Sunday, 21 January 2018
Items filtered by date: October 2017
Tension is mounting at the Millar Waterside area of Warri, Delta State, as boat operators yesterday protested against the killing of a fellow boat operator named Akpobolokaemi Duke, a native of Enekorogha Community in Burutu local council, by Marine Police personnel on October 1.

It was gathered that the deceased was coming to Warri to ferry passengers back to the riverine communities when he was allegedly shot by the Marine Police team.

According to reports, he was shot for earlier refusing to pay a bribe demanded by the police team patrolling the Warri River. It was learnt that as soon as he was sighted from afar the policemen gave him a hot pursuit with sporadic gunshots, which led to the death of the deceased.

When contacted yesterday, the Delta State police command said it was investigating the incident and would make a pronouncement after a thorough investigation.

Meanwhile, human rights lawyer and national coordinator of the Foundation for Human Rights and Anti-Corruption Crusade (FHRACC), Alaowei Cleric, said the unprovoked murder of the boat operator because he refused to pay a bribe should not go unpunished and urged the Commissioner of Police to bring the policemen involved in the killing to book.

He said: “The unprovoked killing of a law-abiding citizen by the police is unlawful and such act must not go unpunished. The perpetrators of this brutal murder of Akpobolokaemi Duke must be brought to book. We are calling on the Commissioner of Police to immediately investigate the incident and punish the culprits appropriately.

“Let the Police build public confidence by checkmating incidences of extra-judicial killings. Now that the Inspector-General of Police has ordered the dismantling of roadblocks on the roads, we appeal to the police hierarchy to also order immediate withdrawal of the police patrol teams from the creeks since they are becoming a tool of extortion.

“The police have not told us on their side of the story as our team of investigators were not allowed to interrogate them at the Marine Police division. However, in our independent investigation, we discovered that the Marine Police actually has a squad in the river, which specialises in extorting money from transport boats along Warri river. Mr. Akpobolokaemi was one their victims of unlawful extortion in the river. We do not know why they chose to murder him in cold blood.”

Published in News & Stories
Wednesday, 04 October 2017 03:10

Ogunbodede bags 40 years in jail for corruption

Justice Nathaniel Ayo-Emmanuel of the Federal High Court, Ibadan, on Tuesday sentenced Prof. Benjamin Ogbunbodede, a former Director of the Institute of Agricultural Research and Training (IAR&T), Ibadan, to 40 years imprisonment for corruptly enriching himself to the tune of N177 million.

Zacheus Tejumola, a former Chief Accountant of the institute, was also sentenced to 40 years imprisonment while Clement Adenose, another staff, bagged four years in jail.

In a judgment which lasted over two hours, Ayo-Emmanuel said that he convicted the trio based on the overwhelming evidence against them.

The judge, however, said that he had no reason to convict them on count 13 due to want of evidence.

“There is no ambiguity in the facts tendered by the prosecution that the three convicts conspired, converted and stole the hazard allowance of N177 million belonging to the staff of IAR&T.

“Ogunbodede and Tejumola are therefore, sentenced to 40 years imprisonment each for their roles for counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15 and 16.

“Adenose is sentenced to four years in prison. The sentences will, however, run concurrently,” Ayo-Emmanuel stated.

Earlier, Mr Tunde Olupona, the counsel to Ogunbodede, had pleaded with the court to temper justice with mercy in sentencing his client.

He argued that his client lacked administrative experience in running such a sensitive position.

Similarly, Mr I.A Salawu and Mrs Yetunde Adegboye, counsel to Tejumola and Adenose, pleaded with the court to show mercy to their clients, citing various portions of the constitution.

However, Mr Nkwuruka Amana, the counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, urged the court to sentence the convicts in accordance with the stipulation of the law.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that Ogunbodede, Tejumola and Adenose along with 10 others had since 2014 been standing trial over a 16-count charge bordering on conspiracy, unlawful conversion and stealing of N177 million hazard allowance belonging to the staff of the institute.

