 48.5 percent; State Governments—24 percent; the Local Government Councils-20 percent with a Special Fund—7.5 percent. These Special Funds were broken down into: Federal Capital Territory—1 percent; General Ecological Problems—2 percent; Derivation—1 percent; Stabilisation Account-0.5 percent and OMPADEC—3 percent.

With the Supreme Court modification, the Special Accounts were transferred to the Federal Government whose share from the Federation Account now jumped to 56 percent distributed as follows: Federal Government—48.5 percent; FCT—1 percent; Development of Natural Resources—3 percent; General Ecological Probems—2 percent; Derivation—2 percent and Stabilisation—0.5 percent. Following protests by the governors, in July 2002, President Obasanjo now signed an executive order which reduced the Federal Government shares from the Federation Account to 54.68 percent and that was how the Special Accounts emerged with the new subheads.

Following their investigations, the Senate committee came to the conclusions that several approvals from the Special Funds Accounts do not conform to the purposes for which the funds were established; there were no operational guidelines for the release of huge sums of money; the funds were being run as loan granting pools while several of the beneficiaries utilized their take for purposes not contemplated by the funds. The committee also found out that loans granted from the accounts (to the tune of over three hundred billion Naira) have not been repaid several years after they were collected and there are no regular reconciliation of accounts between the Accountant General of the Federation and the Central Bank.

However, before we go to the specific spending and the gross abuses associated with the three accounts investigated, here are two critical observations made by the Senate Committee: The sum of N1,518,871,357,426.64 was the accruals to the Special Funds Accounts as at June 30, 2012 while the sum of N1,235,166,781,347.52 represented the payments made; the sum of N580,019,682,738 was released as loans while N347,997,583,008.41 is yet to be recovered from the beneficiaries.

For the Development of Natural Resources Account, the reported abuses are as follows:

·N612,276,016.65 payment of JVC contribution deducted from Akwa Ibom State grant between March and May, 2002.

·N1,300,000,000 loan granted to derivation Escrow Account on July 24, 2003.

·N50,000,000,000 loan granted to finance deficit in year 2004 Budget.

·N3,745,505,000 loan granted to Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the purchase of a Chancery in Tokyo on November 25, 2004 and December 30, 2004.

·N864,725,036 loan granted to National Health Insurance Scheme for ID Cards Production on April 18, 2005

·N452,218,449.70 loan granted to FGN as payment to ADB for purchase of shares on September 9, 2005

·N2,000,000,000 loan granted for payment to Gitto Construzioni General Limited on September 19, 2005.

·N5,700,000,000 loan granted to Ministry of Power and Steel as payment of disengagement benefit of Steel Workers on November 15, 2005.

·N14,988,625,000.02 loan granted to Federal Ministry of Water Resources for Gurara Water Project- second payment on December 21, 2005.

·N10,114,945,832 loan for payment of October-December 205 Arrears of Monetized fringe Benefit in all Federal Government Parastatals on February 9, 2006.

·N11,000,000,000 loan to Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria (FAAN) infrastructure intervention Fund Account to address infrastructure problems in the Aviation Sector on November 27, 2006.

·N20,000,000,000 loan to Federal Ministry of Works against 2007 Appropriation for the dualisation of Abuja-Lokoja Road and dualisation of Kano-Maiduguri road on December 28, 2006.

·N15,000,000,000 loan to Federal Ministry of Works against 2007 Appropriation for the dualisation of East-west Roads on January 18, 2007.

·N100,000,000,000 released for financing of 2nd Quarter Capital on May 15, 2007.

·N70,000,000,000 released to the Consolidated Revenue Fund (CFR) as loan to accelerate capital budget releases on September 1, 2010.

NOTE: Except for the last one released by President Jonathan, all the other abuses highlighted took place under Obasanjo. So as far as this account is concerned, Yar’Adua had nothing to do with any of the abuses detailed.

For the Derivation and Ecology Account, the following were the abuses highlighted by the Public Accounts Committee:

·N200,000,000 loan to the Presidential Research and Communication Unit on November 9, 2002.

