[ Masterweb Reports: Issachar Odion reports ] - I am no economist. Then again, neither are a whole lot of the people who have written or spoken in recent times on the economic issues prevalent in our nation today. We are, however, stakeholders; after all, it is our country. We live here, earn a living here; our children attend schools here and what have you. Even those of us who are not resident in the country have family members who are, and probably some investment or the other here. So, we are all stakeholders.
Since the first alarm was sounded on the falling prices of crude oil, many of us have been following the news ardently, silently hoping for a reprieve of some sort. It has been several weeks since the first news broke, and though several actions and reactions have taken place since then, the narrative of the general populace has not changed; we are still in the ‘finger pointing’ phase. Two points arise from this phase which require that we take a look at the facts before us critically rather than allow ourselves be swept away in the flood of what at first may appear as ‘public opinion’, but now plays as a well-crafted plan to distract and derail the good people of this dear nation from the things which are true and right.
Dr (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is a technocrat, not a politician. She was not appointed as finance minister and Coordinating Minister of the Economy because she was owed a political favour, but because the presidency deemed her the right fit for the job. Based on her past service to the country, it is not out of place for me to state that she is not one associated with reckless spending. In fact, it was during her first stint as finance minister that the Excess Crude Account was set up.
Secondly, while she endorsed saving; other parties, wielding political might, undermined her efforts. In April 2013, she openly, and on more than one occasion told us that the Federal Government was compelled to share over $16.4billion revenue accumulated in the excess crude account to the states because the governors argued that it was unconstitutional and even illegal for the Nigerian republic to have savings stashed away for some imaginary rainy day. She was also quoted saying that, “It was a fight to even get $1billion paid into the SWF (Sovereign Wealth Fund). We managed to save $20billion the last time, but now the governors are saying it is illegal. So, the country is not able to save, and what is left in the Excess Crude Revenue Account today is only about $3.6billion”.
The truth is, surviving the current decline in oil prices and its negative impact on national and global economies would have certainly been made easier had we enough funds shored up. Remember, it had been done before during the 2008/09 crises. The government was able to augment its budget deficit and continue with most of its development programmes with revenues from a healthy Excess Crude Revenue Account.
Had Dr Okonjo-Iweala not, in the past, expressed her concerns, reservations and angst about what another economic meltdown without sufficient funds in the ECA would do to us, then she should naturally be our first target for finger-pointing. But she did, several times over, she did. Yet we refuse to blame the people who squandered our future and have faced the one woman who became an enemy of state governors and legislature in her bid to secure the economic future of this country.
The Minister has always been an advocate of the need for the country to continue to create safety nets in the form of savings in order to cushion any potential negative effects of the volatility in the international oil market on the domestic economy should there be any further depression in the global economy. Just as she has repeatedly stressed that increased efforts to diversify the country’s economy remains the only viable option open to pursue in the face of dwindling revenues from crude oil exports as well as increasing volatility in the global oil market.
With elections fast approaching and our current situation becoming fertile ground for politicking, what is needed now is a collaborative paradigm shift. We need to look beyond the problem to the possible solutions; we need to shift our focus from blaming the finance minister and her economic team to focusing on the things that matter. In truth, as stakeholders, everyone has a role to play. Let us not be carried away by the opinions of naysayers as we look towards a better economy in the years ahead.
Issachar Odion ( Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ), a post graduate student reports.
*Photo Caption - Dr (Mrs) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
[ Masterweb Reports: Ebun Asagbe reports ] - The events of the past few weeks have every one paying closer attention to news headlines; especially as it relates to the falling price of crude oil, the economy and how it all affects us as Nigerians, both in the short term, and in the years to come. That was how I stumbled across Duro Onabule’s op-ed titled, “Eventually, collapse of the economy?” published last week in The Sun.
Having read that lengthy article, I tend to disagree with him on some of what he may have considered to be salient points when developing his op-ed. I must confess that I am still a tad disturbed by the way Duro Onabule kept referring to Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as “the Lady”. Something about it doesn’t just sit well with me. With the capitalization of the word, ‘lady’ each time, it almost seems like a title of scorn or ridicule. Now, as a woman myself, I find that offensive. If the minister had been a man, would he have called him “the Lord”? Or is this deliberately done so that whatever else he accused the said minister of doing or saying hereafter is hinged on the one indisputable fact; that she is FEMALE? I would have thought someone of his experience would be more sophisticated and delicate when addressing issues of this nature, alas! I am to be disappointed.
We know that there are several notable women in the president’s cabinet occupying key positions and heading ministries. So, when he calls Dr Okonjo-Iweala “the Lady of the Goodluck Jonathan administration”, in spite of the fact that she is not the only woman occupying a prominent position in government, there is the undertone of something hidden between the lines. That is both disrespectful and unfair. For a woman who has served this country passionately and has done it all on merit, she deserves an apology.
Anyone reading his op-ed on how Dr Okonjo-Iweala promised the creation of 10 million jobs knows at once how preposterous that sounds. No one in their right minds would make such a promise, least of all our Harvard-trained Minister of Finance. She knows this; and so does Duro, yet he mentions it, albeit in a manner that supposes he doesn’t believe it himself. I have scoured the internet looking for where the minister could possibly have made such a promise and the only hit I keep getting is Mr Onabule’s article. Where then did he get his information from? I wish he would have told us that.
This naturally has given me cause to ask: Why would a man who clearly has doubts about a statement still go ahead to mention that same statement in his op-ed with the intent of trash-talking a minister of this government? Did he validate his facts? I mean we are talking about a journalist with years of experience here.
Some of you may not know that Duro Onabule was an editor at a national daily before going on to serve as Chief Press Secretary to Gen. Ibrahim Babangida at the time when the latter was Head of State. I find it unnerving how those who have served leaders of our dear country in the past always come round to condemn those serving in the current government.