Ten of the defendants had earlier pleaded guilty and opted for plea bargain arrangement.

Nine out of the 10 previously convicted were different companies which Ogunbodede, Tejumola and Adenose indirectly used to siphon the N177 million.

Olupona, who spoke after the judgment, told NAN that he and his other colleagues were still studying the judgment and would in due course take appropriate decision on whether to appeal or not.

Published in News & Stories

The trial of a former governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu, who was accused of N2.9bn fraud, was stalled on Tuesday due to the absence of the prosecuting counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN).

Kalu is being prosecuted before the Federal High Court in Lagos.

He is facing 34 charges alongside Udeh Udeogu and Slok Nigeria Limited before Justice Mohammed Idris.

The case was meant to continue on Tuesday but Jacobs did not appear.

The defence counsel informed the judge that the prosecutor had already written to them, stating that he would not be in court.

Justice Idris, however, noted that Jacobs did not send any such letter to the court.

The judge expressed his displeasure at the development, noting that trials in criminal cases were meant to be day-to-day by virtue of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.

The matter was, consequently, adjourned till November 8, 2015.

The EFCC, in the charges, alleged that while he was governor of Abia State, Kalu siphoned funds running into over N2.9bn from the state’s treasury.

The ex-governor was accused of diverting state funds into the account of Slok Nigeria Limited, a company, the EFCC claimed was owned by Kalu and his family members.

Kalu was said to have allegedly diverted the funds in tranches of N200m, N50m, N200m, N300.8m, N545m, N429m, N288.4m, N190m, N157m, N152.8m, N100m, N84m and N50m between August 13, 2003 and January 12, 2005.

Published in News & Stories

The inauguration delay drama of a member of the House of Representatives, Mrs. Dorothy Mato, ended on Tuesday, as the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, finally administered oath on her.

Mato, a member of the All Progressives Congress, was pronounced as the replacement for a former Chairman, House Committee on Federal Capital Territory, Mr. Herman Hembe, by the Supreme Court.

The apex court had sacked Hembe on June 23 in a judgement in which it declared Mato as the validly-elected member to represent Vandeikiya/Konshisha Federal Constituency of Benue State.

The court had also ordered Hembe to return all the salaries he was paid since 2015 to the National Assembly.

However, for over three months, Dogara did not inaugurate the lawmaker as the House made one excuse or the other to delay the exercise.

House spokesman, Mr. Abdulrazak Namdas, blamed the delay on “documentation,” while at another instance, Mato was accused of not “presenting herself” for the inauguration.

The drama took an added turn on September 20, when the apex court again affirmed the sacking of Hembe in another ruling.

The former lawmaker had gone back to the court to seek a review of the sacking, particularly the directive to return the  salaries that he received since 2015.

But, the court again ruled that he had been sacked and must return the salaries.

Findings by The PUNCH showed that following the September 20 development, Dogara came under pressure to inaugurate the member to avoid a planned protest by pro-Mato elements to the National Assembly.

Hembe is considered among members to be close to the leadership of the House, having worked for its emergence on June 9, 2015.

At Tuesday’s inauguration, there was still an interesting drama on the floor.

As soon as Dogara settled down on his chair for the day’s proceedings to start, he asked for Mato and found out that she was not in the chambers.

“Where is the woman? If she is not ready, we will do it tomorrow”, the speaker said impatiently.

But, Mato, who was still outside the chambers at the time, had not been directed by officials on how she would get into the chambers.

She eventually entered the chambers and was inaugurated by Dogara.

A few members clapped for her as she took the oath and was shown to her seat. Dogara shook hands with her, smiling a little before quickly calling out the next item on the Order Paper for proceedings.

Mato hurried off after the session, declining to make any post-inauguration comments.

Published in News & Stories

A suspected Boko Haram insurgent, Bashir Mohammed, who was arrested last weekend in Isua-Akoko in Akoko South West Local Government Area of Ondo State, has confessed to killing two persons since he joined the group two years ago.

Mohammed, who was arrested by anti-riot policemen, said his friends in Nasarawa State introduced the group to him.

