The United Nations’ Climate Change Summit, otherwise called COP28, currently going on in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, opened with the historic launch of the Loss and Damage Fund on Thursday, December 3. The operationalization of the fund on the first day of the summit demonstrated the commitment of the world leaders to the resolution reached last year at COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. The talks at this year’s climate summit focused on finance and trade, two key issues that can engender the much-needed action on climate change and energy transition.
On the eve of the summit, there emerged a heart-warming piece of news: Nigerian Tariye Gbadegesin was appointed the Chief Executive Officer of the Climate Investment Fund. The fund based in Washington DC is one of the world’s biggest innovative financing platforms. Tariye replaces Portuguese Mafalda Duarte who is now at the head of the Green Climate Fund based in South Korea. Though the Harvard Business School graduate is also partly a US citizen, Tariye’s appointment speaks to the widely acknowledged innumerable talents that abound among the Nigerian-Americans.
This appointment is relevant and useful in the context of Nigeria and Africa. This is the first time, a person of an African bloodline, a woman with direct Nigeria linkage would emerge the head of an organisation that is often accused of pandering to the climate financing needs of American and Asian countries to the detriment of African nations. So her appointment is a fine appointment for Nigeria and indeed for Africa, and it’s reasonable to expect it will benefit the continent.
Following the launch of the fund, high-income countries started making pledges in solidarity, with about $1 billion pledged so far. Africa stands to benefit from the account, but the continent must now push for efficient deployment of the fund for the purpose of the vulnerable African communities.
Nigeria’s participation at COP28 helped to properly position her to benefit from the fund. This fund, as I see it, is a mechanism for support and securing justice over the climate crisis. Interestingly, the endowment fund is consistent with President Bola Tinubu’s persistent clamour for climate justice. The Nigerian President has always argued that the developed world needs to understand the predicament of the developing countries, particularly Africa who contribute the least to carbon emissions but suffer the most, and are now being asked to give up their major source of livelihood in the name of climate change. He said Nigeria and Africa need understanding and support for energy transition. While expressing support for climate change, President Tinubu would argue that asking Africa and a country like Nigeria to forgo hydrocarbon – her major source of foreign exchange earnings – is like asking “a church rat not to eat the Holy Communion,” and that Nigeria and Africa urgently require investments in alternative energy to be able to fully and effectively transition.
In plenary and sideline meetings, President Tinubu promoted this position and demanded at every turn during his participation at the Dubai climate summit. For instance, speaking on a panel on Africa Green Industrialization hosted by UAE President, who is also COP28 President, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Nigerian Leader said Africa must not become a victim of the disruptions that come with climate mitigation measures, while also stating that risk management is vital for Africa’s full and swift transition to cleaner energy.
COP28 was eventful for President Tinubu. The summit particularly presented an array of investment and partnership opportunities for the various sectors affected by climate change. Nigeria is already reaping the benefits of its participation.
Information Minister Mohammed Idris has already highlighted some of these gains. These gains are worth restating, however, in this piece.
One, Nigeria and Germany signed a performance agreement on the implementation of the Presidential Power Initiative (PPI) to improve Nigeria’s electricity supply. The Managing Director and CEO of FGN Power Company, Mr. Kenny Anuwe, and Siemens Energy’s Senior Vice President and Managing Director for Africa, Ms. Nadja Haakansson, signed the agreement on the sidelines of the summit, in the presence of President Tinubu and Chancellor Scholz.
Two. President Tinubu hosted a high-level meeting with stakeholders and investors on the Nigeria Carbon Market and the Electric Buses Rollout Programme. He unveiled the Nigeria Carbon Market Activation Plan, co-chaired by the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Mr. Zacch Adedeji, and the Director-General of the National Council on Climate Change (NCCC), Dr. Dahiru Salisu.
Three, on the subsisting issue of restoration of Emirates Airline flights, among other matters, the President also met the President of UAE to strengthen relations between the two countries.
Among other important meetings President Tinubu held with several leaders and multilateral partners in Dubai was the one with British King Charles, a well-known strident climate change advocate. King Charles had always expressed his desire to meet Tinubu who he said he was not opportuned to meet during his visits to Nigeria when the President was governor of Lagos. COP28 provided that opportunity.
Also, heads of several MDAs engaged with and forged useful agreements with their counterparts in UAE. For instance, the NNPC sealed two deals to commercialise the country’s Liquefied Natural Gas for domestic and international markets in order to ensure Nigeria earns the much-needed revenue from its abundant gas assets.
Also, after signing a strategic partnership agreement between themselves on research and development projects aimed at enhancing the quality, reliability and affordability of rural electrification solutions, Nigeria’s Rural Electrification Agency (REA) and National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) on December 8 in Dubai signed an MOU with Shenzhen Technology Development Company of China, through its subsidiary, Lemi Renewable Energy Limited. This agreement is targeted at the development and establishment of a $150million Lithium Battery Manufacturing and Processing Factory in Nigeria.
These are the important things that came out of the conference, as opposed to the controversy over Nigeria’s representation, which was stoked by some who ought to know better, but for their mischief. This is quite unhelpful. A conference of the magnitude of COP28 will attract many delegates, government officials and non-state actors alike, because of the significance of the issues involved. There were delegates including business leaders, development partners, climate activists, representatives of climate-impacted communities, members of other NGOs related to the environment, academics, journalists, and others at the conference. That they all registered under the name of the country does not mean the government sponsored them. Some of the delegates who registered under Nigeria’s name even operate outside the country and they sponsored themselves.
Importantly, the Minister of Information has put a lie to the figure bandied around as the number of Nigeria’s delegation when he provided the breakdown of the total 422 delegates. The delegation from Nigeria is a far cry from the figure bandied about. The more than 90,000 total participants and delegates from over 150 countries at this year’s summit, the highest in the history of the climate conferences thus far, are an indication of the importance of the summit. To further lend credence to the seriousness of the summit, as some government delegates were leaving for their respective countries on Tuesday and Wednesday, after the end of the plenary sessions, some delegates were just arriving Dubai Expo City venue of the summit for the technical and negotiation sessions, ending on Tuesday, December 12. Indeed, as it has been previously pointed out, COP28 was not a jamboree; it was a serious business.
Rahman is a Senior Presidential Aide
Nigerians from across the country and foreign dignitaries would squeeze into the 30,000-capacity stadium in Uyo on Saturday, December 9, to celebrate the 61st birthday of the Senate President, Senator Godswill Obot Akpabio. They will sing, dance, and give thanks to the Almighty for the life and strides of one of the nation’s most charismatic political leaders. Five days later in Abuja, they’d congregate in the Congress Hall of the Hilton Hotel for a national colloquium on Legislative Agenda for National Development to continue festivity. President Bola Tinubu will be there with Senator Anyim Pius Anyim, former Senate President, who will chair the occasion; while Olisa Agbakoba, eminent lawyer, will give the lecture. Two law teachers, Prof. Abiola Sanni, a University of Lagos professor of commercial lawyer with specialty in tax law and Prof. Joash Amupitan, DVC of UniJos, together with Mr. Tunder Fowler, former FIRS Chairman, will discuss the theme and add their own perspectives. With the country facing serious fiscal crisis, it is not surprising that the discussions would be tilting towards taxation, government’s revenue and how to grow the economy.
In between these two events, many other festivities in Akwa Ibom and across the country are being organized by Akpabio’s friends, political allies and colleagues. In a way, it feels like a big national event. The news is trending in the social media and in Abuja, radio talk shows are playing it up, with some repeating the fake information that the celebrations are being funded from the treasury. Akpabio’s media adviser, Mr. Eseme Eyibo, had earlier debunked the story, originated by Jackson Ude, a Nigerian in Diaspora notorious for spawning untruths about politicians. I have had cause in the past, while serving as media consultant to the Office of the Vice President when Prof. Yemi Osinbajo was in the office, to rebut Ude’s fabrications. There’s no prominent family Ude has not assailed. Living abroad gives him some kind of immunity to denigrate others.
Raised by a single mother (his father died even before he was born), Akpabio is from a very modest beginning. He loves to tell his story, lacing it with his civil war childhood, when Nigerian soldiers ransacked his community, killing and maiming, and how difficult it was for him to go to school. Biafra’s second-in-command, Gen. Phillip Efiong, grew up in that community, and so the rebel forces had quickly taken control of the area. In his memoire, Efiong recalls how he had asked Ojukwu for enhanced protection for his community because of the intelligence he had received of the impending counteroffensive by the federal side. The request, Efiong writes, was not granted. As the war progressed and Biafra continued to lose control, Nigerian forces came into Ikot Ekpene and the environs around late 1968 or early 1969 to liberate the area. They spared no person or animal. Women and children poured into the main road leading to Uyo, running and walking the 30-kilometer distance, to escape the fight. As governor, Senator Akpabio was fond of reminiscing on this story and the abject poverty of his early days. A toddler about the same time, I have also had cause to reminisce on my own war experience.
Akpabio, his family and many who know him closely tend to believe that he is a man after God’s heart for beating all odds and growing up to occupy very important leadership positions at every phase of his life. From secondary school (Federal Government College, Port Harcourt), where he was the Social Prefect to University of Calabar where he was Speaker of the Students’ Union Parliament, down to his recent election into the Executive Committee of Inter-Parliamentary Union, his path seems to be well laid out. ‘’Well, he has his foibles and weaknesses like the rest of us, but clearly, if you look at his background and humble beginnings and see where he is today, you can say that he is a man whom God has a special interest in’’, says Pastor David Usenobong, a church leader.
Senator Akpabio’s election into the Executive Committee of IPU at the 147th General Assembly of the global parliamentary body in Luanda, Angola, comes 59 years after Nigeria last occupied the seat. IPU is the global organization of national parliaments founded in 1889 and dedicated to promoting peace through parliamentary diplomacy and dialogue. It has grown into a truly global body with 179-member countries out of 193 countries in the world. You can then see why many are celebrating with Senator Akpabio, with the 17 senators from his own geopolitical zone cheerleading. In a goodwill message to be published in newspapers, they write: ’we salute your accomplished service to the 10th National Assembly and Nigeria at large’. Friends, family and associates are equally effusive with their compliments. Dr. Efiong Akwa, former chief executive of NDDC notes, ‘’when the hand of God is upon a man, what follows naturally is grace. The same man becomes unstoppable, moving from glory to glory…’’. Akpabio’s four children have also composed a special message to daddy: ‘’Today is a celebration, not just of the passing years, but of the incredible life you’ve lived. Six decades of your wisdom, love and laughter have shaped not only your own journey, but have left an incredible mark on ours as well’’.
Gov. Umo Eno has asked the people to toss aside political differences and celebrate with Senator Akpabio. ‘’I will be there at the stadium on Saturday to celebrate with the Senate President, and I invite you to attend in your numbers. I thank God that it is in my time that an Akwa Ibom son has been elected to occupy such an important position in the country’’, he announced at an official event Wednesday. The state has always been politically divided along party lines, but since Eno assumed office six months ago, he’s worked hard to close ranks and bring the people together. This is the first time that a governor of the state has ever had anything to do with opposition politicians or invite them to state functions. It is a refreshing departure from the past.
As I end, let me recall a small incident. In February 2008, Akpabio asked me to see him at the Governor’s Lodge, along Bishop Abayode Cole Street, Victoria Island, Lagos. He was then just eight months into his first term as governor and I was managing a branch of a bank not far from there. His personal physician, Dr. Iniobong Essien, had arranged the appointment. I arrived in the afternoon just as his motorcade swept into the compound, and I was soon ushered in. It was a brief visit. The governor thanked me for teaming up with other friends in Lagos to support his campaign and spoke of his plans to develop the state. I said a few words and soon, I got up to go. He stood up and walked me to the door, and just as I was about to exit, I said, quite impromptu, ‘’Your Excellency, please serve our people well. There is a bigger room for you at the top’’. He smiled, without saying a word. Well, 15 years after, see what we’ve got.
