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Despite his African heritage Barack Obama appears to have done little for his father's continent in his first term as US president.
He could not match George Bush's generous legacy of millions of dollars poured in into health in Africa. Besides, he could not be seen to be worrying about such a remote and ostensibly inconsequential continent (for Americans, anyway) while the US was under threat from Islamic militants and its economy was shedding jobs.
All US presidents, and uniquely this one (given his unconventional background) have to prove themselves to the American people in their first term. In his case Obama had to prove that he was not some liberal pacifist wimp of foreign parentage who couldn't use military might to punish America's enemies. He had to 'win' the war in Iraq, track down Bin Laden and kill him and send drones over Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia to kill terrorists. That, by the way, may be a war crime under international law.
He also expended a huge amount of political capital getting his health scheme through Congress. It is still to be implemented. He has however been able to do little about America's declining economy and the subsequent decline in political power in the world. As campaigning gets under way for next November's election we will, I suspect, see little of the compassionate, intellectual man and more of warrior Obama.
If he wins a second term things will be different. He doesn't need to get re-elected. Consequently we may see Obama trying to straighten out Africa's bad politics. I am told he is ready for it. Contrary to appearances, he has remained quietly engaged with Africa throughout his first term, constantly phoning presidents and others - especially the Kenyans when there is tension. He has also had many of the Big Men to Washington for state visits. But it has been low profile.
Richard Dowden with President Jonathan in Nigeria
The paradox of Africa at the moment is that, at last, it is where the hot money is going. Trade is booming and Africa's economies are among the fastest growing on the planet. But the politics are as bad as ever and next year several countries, Kenya included, are facing elections which may spark violence and war. At this moment of economic opportunity there remains the great threat of disruption, and a dearth of leadership to guide countries around it or through it. There is no one like Olusegun Obasanjo, Thabo Mbeki or Nelson Mandela who could provide a continent-wide vision and summon other rulers to help deal with crises. The traditional Big Men - the South Africans and Nigerians - are inward looking, their leaders not confident of making the right calls and giving decisive leadership. They backed different horses in Cote d'Ivoire and, like almost all African governments, kept quiet about Libya.
So there is a role for Obama in his second term, maybe not too prominent, but as a consensus builder. US interests outside West African oil are almost purely concentrated on making Africa successful and secure. Future generations may wonder how on earth China managed to get every one of Africa's rulers to come and shake hands with the Chinese president and premier in 2006 while the United States never even bothered to invite them. If the US is going to continue to be sole or joint Top Nation, it surely needs a substantial engagement in Africa beyond aid money and fighting terrorism. Obama could provide that.
Richard Dowden is Director of the Royal African Society and author of Africa: altered states, ordinary miracles
Contrary to insinuations that the Federal Government is implementing designed programmes of the Fund, Okonjo-Iweala, who was accompanied by Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to the House of Representatives, explained that the Fund had changed the modality of its operation, adding: “IMF of today is different from the IMF of yester-years.
“We are now partnering with an institution that is here to listen and help us. We set the policies, we set the pace, and they support us to do what it takes for the Nigerian economy. The idea of the IMF coming to tell people what to do, this is no longer what happens and so we are happy to partner with this institution.”
In her remarks, Christine Lagarde, IMF managing director, lauded the role played by Okonjo-Iweala during the negotiation for debt relief from the Paris Club in 2005, saying: “I pay tribute to her resilience and sense of public interest.
“I have to say IMF is a different institution from what I knew many, many years ago. It is a different institution because it was known for lending money and designing conditionality … and imposing programmes,in doing so in the past, it did mistakes.”
She explained that IMF also provided surveillance to member states on yearly basis and meet with representatives of countries across the world with the view to “seing what is being done and how they perform, what the results are….”
Tambuwal urges IMF MD
In his response, Mr Aminu Tambuwal, Speaker of the House of Representatives, urged the new IMF managing director to “ensure that the financing instruments of the Fund were more responsive to the needs of African countries by increasing the concessions in the Fund’s lending to low-income countries in addition to extending the zero-interest rate policy on Fund concessional resources beyond 2012.
Make your policies Africa-friendly – Mark
Meanwhile, the Senate President Mark has urged the International Monetary Fund, IMF, to make its economic and financial policies friendly to Africa if the desired results must be achieved.
According to him, if the policies become very harsh and not comfortable to the people that ought to benefit from them, they become unnecessary.