The 20-year-old was arrested while looking for a cafeteria with his colleagues in preparation for an operation. He has been handed over to the Army.

Mohammed said he relocated from Nasarawa to Ondo State with his younger brother, who is also a member of the group, after some successful operations.

He added that his colleagues were in Nasarawa and some northern states, but some of them relocated to the Southwest, including Ondo State.

Commissioner of Police Gbenga Adeyanju, who paraded the suspect, said the Army would take over the matter. He will be prosecuted, he said.

Adeyanju said the commitment of the police command led to the arrest of the two suspected Boko Haram members held in the state in the last one week.

Adeyanju urged the public to inform the police of any strange movements in their areas, adding that the police cannot do it alone.

Published in News & Stories
Wednesday, 04 October 2017 02:57

Diezani pleads to face trial in Nigeria

Former Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke yesterday urged the Federal High Court in Lagos to order the Federal Government to facilitate her return to Nigeria to face trial.

She asked for an opportunity to defend allegations against her in a charge filed against a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Dele Belgore and former National Planning Minister Abubakar Suleiman.

The prosecution said Mrs. Alison-Madueke allegedly shared $115,010,000 (about N35billion) to individuals in the 36 states ahead of the 2015 general elections.

Belgore and Suleiman allegedly received N450million.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) accused them of conspiring to directly take possession of the N450million.

Mrs. Alison-Madueke was not listed as a defendant in the case. She is described as being “at large” in the charge.

Her lawyer Obinna Oniya told Justice Rilwan Aikawa yesterday about a pending application seeking to join the former minister as a defendant.

He said she was accused in counts one to four of giving money to Belgore and Suleiman, an allegation she would like to defend.

The lawyer said contrary to EFCC’s claim that Mrs. Alison-Madueke was at large, the former minister was in the United Kingdom and was willing to return to defend the allegations.

He said it would be against her right to fair hearing for the case to proceed without affording her the opportunity to defend herself.

“The statement made by the prosecution means that the applicant is going to be convicted without being given the opportunity to defend herself,” Oniya said.

The former minister is praying for an order mandating her to appear in court on the next adjourned date to plead to the charge, especially counts one, two, three and four “being a condition precedent for the court to exercise jurisdiction over the counts”.

She also asked for an order “mandating the Attorney-General of the Federation, being the agent of the complainant (Federal Republic of Nigeria), to facilitate the prompt appearance of the applicant in court on the next adjourned date, to take her plea and to defend the allegations made against her in counts 1, 2,3 and 4 of the charge.”

The application is on the grounds that trial had commenced and “is proceeding with considerable haste”, that she was accused of money laundering, that she was not served any notice of arraignment, and that she was not “at large”.

The lawyer said she “is willing to appear in court to defend herself” and that it was unfair to be left out of the list of defendants.

“It will be in the interest of justice to facilitate the appearance of the applicant in court in order to enable her defend herself.

“The applicant’s constitutional right to fair hearing is being infringed upon as the trial is proceeding in her absence in spite of the fact that allegations of astronomical proportion were made against her,”  the grounds of the application read.

Oniya urged Justice Aikawa to hear and determine the application before going on with yesterday’s proceedings.

But, EFCC’s lawyer Rotimi Oyedepo opposed the application, saying it was not ripe for hearing.

“He (Oniya) should not even be heard. The application should not arrest the proceedings,” he said.

Oniya said he had attempted to serve Oyedepo with the processes in court yesterday, but that the prosecutor declined to accept the papers.

He said he also could not serve EFCC with the application on Friday as he was told that he came to their office late.

Oyedepo said he should go back to EFCC, and that it would be accepted.

Justice Aikawa said the court could not entertain the application until all the parties had been properly served.

He directed Oniya to serve EFCC and to write the court afterwards for a hearing date.

The trial continues today.

Another judge of the court, Justice Abdulazeez Anka, yesterday adjourned the hearing of an application for the final forfeiture of 58 houses allegedly belonging Alison-Madueke to October 11.