·N500,000,000 loan to Edo State Government on November 17, 2002

·N800,000,000 released for resurfacing of runway in Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano-through SGF Ecological Fund Account on January 24, 2003

·N10,000,000 released for carrying out the building of Abattoir in Bida, Niger State—through SGF Ecological Fund Account on March 4, 2003.

·N500,000,000 loan to Edo State Government on March 25, 2003

·N150,000,000 released to Nigerian Railway Corporation for the Iju-Ijoko Rail Dualization Project—through SGF Ecological Fund Account on March 4, 2003.

·N200,000,000 released to Federal Ministry of Works for upgrading of Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and Lagos-Shagamu section to 6 lanes carriageway on December 22, 2004.

·N550,000,000 released to the Federal Ministry of Works for construction of four new bridges along Argungu-Bwi Road and completion of Sokoto River Bridge at Argungu in Kebbi State in May 10, 2005.

·N7,468,800,000 loan to Nigerian Air Force through the Ministry of Defence’s Capital Account for some projects.

·N1,982,834,723.63 released to the Federal Ministry of Works for the construction of new bridge at Idundun, Cross River State on June 21, 2006.

·N146,000,000 released to Nigeria Nuclear Regulatory Authority on November 10, 2006

·N1,000,000,000 released to Ogun State Government for the construction of Badagry-Igboho road (Atan-Isaga section) on April 27, 2007.

·N750,000,000 released for Development of Abuja Downtown Mall on January 4, 2007.

·N6,000,000,000 released to FCDA for provision of engineering infrastructure to Kubwa/Karshi Satellite towns on provision of engineering infrastructure on March 23, 2007; August 13, 2007; May 8, 2005 and December 12, 2007.

·N10,942,237,791.06 release to the Consolidated Revenue Fund for funding of the 2009 appropriation act.

NOTE: Except for the last one released by Yar’Adua and one of the four approvals in the N6 billion Kubwa/Karshi engineering, all the other abuses highlighted under this Account took place under Obasanjo. So as far as this account is concerned, Jonathan had nothing to do with any of the reported abuses.

For the Stabilization Account, the following were the abuses highlighted by the Public Accounts Committee:

·N16,262,401,332.50 loan granted to Directorate of Pilgrims Affairs on November 5, 2003.

·N10,845,000 payment to Tranvari Services Ltd for Nigerian Laws on Public Finance on January 12, 2004.

·N1,420,213,338.58 released to the Nigerian Customs Service as cost of revenue collection on July 7, 2005.

·N10,000,000,000 loan to Consolidated Revenue Fund Account on December 30, 2005.

·Loan granted to Ghana and Sao Tome and Principe on September 22, 2004 and May 7, 2007.

·N142,600,000 released to Gong Publishing Company as loan of debt owed Local Government Councils on September 26, 2005.

·Various loans totaling N309,208,000.30 granted to the Inspector General of Police for purchase of vehicles for the UN Peace Keeping Operations in Haiti in 2006.

·N2,800,000,000 loan granted to pay Federal Government of Nigeria 50 percent contribution to the phase of the Pioneer Car Finance Scheme for the Public Servants in Paramilitary Agencies on May 22, 2007.

·N87,721,961,531 released to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to commence the conduct of fresh voters registration exercise on September 1, 2010, September 15, 2010 and October 13, 2010.

·N34,949,423,870.52 loan to Akwa Ibom and Delta States during implementation of 10 percent derivation indices to oil producing states on March 11, 2010.

·N5,000,000,000 released to the Federal Ministry of Aviation, National Identity Management Commission and National Judicial Council as approved by the Coordinating Minister for Economy on September 15, 2011.

NOTE: Except for the last three approvals by Jonathan, all the other abuses highlighted under this Account took place under Obasanjo. So as far as this account is concerned, Yar’Adua had nothing to do with any of the reported abuses.