Speaking, yesterday, in Abuja when he recieved the IMF MD, Lagarde, in his office, Mark, who noted that any economic policy that brings pains rather than succour to the people was worthless, he said: “The impression people have about IMF is that of an organisation that prescribes an economic solution that hardly works or practicable in any country.
“It is a challenge for the IMF to disabuse our minds by making its economic policies practicable. The policies could be laudable but it sometimes does not fit into local arrangements. You must take cognisance of local situations in your prescriptions, because a uniform policy may not work for all nations.”
Senator Mark who stressed that condition of respective nations was imperative because a template may out work for all countries, however urged them to ensure that European countries should make their markets accessible to Africans.
The Debt Management Office (DMO) has put Nigeria’s total debt ( external and domestic debt) as at the end of September this year, at $40 billion.
Director-General, DMO, Dr. Abraham Nwankwo, who disclosed this at the weekend in an interactive session with journalists in Lagos, however allayed fears that the country’s debt profile had risen astronomically.
A breakdown of the figure by Nwankwo, showed that whereas the country’s total external debt stood at $5.6 billion, its domestic debt was N5.3 trillion ($34.4 billion).
He argued that the total debt figure at 19.6 per cent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), was sustainable.
Nwankwo explained: “Now, the global standard for all countries that are in our peer group is that you total debt to GDP should be about 40 per cent.
That is the global standard. We did not set the standard and we are at 19.6 per cent. So, if you ask me, I will say that in view of the benchmark, we are doing very well in terms of being comfortable to be within the sustainable limit. However, even though the global standard is 40 per cent, Nigeria had set for itself, a limit of 25 per cent. So even if you look at that, we are still below the standard we set for ourselves.
He however added: “Our plan is that Nigeria should not reach 25 per cent, even by 2015 and then we can look at the figures again and see whether we have improved in our ability to manage resources better before we can borrow additional resources.”
He further explained that when analysing the debt of any country and particularly Nigeria, the debt level should always be related to another variable.
“You relate debt stock to the GDP, you relate debt service to your export earning, relate debt service to your revenue. So, with that, you get the appropriate sovereignty ration, liquidity ratio, because if you don’t do that, you take a wrong decision.
“I challenge you to go and look at Nigeria’s GDP five years ago, either in nominal or real terms and look at the GDP currently. You have to relate the resources to the level and volume of economic activities. So, when you look at Nigeria’s domestic debt, it is not too big. It has grown because when you relate it to the GDP, it is about 16 per cent and when you add that to the external ratio which is about 2 per cent, it gives your 19.6 per cent. So we are stable,” Nwankwo declared.
Responding to question on the high demand for bond by state governments, the DMO helmsmen said that for any state to issue such debt instrument, there are certain criteria and conditions that must be met.
He however challenged the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) , government agencies responsible for project monitoring, civil society groups and individuals in the country to ensure that funds raised by states, are properly utilised for the projects that had been indicated in the prospectus before such funds were raised.
L-R: Sanusi,Christine Lagarde (C), Okonjo_Iweala in Lagos (AFP/IMF, Stephen Jaffe)
“Amongst other things, for a state to borrow, its total debt service deduction is established. That is, the amount of debt owed by state that is being deducted from their revenue –particularly from their Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) revenue, to service the debt.
“Now, the rule is that your (states) total monthly debt service deductions should not be more than 40 per cent of your FAAC allocation average for the past 12 months. So, you can see that states do not just go to the debt market and borrow nor do they just go to the bank and borrow. There is a serious level of control and they must follow certain guideline,” he added.
Appeal Court Declares Okadigbo’s Wife Anambra North Senator- elect
THE Court of Appeal, Abuja Division yesterday declared wife of former Senate President, the late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, Lady Margery Chuba-Okadigbo, as the lawful standard bearer of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and winner of the Anambra North Senatorial District of the State conducted on April 16, this year during the National Assembly elections.
The Court of Appeal declared Lady Okadigbo Senator and ordered that she be sworn in immediately into the Senate to occupy the Anambra North Senatorial seat that had been vacant in the past six months due to various legal contentions s over the said seat.
In a unanimous verdict of a-three man panel delivered by Justice M.U. Mukhtar, it held that “Lady Margery Chuba-Okadigbo having polled the highest number of votes in the primary election conducted in the state remains the candidate and winner of the Anambra North Senatorial seat in the National Assembly.”
The appellate court agreed with all documents including the primary election result tendered by PDP, INEC and Lady Okadigbo, which all indicated that she emerged victorious at the primary election conducted by Senator Joseph Waku Committee on behalf of PDP National Working Committee.