Congratulations, Senator Akpabio!
HENRY (Heinz) Alfred Kissinger, the most infamous United States Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, passed away peacefully at 100 on November 29, 2023 and is guaranteed a marked grave. Not so for the tens of thousands Africans, Latin Americans and Asians who experienced violent deaths in their youth and had no tomb stones in their names due to the policies formulated and implemented by Kissinger.
A prolific author, brilliant academic and highly cerebral intellectual, he, like his fellow German, Adolf Hitler, used his knowledge and skills to perpetuate unspeakable crimes against humanity.
One of the most vulnerable periods of Africa was in the 1970s, and tragically for the continent, it was the era Kissinger was most active, and perhaps most vicious, with no human compunction.
In that decade, Africa was in the struggle for life as a vicious regime in Portugal massacred Africans in Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau and Angola in an attempt to perpetuate its colonial rule. It was also the time, the Saharawi people led by POLISARIO, fought the Spanish for independence, and the Apartheid regime, assisted by the racist Ian Smith gang, tried to exterminate Africans in Zimbabawe (Rhodesia) Namibia (South West Africa) and South Africa itself.
Kissinger was a major supporter of Apartheid and got the US to prop up that evil regime which was also invading various independent African countries.
An opportunity for freedom opened in 1974 when a Portugal in turbulence virtually abandoned its four to five centuries colonialism of Guinea Bissau, Mozambique and Angola.
However, rather than hand over to the main liberation movement, the MPLA led by Dr Agosthinho Neto or organise elections, Portugal simply abandoned Angola.
This gave the US and its Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, the opportunity to try stopping the radical MPLA from running the country. First, Kissinger helped revive an old CIA asset, Holden Roberto leader of the FNLA who was living in Zaire (DRC) under his in-law, then President Joseph Mobutu Seseseko, to race to Luanda and take power. When the chances of Roberto did not appear bright, US propped up Jonas Savimbi of UNITA. When it did not appear these could stop the MPLA government, Kissinger engineered a combined force of the FNLA, UNITA, American mercenaries and the awesome Apartheid military, to seize power in Angola.
These forces pushed towards Luanda but Africa was angry that Apartheid was trying to claim another African country. A meeting of the Organisation of Africa Unity, OAU (now AU), was called for January 11, 1976 to take a position. Kissinger flew to Africa, warning the African leaders not to dare recognise the MPLA government.
An enraged Nigerian Head of State, General Murtala Ramat Mohammed, who had previously decided to send his Deputy, General Olusegun Obasanjo, to represent him at the summit, changed his mind, deciding to personally attend.
In his blistering speech at the OAU, Mohammed regretted that: “Rather than join hands with the forces fighting for self-determination and against racism and Apartheid, the United States policy makers clearly decided that it was in the best interests of their country to maintain White supremacy and minority regimes in Africa.”
He went on to deliver the killer punch: “Africa has come of age. It’s no longer under the orbit of any extra continental power. It should no longer take orders from any country, however powerful. The fortunes of Africa are in our hands to make or to mar. For too long have we been kicked around; for too long have we been treated like adolescents who cannot discern their interests and act accordingly.” With that and other speeches, Africa recognised the Angola government. Thirty two days later, General Mohammed was gunned down in Lagos in an attempted coup.
At the US National Security Council Meeting of May 11, 1976, Kissinger told President Gerald Ford that his actions in Angola and Africa were because “a communist victory in Angola would quicken events in Southern Africa, encourage radicalism and discourage moderates.” At the time of this Kissinger briefing, Apartheid South Africa was massacring African children in Soweto and here was Kissinger asking the US to prevent the collapse of Apartheid!
Kissinger also told Ford that the continent must not be allowed to develop because “Africa is important to us. Many key products—coffee, cocoa, cobalt, chrome, iron ore, diamonds—come from Africa, 30 to 60 per cent of our consumption; and for our European allies, the figures are even higher. The radicalisation of Africa would turn the Europeans, vis-a-vis Africa, into commercial enterprises rather than governments (we must) arrest the armed struggle in Southern Africa… The strategy was to slow down the struggle and get control of the process as we did in the Middle East.” Cuba, led by Fidel Castro sent troops into Angola to stop the Apartheid-led push towards Luanda; that changed the tide of the war and led to the eventual collapse of the racist regime in Zimbabwe and the Apartheid regimes in Namibia and South Africa.
In Chile, Kissinger was a main co-ordinator of the bloody 1973 coup by General Augusto Pinochet against elected President Salvador Allende. That coup took the lives of over 3,000 Chileans with tens of thousands imprisoned and over 200,000 fleeing the junta. As humanity raised its voice in horror at the massacres of the innocent in Chile, Kissinger lied that it was a communist propaganda against the Pinochet regime. Yet, with the CIA assisting Pinochet with the repression and the US having an embassy and diplomats in Santiago, Kissinger was well informed about the horrors being perpetuated in Chile.
One of the most criminal acts of Kissinger against humanity was the carpet bombing of Cambodia from 1969. The US was not at war with that country, yet it dropped about 500,000 tons of bombs on innocent Cambodians. Kissinger claimed that the bombs were targeted at Vietnamese soldiers whom the US suspected were hiding in that country. It was a precursor to the 2023 Israeli bombing and destruction of hospitals in Gaza because it had the false belief that the Hamas is operating beneath hospitals.
In December 1972, the US, desperate to withdraw its troops from Vietnam, dropped over 20,000 tons of bombs on Hanoi over a 12-day period to force a quick peace accord. Kissinger said the bombing was designed to shake the Vietnamese “to their core”.
The following year, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to both the warmonger, Kissinger and Vietnamese revolutionary, Le Duc Tho. The latter, pissed off by the such blatant hypocrisy, rejected the award.
If the world were built on justice, Kissinger would have spent the rest of his life in jail for crimes against humanity. But he was from God’s Own Country. God bless America!
It is with great honour and a deep sense of responsibility that I stand before you today to present our state’s 2024-2026 Multi-Year Budget before this hallowed chambers. This event is of even more import given that it is this administration’s first full year budget, which will go a long way in setting the pace for the achievement of our growth objectives.
It is not so long ago that we presented the revised budget for 2023 before you, honourable members of the House of Assembly, and I must again recognise your expedited consideration of that bill and put on record our appreciation for your commitment. In line with human nature, we have become accustomed to this level of commitment and, therefore, request that you deploy a similar degree of dispatch in your consideration of this current bill.
As you are aware, we had taken a bold view of the growth our state is capable of achieving if we are willing to believe in ourselves and utilise our God-given human and material resources to their fullest. Our vision remains ‘To make Enugu one of the top 3 states in Nigeria in terms of Gross Domestic Product and achieve a zero percent rate in the poverty headcount index.’ We also intend to grow our GDP from the current $4.4b to $30b before 2031.
To achieve these ambitious goals, we have adopted a number of philosophies, which have also found expression in this budget I am presenting today. The first philosophy is that private sector involvement is critical to the generation of the growth that we seek, and consequently we must invest in the factors required to attract private sector investments such as basic infrastructure and amenities (like roads and water supply), transport services as well as modernisation and digitalisation of our public services and their associated processes. Second, we have taken the view that one of the surest ways of ensuring sustainable eradication of poverty is through the aggressive enhancement of our education and public health systems. After all, we know that education corelates all over the globe with economic advancement and prosperity, while health, on the other hand, is critical for the optimisation of the human resources of any nation or sub-national entity. Finally, but most critically, we have taken the view that reliance on allocations from FAAC has not served us well to date and is unlikely to take us to the ‘promised land’. Consequently, you will see in this budget a philosophy to maximise our internal revenue generation efforts, by improving the efficiency of collections, enhancing the efficacy of government services to the populace and evolving creative new revenue generation sources particularly by optimising our natural resources, for example, improved oversight and regulation of mining activities and landed assets.
Before going into the current budget proposal, permit me to cast a glance backwards at our performance in the past period. By end of year 2022, this Honourable House approved a budget size of One hundred and sixty-six billion, six hundred and two million, four hundred and sixteen thousand, seven hundred and seventy naira (N166,602,416,770). During the 3rd quarter of 2023 there was need for a supplementary budget to accommodate new projects and programmes arising from priorities of the new administration in Enugu State and also to reflect the price variations due to inflation. The budget was therefore revised to a tune of two hundred and twenty four billion, six hundred and ninety seven million, eight hundred and ninety-nine thousand, and sixty three naira (N224,697,899,063).
Based on this revised budget, we have been able to make some appreciable progress in fulfilling our promises to Ndi Enugu over the last few months. In our view, some of the more notable achievements have included the following:
We have recently launched the ultra modern water scheme at Ninth Mile which has a daily production capacity of 70 million cubic meters (70,000,000m3) of clean water, combined with the production of 50 million cubic litres from Oji River. This gives a total volume of 120 million cubic meters per a day as against less than 2,000,000m3 we met on resumption of office. This achievement disrupts over two decades water scarcity in Enugu urban, and also fulfils our promise to Ndi Enugu to provide Enugu urban residents with water within 180 days.
We have awarded contracts for the construction and rehabilitation work on the over 81 roads, including several urban roads as well as some priority non-urban roads such as the dualization of Enugu Airport flyover, to Eke Obinagu and Ebonyi border, approximately 22km, and also the construction of Owo-Ubahu-Ama Nkanu-Neke-ikem road of approximately 45km. As you may be aware, work on these roads has since commenced.
We have also expanded the National Cash Transfer Register of the Federal Government from 43,000 to 260,000 beneficiaries. The expansion was to accommodate more poor and vulnerable residents in the state in line with our vision to eradicate poverty.
We have commenced the accumulation of 300,000 hectares of land for our land bank, which will be made available to corporate farmers for massive cultivation of agro produce. In line with this, one partner firm is already planting cassava under the pilot scheme of Cassava to Ethanol Programme in Aninri, Nkanu East, and Uzo Uwani LGAs. Related to this, we are advancing conversations with key development agencies for the development of Special Agro Processing Zones (SAPZs) in the 3 senatorial zones of the state.
We also held the Enugu State Investment Roundtable which attracted the best of the private sector as well as development partners such as AfDB, AFREXIM, FCDO, the WB, etc, thus signalling our government’s zeal to transform Enugu State into private sector driven economy.
In line with our commitment to reinvent our education system in Enugu State, we are constructing 260 Smart Model Basic Schools across the 260 wards in the state which will rank amongst the best in the country. The pilot Smart Model Basic School in Owo, Nkanu East Local Government Area is now ready for commissioning and similar Schools will be replicated in all the 260 wards across the 17 LG councils in the state.
We are also in the process of constructing 260 Type-2 Primary Health Centres across the 260 wards in the state to carter for the health needs of rural communities which are paramount in our health care agenda.
Last but not least, in recognition that no economic growth is possible without security, we have ensured the discontinuation of the ignoble Monday sit-at-home campaign and boosted the security framework within the state with the introduction of the Distress Response Squad, which has recorded several successes, effectively bringing the crime rate in Enugu State to a bare minimum. We are going further by commencing the installation of a CCTV surveillance network around the state. Work is at an advanced stage on this initiative.