She allegedly bought the houses between 2011 and 2013 for $21,982,224 million (about N3.3bllion).

The case, which was before a vacation judge who ordered the interim forfeiture of the properties, has been permanently reassigned to Justice Anka.

It was fixed for hearing yesterday, but the respondents were absent.

Justice Anka directed that the hearing notice be issued to them.

EFCC said Mrs. Alison-Madueke paid $16,441,906 (N2.6billion) cash in several tranches and $5,540318 (N840,000,000) cash for the properties through four firms which held the titles in trust for her.

The properties include 29 terrace houses comprising eight four-bedroom penthouse apartments, six three-bedroom apartments, two three-bedroom maisonettes, two twin bedroom apartments and one four-bedroom apartment.

Published in News & Stories

An Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) investigation officer, Tosin Owobo, on Tuesday testified that three former Nigeria Air Force chiefs allegedly diverted N21 billion to their personal accounts from NAF.

He said they diverted the sum through several companies which they registered personally.

He said none of the companies had any transaction or contract with NAF.

Owobo was testifying in the trial of a former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosu (retd), former NAF Chief of Accounts and Budgeting, Air Vice Marshal Jacob Adigun and a former Director of Finance and Budget, Air Commodore Olugbenga Gbadebo. 

They were arraigned before Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court in Lagos.

EFCC accused them of converting N21billion from NAF through various companies, namely Delfina Oil and Gas Limited, Mcallan Oil and Gas Limited, Hebron Housing and Properties Company Limited, Trapezites BDC, Fonds and Pricey Limited, Deegee Oil and Gas Limited, Timsegg Investment Limited and Solomon Health Care Limited.

Led in evidence by prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, Owobo said N5.9billion was transferred from NAF accounts to Delfina Oil and Gas Limited.

He said after the money was converted to dollars, it was handed over to Gbadebo, who took it to Adigun, who in turn took it to Amosu.

He said Mcallan Oil and Gas Limited received N6.1billion from NAF, while Trapezites BDC Limited received N3.6billion.

Owobo said Deegee Oil and Gas Limited received N800million from NAF accounts, while Timsegg also got the same amount.

Published in Business and Economy
Wednesday, 04 October 2017 00:12

By RaY EKPU: Does Buhari have it?

When the Union flag was lowered and the Nigerian flag raised 57 years ago there was a sense of euphoria. Many former colonies had to fight a war of independence in which many lives were lost but we were spared that trauma. So it would be fair to say that Nigeria got its independence on a platter of gold. But that gift was thrown away six years later. The war we didn’t have before independence we had it after: the Biafran war.

That war which lasted for 30 months and cost one million lives still haunts us today like an unscrutable mystery. At the end of that war General Yakubu Gowon had on Biafra’s surrender announced that there was “no victor and no vanquished.” He also established a three-pronged programme of reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction, as a way of bringing the war weary Easterners from the cold into the comfort of the Nigerian family again. The rebel leader, Emeka Odumgwu-Ojukwu, who had fled to the Ivory Coast remained in exile for 12 years. When President Shehu Shagari pardoned him he was allowed to return to the country without any pre-conditions. That gesture represented the final nail in the coffin of secession.

The Igbos who were the major victims of the war or of its cause in the first place have never felt convinced that they have been fully reabsorbed and their rights as full-fledged citizens of Nigeria fully restored. This argument has gone on for years and many Nigerians on the opposite side of the war are convinced that the Igbos having fought and lost a war could not expect to be treated as if they had won the war. War is a serious business that often comes with serious and dangerous consequences. In the political arena, the Igbos have produced a vice president, several Senate presidents, a Central Bank governor and a number of ministers that took charge of important portfolios. In the security sector, two Igbos had become the Inspector General of Police, while another Igbo man had occupied the strategic position of Chief of Army Staff. But many Igbos have argued that they have been denied the top trophy: the Presidency.