The court, while setting aside the lower court judgment which favoured Senator Igbeke, held that it was wrong of the Federal High Court to have based its decision solely on the documents submitted to it by Igbeke and closed its eyes on other documents of the other parties in the case especially the PDP, INEC and Lady Okadigbo.
Specifically, the court after evaluating all documents relating to the case agreed that Lady Chuba-Okadigbo polled 168 votes, Senator Igbeke 23 votes and Prince John Emeka 15 votes and therefore had no hesitation in declaring Lady Chuba-Okadigbo as the properly nominated candidate of PDP and as well as the winner of the last April National Assembly Election.
Late Dr. Chuba Okadigbo
In reaction to the judgment, former Special Adviser to the late Chuba Okadigbo, Dr. James Okoroma, prayed the Senate President to ensure quick inauguration of the winner so as to occupy the vacant seat of the Anambra North in the Upper Chamber.
Okoroma lamented that the people of Anambra North have no voice in the National Assembly on national issues affecting the country in the past six months adding that it will be a thing of joy for the representatives of the district to be allowed to take the seat and champion the cause of the people of the district without any further delay.
Morgan Stanley is adding Nigerian cement, consumer and bank shares to its frontier-market portfolio, as it bets on growth in sub-Saharan Africa's second- largest economy.
Morgan Stanley bought shares of Dangote Cement Plc, Nigeria's biggest company by market value, in September, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It also added to holdings in Nigerian Breweries Plc, the West African nation's largest brewer, as well as Guaranty Trust Bank Plc and First Bank of Nigeria Plc, Nigeria's biggest and third-largest banks.
“There is strong loan growth in the banking system, after a couple of years of flat to negative loan growth,” Tim Drinkall, a New York-based fund manager at Morgan Stanley Investment Management with $340 million in assets under management in frontier markets, said in a phone interview. “Cement should benefit from years of underinvestment and a fiscal policy shift toward more public investment.”
Nigerian Stock Exchange Trading Floor
Guaranty Trust Bank's net loan growth expanded 19 percent to 704 billion naira ($4.3 billion) in the nine months through September from a year earlier. First Bank of Nigeria increased loans and advances 11 percent to 1.3 trillion naira in the same period. The Central Bank of Nigeria started a clean-up of the nation's banking industry in 2009, firing the chief executives of eight lenders after a debt crisis threatened to destroy the industry.
The government of Africa's biggest oil producer plans to invest more money in infrastructure projects including power plants, road and rail. Nigeria will boost spending on capital projects to 28 percent of its 4.8 trillion naira budget in 2012 up from 26 percent, President Goodluck Jonathan said today.
The West African nation is forecast to grow 7.2 percent in 2012, compared with 7.7 percent expansion this year, Jonathan told lawmakers in the capital, Abuja.
The Nigerian Stock Exchange All-Share index, which hit an eight year low Dec. 9, has dropped 21 percent this year, sub- Saharan Africa's second-worst performer after Kenya. The Bloomberg NSE Banking Index, which tracks the performance of the West African nation's 10 largest lenders, has slumped 37 percent this year, compared with a 21 percent drop in the MSCI Frontier Market gauge.
“I can't see us taking off any exposure next year unless something drastic happens either in oil price or on the policy front,” said Drinkall. “The biggest risk is in the oil price, if Brent goes under $80 a barrel it will be an issue for Nigeria.”
--With assistance from Stephen Morris in London. Editors: Peter Branton, Linda Shen
The book by Olusegun Adeniyi tells of how the ill leader became a political pawn in a charade that saw soldiers deployed without authorization and rumors of a possible coup float among the elite in the oil-rich nation. It also describes the rise of militancy in the oil-rich country's crude-producing southern delta, including how a militant leader stole thousands of machine guns from Nigerian army depots.
Though portraying his former boss in a largely flattering light, Adeniyi's book shows how tenuous democracy is in a nation plagued by vote-rigging and that cast off military rule only 13 years ago.
"If we will be honest with ourselves, we all know how we rig elections in this country," Adeniyi quotes Yar'Adua as saying during a closed-door January 2008 meeting about the corrupt election that saw him become the nation's leader. "We compromise the security agencies, we pay the electoral officials and party agents while on the eve of the election we merely distribute logistics all designed to buy the vote."
The Associated Press obtained an advance copy of "Power, Politics and Death: A Front-Row Account of Nigeria Under the Late President Yar'Adua" from the author, who now writes a column for ThisDay newspaper. Reuben Abati, a spokesman for current President Goodluck Jonathan, declined to comment on the book. A spokesman for the ruling People's Democratic Party did not respond to a request for comment.
