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Tuesday, 27 February 2024 07:30

NLC members set for national protests

Labour.fw


 

...as police deploy anti-riot squad 

 

The Nigeria Police Force has deployed anti-riot operatives in strategic locations ahead of today’s nationwide protest declared by the Nigeria Labour Congress over the economic crunch in the country.

The force spokesman, Olumuyiwa Adejobi, explained on Monday that policemen had been placed on red alert.

The Presidency and the police authorities had on Sunday warned the NLC against carrying out the protest which was thumbed down by the Trade Union Congress and 65 civil society groups.

But the NLC President, Joe Ajaero, insisted that the demonstration would go on as planned, hinging his decision on the economic situation and hardship in the country.

The NLC is protesting the government’s alleged failure to implement agreements reached between both parties on October 2, 2023, following the removal of the fuel subsidy.

The decision followed the conclusion of a 14-day ultimatum issued to the Federal Government to implement measures against the widespread hardship in the country

However, Adejobi in a statement said the Inspector-General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, had directed the state commissioners of police to protect the protesters.


He expressed the police’s commitment to ensuring the protection of citizens’ rights and freedom to engage in protest.

Adejobi, in the statement, said while the police recognised the importance of the protest, the agency remained vigilant to prevent any attempts to hijack the protests, noting that officers would also curb any attempts to create unrest, as the police would not tolerate a breakdown of law and order.

He stated, “While recognising the importance of peaceful protest, the Nigeria Police Force remains vigilant against any attempts to hijack such protests by individuals or groups of persons with sinister intents.

“Emphatically, the force, therefore, is fully prepared to respond swiftly and decisively to any unlawful activities or acts of violence that may threaten peace, public safety, and security in the event of such.

“It is vital to state that the police have spread their tentacles nationwide to curb any attempt by some individuals who might want to leverage the nationwide protests to create brouhaha, and such will be met with approved legal and proportional force as the police will not allow the wanton breakdown of law and order, loss of lives and property like we had experienced, in some instances, in the past, in some parts of the country,’’ Adejobi stated.

The statement read in part, “The Nigeria Police Force on the heels of the proposed nationwide protest by the Nigeria Labour Congress hereby affirms the fundamental right of all citizens of the country to engage in peaceful protest in line with extant laws.

“As such, the NPF reiterates its commitment to ensuring the rights and freedom of protesters are protected.


“In line with its lawful duty to maintain law and order, the Nigeria Police Force has deployed personnel nationwide and placed them on red alert to monitor the planned protest.

“All commissioners of police and their respective supervising officers have been briefed and instructed to coordinate the officers on the ground in ensuring the safety and security of all participants if the protests hold as planned.’’

In a move to ensure a peaceful rally, the Delta, Benue, and Niger State police commands have met with labour leaders to strategise for a hitch-free protest.

The Commissioner of Police in Delta State, Abaniwonda Olufemi, has ordered massive deployment of personnel across the state to ensure adequate security and safety during the protest in line with the IG’s directive.

A statement on Monday by the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Bright Edafe, said the CP warned all intending protesters that “anyone found wanting will be immediately arrested and prosecuted in accordance with the law.”

The statement explained that the CP, during an interaction with area commanders, tactical commanders and divisional police officers directed them to put in place measures to forestall a breakdown of law and order.

It read, “As part of measures to ensure that the protest is seamless, the CP had stakeholders meeting with the leaders of NLC, TUC and IPMAN on 22nd February 2024, and discussed measures to achieve a peaceful protest.


“The CP stated that it is the primary responsibility of the police to ensure the protection of life and property which includes the security of protesters, but also reiterated that citizens’ right to protest is a right to peaceful protest. Violent protest is criminal and will not be tolerated.

“The CP directed the State Intelligence Department to deploy undercover operatives who will monitor and report back findings.’’

Edafe disclosed that additional manpower had been drawn from various tactical teams including the Safer Highway, Dragon Patrol, Safe Delta, Raiders Unit, Rapid Response Squad, Special Anti-Kidnapping and Cyber Crime Squad, CD-Decoy, CP Monitoring Unit, State Anti-Cult Unit, Crack Squad, X-Squad, and the Department of Operations, area commands and divisions.’’

In a similar development, the Niger State police command and the Department of State Services Monday held separate meetings with the leadership of the labour leaders over the protest.

During the meeting which was held at the police headquarters, the state Commissioner of Police, Shawulu Danmamman, stressed the need for a peaceful protest.

The state NLC Chairman, Idrees Lafene, who confirmed the parleys, said the DSS warned the labour leaders against going on strike and that they would be held responsible for any security breach during the protest.

The command’s spokesman, Wasiu Abiodun, in a statement, said the police have beefed up security and deployed tactical teams across the state.

He also revealed that security had been strengthened around critical infrastructure, government offices, banks, police stations and other public assets.

Abiodun told the organised labour that “despite having the right of peaceful protest, which the police must protect, the protesters must ensure that all processions are conducted within the ambit of the law.”

According to him, in the process of exercising their rights, the protesters must not violate other people’s rights.

“They must conduct themselves in a very civilized manner devoid of unruly character as the police will be on the ground to provide security and subdue anyone or group of persons who may want to use such an avenue to cause a breach of public peace.”

Abiodun equally urged parents and guardians to warn their wards against any act of violence during the protest.

In a related development, the Bayelsa State Police said they would protect public assets during the rally and ensure that it was not hijacked by miscreants.

The Commissioner of Police, Alonyenu Idu, in a statement titled, ‘CP deploys police personnel and assets across the state’, issued by the spokesperson for the command, Musa Mohammed, on Monday, said he has ordered a massive deployment of police assets across the state.


“The deployment is to ensure that the protest is not hijacked by hoodlums. The CP during an interaction with the area commanders, tactical commanders and divisional police officers directed them to emplace measures to forestall any breakdown of law and order.

“As part of the measures to ensure that the protest is hitch-free, the CP had a stakeholder meeting with the leaders of NLC and TUC on the 26th February 2024 and discuss measures to achieve a peaceful protest,’’ the statement said.

Idu said it was the right of citizens to protest peacefully just as the police had the obligation to protect lives and property “by regulation and social harmony.”

He warned that “Anyone who tries to turn the protest from its peaceful intent to violence would be restrained and arraigned before the court for prosecution.”

The police commissioner assured all residents to go about their lawful duties without fear or harassment as law enforcement machinery was in place to guarantee social harmony and stability in the state.

Also speaking on the scheduled protest, the Kwara State Police Public Relations Officer, Ejire-Adeyemi Adetoun, disclosed that the command will mobilise men and officers to guarantee a peaceful rally.

Revealing their plans for today’s protest, the Benue State NLC Chairman, Terungwa Igbe, disclosed that labour leaders met with the police and DSS on Monday.


“We are right now at the police headquarters, (Makurdi). They invited us and we are here based on their invitation. We just finished with DSS and now at police headquarters,’’ he said but declined to disclose what transpired at the meetings.

