The Sun News » Editorial http://sunnewsonline.com/new - Voice of The Nation Mon, 31 Aug 2015 14:23:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.7 The 2030 deadline to end gas flaring http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-2030-deadline-to-end-gas-flaring/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-2030-deadline-to-end-gas-flaring/#comments Sun, 30 Aug 2015 23:14:33 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=133188 The  plan by the World Bank to end gas flaring by the year 2030 is welcome.  For a country like Nigeria, the pollution of the environment and waste of resources that gas flaring entails call for urgent  action to tackle the problem by government, oil companies and development institutions. Currently, Nigeria is the second top [...]]]>

The  plan by the World Bank to end gas flaring by the year 2030 is welcome.  For a country like Nigeria, the pollution of the environment and waste of resources that gas flaring entails call for urgent  action to tackle the problem by government, oil companies and development institutions.
Currently, Nigeria is the second top gas flaring nation in the world and number one in Africa, with an estimated 22.3 billion standard cubic feet (scf) of gas flared monthly. Data from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Annual Statistical Bulletin (ASB) showed that a total of N173.76bn (about $868.8m) was lost last year due to gas flaring.  Also, N27.227bn was lost in August, 2014 alone. The figure was arrived at using the Nigerian Gas Company’s price of $3 per 1,000 scf of gas at current exchange rate.
The data also showed that the Nigerian economy lost over 296 billion scf of natural gas due to flaring by major oil companies  within a nine-month period in 2014, representing about $1bn. In 2011, Nigeria flared over 460 billion scf of gas, which if processed and exported, would have fetched the country over $2bn and reduced the health and environmental impact of gas flares.
Specifically, International Oil Companies in Nigeria reportedly produce 2.524 trillion scf of gas annually. The estimated gas they utilized is put at 2.235 trillion while 289.6 billion scf are flared.    The World Bank has set year 2030 as deadline to stop routine gas flaring all over the world. The Bank has been active for 15 years now on this issue as a founding member of the Global Gas Reduction Partnership (GGFR). Top 10 Gas flaring countries in the world are Russia, Nigeria, Iran, Iraq, USA, Algeria, Kazakhstan,Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Angola.
We view the World Bank’s  plan as a step in the right direction and support its “Zero Routine Flaring by 2030” initiative which  is expected to bring together governments, oil companies and development institutions  to stop the menace.
Undeniably, the flaring of gas that is not for safety reasons is unsustainable from both resource management and environmental perspectives. We believe the 2030 deadline will make countries that endorse the initiative to provide legal, regulatory and operating environment needed to achieve the objective.
For a country like Nigeria where successive administrations had not mustered enough political will to stop gas flaring, the plan by the World Bank should be embraced whole-heartedly, while the needed legal and regulatory framework should be fast-tracked without further
delay.
If this is done, it will provide oil companies the much needed confidence and incentive that will lay an enduring platform for investing in gas flaring elimination measures. It is also important that oil companies that endorse the World Bank’s initiative develop new oil fields that will utilize the gas rather than the current wanton flaring, while development institutions ensure implementation and compliance.
Altogether, cooperation by all concerned is very necessary for the plan to work. The pressure is high on gas as a critical resource to drive the reforms that the  Muhammadu Buhari administration has promised in the oil and gas sector. Government should intensify efforts in the gas reserve component of the economy.
At present, there are about 600 trillion cubic metres of Nigeria’s unproven gas reserve. Efforts should be intensified in completing the Seventh Train of the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG), a project which, experts say, has the potential to bring in about $8bn Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as well as help reduce gas flaring.
All in all, government should take the deadline set by the World Bank to end gas flaring seriously  and develop our gas resources to reduce low power supply in the country. It is unfortunate that Nigeria was absent at the World Bank sponsored zero gas flaring summit in Washington, USA, early this year.We urge the Federal Government not to miss the next meeting holding in Paris, France, in December this year.

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The FG/World Bank electricity deal http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-fgworld-bank-electricity-deal/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-fgworld-bank-electricity-deal/#comments Sat, 29 Aug 2015 23:49:41 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=133160 In a determined move to address the huge power shortfall in the country, the Federal Government has signed the World Bank Partial Risk Guarantees (PRGs) of N47.4 billion in support of the Azura-Edo Independent Power Plant. When completed, the IPP will add 450 megawatts of electricity to the national grid. Though the national optimal power [...]]]>

In a determined move to address the huge power shortfall in the country, the Federal Government has signed the World Bank Partial Risk Guarantees (PRGs) of N47.4 billion in support of the Azura-Edo Independent Power Plant. When completed, the IPP will add 450 megawatts of electricity to the national grid.

Though the national optimal power level is put at about 50,000 megawatts the Azura-Edo IPP deal is a significant step towards power sufficiency. We commend the Federal Government, World Bank, and the Azura Power West Africa Limited.

We ask all the parties to stick to the terms of the MOU so that the IPP is delivered on schedule and to specification. This is very important considering our long and chequered history of failed efforts to ensure power sufficiency in the country.

We recall that under the erstwhile Olusegun Obasanjo administration, over 16 billion dollars was expended on electricity with very little to show for it. Sadly, the Umaru Yar’Adua government that succeeded it stalled the projects under the guise of a review which the immediate past Goodluck Jonathan administration was unable to conclude. The entire exercise was characterized by policy somersaults and technical deficiencies which have left the nation hugely shortchanged.

The only way out is to continue to push forward, and we are happy that the present government is doing that. The nation has witnessed some improvement in electricity supply which sources attribute to the definitive “body language” of the new leadership and the improvement of gas supplies to some of the power plants.

The positive development should be sustained and efforts diversified in harnessing other sources of power generation apart from thermal. The goal to attain national power self-sufficiency is a huge one and no resource should be spared.

For some time now, we have ignored other proven sources of power generation such as coal, solar and hydro. This is the time to renew and significantly improve investments in them and harness them for the national good.

There can be no better time than now given the overflow of international goodwill on account of the recent successful democratic transition and the perception of a new leadership with integrity in the country. Credible reports said that Nigeria needs about 20 billion US dollars annual investment in the power sector to attain the national goal of 50,000 megawatts of electricity in the next 10 years. This is no small challenge, but this is the end we must pursue.

The overall benefit on the economic wellbeing of the country when optimal power becomes a reality will be immense. The climbing figures of the unemployed, presently put at 25 per cent, with over 70 per cent of that figure said to be youth, can be expected to greatly reduce on account of the new jobs that would be stimulated. The point has been well made that with steady and adequate power, all other things will fall in place. The majority of the people already used to self-employment will find new and productive avenues for their energies to the benefit of the economy and national wellbeing.

There are many other IPPs presently on-going or stalled which the Buhari government has to quickly, but painstakingly review if we are to attain the national power benchmark.

We cannot run away from the fact that there are sufficient issues with some of them which may prevent them from being delivered. What happens to the investments in them then? Those who have deliberately misled the country should be brought to account.

More importantly, where lapses exist in our present laws, they should be reviewed to allow the country maximize new investments in the power sector. This is very crucial for the present and long term economic health of the country. Optimal power generation is certainly at the centre of a diversified economy which we must seek in the light of dwindling oil prices and faltering economy.

We eagerly expect the benefit of a completed and well evacuated Azura-Edo IPP to the national grid. With the guaranteed 450 megawatts added to the national power bank, the steady march to power sufficiency will well be on course.

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Time to guard against flood http://sunnewsonline.com/new/time-to-guard-against-flood/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/time-to-guard-against-flood/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 23:00:28 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=132978 The warning by the Ni­gerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) and the Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency’s (NIHSA) that some states will experience seri­ous flooding on account of heavy rainfall should be taken serious­ly. The Director-General of NI­MET, Dr. Anthony Anuforom, explained in Abuja that the warn­ing became necessary to alert Ni­gerians on the need to take pre­ventive [...]]]>

The warning by the Ni­gerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) and the Nigerian Hydrological Services Agency’s (NIHSA) that some states will experience seri­ous flooding on account of heavy rainfall should be taken serious­ly.

The Director-General of NI­MET, Dr. Anthony Anuforom, explained in Abuja that the warn­ing became necessary to alert Ni­gerians on the need to take pre­ventive measures to avert it.

The states that may experience the flooding, according to the Director-General of NIHSA, Dr. Moses Beckley, are Niger, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Anambra and Taraba. Others are Kebbi, Ad­amawa, Kogi, Benue, Nasarawa and Sokoto.

The agency also warned that Bayelsa, Rivers, Delta and La­gos states are likely to experience coastal flooding due to the rise in sea level.

In a related development, the Director-General of the National Emergency Management Agen­cy (NEMA), Malam Muham­mad Sani-Sidi, has alerted state governments and communities along River Benue to the possi­bility of heavy flooding between August and November this year, following the information that Cameroon will commence rou­tine release of excess water from its Lagdo Dam.

As a result of these warnings, the Lagos State Government has also alerted residents living in the coastal and low line areas of the state of an impending flooding.

We commend NIMET and NI­HSA for this timely warning. The governments of the flood-prone states should map out preventive steps to avert loss of lives and property to flooding. We say this considering the disastrous conse­quences of the 2012 flooding de­spite warning from the weather agencies.

Nigeria reportedly lost about N2.29 trillion to the 2012 flood disaster which was due to the unregulated release of excess water from Lagdo Dam. More than seven million people were believed to have been affected by the flood, while 2.3 million peo­ple were displaced. The disaster claimed about 363 lives and de­stroyed many houses.