In the book, Adeniyi acknowledges Yar'Adua's ascension to power through a rigged 2007 presidential election. Yar'Adua, already sickly from a chronic kidney condition, weakened quickly under the strain of the presidency.
Those around him tried to protect his image. Adeniyi recounts instructing a cameraman from the state-run television network to film the president from the side only in one instance in 2008 to hide Yar'Adua's swollen face after an allergic reaction.
Yar'Adua then had "minor surgery" in Germany, but could only work a few hours a day, if at all, after the procedure, Adeniyi writes. As he grew sicker, Yar'Adua began receiving medical treatment in Saudi Arabia with government officials suspecting that "American security agents had penetrated the (German) hospital and had gained access to the president's health profile," according to the book.
At one point during a trip to Togo, the military officer assigned to Yar'Adua had to drape traditional robes over his arm to hide the fact he needed to nearly carry the president off a landing strip, the book claims.
Yar'Adua departure in late November 2009 for a several-month stay at a hospital in Saudi Arabia set up a constitutional crisis that saw government grind to a halt in the OPEC member nation. The National Assembly ultimately voted to empower then-Vice President Jonathan to serve as acting president. Yar'Adua was whisked back into Nigeria's capital Abuja under the cover of darkness days later, apparently unable to talk. He apparently was brought back so those close to Yar'Adua could exert control over Jonathan.
Soldiers deployed to the Abuja airport to escort Yar'Adua home in an ambulance without Jonathan's knowledge, the book claims. The next day, rumors of a possible coup flourished.
"There were fears among (Jonathan's) closest aides he could be shot by the soldiers," the book claims.
It later adds: "Signals from the military were also hazy, with fears that some soldiers could take out both Yar'Adua and Jonathan."
Yar'Adua died on May 5, 2010. Jonathan was sworn in as president the next day.
The book also describes the Yar'Adua-led amnesty program offered to militants in the country's Niger Delta, where foreign oil firms have pumped crude oil for more than 50 years. Despite the billions of dollars earned yearly from oil sales, the region remains desperately poor and polluted.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta was the region's premier militant group, its rise aided by a series of weapons thefts engineered by the group's alleged leader Henry Okah from Nigerian military depots, Adeniyi writes. The theft of thousands of weapons, including pistols, machine guns and rocket launchers, "was so staggering and the crime so well organized that the investigating team could hardly determine the exact amount of arms removed," Adeniyi writes.
Okah, who denies leading the militant group, now faces terrorism charges in South Africa over a dual car bombing Oct. 1, 2010, in Abuja that killed at least 12 people. Six soldiers were sentenced to life in prison over the arms thefts.
Jon Gambrell can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP
Theodore Roosevelt said in 1908 that “patriotism …does not mean to stand by the country or any public official save to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is unpatriotic not to criticize the leaders to the extent that by inefficiency or otherwise they fail to serve the people”. With that statement, Roosevelt articulates the notion that progressive dissent in form of criticizing one’s government is a democratic instrument.
Criticism is an important democratic tool available to the people when the government fails to meet their aspirations and hopes. What the rod is to the child, criticism is to the government; spare the government your criticism and you spoil it. Governments that bear any resemblance to tyrannies hate to be criticized.
Olusegun Obasanjo’s presidency was the closest Nigeria has gotten to tyranny. Therefore, I was not surprised when, a few weeks ago in London, Obasanjo told a gathering of Nigerians that criticizing the government in a foreign land is an unpatriotic thing to do. He also said that any expectations that Nigeria will be a better country in our lifetime are unrealistic. I find it contradictory that while telling Nigerians to be patriotic Obasanjo painted a gloomy picture about Nigeria’s future in a foreign land. That in itself is unpatriotic.
My first reaction to Obasanjo’s admonitions was to write and explain to the General that the concept of patriotism revolves around love for one’s country, which I doubt that most Nigerian leaders have. Scholars of politics and national character have included constructive criticism of the government as a form of patriotism. What Obasanjo and people like him fail to understand is that Nigerians criticize the government not out of hatred for Nigeria. Nigerians criticise the government because it has continued to fail to meet their aspirations and hopes. In the political climate that Nigeria has been in since independence, anybody who believes that Nigerians should not criticize the government is advocating blind patriotism. It suffices to say that Obasanjo was asking Nigerians to blindly support the government.