In a move to ensure a large turnout, the Ogun, Plateau, Sokoto NLC chapters said they have mobilised their members for the rally which said would be held as planned.

The Ogun State Chairman of NLC, Hammed Ademola-Benco, stated that the union was going ahead with the planned protest.

He said only the leadership of the 40 affiliates would participate in the rally and not the workforce, adding that the workers would still be at their various duty posts.

He stated, “The protest rally is to further draw the attention of the government to the issues of hunger, insecurity and the continued rise in poverty across the country.

“We have sent out our letters already to mobilise the 40 affiliates of the union to join in the procession. This is not a strike; workers will still be at their duty posts.

“We have received assurance of police coverage during the rally. We don’t have a problem with the security agencies and we equally have a governor showing lots of understanding, so we are good to go by the special grace of God.”


The NLC in Plateau State also said it was ready for the rally, adding that its members were eager to hit the streets.

The state chairman of the congress, Eugene Mangji, also disclosed that the labour leaders in the state met with the police authorities on Monday.

Mangji said, “We don’t have any problem here in Plateau regarding the planned protest because we will go ahead with the protest. Our NLC secretariat is not sealed by the police.”

The Sokoto State chapter of the NLC is also ready to protest the economic situation in the country, according to its Chairman, Abdullahi Jungle.

Jungle who spoke through his secretary, Hamisu Hussain, said the union held a meeting with the security agencies to agree on the modalities for the protest.

“As you can see, we were just coming back from the office of the DSS and commissioner of police to discuss on our proposed protest.

“We have discussed with them and they too have agreed with us on the modalities, by the special grace of God, we’ll embark on the protests tomorrow (today),” he added.


In Lagos, CP Adegoke Fayoade met with various security agencies to strategise ahead of the rally just as the spokesman, Benjamin Hundeyin dismissed reports that the police sealed the NLC secretariat.

Hundeyin told the News Agency of Nigeria that the CP went to the NLC secretariat to address protesters, giving reasons for the heightened security in hotspots around Lagos on Monday.

Heavily armed police operatives were seen at Gani Fawehinmi Park, Ojota and other parts of Lagos in readiness for the planned protest by organised labour.

Less than 24 hours before the protest, the Trade Union Congress again insisted that it was not part of today’s protest declared by the NLC.

The labour centre had a letter dated February 19 said the decision to protest on February 27 and 28 as announced by the NLC was not taken collectively by both unions.

Fielding questions on the planned protest, the TUC President, Festus Usifo, at a press conference in Abuja on Monday, explained, “When you agree jointly that is the way to go and along the line, you now decide that you are not doing it again.’’

“Comrades, can any of you show us where there is any agreement for us coming together? Whenever we are doing things together you always see us together addressing you. On that particular day, did you see any members of TUC there?”


The congress also urged the Federal Government to order the importation of food items to cushion the effect of hardship in the country.

The president added that “national pride of striving to achieve food sufficiency locally should be temporarily relaxed.”

He advised, “Nigerians must live to see tomorrow before we can understand how beautiful a government policy is.

“Governments at all levels should immediately purchase sufficient quantities of food items from different parts of the world and share them with vulnerable Nigerians.

“Importing food abroad at this point will assist to reduce the hyper-inflation of food in the country. FG should allow the importation of food items for Nigerians consumption within the next two weeks.”

The TUC leadership also called for the passage and implementation of a new minimum wage law that reflects the current economic realities.

According to him, the Federal Government’s economic team should work towards a more realistic rate of the naira to dollar, which they pegged between N500 and N800 to the dollar.


Meanwhile, a coalition of civil society groups under the aegis of the Labour Civil Society Front, have declared their support for the protest.

The CSOs urged its members and allies across the country to join the protest against what it described as the “unmitigated sufferings and impoverishment of Nigerians foisted by the mindless implementation of dehumanising policies of the government.”

The coalition clarified that its decision to join the protest was not politically or ethnically motivated.

This was contained in a statement on Monday co-signed by the Spokespersons of the LCSF, Nkoyo Toyo, the United Action Front of Civil Society, Hamisu San Turaki, and the Convener of the Country First Movement, Chris Nwakobia.

In the joint statement, the coalition stated that its endorsement of the protest was to compel the government to take immediate action on the general insecurity of lives and properties of Nigerians, the abject poverty of Nigerians, pervading crimes and kidnappings for ransom, and the high cost of healthcare services and drugs, among others.

Part of the statement read, “The Labour – Civil Society Front, a coalition of eminent civil society leaders and groups collaborating with the Labour movement on pro-people, pro-poor issues in Nigeria, is once again, compelled at this point to state unequivocally that we are unwavering in our support to the organized Labour and therefore fully endorse the nationwide mass protest on hardship slated to hold on Tuesday, 27th and Wednesday, 28th February 2024.

‘’Consequently, we urge our teeming members and allies across Nigeria to join and participate fully in the peaceful national protest to draw the government’s attention to the unmitigated sufferings and impoverishment of Nigerians foisted by the mindless implementation of dehumanizing economic policies of governments at both national and sub-national levels of the country.


‘’For us, this is the time to ask the government of President Tinubu to halt this avoidable slide, act in the overarching interest of the masses by listening to their demands and draw immediate positive actions that go beyond countless unpredictable cosmetic palliatives to its primary obligation to protect lives and property and ensure the welfare and wellbeing of all citizens”.

Tinubu yet to reconvene FEC 44 days after inaugural meeting - Daily Trust


 

Committee To Effect Restructuring Of Agencies In 12 Weeks

 
 

Yesterday, the federal government announced that it was set to begin the implementation of the Stephen Oronsaye report, about 12 years after it was first put together.

 
 

In a move long-awaited by many Nigerians, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has ordered the implementation of the Oronsaye Report, a blueprint for restructuring federal agencies and commissions.

 

Addressing State House Correspondents at the Presidential Villa in Abuja yesterday, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, said,  “So, in a very bold move today, this administration, under the leadership of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, consistent again with his courage to take very far-reaching decisions in the interest of Nigeria, has taken a decision to implement the so-called Oronsaye Report.⁣

“Now, what that means is that a number of agencies, commissions, and some departments have actually been scrapped. Some have been modified, and marked while others have been subsumed. Others, of course, have also been moved from some ministries to others where the government feels they will operate better.” ⁣

oronsaye report

Also speaking, the President’s Special Adviser on Policy Coordination, Hadiza Bala-Usman, said Tinubu’s directive was in line with the need to reduce the cost of governance and streamline efficiency across the governance value chain.

 

Also, to be merged or scrapped, according to the report, are the Standards Organisation of Nigeria; the Consumer Protection Council (CPC); the National Orientation Agency (NOA); the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO), the Nigerian Institute for Hospitality and Tourism Studies (NIHOTOUR), the National Troupe and the National Theatre and the National Gallery of Arts; and Energy Commission of Nigeria (ECN).