Another point which I find saddening is that when issues bordering on the current situation in the economy are raised, no one mentions the fact that the National Assembly keeps frustrating the efforts of the Finance Minister to reduce the crude oil bench mark. Had the current slide in oil prices not occurred, it would have been business as usual at NASS. What about the “share the money” mantra that the Governors’ Forum members chant unendingly when it comes to whether or not to touch the funds in the Excess Crude Account? For some reason, many Nigerians, Duro included, have deliberately decided to forget that prior to the setting up of the ECA, no one had any idea where all excess money from the sale of crude oil went.
Still talking about selective amnesia, our journalist here has not mentioned the SURE-P Graduate Internship Scheme, nor did he think it noteworthy to bring up the YouWIN Initiative; both of which have created jobs and a source of livelihood for many Nigerian youths. While these may not be the “ten million jobs”, these projects have taken people off the streets, put food on many people’s tables, and still offer hope to countless others.
That Dr Okonjo-Iweala never warned about the state of the economy is untrue. She has always, at every opportunity available, made it clear that we needed to spend less and save more. Just as she has been one our strongest advocates on the issue of diversifying and sourcing for other streams of income from viable sectors such as Agriculture. She has in the past been a victim of attacks; both offline and online because of her advocacy on prudence and savings. One need only enter key words in an online search to get proof of this. At least, I can assure you that on this, there is a plethora of evidence available as opposed to Duro’s non-existent figures and made up quotes of which he is the chief instigator and only source. What Nigerians expect from people of Duro’s experience is simple; facts. Give us facts and then let us decide for ourselves what to think, rather than filling our space with fairytales of a time long gone by and bogus datum.
Ebun Asagbe ( Email: email@example.com ), reports from Ado Ekiti, where she lives and works as a brand consultant.
*Photo Caption - Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala
[ Masterweb Reports ] - Our attention has been drawn to the malicious and false publication by THISDAY online of November 26, 2014, to the effect of Abia PDP Appeal Panel disqualifying Orji’s Son wherein it asserted partly that: “The alleged scheming by Governor Theodore Orji to foist his son, Chinedu, as a member, and possibly Speaker, of Abia State House of Assembly in 2015 on the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) may have hit the rocks following the disqualification of the aspirant (Chinedu) by the party’s assembly screening appeal panel.
“The panel, which recommended the disqualification of the governor’s son, comprised Augustus Mbanali (Chairman), Emmanuel Ogunsalu (member) and Emeka Odenigwe (member/secretary).
“Among the reasons for the disqualification of Orji junior who is gunning for Umuahia central state constituency, was the allegation of being a member of a secret society, the Black Axe Confraternity.
“A confessed member of the society in Umuahia had identified Chinedu as not only a fellow member, but actually the Capo (Head) of the cult.”
That is not only false but also embarrassing and offensive as the totality of this publication is also diversionary and made in bad faith.
The said offensive publication is hereby refuted as not only being offensive but also defamatory in nature, false, mischievous and devoid of any shred of proof and maliciously made by the reporter in a bid to assail the hard earned integrity of Engr. Chinedum Orji.
It is on record that Engr. Chinedum Orji is not, and has not been a member of a secret cult as alleged in the said publication.
It is also on record that Engr. Chinedum Orji in a show of humility and compliance with the PDP rules and regulations presented himself for screening at the Finbarrs Road party secretariat on the 6th and 7th November 2014, wherein he was vetted and screened and consequently was issued a provincial clearance certification dated 7th November 2014 with serial number: 0000027 and Chinedum Enyinnaya Orji boldly written on it.
And there has never been any indictment or petition against his candidacy for any appeal panel to look into and hence there was no disqualification whatsoever. That one begins to imagine the source of the said publication which is at best the figment of the imagination of the reporter which is highly defamatory, maliciously made to injure the credit, character, reputation of Engr. Chinedum Orji to public shame, ridicule, odium and contempt for which it’s demanded that the said false and defamatory publication be retracted forthwith with apology as there must be a limit within the law of freedom of the press not when it’s as instant case, scandalous, embarrassing and defamatory.
Chief Press Secretary to Abia State Governor
*Photo Caption - PDP logo
[ Masterweb Reports ] - The National Coordinator, Initiative for National Rebirth, Mr. Patrick Okpomu had declared that President Goodluck Jonathan deserved more than a birthday card and has urged Nigerians to deliver their electoral mandate as a token of appreciation to the NIGERIAN CONSENSUS CANDIDATE; Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan GCFR comes 14th February, 2015 Presidential Election as he celebrates his 57th birthday today.
He stated this in a special birthday congratulatory message on behalf of the National Working Committee of Initiative for National Rebirth, the good people of Nigeria and Nigerians in Diaspora to felicitate with the President, His Excellency Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan GCFR in marking the President’s 57th birthday celebration. He used the opportunity in thanking God for His amazing grace upon the life of the President. A life he had unambiguously dedicated to the service, uplifting and promotion of humanity. And prayed God to continue to magnify him before the world and make him wax stronger.
Mr. Okpomu emphasized that as a bridge builder, Nigerians are convinced that the President’s Re-election in 2015 would herald peace in the country and foster unity among the various ethnic nationalities to achieve the President’s vision of the NIGERIAN PROJECT. He assured the President of the organization’s continuous support and co-operation at all times for the common good of Nigeria.
He further eulogized the President as a true and outstanding advocate of generational and transformational change. A leader of everything that symbolized progress, prosperity and excellence. Indeed a trailblazer yet too humble, whose trademark is empowerment. A rare leader, an institution in building humanity.
The National Coordinator of INR also prayed that the Almighty God would continue to grant the President good health, long life and more wisdom as he continued to serve the country with more commitment and love. He remarked that the President had shown greater commitment to infrastructural development and better deal for the citizens of the great country, Nigeria.
As the President add one glorious year to his sojourn on earth, Mr. Okpomu further prayed the Almighty God to add more healthy and fruitful years to his days, that he may leave more enduring legacies for generations yet unborn through quality service.