To avoid a repeat of 2012 flood­ing episode, we call on the Fed­eral Government to assist the states with their flood control programmes. While the exist­ing drainages and canals should be cleared to ensure easy flow of flood, new ones should be con­structed, where they are needed.

We enjoin the public to desist from indiscriminate dumping of refuse on drainages and other acts that encourage flooding. The local governments in the states which are likely to experience the flood should be involved in de-flooding programmes designed by the government.

Also, all the states along the River Benue should be particu­larly mindful of flood warning. The concerned states should set up disaster management com­mittees that will swing into ac­tion during emergencies, includ­ing flood. This committee should guide the public on how to cope with this problem.

There should also be public en­lightenment campaigns on the matter. Let all tiers of govern­ment take proactive measures to check flooding.

 

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Probe of NITEL/MTEL sale http://sunnewsonline.com/new/probe-of-nitelmtel-sale/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/probe-of-nitelmtel-sale/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 02:06:10 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=132897 IN a bid to ascertain probity in the liquidation of Nigerian Telecommunication Limited (NITEL) and its subsidiary, Mobile Telecommunication Limited (MTEL), President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered a probe of the sale of the companies to NATCOM Consortium.]]>

IN a bid to ascertain probity in the liquidation of Nigerian Telecommunication Limited (NITEL) and its subsidiary, Mobile Telecommunication Limited (MTEL), President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered a probe of the sale of the companies to NATCOM Consortium.

The move to revisit the liquidation of NITEL/MTEL shortly before the 2015 general elections was made known when Buhari ordered the Ministry of Communication and Technology to prepare a memo to that effect. Disclosing this to newsmen, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Tunji Olaopa, said that the president, though  not against privatisation, wanted to ascertain that Nigerians were not shortchanged in the liquidation exercise.
At a meeting chaired by former Vice President, Namadi Sambo, the National Council on Privatisation had on April 26 directed the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE) to hand over NITEL/MTEL to NATCOM Consortium, the bid winner, at the cost of $252.251 million.
The handing over of NITEL/MTEL to the company came after 14 years and five failed attempts to sell the moribund telecom company.
The first attempt to sell NITEL/MTEL to Investors International London Limited in 2001 following the liberalisation of the telecoms sector failed woefully as the preferred bidder was reportedly unable to meet the deadline for the payment of the purchase consideration.
The failure of this exercise led to the execution of a management contract with Pentascope in 2005. However, the contract was terminated when the management contract reportedly did not improve the operational and financial position of NITEL/MTEL.
During the second privatisation exercise, Orascom Telecoms with a bid of $256 million emerged the highest bidder. Unfortunately, its bid was rejected by the Federal Government because it was said to be below the reserved price.
But, following the “willing buyer-willing seller” strategy adopted by the NCP in 2006, the Transnational Corporation of Nigeria Plc (Transcorp) emerged as the core investor. However, following reports on the inability of Transcorp to turn around the fortunes of NITEL/MTEL, the NCP on June 1, 2009 revoked the sale of the telecoms company and its mobile subsidiary to it.
In the 2011 strategic core investor sale, New Generation Communications Limited and Omen International Limited, which emerged as the preferred and reserved bidders respectively, were reported to be unable to pay the purchase price, hence the cancellation of the transaction.
Following this state of affairs, the NCP approved the privatisation of the company through guided liquidation and on November 11, 2013 approved a liquidator for the companies.
NATCOM Consortium emerged the preferred bidder with $252.251 million bid price on December 3, 2014.
The move to revisit the sale of NITEL/MTEL is apt and quite welcome in view of the tortuous modalities that attended the transaction and the fear in certain quarters that Nigerians may have been cheated in the deal.
But, while we support a review of this sale, we advise that the probe should adhere to due process and rule of law. For the probe not to appear like a witch-hunt, the process must be clear and transparent.
Since we are in a democratic dispensation, there is the need to have in place an Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice to oversee investigations like this one. Section 174 (1) (a) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) clearly states that “The Attorney-General of the Federation shall have power to institute and undertake criminal proceedings against any person before any court of law in Nigeria, other than a court martial, in respect of any offence created by or under any Act of the National Assembly.”
The probe of the sale of NITEL/MTEL will definitely need the experience of professionals and technocrats in the industry. Having a minister manning the Ministry of Communication is necessarily for the probe to be far-reaching.
Therefore, President Muhammadu Buhari should quickly assemble his ministers to aid the achievement of his objectives. He needs the ministers in place to drive his change policies. Let all probes be guided by due process and devoid of dictatorial tendencies.

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Funding of states’ tertiary institutions http://sunnewsonline.com/new/funding-of-states-tertiary-institutions/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/funding-of-states-tertiary-institutions/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 23:28:57 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=132761 THE Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), Prof. Suleiman Bogoro, struck the right chord recently with his advice to state governments to stop establishing tertiary institutions that they lack the financial capability to run efficiently. This timely admonition to the states should ginger the authorities saddled with the licensing and regulation of [...]]]>

THE Executive Secretary of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), Prof. Suleiman Bogoro, struck the right chord recently with his advice to state governments to stop establishing tertiary institutions that they lack the financial capability to run efficiently. This timely admonition to the states should ginger the authorities saddled with the licensing and regulation of tertiary institutions to set minimum standards for the schools.

Regulatory authorities such as the Na­tional Board of Technical Education (NBTE) and even the National Universities Commission (NUC) should check the un­bridled establishment of higher institutions that are below the standards required for effective teaching and learning at that level of education.

This warning on the poor quality of some tertiary institutions should, however, not be limited to state authorities alone. Some private institutions are also affected and the nation’s education authorities must be more proactive in ensuring that they meet the required standards.

It has become important to ensure that state governments and private organiza­tions which lack the wherewithal to estab­lish higher institutions should not be al­lowed to do so.

It is, indeed, patently unfair for the pro­prietors of these poorly-funded institutions to take advantage of the dearth of admis­sion spaces in our tertiary institutions to subject their students to low quality teach­ing and facilities. Among the problems of some of these institutions are the lack of good lecturers, laboratories, libraries and other teaching facilities.

It is important to ensure that only organ­isations with the required managerial and financial muscles are allowed to establish and run these critical institutions. The in­stitutions that lack the basic facilities to run as tertiary institutions should be made to either improve their standards or be shut down.

Bogoro raised this alarm against the backdrop of a survey conducted by TET­FUND, which showed that most of the state governments are not committed to fund­ing state-owned tertiary institutions. It has, therefore, become necessary to let the states know that it is not enough to estab­lish the institutions, they must be properly funded to ensure that they can produce quality graduates.

According to Bogoro, tertiary institutions should be established when the owners are convinced that they have the capacity to fund them. He disclosed that between 90 and 95 percent of infrastructure in state tertiary institutions was provided by TET­FUND, a situation which makes one wonder who actually owns the institutions.

This neglect of the proper funding of ter­tiary institutions by state governments is unacceptable, and must be stopped.

State governments should stop playing politics with education. If they do not have financial resources to run tertiary institu­tions, they should stop establishing them. The ones that have already been established should not be left to the Federal Govern­ment to run, as this amounts to shirking of responsibilities by the states. It also puts the future of the students enrolled in the institutions in danger.

The way forward is for the NBTE and the NUC to ensure due diligence and transpar­ency in approving these institutions. It is unfortunate that some states and private operators are taking advantage of inad­equate space in the tertiary education sector for prospective candidates seeking admission to set up institutions that are ill-equipped and ill-funded. There are legions of such institutions that have sprung up just to meet the high demand for admission spaces.

Let this alarm serve as a wakeup call for education regulatory authorities to license only institutions that have the required facilities. Tertiary institutions, it must be said, exist to produce quality manpower for the country. Therefore, adequate fund­ing and infrastructure should be part of the minimum standards required for their es­tablishment. The absence of these criteria could lead to the production of half-baked graduates. This is why we support the re­cent investigation of some NBTE officials over alleged irregular issuance of registra­tion licences to some private institutions in certain parts of the country.

Beyond this problem, TETFUND should not lose sight of its responsibility, which is to make funds accessible to higher institu­tions for developmental initiatives. Last year, it was reported that while many ter­tiary institutions lack learning materials, equipment and infrastructure, N43 billion was lying idle in its accounts domiciled in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

It is high time the authorities of TET­FUND reviewed the modalities for access­ing and disbursing its funds. If the condi­tions for getting the fund are too stringent, we urge that they be reviewed to make it easier for the intended beneficiaries to ac­cess it. It is inappropriate that huge educa­tion funds are inaccessible at a time that many tertiary institutions are in dire need of funds to ease their problems.

It is necessary to closely monitor stan­dards in our educational institutions so that our graduates can compete with those from other parts of the world, and play the role expected of them in the country’s de­velopment. Adequate funding of our ter­tiary schools is critical to the achievement of these objectives, and the proprietors of such institutions should properly finance them.

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Local manufacturing of firearms http://sunnewsonline.com/new/local-manufacturing-of-firearms/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/local-manufacturing-of-firearms/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 00:00:49 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=132554 President Muhammadu Buhari, at the recent graduation ceremony of the National Defence College, decried Nigeria’s over-dependence on importation of military hardware and light weapons. He directed the Ministry of Defence to draw up plans for the establishment of a modest military industrial complex for the local production of weapons to meet some of the needs of the country’s armed forces in its current fight against terrorism.]]>

President Muhammadu Buhari, at the recent graduation ceremony of the National Defence College, decried Nigeria’s over-dependence on importation of military hardware and light weapons. He directed the Ministry of Defence to draw up plans for the establishment of a modest military industrial complex for the local production of weapons to meet some of the needs of the country’s armed forces in its current fight against terrorism.