The 2024-2026 Multi-Year Budget is named Budget of Disruptive Economic Growth. This is on account of the fact that it is structured to drive growth in a markedly different pattern than we had attempted to do hitherto. This departure from the usual is most apparent in two main areas. First, our approach to basic education where we are bringing into effect our cut-off program through the development of the 260 model schools to which I had earlier alluded. These schools are unique, not only in the fact that they will house the entire basic school classes from creche to JS3, but also in terms of the significant changes we are making to the curriculum of the children, where we will be infusing new subject areas like Technology, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, to mention but three. In addition, the approach to teaching in these schools will be experiential, with extensive use of practicals, examples, dramatization, gamification, and so on. This naturally requires extensive re-training of our teachers to enable them to grasp these new learning approaches as well as the various technology-based teaching and learning tools which we shall deploy examples of which are tablets, interactive white boards, learning management systems, etc. Beyond the ‘hard’ elements of learning, we will also infuse many ‘softer’ elements such as ethics, morals, critical thinking and hygiene to prepare our children to become the leaders we need tomorrow.
Another major area of positive disruption that finds expression in this budget is our drive to change our approach to public service by infusing the use of technology. In this regard, we are in the process of developing a new automated approach to governance, that will involve the automation of all MDAs in the government both in terms of how they run their internal operations and in terms of how they serve the populace. Upon conclusion of this transition to e-governance, it will be possible to initiate most government services without once visiting any government office or physically interacting with any public officer. This will result in increased operational efficiency in government and a higher level of service delivery with fewer revenue leakages. Implementing this will naturally require extensive training and re-training of our public servants to acquaint them with both the new technological tools required as well as the improved work processes to be adopted in executing their work functions under this new dispensation.
Mr. Speaker, Honourable Members, permit me to present the summary of recurrent and capital allocations and its proposed allocations to each sector that makes up this new Budget of Disruptive Economic Growth.
We are proposing a total budget of size of ₦521,561,386,000.00 for the 2024 fiscal year as against the approved revised provision of ₦224,697,899,063.00 for 2023. This represents a 132% increase from the 2023 revised budget. The budget is broken down as follows:
In the area of our revenues, we estimated that total recurrent revenues during 2024 will amount to ₦383,789,000,000.00 as against the approved revised provision for 2023 of ₦143,571,592,917. The recurrent revenues for 2024 are broken down as follows:
Internally Generated Revenue (IGR):
Excess Crude and others:
Value Added Tax (VAT):
Total Recurrent Revenue:
For 2024 Fiscal Year, Recurrent Expenditure which is proposed at ₦107,227,266,000.00 is made up of:
Consolidated Rev. Fund Charges:
Total Recurrent Expenditure:
With the total recurrent Expenditure at ₦107,227,266,000.00, this translates to a Net Recurrent Revenue of ₦276,561,734,000.00, which is thus transferred to the Capital Development Fund.
The total Capital Expenditure for the year 2024 is projected at ₦414,334,120,000.00 as against ₦135,715,099,693.00 for 2023 Revised Budget. The current capital expenditure estimate will be funded from the sum of ₦276,561,734,000.00 to be transferred from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, and the capital receipts of ₦137,772,386,000.00 to be realized as follows:
External and Internal Aids and Grants: N27,922,386,000
Public Private Partnership: N6,100,000,000
Domestic Loans/ Borrowings Receipts: N71,000,000,000
International Loans/ Borrowings Receipts: N32, 750,000,000
On a sectorial basis, the capital expenditure is broken down as follows:
Law & Justice Sector
As I mentioned earlier, education is a key plank in our strategy to eradicate poverty in our state. Consequently, ₦134,587,982,647.78, representing 73.6% of the social sector has been earmarked to help reinvent education in our state by developing the new Smart schools which I mentioned earlier as well as repositioning our senior secondary and tertiary institutions by training and retraining teachers and updating our curricula across all levels of education to infuse technology and technology appreciation and skills. This capital expenditure on education combined with the planned recurrent expenditure in the sector will bring our total spend on education to 33% of the total budget.
Healthcare remains paramount, especially in these challenging times. This budget allocates the sum of ₦ 21,777,421,000 to enhance healthcare facilities, expand access to quality healthcare services, and bolster our response to health emergencies. Our goal is to ensure every citizen has access to reliable and efficient healthcare. We pledge to upgrade healthcare facilities, ensure the availability of essential medicines, and implement initiatives to enhance public health awareness. In particular, we have commenced the construction of 260 Type-2 Primary Health Centres across the 260 wards in the State to carter for the health needs of rural communities.
We also understand the significance of infrastructural development in propelling economic growth. Hence, ₦82,535,147,361.03 is planned for road construction, maintenance, and rehabilitation of public building across the state. This initiative will facilitate smoother connectivity, bolster trade, and enhance overall accessibility, and attract investments that create jobs.
The sum of ₦28, 970, 250, 000 is planned for the enhancement of the water sector to ensure safe and quality water supply to Ndi Enugu. This investment will ensure the expansion of the current water scheme by boosting reticulation of water across the Enugu Metropolis.
Agriculture remains a crucial sector in our drive towards self-sufficiency and economic diversification. We are committed to developing at a Special Agro Processing Zone in each of the senatorial zones. In deed, we have reached an understanding with a development agency for the first one on which work will commence this year. These zones will enable us to support farmers with modern techniques, infrastructure and access to markets, ultimately boosting food production and creating employment opportunities. We are also in advanced stages of discussions with funders for the development of a Quality Assurance Centre in Enugu to facilitate the export of agro commodities from the Enugu Airport. In order to achieve this, a sum of ₦25,184,154,671.81 has been earmarked for this sector in the 2024 budget.
Additionally, this budget prioritizes job creation, empowerment programs for our youth, and initiatives to attract private sector investment. We are dedicated to fostering an environment that encourages entrepreneurship and innovation, thereby unlocking the full potentials of our vibrant populace.
Furthermore, we are committed to ensuring good governance, accountability, and the prudent management of public funds. We will work tirelessly to eradicate corruption and promote a culture of transparency in all government activities. Fiscal prudence and accountability will remain at the core of our financial management. We will ensure transparency in the utilization of resources, optimizing every naira to deliver maximum value for the citizens of Enugu State.
To support our fiscal initiatives and improve implementation effectiveness, this administration will also pursue the following initiatives:
Sustain an effective collaboration with security agencies and strengthen our logistic support to remain among the most peaceful states in Nigeria; increase Public Private Partnership (PPP) with relevant investors to invest in the key sectors of the state economy and undertake robust human capital development;
expand the industrial base of the state through rapid industrialization and harnessing of untapped mineral resources in the state; provide an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive through extensive improvement in the ease- of-doing-business ranking of the state; increase the domestic revenue base (IGR) significantly by eliminating evasion and leakages in collection and expenditure; develop the tourism potentials of the state and enhance creative industry;
stimulate the agricultural and agro-allied industries to boost production of local farmers to ensure food sufficiency for local consumption, exports as well as the provision of raw materials for the industries; rapid empowerment of children, women and youths through capacity building, empowerment, skill acquisition and elimination of gender discrimination practices; re-orientation of public servants through training & retraining, effective intra and inter MDAs collaboration by digitizing operations to enhance service delivery; provide recreational and sporting facilities to increase life expectancy, boost sports development and ensure improved performance of the state representatives at local, Nlnational and international sporting competitions; strengthen performance monitoring mechanism with a central coordinating unit at the Ministry of Budget and Economic Planning Commission; improve fiscal transparency and accountability in all MDAs with emphasis on due process and cost effectiveness in all programs and projects of government.
Mr. Speaker and Honourable Members, this budget of Disruptive Economic Growth of ours represents our collective aspirations and endeavors to build a more prosperous, inclusive, and resilient Enugu State. Consequently, I urge all stakeholders to join hands in this journey towards a better future for all residents. Together, we will achieve greatness and leave a legacy of progress for generations to come.
Thank you and God bless you and the entire people of Enugu State. I wish you a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.
Certainly, our Tomorrow is here!
Being the text of Governor Mbah’s speech during the presentation of the 2024 Appropriation Bill at the Enugu State House of Assembly on 5th December 2023
Ondo is one of Nigeria’s most enlightened states. It is, perhaps, side-by-side with Oyo, one of the most significant political bellwethers of the South-West. Apart from Olusegun Agagu’s four-year spell as governor, that state has maintained its progressive credentials in the last 24 years. But that illustrious tradition has fallen on bad times.
And you know this when the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which has governed the state for only four of the last 24 years, begins to suggest to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) how to manage what is obviously a delicate intra-party power transition. With nothing left to do in the wilderness, PDP is pleased to hold the beer while APC turns on itself.
It’s not the opposition’s fault, though. The tenure of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu will not expire till 2024, but his illness, especially in the last six months, during which he has been virtually absent from the state, has created an opening for forces within and without.
There are suggestions that Akeredolu who has reportedly been in Oyo State since he returned from a medical trip abroad in September, is terminally ill. No one is sure. The suggestions, worsened by his physical absence from the state, has fueled a proxy war between his loyalists and those of the Deputy Governor Lucky Aiyedatiwa. There are already comparisons to similar dark episodes in the country’s not-too-distant past.
Umaru Yar’Adua’s presidency, for example, was a troubled one. Whether or not Yar’Adua had properly transmitted power before he went abroad for medical treatment, as is required by law, and whether he had the presence of mind to continue discharging his duties as his condition deteriorated, remained a matter of feverish speculation traded on by vested interests.
The National Assembly had to improvise the “Doctrine of Necessity,” to remove him, paving the way for his deputy, Goodluck Jonathan, to become acting president.
Two years after the death of Yar’Adua, Governor Danbaba Suntai of Taraba State, who, like Yar’Adua, was elected in 2007, survived an air crash that, sadly, incapacitated him. But power brokers in Taraba preserved him like a sacrificial totem, exploiting his mummified image. As long as he could still be wheeled around and papers shuffled in his name, it was good business. Suntai, who had spent less than two years into his second term, was shunted between German and US hospitals at considerable expense for 10 months, while the state was left stranded.
When the puppeteers could no longer sustain the hideous drama, or perhaps they had just about made enough out of it, they wheeled the governor back into the country and left him in a limbo. His estranged deputy remained “acting governor” until Suntai’s tenure officially ended in 2015. Two years later, Suntai died.
I have been reliably informed that Akeredolu’s relationship with Aiyedatiwa is not, ordinarily, one that should warrant the insane stalemate that has made fools of the state’s wise men and women. After Akeredolu fell out with his former deputy, Agboola Ajayi – who remained in position even though he switched parties, following a failed attempt to impeach him – he chose Aiyedatiwa as his running-mate for his second term. The pair have been like six and seven.
Although cloak-and-dagger is a popular currency in politics, anyone who saw Aiyedatiwa’s pictures until June this year, would remember how difficult it was to spot the difference in physical appearance between him and the governor. With every inch of carefully manicured grey stubble, caps, glasses, and even posture, both of them looked like political Siamese twins.
But the remoter the chances of Akeredolu’s return seemed, the greater the pressure Aiyedatiwa came under to discard his beard and nurture his own path to power. How long before he would step out of the shadows and live up to his name, Aiyedatiwa (the world shall become ours)?
“Loyalty is at the heart of the matter,” one source close to both parties told me on Tuesday. “People began to suggest to Aiyedatiwa that he could actually get power if only he could be his own man, and soon enough. To plot his way, he began to hobnob with Abuja politicians and some of Akeredolu’s arch enemies.”
But “loyalty” to who? To a person or to the constitution and the law of the land? Anyone who remembers former Governor Babatunde Fashola’s words when, during his ministerial nomination screening, he was asked about his spectacular fallout with then former Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu, might agree that “loyalty” is one point on which politicians pray never to be tested.
“May your loyalty not be tested,” Fashola replied to uproarious laughter from senators. But what is happening in Ondo is not a laughing matter. Especially the suspicion by Akeredolu’s camp that the deputy governor is in cahoots with some notoriously dangerous politicians in Abuja and elsewhere.