But there are critical issues in the report which deserve attention. One, the idea of granting indiscriminate loans to ministries in lieu of budget is subject to serious abuse and is antithetical to the promotion of transparency and accountability in the public arena. For instance, if a Minister collects an interest-free loan of N10 billion, nothing stops him/her from putting it in an interest-yielding account in a commercial bank such that if after some months the money is returned, the person would have made huge returns. The same applies to Governors, especially those close to the president who were usually given either grants or loans without any objective criteria. Besides, all these monies may not even appear in the books of their states. There is also the issue of duplication in that funds are sometimes released for projects already captured in the budget with money duly appropriated.

To understand the lack of transparency in the management of the accounts, one may need to read the transcript of the exchanges between the Senate Committee members and Directors from the office of the Auditor General of the Federation; Central Bank of Nigeria; office of the Accountant General of the Federation and the Permanent Secretary, Federal Finance Ministry. For instance, when the committee sought explanation for the discrepancy of N44 billion in the accounts provided by these officials for the period between 2006 and 2011 in the management of the Natural Resources Account, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance could only say: “The truth of the matter is that if it is expected to balance QED, it would be a miracle because there are sometimes that the CBN could bring in some…”

This had prompted Senator Lawan to interject: “And you know miracles happen; do you believe in them?”

To this, the Permanent Secretary replied: “Not in financial terms”. But Senator Lawan would not allow it to pass: “N44 billion should just disappear?”

At this point, the Director representing the Accountant General of the Federation intervened: “With due respect Sir, if you look at the CBN figure for 2007, it is N55,676,713,947.37. The Ministry of Finance figure is N59,660,203,250.85. It is only that year that has a difference…”

As the argument went back and forth, Senator Olubunmi Adetunmbi made his intervention: “Mr Chairman, we accept that there is need for additional information but the point must be made that between the account holder, the book keeper and the banker, they do not speak from the same page, and that in itself is not good enough for public finance management and for confidence building of the public.”

But the most serious aspect of funds disbursement was the selective grant of “loans” that were probably not meant to be repaid and without any collateral. For instance, in granting funds to states, it was almost as if it depended on the whims of the president, prompting the senators to query the rationale for many of the disbursements. To this the Permanent Secretary who incidentally happened to be a Muslim waxed Biblical: “It is a fund that if you did not ask, nobody would give. Knock and the doors shall be opened; seek and ye shall find…”

Given the way the three accounts were mismanaged with hundreds of millions dashed out just by a stroke of the president’s green pen and for all manner of things, the lack of accountability in our system is very evident. It is, however, noteworthy that Senate President David Mark admitted the failings of the National Assembly and I hope they will pass a legislation that will spell out guidelines and regulations for the disbursement of funds in the Special Funds Accounts so that there could be transparency in their managements and equity, especially with regards to disbursements to states.

In his closing remark at the public hearing on October 2, 2012, Senator Abdul Ningi, former House of Representatives Majority Leader, said inter alia: “…as a person who has been here before 2002 and having been in various committees, I would like to say that it makes me very sad because some of the sub-heads have actually been captured by various ministries budgets from 2003 till date. If you look at 2007 FCT appropriation in particular and compare it with what is here, you will see release to FCDA for the provision of Engineering infrastructure to Kubwa/Karshi satellite town. That is funded separately from it and now you see another Karshi-Kubwa; and they say that is third and final payment which they put at N2 billion. It has been funded by the budget….If an appropriation has been made for some of these sub-heads and you come here and see a duplication of the same sub-head that you can recall being funded, it is really funny.