 

Others are the Nigeria Leather Science Technology, the National Research Institute for Chemical Technology (NARICT), the National Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA), the Nigerian Building and Road Research Institute (NBRRI), the FIIRO, NASENI, NCAM; the National Rural Electrification Agency (NREA), the National Power Training Institute of Nigeria (NAPTIN).

Also affected are the Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa (DTCA); Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (IPCR); National Economic Recovery Fund (NERFUND); National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA); Nigerian Institute for Education Planners and Administrators; National Metallurgical Development Centre Jos; and National Metallurgical Training Institute Onitsha, Nigerian Institute of Mining and Geosciences (NIMG) Jos.

Also are Nigerian Geological Survey; National Steel Raw Materials Exploration Agency (NSRMEA); National Productivity Centre; Nigerian Copyright Commission; NTA, FRCN, Voice of Nigeria; National Agency for the Control of HIV/AIDS, Roll-Back Malaria, Epidemiology and Surveillance, Occupational and Environmental Health, Health Emergency Preparedness and Response

Also for merger include: 

  1. The National Agency for the Control of HIV Aids (NACA) to be merged with the Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in the Federal Ministry of Health.
  2. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to be merged with the National Commission for Refugee, Migration and Internally Displaced Persons.
  3. The Directorate of Technical Cooperation in Africa to be merged with the Directorate of Technical Aid with a function as a Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  4. The Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission to be with Bureau for Public enterprises.
  5. The Nigeria Investment Promotion Commission to be merged with the Nigeria Export Promotion Council.
  6. The National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure to be merged with National Centre for Agriculture Mechanisation and the Project Development Institute.
  7. The National Biotechnology Development Agency to be merged with the National Centre for Genetic Resource and Biotechnology.
  8. The National Institute for leather science Technology to be merged with the National Institute for Chemical Technology.
  9. The Nomadic Education Commission to be merged with the National Commission for Mass Literacy, Adult Education and Non Formal Education.
  10. The Federal Radio Corporation to be merged with the Voice of Nigeria.
  11. The National Commission for Museums and Monument to be merged with National Gallery of Arts.
  12. The National Theater to be merged with the National Troupe of Nigeria.
  13. The National Metrological Development Centre to be merged with the National Metrological Training Institute.
  14. The Nigerian Army University, Biu, to be merged with the Nigerian Defence Academy to function as a faculty within the Nigerian Defence Academy.
  15. Air Force Institute of Technology also to be merged with the Nigerian Defence Academy to function as a faculty of Nigerian Defence Academy.

Those to be subsumed include:

  1. The Service Compact of Nigeria, Servicom to be subsumed to function as a department under the Bureau for Public Service Reforms.
  2. The Border Communitied Development Agency to be subsumed to function as a department under the National Boundaries Commission.
  3. The National Salaries, Income and Wages Commission to be subsumed into the Revenue Mobilisation, and Fiscal Allocation Commission.
  4. The Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution to be subsumed under the Institute for International Affairs.
  5. The Public Complaints Commission to be subsumed under the National Human Rights Commission.
  6. The Nigerian Institute for Triponosomiases to be subsumed into the Institute for Veterinary Research.
  7. The National Medicine Development Agency to be subsumed under the National Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development.
  8. National Intelligence Agency Pention Commission to be subsumed under the Nigerian Pension Commission.

Agencies to be re-located:

  1. The Niger Delta Power Holding Company to be relocated to the Ministry of Power.
  2. The National Agricultural Land Development Agency to be relocated to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security.
  3. The National Blood Service Commission to be converted into an agency and relocated to the Ministry of Health.
  4. The Nigerian Diaspora Commission to be converted into an agency and to be relocated to the Federal Ministry of Finance.

here are 12 highlights of the original version of the much talked about document.

 

•Scrapping and merging of 220 out of the existing 541 government agencies at the time the report was prepared.

•Management audit of 89 agencies, capturing biometric features of staff as well as the discontinuation of government funding for professional bodies/councils.

•Merging of Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) with Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE) to be called Public Enterprises and Infrastructural Concession Commission (PEICC).

•Fusing of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and National Commission for Refugees (NCF) to be called the National Emergency and Refugee Management Commission (NERMC).

•Merging of the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN), the Voice of Nigeria (VON) under one management called the Federal Broadcasting Corporation of Nigeria (FBCN).

•Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NiDCOM) to become an agency under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

 

•Among the 38 federal agencies to be abolished, also include: Public Complaints Commission, National Poverty Eradication Programme, Utilities Charges Commission, National Agency for the Control of HIV/AIDS, National Intelligence Committee etc.

•In addition, 14 agencies are to be fused into ministries where they were created from, while the Debt Management Office (DMO) is to return to the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Public Health Department is expected to go back to the Federal Ministry of Health

•The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) will become a department in the Nigeria Police Force, also, the Universal Basic Education Commission, Nomadic Education Commission, and National Mass Literacy Commission, the report said, are performing overlapping functions and should be brought under one body.

•If the 800-page document is implemented in its original form, at least 102 heads of agencies and parastatals are expected to lose their jobs.

•At the time, Oronsaye said that that if the committee’s recommendation was implemented, the government would save over N862 billion between 2012 and 2015.

While N124.8 billion would be reduced from agencies proposed for abolition, at the time, about N100.6 billion was to be saved from agencies proposed for mergers; about N6.6 billion from professional bodies; N489.9 billion from universities; N50.9 billion from polytechnics; N32.3 billion from colleges of education and N616 million from boards of federal medical centres.

 

•Also, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) are expected to be merged if the report is implemented in its original form.

The naira, week on week, posted some recovery against the Dollar at the parallel market as the Central Bank of Nigeria set in motion its first Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting under Yemi Cardoso.

The naira initially traded around N1600 to the USDT early Monday posting a weekly gain of more than 25 per cent for the week, although this has moved above the N1600 mark as at the time of this report.

However, the official Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange (NAFEM) gained closing yesterday at N1,582.94 signifying an N82.56 gain compared to N1,665.5 it closed on Friday.


The parallel market after taking substantial gains following the arrests last week of parallel market operators, from a record low of last Wednesday of N1,920 to N1600 over the weekend declined again to N1,680/$1 yesterday.

However, the daily turnover recorded yesterday was$154.16 million, a 1.47 per cent increase from $151.93 recorded on Friday.

Also, the highest spot rate yesterday was pegged at N1778, while the lowest spot rate recorded was N1,300.

Many analysts are expecting a significant increase in the benchmark interest rate, also known as the monetary policy rate.

Following a few missed monetary policy sessions, Nigeria is expected to implement two aggressive interest rate hikes in less than two months to control inflation and strengthen the naira, according to a Reuters poll released on Friday.

Nigeria’s monetary policy rate is expected to increase by 225 basis points to 21.00 per cent on February 27 during Governor Olayemi Cardoso’s first monetary policy meeting, according to a survey conducted last week.

With the local currency still trading near its record low on the black market and January inflation increasing to 29.9 percent year over year, market pundits anticipate considerable policy tightening and the announcement of de facto system-wide tightening measures.