He also commended the President for his energy, intellect and humility which had separated him, “THE MAN from THE BOYS”. And the story of development and growth in Nigeria today under his quintessential leadership, rekindles Nigerians hope in the NIGERIAN PROJECT; that with focused leadership, things could still be gotten right.
He further affirmed that the President had proved bookmakers wrong by his remarkable and enviable achievements in the health sector reforms and the eradication of the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease which had prompted the World Health Organization certifying Nigeria Ebola-free nation. And as a testimony of the President’s doggedness, uncommon intellect, focused leadership and co-operation of Nigerians.
He finally highlighted the administration’s many successful exploits in education, infrastructure development, agriculture, health, youth employment and empowerment, road construction, aviation etc which stand the President out among equals. And concluded that the President’s development records and bold steps as a bold and quiet achiever, a lover of sports and manager of resources were evident testimonies for all to see. And on this verge that the President’s Declaration of Intent to run for the 2015 Presidential Election under the Peoples Democratic Party comes 14th February 2015 was quite commended by Nigerians in order to consolidate on the gains and laudable achievements of the TRANSFOR MATION AGENDA.
*Photo Caption - President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan
[ Masterweb Reports: Steve Ochonma reports ] - I read online on Sunday October 24th, on Naij.Com news, an article entitled: Governor Amechi Reveals shocking truth about what caused Enemity between himself and Dame Patience Jonathan. In the said piece, Amechi was quoted to have said During the 1st graduating Ceremony of the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Rumuolumeni, River State, on October 24th as follows: “Remember when I become governor, I fought militancy….., and chased the militants away. Some of them went to Lagos, Ivory Coast, Ghana, etc., today; they are back, because the wife of the president brought them back to protest against me. I refused to give them money in Abuja because , if I do that I won’t be able to carry out any development project……., the quarrel between me and the wife of the president is because she said I should bring your money, Rivers people’s money and share with her’.
Amechi also alleged further that the Federal government under president Jonathan has been unfair to Rivers State, refusing to carry out any project in Rivers State, and that the East-west road is now being reconstructed only because he had to “abuse” the Federal government. He also alleged that Jonathan had taken Oil wells from Soku in Rivers State and gave same to Bayelsa State, and that 41 Oil wells in Etche in Rivers State have also been given to Abia State, and asked if President Jonathan is from Abia.
But the height of Amechi irresponsibility and insensitivity was to be seen from his incitement of the young graduates. According to Amechi “you should be careful of who you vote into power come 2015. If you vote President Jonathan back into power in next year’s general elections, Rivers State economy would crumble. Why do they want us to suffer? If President Jonathan comes back to power in 2015, Rivers State economy will crash’.
What could be more inciting and fear mongering than those statements credited to a governor of the Federal republic of Nigeria, all in the name of cheap politics. One would have thought that Amechi would tell us the bad policies and actions of President Jonathan that have impacted negatively on the economy of Rivers state. And submit the program of his new party aimed at addressing those policies, thereby giving us reasons to vote for change in 2015. To resort to cheap blackmail is disgusting and would not woo voters to the side of opposition. It also exposes Amechi and Co as desperadoes who have something to lose personally if Jonathan continues in office beyond 2015. The choice of whether Jonathan stays beyond 2015 or not is not Amechi’s but that of Nigerian voters. Amechi was showing the wrong example of leadership to those young graduates of Ajuru University and solving seed of discord. Again that was not a political gathering so Amechi should have chosen his words carefully.
Not only was Amechi’s account of the Soku and Etche Oil wells fabrication lies, it was morally wrong for Amechi to bring that up in such a forum, knowing full well that he was lying. The court records are there for any sincere investigator to verify. The Oil well in Soku belonged to Bayelsa as the court has decided, all Amechi could do is Appeal up to the Supreme Court for reversal of the judgment, or appeal to God as was the case in Amechi vs Omehia. He should remember that he was not on that ballot and so God would not have giving a stolen mandate through the back door. Amechi should have known as speaker of Rivers house of Assembly for 8 years and now governor for 7 years, that it was Obasanjo who constituted a panel to look into dispute between neighboring states regarding Oil wells ownership. These disputes involved Akwa-Ibom and Rivers, Rivers and Imo, Rivers and Abia, and Rivers and Bayelsa.
The report of the panel is there for everyone to see and read, so why politicize these issues. Rivers State had enjoyed the proceeds from the Oil well belonging to her neighbors, which were wrongly credited to her, over the years and still do till date. For Instance, all the oil wells under SPDC’s operation designated as Obigbo North is actually in “Imo gate” in Abia State. But Rivers State still receives money from Federal government on them till date, so if some of the injustices melted to Abia is being reversed now, how does that amount to unfairness. The victim in this Oil well dispute is Abia and certainly not Rivers.
When Barr. Nyesom Wike was the Chief of staff, Rivers government house, he has alleged to have been involved in corrupt practices. An allegation, the EFEC was to investigate. In the midst of the outcry that followed Wike’s purported investigation, Amechi-who had previously stated that after God, the next person he owes gratitude to was Mr. Nyesom Wike, threatened the EFEC and Federal government, that if Mr. Wike was to be arrested, Rivers people will resist it with their blood. The same Amechi was to reverse himself later to say that Mr Wike is indeed corrupt and has not executed contracts awarded to him by him to the tune of billions of Naira, up to date and queried why such a person should aspire to be Governor.
He warned “Rivers people” not to allow PDP or Mr Wike to win the election in 2015. One could see from the foregoing that Amechi is wavering, unstable and insensitive, saying one thing at a point and another later as it suits him. He only calls upon his so called “Rivers People” when he needs to fight personal enemies.
