Thursday, 18 January 2018

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

Thursday, 18 January 2018 04:11

Suicide blasts kill 10 in Maiduguri

Ten people were killed and dozens injured on Wednesday in a double suicide-bomb attack in the northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri, a civilian militia leader and a resident told AFP.

The blasts happened in the Muna Garage area of the Borno state capital, in a market used mainly by internally displaced people (IDPs) from a nearby camp.

“I can confirm that 10 people have died in the attack,” said Ibrahim Liman, of the Civilian Joint Taskforce (CJTF), which assists the military with security against Boko Haram.

Liman initially gave the death toll as three but he added: “Seven more bodies were brought in from the UMTH (University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital).

“Now the number of injured is 52,” he said.

“Two under-aged girls, aged about 13, struck at the market at about 4:10 pm (1510 GMT) — a peak hour. The first bomber set off her explosives in a sparsely populated part of the market.

“Moments later, the second bomber set off her explosives in the crowded part of the market. That was where most of the casualties were recorded.”

Liman’s account was supported by local resident Dahiru Bulama, who said soldiers had cordoned off the area as the injured were evacuated to hospital for treatment. 

“The attack was really bad. The casualty toll could be high. We were not allowed to go near,” he added.

“But I saw one car parked across the road that was splattered with blood and flesh.”

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but Boko Haram has repeatedly used young girls and women as suicide bombers to attack civilian “soft targets”.

IDP camps, including the one at Muna Garage, markets and mosques have been hit. Army and CJTF security posts have also been targeted.

Twelve people were killed on November 15 when four suicide bombers — two men and two women — blew themselves up in the Muna area of Maiduguri.

Wednesday’s attacks comes after Boko Haram jihadists killed nine people on Monday in two separate attacks — one in the Ngala area of Borno and the second in neighbouring Adamawa.

The attack in Ngala saw six people shot dead as they collected firewood to sell to IDPs.

Civilians have borne the brunt of the casualties in the nearly conflict, with at least 20,000 killed and more than 2.6 million others made homeless since 2009.

Published in Headliners

‘I’m worried, concerned’

Ortom insists no land for cattle colony in Benue

President Muhammadu Buhari has directed security agencies to fish out the herdsmen who killed no fewer than 73 farmers in New Year’s Day in Benue State.

Victims of the incident were buried last Thursday in Makurdi amid a nationwide outrage.

Governor Samuel Ortom told reporters that the President gave the order during a meeting with the state’s leaders of thought on the security situation.

At the meeting were Deputy Governor Benson Abounu, Tor Tiv Prof. James Ayatse, Ochi Idoma, former Senate President David Mark, Senator George Akume, Senator Barnabas Gemade, Gen. Lawrence Onoja (retd.), Speaker Terkimbir Kyambe and Senator Joseph Waku, amog others.

Presidential spokesman Femi Adesina quoted President Buhari as telling the delegation:

“Your Excellency, the governor, and all the leaders here, I am appealing to you to try to restrain your people. I assure you that the Police, the Department of State Security and other security agencies had been directed to ensure that all those behind the mayhem get punished.

“I ask you in the name of God to accommodate your country men. You can also be assured that I am just as worried, and concerned with the situation.’’

The President told the delegation that his administration had already begun a process of finding lasting solution to the perennial challenge of herdsmen conflict with farmers and communities around the country.

The Tor-Tiv, said his domain had been thrown into mourning due to the incessant attacks.

“We want you to put an end to the gruesome situation.’’

Ortom said Benue leaders demanded that the killer-herdsmen be arrested and prosecuted.

His words: “The situation as at today is relatively calm, although there are pockets of issues. For the past five days we have witnessed two killings compared to what was happening before. Other places are relatively calm. The security men and the IGP and the Benue State Government have been working day and night to ensure that we bring the situation under control and stop the killings.

“There are still security issues from one town to the other, like some few  days ago we had an uproar in Makurdi Local Government, headquarters of Benue State where some hoodlums wanted to take advantage. That is one of the things we have discovered in trying to create confusion so that they can go in there and loot.

‘We have made it known that for us in Benue State is that there is no room for anyone taking laws into his hands. It is expected even when you are offended or someone violates the law, the best thing to do is to report, by that we will be able to meet our sanctions on such people. But when you take laws into your hand,  you are inviting anarchy and we will not accept this.