Throughout last week, the naira experienced a significant decline in value, hitting a low of N1,880 to the dollar on Thursday.


This depreciation has widened the disparity between the unofficial market rate and the official rate of the naira, presenting challenges to the government’s goal of unifying the two rates.


 

The Federal Executive Council (FEC) has approved the establishment of consumer credit scheme and the extension of payment of social security to NCE graduates upwards.

The decision was reached at the FEC meeting presided over by President Tinubu at the council chambers, state house, Abuja. The President Adviser on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga disclosed this on his X handle this afternoon as part of decisions reached.

According to him, the President established a committee to be headed by the Chief of Staff, Rt. Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, with members as the Minister of Budget and Planning, Atiku Bagudu, Attorney-General of the Federation, Lateef Fagbemi SAN, and Mr. Wale Edun, the Minister of Finance.


He stated, “Here are some of the highlights of the far-reaching decisions taken today at the Federal Executive Council meeting, chaired by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

“Social security payments to be extended to graduates from NCE and upwards.

“Consumer Credit to be established very urgently. Chief of Staff to lead a committee that includes Budget Minister, Attorney-General, Coordinating Minister of the Economy and Finance, to make the scheme a reality.”

Also, (FEC) has approved a N1.06 trillion contract for the construction of the first phase of the coastal road from Lagos to eight other states.

Minister of Works, Dave Umahi, who disclosed this to newsmen yesterday after the council meeting presided over by President Bola Tinubu at the State House, Abuja, explained that the phase was part the 700 kilometer road spanning nine states and with two spurs leading to the northern states.

According to him, FEC approved funds for the first phase made of the 47.47 kilometers dual carriage way of five lanes on each side and a train track in the middle, adding that the project would be constructed with concrete.

His words: “Today, we had the the approval of FEC for the construction of 700 kilometer of coastal routes running from Lagos through the nine coastal routes or states up to Cross River, meaning that it goes to Lagos, the Lekki Deep Seaport, Ogun State, Ondo State, Delta, Bayelsa, Port Harcourt and Akwa Ibom.

“But we also have two spurs that leads to the north, from the ongoing Badagry-Sokoto route and the one that leads to the transSahara route that goes from Ogoja down to Cameroon.


“Now, it is a dual carriage way. And each carriage way has five lanes and a provision for a train infrastructure that will be at the middle.

“The October 30th, FEC had approved that this project be procured under EPC+ Engineering, Procurement, Construction and Financing. And so in favour of High Tech Construction African Limited, which means that they were supposed to search for the funding.

“They already have started searching for the funding, but hitches here are there. And so, the Ministry had to go back to Mr. President to ask for two things and that was on January 18. We asked can we fast track this?

“Since this project was going to be procured in two phases and multiple sections, can we get the federal government to fund the phase one, which is what is 47.47 kilometers running from Ahmadu Bello in Lagos down to Lekki Deep Seaport? Mr. President graciously approved.

“We also have the challenge of a lot of infrastructure on the road corridor. So, we requested Mr. President to approve that we realign the road, so that we move closer to the ocean shore, and then avoid those properties which could lead to litigation. Mr. President also approved.


“But then that led to a new challenge. And the challenge is the need to start the project as quickly as possible as to protect, the communities along the corridor.

“So today, we have procured the first section, which is 47.47 kilometers, under 10 lanes and FEC graciously approved the contract for N1.067 trillion with no objection.

“FEC also approved that the second section be procured, you know, to be funded by federal government, which is about 57 kilometers. And that runs from Lekki deep seaport to the boundary between Ogun and that section two of phase one.

“And then the third section is to start from the end of the road, which is Calabar. And so that’s about 50 kilometers, and is procured under section three of phase one, and is running from you know, Calabar and going towards Akwa Ibom and towards Port Harcourt.

“Then the other sections and other places, will still be under EPC+F in favor of High Tech Construction Africa Limited. The company is very well known in this kind of infrastructure development.

“An example is the Eko Atlantic Ocean such that would have swallowed the entire Victoria Island, and they’ve been able to conquer it under the same procurements.


“But let me also announce that the road is going to be constructed with concrete and they are masters in that and you can see example in Apapa-Oshodi expressway, which will usually have seven hours trucks to do that, but today is a tale of joy. They are also the same company that is constructing the deep seaport under the same concrete technology.

“Besides that, we also have good news about some of the projects that were awarded between 2006 and 2018. And of course, you know, the prices of construction materials, like in 2006 should be expecting asphalt to cost about N2000 per square metre, and today’s constant between N27,000 and N30,000 per square metre.

“The same thing goes with diesel, the same thing goes with cement. And so, some of these projects are stuck. And you know, one of such that was lifted today is the dualization of Kano-Maiduguri road, section four, Damaturu-Maiduguri, it was awarded in 2006. And it has stopped because the contracts can no longer carry it.

“But today it’s been argumented from N39billion. It has breath now and they can now go on. And then we have another project that is the maintainance of Pankshin-Gindiri Road in Pankshin in Plateau state. It was awarded in 2017 and that the project has stopped. But today it has gotten great momentum from 10 billion to N20 billion.

“And then we have the third route the same thing, the route that is going from Mayo-Belewa-Jega-Kanya-Tungur road in Adamawa state. It was awarded in 2018 and today it has been argumented from N21 billion to N43 billion in line with the realities of the construction market prices.

“And then the last one is a road that is going from Yakasai-Badume-Damagum-Makin Zali in Kano state. This was awarded in January 2021 and it’s been argumented from N12 billion to 17 billion.

“Let me end by saying that we’re going to be having a number of these roads tending to stop. But Mr. President graciously has directed that such projects should be reviewed in line with the realities of the present construction basic materials.


“So, we have over 1,000 roads that are going to undergo this kind of process to keep them alive and in line with the directive of Mr. President. Most of them are inherited projects from the past administrations.”

The meeting between representatives of the Federal Government and the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has ended in stalemate.

In last-minute efforts to prevent the protest, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Senator George Akume, had invited Labour leaders to his office.


Aside from the SGF, Ministers of Agriculture; budget and national planning; Labour and Employment; Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Head of Service of the Federation, as well as the Director General of the Department of State Service (DSS), attended the meeting.


A source at the meeting said that government officials appealed to the labour leaders to shelve the protests because it may lead to breakdown or law and order.

They said isolated protests in some states were nearly hijacked by hoodlums before the security agents curtailed the situation.

As the meeting progressed, the labour leaders took a break from where they broke into another meeting for consultation.

At the end, NLC President, Comrade Joe Ajaero, said despite the intervention to avert the nationwide protests, it would go on as scheduled.

He however, urged the security agents to protect the protesters.

When asked on the warning from the DSS, he said, “I would say despite the warning from the DSS, the rally goes on, but it is part of their (security agencies) constitutional responsibility to make sure that the rally is peaceful.

“And while we are going to try our own side to make sure it’s a peaceful rally, that’s all.”