It’s fair to ask why Akeredolu – or those who claim to speak for him – cannot set aside personal grudges and put the interest of the state first?
Why? Some personal grudges run deep. I’ll mention two shared by insiders.
One, in June, the governor was said to have signed some papers and returned them to his deputy for action. Upon receiving the papers, his deputy was alleged to have said, flat out, that Akeredolu could not have signed the papers; not in the mental state he was believed, or suspected, to be in at the time. The buzz from then on, magnified, repurposed and retailed in several salacious versions, was that there was no further need of proof that Aiyedatiwa wanted the governor dead. The world was, indeed, nearly his.
The second point, according to sources, has nothing to do with Aiyedatiwa directly, but with his new company. The governor’s wife, Betty Anyanwu, a most robustly active political wife, if ever there was one, had set her sights on the Senate in the February general elections in her native Imo State.
The problem was how to get past her state governor, Hope Uzodimma, who before the presidential primaries had pitched tent with Ahmed Lawan against Akeredolu’s preferred candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. In fact, it was Uzodimma and Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, who submitted Lawan’s nomination form.
As for the Owerri senatorial district, Uzodimma, an enigma, had other plans. He wanted Alex Mbata instead. Betty was forced to withdraw from the senatorial primaries in humiliation.
By the time Mbata lost to the Labour Party candidate, Ezenwa Onyewuchi, the damage had been done. The Akeredolus, still smarting from that defeat, are now also trying to get used to the fact that their man, Aiyedatiwa, is in bed with their foe, Uzodimma. Yet, if a politician sleeps with three women in one day, you can only thank God it was not four.
For a state with Ondo’s political sophistication, it’s a bit of a travesty to suggest that petty squabbles have held it hostage for months now. But that would be naïve. From the Spanish marriages to the Crimean War over the right of access to a church key, history is full of battles fought for the dumbest of reasons. President Tinubu’s last-minute intervention has kept the fragile peace in Akure. But no one is sure how long.
The longer it takes for the parties to find a sensible, common ground, the worse it would be for citizens whose interest they claim to serve. All said, if Akeredolu were in a position to make the call today, I’m not sure he would take a position different from the principled one he took as president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) when Yar’Adua was in a similar situation. He should resign.
If Akeredolu cannot make this call, those who can should do so for the sake of his legacy and the wellbeing of the citizens of the state. That is the painful but proper and necessary thing to do.
Azu Ishiekwene is the Editor-In-Chief of LEADERSHIP.
I write to pay my final respects to a remarkable individual, Chief Comrade Frank Ovie Kokori. His recent passing fills my hearts with sorrow, for I have lost another true champion of the people.
Frank Kokori was not only a prominent figure in the Nigerian labor movement but also a relentless advocate for justice and democracy. His unwavering commitment to the cause remained steadfast until his last breath.
Frank Kokori's illustrious journey began long ago, where he, with the likes of Comrade Honorable Joseph Akinlaja played an instrumental role in the historic June 12 struggle. When the presidential election held on that fateful day was nullified, Chief Kokori stood tall among those who fought tirelessly against this injustice. He believed in the rightful victory of Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola and dedicated himself to the cause of restoring democracy to our great nation.
For many of us, Chief Kokori was more than just a leader; he was a mentor who inspired and guided us in the pursuit of our convictions. As a young law undergraduate at the University of Jos, I personally had the privilege of being influenced by his wisdom and tenacity. Chief Kokori imparted upon me the importance of standing up for what I believed in and instilled in me the courage to fight for justice. Even until his last days, he never ceased to communicate with me, offering guidance and support.
Chief Kokori's impact extended far beyond his role as the former General Secretary of NUPENG. He was a beacon of hope for the marginalized and oppressed, a voice for the voiceless. He fearlessly championed the rights of workers, tirelessly advocating for their welfare and fair treatment. His dedication to improving the lives of ordinary Nigerians will forever be remembered and cherished.
In Chief Kokori, I have lost not only a leader but also a friend, a mentor, and a guiding light. His legacy will continue to inspire countless individuals to stand up for justice, to fight for the rights of the downtrodden, and to strive for a better future. As I bid farewell to a remarkable soul, let us take solace in the knowledge that Chief Comrade Frank Kokori's contributions will forever be etched in the annals of our nation's history.
May his soul find eternal rest, and may his memory be a source of strength and inspiration for us all.
Adieu Baba Frank Kokori, A Relentless Advocate For Justice And Democracy.
Dated 7th December, 2023
Olukayode A. Ajulo, OON, SAN, PhD, FCIArb. UK
“Life is like the oil within a lamp. It can be measured, but the pace at which it burns depends on how the dial is turned day by day, and how bright and fierce the flame is. And there is no predicting whether the lamp might be knocked to the ground and shatter when it could have blazed on a great while longer. Such is the unpredictability of life.” – Margaret Rogerson.
Life is indeed unpredictable, which means that it can be full of surprises, both good and bad.
The unpredictability of life is what makes it worth living. Overall, life is unpredictable, and there’s no way to know what the future holds. However, it’s essential to be adaptable and flexible to cope with unexpected events, to find a way forward, and also to live in the present.
However, it is worthy of note that I use the subject of ‘Unpredictability’ of life to underscore a COPIED POST that I stumbled upon as regards Senator Orji Uzor Kalu (OUK) and Femi Adesina’s working relationship.
Before I continue, I would like to share with us the profound and humbling experience, as explained in the COPIED POST below, between Senator Orji Uzor Kalu and Femi Adesina:
“Orji Uzo Kalu owns Daily Sun Newspaper, he employed Femi Adesina as a staff of the newspaper company, for years, while Orji remained a strong member of PDP, Adesina remained an ardent admirer and supporter of then General Buhari. Femi used Orji’s newspaper platform to promote and support Buhari’s ambition to become president of Nigeria. Orji never liked Femi’s support for Buhari, especially since his newspaper platform is being used by Femi for the same purpose. He tried to stop Femi severally but Femi’s love for Buhari wasn’t too easy to wash away. During former President Jonathan, Orji Kalu was summoned at PDP’s BOT meeting to answer questions over his inability to sack Femi Adesina despite the damage they believe he was creating for their party through the Sun Newspaper which is also owned by a BOT member, Orji Kalu.
Orji came to the BOT meeting and replied with a smile on his face saying, “Sometimes we must allow our boys who work under us to think differently, that’s another way of allowing them to grow and to be independent”. He promised them at the meeting that he would continue to talk to Femi, and that he believed Femi would change one day.
Orji continued to allow Adesina to use his newspaper platform to support Buhari even though he was a PDP member and Orji was supporting Jonathan at that time. To cut the story short, when Buhari won the 2015 presidential election, he appointed Femi Adesina as a senior Media aide. When Orji was sentenced by the court for corruption allegations under Buhari’s government, Femi Adesina was among those who stood firm by his former Boss while in prison by engaging Senior lawyers and stakeholders until Orji got an unprecedented and uncommon U-turn by the Supreme Court over his imprisonment. Orji went back to active politics and he is currently a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Those who are proud of sacking their brothers over simple and understandable political differences should learn from the story of Orji Kalu and Femi Adesina.
A person who works under you today may become your helper tomorrow, and a person who works under you today may become your children’s boss tomorrow”.
In conclusion, the key message here is the unpredictability of life. You never know what life will bring tomorrow. Therefore, if you are in the position to lead today, remember to be fair, impartial, and righteous even if uncomfortable doing so at that time. It’s called selflessness.
On a last note, it is remarkable that history is never complete and always changing. It is subject to our own bias and prejudice and views and all manner of other human foibles. And yet, considering carefully the OUK/Femi Adesina testament, it can teach us an enormous amount about ourselves and life.
For what many consider his over-enthusiasm in raising N15 billion to complete the long abandoned vice presidential house, Nyesom Wike, Minister of Abuja Federal Territory has gone through great stress and strain this past week. But one thing that is going well for the minister is that you can predict his stand on most issues. That makes him less dangerous than many of his predecessors that have used their positions to inflict pain on Nigerians. It is therefore safe for one to conclude Wike’s desperate attempt to complete the N7.1billion ill-conceived ‘befitting residence for our vice President’ by May 29, 2024 was informed by any other consideration other than meeting President Tinubu’s expectation that he finishes all abandoned projects.
But let us first situate the sources of our nation’s nightmare. Successive past ministers of Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have always substituted their brain waves for state policies which they then imposed on Federal Housing Development Authority (FHDA) for implementation.
It has also been established that the Abuja masquerades that have used the FHDA as conduit pipes to fleece the country since 1999 are part of the military baked ‘new breed politicians’ who as creation of “Nigerian army of anything is possible” share the same mind-set with soldiers’ of fortune whose only orientation is sharing spoils of war after victory. It is therefore not a surprise that many of them have been indicted since 1999 through the courts or National Assembly probes for massive corruption executed through “privatization, monetization, unbundling of PHCN and Constituency projects policies or outright stealing by state governors.
While 10 Downing Street, has remained the residence of the British Prime Minister since 1735 and the White House the official residence of American President since 1800 without serious structural changes, our own “Nigerian Defence House”, made up of the main residence/president’s office, Aguda House/Vice President’s office and guest houses, built by Julius Berger at a cost of N25billion in 1989, has according to FHDA gulped about N8b in the name of renovation in a little over a decade.
It was the Abuja minister and the FHDA that unilaterally declared the Aguda House unsuitable for our vice president and went on to secure the Federal Executive Council (FEC)’s approval for a N7.1bn contract to put up what they describe as “a worthy edifice to house Nigeria’s Vice President’. The project according to Minister Dora Akinyili was to be completed in 20 months.
We also got to know through FCDA’s Director of Public Building, Arch. Adebowale Ademo that it was not the vice president, the end- user that decided on the facilities needed in the building but FCDA. And their preference are: the main building, three different living rooms, the vice president private room and conveniences, the second lady private lounge as well as a “chapel, a mosque and a dormitory for the security personnel.”
And just as work was expected to be nearing completion in 2012, it was also the then Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Bala Mohammed who insisted N9 billion more was needed to complete the project. The request was turned down by the 7th Senate even after the N9billion was slashed to N6billion by the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP). The then Senate Committee on FCT, led by Senator Smart Adeyemi said either N13 billion or N14 billion or N16 billion for the project was “indefensible”.
His position was supported by the then chairman of the House Committee on FCT, Herman Hembe, his counterpart at the Lower House who expressed dissatisfaction with the level of work done despite the claim that about 87 per cent of the contract sum had been paid. It is also on record that it was the minister who, feeling dissatisfied with the verdict of the two houses, took the case before the Federal Executive Council (FEC) where the case stalled following President Jonathan’s insistence that the nation could not afford 120 per cent variation.
It was also another minister of the Federal Capital Territory, (FCT) Adamu Aliero who threw a jibe at Vice President Osinbajo to attract his attention by claiming “The vice president is staying in a guest house (Aguda House) meant for visiting heads of state.” The vice president in 2016 decided to go and inspect the project that was up till then a monopoly of successive ministers of Federal Capital Territory. His report after the inspection was damning. For him “the N6bn already spent on the project was a misapplication of funds”. His advice to FHDA was that the building be “considered for other use” since according to him, “there is no need for a new residence for the vice president as the current one, called Aguda House, is up to standard with enough space and well managed.”
Osinbajo has said Aguda House is good enough for the vice president. Shettima the current occupier has also not complained. If I were to advise Minister Wike therefore, I will say he should separate himself from his predecessors who as shown above have always wept louder than the bereaved.