It was alleged that Amechi have given contract to his Cohorts running into several billions of naira without due process. He was said to have bypassed the ministries in awarding bogus contracts to friends and family and pay for jobs upfront. One would have considered such claims erroneous and a handiwork of his political detractors, but the Governor himself seems to have confirmed all that by admitting to have given Wike those contracts. Mr. Wike was never a construction contractor before Amechi’s government so how did he become on overnight, and why were “Rivers people” not consulted prior to those awards. Now he remembers that the money he had been throwing away belongs to Rivers people. It does not seem Amechi is a frugal spender, no sooner was he sworn in as Governor, than he sold the two aircrafts bought “brand new” by his predecessor to other state governments and leased another from the Bank of Utah in the USA for himself purporting to have bought it for Rivers State. As I write, the opposition in the state are still asking question on the proceeds from those two aircraft and the billions of dollars appropriated for the purchase of another aircraft for Amechi, by the state house. I am not aware that a account of stewardship on those transactions have been rendered, to “Rivers people. So he should not involve the Rivers people now in his personal fight with Mr. Wike and Dame Patience Jonathan. They all will answer to us- the authentic “Rivers People” at the appropriate time.
In the midst of all these glaring proof of Amechi wastefulness, how does he want us to believe that the issue between him and the first lady of Nigeria is money? Amechi is reported to be the chief financer of APC, Weather that is true or not we are yet to ascertain. Ameachi has given out to cohorts more money under various disguise than any other Governor I know of today in Nigeria, and most of those who benefitted from the Ameachi largese in the last 3 years, at least, are non “Rivers People. So if the first Daughter of the state asked for help from her “younger brother”, why should that bring quarrel? So Amechi would rather starve Rivers Daughter and give to cohorts?
How can Amechi convince us that the first lady asked him for money and for what purpose? I don’t think any wife of the President of Nigeria that we know of is a poor person, with all the access to fund at their disposal. Who did the first lady sent to Amechi? Was Amechi to bring cash, pay money into a bank account or give contract to the first lady? The Governor of Rivers state also alleged that the wife of the president brought back the militants to the state to protest against him. Who are these militants, how did the first lady bring them back, and why would she want to bring them back, and why would she want to bring Amechi down, is she running for Governor in 2015, what exactly Is her interest in protesting against Amechi. Those are questions that we need answers to, and from the Governor. Ameachi needs to enlighten us on these, or in the absent of concrete proof, just retrace his footstep and apologies to the woman. We expect a Governor of a state to b sensitive and responsible in both his words and deeds and not to act like an ordinary street person. That’s the kind of example that those University of Education graduates needs. To do otherwise is highly irresponsible and a “motor park” leadership.
Steve Ochonma ( Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ) reports.
*Photo Caption - Governor Rotimi Amechi -LEFT; Dame Patience Jonathan -RIGHT.
[ Masterweb Reports: Emeka Umeagbalasi reports ] - (Security & Safety, Onitsha Nigeria, 31st October 2014)-Various handling styles adopted by the Federal Government of Nigeria in its prosecution of war and counter terrorism against the Boko Haram terror group have failed woefully to address and tame the violence. Such handling styles have also exacerbated the country’s horrible human rights situations and emboldened the violent armed opposition groups in commission of atrocious crimes against the citizens of the country. From planning/intelligence to field battles; and from aerial assaults to negotiation/ceasefire to information dissemination and management, the results have been very catastrophic and marked with total failures. Unconventional reportorial approaches adopted by the Nigerian media in covering the insurgency warfare have also worsened the situation. Principles guiding modern war media coverage and report are hugely absent in Nigeria. These have deeply worried the Security & Safety Program of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law.
Blunders of the warfare have remained the Federal Government’s stock in trade since the insurgency became more disastrous and pronounced in 2009. The latest of such blunders was recent declaration of a unilateral ceasefire by the Nigeria’s Chief of Defense Staff without any convincing and concrete evidence of ceasefire agreement with the Boko Haram terror group. Just like the recent Stephen Davies’s Phantom Third Party Negotiation, all the fundamental principles guiding modern day ceasefire agreement and declaration are also totally absent in the so called ceasefire unilaterally declared by the Federal Government.
The declaration came days after the Federal Government, for the first time, earned an insignificant military advantage over the Boko Haram insurgents, which was achieved in collaboration with the Republic of Cameroun. The swift collapse of the phantom ceasefire is not surprising. This is because it is a clear evident that the Federal Government till now, is yet to study and understand fundamentals of guerrilla/insurgency/asymmetric warfare including their phases, features, dilemmas and vulnerabilities. The good study and understanding of the Boko Haram terror group in the context of its methodology will bring about better counter terrorist measures to deal with them in line with the international best practices.
Unfortunately, the terror group appears to be better strategically positioned than the Federal Government and its military advisers. The terror group’s adoption of asymmetric/guerrilla war strategy against the Federal Government is one of such examples. The terror group is ingrained and tailored along modern unconventional warfare with a number of strategic advantages already secured against the Federal Government.
For the records, we talk of insurgency when a group of belligerents attempt violently and illegally to change the way a country is governed. There are various types of insurgency including anarchist insurgency, which best describes the present Boko Haram terror uprising. For guerrilla warfare, it is irregular and protracted warfare launched against a sitting government by voluntary forces usually in small bands or commandos operating outside conventional military organizations.
For terrorism, it involves systematic use of terror as a means of coercion or with intent to create fear or terror in the minds of the people particularly the non combatants/civilians so as to force a sitting government to submit to an ideological pursuit or positional, needs and interests under contention. For asymmetric conflict, it is a violent struggle between two or more States and non State actors or groups who possess considerable level of unequal power relation. In this, one party is regarded as inferior while the other is superior.
Asymmetric/guerrilla warfare is the most difficult war strategy in that it is very difficult to crush. Those who subscribe to this type of warfare also have different strategies to prosecute it. Generally, there are three major phases of guerrilla warfare as developed by Mao Zedong in 1938. Phase 1 involves Organization, Consolidation and Preservation. Phase 2 involves Progressive Expansion (sabotage, terror, active guerrilla warfare and deception) and Phase 3 involves resorting to conventional warfare and abandonment of asymmetric tactics. During this phase, orthodox combatants are formed and deployed to confront the enemy and possibly dislodge it and takeover sit of power.