Poor Nigerian kids
But these are not the only trepidations I have with Obasanjo’s sound off about patriotism. If you consider that the paramount task of a patriot is to defend the constitution of Nigeria by any means necessary, then Obasanjo hardly passes for a patriot. Clearly his third term aspiration warrants a circumvention of Nigeria’s Constitution. If I put Obasanjo’s third term aspirations next to his comment that Nigeria will never be a better nation in our lifetime, my questions are: Why was he seeking a third term? And when did Obasanjo realise that Nigeria will never be a better nation in our lifetime? Was it before or after his desperate attempt to change the Constitution and run for a third term? Only in Nigeria can a former president make such a comment and still remain relevant in discussing the future of the country.
However, I must say that Obasanjo’s advice to Nigeria’s Diaspora not to criticize the government raises a very important question: Is criticizing the government really unpatriotic?
I raise this question because Nigerian leaders have mounted propaganda to make Nigerians believe that criticizing the government is unpatriotic. They are afraid of being criticized. Yet, they have failed the Nigerian people at every turn and in every respect. It reminds me of the proverbial goat in an old Igbo saying: The goat ate the child’s yam and still forced the child to submission. While it is not unusual for government to push any kind of agenda or propaganda, my fear is that many Nigerians now believe that criticizing the government is unpatriotic.
The right to criticize the government is a very important aspect of democracy. In fact, in a democracy like Nigeria’s, where elections are not necessarily a reflection of popular choice, it can be reasonably argued that criticizing the government is the only option left for Nigerians to voice their opinions. It is the last democratic tool left for Nigerians.
Criticizing the government is also an indication of the palpable anger against those whom Nigerians have entrusted with leadership positions.
Yet, those who have the power to change the trajectory of Nigeria pretend not to see this palpable anger. Throughout history, there have been courageous patriots who hated the government but loved their country. For instance, Martin Luther King stood up against the government in times of oppression. But he loved the United States. The Magna Carta was forced on the English King by patriots who hated the government but loved their country. It required that King John of England accept that his will was not arbitrary. Nigerians are patriotic. They love their country, but they hate the government. Loving the country and hating the government are mutually exclusive concepts. The passion with which Nigerians discuss the need for change is an indication of how much they love Nigeria and desire change.
When the issue of a Nigerian revolution is discussed, the only indication of such a possibility is that Nigerians are becoming increasingly vocal in criticizing the government. Anybody who is opposed to Nigerians criticizing the government, even in the current political climate, is afraid of the Nigerian revolution. They are the same people who have weaved corruption into the fabrics of Nigeria.
Mr. HAMILTON ODUNZE , a journalist, wrote from Lagos.
In the 1971 Ph.D. dissertation Newt Gingrich: wrote at Tulane University, titled “Belgian Education Policy in the Congo 1945-1960,” he is anti-anticolonialism.
NEWT GINGRICH’S mind is in love with itself. It has persuaded itself that it is brilliant when it is merely promiscuous. This is not a serious mind. Gingrich is not, to put it mildly, a systematic thinker.His mind is a jumble, an amateurish mess lacking impulse control. He plays air guitar with ideas, producing air ideas. He ejaculates concepts, notions and theories that are as inconsistent as his behavior. He didn’t get whiplash being a serial adulterer while impeaching another serial adulterer, a lobbyist for Freddie Mac while attacking Freddie Mac, a self-professed fiscal conservative with a whopping Tiffany’s credit line, and an anti-Communist Army brat who supported the Vietnam War but dodged it.
“Part of the question I had to ask myself,” he said in a 1985 Wall Street Journal piece about war wimps, “was what difference I would have made.”
Newt swims easily in a sea of duality and byzantine ideas that don’t add up. As The Washington Post reported on Friday, an America under President Gingrich would have two Social Security systems — “one old, one new, running side by side” — two tax systems and two versions of Medicare. Consider his confusion of views on colonialism. In the 1971 Ph.D. dissertation he wrote at Tulane University, titled “Belgian Education Policy in the Congo 1945-1960,” he is anti-anticolonialism.
“If the Congolese are to confront the future with realism they will need a solid understanding of their own past and an awareness of the good as well as the bad aspects of colonialism,” he argued. “It would be just as misleading to speak in generalities of ‘white exploitation’ as it once was to talk about ‘native backwardness.’ ”
He warned against political pressures encouraging “Black xenophobia.” What’s xenophobic about Africans wanting their oppressors to go away? It’s like saying abused wives who want their husbands to leave are anti-men. He sees colonialism as a complicated thing with good and bad effects rather than a terrible thing with collateral benefits.