“So we are here to appreciate Mr. President for providing security. Yesterday (Sunday), we also received relief materials based on his directives to NEMA and is being shared among the five IDP camps that we have in Benue State.

“But beyond that we made strong appeal to Mr. President to arrest those people that perpetrated this act, the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, because they are not above the law. They made inciting statements against our people and they came and perpetrated this act. We are law abiding citizens; we are not going to let our people go out of control.”

The governor was full of praises for Buhari. He said: “We believe in the leadership of Mr.  President because he is disciplined and is an upright man and we believe he will be able to sanction this people and he did assure us that there is no room for impunity, the law of the land must take its cause. So, those perpetrators…; the IG was at the meeting; he directed the IG to arrest those who perpetrated this act and prosecute them according to the law.

“And he assured us that he would do everything possible to ensure that Benue State lives peacefully and there are no further killings. So, basically, that is why we came to see Mr. President.”

Asked if the issue of arming militia groups came up, Ortom said that the allegation was false.

He said: “It is not true. I see that as distraction, completely from the main issue that we are talking about. These people were not even arrested in Benue State. If we are being killed in the magnitude that we saw and we had weapons of what I saw in the media, I know that five AK 47s can sack a whole community. So if we had such weapons and I as governor my local government had been attacked and people killed, property destroyed and so on, so will I go and sponsor militia in Taraba State? I organised an amnesty programme, which saw  the disarmament of over  800 youths and more than 700 weapons were turned in which were destroyed in the presence of security men and the UN and the committee on small weapons and light arms from the Presidency.

“So it is not true; it is false. It is meant to turn facts away from the reality that is happening on ground.”

Ortom said the meeting with the President was at the instance of Benue State as he defended the anti-open grazing law made by his administration but which the Fuluni are opposed to.

“The law is a win win; it provides security for  the herdsmen and the farmers. And as far as we are concerned the implementation of the law is going on smoothly.

“We have also arrested more than 18 herdsmen who violated the law and they were arraigned before the court of law.”

Ortom said that the state  is open to suggestions from the Federal Government on finding a lasting solution.

“The Minister of Agriculture happens to be a son of the soil. There are many options that are put on the table.

“Like I told you the last time I came here, I did not understand what cattle colonies meant. Today, I was privileged to meet him and he did explain to me that a colony is many ranches in one place, restricted in one place. So, for us in Benue State, there is no 10,000 hectares; they are looking for 5,000 hectares, we have no 10,000 hectares to allow it for that kind of a thing to take plac.”

Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai said the Federal Government had very clear plans to end herders/farmers clashes in the country.

The governor told reporters after laying a wreath to mark the Armed Forces Remembrance Day in Kaduna that the issue was being tackled head-on.

“We met with the Minister of Interior. There are very clear plans to curtail these issues. I  want to assure everyone, the President and other security agencies are doing their best.’’

Published in Headliners

Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembele has been ruled out for “three to four weeks” in a new blow for the French forward, his club announced on Monday.

Dembele hurt himself after coming off the bench in the second half of Sunday’s 4-2 win away to Real Sociedad in La Liga.

The injury is different to the hamstring tear that ruled him out for three and half months.

“After the game against Real Sociedad, Dembele had a problem with his left thigh and tests have confirmed that the player has suffered a hamstring injury of the semitendinosus muscle that does not affect the area operated on earlier in the season,” Barcelona said in a statement published on their website.

“The injury will mean he will be out for a period of around three to four weeks.”

He now faces a race against time to be ready for the first leg of Barca’s Champions League tie against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on February 20.

Dembele only returned at the start of this month after tearing his hamstring in September.

The fitness problems have blighted the start of his career at Barcelona following his 105-million-euro ($124 million) move from Borussia Dortmund in August that could rise to as much as 145 million euros.

Barcelona also said that Andres Iniesta “has a problem in his right calf and his recovery will determine his return to action for the coming matches.”

Iniesta was an unused substitute in Sunday’s game as Barcelona came from two goals down to win 4-2 at Anoeta.

Ernesto Valverde’s side are already unable to call on new record signing Philippe Coutinho until the end of the month after he arrived with a thigh injury following his Spanish record 160 million-euro transfer from Liverpool.