In features of asymmetric warfare usually adopted by the inferior party (i.e. Boko Haram terror group) there are technologically advanced weaponry, speed and precision, favorable terrain, training and tactics, etc. In features of guerrilla warfare, there are operations, application of terror, surprise and intelligence, population support, blending with civilian population, withdrawal, logistics, terrain, foreign supports and guerrilla initiative & intensity.
Main tactics and strategies of guerrilla warfare are intelligence, ambush, deception, sabotage and espionage. There are also ethical dilemmas associated with asymmetric/guerrilla warfare such as intimidation, irresponsible attacks on civilian population, transferred aggression and disobedience of the laws of the war. According to Mao Zedong, when the enemy advances, we retreat; when the enemy camps, we harass; when the enemy tires, we attack; and when the enemy retreats, we pursue.
From the forgoing instances, it is clear that the Federal Government of Nigeria and its military advisers were fooled and deceived into declaring a unilateral ceasefire owing to lack of studying and understanding the war game plan of the Boko Haram terror group particularly against the backdrop of the terror group’s recent setbacks in its war against the Federal Government. In the three-phase guerrilla warfare strategies, a failure at phase two or three automatically means reverting to Phase 1 or 2. Deception tactics such as pretentious acceptance of ceasefire might have been applied by the Boko Haram terror group with a view to rearming or re-strategizing. The military advantage recorded against the terror group should have been sustained so as to force the group into a number of meaningful concessions including real ceasefire and freeing of Chibok girls. The unilateral declaration of ceasefire by the Federal Government of Nigeria and its military advisers was hasty and an infantile calculation.
Condemned is also the way and manner the Federal Government of Nigeria and its military chiefs turned Aso Rock and the Nigerian Defense Headquarters into owambe carnival celebrating phantom ceasefire and mirage promise for the release of held Chibok girls. On the other hand, those who are desperate to win international awards over their internet campaigns on held Chibok girls compounded the situation by hurriedly ferrying themselves to CNN, Aljazeera and other international media headquarters to celebrate phantom promises made for the release of Chibok girls; forgetting that over 500 of such female vulnerable citizens are still under the captivity of the terror group since January 2014 without any sign of freeing a single one of them since then. As reports have it, release of Chibok girls has not only become elusive but also Mubi and other strategic communities in Adamawa State as well as Borno State have since been retaken by the butchery group with the Federal Government and its military advisers doing little or nothing.
The worst is the continuing lukewarm disposition of the Federal Government of Nigeria and the opposition political parties towards all these. While the country is on fire with dozens slaughtered daily, the political authorities are busy purchasing forms for the purpose of contesting 2015 polls by fire by force. It does not concern them that the terror group has become more menacing by engaging with reckless abandon in all kinds of heinous crimes including war crimes of ethnic and religious cleansing, forceful religious conversion, forceful movement of populations, abduction of the under aged and child soldiering as well as humanity crimes of murder, torture, rape and other terrorist activities. The number of those killed, maimed, displaced and “refugeed” has continued to swell. The Presidency is in the know that the Boko Haram terror group has killed over 13, 000 citizens since 2009, yet it does nothing to tame it. Our estimates have also continued to show that over 5,000 citizens have lost their lives to Boko Haram and Fulani Islamist terror groups since January 2014.
Compounded by the Federal Government’s unwillingness and inability to sanction the atrocity criminals under reference and tame their heinous criminal activities is its blatant refusal to extent its obligatory invitation to the International Criminal Court for the purpose of investigating and prosecuting the atrocity criminals from both State and non-State divides. Just recently, the governing authorities in the Central African Republic (CAR) extended similar invitation to the ICC Chief Prosecutor for the purpose of investigating and prosecuting those responsible for unlawful killings associated with recent political crisis in the country. In Nigeria, the authorities have chosen to watch their innocent people slaughtered and maimed day in day out with impunity.
Board Chairman, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (41, Miss Elems Street, Onitsha Nigeria). Emeka Umeagbalasi is also a Criminologist & Graduate of Security Studies; and MSc candidate in Peace Studies & Conflict Resolution
*Photo Caption - Emeka Umeagbalasi
[ Masterweb Reports: Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu reports ] - Continued from the first part ( http://nigeriamasterweb.com/Masterweb/breakingnews-301014-benchmarks-willie-obiano ), the second part highlights further thoughts and ideas on the critical development benchmarks for Willie Obiano.
Small, Medium And Large Farms Mechanization:
Maximising agricultural productivity can be achieved through a special programme of small, medium and large farms mechanization. This can be done through the procurement of machines and equipment by the government for lease to operators of organised small, medium or large farms. Special storage and processing facilities should be constructed for the processing and storage of farm products. The possibility of establishing a marketing board to serve as a stop-gap to buy goods from farmers should also be considered.
New Awka City: Capital Territory
Anambra deserves a befitting capital that captures the ambitions and aspirations of the people. A modern capital city in the 21st century should ideally include metro lines, tramways, industrial parks, strategic service gates, central business districts, residential areas/modern housing estates, green areas or parks, schools, hospitals and other attributes of a well planned city. In the immediate short term, modern housing estates which can be aggressively developed in phases in partnership with the private sector under the “build and sell” scheme can deliver a modern city with a breathtaking skyline within 4-8 years. Priority should be given to high-rise apartments (about 50%) because of population density. This cost effective method will see the government spending very little as projects will almost completely be funded by private investors under the build and sell scheme once the government initiates and adequately incentivises the project.
The real estate industry is ordinarily one of the core areas of growth in every economy and a win-win strategy as houses in the complex will be duly advertised and sold at modest profits keying into the large Diaspora and local population desirous of owning homes in modern estates, while the initial capital could be immediately recycled to begin another phase of housing estates. Potential investors desirous of owning homes in the proposed estates could pay upwards of 10% deposit to secure their own homes even before construction begins. With this win-win method, a whole new modern city dotted with immaculate housing estates can be developed in phases with a construction induced growth taking root in the state.