Maureen Dowd, winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary, became a New York Times Op-Ed columnist in 1995 after having served as a correspondent in the paper's Washington bureau since 1986. She has covered four presidential campaigns and served as White House correspondent. She also wrote a column, "On Washington," for The New York Times Magazine. Ms. Dowd joined The New York Times as a metropolitan reporter in 1983. She began her career in 1974 as an editorial assistant for The Washington Star, where she later became a sports columnist, metropolitan reporter and feature writer. When the Star closed in 1981, she went to Time magazine. Born in Washington D.C., Ms. Dowd received a B.A. degree in English literature from Catholic University (Washington, D.C.) in 1973.
"The chairman of the Senate Joint Committee on Petroleum (Downstream), Appropriation, and Finance investigating the operations of the fuel subsidy scheme in the country, Senator Magnus Abe (PDP, Rivers), who read out the names at the resumed public hearing organized by the committee, said the list included some construction companies that have nothing to do with the petroleum industry." - Thisday
Nigerian Senate Public Hearing on the management of fuel subsidy funds unveiled revelations by Senate committee members who said many petroleum marketers who import fuel are not qualified to benefit from fuel subsidy funds.
Oil companies mentioned by the committee to have benefitted from fuel subsidy funds are as follows:
Oando Nigeria Plc - N228.506 billion
MRS Ltd. - N224.818 billion
Enak Oil & Gas - N19.684 billion
Conoil - N37.960 billion
Bovas & Co. Nig. Ltd. - N5.685 billion
Obat - N85 billion
Integrated Oil and Gas - N30.777 billion
IPMAN Investment Ltd - N10.9 billion
Africa Petroleum Plc - N104.83 billion
AMP Petro-energy - N11.4 billion
Akor Plc - N24.11 billion
A.Z. Petroleum - N18.13 billion
Capital Oil - N22.42 billion
Dozie Oil and Gas - N3.37 billion
Mobil Oil Plc - N18.60 billion
Matrix Energy - N12.612 billion
Ford Oil - N8.502 billion
North West Petroleum and Gas - N46.27 billion
NIPCO Plc - N23.2 billion
Ontario Oil - N4.9 billion
Origin Oil and Gas - N2.69 billion
Bill and Ocean Energy - N1.77 billion
L-R:Adenuga, Tinubu, Dantata, Iheanacho
Speaking at the hearing, Senator Bukola Saraki explained the criteria that qualifies companies as eligible to draw from the funds.
"Importers must be an oil marketing company registered with corporate affairs commission," Senator Saraki said, adding that some companies listed do not meet that criteria.
According to reports from the Senate Joint Committee on the investigation of the fuel subsidy scheme, the total amount paid in 2011 is far above the budgeted amount (N245 billion), rounding up to N1.43 trillion.
That astounding subsidy payment, which was meted out to over 100 marketers, accounts for approximately 40 percent of the N3.65trn paid to petroleum marketers as subsidy for petroleum products in the last six years, according to the Petroleum Product Pricing Regulation Agency (PPPRA).
However, the PPPRA put forward a contradicting figure, saying 2011 subsidy payments amount to N1.348trn.
And according to PPPRA Executive Secretary, Mr. Rejinald Elijah, said some of the figures presented by the committee "did not quite tally."
He explained to panel chairman, Senator Abe, that some documents had been submitted, but not processed and therefore not captured by the books.
The committee accused the PPPRA of breaching protocol in making subsidy payments, saying that 73 of the 100 marketers who cashed in on the fuel subsidy were without depots contrary to guidelines.
The guidelines require that the operators should have a depot with a capacity not less than 5,000 metric tonnes.
Elijah, however, noted that he was not in office when the guidelines were changed, noting that he could not answer the questions since he was under an oath.
The issue of Kerosene subsidy was again brought up at the public hearing. Panel chairman, Senator Magnus Abe, wanted answers as to who ordered the continued payment of subsidy on Kerosene.
Senate committee members had, in previous probe sessions, interrogated the Petroleum Minister Diezani Alison Madueke about the payment of HHK arrears, to the tune of N250 billion, the equivalent of the entire 2011 budget for fuel subsidy.
However, Austin Oniwon, Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, had said the payments had been authorised by late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua
Mr. Elijah also refuted the matter of N450 billion kerosene subsidy also owed the NNPC by the Federal government.
Your Excellency, Sir :State of Ebonyi State
This is the facsimile of the writer's conscience. To frankly begin, the first year of the return of your Excellency to the White House as the second executive governor of the state for the second term since May 29, 2011 has continued to mount challenges and yet spark hope that at the end of your second tenure, history would have to contend between advancing you as the best ever or otherwise in the leadership of the state.