Published in News & Stories
Tuesday, 16 January 2018 02:22

Decision on Sanchez in 48 hours says Wenger

Arsene Wenger confirmed he expects Alexis Sanchez’s future to be resolved imminently after the Arsenal forward was left out of his side’s 2-1 defeat at Bournemouth.

Sanchez, who becomes free agent at the end of this season, is a target for Manchester United and Manchester City who came close to signing the Chile international on the final day of the last transfer window.

United have emerged as strong contenders because of their willingness to meet Arsenal’s £35 million ($48 million, 39 million euros) asking price, with the possibility of Henrikh Mkhitaryan being included as part of any deal.

Wenger insists all options remain open but felt unable to select the player for the visit to the Vitality Stadium although he insisted Sanchez was willing to play.

“Alexis would have played,” said the Arsenal manager. “But it’s a difficult period for him. He’s always been committed until now but he could have moved yesterday, today or not.

“It will be decided in the next 48 hours. It was a bit difficult for him because he was on stand-by, a little bit. That’s why I decided not to do it. He did not refuse to play.”

Asked if a deal was imminent, Wenger said: “I don’t master the rhythm of that but it could happen today, tomorrow or not at all. That’s why I didn’t take a decision (to select him)…I didn’t want to travel with him and suddenly he goes somewhere.”

Wenger, who criticised his side’s lack of cutting edge as they squandered a number of chances before allowing Bournemouth to recover from falling behind to Hector Bellerin’s opening goal to win through strikes from Callum Wilson and Jordon Ibe, insisted he would recruit a new forward to replace Sanchez if the forward left.

“Look, if Sanchez goes we need to replace him,” he said. “I say when you look at today, we missed many players in our squad. And you say that they have a weight in the team.

“If players like Sanchez go, we have of course to respond to it. Will he go or not, I don’t know, but at the moment, it’s transfer period and in this kind of periods, you try to use the players who are completely focused on being at the club.”

– ‘Nothing concrete’ on Malcom –
Arsenal have been linked with a £35 million move for Bordeaux forward Malcom but Wenger refused to confirm his interest in the Brazilian.

“No. There is nothing concrete there,” said the manager. And when pressed on whether the 20-year-old is a target, he added: “It’s better I don’t come out on any specific name.”

Bournemouth moved up to 13th place, four points clear of the bottom three on the back of the win, and manager Eddie How praised the contribution of match-winner Ibe who scored his first league goal for the club, 18 months after arriving from Liverpool.

“I’m really pleased for him,” said Howe. “He’s been knocking on the door recently, hit the woodwork, his numbers are very good for him this year and I’m really pleased that’s out of the way for him now and hopefully it can be the first of many.

“I just think it is another thing he can take confidence from. I genuinely believe he can have a major impact at this level. I think he has with his general performances recently but of course you need that feeling that only scoring can give you.

“It’s a unique feeling and I’m so pleased he’s got that today and that he’s won an important two points for us. You can underestimate the importance of this game and that goal how important it is.”

Published in Sports

The case of a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Jumoke Akinjide, has been transferred to the Federal High Court in Lagos.

It has been re-assigned to Justice Muslim Hassan.

Akinjide was charged along with former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, who is said to be at large.

Others named in the charge are Senator Ayo Adeseun and a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stalwart Chief Olarenwaju Otiti.

They were accused of conspiring to directly take possession of N650million, which they reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act.

They were arraigned last June before Justice Joyce Abdulmalik in Ibadan.

It was learnt that the Acting Chief Judge, Justice Adamu Kafarati, moved the case to Lagos at Akinjide’s instance.

The former minister was granted bail on self-recognition when she was arraigned in Ibadan. She was also asked to submit her international passport.

Prosecuting counsel Mr Rotimi Oyedepo confirmed to our correspondent yesterday that the former minister would be tried in Lagos.

“Yes, we have been served with a Hearing Notice by the Federal High Court, Lagos Division, that the case is coming up before Justice Hassan next week,” he said.

The defendants allegedly received the money from Mrs Alison-Madueke in the build- up to the 2015 general election.