Special Onitsha Regeneration Project:
Onitsha is in decline because there has been no significant investment in infrastructure over the years. A special Onitsha regeneration project should be undertaken to rebuild and modernise major areas of the city. A tolled city ring road or inner city road network that will be self financed through the tolls should be introduced. Green areas should be integrated parts of the city. A central business district (CBD) should be developed in Onitsha. New areas for modern residential estates should be established. The international market should be modernised and expanded. Major shopping malls such as Shoprite and others should in partnership with the private sector be established in Onitsha to boost upscale commerce. Special economic zones and self serviced Industrial parks should also be established to consolidate the commercial and industrial base of the city.
Revenue Generation: Introduction Of Development Levy And Diaspora Support Funds Or Bond
With the continuing fall in crude prices and the concomitant fall in federal allocations, it has become increasingly necessary to source other areas of income through a more aggressive internal revenue drive and the introduction of a development levy and Diaspora support fund. While the state government can intensify revenue collection possibly through privatisation, it should also introduce property taxes to be known as development levy which would apply a modest annual tax to different categories of properties. A Diaspora development support fund whereby all interested persons within Nigeria and from the Diaspora can donate to fund outlined specific projects should also be created. An investment Diaspora bond could be created as an added initiative that attracts a pool of investment funds/bonds that would be utilised for commercially viable projects with financial returns for investors. These strategies amongst others would create a sustainable revenue pool for the state government and provide revenue for fast-tracked development.
Street lighting might seem unimportant but it is a significant facelift and one of the few parameters with which a functional government can be judged. Lighting up all the towns and cities in the state can be done urgently by partnering with a reputable firm or firms that is charged with responsibility to install and maintain streetlights in towns and cities across the state. Solar energy has provided a shortcut to street lighting which the governor can harness. It is important that ongoing maintenance be part and parcel of any arrangement for street lighting to ensure that the street lights are kept functional through servicing and maintenance.
To be continued!
Lawrence Chinedu Nwobu ( Email: email@example.com ) reports.
*Photo Caption - Governor Willie Obiano
[ Masterweb Reports: Dr. Peregrino Brimah reports ] - The leadership of Nigeria by announcing a meaningless unilateral cessation of fire with Boko Haram terrorists succeeded in giving the terror organization unprecedented credibility. The terrorists now assumed a status as a “rebel” group with control of territory. From a group of bandits hanging out in Sambisa forest, Boko Haram has since April of this year, emerged and overrun and captured large chunks of the northeast.
Bokoistan is established and continues to expand reducing the territory of Nigeria. The Nigerian leadership is excited with the results from systematically carving out Bokoistan, an independent State for the President of Chad and Ali Modu Sheriff to manage in the farming fertile, oil rand uranium rich northeast; and to this effect have played all types of games including recently announcing the meaningless cessation of fire, to enable the success of this disintegration ploy.
Negotiations with terrorists; declarations of ceasefire’s, albeit, unilaterally, the request by the Nigerian government for sanctions on Boko Haram and the refusal of Nigeria to engage the terrorists and enable the arming of its citizens to defend themselves from the occupying terrorist forces who have been left to “govern” over 12 local governments, implies the establishment of an autonomous region and state from Nigeria’s former territorial boundaries. Bokoistan is alive.
The prediction that Nigeria would divide by 2015 has indeed come to pass. While Nigerians eyes were focused elsewhere, expecting a disintegration to be initiated by unsatisfied players in the Southeastern aspects, the division was taking place in the northeast and most were oblivious to it.
The full boundaries of Bokoistan are yet to be defined. One cannot yet determine how much of Nigeria’s territorial land President Goodluck Jonathan has agreed upon selling to new found terrorist nation.
French is likely to be the official language of this new state according to most analysts as most leaders of Boko Haram are agents from neighboring Frenc h nations- Cameroon, Chad and Niger and negotiations with the terrorist leadership of the new State has been taking place in Cameroon and Chad , coordinated by Idriss Deby, the President of Chad.
Dr. Peregrino Brimah ( Email: firstname.lastname@example.org ) reports.
*Photo Caption - Map of Nigeria.
[ Masterweb Reports: Marelise Van der Merwe reports ] - Let me begin by stating that this opinion is not solely based on my own personal ruminations but rather on a relatively collective notion opined by South Africans of varying degrees whom I have discussed this salient topic with.
If truth be told, a certain negative connotation is unfortunately attached to the image of Nigerians in South Africa, formed by some unsavoury antics of her kinsmen within our nation such as drug pushing, internet fraud, armed robbery and illegal overstaying. I am not in anyway branding all Nigerians under the same illicit banner – but there are sufficient numbers who have done significant damage to arouse caution from the average South African.
In fact, Prophet T.B. Joshua’s rise to popularity within South Africa has proven a key player in the ‘rebranding’ of the Nigerian image for many South Africans, buoyed by Emmanuel TV’s brand of refreshingly practical, unorthodox Christianity. As many Nigerians living in South African can readily attest to, a question revolving around Joshua is almost certainly asked once their nationality is ascertained, exuding the influence he has within South African shores.
BBC’s Chief African correspondent Will Ross recently reported how an uneducated local in rural Botswana identified Nigeria as ‘T.B. Joshua’s country’ after learning Lagos was his base. It is an assertion similarly shared by many here, particularly in the rural areas of South Africa who automatically associate Africa’s most populous nation with its most controversial pastor.
Unfortunately, the Nigerian government’s response in the aftermath of the tragic building collapse at The SCOAN last month has done little to assuage this already precarious image. The private jet debacle whereby Nigerian money was illegally carried to South African soil for the purchase of arms, coupled by the painfully slow process of the repatriation of our fallen brethren in the collapse have only served to fuel an atmosphere of distrust and distaste.