When I first heard, while studying abroad, that Ebonyi was created, I was filled with joyous tears. More so, I could not contain my elation when in 1999, the first executive governor of the state, Dr. Sam Ominyi Egwu emerged. I sat for several hours in my cubicle and pondered over the future of the state. At last I silently told myself, "How I wished Akanu Ibiam lived to see the struggle he began with some good fathers of Ebonyi, not with the slightest thought that one of them will govern the state in no distant time. But at last, my beloved state will soon begin to taste the joy of independence and progress under a civilian governor," i soothed myself further.
Although the penultimate military administrators had displayed their individual capacities of human senses and wisdom, people at then were still gripped with the effect of gun and gnashing teeth, lack of freedom of speech and economic hardship under the military juntas. I even entertained fears before the swearing-in. So, after May 29, 1999, I heaved a breath of relief and began to feel more nostalgic of Ebonyi as I had prayed for her prosperity and posterity.
Dr. Egwu, a son of the soil and an educationist, however, started on a good step as most politicians do in Nigeria. His eight years of leadership have left many asterisks and the state of the state speaks louder than what a pen can scribe. A good leader never accepts the philosophy of putting the past behind. And it is not for an individual man to judge his fellow.
Great Ebonyi son Late Dr. Francis Akanu Ibiam
Your Excellency, when I came into the state few years after Egwu's inception into office, I made enquiries on his performance. The answer was from a local government official who proclaimed, "I tell you the truth. Though I am from the grassroots but always visit the state capital for official assignments, the man is wonderful; he is at his best; I think he needs only depend more on God." I told the respondent that the best testimony is from an adversary and not a lover or beneficiary.
As a critical observer of the development in the state, my anger was quite aroused when the National Planning Commission (NPC) and donor agencies comprising the British Department for International Development (DFID), the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), USAID and CIDA rated the state fifth in terms of budget and fiscal management, service delivery, policy formulation, communication and transparency during Egwu's regime. Well, history can be much correct now than ever.
Now, the apex of my knowledge is that Ebonyi is yet to attain its position as the salt of Nigeria. And I feel justified because a lot has not been done. There are still acute hunger, illiteracy, health hazard and maternal mortality problems pervading the state. It is socially unfair, politically unpatriotic and religiously hypocritical for writers to commend and celebrate failure or partake in misguiding a government democratically set up to deliver dividends to the people. This is a chronic ailment in the Nigerian society, but worse in states where development is seriously lagging behind.
I have always strongly advanced that education is the future hope for the state. Whatever developmental plans a governor maps out for his state are due for burial, if education is not given priority. Education is the fulcrum of social development, mental and creative productivity as well as individual self-reliance and progress. A byword says that with knowledge and wealth, people build their domain; and never had a realm been built with ignorance and poverty. Here, emphasis is laid on knowledge because many unlearned rich or influential do fail or err basically because the light of knowledge and wisdom at times is missing.
Though said it is easier to force a horse to a river but difficult to force it drink, you should give Ebonyians the fundamental opportunity to create a future for and by themselves. Summarily, let the teachers make Ebonyi children drink the pure and healthy. Rural programmes, schools, hospitals, roads, housing scheme, sports and tourism are areas that need tremendous turn-around. Ebonyi rural dwellers yearn to have only eight hours of uninterrupted power supply every day. They need schools and hospitals with adequate infrastructures. They desire portable drinking water and they deserve living homes.
To bear in mind, constructive criticisms are like suggestions which affect positively when meticulously analysed, filtered and considered. Pupils still learn under trees and bare floor. General hospitals, examples of those in Enohia Itim, Okposi and Amasiri are without facilities and trained medical personnel. Internal roads in places like Afikpo (the second city of the state) and Isiagu where a Federal College of Agriculture is situated are in deplorable conditions.
Again, the advancement of the educational system can only work by offering a compulsory and free education at both primary and secondary school levels with the state indigenes having preferential acceptance in the state varsity in Abakaliki and the federal polytechnic in Unwana. So, you should not treat the minimum wage matter alongside free and compulsory education for Ebonyi children. It is quite worrisome that the minimum wage should be looked at by your government to be a hindrance to the educational scheme which has not yet been effectively pursued or implemented.