It was said to be part of the $115 million allegedly disbursed by Mrs. Alison-Madueke to influence the outcome of the 2015 presidential election.

One of the charges reads: “That you, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke (still at large), Oloye Jumoke Akinjide, Senator Ayo Ademola Adeseun and Chief Olarenwaju Otiti on or about the 26th day of March, 2015, in Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired amongst yourselves to directly take possession of the N650 million which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act.

“That you, Oloye Jumoke Akinjide, Senator Ayo Ademola Adeseun and Chief Olanrewaju Otiti on or about the 26th day of March, 2015 in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did conspire amongst yourselves to commit an offence, to wit: making cash payment of the sum of N650 million which sum exceeded the amount authorized by Law without going through financial institution and you thereby committed an offence.”

The defendants pleaded not guilty.

It was learnt that Akinjide held plea bargain talks with the EFCC. The case may come up before Justice Hassan on Tuesday.

Published in Headliners
A Houston-based couple was ordered at the weekend to pay more than $121,000 in restitution to a Nigerian nanny who worked in their home.

The couple had pleaded guilty to federal charges related to forcing the woman to work nearly 20 hours a day, taking care of their home and five children without pay for two years, authorities said.

Besides, Chudy Nsobundu, 57, and his wife Sandra, 49, were sentenced to seven months in jail and seven months of home confinement, plus three years probation.

The couple, who are Nigerian-born, naturalized U.S. citizens, recruited the woman by promising her a $100 monthly wage. Instead, they abused her physically and verbally while she worked at their home in the Houston suburb of Katy from September 2013 to October 2015, authorities said.

Chudy Nsobundu pleaded guilty to visa fraud in 2016 while his wife pleaded guilty to unlawful conduct with respect to documents in furtherance of forced labour.

According to court documents, the nanny worked every day from 5:30 a.m. to 1 a.m., with no breaks, and no fresh food, and at times was allowed to drink only the milk left in the children’s cereal bowls.

The Nsobundus prevented the nanny from leaving their employment by withholding her passport and by threatening her with physical and mental abuse, authorities said.

The nanny reached out for help and was rescued following a tip to the National Human Trafficking Resource Centre.

Prosecutors also say the couple knowingly submitted false application to the U.S. State Department for the woman’s visa application.

Published in Headliners
Tuesday, 02 January 2018 01:56

Mbaka faults Buhari’s anti-graft battle

Fiery Catholic priest, Rev. Ejike Mbaka, has condemned President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption fight, warning that the President should change “those cabal holding him in captivity otherwise he would be changed”.

Mbaka spoke in his New Year message during the cross over mass at his Emene Enugu Adoration Ground.

The priest lamented that the good intentions of the president have been hijacked by the cabal he surrounded himself with. He urged President Buhari to wake up and live up to his billings as Nigerians have suffered a lot in the past year.

His message reads: “I had wanted to pray for you and go because I don’t want anybody to attack me; I don’t want the Bishop to invite me; I don’t want politicians to attack me anywhere. But God forced me to say it.

“Listen to me, 2017 became one of the most horrible years in this country and that is the message. The Lord says, Nigerians, he says, captive Nigerians, you will be speedily rescued; Nigerians, things are very difficult, hard and tough nowadays; the hardship is not from God, they are man-made; the wicked cabals and satanic agents in this country have wickedly kidnapped the goodwill and good intentions of President Muhammadu Buhari; his good intentions have been kidnapped; President Buhari must wake up and sit up immediately or…heaven demands him, heaven demands Buhari, our President to change all those who are holding and caging him in captivity; if he will not change them, he will be changed.

“Mr. President wake up; sit up; God said you are toying with the privilege given to you; there is no time; Nigerians are dying in your hand; people are not happy with your system. Change or you will be changed; God said that Buhari is in trouble; Buhari is hypnotised; Buhari is in a horrible bondage; Buhari’s mantra has been canibalised.

“Unless President Buhari quickly and strategically positions the right people and changes the ones he inaugurated, the wind of change that he himself inaugurated will blow him away shamefully. The wind will be too strong that Mr. President and the cabal will be blown out of office shamefully. The wind will be irresistible for it will come like a hurricane. Buhari can handle this problem but number one, his office, if he is not careful, another will take.