The president’s directive on local manufacturing of firearms is understandable, considering the difficulties the country has had in the sourcing of firearms. The problem had, at a time, become an embarrassment for our armed forces, with some our soldiers deployed for the fight against Boko Haram fleeing from the superior firepower of  terrorists.
Nigeria’s problems with the sourcing of firearms also played out in South Africa, where a Nigerian plane was briefly seized when it was found to have brought in two suitcases containing $9.3 million cash for the procurement of firearms.  The cash was promptly impounded by the South African Customs.  Another $5 million meant for the purchase of arms was also discovered and seized in South Africa. The United States had refused to sell military hardware to Nigeria, citing its Leahy law, which prohibits the sale of firearms to countries that it believes are involved in human rights abuses.
There can be no doubt that if Nigeria had basic arms manufacturing capability, the country would have fared better in the Boko Haram war. We would also probably not have had to resort to desperate measures to buy firearms in South Africa. Although the situation appears to have been rectified and Nigerian soldiers have been successfully confronting Boko Haram in the last three months, we think the plan to manufacture military hardware and light weapons locally will help us to avert future embarrassments over arms procurement.
The president’s idea of domestic manufacturing of weapons is, however, not exactly new.  Indeed, during the Civil War (1967-70), an effort was made with the setting up of the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON), which was saddled with the same mandate as being currently proposed.  Indeed, DICON operates an ordnance factory in Kaduna, where it is expected to manufacture small arms and ammunition, including assault rifles, machine guns and sub-machine guns.  It reportedly has a special vehicles plant set up to refit and upgrade Nigeria’s fighting vehicles like the Scorpion light tanks and the Steyr tracked armoured personnel carriers.  DICON is also said to be capable of making 81 mm and 60 mm mortars.
We think the Federal Government should do a thorough assessment of the capabilities and potentials of DICON before embarking on a brand new attempt at arms manufacturing.  In 2012, we recall that the former president, Goodluck Jonathan, commissioned DICON’s tactical ballistic (bullet proof) vest factory complex which was a joint venture with the Israeli firm, Maron-Dolphin.  For the Nigerian Navy, it produced the Seaward Defence Boat, and for the Army, the armoured personnel carrier designed by the Nigerian Army Engineers Corps.  President Jonathan commissioned both vehicles.
The most vital question now is, why is DICON unable to fulfill its mandate, given its installed capabilities, affiliations and the Federal Government’s investments.  Why has it not matched the achievements of its counterparts in other parts of the world?  Its Brazilian counterpart now builds everything from fighter jets to submarines and advanced weapons of all kinds. Both ventures were initiated at about the same period.
Another example is Egypt which, in addition to the manufacture of its basic military hardware, has a huge civilian manufacturing capacity.  The Egyptian military owns 16 factories and employs 75,000 workers and 40 per cent of its products are solely for the civilian population.  This is besides its huge capacity in the production of water and electricity, in addition to construction works.
The Pakistani military has been described as an octopus with presence in every sector.  The Pakistan Ordnance Factory and Heavy Industry takes care of the country’s basic military needs with some for export.  The distinguishing mark of the Pakistani military ventures is their construction and maintenance of critical networks which are totally self-sustaining without any financial assistance from the government.
With the exception of Brazil, all the Third World military manufacturers are countries which are continually on war footing owing to geo-political reasons.  After the Nigerian Civil War, Nigeria enjoyed several decades of uninterrupted peace which probably accounted for the disinterest in DICON.  But, now that we have a war against terrorists on our hands, we think it is time to remind Nigerians of the age-old saying that to live in peace, we must prepare for war. And, the best way to prepare for war is to produce the weapons that we will need for the enterprise.

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The new Treasury Single Account http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-new-treasury-single-account/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-new-treasury-single-account/#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 02:08:29 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=132477 In line with his determination to ensure discipline and greater transparency in the management of the nation’s finances, President Muhammadu Buhari has directed all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of ]]>

In line with his determination to ensure discipline and greater transparency in the management of the nation’s finances, President Muhammadu Buhari has directed all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) of government to henceforth pay their earnings into a unified bank account known as Treasury Single Account (TSA). The directive applies to the MDAs that are funded from the Federation Account such as Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), The Customs Service (NCS), Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and a host of others.  The MDAs are to pay all their revenues to a sub-account linked to the TSA at CBN.

To promote quick compliance with this directive, the Head of Service of the Federation, Danladi Kifasi, has given the name and number of the TSA as Accountant General (Federal sub-Treasury) Account No. 3000002095.  The order on TSA, which came into effect on August 11, marks the beginning of MDAs’ retirement of revenues due to the Federal Government into a unified account maintained by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
The payment of government revenue into multiple bank accounts operated by MDAs in commercial banks, as obtained under the old order, was clearly against the Nigerian Constitution which, in Sections 80 and 162, directed that all federally-collected revenues should be paid into the Federation Account. It was a flagrant breach of the constitution that underscores the rot in the management of the country’s finances.
It is heartening that this will now be history, going by the efforts of the new administration to implement the TSA policy that was reportedly first recommended by the Federal Government’s Economic Reform and Governance Programme in 2004, but dumped in 2005, following intense pressure from the banking industry. The former President  Goodluck Jonathan administration had  also set a February 2015 deadline for the implementation of the initiative, but did not go ahead with it.
We hope that the policy will greatly improve the management of government revenue. If it is implemented, it will pave way for the timely payment and capturing of all revenues going into the government treasury, without the intermediation of multiple banking arrangements. Besides, the system will likely reduce the mismanagement of public funds by revenue-generating agencies. It is also expected to help check excess liquidity, inflation, high interest rates, round-tripping of government deposits, and the sliding value of the naira.
In view of these benefits, we call for strict compliance with the directive on TSA by the relevant government organisations. The implementation of the order will, however, require the cooperation of the National Assembly with the Executive arm to ensure strict compliance by the MDAs.
The fears that have been raised about the implications of the new measure are   hardly necessary. The benefits of the TSA for the economy and good governance far outweigh its seeming disadvantages. The consolidation of federal revenues in a single account will allow for easier and better tracking of funds, thereby enthroning a better regime of accountability, in line with global best practice.
What has been practised until now was for government agencies to operate several bank accounts, many of which were unknown to anyone other than their operators, and they were largely used to defraud government of due revenues. This is part of the ways in which huge sums of money amounting to about $150 billion were reportedly ferreted out of the country into secret personal accounts abroad. The recent disclosure of these stolen funds brought shame to the country and ridiculed our public officials in the eyes of the world. It is an embarrassment that the country must deal with decisively if we are to restore our good image.
We are further gladdened that the president has reiterated his determination to recover all stolen monies and allow culprits, no matter how highly placed, face the law. The dire financial situation in which the country has found itself demands no less.
In the implementation of the TSA policy, all efforts must be made to avoid the booby traps of the past. One of the fears is that it may delay government operations as valuable time could be lost between payments and appropriations for spending. This is one reason why the co-operation of the National Assembly is necessary, to ensure timely appropriations and release of budgeted funds to government agencies.    The MDAs, in collaboration with the Executive, will also need to be diligent in   drawing up their budgets and presenting them for consideration and passage by the legislature.
The financial regulators, including the CBN, should also be proactive and institute measures to correct any lapses or negative impact of the policy, as no law or measure is foolproof. The fear that it will negatively affect commercial banks, and possibly lead to massive job losses, should be addressed.
Total commitment and sincerity of purpose are required of those who are to implement this policy. The agencies of government that are affected by the measure are thus enjoined to ensure that it succeeds. They must subsume their personal interests under the greater need of the country.
Altogether, what Nigeria requires at this time is the political will to push this reform measure through. Let all stakeholders play the roles expected of them to ensure a successful implementation of the new policy.

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National Security Summit and community policing http://sunnewsonline.com/new/national-security-summit-and-community-policing/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/national-security-summit-and-community-policing/#comments Sun, 23 Aug 2015 23:21:57 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=132272 THE National Security Sum­mit hosted by Nigeria Police and The Sun Publishing Lim­ited, publishers of The Sun newspapers, in Abuja on Au­gust 17, is perhaps, the most important conference held on Nigeria’s security, safety and policing this year. It had the theme: “The Community Partnership Approach to In­ternal Security and Crime Management.” The summit attracted [...]]]>

THE National Security Sum­mit hosted by Nigeria Police and The Sun Publishing Lim­ited, publishers of The Sun newspapers, in Abuja on Au­gust 17, is perhaps, the most important conference held on Nigeria’s security, safety and policing this year. It had the theme: “The Community Partnership Approach to In­ternal Security and Crime Management.”

The summit attracted all rel­evant stakeholders, from the top brass of the Police and the country’s political leaders, to pre-eminent traditional rulers and the academia. It champi­oned community policing as a panacea to the problem of in­security in the country.

President Muhammadu Bu­hari utilised the opportunity of the summit to announce the government’s intention to recruit 10,000 fresh police of­ficers and to establish a well-trained and equipped Anti-ter­rorism and Multi-agency Task Force, to address the challenge of insurgency in the country. He promised to enhance the operational capacity of the nation’s policemen through a training programme that would give them a civil ori­entation, to enable them per­form their roles as guardians of the Nigerian Constitution effectively.