I think we should also remind ourselves that it was the FHDA that presided over the sales of Asokoro legislative quarters to the lawmakers, the sale of the Senate President’s mansion, (a national monument) to David Mark just as they did for Dimeji Bankole, the Speaker of the Lower House. While this macabre dance was going on, contracts for a new Senate President and Speaker’s residences were awarded. And while David Mark accused by EFCC of short changing the nation ran to court to defend his spoils of war, the proposed Senate President and Speakers mansions have also become abandoned projects.
In view of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s verdict, I think I will align myself with Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP)’s call on the Senate President, Godswill Akpabio, to use his leadership position “to promptly reject the plan by the Minister of the FCT, Nyesom Wike, to spend N15 billion for the construction of a ‘befitting residence’ for the Vice President, Mr. Kashim Shettima.”
The body’s claim that spending N15 billion on ‘a befitting residence’ for the vice president at a time when the federal government is set to spend 30 per cent (that is, N8.25 trillion) of the country’s 2024 budget of N27.5 trillion on debt service costs” will be a betrayal of the people, is unassailable.
After all, we have been told that the house with split ACs fixed was nearing completion before it was abandoned. The then FCDA Executive Secretary, Adamu Ismail, was also quoted as telling the Senate Committee on FCT that the proposed additional N9bn ( slashed to about N6bn) by the Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) was meant to provide furniture, fencing, two additional protocol guest houses, a banquet hall and security gadgets.
Since the building can be put into other use in its current state, I think Minister Wike should just ignore the above variations and turn the building into other use as suggested by Osinbajo.
For him it becomes a win-win situation. He would have with one single stroke met the expectations of President Tinubu, a leader he desperately wants to please. He would have also distanced himself from his predecessors who for reasons other than altruism were prepared to shave others’ heads in their absence.
The revelation by the Ondo State Commissioner for Information, Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, that the presidential intervention in the state’s political crisis climaxed in demanding a signed resignation letter from the Deputy Governor, Lucky Aiyedatiwa, should have caused an outrage. There is no circumstance under which a deputy governor handing over his pre-signed resignation to the president can be deemed as freely given consent. In a place where their democracy does not begin and end with seizing power through elections, placing a public officer on tenterhooks such that he can be removed on a whim would be a scandal. But of course, this is Nigeria. Who dares tell President Bola Tinubu that he overreached himself by that move?
The case of Governor Rotimi Akeredolu is about the third major instance of a public officer resolutely holding on to office while battling a protracted sickness that keeps him away from his duty post, and Nigeria is still not any closer to institutionalising the means of addressing the crisis that attends such situations. We have, in fact, slid from triggering the “doctrine of necessity” to an informal means of getting a patriarch-president to resolve issues as if this is an agboole fight. What is being touted as a “political solution” to the Ondo crisis robs everyone of the opportunity to resolve the crisis based on a codified procedure.
By getting a higher power to stifle the political agents whipping up crisis, the president merely elevated the ad hocism of wringing out a pre-signed resignation letter out of a political agent above the rational means provided by the constitution. When we have another case like this one in the future (a matter of time), we will not have developed enough the habits that ultimately ingrain the culture of democracy. We will be more likely to fall back on quicker resolution through informal or quasi-formal means. While the crisis in Ondo has been doused for now (at least until the coming election when the question of succession will arise), we are not necessarily better off for it. Neither Ondo nor Nigeria gained anything from the supposed resolution.
Akeredolu’s tenure continues for roughly another year, and he will remain in Ibadan, Oyo State, from where he will be administering the state from his sickbed. Bringing up the morality of an arrangement that allows a governor to oversee his constituents from a remote location expectedly triggers all kinds of sentiments that obfuscate what is at stake. On a good day, Nigerian politics comprises many old men understandably conscious of their own impending senescence. The moral position they take in these situations is dictated by an uneasy awareness of their own biological fallibility.
When an ailing leader clings to power, the structure of power and authority becomes distorted; all manner of self-seeking agents arise to take advantage. Responding to media reports that some nefarious agents are exploiting the governor’s condition to forge his signature, Bamidele-Olateju reassured us that Akeredolu still functions as the governor. Media reports quoted her as saying she sent two files to the governor, which were returned (approved) within a week. But since Bamidele-Olateju did not physically witness him treat those files, how could she say that someone did not truly take advantage of Akeredolu’s condition to act on his behalf? Besides, is signing files all there is to Ondo State governance?
Apart from his prolonged absence from the state, the governor is hardly seen in public. From various media reports and accompanying images, his condition has taken a toll on him. No one can expect a man in his condition to brainstorm ideas or superintend activities. It would be highly insensitive to ask him to sit at extended meetings to debate policies. Under a different set of circumstances, his insistence on defying the reality of biological toll would be inspiring. When such stubbornness is extended to the political arena, we can no longer parse it as a narrative of an individual’s fierce will in the face of constraining reality.
After the instances of late President Umaru Yar’Adua between 2008 and 2010, and that of ex-President Muhammadu Buhari, I am afraid that these awkward situations have come to stay. They have become part of our political culture and resolving them going forward will be done without recourse to either the letter of the law or even ethics of public representation. The case of Yar’adua was sensational because the situation was novel for a civilian president. His associates did not quite know what to do and they subjected the man to various undignified treatment in the name of extending his rule for as long as possible. From proving his life through signing the supplementary budgets from his sickbed in Saudi Arabia to eventually opening him up to private observations of his conditions, he was serially exploited.
Then came the Muhammadu Buhari administration where the helmsman spent almost a cumulative one year abroad getting treatments. By this time, we had become familiar with the routine: the denials, the gaslighting, and the belligerence of media aides who arrogantly remind us that it is the 21st century and the president is at liberty to work from anywhere in the world, including a United Kingdom hospital bed.
The hypocrisies of the Yar’Adua years and the absurdities of the Buhari era converge on the present situation. Now that he faces a similar situation, Akeredolu has been reminded of his exact words to Yar’Adua when the latter was sick: if you love your country, you should resign. Now that it is his turn to prove that a state is greater than an individual, he cannot live up to the ideal he preached. Just like in the time of Yar’Adua where we detected the “proof of life” through his signing documents, we know all is well with Akeredolu too because he signed (and approved) two files within a week! Also, similar to how we were told that Buhari could rule from a remote location, Akeredolu also governs from somewhere in Ibadan. His aides say as long as people get their salaries on time, what does it matter where their leader is?
History incessantly repeats itself in Nigeria either because students never take its lessons, or it is just a bad teacher.
Some of these issues, of course, are dictated by the nature of our politics. Even if Akeredolu thinks he ought to end the farce and give up his office, he will be reminded that he holds power on behalf of the ethnic group he represents. In Nigeria, people hold—and hold on to—power on behalf of their respective tribes. Akeredolu, for instance, not only represents the state as a leader, but also represents a specific constituent within the state who consider themselves empowered through him. To give up before his time is up denies them the vicarious pleasure of being in power for the length of time they think they deserve to spend in that office. While they might not be enjoying what they have due to the condition of their representative, they at least get some delight in seeing that another (often, opposing) group does not have it.
As for the political solution of asking a deputy governor to sign and submit a resignation letter, I cannot help but wonder at the cunningness. I frequently marvel at how African leaders can get around any legal and juridical impediment to get power but cannot extend such genius to solve economic and development issues. Yes, they temporarily resolved this problem but what happens next time? The day is still coming when the president will meet his match in a deputy who is ready to stake the limited power of a deputy governor for a showdown. That is the day you run the limits of coercive tactics.
On 17 January 2017, a Nigerian Air Force (NAF) fighter jet mistakenly dropped bombs on settlements harbouring Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDPs) in Rann, Kala Balge local government area of Borno State. Fifty-three persons died on the spot while no fewer than 200 others, including humanitarian aid workers of the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC), were seriously injured. President Muhammadu Buhari made the usual pledge at the time to investigate “this regrettable operational mistake”. But nothing happened in the aftermath. And apparently no sufficient lessons were learnt by military authorities because we continue to witness these avoidable tragedies.
Last Sunday night in Tudun Biri, Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State, dozens of people were killed, and hundreds of others injured when a military drone bombed a gathering of residents who were reportedly celebrating Maulud. I commiserate with people of the affected Kaduna community even as we continue to hear heartrending stories about the plights of the survivors. The federal government has issued the usual ‘call for probe’ statement, but I strongly urge President Bola Tinubu to demonstrate how he will be different from his predecessor who was characteristically aloof in moments of national grief such as this. I also call on federal and state authorities as well as public-spirited individuals to come to the aid of those who sustained injuries to help mitigate their sufferings. Given that we are dealing with people on the lower rung of the social ladder, the tendency is to quickly forget about them and move on in a nation where the lives of ordinary citizens count for little.
Let me be very clear here. Anywhere there are military operations, there are usually collateral damages. And we must commend our armed forces for their sacrifice over the years as we confront insurgency, banditry and sundry other criminal cartels who work against the peace and progress of Nigeria. The concern is that this is a recurring tragedy, and no explanation has been made, even though hundreds of lives have been lost in the past decade. That is where accountability by the military comes in. In its report on Monday, ‘Daily Trust’ newspaper documented 15 military air strikes on civilian populations between 2014 and 2023, that have led to hundreds of fatalities.
Perhaps more revealing is the ‘Special Report’ by Reuters (one of the largest news agencies in the world) in June this year. Authored by David Lewis and Reade Levinson, the report highlighted what was described as a pattern of deadly aerial assaults by the military on civilian populations in Nigeria. “An airstrike near the village of Akwanaja earlier this year (January 2023) shows how Nigeria’s military, which is backed by the United States and other powers, has repeatedly conducted attacks from the air that have killed civilians. Engaged in a war with Islamist insurgents in the northeast, the air force is often called on to tackle criminal activity like banditry in areas far from the conflict zone,” the report claimed in the introduction. “A Reuters analysis of violent incidents documented by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), a U.S.-based crisis monitoring group, found that more than 2,600 people had been killed in the last five years in 248 air strikes by the Nigerian Air Force outside the three northeastern states engulfed in war…Most victims are identified in the database as belonging to ‘communal militia,’ a broad term that in Nigeria can include anyone from community self-defence groups to criminal gangs known locally as bandits. The incidents documented in the database were not independently confirmed by Reuters.”
Military authorities are aware of these challenges. In October last year, the immediate past Chief of Air Staff, Oladayo Amao disclosed during the opening of the 2022 Air Operations Seminar in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, that a committee had been established to compile all allegations of accidental air strikes on civilians in recent years. The investigation, he said, was aimed at proffering far-reaching measures that would mitigate future incidences of collateral damage to civilians during such operations. While no one knows the status of that investigation, assuming there is one, the Reuters’ report was ignored by Nigerian authorities. But the American State Department deputy spokesman, Vedant Patel said in August that they were aware of the issues raised by Reuters. “We take all reports of civilian casualties seriously, and they should be thoroughly and transparently investigated.” Preventing them, Patel added, is “central to our security cooperation with the Nigerian military.”
The Kaduna bombing is indeed one too many. I am delighted that many religious and traditional leaders in the North have waded in to prevent a misreading of the situation and the danger such portends for the health of our country. As painful as this tragedy is, it was a mistake on the part of the military. But in calling for adequate compensation for victims, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has summed up what the real issue is. “Communities in the northern states have enough problems with banditry to have to again worry about becoming hapless victims of the misbegotten strategies of those who should be helping to wipe out the scourge of banditry and terrorism,” ACF National Publicity Secretary, Professor Tukur Muhammad-Baba said on Tuesday.
This then brings me to the issue of how traumatized victims are almost always abandoned after every tragedy. In January 2019, two years after the Rann bombing, Lagos lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, called on the federal government to compensate victims. “While soliciting the understanding and support of all Nigerians and members of the international community regarding the tragic incident, the panel of inquiry and the NAF Authorities have failed to address the payment of compensation to the people who were injured and the families of those who were killed in the bombing incident”, Falana wrote in a letter directed to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). There is nothing on record that he got any response to his letter or that the victims have been compensated.