Freshly harvested palm fruits in Enohia Itim, a suburb located between Unwana and Afikpo Pictures: Ebonyi Govt. website
Sir, learning needs conducive environment and competent selfless administrators and instructors. To make teachers more efficient, active and productive, training programmes and seminars should be compulsorily and periodically organized for them while stringent rules that will guide the activities of the pupils and student should be reviewed. There should be annual fiscal and honorary rewards to the best performing teachers at ward, local and state levels while the supervisors should equally be motivated so as not to play foul as the umpires.
It was observed, even during Egwu's regime, that although school fees were not paid, many school authorities of public schools created unnecessary levies that amounted to paying a double school fee: levies such as PTA, sports, inter-house, birth certificate, examination, lab, condolence, sendforth, corpers', security, agriculture, school maintenance among others. All these make it very difficult for an average income earner to release the children and wards for training, thus frustrating, confusing and sabotaging the free education regime of the government.
That, in its direct effect, forced more youths and children out of school to swell the child labour and child abuse eyesore. Once the Ebonyi education becomes functional, the thought and attitude of the people will be refined, defined and naturally projected for aggressive national utility from their young ages.
Connected to these too are the social vices like examination malpractices, general school maladministration, cultism, child-abuse (trafficking and prostitution) at schools. Parents and teachers can stop exam cheatings and child abuse if they are severely rebuked and punished for non-compliance and negligence. The State House of Assembly may enact a law on this. The state police and teachers/lecturers/parents can battle cultism to a standstill. Cultism, worrisomely, is gradually and steadily gaining acceptance into the secondary schools.
Your Excellency, in the interest of the Ebonyi people, actions should be taken on these: One, the local government leaderships (including the development centres) seem to be doing extremely very little or nothing at all in terms of complementing the efforts of the state government in developing the grassroots. If it can be effectively carried out, there is need to set up a monitoring team that will quarterly or bi-annually tour all the local government areas and development centres to see with eyes what is being done for the people at the rural levels. The tour should be unscheduled and without pre-information to the local leaderships.
Moreover, the state at the local government level has vast and fertile unploughed lands that demand modern farming technology. Nearly every human need comes from land and with farming most of the developed countries without petroleum or gold have flourished. Egypt, for instance, lives largely on revenues from the duo of farming and tourism. Most North African countries have turned their deserts into green farmlands from where they export cash crops for their national incomes. Ebonyi has already been blessed by God with such vast arable lands, thereby demanding some sophisticated agricultural plans, machines and mechanism to grow and engage the citizens. Small sale industrial scheme should be seriously encouraged while Ebonyi Investment and Property Company should rise up to its challenges.
Your Excellency, you need to bring close to your government non-governmental organizations which are really not money-sharing but which are passionately devoted to assist the underprivileged in the society: such NGOs that extend hands of love and support to the widows, orphans, deserted elderly and the needy. Is it possible to create Ebonyi State Welfare Board?
One of the greatest problems facing the state is associated with the youth: unemployment, lack of education and thus the natural inclination to crime and societal vices. The labour market is the crime nurse. Therefore, in the presence of insufficient employment opportunities, aggressive enlightenment campaigns on youth should be carried out in such a way that the youth would imbibe the virtue of selfless sacrifice for posterity especially when they are made to accept that good work never dies unremembered or rewarded.
The sports sector of the state should be revitalized. Ebonyi Angels should not be allowed to die. Sports assist in preventing the youths from criminality especially in the face of harsh economy and somewhat frustrating conditions. The youth problem is the greatest. Any leader who is able to contain them can comfortably be addressed as progress-friendly. He can be called labour-friendly, child-friendly, youth-friendly and parent-friendly.
Finally, do not be complacent with whatever you achieve as a leader. When a leader is commended, it should be a challenge to do more. You should handle the scanty resources of the state with utmost frugality. Ebonyi people have entrusted the state onto you and to let them down can not be acceptable. As a citizen of the state and having observed and criticized the state of Ebonyi, I, like every other Ebonyi man and woman, repose my hope on your leadership. It is the hope of Ebonyi diplomats, ambassadors of goodness, teachers, civil servants, philosophers, brainstormers/political analysts, philanthropists, fulfillers and foresighted patriots that you succeed.
This is the first year of your second tenure and concurrently the fifth year of your governance of the state. Without distracting your attention from your ongoing developmental projects, I believe more need to be done in a more sensitive, proactive and accommodating manner. More of the potentials of the state need to be explored. You should search your heart and learn to appreciate that every good you render for the state as one of its founding fathers would attract double rewards from God.
Good Ebonyi people are alive, watchful, prayerful and ready to assist in the struggle to move the state forward. And as you do your best, may God continue to assist and protect you.