THE summit was timely and successful in raising not only the awareness that security should be the concern of all citizens, but in also proposing far-reaching recommendations for the enhancement of security and effective policing of Nigeria. Indeed, in a communiqué issued at the end of the conference, it was acknowledged that there was a need to bridge the gap and restore trust between the Police and Nigerian communities, and to motivate citizens – traditional institutions, youth organisations, the media, military and paramilitary organisations and non-governmental organisations – to see security as a collective responsibility.

Noting that the scope and sophistica­tion of crime have increased phenom­enally, the summit harped on the need to modernise the operations of the Po­lice and bridge the gap in crime man­agement and national security. It also encouraged the Federal Government in its efforts to recover stolen public funds and to bring the culprits to jus­tice in a fair trial.

The communiqué emphasized that every citizen should be part of polic­ing and must see the Police as a part­ner. It also suggested a reform of the criminal justice system, better funding of the Police, provision of requisite infrastructure and an effective train­ing regime to increase the capacity of policemen. To ensure the indepen­dence, continuity and stability of the Police system, the summit highlighted the need for Inspectors-General of Po­lice to have security of their tenures. The conference also regretted the non-implementation of recommendations made in the past to improve the secu­rity of the country.

The media were urged to help sensi­tise citizens to fulfill their responsibil­ities in managing the country’s securi­ty. They were also asked to co-operate with the police in the dissemination of information. Participants were unani­mous that the government at all levels must address the basic needs of the citizenry to reduce crime.

We congratulate all the participants and urge them to work towards the im­plementation of the recommendations of the communiqué. The Nigeria Po­lice needs a major boost. But, we think that the planned recruitment of 10,000 new policemen disclosed by President Buhari should be considered as just a start. The Force is regularly depleted for various reasons, mostly owing to the poor welfare and difficult service conditions.

We think it is time to institute a qualitative upgrade of the Force, which should begin from the next re­cruitment. The time has come for the Police to institute post-secondary ed­ucation, not below the Ordinary Na­tional Diploma (OND) or the Nation­al Certificate of Education (NCE), as a minimum qualification for recruit­ment.

In terms of numbers, we suggest a definite aim at the United Nations ratio which is 222 police officers to 100,000 citizens. We cannot over-em­phasise the ‘quality’ factor. Recruits should be individuals from responsi­ble homes who have no crime records. They must be physically and morally fit. The self-esteem and public image of the Police must be raised. Welfare of policemen must be reviewed. Their kits, including uniforms and boots, must be provided. Field allowances must be paid as due, and the issue of promotions given active consider­ation.

The renewed focus on community policing is good. All over the world, it is considered more effective, but it seems to work better in a situation where command is decentralised.

The Police need help in various ways. They need better training in handling firearms, in dealing with fellow citizens, in the use of force, in dealing with the rule of law. They need to be motivated. We urge the Federal Government to address these needs.

Let the police and other stakehold­ers in the nation’s security rise up to implement the recommendations of the 2015 National Security Summit. We congratulate IGP Arase on the success of the conference and hope that it will be the beginning of a posi­tive turn-around for the Nigeria Po­lice.

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The ministers Nigeria needs http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-ministers-nigeria-needs/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-ministers-nigeria-needs/#comments Sat, 22 Aug 2015 23:57:16 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=132226 From September 1, which is just about one week away, Nigerians will expect President Muhammadu Buhari to announce his ministers as he had promised. The long delay in constituting the cabinet has naturally raised high expectations about the quality of persons to be appointed into the president’s team, and it is hoped that he will [...]]]>

From September 1, which is just about one week away, Nigerians will expect President Muhammadu Buhari to announce his ministers as he had promised. The long delay in constituting the cabinet has naturally raised high expectations about the quality of persons to be appointed into the president’s team, and it is hoped that he will come up with names that can inspire confidence in the people.

This is, perhaps, the most important decision the President will be making since his inauguration, and we wish him well in the effort to search out credible Nigerians who can help him to actualise his plan to reform the country and move it forward. He should not disappoint the people in this regard.

Generally, we expect Buhari to nominate ministers who reflect his public image as an honest and highly principled man. It is in his interest to brook no compromise on the character and integrity of his appointees. A president bears strict liability for his government and his appointees. He may not get all the credit for their achievements, but he is sure to get the blame for their shortcomings. That is the inexorable law of presidential power.

The president has promised not to appoint “hostages.” We urge him to stick to that promise because hostages owe their loyalty to vested interests, not the Nigerian nation. Hostages are difficult to manage. When their performance is questioned, they seek refuge in ethnic cleavages.

We also urge Buhari not to appoint ‘eye servers.’ These are persons who would seek to retain their offices through effusive expressions of loyalty to the president, and not the services that they can offer Nigerians. Such people never do the jobs they are given properly, preferring to rely on politicking for their survival. He must be wary of publicity seekers who will rather play to the gallery, than do their jobs.

He should also avoid ‘yes-men’ who cannot stand their ground and pursue causes that will be of great benefit to Nigerians, no matter whose ox is gored. He must beware of ostentatious persons and potential treasury looters. Political considerations should not be allowed to overshadow integrity and competence, which should be the two primary qualifications for the appointments,

Let the president write a comprehensive job description for all ministerial appointees, which will be handed over to them on their first days in office. This should serve as a checklist on performance, with future evaluations based on it.

The President should appoint activists in each field. These are goal-oriented persons who can bring unusual passion and determination to their jobs. He should be gender-sensitive and appoint a good number of women ministers, which he failed to do when he was Head of State in 1984. We expect to see ministers who are exposed, who understand international best standards, and who know that the world has become a global village. He needs men and women with vision and energy; those who can push past obstacles and achieve their aims.

President Buhari must ensure that those to be appointed into his cabinet must have exemplary work ethic, which they would inculcate in their immediate subordinates and throughout their ministries or departments. Nigeria cannot change unless there is a change in the work ethic of the nation and the ministers are expected to lead this change.

Above all, the president should bring in persons with cognate experience who can understand the issues and provide leadership in the ministries and departments they are expected to superintend. The best candidates will be knowledgeable persons in their professional fields who can steer a course of political neutrality. This is necessary because the president will require results that are observable and measurable from them.

All these ministers need not come from his party. He can learn from US President Barack Obama, who began by appointing three persons from the opposition Republican Party into his government. During the campaigns in 2008, Obama was barely on speaking terms with Senator Hillary Clinton, his challenger for the nomination. But, it did not stop him from appointing her Secretary of State, when he became president.

The president should appoint ‘thinkers’ and visionaries. He must remember the injunction in Section 14(3) of the Nigerian Constitution on the need to reflect the federal character of the country. If he can find patriotic Nigerians with the above qualifications, he would have taken the first critical steps towards the achievement of his plan to renew, if not re-make, Nigeria. We wish him good luck on this critical assignment, and urge that it should not be delayed any further.

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Don’t downgrade Federal Universities of Education http://sunnewsonline.com/new/dont-downgrade-federal-universities-of-education/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/dont-downgrade-federal-universities-of-education/#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2015 23:23:15 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=132105 Reports of a plan to downgrade four Universities of Education to their former status as Colleg­es of Education is raising dust in the nation’s higher education system. The four Universities of Education that will return to their former status as Col­leges of Education if this plan is imple­mented are: Alvan Ikoku University of Education, Owerri; [...]]]>

Reports of a plan to downgrade four Universities of Education to their former status as Colleg­es of Education is raising dust in the nation’s higher education system. The four Universities of Education that will return to their former status as Col­leges of Education if this plan is imple­mented are: Alvan Ikoku University of Education, Owerri; Adeyemi University of Education, Ondo; the Federal Uni­versity of Education, Kano; and Federal University of Education, Zaria.

Members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universi­ties (SSANU) of the Federal University of Education, Kano, have risen against the reported planned downgrade, and described it as uncalled for. The ASUU chairman in the university, Dr. Abubakar Sadiq Haruna, has alleged that the for­mer provosts of the four former Colleges of Education are conniving with some interest groups in President Muham­madu Buhari’s administration to return the education universities to their former status.

Similarly, staff and students of Alvan Ikoku University of Education recently demonstrated in Owerri against the move to revert the institution to its former sta­tus as a college of education. The ASUU chairman of the institution, Mrs. Ukachi Nwachukwu, pointed out that all trade unions in the school, staff and students have vowed to resist the rumoured plan to return the institution to the status of a college of education. Students of Adeyemi Federal University of Education, Ondo, in Ondo State, have also demonstrated against the planned downgrade.

Although the Federal Government is yet to make its position known on the matter, we urge it to clear the air imme­diately to douse the tension in the insti­tutions. Government should not keep silent when there is disquiet in four insti­tutions of higher learning in the country. It should act before the situation deterio­rates.

However, without prejudice to the government’s position on this matter, we must say that the former Colleges of Education in question are eminently qualified for upgrade to universities, be­ing the foremost Colleges of Education in the country. They have a long history of producing high quality teachers for the country. They started with producing National Certificate of Education (NCE) holders and were later affiliated to some Nigerian universities to produce gradu­ates in education. They have not at any time been found wanting in their respon­sibility of producing high quality teach­ers.

Again, the need for more graduate teachers in the country’s education sys­tem is not in doubt. It was in a bid to satisfy that need that the administration of former president, Dr. Goodluck Jona­than, decided to upgrade the former Col­leges of Education to Universities of Edu­cation.

Politics aside, Jonathan’s move was well-intentioned, and can still serve a use­ful purpose. There is no arguing the fact that we need more university spaces to accommodate more of the large number of candidates who sit for the Joint Admis­sions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) examinations every year. Therefore, gov­ernment should be careful not to reduce university admission spaces that it should be seeking to expand.