The Presidency is the top job in the land and many people from various parts of the country covet it. No one is likely to wrap it like a parcel with a ribbon around it and donate it to the Igbos. If they want it they must work for it by networking with other groups and doing the necessary horse-trading. However, I believe that their flirtation with secession through MASSOB and IPOB is clearly the wrong way to go. If the thesis is that an attempt, even a half hearted attempt, at secession will induce the political decision makers to donate the presidency to the Igbos it is a fraudulent thesis. In fact, on the contrary the agitation for secession will rather damage almost irreparably the case for an Igbo presidency. My advice to the Igbos is for them to begin to mend fences now instead of allowing Nnamdi Kanu and his gang to put a fly in the Igbo ointment.

The two major parties, APC and PDP have allocated the presidency to the North. If the Igbos choose to contest for the presidency in the PDP they will have to wait until 2027. But if they want to run in the APC they have to pray that President Muhammadu Buhari runs again in 2019 and successfully brings his second term to an end in 2023. If someone else from the North runs in 2019 he will go for two fresh terms which will terminate in 2027. But the Igbos can choose any of the minor parties as a platform but the chances for success on such party platforms are extremely slim. The starting point is to rein in Nnamdi Kanu and his gang and begin to build trust as they network with other political and ethnic groups in the country.

At present, Nigeria is in a state of confusion arising from agitations from different groups in the country. Old questions about the Nigerian condition have arisen and these questions are begging for new answers. The reason for the search for new answers is that the old answers have not been adequate in laying to rest the ghosts of these questions. Ours is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious community. In such a heterogeneous polity with several nationalities each with their own set of values and expectations, there will always be differences of opinion. The problem is often how to find many points of convergence and reduce the many areas of divergence so that all groups can find comfortable accommodation within the polity. As of now no group is certain that it has found its comfort zone. That is why we have several discordant tunes.

It is most unlikely that we can all agree all the time on all the issues that confront us and affect our lives. But we must understand where we all stand and where we all want to go. We must search for shared beliefs, shared expectations, shared goals and common grounds. We moved from centrifugalism instalmentally in the 60s into the extreme centripetalism that the military bestowed on us. This has brought a political gridlock that manifests itself in unpaid bills, new foreign and domestic debts, unsettled staff salaries and pension benefits, spiraling inflation, corruption, unemployment, crisis of rising expectations and high crime and many other dysfunctionalities. These have combined to put pressure on the country’s unity and sense of oneness. This has also made the search for a new direction urgent, very, very urgent.

A lot of things are wrong with our country and these are problems that have been with us for many years. A time like this offers us an opportunity for introspection. The World Bank says that about 67 per cent of Nigerians go to bed everyday on an empty stomach. That is a dangerous situation because a hungry person can become an angry person. Besides, there is a long unemployment and underemployment queue whose estimate is more than 25 per cent. That means that we all are sitting on a keg of gunpowder. The worst aspect of the problem is that the opportunities are shrinking further as factories close shop or trim their operations and show some of their staff the exit door. We have been told that the economy has made its exit out of recession but we need to stimulate it for optimal growth so that we can begin to experience some worthwhile improvements in no distant date.

Every year we go through the ritual of drawing up, presenting and defending the national budget. Most of the time these budgets are passed in the middle of the year. This means that there is often not much time for implementation before the year draws to a close. Then the ritual starts again without any information to the public on how much of the previous year’s budget was actually implemented. This year’s budget had experienced some hiccups which led to its late passage. Even when it was passed with all the padding that was done by the legislators no one was truly sure what was eventually approved by the executive. Isn’t there a way of reducing these uncertainties and the acrimony that reduce budgeting to the science of voodooism?

How can we make our governments work better so as to reduce the level of poverty, disease, ignorance, corruption, terrorism, cultism, infrastructural decay etc when the bulk of our budget, about 80 per cent, goes into recurrent expenditure? With only 20 per cent left for capital projects how much can we achieve to turn around a country with decaying infrastructural facilities? Pretty little. So it is clear that as a nation we are living above our means; we are piling up debts, foreign and domestic again, we are mortgaging our future and the future of our children. Our governments and parliaments are engaged in conspicuous consumption not minding the dire state of the economy and the poor state of its people. No one expected that at 57 Nigeria’s economy would be in the bind in which it is now considering our massive mineral and manpower resources. But it appears the presence of such solid and liquid mineral resources has unbelievably become a harbinger of doom, a disincentive to hardwork and creativity, a curse from which we have made very little effort to exit.