When asked on the unions protesting at the National Assembly, Ajaero said, “Usually, there is no rally that we just do for the sake of walking around. We have demands that we present. Maybe by Tuesday when we present these demands, a copy of it will be made public.”

Government representatives were, however, not available for comments.

Pockets of protests had broken out in Kano, Niger, Oyo, Edo, Lagos, Kano, Sokoto, Borno and Osun, among other states, with protesters urging the government to take decisive steps to bring the hardship to an end.


The leadership of the NLC had declared a two-day nationwide protest for February 27 and 28 after government failed to implement some of the agreements reached with the congress.


 

The Appeal Court sitting in Port Harcourt, has ordered the Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly, Martins Amaewhule and 24 other members of the House to appear in court on subsequent sitting dates, following a motion filed before it by some elders of the state.

Ten members of the Rivers Elders Forum approached the court, seeking a leave to serve the lawmakers court processes on a suit they filed, questioning the lawmakers rights to remain in office after defecting from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC).

The lawmakers had defected from PDP to APC following a recent political altercation between the state governor, Siminalayi Fubara and the Minister of Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nyesom Wike.


Not comfortable with the actions of the lawmakers who are loyal to the former governor, Wike, the elders insisted that their interest are no longer protected with the 25 lawmakers still occupying their officers, hence they approached the court for interpretation of their actions.

First, the elders approached the State High Court in Port Harcourt, to grant them an exparte order of subsistence service to the lawmakers, but the trial judge, Justice Chinwendu Nwogu struck out the motion, even before parties’ appearance in court.

Yesterday, the matter was filed before an Appeal Court in Port Harcourt, presided by a three man panel of judges led by Justice Oluwayemisi Williams-Dawodu, the court agreed that Amaewhule and 24 other lawmakers be served through subsistence means or WhatsApp.

The lead counsel for the applicants, Wilcox Abereton, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) had informed the court that it had been difficult and life threatening to serve the Speaker and the Assembly, as a result of tight security details around them occasioned by the political tension in the State.

The SAN also informed the court on how the bailiff of court who went to serve the respondents, was allegedly warned and threatened not to come to serve any further process, but that he can paste it if he has the order of court to do so.

Amongst the other prayers granted by the court, include an order of accelerated hearing of the appeal. The court however, adjourned the matter till April 8, 2024 for accelerated hearing.

Speaking with journalists outside the courtroom immediately after the Court order, one of the counsel for the applicants, Emmanuel Erukari, said: “Before now, the purported House of Assembly members defected from PDP to APC or wherever, and so we have gone to court on behalf of our clients to say no, that they do not longer have such powers to run the state House of Assembly.

“We went to the court with our clients who said their interest is no longer protected if they continue to allow Martins Amaewhule to continue to oversee the affairs of the Assembly. So as Rivers people they felt their interest should be protected, that is why they approached the court”.

One of the parties in the matter, Chief Anabs Sara-Igbe expressed satisfaction at the proceedings of the court, saying that “Rivers people are very interested in and want justice to be done”.


He said Nigerians should be on the alert on the natter to know if the country has a constitution that embraces rights, equality and justice.


 

The Eze Ndigbo of Ajao Estate, Lagos, Frederick Nwajagu, charged with terrorism, says he did not know there was a law prohibiting a person from mentioning the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in Nigeria.

Mr Nwajagu said this while giving evidence before the Lagos High Court at Tafawa Balewa Square.

He is standing trial on nine counts bordering on an attempt to commit acts of terrorism, financing terrorism, participating in terrorism and meeting to support a proscribed entity.


On the resumed hearing on Monday, the defendant was led in evidence by his counsel, Emefo Etudo.

The defendant told the court that he had never referred to himself as a king but as a leader to the Igbo-speaking people in Ajao Estate.

Mr NwajaguHe said the video shown to the court where he was talking was not the original but an edited one. He noted that what he said in his house was an empty threat to calm the Igbo people down.

“After the 2023 elections, some people came to my house. I gave them drinks and made the statement, believing there is freedom of speech and association in Nigeria.

“I have no connection with IPOB,” he said.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Babajide Martins, cross-examined the defendant.

The defendant told the court that when interrogated at the State Security Service (SSS) office, he informed operatives that he had no relationship with IPOB.


Mr Nwajagu repeated that he was not the person who recorded the video.

“I made the statement that went viral because of the Igbo people whose shops were looted and burnt, including what MC Oluomo said against the Igbos in Lagos.

“I made a second video while at Panti police station, denouncing the first video. I regret making the first speech because I didn’t know there was a law prohibiting people from mentioning IPOB.”

After the cross-examination, his counsel urged the court to release the defendant on bail. He said the prosecution had closed its case, and the nature of its evidence should not counter the bail application.

The prosecution, however, urged the court to reject the bail application.

After all the arguments on bail applications, Justice Yetunde Adesanya adjourned until March 26 for a ruling on bail applications.

Ms Adesanya told the parties to file all their written addresses since the defence had already closed its case.

She also gave April 16 for the adoption of final written addresses.

On July 25, 2023, the defendant applied for bail, citing his medical reports and adding that he was not a flight risk. On July 28, the court refused the application based on the offence’s seriousness and its punishment’s severity.

The Lagos State government, in a suit marked no. LD/21505C/2023 alleged that the defendant’s acts contravened section 403(2) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.

The state stated that the offences also contravened sections 12(a) (c), 18, 21 and 29 of the Terrorism Prevention & Prohibition Act, 2022.

Operatives of the SSS arrested Mr Nwajagu over an alleged threat to invite members of the IPOB to Lagos to secure the properties of Igbo people in the state.

Flash] Industrial Court orders firm to pay ex-staff N703,000 entitlement  claims within 30 daysNational Industrial Court of Nigeria


 

Justice Ayokunle Faji of the Federal high court sitting in Lagos, has ordered three India nationals to pay the sum of N98.2 million and additional $325,000.00 to an 87-year-old businessman, Isaac Oluwole Oginni for breach of fair hearing and the clear provisions of section 262 of Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA).


Justice Faji also declared that the octogenarian remains a director of his three companies, Bolawole Enterprises Nigeria Limited, Lesag Nigeria Limited and Intermanagement Nigeria Limited.

The Indians affected by the court order in a suit marked FHC/L/CS/1431/2019, are: Mr. Jai Bhagwan Gupta, and his two sons, Vineet Gupta and Rachit Gupta.


The octogenarian had in his statement of claims, filed and argued by his lawyer, Yakubu Galadima, sought for a declaration that he was a director and remains a director of the three companies listed as first, second and third defendants in the suit.

He also sought for a declaration that the he being a first subscriber and director in the first to third defendants, is entitled to certain benefits, advantages and reliefs from the activities of the three companies.

He also prayed the court for an order compelling the 4th Defendant to render a comprehensive account to the Plaintiff of the N7,000,000,000.00 (Seven Billion Naira) granted to the 1st Defendant by the Export Expansion Grant Scheme.