Indeed, if there is anything to take from the statement by Dr Shuaibu Musa, the Deputy Chief Medical Director of the Barau Dikko Teaching Hospital, it is the absence of any structure to take care of victims who are often abandoned to their fate. While updating the media about the number of casualties brought to the hospital, Shuaibu said that the Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Musa, had promised to give the victims “something” for feeding and laundry. The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Taoheed Lagbaja also reportedly ‘donated’ N10 million at the hospital. Such an ad hoc arrangement is unacceptable for people whose lives have been turned upside down due to no fault of theirs. Not only should the federal government foot the medical bills of all the victims, but compensations should also be paid for these collateral damages, as being demanded by many stakeholders.
Meanwhile, I understand that the general area where the incident occurred is heavily infested with bandits and terrorists who carry out attacks on the Kaduna-Birnin Gwari Road and other locations in Igabi, Chikun, Giwa and Birnin Gwari local governments. It is the same location that respected retired federal permanent secretary, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, who is currently an adviser to Vice President Kashim Shettima, once described as a bandit territory. “For almost 400 square kilometers, from Abuja to Kaduna, Zaria and Birnin Gwari, there is hardly any farm with cattle [left],” he once wrote. “A huge swathe of the north is now bandit territory. Most of us know where our cattle are, but we cannot retrieve them. Abducted women and young girls hardly ever return…”
The fact that this has long been a dangerous territory was also confirmed in a March 2014 interview in ‘Daily Trust’ newspaper by the Emir of Birnin Gwari who spoke about criminality in his domain and the activities of cattle rustlers. “They are in control of one village called Jan Birni. You can’t go there now if you are not a thief. If they don’t know you, they may kill you,” said the Emir who then advocated self-defence by his subjects at the time. “These rustlers don’t care whether you put fire on your cattle, they will whisk them away. If your cattle are branded, they will slaughter them, cut them up and sell them in pieces. If you go to Birnin Gwari-Funtua axis, they are gradually taking over all villages and towns along the roads. They come out on market days and brandish their weapons without a care…”
We do not have the exact details of what led to the latest catastrophic error that claimed several lives in Kaduna State, but what is not in dispute is that the intelligence relied upon for the attack was wrong. From the little information I have been able to pierce together from military and political sources in Kaduna, most of the area where the tragedy occurred had practically been taken over by criminal overlords. But I have also been told that some of the military theatre commanders are either confused or have not mastered the new equipment at their disposal. For instance, there are reports that the army did not double check the ‘unusual movement’ picked up in the area by their Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAE) before the attack last Sunday night. That should never happen. Besides, there is a doctrinal deficit in fighting banditry and related crimes from the air with either drones or combat aircraft. Even in advance societies, such targeting can be imprecise as it is often difficult to sift the bad guys from innocent civilian populations from the air.
I sympathise with the Nigerian Army on this issue, because of the challenges they have had to grapple with by combining internal security with defending the nation’s territorial integrity. But it is not enough for them to just own up to the Kaduna killings, apologise and move on. They owe Nigerians an explanation as to what exactly happened. At all times and in all circumstances, people in uniform and under authorized orders are accountable for lives, even in combat zones. It is therefore imperative that the Defence Headquarters investigate this and other accidental mass killings of innocents in recent times with a view to ensuring they do not happen again.
Metro Bakery and Restaurant: A Remarkable Story
Come Saturday, Mrs Sandra Adio will open her Metro Restaurant in Abuja: “A culinary haven where flavours and passion converge”. Built on the same plot (then rented but now bought) where they started just as a bakery nine years ago, the story of Metro Bakery and Restaurant is one of resilience and entrepreneurship. It is heartwarming to see that she dared and ultimately won, even in an environment as hostile to small businesses as ours. It also speaks to the power of social media for those who deploy it for worthwhile causes. I was at the site for the new restaurant yesterday to watch as Mrs Adio put finishing touches to the elegant building ahead of the opening ceremony and I could not hide my admiration.
As an aside, in the interest of the future ‘shares’ to which I feel entitled, I have never allowed Mrs Adio to forget that on Saturday 13 December 2014, I had the rare honour and privilege to ‘declare the bakery open’ with a prayer. From that humble and unsure beginning, the food company now boasts of three distinct arms: a bakery, a pastry, and now a full-fledged restaurant. And from just three initial staff, the company now has 98 workers with an additional 10 expected next week.
The last of nine children, Mrs Adio grew up close to her enterprising mother who died just four months ago. It was from her mom, late Mrs. Kate Odigue, that Mrs Adio learned all aspects of cooking. But while that has proved to be an asset, it was more by accident than by design that she is today the proprietor of the go-to place for food lovers in Abuja.
As Mrs Adio told me yesterday, it was her husband, Waziri, who suggested to her to venture into baking and this led her to attend the prestigious International Culinary Centre for Arts in Dubai, after taking a short course at the Entrepreneurship Development Centre of the Lagos Business School. “As it would happen, the demand for Metro bread exploded, especially when I decided to put it on Instagram,” she said. “And then people started asking whether we also do meat pie, puff puff, etc. That was how we went into pastry.” But the more interesting story came with the addition of household food. “One Sunday afternoon in 2018, after I had prepared Jollof rice for the family, one of my daughters suggested posting it on Instagram. It’s one of those things you do for fun. And then requests started coming from some of our customers.”
With the assistance of her children, Mrs Adio started to prepare food to meet the small orders. And then something happened. “One day I got a call from Mrs Pat Ofilli who said she had eaten my food somewhere. She asked that I prepare food for 200 birthday guests. Not only was I shocked but I instantly told her I had no capacity to do it,” Mrs Adio said of what turned out to be the big break. “Auntie (as she now addresses Mrs Ofili who has indeed played the role of a sister to her) encouraged me that I could do it and I did. It was not long after pulling that off that I got another call from someone at an agency who said she had heard about Metro from her colleagues. She requested 600 packs of food for a training programme.”
Since then, from birthday ceremonies to burials and religious events, requests for food have not stopped coming the way of Metro, whose main line of business remains bread sold in FCT and five nearby states and now produced at a purpose-built factory a stone-throw from the restaurant, the latest venture. According to Mrs Adio, the game-changer in her food business has been Instagram. “That is where most of our customers first heard about Metro.” But running the business has had its challenges. She said: “Despite the fact that you get no support from the government and must provide your own electricity and water, what you get every day is harassment from the different government agencies. You pay all manner of charges that you wonder whether the whole idea is to force business owners to close.”
Ordinarily, a government that is interested in job creation and economic growth should be providing incentives and creating the enabling environment for more businesses like Metro Bakery and Restaurant to thrive, not striving to drive them underground or to tax them to death. Businesses that employ tens and hundreds of workers are the real engines of growth in even developed economies. Such businesses will be critical to Nigeria’s capacity to sustainably address its unemployment crisis and slow growth. The earlier the government gets this, the better for all of us. For now, a well-deserved congratulations to Madam Metro. Here’s to even greater heights!
From Saturday next week, on TopRadio 90.9 FM, aboard the ‘The Vintage Talkshow’, we shall be hosting the first in a three-part series of the Wale Olomu Memorial Awards and Roundtable (WOMA-R). The awards are set up in the memory of a young Nigerian journalist who, until his death at the age of 30 in 1994, embraced with a crusading tenacity the reportorial philosophy that was uncommon and remarkable amongst his peers. His philosophy was driven by a fervent desire to unearth, appreciate and promote the talented works and great efforts of people least recognised nor appreciated by the vast majority of the Nigerian entertainment reportorial corps of his day.
You may ask, what is all this fuss about a dead entertainment journalist almost 30 years ago? Perhaps, a rehash of a chapter devoted to our professional relationship in my latest book, “FAME: Untold Stories…” will explain with more clarity the peculiar and admirable traits of this man whom several of his contemporaries, colleagues and objects of his preoccupation still fondly remember…even after three decades.
Here are excerpts from the chapter titled ‘Entertainment Reporting Capital’: “I believe I met Adewale Benjamin Olomu in late 1988 through Azuka Jebose Molokwu. He was working with The Republic newspapers. It didn’t take long to like and move around with him. He was just two years younger than me, but was quite respectful, and eager to excel as an entertainment reporter. He was living around Agege, and by mid 1989, I had moved to the fringes of Agege, in an area called Gengeto, Oko-Oba – from Mafoluku, Oshodi. We had sorties in my two-bedroom apartment, discussing ideas and concepts for FAME, which was still a foetus. It was given that my popular multi-columned pages, ‘FAJ’s Fantasia’ would take the usual four pages or so, but I recognized the tenacity, determination and flair of Wale in surmounting reportorial odds and barriers with a dash of warm smiles, likable humour and remarkable honesty. He had to get a page, or two, to actualise his own dreams too. We developed a lot of ‘technical’ reporting of areas of entertainment less glamorous, and hardly mentioned: studio engineers, cover designers, backup singers and bands men, studio editors, record companies, marketers and distributors, and many other ordinary but vital sub-frames of the Nigerian showbiz.
I found out early that Wale derived some sort of energy and satisfaction in exposing and recognizing talents in these unglamorous aspects of entertainment, and I was determined to make FAME become synonymous with the Nigerian entertainment so intricately and deeply that anyone interested in understanding the true and full nature of our entertainment industries would simply just pick volumes of the magazine, and be fulfilled…
It was during one of our weekly FAME ‘conferences’ that he introduced his lovely bespectacled girlfriend to me: Taibat Adebisi Yussuf. She was quite supportive, and fond of Wale; she later became close to my then girlfriend, Iretunde Willoughby. We often ‘tripped’ around the weekend club circuit with the two ladies providing great companionship. While I got married about two years afterwards, Wale was still planning to settle down with Bisi… until his demise on 22 December, 1994. But I digress…
With about 30% of the new magazine devoted to entertainment, it was a pure hand-rubbing spectacle for Wale to literally dig his teeth in. We created little columns for activities and profiles of men and women buried deep at work in different recording studios, both well-known and nondescript: EMI, Polygram/Premier Records, Afrodisia/Decca Studios, Olumo Records, Decross, Tabansi, Sony Music, CBS Records, Mut-Mokson, etc. We dug them out – some were reluctant collaborators, wondering what was our benefit in showcasing their activities; others lapped it heavily, providing us with regular materials and insider details.
One peculiar ‘technical’ column was the monthly rundown of best selling music called ‘FAME Monthly Awards’. We agreed that Wale was best positioned to do the ‘dirty work’ of going every week to major record dealers and retailers in Mushin, Oshodi, Ebute Metta, Somolu, Agege, etc, and getting sales performance of albums and cassettes on display. This was a thanklessly hazardous and time-consuming task. To Wale, it was a joyful engagement that would truly identify the actual performance strengths of so-called popular acts whom their record companies’ A&R (artistes and repertoire) managers had hyped to high heavens with specially programmed press releases. It didn’t matter to Wale that his own younger brother, Dayo, worked for one of the more prominent companies!
We had been complaining about one of the selection criteria in the biggest award ceremony in town, the Nigerian Music Awards, NMA – namely ‘Popularity/Sales Performance’. How did the adjudicators of the awards come about which artistes were more popular than the others beyond the media penetration and savviness of record companies and labels? And how did they know who sold more than the others, in an environment where there was complaint galore amongst artistes of not knowing how their works were doing? Everyone knew that most record companies were being dodgy about opening their sales records to public scrutiny.