The little piece of good news is that there has been some encouraging happenings in the agricultural sector. If we do not take our eyes off the ball in that sector we may be self-sufficient in food production before 2019. That would be a good legacy for the Buhari administration and an indication that oil or no oil we can survive. And thrive.

Buhari is President at a momentous time in the annals of our country, a time during which the very existence of the country as a unit is being challenged once again. The nation expects him to be a great bridge-builder and unifier and one with a vision of a greater Nigeria. That vision demands that he rises above the din of ethnic and geographical irredentists and comes up with a life changing transformation agenda for Nigeria. That demands courage and the right dose of political will. The next two years will reveal whether he has them or not.

Published in Parliament

IT was simply impossible not to empathise with the Minister of Education, Mr Adamu Adamu’s sense of indignation during the celebration of the International Literacy Day. In a moment of agonising self-indictment, he admitted that the number of illiterates in the country had literally hit the roof under his watch, being “between 65 million and 75 million.” The minister revealed this when he paid a courtesy call on Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State at the state capital, Birnin Kebbi, during the two-day International Literacy Day Conference organised by the National Commission for Mass Education. Represented by the Director of Basic and Secondary Education in the Ministry of Education, Mr. Jonathan Mbaka, the minister said that with the estimated population of Nigeria at 170 million, the number of illiterates was too high. He said: “Education is the bedrock of any country’s development and any country that does not educate its populace is bound to fail. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, we have a large population of illiterates; the figure, considering our population, is unbecoming.”

This dismal figure represents just a tad below 45 per cent of the country’s estimated population and that is alarming, to put it mildly. What makes the situation worse is the staggering figure of out-of-school children in the country, as the states from the southern part of the country have also joined in producing the league of illiterates. Even at that, the rate of school dropouts is also very high. Confronted by existential problems, children who were once enrolled in schools have been leaving schools to fend for themselves even when public schools have been failing to impart qualitative education to those who attend them. In other words, it may be misleading to assume that children enrolled in schools are getting educated enough to become assets to the country. Many of them are hardly benefitting from the poor and crude infrastructure and personnel in these schools and the government appears to be oblivious of the damning reality.

The situation is really a quandary. Rescue is a far cry away because if school leavers at different levels are regularly left despondent, desultory and without any gainful employment, it will be difficult, not to say impossible, to persuade others that attending schools is actually a good option. It would seem that the fundamental question of the philosophy of education, that is, “education for what?”, should be addressed by governments at all levels, as the notion that education is merely to access white-collar jobs is not really helpful after all. Equally unhelpful has been the practice of rampant, automatic promotion in public primary and secondary schools which makes pupils to write public examinations which they are not prepared for.

Governments at all levels should be single-minded about mass literacy, as opposed to having certificates for the purposes of employment. It is vitally important even for those doing menial jobs to be literate. We think that massive public education and campaigns are necessary in this direction. Of course, there are agencies of government saddled with the task of achieving mass literacy and encouraging adult learning, and it has now become imperative to assess their activities and impact on the people. The fact that some people do not have certificates should not mean that they are unable to read the prescriptions on their drugs or cross the road at the prompting of traffic lights.

The National Commission for Mass Education must register its relevance in terms of performance. Making people literate should be clearly separated from formal education. The commission should be able to draw the line and come up with programmes that will be accessible to both the old and young populations. A situation in which about 45 per cent of the country’s population are virtually illiterate should bother the authorities. We think that the way to go is to encourage people to go to school, adults for adult literacy programmes and the youth populations for regular education. The government should also equip the nation’s schools and motivate the teachers to make learning a delightful experience.