“Number 2, if he is doesn’t want to move Nigeria forward, God says He himself will plan a strategy of moving Nigeria forward. His pattern of embattling corruption is not just archaic and barbaric, but is witch-hunting, terribly selective. Mr. Buhari, why should you and EFCC be selective in arrests and prosecution, such that your party becomes a hideout for criminals?

“Change or you will be changed; after all you it was you who introduced change as your mantra.”

Published in Business and Economy
Sunday, 31 December 2017 18:40

By Hope Eghagha: A clown in government house

When the situation in any home, clan or country becomes extremely precarious or serious or tragic, we need men and women who have the innate or acquired capacity to make us laugh. Sometimes we laugh at ourselves or the situation or the object of scorn. In drama it is called ‘comic relief’. The atmosphere in our dear country right now is grave, very grave and uncertain. Loss of jobs, vanishing millions of naira and dollars, horrible pictures of slavery from Libya, carpet crossings, total number of voters exceeding the registered voters, eating of one’s words without shame, sudden deaths, suicides by jumping into the lagoon from the Third Mainland Bridge, ritual killings, fatal motor accidents, kidnappings, the cults boys significantly named Badoo of Ikorodu, and armed robberies all combine to create an atmosphere of sorrow in the land. It is a situation which Fela Anikulapo-Kuti once described as ‘Suffering and Smiling.’

People walk along the streets and mutter to themselves. Some hold conversations with imaginary friends. In the midst of these, we need to laugh and laugh real hard. Laughter is good medicine. It is cheap to get; cheap to give. It makes us happy and removes stress from our lives. Sometimes the cause for laughter comes from a man or woman who occupies a serious position in life. You see, when a clown occupies a serious position, his actions could provoke laughter, sometimes at the expense of real progress. I have always loved Mr. Bean just the way we used to look forward to watching Charles Spenser in Some Mothers Do Have Them. Donald trump makes us laugh in the tradition of Dino Melaye, Barkin Zuwo, Sam Mbakwe, Robert Mugabe, Idi Amin Dada and the inimitable President George Bush of Bushisms Memory! In the pantheon of past leaders therefore, both local and international, we have so many distinguished clowns of different calibers.

Somewhere in the heartland of Igbo country, south east Nigeria, there is an officially tragic clown of great proportions whose actions and inactions have generated ripples of intense scorn and laughter across the country. Some of his antics have also been felt in post-apartheid South Africa where compatriots of that once-beautiful country have handed over their President to Clown IMO for safe keeping. This elected clown occupies Government House Owerri and claims to be a representative of the hopes and aspirations of the suffering people of the state. Indeed, with him in Government House, standup comedians have been out of job. But the tragedy is that he was not elected to entertain the people with filthily nauseous jokes conceived and executed with state funds. How and why did the people of that state deserve such a monstrous figure in Government House?

The ribald and the profane all come together in the arsenal of Clown IMO. First was his decision to build the statue of President Jacob Zuma in the state capital. This was at a time when President Zuma was insanely unpopular among his people. When he invited Zuma to visit, critics who were willing to give credit to vestige elements of sanity in Clown IMO thought he wanted to strike a deal with the President. As we know, there are thousands of Igbo business men (legal and illegal) doing things in South Africa. Quite a number had been caught in the past doing drugs or Yahoo Yahoo. Some innocent Igbo men and women have been victims of xenophobia. Some lost their lives in waves of vicious attacks in the last one year. A roundtable in Imo State with the visiting President would have meant helping to secure the lives of the innocent business men of Igbo extraction in Johannesburg or Cape Town. But alas what transpired was a gaudy display of small-mindedness through statues in open scorn of the hunger that ravages the state.

While we were reeling from the smell of the infamy that was the erected statue, then came an announcement that Clown IMO had appointed his sister as Commissioner for Happiness and Couples Fulfillment! Is this real? And this man wants to be President of Nigeria! Now I imagine that the clowning from Number One is not enough for the family. He has to appoint his sibling to be part of the merry party. Does the State have a House of Assembly who stands for the people? What are they doing? A man who has not paid salaries to workers for months uses state funds to build statues and appoints Commissioners whom he does not need. There is silence in the state. Is there a spell of voodoo that has dazed the people into stupor? For added measure he has nominated and gotten the House of Assembly to back his son-in-law as the next Governor of the State! Donald Trump has set the bar! 