“Somebody, somewhere is trying to take the people for granted….you just sit down and do a paper work and you will be given N10 billion. Who actually authorized these payments and to whom? It is very important that some of these things be corrected. Some of the headings are very outrageous and I will want to insist to the committee chairman that we call all the officers who initiated the approval, of course including President Obasanjo; he is a human being, he was a public officer, nothing stops us from calling him. He can now come and tell us the mandate, the authority that he used to churn out these figures; or is it from his whims and caprices that he just gave out N10 billion? You gave money to Edo and Bauchi; what about Taraba and Ekiti—because their governors are not your friends? That is very unhealthy and you could see that these things have continued because there is foundation for it. But it is not normal. No individual no matter how powerful should sit down and appropriate money by himself to anybody…”

What the Senate committee has exposed is the glaring weakness in our system but the tragedy of it is that as bad as the situation may seem in Abuja, it is actually worse at the states where there is practically no accountability since the governors have pocketed their lawmakers and rendered the local government system virtually prostrate. But it is incumbent on all the stakeholders to understand that when there is no accountability within a system, it is very much endangered.

BeforeSaka Ports Again!

Ever since MTN outsmarted Etisalat in what has become the biggest brand war in recent memory, I have read some stories which suggest that an unethical conduct took place in the ‘Saka’ saga. I beg to disagree. The simple fact is that Etisalat people were not only careless but disrespectful of the man who brought appeal to their product. Now they are paying the price.

I don’t know if there are people out there who still don’t know who ‘Saka’ (real name, Hafiz Ayetoro) is but in case there are, he is a Nollywood actor, mostly in the Yoruba genre, whose strength lies in the fact that his visage and disposition evoke side-splitting laughter. And he was used in one of the commercials for Etisalat. Although the Network had brand ambassadors, including some hip-hop musicians, for many people, including this reporter, ‘Saka’ was the face of Etisalat. Yet he was not even recognized as an ambassador. Besides, the “ogas at the top” within Etisalat didn’t reckon that such a man should be given some respect and therefore treated him shabbily until ‘Saka’ announced to all of us on television: “I don port o, I don port go MTN. I don upgrade to MTN”.

It all started with the launch of the Mobile Number Portability (MNP) service across all the four major GSM networks: MTN, Globacom, Etisalat and Airtel. The service allows

subscribers to migrate from one network to another in search of better service quality, while still retaining the original phone number, irrespective of the network the subscriber chooses to migrate to. Instructively, at the launch of the MNP, the National Communications Commission (NCC) Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah said the new service would compel telecoms operators to be more accountable to subscribers who could easily shift to another network if feeling short-changed. Unfortunately, that message was lost on Etisalat which took ‘Saka’ for granted until he decided to ‘port’ to MTN.

From available reports ‘Saka’ was never on contract at Etisalat and was treated almost like a casual, a fact that was confirmed even by the silly defence put up by Centrespreads, the advertising agency handling the Etisalat account. It was all some talk about how the network is “the hip, classy and swag brand” whose image ‘Saka’ doesn’t fit hence couldn’t be given a contract or branded as an ambassador. That perhaps explains why they couldn’t recognise how important ‘Saka’ had become to the brand until he ‘migrated’ to MTN.

All the noise about reporting MTN to NCC or APCON and allegations of ethical violations bla bla bla for me are pure nonsense. I think Etisalat should simply accept that it mismanaged its relationship with ‘Saka’, learn from its mistakes and move on. For the Network, the message from ‘Saka’ is loud and clear: Level don change!

Congrats Pius Adesanmi

One of Nigeria’s celebrated public intellectuals in the Diaspora, Pius Adesanmi, last week became a full professor of African Literatures and Cultures at the Department of English Language & Literature, Carleton University, Canada. It is a worthy acknowledgment of Adesanmi’s contributions (in and out of the lecture room) to a better understanding of our continent’s rich heritage in terms of arts, culture and diversity. Congratulations my brother.

Adieu Pini Jason

Mr Pini Jason, respected journalist and columnist, last week rested his pen in a most painful circumstance. He was a worthy role model for many of us and a man with whom I had a warm personal relationship. May God comfort his family and grant them the fortitude needed for such a difficult time as this.