It is unfortunate also that the inquest set up by the Lagos State Government into what truly transpired at The SCOAN has aroused equal qualms, its political undertones breeding scepticism within South Africa towards the genuineness of its intentions. From the initial sessions, it appears to be more of a platform for Lagos State Government to cover-up their own inadequacies in the rescue operation while ensuring a predetermined agenda is played out, ultimately bringing culpability on the part of The SCOAN for structural failures.
I have closely followed media updates surrounding the coroner’s inquest, most of which came from Nigerian media sources as media coverage in the aftermath of the tragedy has reduced in South Africa. The propensity of focus toward debunking the claim of explosives being behind the collapse, alongside the insistence that T.B. Joshua himself appears at the inquest, certainly calls for questions. I am not saying such information is not valid but the sensational media headlines and lopsided reports suggest the outworking of a negative agenda against Joshua, orchestrated by both the Lagos State government and media houses reporting the incident.
For example, it was widely reported on Tuesday that pathologist Professor John Obafunwa ruled out claims of an explosion as the cause of the building collapse, saying none of the victims had blast injuries. However, a report from the following day’s inquest where Obafunwa admitted he had only conducted autopsies on two bodies and could not authoritatively determine what was behind the collapse was barely mentioned.
Similarly, the apparent ‘refusal’ of church authorities to cooperate with external rescue bodies such as NEMA was disproportionately accentuated, to the extent that media commentators suggested such callous attitude actually increased the death toll. This was highlighted by the testimony of NEMA spokesman Ibrahim Farinloye at the inquest on Tuesday who claimed his team were not given access to the site until Sunday evening.
However, in Wednesday’s session, a spokesman for the Nigerian Red Cross shared his own version of events, praising The SCOAN for their co-operation and efficiency and directly opposing Farinloye’s claims. “When we got to the place, we met NEMA and LASEMA there, but we didn’t see them carrying out any rescue operations,” Ige Oladimeji told the court. Contrarily, he said the church officials were the ones who were championing the rescue mission, buoyed by The SCOAN’s 10 ambulances and heavy duty rescue machinery provided by several local construction companies. Why was it that this aspect of the inquest was completely downplayed to barely a mention by the majority of media reports yesterday? Perhaps because it revealed shameful inadequacies within Nigeria’s rescue team – both in attitude and action?
I recall reading an article by Nigerian-based journalist Simon Ateba, who was at The SCOAN on the day of the incident, sharing similar sentiments. “The truth is that NEMA has no equipment needed to rescue people,” he bluntly stated. “All NEMA was doing was to release the number of the dead and the injured to the media. NEMA is a failed and incapacitated agency that cannot rescue anyone… They should shut the hell up and get enough funding and equipment to do their job rather than playing to the gallery and claiming that they “just coordinate “. Coordinate what? Interviews when people are trapped?”
In Thursday's session, Lagos State Commissioner for physical planning Olutoyin Ayinde was quoted as saying the airplane seen bypassing the ill-fated building on four occasions on the day of the incident was simply on a flight path towards Lagos airport. Why is it, however, that nearly two months after the incident, no official statement whatsoever has been made by the Nigerian government or aviation authorities concerning this? If indeed there was nothing sinister or suspicious in its movements, why wasn’t there an immediate statement to that effect since this is an incident of grave international proportions?
Yesterday, a Nigerian lawyer called for the halting of the inquest, arguing that several agencies from within Lagos State had already made indicting statements against The SCOAN to the effect that structural inadequacies caused the collapse. He submitted that the inquest would ‘seriously occasion miscarriage of justice’ as it would base its decision on the testimonies of the same agencies. In the light of the above, I believe he has a very valid point.
As I wrote in an earlier article berating South African media’s coverage of T.B. Joshua in lieu of this tragedy, I am an Emmanuel TV viewer and have visited The SCOAN once last year in what I would term a spiritually enhancing pilgrimage. The latest incident has not blighted this belief, although many pertinent questions still remain unanswered concerning the exact cause of the catastrophe.
It is unfortunate that the Lagos State inquest is not providing these answers but provoking even more questions, especially within South Africa.
Marelise Van der Merwe ( Email: email@example.com ), social analyst based in Johannesburg, South Africa reports.
*Photo Caption - Rescue workers Tuesday September 16, 2014 search for survivors in the rubble of Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN), Lagos- Nigeria collapsed building. The building collapsed September 12, 2014.
[ Masterweb Reports: Uche Nwosu reports ] - In his thesis The Decay of Lying, Oscar Wilde, an Irish writer (1854-1900) declared that, “The final revelation is that lying, the telling of beautiful untrue things is the proper aim of the art”. If we stress it further we can conclude that lying is the art of releasing information that is at variance or inconsistent with the reality.
Of recent, armed chair critics and political opponents of Gov TA Orji CON and his administration, in their uncanny attempts to sway public opinion against this performing governor of Abia – God’s Own State, have tried unsuccessful to present falsehood as facts. They have been telling weird tales to the gullible; relentlessly concocting and fabricating pictures (both still and video) to goad the naive into accepting their falsehood and make-believe.
Take Aba as a case study; this epicenter of Igbo entrepreneurship has recently had its kismet recede colossally; thus becoming the object of the vitriolic attacks from the opposition camp. Certainly, before Aba’s declivity, it served as a thriving municipality of commerce and industry. It held sway as the nucleus of small and medium scale enterprises in the West Africa sub-region. From 1960s till 1990s, Aba was a town that played host to all tribes and races of African descent who came from Lagos, Onitsha, Calabar, Kaduna, Kano, Cotonou, Yaoundé, Duala, Gabon etc to do business in it.