We chose to delve into the murky mirage of actual records from the streets, at least using Lagos, and possibly Onitsha, as our field of investigation. And it worked like a charm. Every week, we collated Wale’s wealth of accessed data to make the best selling works as revealed by actual sales, without any ‘mago-mago’ – and published at the end of the month the summary in different awards categories with fanfare. One week was for announcing the nominees by the two-man “FMA committee”; and the next week for the winners, sometimes including a brief explanation. The following month, the inflow of collated data would make some artistes drop off or stay up; and new ones might come in.
The first monthly Fame Music Awards was published on August 2, 1991, and it became very popular amongst music enthusiasts, and our readers. By the end of 1991, we decided to review all the editions since the beginning in July, and produce an elaborate edition in the year’s last magazine edition – a Fame Music Annual Awards. Even at that time, we were still thinking of a ‘paper tiger’ kind of intervention. While this was going on, I had grown weary of what I considered as the failings of NMA, as earlier indicated, principally because of the levity they handled the criterion of sales performance of works that they had little or no knowledge of the true reality on ground – the pains and frustrations of the Nigerian artistes. And then the other matter of identifying an artiste’s national popularity when most of the judges, if not all, were domiciled in Lagos….” End of quote.
The special three-weekend WOMA-R event also includes a Roundtable discussion of diverse showbiz personalities focusing on issues of serious concerns to the Nigerian creatives: artistes vs labels relations, equitable royalties, accountability, etc. Expected discussants and schedules include: Tony Okoroji, Kenny Ogungbe and Paul ‘Play’ Dairo (9 Dec.); Obi Asika, Daddy Fresh, Kayode Samuel (UK) & Kenny St Brown (16 Dec.); and Laolu Akins, Orits Wiliki & Dayo Olomu (UK) (23 Dec.). The events will equally be live on Zoom, Facebook and YouTube platforms.
The failure of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to follow through with its recent threat of military intervention to restore constitutional order in Niger, the fourth of its member States to have descended into a military dictatorship within the last four years is embarrassing enough. But the regional organisation faces even greater reputational damage from its lethargic response to disturbing “political and constitutional coups” in the region.
Until a decade ago, ECOWAS boasted a good track record in political conflict/crisis prevention, management, and resolution, including international acclaim for ending the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, followed by the restoration of peace in other member States such as Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, and Niger.
These successes were achieved through a combination of sanctions and preventive diplomacy relying on regional instruments and protocols, which have been adopted by other organisations, such as the African Union.
For instance, the 1999 ECOWAS Protocol Relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping (the Mechanism), and the 2001 Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance have been used to stabilise the region progressively and incrementally and promote democratic governance, especially by applying the policy of ‘Zero Tolerance’ to power obtained or maintained by unconstitutional means.
Between 2009 and 2010, three member States - Guinea, Niger and Cote d’Ivoire were suspended for violating the 2001 Protocol. Specifically, in 2009, the tenure elongation plan of the then Niger President Mamadou Tandja, was halted and he was forced to reverse his dissolution of the country’s parliament.
Also, the post-election crisis in 2010 and subsequent civil war 2011-2012 in Cote d’Ivoire were eventually resolved with ECOWAS inputs to international efforts.
The regional organisation also bluntly refused to deploy observers to the 2011 ‘sham’ elections conducted by the then Gambian dictator Yahya Jammeh. Citing the absence of a conducive democratic environment and level-playing field reported by its fact-finding Mission to the Gambia, ECOWAS refused to recognise the results of that election.
Jammeh went ahead with another election in 2016, but the post-election violence eventually resulted in his forced exile in Equatorial Guinea in 2017, through an ECOWAS-led international intervention. That crisis could have been avoided if the international community had supported ECOWAS’ principled stance in 2011.
Set up in 1975 primarily to foster economic development and regional integration, peace and security were injected into the ECOWAS regional agenda because of the myriad political conflicts and governance challenges, including civil wars that followed the formation of the regional organisation.
To their credit, ECOWAS leaders of that time responded promptly and with urgency, often militarily, to halt the slide of the region into anarchy, and to salvage the organisation’s credibility, through the rigorous application of normative and institutional frameworks to support the aspirations of the peoples based on shared values of democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and market economy.
Unfortunately, those aspirations and ECOWAS’ glory appear to have receded into the distant past, no thanks to leadership failures at national and regional levels.
Granted that the political environment has since evolved charactered by different hues of insecurity, especially terrorism, religious extremism, asymmetric warfare, and global economic recession, but it also behoved ECOWAS leaders to think outside the box.
Instead, the regional organisation has become largely ineffective because its leaders have allowed the lack of principle to gain foothold over time, due to their pursuit of personal ambitions, greed, corruption, authoritarian tendencies, and insensitivity, with regional protocols completely ignored on observed in breach.
Four ECOWAS member States - Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Niger, are presently under military dictatorships after several coups, with three of the countries Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, forging a coalition and Defence Alliance, that falls short of their withdrawal from ECOWAS.
The collaboration by the four suspended member States, that are also enduring ECOWAS-imposed sanctions, could be part of their “survival strategy.”
Even so, ECOWAS cannot dismiss such unwholesome developments or the resurgence of coups in the region, with two attempts each reported in Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone, resulting in simmering political tensions in both countries following post-election disputes.
The opposition in Sierra Leone has rejected the results of the June presidential election after the national electoral Commission declared sitting President Julius Maada Bio re-election with 56.17% over his opposition party rival Samura Kamara.
Also troubling is President Umaro Sissoco Embalo’s decision to dissolve Guinea Bissau’s opposition-controlled parliament. This followed violence that greeted last week’s gunbattle which the government called an ‘attempted military coup’ after the legislature condemned the clashes between the National Guard and the State armed forces.
Meanwhile, the Bissau government has remained silent on the casualty figure and the number of arrests, adding to the dozens that were rounded up after the February 2022 reported coup attempt in that country.
Many analysts consider some of the foiled coup reports as a ploy by the governments involved to silence the opposition.
More importantly, Embalo’s dissolution of the parliament is in blatant violation of Article 64 of Guinea Bissau’s Constitution and therefore, “a constitutional coup.”
The former Portuguese colony operates a semi-presidential system, which emphasises separation of powers with the majority party or coalition, in this case, the opposition PAIGC in control of parliament, government and the National Guard, while the National armed forces report to the President.
Announcing the latest parliament dissolution in a presidential decree, the second time in two years after the reported coup attempt in February 2022, Embalo, who is also accused of operating a private army, said a new election would be held on an unspecified date. However, the country’s constitution forbids the dissolution of parliament 12 months before an election.
Guinea Bissau is one of the countries where ECOWAS has invested large human and financial resources over the years in peacekeeping and stabilisation.
An ECOWAS military Mission is in place in the country. It was only sent back in February 2022 following the withdrawal in 2020 of a larger Mission, ECOMIB, deployed in 2012.
Also, recently in Senegal, which will hold a crucial presidential election in February 2024, President Macky Sall, has gone on “political rampage,” by proscribing an opposition party and sacking members of the national electoral Commission, a move considered “a political coup.”
It is not only ironic but inconsistent that ECOWAS, which is usually quick to condemn military coups has remained silent on the political and constitutional coups threatening peace and security in Guinea Bissau and Senegal, and by extension, the region.
ECOWAS’ response has equally been timid to the developments in Sierra Leone, where the government is reportedly targeting opposition members in the aftermath of two reported coup attempts from September.
Military rule is an aberration in the Modern World, and military coups cannot be justified, neither should “political, constitutional, ballot box, or human rights coups.”
ECOWAS member States must realise that there is strength in unity, but individually, they will be preyed upon by foreign powers be they from Europe, the Americas, Russia, or China.
There is no doubt that ECOWAS and its present leaders have derailed on the dreams of the organisation’s founding fathers. They, therefore, owe themselves and more than 400 million citizens of the community a constitutional duty and responsibility to right the wrongs and guarantee good governance, based on democratic principles and international best practices.
The ECOWAS Commission management and regional leaders must not allow the sacrifices of past leaders to be in vain.
Nigeria, the regional powerhouse, current Chair of the ECOWAS Authority, and the organisation’s largest financial contributor has to step up and lead by example.
Democracy may not be a panacea, but through credible elections, it provides the necessary choice for transition to normalcy, particularly in West Africa’s fragile and politically restive environment.
As noted by the famous British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill in 1947:
“Many forms of government have been tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
A former ECOWAS Commission President Ambassador James Victor Gheho also affirmed during a presentation in Chatham House, London in 2011: “We made a conscious choice with the genuine belief that while even the most credible elections may not produce good leaders, at least they offer the electorate the opportunity to remove bad ones. ECOWAS, therefore, encouraged Member States to interrogate and refocus their style of governance.”
*Paul Ejime is a Global Affairs Analyst and Consultant on Peace & Security and Governance Communications
…such profligate expenditures raise questions of whether the government really empathises with the increased hardship that ordinary Nigerians are going through since Tinubu removed fuel subsidy and announced the flotation of the naira. While the government has kept urging ordinary Nigerians to be patient with it and to ‘tighten their belts’ further, there are little indications that the government is leading by example.
President Tinubu’s 1,411 delegations to the Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai has raised considerable concerns in the country, overshadowing whatever benefit that could be potentially garnered from attending such a conference. Only United Arab Emirates, which has 4,409 delegates, and Brazil, having 3,081 delegates, have larger numbers of representatives than Nigeria, which tied in the third place with China, which also has 1,411 delegates.
Temitope Ajayi, the senior special assistant to the president on media and publicity, in an article entitled, “Nigeria at COP28: Separating the facts from fiction,” sought to provide the government’s perspective on the controversy surrounding the size of the delegation. According to the media aide, “In Nigeria, like so many other countries, interested parties comprising government officials from both federal and sub-national governments, environmentalists, climate activists, business leaders, journalists and agencies of government such as the NNPC and its subsidiaries, Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, NIMASA, and the NDDC are present in Dubai.
“Many youth organisations from Nigeria, especially from the Northern and Niger-Delta regions, whose lives and livelihoods are most impacted by desert encroachment and hydrocarbon activities, are also represented. The President of Ijaw Youth Council, Jonathan Lokpobiri, leads a pan-Ijaw delegation of more than 15 people who registered as parties from Nigeria. Among delegates from Nigeria are also over 20 journalists from various media houses,” he wrote.
The presidential aide however failed to tell us the exact number of delegates being funded by the government among the 1,411 delegates.
There are several issues involved in the controversy over the size of the President’s delegation to COP28:
One, is the cost associated with the size of the delegation. Some papers have estimated that the number of people funded by the government to the 13-day Conference could be as high as 890. Aside from the cost of paying for international chartered flights (which the government is said to prefer over local flight operators), other costs include accommodation, per diem (estacodes) for each delegate (which some estimate could be as much as $900 per day for ministers, while different rates are used for other members of the delegation who are not sponsoring themselves).
There are also associated expenses like the cost of parking the presidential jet for so many days and of course sundry expenses. Given the dire financial situation of the government, people are asking whether such expenditures could be justified at this time when the government is on a borrowing binge to meet even basic obligations.
Two, is that such profligate expenditures raise questions of whether the government really empathises with the increased hardship that ordinary Nigerians are going through since Tinubu removed fuel subsidy and announced the flotation of the naira. While the government has kept urging ordinary Nigerians to be patient with it and to ‘tighten their belts’ further, there are little indications that the government is leading by example. For instance, in the 2023 supplementary appropriation bill of N2.17 trillion signed into law by the President in early November this year, there was hardly any significant item of social welfare.
…given the country’s present debt profile, the current profligacy by the government will make it even more difficult for it to get any listening ear for debt forgiveness or debt relief from its Western creditors. Despite concerns over the Buhari government’s loan binge, the Tinubu administration has continued in the same path of a loan spree. Recently President Tinubu sought the nod of the National Assembly to borrow another $7.8 billion and €100 million or $106 million respectively.