Tags: Backpage, Featured, Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan, N1.5 Trillion

Atiku Abubakar, Nasir El-Rufai, NITEL and the Nigerian Telecom Criminal Gang Post on NEWS WATCH by Odedina Taofeek

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April 15, 2013

President Goodluck E Jonathan
Vice President Namadi Sambo
Hon. Minister of Communications Technology
Chairman, House of Representatives Joint Committee on Privatization, etc
The Chairman Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) (Re ICPC/P/SE/345/20120)
The Chairman NITEL Interim Board of Directors
The Chairman NCC Board of Commissioners

CC Alhaji Abubakar Atiku,
Mallam Nasir El Rufai

Atiku Abubakar, Nasir El-Rufai, NITEL and the Nigerian Telecom Criminal Gang

The Nigerian Newspapers, hard copies and online, and several web blogs and social media were awash on Tuesday April 2, 2013 with reports and comments, on the claims and counterclaims by the former Vice President of Nigeria, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Malam Nasir El Rufai the former Director General of the BPE on who or what ran NITEL aground. Nigerians will not forget in a hurry that the Nigerian Telecommunications Ltd. (NITEL) was Nigeria’s only telecommunications provider for almost half a century and by the time it was run aground more than six billion US Dollars that was invested in NITEL by the Nigerian tax payers through various governments went down the drain. Since NITEL became comatose, the Federal Government has behaved as if nothing has happened! Nigerians were left to be entertained by two of the dramatis personae in the NITEL saga dancing naked in the market place.

I wish to emphasize without any fear of contradiction that despite the irregularities that may have surrounded the appointment of Messrs. Pentascope to manage NITEL or the competence of Pentascope to undertake such an assignment at a point in time, Pentascope was not responsible for the bankruptcy of NITEL as being widely orchestrated to undiscerning Nigerians and divert attention from the real culprits, the criminal gang in the Nigerian telecom sector. The bankruptcy of NITEL was initiated by the criminal gang in the Nigerian Telecommunications sector long before the Management Contract of Pentascope to manage NITEL. Members of the criminal gang are mainly in the Nigerian Communications Commissions (NCC) and NITEL with some of them being failed NITEL Contractors. Their paymasters are the private telecommunications operators especially MTN. NITEL was already on the path to financial bankruptcy since 2001 because of the acts of commission and omission of this group.

Professor Bajoga the former Managing Director of NITEL and I were actually retired from service mainly because the criminal gang in the Nigerian telecommunications sector wanted us out of the way for refusing to play ball in allowing NITEL networks to be used free of charge by the Private telecommunications operators the same way Nigeria Airways was destroyed when Private Operators were introduced into that sector and used Nigerian Airways call sign and other aviation service facilities free of charge until Nigerian Airways went bankrupt. The NITEL saga is however more serious because the criminal gang in the telecommunications sector knew that they were deliberately undermining National security in the process.

International financial institutions are aware of the way and manner the Nigerian telecommunications criminal gang was scamming NITEL. This was why the consortium, International Investors Limited of London (IIL} and Transcorp had difficulties in raising funds to pay for NITEL transactions. The irony however is that the consultant to transcorp was the same consultant that produced the misleading and unintelligent report for NCC equating Interconnection as Termination for a reported fee of ten million Naira in late 1999 which formed the bedrock of the criminal gang’s scamming of NITEL.

I was the NITEL Deputy General Manager / General Manager (Operations) heading NITEL technical team on regulatory issues with NCC from 1994 until April 2000, I was fully aware of the criminal intent of the criminal gang against NITEL in flagrant violation of explicit Nigerian Laws and International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Recommendations on the issue of Interconnection. With my direct participation on the telecommunications regulatory issue I could predict NITEL’s bankruptcy since 2001. It is therefore morally reprehensible for anybody to blame Pentascope for an event already preprogrammed. Pentascope or their sponsors merely walked into the trap. A forensic analysis of the so called 100 billion Naira that Pentascope is being called to account for will be found to have been spent in part to settle the Private telecommunications Operators fraudulent invoices that NITEL was not in a position to certify albeit forced to pay against all the norms of commercial transactions.