I think back to the Second Republic and remember the Governor who was a jester par excellence. When found with a humongous amount of cash, he answered that the money was ‘Government money and it was found inside Government House. Chikena! When asked if his state had any mineral resources to help develop the finances of the state, he was reported to have acknowledged the abundance of Coke and Fanta in many shops in the towns and cities. To the question of running mate in the election, he answered that his opponent had been chasing him all over the place! ‘Don’t mind that boy Abubakar Rimi. He has been running after me since this election started.’ There was a military administrator who used to mix Yoruba and English: Who build this ‘gada, for example?

There was yet another Governor who loved crying. He was called the ‘Weeping Sam’. His face wore the expression of permanent sorrow, adding to the fun of watching him cry. But he was serious-minded. I also remember a politician who used to hit the campaign floor with such meaningless expressions as ‘When the come comes to become the come then the come will become the come’, or ‘we in NPN are men of timber and caterpillar, iroko and obeche’ or there is ‘accord concordia between our party and NPP’. But the clowning of the politicians of the Second Republic is nothing compared to Clown Imo’s.

Governance is serious business. Even when we clown in Government House the core responsibility of government must remain in focus. The future and lives of millions of youths are at stake in whatever government says or does. It is therefore not funny that somebody is making a joke out of governance. To complete the joke, Clown Imo has appointed his younger sister Commissioner for Happiness and Couples’ Fulfillment. In defending the appointment, Clown Imo referenced UAE where a Minister of Happiness was appointed. I do not know the background to such an appointment. Suffice it to say that the UAE is sufficiently endowed with resources to make her people happy.

There are enough facilities to make the people happy, even if out of the conservative culture of the Arab country they become reticent about deploying western tools to create happiness. Happiness Ministry is certainly not one of the needs of Imo State. Job creation, guaranteed security, employment opportunities, investment opportunities, regular payment of salaries and creating an atmosphere where business will thrive should occupy the mind of anybody who sits inside the sweet comfort of Government House Owerri as governor!

 
Published in Parliament

Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka on Saturday said there is something rotten in the state of ‘Naija’ (Nigeria) following persistent fuel crisis and the blame passing of those in authorities who are supposed to remedy the situation.

Soyinka, in a statement lamented that Nigerians were being frustrated and made to undergo excruciating pains and sufferings due to ongoing fuel crisis in the land.

The Nobel laureate said even before the current edition of the fuel crisis, other challenges, requiring immediate fix, had begun to monopolize national attention, relegating to the sidelines the outcry for a fundamental and holistic approach to the wearisome cycle of citizen trauma.

“This has been expressed most recently, and near universally in the word “Restructuring”, defined straightforwardly as a drastic overhaul of Nigerian articles of co-existence in a more rational, equitable and decentralized manner. Such an overhaul, the re-positioning of the relationship between the parts and the whole offers, it has been strongly argued, prospects of a closer governance awareness of, and responsiveness to citizen entitlement. An overhaul that will near totally eliminate the frequent spasms of systemic malfunctioning that are in-built into the present protocols of national association.

“I recently ran the gauntlet of petroleum queues through three conveniently situated cities – Lagos, Abeokuta and Ibadan – deliberately, this Friday. Even with ‘unorthodox’ aids of passage, this was no task for the faint-hearted. Just getting past fueling stations was traumatizing, an obstacle race through seething, frustrated masses of humanity, only to find ourselves on vast stretches of emptied roads pleading for occupation. As for obtaining the petroleum in the first place – the less said the better. I suspect that this government has permitted itself to be fooled by the peace of those empty streets, but also by the orderly, patient, long-suffering queues that are admittedly prevalent in the city centres.

“It is time the reporting monitors of government move to city peripheries and sometimes even some other inner urban sectors, such as Ikeja and Maryland from time to time to see, and listen !Pronouncements – such as the 1977 above – again re-echoing by rote in 2017– are a delusion at best, a formula that derides public intelligence. Buying time. Passing blame. Yes of course, the current affliction must be remedied, and fast, but is there a dimension to it that must be brought to the fore, simultaneously and forcefully? This had better be the framework for solving even a shortage that virtually paralyzed the nation,” he said.