Rather the supplementary budget was dominated by luxury items such as the purchase of a Presidential yacht (N5 billion); purchase of luxury vehicles, including for the Office of the First Lady, which is not even recognised by the Constitution (N6.9 billion); renovation of the Official Quarters of the President and the Vice President in Lagos (N8 billion); and the renovation of the residential quarters of Mr President (N4 billion), etc.
A few days ago the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, also announced plans to build a befitting residence for the Vice President at a whopping cost of N15 billion. Given these patterns of expenditures that seem to deny the dire economic circumstances of the country, not a few Nigerians are asking whether the government is deliberately mocking the suffering Nigerians or whether it is merely suffering from compassion deficit. While the government may mean well (as it claims), it is equally true that it is people’s deconstruction of the government’s intentions that counts. This is what optics is all about. And the Tinubu government has not demonstrated sufficient sensitivity to how people may perceive its patterns of expenditures in these perilous times.
Three, given the country’s present debt profile, the current profligacy by the government to COP28 will make it even more difficult for it to get any listening ear for debt forgiveness or debt relief from its Western creditors. Despite concerns over the Buhari government’s loan binge, the Tinubu administration has continued in the same path of a loan spree. Recently President Tinubu sought the nod of the National Assembly to borrow another $7.8 billion and €100 million or $106 million respectively. The World Bank has pledged another loan of $2 billion, while the African Development Bank (AfDB) promised to give the country a loan of $1 billion.
It should be recalled that last year the Debt Management Office urged the government to put a moratorium on fresh loans, after pointing out that 73.5 per cent of last year’s revenue was used to service debt (currently 96 per cent of the government’s revenue is used to service debts).
Despite the warnings by the DMO, the borrowing spree continues. And with the government apparently uninterested in dispensing extravagant and frivolous expenditures, many are wondering whether it has the necessary discipline to cut down on the cost of governance and with that be in a better position to convince its creditors for debt relief or forgiveness.
As a politician and a presidential candidate, Tinubu seemed oriented towards an imperial and monarchical carriage. This is when a leader feels especially affirmed by the size of hangers-on around him. We saw this during his campaign for the presidency, with his large campaign entourages (and some governors had to abandon their duty posts to be part of the campaign trails or receive him at the airports).
Four, the size of the COP28 delegation and other wasteful expenditures at a time the government’s economic policies are yet to bear the promised fruits raise further questions about the future of messianic politics in Nigeria. Nigerian politicians come in various forms of messianic packaging. As a presidential candidate dogged by several moral and character controversies, one of the rather ‘convincing’ arguments advanced by some of Tinubu’s supporters was that the country has tried ‘integrity’ (referring to Buhari) and it did not work and for that, Nigerians would have nothing to lose by also trying the ‘it takes a thief to catch a thief’ model (turning the allegations against Tinubu on their heads). People who advanced such a view argued that many leaders said to have questionable pedigree and character (as Tinubu’s critics claimed during the campaigns) are often radicalised by power in such a way that they generally perform above expectations.
Another argument here is that Tinubu had accomplished all that anyone would want to accomplish materially and that since, by his own account, being the president of the country has been his life-long ambition, Tinubu would most likely be radicalised by power and would give up all the trapping of comfort he had acquired to transform the system that he is believed to understand so much. So far, there is no evidence of power radicalising President Tinubu in the mould of Murtala Mohammed, as his supporters claimed.
As a politician and a presidential candidate, Tinubu seemed oriented towards an imperial and monarchical carriage. This is when a leader feels especially affirmed by the size of hangers-on around him. We saw this during his campaign for the presidency, with his large campaign entourages (and some governors had to abandon their duty posts to be part of the campaign trails or receive him at the airports).
In this sense, the size of Tinubu’s delegation to COP28 (which reminds one of the controversy surround the 120 cars in his convoy in Lagos in June this year) is nothing new. It has always been part of his style as a politician who likes to create and sustain a network of political patronages and clients. In essence, concern about the size of Tinubu’s COP28 delegation could further accelerate the current citizens’ disenchantment with democracy and messianic politics in general.
Five, it is tempting to speculate on what would happen if Tinubu decides to abandon this imperial style he has been used to and travel lean or decides to attend conferences virtually, cut the size of his convoys, and show up in meetings in a staff bus. This, in my opinion, will be the ultimate radicalisation of an otherwise prebendal politician. And Nigerians are not likely to lose sight of such radicalisation. His ministers and other aides, seeing the president lead from the front, will be uncomfortable to fall out of line.
Nigeria, as I have often said, is a country of one scandal, one minute. Before you have settled down to digest one, another happens! So, you hurriedly sweep the previous one under the carpets to have enough room for the latest! Our carpets, thus, are bulging, threatening to burst any time-t, as they say, at the seams!
The latest controversy is over Nigeria’s seemingly bloated delegation to the ongoing COP28 meeting in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Nigeria’s delegation is the third largest, coming after the host country, UAE and Brazil and sharing the bronze medal podium with China. UAE (4,409) has the largest-ever registered delegation of any country, followed by Brazil (3,081) and then China and Nigeria tying at 1,411.
Other countries with a “bloated” delegation of 1000+ delegates are Indonesia (1229), Japan (1067), and Turkey (1045). Six countries have between 750 and 900 delegates, and these include three African countries (Morocco, 823; Kenya, 765; and Tanzania 763). Six other African countries have a delegation of over 500; namely: Ghana, 618; Uganda, 606; Congo DR, 590; Egypt, 656; Senegal, 560 and Chad, 554. Only three countries sent no delegation to COP28: Afghanistan, Myanmar and San Marino.
Controversies have trailed the sheer number of Nigeria’s delegates; and this is understandable. I would prefer, however, that we give due consideration to who the delegates are, on whose ticket they are attending the conference, what role they have to play there, and the significance or otherwise of the conference itself to Nigeria.
Hysteria has become an important part of public discourse here. Few people still retain a measure of confidence in, and support for, the government, be it at local, state or federal level. And this is not misplaced, judging by the actions of the government at all levels and tiers. So, every action of the government is treated with suspicion.
No matter how fabulous the allegation levelled at the government is, the government is deemed guilty as charged. Here, the contrary is seldom proved, even when the government wakes up later in the day to state its own side of the story. And, sadly, as the elders say, it is not every ear that hears “we are going” that also hears “we are back”!
That was the situation on ground before COP28. Of course, still trending is the politics of the last presidential election – which can best be described as that of throwing the baby away with the bathwater. Or, better still, throwing Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu under the bus. But when the same Tinubu douses himself with petrol and stands by the fire-place, he makes the job easier for his detractors!
Many of those condemning Nigeria’s COP28 participation on account of the parlous state of our economy may know little about the conference. For many, all they care about is the sheer number of delegates and the cost of taking care of them in Dubai – cost of flight tickets, lodging and feeding, estacodes, etc. If flight tickets alone are said to gulp about N1 billion, then, the other logistics will cost some more billions. That is humongous, to be frank. A country we are told is broke; that is going everywhere a-borrowing; that is asking even the multi-dimensionally poor to still tighten their belt – such a country should not be seen engaging in the many profligacies that have hallmarked Tinubu’s six months in office.
So, my first reaction was to ask: What kind of conference is this? What benefits will accrue to Nigeria? Who are those attending? I, too, was alarmed at the sheer size of the delegation; just as I was at Tinubu’s large delegation to his first United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York, USA. Are these signs of things to come and will this president always travel larger-than-life; the Mansa Musa of our times? Can we not achieve the same goals with less resources, seeing resources are scarce these days? Or are they not truly scarce as the government itself keeps drumming it in our ears?
But, then, I looked at the other participating countries and marveled at the sheer number of delegates: Added together – 97,000 actual participants and 3,000 participating virtually! There must be something, then, about this year’s COP28 because the number of those attending, not only from Nigeria but from all over the world, is unprecedented, being about twice the number that attended last year’s conference (COP27) at Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt.
I decided to ask more questions. What is COP28? COP means “Conference of the Parties”. The “Parties” being countries subscribing to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. In short, Climate Change summit. COP came into force in 1994. Its first meeting was in 1995. 196 countries have signed up for COP.
COP28 goals are: To move the world towards achieving the Paris goals; fast-tracking the move to clean energy sources; slashing greenhouse gas emissions before 2030; delivering money from richer to poorer countries; and working on a new deal for developing countries.
COP28 specifically aims at improving lives; providing access to clean air and water; healthy food for all; healthy nature/environment; and safe and secure life for all. Parties meet annually to measure progress made as well as negotiate multi-lateral responses to climate change.
To achieve its aims, COP28 will strive at the decarbonization of the energy sector, which accounts for three-quarters of global greenhouse gas emissions. Topics for discussion at the conference, thus, include: Report on the worldwide implementation of the landmark Paris Climate Accord of 2016; the future of fossil fuels; climate finance for poorer countries; and setting up of a fund to pay for climate change.
Even an illiterate knows that our environment is getting more heated up although he may not know why. Africa today suffers some of the deadliest impacts of a heating planet, such as drought, flood, and mass displacement. Witness the recent flood disaster in Somalia that killed hundreds and displaced millions, with the attendant humanitarian and healthcare challenges.
Africa is responsible for less than five percent of global emissions but is disproportionately affected by negative climate change impact. Thus, for it, climate change issues are not just a matter of urgency, they are, appropriately, also a matter of survival. As a result, African nations have recently woken up to the realization that their voice must be heard loud and clear and their presence felt more at COP meetings.
Africa’s needs are: A just energy transition from fossil energy to renewable and safer energy; climate change finance; and funding for adaptation.
Richer countries promised $100 billion annually in climate financing funds but only $83 billion was collected. Most of it ended up being given not to African countries that needed it most but to countries outside Africa whose voices were loudest.
Africa needs $500 billion in climate change adaptation costs through 2030 but only $11 billion was available in 2020. At last year’s COP27 in Egypt, a Fund for loss and damage was, at long last, approved but not a dime has yet been collected. And time is running out! If by 2030, seven years from now, the developed countries abandon fossil fuels for renewable energy, what becomes of our crude oil and gas? The same fate that befell coal stares us in the face!
Africa is warming up faster than the developed countries. The sea level is rising faster in Africa than elsewhere, with no resources and or technology to tackle the menace. Climate change impacts Africa’s development more than it does the developed countries.
It is in the face of these challenges that African countries held their First African Climate Summit in Nairobi, Kenya last September and their demands include: That richer countries should commit to past funding commitments; reform unfavourable tax regimes; reduce borrowing costs for African countries; and restructure debts. They also demanded the right of African countries to use gas as a transition fuel.
It is clear from the above that Africa needs COP28. Despite this realization, Nigeria and some other African countries have been criticized for their large delegation to COP28. Kenya and Tanzania, for example, have been vilified along with Nigeria. But the countries have fought back, explaining that not all the delegates were sponsored by their home government. Nigeria, for instance, said only 422 of the 1411 were on its sponsorship. Many of those in Dubai were private individuals or those sponsored by private organizations. Some registered but attended online. The point was also made that the time has come for African countries to take Climate Change seriously.
From the foregoing, it cannot be denied that Nigeria has a serious stake in COP28. Nigeria is Africa’s largest country and economy. Besides, enlightened self-interest makes it mandatory for it to take the front seat at any Climate Change forum because of its extensive extractive economy. Our concern, then, should be whether the right people are those who made the delegation; whether they are there for the business of COP28; and whether Nigeria gets value for money.
Government’s media machine should be proactive rather than engage in expensive but usually ineffectual damage control measures. Not every ear that hears the report deliberately couched to damage will hear or believe your own response belatedly made.