But the first to sixth defendants through their lawyer, Festus Afeiyodion, in a 45-paragraph counter-affidavit urged court to dismiss the plaintiff’s originating summons for lacking in merit.

The seventh defendant, Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) did not file any counter, and it was not represented by any lawyer for three years that the suit lasted.


Delivering judgement, Justice Faji held that no reasons were given by the defendants for the removal of the plaintiff, which showed that a breach of the right to fair hearing and the clear provisions of section 262 of CAMA.

The judge noted that the crux of the issues being whether or not the provisions of the law as regards notice for extra-ordinary general meetings have been fulfilled.

Highlighting relevant sections of CAMA 1990, the Justice Faji held that “Section 262 of the law stated that reasons must be given in the notice requesting a Director’s removal, before a director can be removed”.

Consequently, the court restrained the first to sixth defendants either by themselves, or their agents, privies, officers from any act that may curtail or impede the rights of the Plaintiff as a member and director of the first, second and third defendants.

On the defendants contention that the fourth defendant holds 40,000.00 fully paid up shares in the 1st defendant, as at 1987, the court stated that in exhibit 1009, it was clear that the company’s share capital is now 100,000,000.00 ordinary shares of N1.00 each.

The court held “the fourth defendant holds 38, 000, 000. 00 of those shares which are not even paid for. The defendants have not controverted exhibit 10009 and same is deemed admitted. I must therefore hold that the defendants do not have 10 per cent of the paid up capital of the companies.


The court held that even plaintiff’s exhibit 1009 showed that the 5th defendant has 15,000,000.00 of 100, 000, 000 but the shares were not paid for.

“The 4th defendant had 38 million shares as at 1st February, 2023 does not show that as at the date of the extra-ordinary general meeting in 2019 that he had the requisite shareholding. What is more, no reasons were given for the removal of the plaintiff and that to my mind shows a breach of the right to fair hearing and the clear provisions of section 262 of CAMA.

“I must therefore resolve issues 1 and 2 in favour of the plaintiff and hold that the first relief that is the plaintiff is a director and remains a director of the 1st to 3rd defendant has merit and is granted as prayed.

“It is obvious that the plaintiff is entitled to the following sums after prorating and deducting the figure relating to NIBCO Ltd and the Plaintiffs deceased wife to wit: Directors’ payments of N13.9 million,
Vacation benefit of N12 million, Annual bonus of $150,000.00 and N55, 500, 000. 00.

“I therefore grant the plaintiff the sum of N81,000,000.00 and $150,000.00. This sum covers the benefits up to 17th august 2017, when Exhibit 1003 was made. The vacation allowance was N1,000,000.00 per year. The period from 2017 to date is 7 years. An additional sum of N7,000,000.00 is thus due to the Plaintiff as vacation allowance.


“The yearly bonus is $25,000.00 per year making a total of $25,000 for 7 years $175, 000.00, Directors payment of N1, 400, 000.00 for 7 years is N9, 800, 000. 00. Up to date therefore, the plaintiff is entitled to the sums of N98, 200,000.00 and $325,000.00,” the court held.

Justice Faji, however, refused the plaintiff’s request for an order directing the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th Defendants to pay to him the sum of N500 million, being his benefits, commissions and brokerages from the activities of the first to third defendants.

In his Reactions after the judgment, the Plaintiff lawyer, Yakubu Galadima described the verdict as sound and unassailable.

He said “The Judgment was a sound and unassailable and also to say victory at last! It was a lesson learned. That is, our client Chief Oginni set up an indigenous company called Bolawole Enterprises Nigeria Limited in the 80s and brought a friend of his that is the 4th Respondent who was sacked from another organization to manage the company. As time goes by, the 4th Respondent brought his children into the company as directors, altered the initial shares and ultimately trying to remove our client and his late wife as directors. That was when we approached the court.

“The 7th Respondent had been directed by the order of court to audit the affairs of the companies in question. After their interrogations, appropriate sanctions will be imposed.


“As I stated elsewhere, it is a big lesson for the indigenous companies to trade with caution whenever they are dealing with foreign partners so as not to take over their companies. Our clients passed through a lot of pains while dealing with these aliens called business partners”.


 

The contractor handling the $6 billion 3.9 megawatts (MW) Mambilla Hydro-power project, Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited, has said there was due process in the award of the contract.

In a statement, the company’s Chairman, Leno Adesanya, faulted the Economic and Financial Crimes Committee (EFCC) for declaring him wanted.


Adesanya also said his company had no regrets about paying the medical and travel expenses of a former Minister of Power and Steel, Dr. Olu Agunloye.


Agunloye is on trial at the Federal High Court in Abuja for alleged fraud in the contract award to Sunrise Power and Transmission Company.

In an open letter to President Bola Tinubu, Adesanya faulted EFCC for accusing him of bribing Agunloye 21 years after he left office with N3.6 million by paying his medical bill and travel expenses.

“This criminalisation strategy of the Federal Government using institutions, including the EFCC, is manifest in alleging that I facilitated the payments of N3.5 million, N500,000 and N1.12 million (a total of N5.22 million) to Dr. Agunloye in 2019 for his medical treatment in Florida (the United States of America).

“This is laughable because Dr. Agunloye left the government 21 years ago and ceased to be a public officer in 2001.

“There is no alignment between my kindness of 2019 and the build, operate and transfer (BOT) contract of 2003.

“Who waits for bribes to be paid 16 years after a contract has been awarded?

“Which minister will collect N12 million bribe for a $6 billion (today’s rate N11 trillion) BOT contract? Definitely not a Nigerian security guard, let alone a minister.

“In the absence of any credible defence to Sunrise’s claims, the Federal Government, through the EFCC, has continued to desperately hunt down potential witnesses and to scandalise the underlying contract.

“In support of this objective, the EFCC has now secretly filed a charge against SPTC (in charge Number: FCT/HC/CR/618/2023 between the Federal Republic of Nigeria v. Sunrise) pending in a court located in the remote village of Jikowi, on the outskirts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and bounded by Nasarawa State.

“To date, the said charge has not been served on me or Sunrise.


“However, to create leverage in the ongoing dispute, the Federal Government, acting through the EFCC, has now hurriedly declared me a ‘wanted person’ without any justification.

“It is on record that I relocated out of Nigeria in December 2017 due to an assassination attempt on me in December 2017.”

Insisting that he is not on the run, Adesanya added: “I am not missing and have never been missing. I have always made known my willingness to meet and work with Nigerian law enforcement officials at any location where there will be no threat to my life or person.

“Nigerians, what is more fundamental in all that I have said is the need to really understand why the Mambilla project has been stalled for years. One is endemic corruption, and the most dangerous is the issue of the ethnic card.”

Adesanya said he was told sometime in March 2020 that “the North will never allow a Yoruba man to be the local content partner for the Mambilla project”.

Explaining the role of his company in the project, Adesanya said: “In 2001, we established Sunrise Power and Transmission Company Limited (SPTC) as the Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to drive this power project.