Read Soyinka’s full statement below:

BLAME PASSING – The New Year Gift to a Nation

In the accustomed tradition, I wish the nation less misery in the coming year. A genuine Happy New Year Greeting is probably too extravagant a wish.

The accompanying news clipping from June,1977 came into my hands quite fortuitously. It is forty years old. It captures the unenviable enigma that is the Nigerian nation. It is however a masterful end-of-year image to take into the coming year, not only for the individual now at the helm of government, General Buhari, but for a people surely credited with the most astounding degree of patience and forbearance on the African continent – except of course among themselves, when they turn into predatory fiends. When many of us are blissfully departed, an updated rendition of this same clipping – with a change of cast here and there – will undoubtedly be reproduced in the media, with the same alibis, the same in-built panacea of blame passing.

Let this be called to our collective memory. Even before the current edition of the fuel crisis, other challenges, requiring immediate fix, had begun to monopolize national attention, relegating to the sidelines the outcry for a fundamental and holistic approach to the wearisome cycle of citizen trauma. This has been expressed most recently, and near universally in the word “Restructuring”, defined straightforwardly as a drastic overhaul of Nigerian articles of co-existence in a more rational, equitable and decentralized manner. Such an overhaul, the re-positioning of the relationship between the parts and the whole offers, it has been strongly argued, prospects of a closer governance awareness of, and responsiveness to citizen entitlement. An overhaul that will near totally eliminate the frequent spasms of systemic malfunctioning that are in-built into the present protocols of national association.

I recently ran the gauntlet of petroleum queues through three conveniently situated cities – Lagos, Abeokuta and Ibadan – deliberately, this Friday. Even with ‘unorthodox’ aids of passage, this was no task for the faint-hearted. Just getting past fueling stations was traumatizing, an obstacle race through seething, frustrated masses of humanity, only to find ourselves on vast stretches of emptied roads pleading for occupation. As for obtaining the petroleum in the first place – the less said the better. I suspect that this government has permitted itself to be fooled by the peace of those empty streets, but also by the orderly, patient, long-suffering queues that are admittedly prevalent in the city centres. It is time the reporting monitors of government move to city peripheries and sometimes even some other inner urban sectors, such as Ikeja and Maryland from time to time to see, and listen !Pronouncements – such as the 1977 above – again re-echoing by rote in 2017– are a delusion at best, a formula that derides public intelligence. Buying time. Passing blame. Yes of course, the current affliction must be remedied, and fast, but is there a dimension to it that must be brought to the fore, simultaneously and forcefully? This had better be the framework for solving even a shortage that virtually paralyzed the nation.

Just to think laterally for a moment – what became of the initiatives by some states  nearly two decades ago – Lagos most prominently – to decentralize power, and thus empower states to generate and distribute their own energy requirements? Frustrated and eventually sabotaged in the most cynical manner from the Federal centre! The similarity today is frightening – for nearly four days on that earlier occasion, the nation was blacked out near entirely. We know that one survival tactic of governments is to keep their citizens in the dark over decisions that affect their lives but, this was literal! And yet each such crisis, plus lesser ones, merely reiterate again and again that this national contraption, as it now stands, is simply– dysfunctional!. What this demands is that, in the process of alleviating the immediate pressing misery, we do not permit ourselves to be manipulated yet again into forgetting the MAIN issue whose ramifications exact penalties such as petroleum seizures and national power outage. These are only two handy, being recent symptoms – there are several others, but this is not intended to be a catalogue of woes. Sufficient to draw attention to the Yoruba saying that goes: Won ni, Amukun, eru e wo. Oun ni, at’isale ni. Translation: Some voices alerted the K-Legged porter to the dangerous tilt of the load on his head. His response was – Thank you, but the problem actually resides in the legs.