We are, therefore, opposed to any move to return these universities to their former status. Doing so will not in any way help teacher education in the country. We have reached a stage where graduate teachers should be teaching at all levels of education, including prima­ry schools.

The Buhari government should be con­cerned with moving education forward, and keep the people well apprised of its intentions and plans for the sector. The ongoing speculations on the fate of these universities are unhealthy and should be rested with a formal statement by the education authorities. Downgrading the institutions to their former status should not be an option.

Our view is that whatever is required to solidify the status of these institutions as universities should be done. Whatever funds are required to achieve this objec­tive should be released. Let the govern­ment address all the deficiencies militat­ing against their continuing existence as universities.

We call on the new administration to dispel the rumours raging on the fate of these schools, and reassure their staff and students on its position on the matter. The earlier the government does this, the bet­ter for the institutions and the country.

 

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The Edo World Bank loan http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-edo-world-bank-loan/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-edo-world-bank-loan/#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2015 01:31:06 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=131974 THE plan of the Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, to take the second tranche of the $225 million World Bank soft loan approved for the state under the former Dr. Goodluck Jonathan administration is generating furore. The state had collected the first tranche of $75 million in 2012. ]]>

THE plan of the Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, to take the second tranche of the $225 million World Bank soft loan approved for the state under the former Dr. Goodluck Jonathan administration is generating furore. The state had collected the first tranche of $75 million in 2012.Specifically, the second tranche is to be used to improve public financial management, increase private investment in land and significantly improve the quality of the state’s education system.
Some interests in the state have, however, taken a strong exception to this credit facility on account of what they described as the state’s rising indebtedness, the fear that the money would be frittered away, and the fact that the tenure of Oshiomhole will come to an end in July next year.
The chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the state, Dan Orbih, articulated his party’s objection to the loan request at a press conference in Abuja recently, and called on the Senate not to approve it. But the state government, through the Commissioner for Information, Mr. Louis Odion, insisted that Edo was religiously servicing all its previous loans without any problems.
Although the Senate has since approved the loan request following a request by President Muhammadu Buhari, we advise the Edo authorities to properly inform the people of the state about the exact uses to which the money will be put, to get their cooperation on the matter.
The fears expressed by opposition parties over the utilisation of this loan, and Oshiomhole’s tenure which is expiring in July next year, appears somewhat misplaced. This is because government, anywhere in the world, is a continuum.  When one government goes, another will come and continue where the previous one stopped. Besides, the almost one year that Oshiomhole will still spend in office is enough to see the projects through.
Since this loan is for developmental projects that will benefit the ordinary people of the state, and the governor’s management of the first tranche of the loan, or other public funds, has not been called to question, we think he ought to be given the benefit of doubt that he would use the second tranche of the loan in the best interest of Edo people. There is, therefore, no need to play politics with this matter.  Instead of the controversy over this loan, we advise the opposition in the state to offer constructive suggestions on how to execute projects for which it is being taken, to move the state forward.
The approval of the loan by the Senate last Thursday should be allowed to lay this controversy to rest. We believe the upper legislative chamber must have been guided by the affirmation of the World Bank that the loan was well within the ability of the state to repay, and the belief that the state must have satisfactorily utilised the first tranche of the loan to get the approval of the World Bank for the second tranche.
We appreciate the need for vigilance by all Nigerians, which is probably behind the protests of the opposition parties in the state. But then, criticisms of government’s activities must be constructive, otherwise they will be anti-development, and against the interest of the people.
The World Bank would certainly not have approved this second tranche of the loan if the first one was not well utilised. The conditions for accessing such loans are usually quite stringent, and the bank ensures adequate oversight and project monitoring that do not give room for misusing its loans. It is necessary to point out that there is nothing wrong with taking of loans for developmental projects, as long as they are used for the intended purposes, and they are serviced as due. This loan, in particular, was approved by the Jonathan administration for both Lagos and Edo States, and should not be sacrificed on the altar of politics.
The state authorities should fully carry the people along on the projects to be funded with the facility. The opposition in the state, on the other hand, should diligently play its role of ensuring that the loan is used for the intended projects, and properly serviced, so that it does not  become a problem for the state.

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The planned audit of arms purchases http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-planned-audit-of-arms-purchases/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/the-planned-audit-of-arms-purchases/#comments Wed, 19 Aug 2015 23:45:30 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=131863 THE plan by the Federal Government to probe arms purchases under the former Goodluck Jonathan administration is in order. It should involve a detailed audit of all contracts for weapons procurement by the military high command in the last few years. The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Public­ity, Mallam Garba Shehu, [...]]]>

THE plan by the Federal Government to probe arms purchases under the former Goodluck Jonathan administration is in order. It should involve a detailed audit of all contracts for weapons procurement by the military high command in the last few years.

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Public­ity, Mallam Garba Shehu, who dis­closed the plan, said the president was eager to take stock of funds that left the national treasury and what they were used for. He also hinted that “records are being checked right now, not only in the oil sector, but also in the various departments of government.”

Everything considered, we think a thorough audit of all contracts for the procurement of weapons for the military is a wise step. There have, for some time now, been con­troversies on the funds appropriat­ed for security and the war against insurgency. Beyond that, Nigeria was last year embarrassed by the over $15 million cash-for-arms deals in South Africa that went awry. The Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecuting Authority in South Africa, had on September 5, 2014, seized $9.3m cash flown into the country from Nigeria in a private jet.

While the dust raised by the $9.3m transaction was yet to settle, an­other seizure of $5.7m belonging to Nigeria was made by South Af­rican authorities. One year after, it is not yet clear whether the $15m had been returned to Nigeria or not. The former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd), however, recently claimed that while some weapons and oth­er equipment procured by the last administration were used to fight insurgency during the closing days of that administration, some oth­ers were still being awaited. This is why a comprehensive audit of the arms purchases has become expe­dient, to ensure financial account­ability and proper stock-taking. It will also help to ensure that all arms that have been paid for, but are yet to be delivered, are eventu­ally supplied.

We also support this probe as it will help the military high com­mand to give an account of how it utilised the N4.62 trillion spent on security in the last five years by the Jonathan administration. A break­down of past budget allocations to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) shows that Defence had the lion share of federal budgets in the last few years, getting N934bn in 2015, N923bn in 2013, N924b in 2014 and N920bn in 2012 and 2011.

In spite of these huge allocations, the former military chiefs claimed that the funds were insufficient to procure the arms needed to end the insurgency. For instance, a few days ago, the immediate past Chief of Defence Staff, Alex Badeh, told Nigerians that he led a “military that was ill-equipped”. Many sol­diers, particularly those in the battlefront, have also been report­ed to have frequently complained about not being properly treated and motivated.

It is in this regard that we wel­come this probe as part of financial house-keeping that is required to get to the root of our inability to surmount the Boko Haram insur­gency and general insecurity in the country.

But, for the audit to yield the ex­pected results, government should appoint experts in arms and ammu­nition procurement, and defence in general, to lead the probe. The in­vestigation should not be aimed at embarrassing or harassing the im­mediate past administration or any of its officials.

Its objective should be to ensure that arms purchases were properly handled during the last administra­tion, and to henceforth enthrone transparency and accountability in future arms procurements, to im­prove the nation’s chances of win­ning the war against insurgency and general insecurity.

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Averting strike in debtor states http://sunnewsonline.com/new/averting-strike-in-debtor-states/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/averting-strike-in-debtor-states/#comments Wed, 19 Aug 2015 02:01:14 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=131728 The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has resolved to back its state councils to force debtor state governments to pay the outstanding salaries of public servants. Rising from a National Executive Council]]>

The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) has resolved to back its state councils to force debtor state governments to pay the outstanding salaries of public servants.  Rising from a National Executive Council meeting, the Ayuba Wabba-led faction of the NLC reiterated the need for the workers to be paid their legitimate earnings.

We agree with the congress on the need to put pressure on state governments to pay the workers.  It is shameful that 18 state governments owe their workers and pensioners for periods ranging from one to six months.  The states are Abia, Akwa Ibom, Bauchi, Benue, Cross River, Ekiti, Imo, Jigawa and Kano. Others include Katsina, Kogi, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Oyo, Plateau, Rivers and Zamfara.
We equally agree with the NLC that the state governments would not have found themselves in this position if they had made payment of workers’ salaries a priority.
The Federal Government, having placed its hands on the plough in trying to help the states with a bailout, should expedite the process of getting the funds to the states to end the misery of the affected workers.
The NLC has denounced the banks, which reportedly are withholding some of the money recently paid to the states.  These banks, it stated, must be stopped from holding Nigerian workers to ransom.
We fear that there is a resort to transferred aggression on this matter.  The unions should not treat the banks as if they are the enemy because the banks are not the source of this problem.  They should, therefore, not be punished for the financial recklessness of state governments.
The banks are probably not having an easy time recovering their own funds from the states.  On the contrary, we think that the civil service unions in the debtor states, which allowed the state governments to owe its members for so many months without blowing the whistle, were clearly asleep.
Each of the debtor states has its peculiar debts.    Abia State, for example, seems not to have paid the workers of the state’s teaching hospital for nine months. It reportedly owes the hospital management board for eight months; the Universal Basic Education Board, six months; the state polytechnic, five months; local government workers, four months; and teachers, three months.  Enugu State does not owe workers in its ministries any salary, but it has not paid those working in its parastatals for 12 months. It has also not paid gratuities since 2010.
We agree that this is not the time to contemplate massive layoff of public servants but states should at least try to remove ghost workers from their pay rolls.  Those who have attained the statutory retirement age or length of service should not be allowed to swear to an affidavit to adjust their ages and by so doing remain in service longer than they should.
State governments must have sound economic committees to design survival strategies to rev up their internally generated revenues.  But, they must bear in mind that this is not the time to raise taxes because things are hard enough for ordinary Nigerians already.  However, luxury goods could be further taxed, while businesses that were exempted from taxes can be brought within tax net.
We urge state governments to make the welfare of their citizens a priority and the payment of the salaries of their workers their primary obligation.  Financial obligations resulting from state loans are a huge drain on the resources of some states.
We think the Central Bank should speed up the restructuring of existing loans of states to reduce their burden. It should also tighten the conditions under which states can borrow money.
This is a rather trying time for Nigerian workers and the situation is not helped by the factionalisation of the NLC.  We appeal to the factions to bury their differences and unite in defence of Nigerian workers at this period.
The unions should be wary of the temptation to go on strike.  Strikes should be weapons of last resort, which should only be embarked upon with every sense of responsibility.