Published in Parliament

By its very nature, a library is an indispensable resource of any institutions of learning. It is a collection of sources of information and similar resources, made accessible to a defined community for reference or borrowing. Before the (digital) big data age, a library consists of a building, room or virtual space where a vast array of information resources are stored and accessed for study. In its simplicity, a library is a basic necessity for schools and other educational institutions for the purpose of acquiring knowledge.

Which is why most functional, effective and result-oriented school systems always have library resources, which include books, newspapers, periodicals, maps, films, prints, documents, CDs, cassettes, videotapes, DVDs, e-books, audio books, databases.

The information and resources in a library could be limitless depending on the scale and purpose for which it was set up. Libraries could be organised and maintained by a public body, an institution or individual to serve the same purpose. 

But in Nigeria, there is nowhere citizens can actually turn to find good libraries. Only very few private schools maintain some semblance of good libraries. Public libraries in schools from federal to local government councils have disappeared. In fact, in the 41-year-old Abuja, the national library project is the most neglected project scheme in the central business district (CBD).

It is against this backdrop that a recent promise by the Federal Government to provide adequate funding for school libraries makes some sense. Somehow, it is strange that the issue of library is being treated as a separate issue from the decadent education system: the two are inseparable. Talking of a school without good libraries has been part of the reasons for the downward trend and absence of competitiveness in education here this newspaper commented on two weeks ago. Sadly, most schools in the country are in that quagmire.

That is why the government’s promise to fund libraries shouldn’t be mere rhetoric considering that there had been similar impromptu promises that were not fulfilled. Again, we are in a tenure midterm ambush when political leaders make empty promises to win public support for next elections. That shouldn’t be the case.

There are so many reasons this library revival project should not be a pipe dream. In the first place, most citizens as we often do here, have been concerned about little or no attention that governments at all levels pay to education. Specifically, all our institutions of higher learning are poorly rated in global and continental contexts. Yet, our students who go abroad for undergraduate and graduate studies are daily reported as beating world records in academic pursuits. The records should have been beaten at home in our schools. Nigerian power elite members usually travel abroad for even short-term skills acquisition courses in foreign universities that have some global brand equity. What is worse, when it comes to graduate employability index in global context, Nigeria is nowhere to be found.Even most of the private primary and post primary schools that are doing well here, there are foreign labels such as “British and Montessori Schools.” Just in the same vein, some of them are foreign missions such as Loyola Jesuit’s. Sadly, our public officers elected and hired to take care of these institutions get their wards admitted into these “glocalised’’ schools in the country. This is shameful and unacceptable.

Again, we would like to call on the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, who promised the library revival project during the 2017 National Readership Promotion Campaign, organised by the National Library of Nigeria in Abuja to be a promise keeper. Education is on the concurrent legislative list. And so, all the 36 states and 774 local governments that actually have more schools should not be left out. They should note that without quality education, there will be no development on any fronts. They should therefore pay attention, not only to the equipment of libraries, they should also equip the schools and teachers to have an all-round development in education.

After all, the event that set off the pledge for the revival of the libraries, had as its theme, ‘‘Working together to build a virile reading nation: Challenges and Strategies,’’ and was aimed at promoting reading culture in the country.

But it is hard to agree with the minister’s observation on the occasion that the present generation of Nigerians is to blame for the poor reading culture. What have the elders including the minister bequeathed to the present generation? Are the elders too reading to solve the problems of society? If the elders had had a reading culture, would all the libraries have collapsed?

Education administrators and policy makers should note that traditional libraries are not common anymore. What is in vogue is the development of virtual libraries known as e-libraries, which can be accessed from any locations through the Internet. That is the direction the world is going and Nigeria should not be left out. Governments and private proprietors should ask for experts who will help them develop some e-libraries while re-equipping the old ones where necessary. After all, it is said that, “a library is the great gymnasium where we go to make our minds strong.” But ultimately, there should be commitment to funding education in a radical manner that can deliver employable products of our schools for development.
Published in Parliament
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