“In furtherance thereof, SPTC established working relationships with several Chinese state conglomerates, such as North China Power Group (NCPG), China Hydroelectric companies (Sinohydro Corporation of China), and China State Construction (CSCEC).

“Sunrise arranged several meetings for the FGN, and these included meetings in Nigeria and China for then President (Olusegun) Obasanjo and the then Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, and, as a result, two Chinese Presidents visited Nigeria to discuss the Mambilla Project with the FGN.

“The construction of the Mambilla project was based strictly on a Build, Operate and Transfer structure (BOT) without any funds from the FGN, which means that SPTC and its Chinese partners would source for the funds.

“To date, no money has ever been paid by the FGN to Sunrise and/or Leno Adesanya in respect of the BOT contract.

“Accordingly, in 2002, the then Power Minister, Dr. (Olusegun) Agagu, of blessed memory, initiated an international tender and bidding process, and based on the analysis of the tenders, the committee recommended the Sunrise Chinese Consortium of Sinohydro and NCPG for final negotiations, which led to President Obasanjo’s written approval in November 2002; before Dr. Olu Agunleye was appointed Power Minister.

“In April 2003, Dr. Olu Agunloye, in compliance with earlier approval of November 2002, sought and obtained then President Obasanjo’s ‘No Objection’ written Approval to award the $6 billion BOT contract to Sunrise – without any financial commitment from the FGN.”

Adesanya said former President Muhammadu Buhari had directed that existing agreements be honoured, but it was not complied with.

He added: “Stunned by its manifest lack of any defence or justification for the unilateral cancellation and breach of its binding contractual obligations to Sunrise, and the likelihood of being found liable for breach of contract, the FGN through its various security agencies has now resorted to attempting to criminalise and scandalise the Mambilla Power Project with the sole aim of evading the consequent legal contractual obligations of the Federal Government arising from breaches of agreements with Sunrise.


“As a sign of good faith, if the Federal Government is fully determined to execute the 3050MW Mambilla hydropower project as approved by then President Yar’Adua, and reconfirmed severally by President Goodluck Jonathan, I am ready to mobilise my Chinese Consortium partners only if His Excellency Mr. President will personally sign all the financial commitments to the Chinese Eximbank, Corporate and Financial Institutions who had demonstrated their commitments to the project in the past.”


 

 

“Hunger is the cry of a god and two gods do the humans worship – the head and the stomach ...We know the body will survive without head Sustenance, but the Stomach, the god that rumbles and thunders when sacrifice is late, this God cannot be slighted” – Wole Soyinka

 

 

Salutations to the Gut is the title of an 84-page essay published over 40 years ago by Nigeria’s Nobel Laureate in Literature, Wole Soyinka celebrating the splendour of Yoruba cuisine and gastronomic hedonism, how “the true hedonist has felt in every morsel the soul of the open kitchen”, a witty, whimsical essay about the importance and the culture of food, indeed life itself.  Soyinka wrote that “It is sad - daily the business of the world becomes more hurried, and the few who still possess leisure lack true poetry of food.” How so true, not just for the Yoruba race, but for the whole of humanity. It is not for nothing therefore that the Yoruba also have a popular saying that “the path to the stomach is the path to Heaven.” Where there is no true poetry of food and hunger persists, not only is paradise lost, hope is trampled upon, anger reigns, poverty stalks the landscape. This is summarized in a local saying that “ebi ki n wo inu, ki oro mi wo be”, which means literally that a hungry man is not ready for any kind of communication, because he is angry. 

 

This explains perhaps why some of the major crises in human history have been woven around the search for food, and the expression of frustration around the lack of same, explained with different phrases: hunger, famine, poverty, scarcity or derivation.  Historically, the scarcity of food, or the non-availability or non-affordability, has often resulted in riots or revolutions. In 1648, there were riots on the streets of Moscow because government imposed a salt tax, which drove up the cost of salt. One of the reasons for the French Revolution was in part because the ordinary people could not afford to buy bread. In 1789, the market women of France marched on the Versailles, and the protest was quickly taken over by revolutionaries who no longer wanted the Monarchy. In 1846, in Ireland, there was the famous Great Famine which led to food riots. During the American Civil war, in 1863, Southern women looking for food organized protests in places like Boston and Richmond, taking over the streets and plundering warehouses where they could find them. The problem was hyper-inflation. During World War I, there were potato riots in Europe, and rice riots in Japan, as the people looked for food to eat. Hunger was also one of the causes of the February 1917 Revolution in Russia. In more recent times, we have had the Egyptian Bread riots of 1977 – food became so expensive, Egyptians rioted; in 1981 – there was the Bread riots in Casablanca, Morocco, and in 1984, the Moroccan Hunger Uprising. There have also been food riots in Venezuela, South Africa, Sri Lanka, the UK, Zambia, France, Haiti, Bangladesh and anywhere else in the world where the god of the stomach rumbles, after being slighted by scarcity, and ignited to rebellion by hunger. When the god of the stomach rumbles, there are casualties. 

 

What is common in all the narratives is that people become desperate when they cannot feed themselves. Food prices trigger political instability as seen in the Russian and French Revolutions, the Great Depression and during the Arab Spring. The politics of hunger is oftentimes triggered by poor leadership, including corruption, or in other cases by failures in agricultural production such as crop failure or post-harvest losses, and a crisis in one place can translate into further crisis in other states, given the existence of an established global food supply chain. When food prices rise beyond the people’s purchasing power, social unrest is never too far away. This is the tough lesson Nigeria is confronting at the moment. It is sad that this is happening in a country that once advertised agriculture as the mainstay of its economy, and whose leaders still believe that deepening agricultural production could rescue the country from the mono-cultural, oil dependent ditch in which it has found itself. Today, the country faces a “food intifada”, the same country with an arable land area of about 36.9 million hectares, where there were once cocoa plantations in the West, rubber plantations in the Mid-West, rice pyramids in the North, as well as aquatic splendour and a fluorescent blue economy along its coastlines. In living memory, Nigerians talked about “Operation Feed The Nation” (1979) and the “Green Revolution (1980)”, and indeed it was in this same country that a certain Umaru Dikko, Minister of Transport, and Chair of the Committee on Rice Importation, under the Shehu Shagari administration once scandalized the public when he quipped that there was no hunger in Nigeria because no one was yet eating from the dustbin, and that Nigerians should be grateful because government was paying salaries without borrowing – a big favour! Dikko would later become famous for the botched attempt by the succeeding military regime to kidnap him from the UK in July 1984. He died in July 2014. If he were alive today, he would have lived to see that Nigerians now eat from dustbins, and that hungry and angry Nigerians are telling their government that they are “hungry”. And that the government goes a-borrowing and a-sorrowing. 