In retrospect, Aba’s structural outlay was like that of London, Paris, Washington DC, or some few European and American cities which are charily planned and kept. Its roads were neat; the gutters were cleaned, letting current of water to flow ceaselessly to the huge Aba gutter; that gigantic drainage that traverses the town and empties its contents into the Aba River (the waterside) whenever it rained. Its filths were carted away as they were dumped. Indeed, Aba was (and still is) an architectural masterpiece. It was an organized city. For instance each street is separated from the other by a column of ten houses and numbered like that, thus making easier for any JJC in town to trace his way without missing road.
The houses are separated from each other by well maintained sanitary lanes with scintillating walkways which were cleaned up at every now and then. The Aba master plan was strictly adhered to during construction of buildings or factories in the years mentioned above. But alas! Aba lost its glory when OUK who now champions the network of virulent spleen against Gov TA ORJI and his government in the Sun newspapers took over the mantle of leadership as the second executive governor of Abia State.
From 1999 to 2007 Aba lost its splendor, it lost its shine; it lost its beauty and became blemish. Aba declined so retrogressively that to rebuild it will take years to do. Orji Uzor Kalu’s administration encouraged the building of illegal structures such as shops, kiosks, motor parks, mini markets etc on the drainages, open spaces etc, including the Aba big gutter. His government then perfected the process of the blockage of the sanitary lanes which the military administrations before it started with the connivance of some dubious landlords and traders on the pretext of building more shops in the city and giving traders spaces to do business. The result was the colossal collapse of the fabrics of the town. Its aesthetics declined tremendously.
It turned out that what the drainages would have accommodated if they were open and scooped became the burden of the roads. Both the streets and roads suffered high degree of corrosiveness. His attempt to reconstruct and rehabilitate some of them was comical. The roads he tried to reconstruct or rehabilitate failed the test of road standard and quality. And because of their structural dubiety, Aba residents dubbed the roads he built in the city; “Dubai Roads” in derisive reference to some inferior goods (particularly shoes) were imported from Dubai, the capital of the United Arab Emirate.
It is ironical that the same man that laid the foundation for the present decay of Aba municipality under his watch as governor is the same man shouting blue murder against Gov Orji, who has carried out a lot of interventions to reclaim the city, preparatory to its holistic reconstruction.
Under OUK Aba ceased to have pipe-borne water. Other infrastructures like electricity that existed before he found himself in the apex political seat of the state were neglected. Certainly, Aba was worse under OUK. Roads such as: Ohanku, Obohia, East, Azikiwe, Ama Ogbonna, Ama Ikonne, Faulks, School, Clifford, Cameroon, Danfodio, Etche, Ulasi, etc were impassable before he exited in 2007; thus making him one of the most hated political office holders at that time.
In fact, the so called holocaust which he and his army of associates and writers claim Aba has relapsed into is totally of his own making. He is the architect of Aba’s infrastructural and social declivity. If he had done the needful ie laying a strong foundation for a modern Aba that could compete strongly with the modern day Dubai, Shanghai, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, etc which Aba was their industrial and economic prelude, what would have laid at the bosom of the present administration under TA Orji would have been to consolidate on the foundation already laid and work would then start from there.
Even as he was not doing anything towards the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Aba which he and his paid writers are describing as hell on earth; as one of the worst cities on earth, OUK, through his aggressive diatribes against Aso Rock frustrated federal government’s intervention on Aba or the entire Abia State. His regular vitriolic jabs against the federal authorities denied not only Aba but Abia its due share of the central government’s largesse.
Has he forgotten how he made Abia a pariah state; a state where no investor or any serious national or international economic player could do business? Until Ochendo entered the arena, Abia was out of the circle; groping in the dark, isolated and treated as a leprous victim. Even though, Aba has not yet been placed on the pedestal of infrastructural bliss, a foundation is being laid to make the city to follow the foot paths of cities of Asia earlier mentioned in this piece.
Ochendo’s administration has consistently rehabilitated federal roads in the city like Aba-Owerri road, Ikot Ekpene road, Azumini road, Port Harcourt road, Aba axis of Enugu- Port Harcourt expressway, without the central government giving it a dime. Presently, the government has set up another intervention task force led by the Commissioner for Works, Longman Nwachukwu and made up of crack team from the Ochendo’s cabinet, prominent and non partisan Aba residents, captains of industry and civil engineers to once more rehabilitate the federal roads in the city following the subsiding of the rains. The work done so far by the task force has been exceptional.
Indeed, the intervention on Aba has been tremendous; if not for the lifeline thrown to it by the Ochendo’s administration, Aba, would have been weighed down by the neglect of the past. The system of refuse disposal there has been outstanding; never mind some of the manipulated pictures being bandied about by the opposition camp.
However, like every other institution or city that is been started anew, the residents of the city has to endure some adversities. Everything has to start anew. The roads and other infrastructures will not have to be built overnight. It has to endure. What matters is the laying of the foundation. If Gov Orji, after laying a solid foundation for the reconstruction of Abia State does not have the time to start the proper reconstruction then the government after him will take off the gauntlet and do the needful.
But as for now kudos should be given to him for elevating and placing this state on the track of socio-economic recovery. He has laid the solid and quality infrastructural foundation which the government after him will find it easy work on and achieve decisive result that will be of immense benefit to Ndi Abia in particular and Nigeria as a whole. Abians are waiting for the person that will combine the dreams and forthrightness of Dr Michael Okpara; the resilience and accomplishment of Dee Sam Mbakwe, the vision and exploits of Chief TA Orji to take over from Ochendo.
For now, Ochendo has remarkably done well in all sectors. His seven and half years in office are not without concrete legacy projects: chief among them are the upgrade of the civil service, provision of quality education in the state, styling leadership that have compassed a new Abia. His administration has also restored sanity to the polity, empowered the women and youth as well as provided the road map for the much sought after Igbo unity and renaissance. No wonder he was elected as Chairman, South East Governors’ Forum (SEGF) and recently conferred with a national award of Commander, Order of the Niger (CON).
Uche Nwosu reports.
*Photo Caption - Orji Uzor Kalu