The providential image above sums up a defining moment for both individual and collective self-assessment, places in question the ability of a nation to profit from past experience. Vast resources, yes, but proved unmanageable under its present structural arrangements. As the tussle for the next round of power gets hotter in the coming year, the electorate will again be manipulated into losing sight of the BASE ISSUE. Its noisome claque in the meantime, the automated mumus of social media, practiced in sterile deflection and trivialization of critical issues, unwittingly join hands with government to indulge in blame passing and name calling – both sides with different targets. From the anguished cry of Charley Boy’s Our Mummu Done Do! to expositions from academics such as Professor Makinde’s recent intervention, the public is subjected daily to a relentless barrage of awareness, underlined in urgency. Nobody listens. One wonders if many people read. And certainly, very few retain or relate – until of course the next crisis. The Labour movement declares that it awaits a guarantee of the ‘people’s backing’ before it embarks on any critical intervention. Understandably. There is more than enough of the opium of blame passing on tap to lull mummus into that deep coma from which – give it a little more time – there can only be a rude awakening.

Sooner than later, but not as soon as pledged, the fuel crisis will pass. And then of course we shall await the next round of shortages, then a recommencement of blame passing.  What will be the commodity this time – food perhaps? Maybe even potable water? In a nation of plenty, nothing is beyond eventual shortage – except of course, the commonplace endowment of pre-emptive planning and methodical execution. Forty years after, the same language of re-assurance? “There is something rotten in the state of Naija!”

-Wole SOYINKA

Published in Headliners

President Muhammadu Buhari in one fell swoop on Friday appointed 209 board chairmen and 1,258 members of government owned agencies and parastatals, redeeming a part of the pledge he made 31 October at the National Executive Committee meeting of his All Progressives Congress.

More appointments are on the way, said Mr. Boss Mustapha, secretary to the Government of the Federation, who announced the latest massive batch of appointees.

At the APC NEC meeting, President Buhari also hinted he would expand his cabinet by appointing more ministers.

The latest appointments, the largest President Buhari ever made since 2015.

Many big wigs of the APC were appointed.

The party’s legal adviser, Muiz Banire is now the chairman of the Asset Management Company of Nigeria(AMCON). Senator Olorunimbe Mamora is the chairman of Abuja Investment and Infrastructure Centre.

The party’s secretary, Mai Mala Buni, is the chairman of the Shippers Council. Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, the publicity secretary of the party is in charge of the National Sugar Development Council(NSDC).

Demola Seriki, a former minister of state for defence is the chairman of the National Maritime Academy of Nigeria in Oron. Former Speaker House of Representatives, Patricia Olubunmi Etteh is the new chairman of the National Hospital, Abuja. A former deputy speaker, Chibudom Nwuche is in charge of Federal Medical Centre Lokoja.

Dr. Leke Pitan, a former commissioner for health in Lagos, under Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was appointed chairman of National Agricultural Extension Research Liaison Services in Zaria. Teju Philips, also a former Lagos commissioner is the chairman of Federal College of Agriculture, Ibadan. Pastor Yomi Kasali will head the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission.

Chief George Moghalu is the chairman of the Nigerian Communications Satellite(NIGCOMSAT). General John Shagaya is the chairman of National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru Jos.

Former governors of Ekiti state, Otunba Niyi Adebayo and Engineer Segun Oni were also named as chairmen. Adebayo is in charge of Federal Airports of Nigeria(FAAN). Oni who is a vice-chairman of the APC has been posted to Nigerian Export Processing Zone. while Senator Ayo Arise, a recent kidnap victim will chair Sheda Science and technology Complex.

Former deputy governor of Plateau state, Pauline Tallen is the new chairman of National Agency for the Control of HIV/AIDS(NACA).

Former deputy governor of Ondo state, Alhaji Ali Olanusi, will chair the Benin-Owena River Basin Development Authority, while a former deputy governor of Lagos, Femi Pedro is the chairman of Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria.

Timi Alaibe, former Managing director of the Niger Delta Development Commission, is heading to Oil and Gas Free Zone Authority as chairman.

According to Boss Mustapha, all the appointments take immediate effect.

The ministers under whom the agencies fall, have been asked to constitute the boards immediately.

Said Mustapha: ” Mr. President considered the approval for the constitution of the Boards as well as the appointments, very necessary, so as to provide a proper Governance and oversight structure for Government Agencies and Parastatals.

“The constitution of the boards with the appointments, is a demonstration of this Government’s efforts aimed at building strong institutions of Governance, and by extension, improving the quality of Policy formulation and supervision”, he added.

See the full list: Board-Chairmen-and-members

Published in Business and Economy
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