 

There have been protests in Minna, Niger State, Ota, Sagamu and Abeokuta in Ogun State, Oyo and Ibadan in Oyo State, Kano in Kano State, Port Harcourt in Rivers State, Sokoto in Sokoto State, Lokoja in Kogi State, and in Lagos, the country’s commercial capital. The reports of the various protests clearly underline the people’s desperation in the face of hunger. In Lagos, we saw reports of people practically falling over themselves, and being beaten as they struggled to buy loaves of bread at a discounted price. Also in Lagos, a Good Samaritan had provided a truck load of tubers of yam to be given out for free. The people didn’t wait for the tubers to be distributed. Chaos ensued as they seized the initiative and grabbed the tubers of yam in a classical, Darwinian, “survival of the fittest” scramble. The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) also tried to intervene by offering to sell seized, contraband bags of rice at a discounted price to the public. It made good on its promise. But at its Yaba depot in Lagos, over 10, 000 people showed up, scrambling, struggling. To cut a long story short, seven persons reportedly died. The initiative has been suspended. In Katsina, villagers and hoodlums besieged an accidented truck bearing grains, and looted the commodities. In Rivers state, aggrieved women added another twist to the matter when they asked the government to address their suffering because they had become sex-starved as their husbands no longer attended to their conjugal duties due to excessive heat in the other room on account of epileptic power supply and confirmed loss of libido because of the psychological pressure induced by the high cost of living! 

 

In Ibadan, the protesting youths and market women told President Tinubu: “This is no longer Emilokan. This is Shege!.”  In Osogbo, the people chanted: “We can’t cope again”.  In Sokoto, they said: “We are being pushed to the wall.” In Ogun, the people told the government, “We are in pains”. In Lagos, they said: “Baba Tinubu Nigerians are Hungry, Rescue Us”. On February 10, in the midst of all this, the Nigeria Union of Pensioners announced that its members will go naked on the streets in protest. As of January 2024, Nigeria’s headline inflation had risen to 29.90%. Food inflation was over 35.4%- much higher in some of the states. In practical terms, a measure of rice is now N2,000 and a bag of 50kg rice – N70, 000, a bag of maize is as high as N60, 000. People can no longer eat three square meals per day, certainly not those pensioners who receive as low as N450 per month. The country’s minimum wage in the face of hyper-inflation cannot feed one person not to talk of a family. 

 

It would have been strange if the Nigerian government did not respond to these developments, with the god of the stomach and the gut wreaking havoc across the land having been so badly bruised, and the people so disconcerted. In July 2023, Nigeria’s President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu had in fact foreseen the food crisis that the country was likely to face. He declared food insecurity a national emergency, set up a Committee on Food Emergency and moved the assignment to his office and the office of the National Security Adviser. This was understandable. Food inflation was rising. Farmers could not access their farms. The country’s Food Belt had become a theatre of terror and insurgency. But as the harvest became real, and protests showed up in parts of the country, with the people of Lagos even directly confronting the President screaming: “Ebi n pa wa” (“We are Hungry”) as the President went for Friday worship in Central Lagos, and other Nigerians screaming for help, government just had to be seen to be doing something. The Emergency Committee on Food Insecurity met, and the people were told at the end of the deliberations, that the Federal Government would provide 102, 000 metric tonnes of grains - 42, 000 from the National Grains Reserve and another 60, 000 to be provided by big farmers. In the event that this would not be enough, the Federal Government would import grains. 

 

The big tragedy is that the government appears completely overwhelmed, confused even. Students of Policy Evaluation would readily agree that a government does not announce a state policy on an ad-hoc or impulsive basis. It must be thought through from beginning to the evaluation, in the interest of the people. It looks like the Tinubu team failed the test. About one month later, nobody has seen the promised 102, 000 metric tonnes. As recently as the last National Economic Council meeting held a few days ago, they were still talking about partnership with major fertilizer companies, and promises to make grains available. Nobody has seen any grains. Nobody is even sure that there is anything in the National Grains Reserve. At one point, we were told by the Vice President, that the government will introduce a Commodities Exchange Board. The President showed up later to say that there will be no Commodities Board and that his government will not control prices, nor will it import food. In that breath, the President openly contradicted his own Minister of information, his Vice President and dismissed a court judgment by the Federal High Court, sitting in Lagos, (re: Femi Falana SAN vs AG federation) which had ordered the Federal Government to fix the prices of goods and petroleum products in seven days in line with the Price Control Act, 2004 per Ambrose Lewis-Allagoa, J.  

 

Confusion galore… and nothing could be more confusing than the Presidency summoning a selected team of 16 stakeholders over the weekend and setting up what they called a “tripartite” Economic Advisory Committee to solve Nigeria’s tripartite problems: a national currency on a free fall and foreign exchange crisis, hyperinflation, and the high cost of living. I suspect that someone in government has suddenly discovered the word “tripartite” and so everything has become “tripartite” including the setting up of a “tripartite” 37-member committee to review the national minimum wage. The optics may look good to the extent that government appears as if it is trying to do something, whatever that is, at least to show the people that “we are trying.” The problem is that the same advisers that Tinubu has invited, with the exception of two or three, were the same people who have been advising government since 1999, as investors and stakeholders – what new thing do they have to offer, apart from the privilege of their access to the corridors of power?  What happens to the National Economic Council (NEC), a constitutional body chaired by the Vice President? And why has the President not appointed a Chief Economic Adviser whose task is to help the President link all possible loose ends between the monetary and fiscal sides of things? Nigeria needs one, and preferably a properly educated Economist.

 

The biggest response to the confusion referred to parenthetically above, has been the announcement of a two-day warning strike by Organized Labour, led by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), beginning from today. NLC has been abandoned by the Trade Union Congress (TUC), its partner-union with which it originally gave government a 14-day ultimatum to honour a 16-point Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in October 2023, or face a strike. In a confusing twist to the tale, TUC now says NLC is acting unilaterally. A total of 64 other groups have reportedly pulled out of the planned protest. Even the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) told the leadership of the NLC to seek dialogue with the Nigerian Government and shelve its strike. NLC says it would go ahead. Femi Falana, NLC Counsel has written the AG Federation to affirm the constitutionality of the right to protest and the ineffectuality of the two interlocutory injunctions ordered against the NLC by the National Industrial Court in the light of an extant Court of Appeal decision on the right to protest. Again, so much confusion. It is nonetheless important to state that peaceful protest is legal, valid and constitutional and whether or not the NLC succeeds or fails with its two-day warning strike, the key point is that there is disquiet in the land about inflation, the rising cost of living and the hardship that the people face. The people want tangible results not talks, promises, preachments, or optics. 

 

Many of the states, notably Lagos, Ogun and Borno have introduced palliative measures to help their people. These are welcome interventions. The Federal Government cannot do it alone. The people must see that their home governments care for them and have empathy for them as they experience what for many is the nightmare of a lifetime. The nightmare is so serious that the Federal Government in an attempt to show empathy, and to be seen “to be trying” has now announced that it will implement the Steve Oronsaye Report. I hope someone has read that report and tried to understand it properly. The Report recommends a lean, pruned down, more efficient government, shorn of waste, fat and duplication. President Tinubu does not need months or “a tripartite” committee to implement that. No further confusion, please.