The GSM operator, MTN was reported to the former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki for corrupting the Nigerian Polity by Chief Obasanjo. Of Course, Thabo Mbeki insulted Nigerians and Nigeria by giving the former President Chief Obasanjo the diplomatic cold shoulder. Unknown to Obasanjo, at about the same time, MTN submitted a controversial bill of three (3) billion Naira to NITEL for settlement. NITEL correctly refused to settle the fraudulent so called traffic exchange bill based on call termination. Low and behold, MTN rubbed salt on injury of Nigerians with Tabo Mbeki’s rebuff of Obasanjo’s complaints by making Nigeria’s presidency MTN marketing and debt collecting officer! MTN routed the same bill that NITEL refused to settle through the PRESIDENCY which promptly acted like MTN debt collecting agency by sending the bill through the Ministry of Communications to compel NITEL to pay. Of course NITEL staff to please “the Oga on Top” promptly parted with three billion Naira. What the Presidency that should lead the nation in patriotic example did not know was that at the time MTN submitted the questionable bill of 3 billion Naira for NITEL to settle MTN was using 22 E1 (2x2MB) NITEL leased circuits to connect its Radio Base Stations in Abuja to Lagos where it had the Mobile switching Centre (MSC).without paying a single kobo to NITEL for those services. But NITEL provided same services to NNPC and other corporate bodies which they were paying for.

Presently corporate bodies that need the same E1 from MTN are charged N300,000 to N750,000 as monthly rental and there is the distance charge as well. On the basis of Current MTN charges which are much less than NITEL charges ten years ago, the amount that MTN owed NITEL for the 22 E1s from Abuja to Lagos was N(22×300,000x700x24) which amounts to 46.20 billion Naira or N(22×750,000x700x24) which amounts to 277.20 billion Naira assuming Abuja is approximately 700 Kilometers from Lagos and for a period of about 24 months as at 2003 when MTN used the Presidency to collect payment of about 3 billion Naira that should never have been paid to them.

Readers should please note that MTN did not need 22 E1 from NITEL to connect its network from Abuja to Lagos when MTN launched gsm services in 2001. Five or six E1s would have been enough but the criminal gang in NCC did not compel MTN to Install a Mobile Switching Center (MSC) in Abuja, the Federal Capital of Nigeria. Abuja had to depend then and possibly up till now, on REMOTE gsm numbers from Lagos just because MTN was given free use of NITEL E1s and Nigerians can now appreciate the huge loss of revenue to NITEL. ECONET had 18 E1s and Glo 15 E1s for the same purpose from NITEL with NITEL not earning a kobo because of the atrocities of the telecommunications criminal gang in NITEL and NCC. The example above is just for Abuja to Lagos. NITEL carrier network was used in a similar manner all over the country. Nigerians should appreciate the mind boggling loss to NITEL which is in excess of one trillion Naira!

Sections 17 1 an subsection (c) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Act 2000 states “Any person who corruptly knowingly gives to any agent or being an agent knowingly uses with intent to deceive his principal, any receipt, account or other document in respect of which the principal is interested and which contains any statement which is false or erroneous or defective in any material particular, and which, to his knowledge, is intended to mislead his principal or any other person, is guilty of an offence and SHALL ON CONVICTION BE LIABLE TO FIVE 5 YEARS IMPRISONMENT”

The criminal gang in NITEL and NCC contravened this section of the ICPC act by corruptly:

1.Abandoning the 1997 Interconnection Agreement in 2001 without due process or lawful authority and deceitfully substituting another based on termination only, in flagrant violation of Section 15 (j) of Decree 75 of 1992 with the sole intention of defrauding NITEL having been compromised or corrupted by the Private telecommunications operators.

2.Deliberately misleading the NCC board with Interconnect Rate Determination Memo of 2nd December 2003, The Memo to the Board of NCC clearly and appropriately concluded that the Operator handling SINGLE TANDEM or DOUBLE TANDEM switching of telephony calls, which only NITEL the Dominant Operator was providing, should be entitled to 51% or 96% of the call charges. The Memo however deceitfully and deliberately left out prayers on the areas of benefit to NITEL thereby willfully allowing the Private Operators to withhold the 51% to 96% of the call charges that should have been handed over to NITEL. This created a huge treasure chest for MTN and others resulting in massive capital flight which did not escape the notice of Professor Soludo the former Cenral Bank Governor who raised an alarm in 2003. It is this capital flight that on round tripping the criminal gang in NCC orchestrate to Nigerians as foreign investment in the telecom sector. The criminal gang in the telecom sector really made big “Mugu” of Nigerians especially the Federal Government of Nigeria.