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Beyond the naming of chronic bank debtors http://sunnewsonline.com/new/beyond-the-naming-of-chronic-bank-debtors/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/beyond-the-naming-of-chronic-bank-debtors/#comments Tue, 18 Aug 2015 01:14:03 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=131597 The ongoing publication of the names of chronic bank debtors in some national dailies is generating debates, with opinions sharply divided on the benefits of the]]>

The ongoing publication of the names of chronic bank debtors in some national dailies is generating debates, with opinions sharply divided on the benefits of the ‘naming and shaming’ campaign. Already, some of the named ‘debtors’ have strongly denied owing the banks and have threatened to sue the banks and newspapers that published their names for libel.

The publication of the debtors’ lists, which commenced last week in compliance with a directive from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), covered individual and corporate customers, as well as the directors of organisations which have defaulted in loan repayments for a period of at least one year. Penalties for such loan defaulters, the CBN circular dated April 22, 2015 said, will include the banning of such individual and corporate debtors from the official foreign exchange (forex) and government securities markets. Among the issues raised on this matter is whether the naming of the debtors has not infringed on the expected confidentiality in customer-banker relationships.

Another question pertains to the observance, or otherwise, of due diligence by the banks in their efforts to recover the bad loans. Some stakeholders have also been asking if this naming of serial bank debtors is, indeed, the best way to recover the loans.

The anxiety over increasing Non-performing Loans (NPLs) in the country is quite understandable. The volume of the bad debts, put at over N400 billion, informed the naming campaign, in the hope that it will force the debtors to either pay their debts, or enter into negotiations with the banks for the rescheduling of the facilities. It is clear that commercial banks in the country are facing numerous challenges. Already, half year results of many of them show weak profit growth amid a struggling economy.

Many of the affected banks have reported loan losses ranging between 239 percent and 449 percent. What this indicates is that the banks may exceed the CBN’s 5 percent maximum bad debt ratio, if the spiraling bad debts are not checked. The check is necessary if the debts are not to seriously affect the liquidity and solvency of the banks and, ultimately, the economy.

We recognise the fact that banks bear a certain degree of risk when they lend to their customers. But, this is not an excuse for debtors to fail to repay loans as agreed with their bankers. Failure to repay loans put banks in harm’s way and place shareholders’ funds at risk.  We, therefore, urge the debtors to make haste to either pay or negotiate the rescheduling of the loans to avoid the kind of situation that led to the sack of some bank chief executives and the takeover of their institutions by the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) in 2009.  Beyond this, it is necessary for the CBN to properly think out the ongoing publication of debtors’ names. The unintended fallout of the exercise, such as denials and threats of court action by some of the debtors, could cost some of the banks their high-profile customers.

The corporate image of the banks will also be negatively affected on account of their failure to ensure due diligence before publication. But, it remains a serious concern that, wittingly or unwittingly, the confidentiality which is the cutting-edge in customer-banker relationship has been irreparably damaged in the bid to “name and shame” the debtors.

This is because the success of any bank depends partly on customers’ confidence. In all the controversies that have trailed the ongoing publication of the lists of the debtors, we believe that the banks have a share in the blame.

Some of the banks have laissez-faire lending procedures that some customers may have taken advantage of. These include inattention to loan policies, overly generous loan terms and lack of clear standards, disregard of banks’ own policies and poor supervision of loan administration personnel. Other self-inflicted problems of the banks include lack of understanding of borrowers’ cash needs, poor systems for detecting potentially bad loans, and out-of-market lending.

All of these may have contributed to the rise in the credit losses, and the adverse consequences on the stability of the financial system. The question now, however, is what happens after the “naming and shaming” campaign. The due process of the law still needs to be followed to recover these loans. Going forward, there should be tighter administration of the lending process to reduce the incidence of bad loans. There ought to be written loan policies that must be strictly enforced, if the banks are not to collapse under the weight of delinquent facilities.

Henceforth, loan defaulters, especially corporate customers, should have their names sent to credit rating agencies, and blacklisted. Altogether, we advise the CBN and the banks to tread cautiously on the current exercise to avoid unintended consequences for the debtors, the banking industry and the economy.

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Corruption: Let the trials begin http://sunnewsonline.com/new/corruption-let-the-trials-begin-2/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/corruption-let-the-trials-begin-2/#comments Sun, 16 Aug 2015 23:27:07 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=131422 LAST week, President Mu­hammadu Buhari under­scored his commitment to the battle against corruption with the announcement that the prosecution of treasury looters would begin in a mat­ter of weeks. He also inaugu­rated a Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-corrup­tion to advise his government on the prosecution of the war against corruption, and ap­pointed prominent professor of [...]]]>

LAST week, President Mu­hammadu Buhari under­scored his commitment to the battle against corruption with the announcement that the prosecution of treasury looters would begin in a mat­ter of weeks. He also inaugu­rated a Presidential Advisory Committee on Anti-corrup­tion to advise his government on the prosecution of the war against corruption, and ap­pointed prominent professor of law and civil rights activist, Prof. Itse Sagay, as its head.

A number of suspects are already being investigated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over corruption allegations, while a directive has been issued to the Ministries, De­partments and Agencies of government (MDAs) to remit all government revenue into a Treasury Single Account (TSA) to promote transpar­ency and probity in their operations.

We strongly commend the Federal Government for these promising first steps in the battle to free Nigeria from the ravages of corrup­tion.

THESE are, indeed, indications that the war against corruption has started in earnest, and we stand firmly with the president in what he has described as his irrevocable commitment to breaking the vicious cycle of corruption by putting suspected treasury looters on trial and recovering stolen public funds. His affirmation that Nigeria has to break the cycle of corruption before it can make progress is the bare truth, and we urge all Nigerians to support the government in this war to send a strong message that public corruption will no longer be tolerated in the country.

 

We condemn the insinuations in cer­tain quarters that the president’s fre­quent statements on his anti-corruption initiatives may distract him from gover­nance. We do not think they can. Cor­ruption is a serious crime that Nigeria needs to make a clean break with, as it has brought virtually all sectors of our national life to their knees. Infrastruc­ture, power supply, education, health, the economy and most other sectors in the country are gasping for life on ac­count of rabid treasury looting that has cost the country trillions of naira in the last five years, with $150 million of the loot said to be stashed in banks abroad.

Public sector workers are owed many months arrears of salaries, while many state governments can no longer fulfill their responsibilities in many areas, in­cluding payment of pensions. The time has, therefore, come for Nigerians to stand firm against corruption and be one with the new government in the ef­fort to reduce it to the barest minimum.

There are, indeed, no two ways about it. Nigeria must either kill corruption, or corruption will kill the country. The choice is ours, and it is a choice we must make now with President Muhammadu Buhari leading the way, to ensure that we will have a country to bequeath to our children.

It is, therefore, strange that the presi­dent’s statements on his plans to bring treasury looters to book have been ruffling feathers, with claims in some quarters that they are not in Nigeria’s best interest. The Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar-led National Committee on the Peaceful Elections, unfortunate­ly, lent its weight to this position last week when it visited the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, in Abuja. The Committee was reported to have counselled the Feder­al Government against “too much talk about the promised probe”. It said this was necessary so that the government would not “get distracted from the core business of governance on account of the probe”

It is important that all well-meaning Nigerians speak with one voice on the matter of corruption. There should be no breaking of ranks on the mat­ter, and we must never regard any talk about it as an unfruitful distraction.

Corruption is a big issue in the coun­try and we must all continue to talk about it, and also act on it, to send a strong signal to all public officers that it will no longer be tolerated in the polity. Not properly dealing with cor­ruption under the guise that it is a dis­traction will only encourage the pres­ent public officers to also loot public funds with impunity.

The prosecution of the war against corruption should not stop the govern­ment from implementing its change agenda in the country, as both activi­ties are not mutually exclusive. What is necessary, as the Peace Committee has also stated, is that the president must strictly adhere to the rule of law in his battle against graft.

As we have had occasion to state before, the battle against corruption must not be prosecuted in a way to suggest that it is a witch-hunt of any particular past or present public offi­cer. It must not also deliberately ex­clude any treasury looter, no matter how highly placed.

Billions of naira in public funds have been committed to sundry projects in many sectors of national life such as power, the railways, roads and other public infrastructure with very little to show for it. The probe should un­earth how the billions of naira were expended. Nigeria has severally been listed among the most corrupt nations in the world.