3. NCC was not competent by Decree 75 of 1992 to licence NITEL, a publicly owned company since NCC was empowered to licence only private telecommunications companies. The criminal gang in NCC however blackmailed NITEL into paying $200 million dollars for a National Carrier Licence along with Glo in 2002 with an EXCLUSIVITY PERIOD OF FIVE YEARS. Less than six months after NITEL and Glo paid about 20 billion Naira each for National Carrier Licence NCC unlawfully permitted MTN to install National Optic fiber network thus deliberately and deceitfully making MTN a National Carrier without paying a Kobo! MTN Optic fibre national network is therefore unlawful and illegal. No amount of manipulations by NCC can cure the illegality and Nigeria is the only country in the world where a major telecom operator flagrantly operate illegally and proud of it. This action of NCC has caused huge loss of revenues to NITEL and Glo and they both have the option of going to court to recoup their losses. It is pertinent to point out the after almost two decades of Operations in South Africa the South African Government did not approve of MTN as the Second National Operator when it decided to licence a Second National Operator. But the same MTN became a National Carrier in Nigeria within two years of operation as a result of unbridled and barefaced corruption carried out with impunity.

Some NITEL Board members have been using the Pentascope Management contract to orchestrate a campaign of calumny against Malam El Rufai to call a dog a bad name in order to hang it. But the real grudge the NITEL Board Members have against El Rufai was that El Rufai patriotically prevented NITEL from borrowing more than seven hundred (700) billion Naira under the guise of strengthening NITEL networks which the criminal gang were again to let Private Operators use free of charge in exchange for personal gratification. Where were the same NITEL Board members when NCC allowed MTN to encroach without paying a Kobo on the National Carrier License for which NITEL paid more than 20 billion Naira of borrowed money? Where was NITEL Board when Interconnection was being fraudulently interpreted as termination only to criminally shortchange NITEL?

NITEL Board must apologize to Nigerians and El Rufai and admit that it was not Pentascope Management contract that ruined NITEL but the criminal negligence and greed of its members that turned NITEL networks into free handouts to Private Operators for personal gratification. All patriotic Nigerians should support El Rufai for not allowing NITEL Board borrow additional 700 billion Naira only to be used as handouts to Private Operators for personal gratification or bribery and corruption in plain language. Nowhere in the world has deregulation caused a dominant operator like NITEL to go bankrupt. It is the criminal greed and corruption of NITEL and NCC Board members that RUINED NITEL. NOT PENTASCOPE!

Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the then Vice President was fully in charge of Parastatals including NITEL and NCC so he should accept responsibly for the bankruptcy of NITEL. It was under his watch the presidency was used as the debt collecting agency for controversial and questionable MTN bills. It was also under Atiku’s watch that MTN was unlawfully allowed to set up National Optic fibre network free of charge the same Service NITEL and Glo paid more than 20 billion Naira for and was to enjoy EXCLUSIVITY PERIOD OF FIVE YEARS which MTN unlawfully and illgaly encroached on and STILL ENCROACHING! Dr. Ojeba another former Managing Director of NITEL was retired just when he was resisting the unauthorized abandonment of the 1997 Interconnection Agreement for the fraudulent one.

Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the then vice president was the Chairman of the National Council on Privatization. On page 32 (PENSION Page) of THE NATION Newspapers of Monday, October 23, 2006 under the Caption “Govt. to pay NITEL’s N60b pension deficit”, the paper reported that the council at its 42nd meeting held on October 10, 2006 decided that the Federal Government will assume all historical and outstanding liabilities of 60 billion Naira arising from Pension Fund Deficit for NITEL and M-tel. It is expected that the BPE should have demanded the 60 billion from the Head of Service of the Federation. NITEL staff did not enjoy any part of the 60 billion. From the recent revelation surrounding Pension Fund Administration it is hoped that the 60 billion was not released by the HOS and diverted by unscrupulous elements in the HOS office or BPE leaving NITEL Pensioners to continue to wallow and die in poverty.

For the record, I have never met Alhaji Atiku Abubakar or Mallam El Rufai.

The current diversion of public attention by NCC from the consequences of the unstructured telecom network Nigerians are saddled with, is the Mobile Number Portability (MNP). Nigerians should note that it is the same NCC that supplied the World Telephone Numbering Guide with the following information about Telephone Numbering Format in Nigeria. Area Code, 1 – 2 digits; Subscriber Number, 5 – 7 digits; Trunk Prefix, 0; International Prefix, 009.

Only the 5 – 7 digits, which are the actual Subscriber Number, can be “Ported”. The Trunk Code and Area Code, which in Nigeria’s gsm network has been turned by NCC into Network Operator Code is actually 3 digits, cannot be “Ported” unless Nigeria wants to become the only country in the world without Area or Trunk Codes. This clarification is essential because the impression NCC has given Nigerians so far is that ALL THE DIGITS IN A GSM NUMBER can be “Ported” It is for this reason that all other countries that have implemented MNP insist it can only be effected in the Home Area of the Number so that the Area Code remains the same.

A Judicial Commission of Inquiry was set up into the administration of the Nigerian Airways when it was run aground like NITEL. Why not same for NITEL where the loss of public funds are much greater?

Nigerians are watching!

Engr. S. O, Ogundele
Former General Manager (Operations}, NITEL

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Facebook No Longer Home to Teens Post on NEWS WATCH by Taofeek Odedina

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A few weeks back, Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) announced the Home function that again grabbed the media attention similar to Graph search back in January and several other initiatives recently. While the market continues to debate the importance of these new functions, it continues to ignore that teens are leaving the social network in the millions. This is good news for stocks such as Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and Yelp (NYSE: YELP) that could be impacted if Facebook was ever successful with these new initiatives.

The leading internet social media firm had surged to a market cap approaching $70 billion back in January based on the expectations that these big initiatives will lead to surging revenue growth. What investors generally missed is that these new initiatives came with additional costs that will limit earnings growth this year.
While the market focuses on the monetization initiatives such as Home, the existing users on the platform don’t appear as eager to stick around for these new services. Facebook is not ensured to be the social media outlet of choice in the future. Back in January, the evidence suggested that domestic users had peaked. Now, it appears that the younger crowd is leaving the service in droves.

Is Home even important?

As with the Graph search function in January, the Home function is an attempt to place the genie back in the bottle. Initiatives such as home are possibly leading to the user base fleeing as Facebook quickly goes from a free service absent ads to one where the company attempts to hock every move made by a user.

Facebook claims that the Home function turns an Android phone into a living, social phone. It turns the focus of the phone to people and away from apps. The question is whether users actually want this service. Most people constantly use business, games, sports, and weather apps outside of Facebook questioning any desire for this new service.

The service appears to be another attack on Google similar to that of Graph search. While the company claims that the service isn’t an operating system, it clearly takes several steps towards overwriting Android. It could just be the first step to creating a full-blown OS.

Teen users plunging

The bigger issue not generally addressed is that all the new revenue monetization issues won’t matter if Facebook follows the path of all other social networks. Eventually users tire of the service and move onto the next hot social network. The new set of teens aren’t as interested in following the footsteps of the teens from 5 years ago akin to a nightclub typically having a limited length of popularity.

As the previous article pointed out, SocialBakers was already showing that users in the U.S. were peaking. Part of the problem is a matter of size as nearly 69% of internet users were on the site. In reality, the data now confirms that not only did the user base peak back at around 170 million, but also it is now dropping with the younger crowd leading the downturn.

Culled from Motley Fool

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