All hands must be on deck to cor­rect this perception. We must not cre­ate the impression it is necessary to slow down the president’s campaign against corruption.As Nigerians await the commencement of the prosecution of those who are suspected to have looted the treasury, we advise that the trials should be open, non-selective, fair, all-encompassing and targeted at recovering the looted sums.

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Improving candidates’ performance in WAEC examinations http://sunnewsonline.com/new/improving-candidates-performance-in-waec-examinations/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/improving-candidates-performance-in-waec-examinations/#comments Sun, 16 Aug 2015 01:14:15 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=131348 The results of the May/June West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) released recently showed marginal improvement over that of last year. Altogether, a total of 1,605, 248 candidates registered for the examination, out of which 1,593,442, consisting of 864,096 males and 729,345 females, took the tests. In the same vein, 1,498,069 candidates, representing 94.01 [...]]]>

The results of the May/June West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) released recently showed marginal improvement over that of last year. Altogether, a total of 1,605, 248 candidates registered for the examination, out of which 1,593,442, consisting of 864,096 males and 729,345 females, took the tests. In the same vein, 1,498,069 candidates, representing 94.01 percent, have their results fully released, while 95,373 candidates representing 5.99 percent, have a few of their subjects still being processed due to errors mainly traceable to the candidates and schools either in the course of registering or writing the examination.

The results of 118,101 candidates were withheld in connection with examination malpractice. The major highlight of the results is that out of the total number of candidates that took the examination, 616, 370 candidates, representing 38.68 percent, obtained five credits and above, including English and Mathematics.

While announcing the results, the Head of National Office (HNO) of WAEC, Charles Eguridu, pointed out that there was a marginal increase in this year’s performance, compared with that of 2014, when 529,425 candidates representing 31.28 percent obtained five credits and above including English Language and Mathematics.

However, the results of about 200,000 candidates from the 13 outstanding debtor-states were initially not released. The examination body had, some weeks ago, threatened to withhold the results of candidates from 19 debtor-states that owe it about N4 billion in examination fees. Out of the 19 states, six were said to have paid their debts, while 13 are yet to pay up.

But, following the intervention of Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), and pledges by the states to pay, WAEC has promised to release the results of the candidates. It also assured the nation that it would continue to grant credit facilities to states in future examinations.

We commend the slight improvement in the performance of this year’s candidates and the timely release of results by WAEC. We advise the education authorities to continuously develop strategies to improve performance in the examinations because the 38.68 percent success rate is still very poor. It is well below average, and all hands must be on deck to improve it. Conditions that will make for better performance in the examinations should be put in place so that the cycle of poor performance in the examination in recent years will be broken. The factors that are responsible for the continuing bad performance in the examinations should be identified and corrected.

We must, however, condemn the failure of some states to pay the fees for their candidates up till now. The affected states have, by their action, indicated their poor attitude to education.

Even though WAEC has agreed to release the results of the affected candidates due to the concerns of well-meaning Nigerians, and the state governments’ promises to pay up, we urge the affected governors to prioritise the payment, and ensure that they do not allow a similar situation to arise next year. All states should remit their candidates’ examination fees as due, to avoid non-release of their results.

To improve candidates’ performance, we advise schools to prepare their students very well for the examination. Unfortunately, there is a dearth of qualified teachers in most state-owned secondary schools. There is also shortage of libraries and laboratory equipment. Most of the schools have dilapidated structures and environments that are not conducive to learning. The quality of teachers in many of these schools leaves much to be desired.

Besides, some students are not ready to learn. They waste time that should be devoted to their studies on sundry electronic gadgets. Instead of putting the Internet to good use to aid their studies, they prefer to chat, ping, play games and visit unhelpful sites. They should be guided to face their studies.

Since most secondary schools in the country fall under the purview of state governments, let the governors commit more funds to secondary school education and properly equip the institutions in terms of staffing, libraries and laboratories. They should ensure that suitably qualified teachers are employed in these schools to shore up the falling standard of education in the country.

We call on all state governors to also prioritise education at the primary school level, which is the foundation on which all further educational pursuits are laid. There should be a deliberate plan to attract brilliant students to take up teaching as a career, and to retain them in the profession, to improve the quality of candidates who are presented for the WAEC examinations.

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Dealing with noise and air pollution in Lagos http://sunnewsonline.com/new/dealing-with-noise-and-air-pollution-in-lagos/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/dealing-with-noise-and-air-pollution-in-lagos/#comments Fri, 14 Aug 2015 23:00:37 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=131136 One reason living in most of our urban areas is hellish for many is the unacceptable levels of air and noise pollution. To ameliorate this sad situation, the  Lagos State government has decided to enforce its laws on this menace. The decision, which is long overdue, has seen no fewer than 30 facilities scattered all [...]]]>

One reason living in most of our urban areas is hellish for many is the unacceptable levels of air and noise pollution. To ameliorate this sad situation, the  Lagos State government has decided to enforce its laws on this menace. The decision, which is long overdue, has seen no fewer than 30 facilities scattered all over the megacity caught in the web of justice.
To underscore how bad the situation is, a recent report said about 60 per cent of Lagos residents are either technically or partially deaf on account of noise pollution. Apart from the air pollution and high noise levels from electricity generators on account of the erratic power supply in many parts of the country, most of the places responsible for this situation are religious houses and recreational outlets, especially hotels.
In its determined effort to give vent to the law against noise and air pollution, the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) sealed off offending premises in Ketu, Ikorodu, Ibeju-Lekki, Victoria Island and Surulere.
The government’s action is clearly indicative of its resolve to deal with the problem, but it must spread its dragnet to every nook and cranny of the megacity. This problem is ubiquitous and overwhelming. Because of the activities of some religious adherents, residents are not able to get the desired rest at night and even during the day. The noise from churches and mosques   endanger their mental and physical health. Long forgotten, it seems, is the injunction in many of the world’s religions for their adherents to be their brothers’ keepers.
We call on religious organisations to demonstrate self-restraint in worship and spare a thought for their neighbours. The way some of them carry on gives cause for concern on public health.
This is why everyone, especially those living with sources of noise and other environmental pollution who bear the brunt of the problem, have a duty to always alert LASEPA to the pollution so that the offenders can be brought to book.
We also encourage the government to increase surveillance and enforcement of its laws on this problem until Lagos residents imbibe the culture of respect for their environment. No one has the right to abridge the rights of another under the guise of fulfilling his own religious or business interests. This is what this law is about, and the message must be properly and decisively handed down.
Going forward, government should carefully consider the location of new religious facilities with the aim of restricting them from purely residential areas. While the damage has already been done in the siting of many of these places of worship too close to residential areas in the past, the future can be saved. If they cannot conduct their activities with decorum and consideration, then they must accept the little inconvenience of travelling some distance to exercise their rights to worship in the way they want. A number of worship places located along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway are already showing good examples in this regard.
There is hardly any other state in the country that does not have this problem. We call on them to follow the Lagos example and nip such unwholesome development in the bud before they get out of hand. Where laws are not in place yet, they should be codified and enforced to the letter. They owe their citizens no less responsibility in this regard.
Indeed, this is the time to set acceptable emission levels for air and noise pollution in all states. The problem contributes to poor quality of life and probably low life expectancy in many parts of our urban areas, and should be curtailed.

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Farewell, Oba Okunade Sijuwade http://sunnewsonline.com/new/farewell-oba-okunade-sijuwade/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/farewell-oba-okunade-sijuwade/#comments Fri, 14 Aug 2015 01:56:39 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=131056 ONE of Nigeria’s foremost traditional rulers, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, who died in a London hospital recently, will be buried amidst a flurry of tributes in the ancient city ]]>

ONE of Nigeria’s foremost traditional rulers, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, who died in a London hospital recently, will be buried amidst a flurry of tributes in the ancient city today. The Ife Traditional Council confirmed the passage and burial date of the respected monarch to the Osun State Government on Wednesday, following initial unofficial reports of his demise. The passage of this highly revered king whose coronation in December 1980 promoted peaceful co-existence in the “cradle of the Yoruba race”, has expectedly been eliciting glowing tributes from across the country.

President Muhammadu Buhari, in his condolences to the Sijuwade family and the people of Ile-Ife, noted that the “Ooni will be remembered and celebrated for his worthy service over more than three decades as the chief custodian of the traditions of the Yoruba and his invaluable contributions to the sustenance of the cultural heritage of his people within and outside Nigeria.”  Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, observed that Nigeria has lost one of its most revered traditional rulers, while the Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola, affirmed that he left indelible marks in the sands of time, not only in Yorubaland and Nigeria, but across the world.

Oba Sijuwade was apparently well prepared for the office of Ooni before he received his staff of office in 1980.  His education was wide and deep, and his exposure to other cultures further enhanced and widened his horizon, not only in relation to the stool but also to his ability to establish and maintain good relationships with his counterparts in other parts of Nigeria and beyond.  He was equally exposed to various fields of human endeavor.  He was a reporter at the Nigerian Tribune, and later a sales executive, before he joined the Leventis Group as Sales Manager for Leventis Motors.  A highly talented man, his performance was such that when the Western Nigerian Government wanted to lure him into its service, Leventis reportedly insisted on an undertaking that he would later be released to return to its service.

Oba Sijuwade was an accomplished businessman who deployed his wealth of experience to the service of his people and the country. At his coronation, he was already a wealthy man. He immediately turned his attention to the development of Ile-Ife.  Indeed, in his inaugural speech, he appealed to all Ife people to invest in the city and make it a showpiece.  His trade mark of development is written all over the city today.  One of his last acts was getting the Obafemi Awolowo University to suspend a strike.  In 2010, he mediated in the ownership tussle between Oyo and Osun States over the ownership of the Ladoke Akintola University.

Oba Sijuwade, who was born on January 1, 1930, was a king extrordinaire.  He brought so much honor and prestige to the stool, and ensured peace with neighbours of Ile-Ife. His ability to ensure peaceful relations all around him testifies to his administrative sagacity. He bestowed titles on numerous Nigerians and was an inspiration to all Yorubas at home and abroad.  He was considered a man of peace.  Indeed, during his reign, the decades-long animosity between the Ife and Modakeke people was finally settled.

Sijuwade, who ushered in a glorious era in Ile-Ife, effortlessly maintained the dignity of the stool for about 35 years. The Ife Kingdom will now begin a search for a new ruler. We wish the town well in this endeavour.

We condole with the Ile-Ife Royal Family, the people of Ife and Osun State, and all Nigerians on the passage of Oba Sijuwade. The greatest tribute that can be paid to the late king, who was a son of Oba Adereti Sijuwade, is to sustain his many laudable legacies and ensure that peace continues to reign in his domain.

 
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Tackling illicit financial transactions http://sunnewsonline.com/new/tackling-illicit-financial-transactions/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/tackling-illicit-financial-transactions/#comments Wed, 12 Aug 2015 23:46:45 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=130905 EMERGING, trends in global financial systems, particularly the management of deposit transactions and the technologies used to drive them, have predisposed financial institutions to abuse. Some of them have become conduit pipes for illicit cash flows, with dangerous consequences for the economies and security of many countries. It is in this regard that the recent [...]]]>

EMERGING, trends in global financial systems, particularly the management of deposit transactions and the technologies used to drive them, have predisposed financial institutions to abuse. Some of them have become conduit pipes for illicit cash flows, with dangerous consequences for the economies and security of many countries.

It is in this regard that the recent call by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for greater vigilance to check illicit fi­nancial flows into Nigeria’s banking sys­tem should be taken very seriously. The concern expressed by the apex bank came against the backdrop of a report by the Washington-based Global Finan­cial Integrity group, which ranked Nige­ria one of the 10 largest countries for illicit financial flows in the world.

The report claimed that about US$15.7 billion (N3.09 trillion) illicit funds go through Nigeria’s banking sys­tem annually. This is scandalous. These illicit fund flows are largely traceable to money laundering, terrorism financing, illicit drug trade and oil theft.

The alarm raised by CBN is long over­due. The statistics from this global fi­nancial watchdog have only reinforced earlier reports on Nigeria’s rating as a fertile arena for the movement of illicit funds around the world.

The figures from Global Financial In­tegrity group are disturbing. For exam­ple, Nigeria was said to have accounted for the lion’s share of an estimated cu­mulative $854 billion illicit cash flows in Africa between 1971 and 2009. The latest report by the group said the trend has been increasing steadily at a disturbing average of 12 percent since 2008.

In particular, the report listed illicit drug couriers, illegal fuel exporters and oil bunkerers as those fleecing Nigeria of over $10 billion (about N200 bil­lion) annually. This is said to have out­stripped the $2.5 billion allegedly lost every year through non-fuel primary commodity exporters.

In addition to the Global Integrity group’s revelation, and the warning by CBN, the former Director General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (now World Bank’s Vice President and Treasurer), Ms. Arunma Oteh, disclosed in September last year that Nigeria lost a total of $140 billion (over N2.8 tril­lion) to illicit financial flows between 2002 and 2011. She told participants at the second Annual Business Lecture or­ganised by the Convention on Business Integrity in Lagos, that over $1 trillion had also been lost through illegal activi­ties like money laundering, tax evasion, transfer pricing and embezzlement of government funds.

The loss of huge sums of money to these illegal activities are major obsta­cles to economic growth. They call for a tightening of Nigeria’s banking system, which had hitherto allowed these illegal money transfers.

The CBN, in an effort to stem the trend, recently directed Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) to stop accepting foreign currency cash deposits from custom­ers, both within and outside Nigeria’s shores, without proper documentation. This is to prevent illicit financial flows in our banking system.

We commend the CBN for its response to this problem. It is necessary to stop such undocumented money movements as such monies could be used to finance terrorism in the country. Security re­ports have revealed that Boko Haram received over $70 million between 2006 and 2011 through shady transactions like money laundering, oil bunkering, kidnapping and dealing in drugs. It was also revealed that Boko Haram, whose violent activities in the North East have claimed over 700 lives in the last seven weeks alone, is now the “seventh rich­est terror organisation in the world”. This calls for a tightening of the loose ends in our banking system by the regu­latory authorities. The time has come to block every way in which our banks can be used for subversive purposes.

Beyond the banks, we urge all organ­isations operating in the country to help tackle the problem of illegal fund movements by instituting robust cor­porate governance, with specific guide­lines to check illicit movement of funds and other corrupt practices.

The National Assembly and anti-graft agencies, especially the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), should pick up the gauntlet and expedi­tiously institute far-reaching measures that will make illicit funds movements a serious offence that attracts severe punishment, such as imprisonment. More than ever before, it is necessary to closely monitor the internal controls of banks and other big revenue generat­ing agencies like the Customs Service and the National Drug Law Enforce­ment Agency (NDLEA).

Altogether, good governance and strict enforcement of transparency, due process and zero tolerance for corrup­tion are key to checking illicit financial flows. This is a serious problem that needs an urgent solution.

 

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Tasks for new NCC boss http://sunnewsonline.com/new/tasks-for-new-ncc-boss/ http://sunnewsonline.com/new/tasks-for-new-ncc-boss/#comments Wed, 12 Aug 2015 00:58:47 +0000 http://sunnewsonline.com/new/?p=130765 The Vice-President of Digital Bridge Institute, and a professor of electrical engineering and electronics, Prof. Umaru Garba Danbatta, was last week named the Chief Executive Officer of ]]>

The Vice-President of Digital Bridge Institute, and a professor of electrical engineering and electronics, Prof. Umaru Garba Danbatta, was last week named the Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) by the Federal Government.  He replaced Dr. Eugene Juwah whose tenure has expired.

 Danbatta taught telecommunications engineering and electronics for 28 years at the Bayero University, Kano.  He was also the head of the International Centre for Advanced Communications Studies, which was established by the NCC in 2004.

No doubt, the Federal Government made a good choice in    Danbatta, who is quite knowledgeable in the field and widely respected for the seriousness with which he handled his past assignments. As an outsider, he has the advantage of bringing   new vision and a fresh perspective, which should insulate him   against the distracting internal politics dogging the commission.  This is the first time an outsider is taking the reins of the NCC, thereby raising hope for positive changes.  His antecedents as a professional in the field also stand him in good stead to take credible technical decisions on the various issues confronting the commission.

The NCC has broad regulatory powers over telecommunications in Nigeria and Danbatta is assuming office at a crucial time that creativity is required to shake up the commission. It is necessary to enhance the capacity of this regulator to generate more revenue for the government, especially now that the nation needs other sources of revenue.

Issues on the table of the NCC are many and varied.  Some of them have been confronted by Dr. Juwah.  They range from straightening out policies concerning telecommunications providers and moderating the endless complaints of consumers on telecommunication services in the country.  Nigerians spend an estimated N2.5 trillion a year on communications, far and beyond what they spend on items like rent, fuel and other regular expenditure.

The industry constitutes roughly 8.5 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product, which does not say enough about how crucial communication services are to every economic activity in Nigeria.

Danbatta must be aware of how enthusiastic Nigerians are  about the telecommunications industry, how they are willing to pay for good services, and their numerous complaints about the poor quality of service.  The people deserve value for the money they expend on telecommunications, and the NCC should stand up on their behalf to compel the providers to fulfill their own side of the bargain.

Prof. Danbatta will receive a plethora of complaints about the quality of service.  His predecessor also wrestled with this problem.  When a subscriber is unable to reach the customer care line in reasonable time, it means there is need for greater accessibility to the network operators.  Keeping subscribers on hold for long periods has been a widespread complaint, while drop calls and poor voice quality have become intractable problems.

Let Danbatta take a second look at the unsolicited messages and promotional barrage that fill up subscribers’ inboxes every day, with no consideration for their wish or patience.  This issue has been raised several times.  Nigerian customers should be well treated, not ignored when they make legitimate complaints.  Those unsolicited messages are unwarranted intrusions, so the NCC should find a way to stop their flow into customers’ inboxes. Operators should be made to obtain subscribers’ consent before swamping them with unsolicited messages.

We appreciate the extra cost of providing power and other necessities for the smooth operation of the networks, but viewed side-by-side with many countries, our telecommunications tariff seems exceedingly high.  We hope the new helmsman takes a close look at it.  Fixed rate packages are popular in many countries and are a fraction of the average mobile phone bill of ordinary Nigerians.  Internet connections are simply prohibitive and need to be reduced.

It is no longer in dispute that the use of the internet and the availability of broadband are indices of how well an economy is performing.  We urge the new helmsman to encourage the push for a massive expansion of internet services in Nigeria as an accelerator of economic activities.  The role of the NCC and its potential to serve as the engine of the Nigerian economy are elastic. Much will depend on Danbatta’s creativity, enterprise and skills. He should, therefore, rise to the occasion and push the frontiers of communications further in Nigeria.

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